Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar — celebrated this year on Thursday, February 8, 2012 — is the day that marks the beginning of a “New Year for Trees.” Some people refer to it as “Jewish Arbor Day”. Trees are valued in the Jewish tradition. To honor a milestone or memorialize someone who has died, trees are often planted in Israel in that person’s name. The Tree of Life (Etz haChayim in Hebrew) is a potent symbol in Kabbalistic Judaism.
In anticipation of the holiday, at Pebble Hill Church; an interfaith community in Doylestown, PA of which I have been a part since 1984, my friend Gary Schoenberg led the service entitled Cultivating A Miracle Mindset. Gary guided us, through story and song, ritual and sharing as we learned about Tu B’Shevat. We enjoyed various fruits for the purpose of honoring the Four Worlds. He incorporated concepts from A Tu b’shevat Seder created by The Jewish Women’s Center of Pittsburgh, Inc.
1. Assiyah, or Action, the physical world around us.
2. Yetzirah, or Formation, the world of feelings and emotions.
3. B’riyah, or Creation, the world of knowing, and the mind.
4. Atzilut, or Emanation, the world of spirituality.
For Assiyah (earth, action), we eat nuts and fruits with a tough skin to remind us of the protection the earth gives.
Through this act we acknowledge that
we need protection in life, both physical and emotional.
For Yetzirah (heart, formation), we eat fruits with a tough inner core.
Through this act we acknowledge the need to fortify our hearts. With a
strong heart and a pure vision, our lives grow richer and deeper.
Fruits of this group, which are edible on the outside with a hard inner pit include: dates, olives, cherries, peaches and avocados.
For B’riyah (air, mind, creation), we eat fruits that are completely edible. In this world, where God’s protection is close at hand, we can let go of all barriers and try on freedom. As co-creators with God, each of our thoughts becomes action.
Fruits in this group include: figs, carob, grapes, berries, apples and pears.
Rabbi Chiyya ben Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: “Whoever keeps the fig tree shall eat of its fruit. The fruit of the fig tree does not ripen all at once. The more one searches, the more figs one finds in it. So it is with the words of the Torah. The more one studies them, the more relish one finds in them.”
The world of Atzilut (fire, spirit) is the ethereal world of emanation. It is a purely spiritual idea, and thus, we do not eat any fruit for this world.
There’s a fire alive, within every living cell of every being.
The carbons we eat burn in the presence of
the oxygen we breath, giving us the energy to be.
This spark of light is our connection to the Divine.
Just as the natural world goes through changes to achieve its full potential, we also need to change so that we can be free to grow. In doing so, we will become strong like healthy trees, with solid roots in the ground and our arms open to the love that is all around us.
As I sat, surrounded by kindred spirits, engaged in miracle making of their own; after all, each breath, each heartbeat is a miracle, I wondered what transformation was taking place within me that I might not even be aware of at that moment. What seeds were being planted with each thought that would someday come to fruition? Were there areas in my life in which I needed to develop a tough inner core to sustain the sweet fruit on the outside? Can I be truly available to whatever life brings and to the people I encounter, as the fruits described above that are completely edible? And can I fully trust that which I can not always see, hear, feel and touch, knowing that creation is always happening and ever evolving?
From an environmental perspective, I invite you to consider how you and I and all life are intertwined, like the vines and leaves that blossom and grow and our shared consciousness can help to sustain our beautiful planet.
Lo Yisa Goy by Libana
Public Domain (Isaiah 2:4)
Lo yisa goy el goy cherev
V’lo yilm’ du od milchama! (4x)
And every (one) man ‘neath
his vine and figtree
Shall live in peace and unafraid. (2x)
And into plowshares turn their swords,
Nations shall learn war no more! (2x)