Jewish Calendar: Months of the Jewish Year

The Month of Shevat
According to Sefer Yetzirah

According to Sefer Yetzirah, each month of the Jewish year has a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a zodiac sign, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, a sense, and a controlling limb of the body that correspond to it.

Shevat is the eleventh of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar.

The fifteenth day of Shevat is the "New Year of Trees" according to the school of Hillel; according to the school of Shamai, the "New Year of Trees" is the first of Shevat. The "New Year of Trees" is the day from which the new year is reckoned for the fruit of the trees with regard to the mitzvot of ma'aser ("tithes"; fruit that blossoms after this date may not be taken as a tithe on fruit that blossomed before) and orlah (fruit less than three years old, which is forbidden). It is celebrated by partaking of fruit, especially of the seven species with which the land of Israel is blessed.

The 15th day of the 11th month alludes to the secret of G-d's ineffable Name Havayah, whose first two letters, yud and hei (which represent the higher, hidden level of unification) equal 15, and whose last two letters, vav and hei (which represent the lower, revealed level of unification), equal 11. The full secret of the Name Havayah is the secret of the "Tree of Life," the tree of the month of Shevat.

Letter: tzadik.

The letter tzadik symbolizes the true tzadik ("righteous one"), "and the tzadik is the foundation of the world." The one consummate tzadik of the generation personifies the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden (all of whose trees correspond to the souls of the righteous).

The very form of the letter tzadik (especially its final form, which represents the true manifestation of the tzadik in the future) resembles a tree. In the Torah, man is called Etz hasadeh ("the tree of the field"). Etz hasadeh = 474 = da'at, the unique property of man in general and of the tzadik in particular. Da'at is the power of "connection." The month of Shevat is the month of connection to the true tzadik of the generation, the Tree of Life of the generation.

Mazal: "deli" (Aquarius - pail).

The New Year of Trees of the month of Shevat is the time that the rain waters of the winter months begin to ascend in the veins of the tree and bring it new life. The ascent of water in general is represented by the deli. The root of deli means "to lift up," as in the verse "my eyes are lifted up to heaven" (when the ayin--eye"--of Tevet is lifted up to connect to the tzadik of Shevat, the word etz--"tree"--is formed).

The Ba'al Shem Tov said that when one meets a water-carrier carrying pitchers full of water, it is a sign of blessing. The tzadik is a true manifestation of a water carrier.

"'Water' refers to Torah." The month of Shevat is referred to as the new year for the study of Torah. The eating of the fruits of Shevat corresponds to the partaking of and integration of the sweet fruits of Torah wisdom. And so the waters of Shevat represent the sweet waters of Torah.

Tribe: Asher.

The name "Asher" means "pleasure" and "happiness." Our father Jacob blessed his son Asher: "from Asher comes delicious [lit. fat] bread, and he shall provide the delicacies of the king." From this it is evident that Asher represents the sense of taste and eating.

The special tree which Asher personifies is the olive tree, which gives the goodly oil with which Asher's portion in the land of Israel was blessed. Of the seven species of the land of Israel, the olive is the sixth, which, in Kabbalah, corresponds to the sefirah of yesod, the "tzadik, foundation of the world." Olive oil represents the potent seed of the tzadik to bear and sustain blessed generations of Jewish souls.

Sense: eating, taste (achilah, ta'am).

The rectified sense of eating is the special sense of the tzadik, as is said: "The tzadik eats to satisfy his soul." This verse continues: "but the stomach of the wicked is always lacking." The soul-oriented tzadik feels "full" and happy with a little; the body-oriented rasha (wicked-one) never feels "full."

Eating from the Tree of Life, the tzadik derives great pleasure ("life" in Torah means "pleasure") from the Divine sparks of light and lifeforce present within the food he eats. In his rectified state of consciousness he is continuously aware that "not on the [physical dimension of] bread alone does man live, but on each utterance of the mouth of G-d does man live."

The time of greatest pleasure in partaking of food is on the day of Shabbat. The word for "to satisfy [his soul]" is cognate to the word for "seven," alluding to the seventh day of Shabbat. A true tzadik experiences the pleasure of Shabbat the entire week (in the Zohar, the tzadik is called Shabbat). The word Shevat itself transforms to Shabbat (since the two letters tet and tav, both letters of the tongue, are phonetically interchangeable).

Controller: stomach [and esophagus] (etztomchah or kurkavan).

The relation between the stomach and sense of eating (and taste) is clear.

Our sages state: "the kurkavan grinds." The process of grinding is essential to digestion. Dissecting the coarse food substance to fine parts is necessary in order to release the sparks of Divine lifeforce contained within the food. By "grinding" (similar to the "chewing" of the mouth) the stomach "tastes" the inner essence of the food. This inner, spiritual sense of taste controls the more external sense of taste and eating in the mouth.