The Awesome Significance Of The Month Of Shevat – Renewal And Brachot

Each of the festivals cast a luminous glow over their month and Shevat is no exception

To be fair, I don’t really like promising anything especially when it comes to segulot, mazalot and auspicious times. There are so many variables to Hashem’s calculations that any effort to “do a specific thing” in order to “reach a certain result” is almost meaningless. I don’t doubt the power of segulot or auspicious times, but in an ideal world, Jews wouldn’t pay much attention to them.

However, we know from Kabbalah teachings that each month has its special significance and brachot (blessings), and all its days are heavily affected by them. Nissan is associated with redemption and liberation because we have Pesach. Sivan is the “month of Torah” because we have Shavuot. The first half of Av is about sadness, when we mourn the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) up until Tu B’Av, the 15th of Av when we celebrate marriage and joy.

At first sight, the Month of Shevat doesn’t appear to be anything special. It is supposed to be a month filled with light and culminates on its 15th day with the observance of Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of Trees. While many may not fully grasp its deep implications, it has become customary to savor the produce of trees during both lunch and dinner, thereby amplifying the blessings we extend.

The rationale behind this tradition is rooted in the teachings of the Arizal.

According to his writings, Tu B’Shvat offers an opportunity to rectify the original transgression of Adam HaRishon, the first man, who succumbed to the temptation of consuming the forbidden fruit of knowledge of good and evil. Interestingly enough, this rectification is achieved through the act of consuming fruits.

This revelation takes on added significance when we consider the Idra Zutra’s opening passages, where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, on his deathbed, recounts that Adam HaRishon approached him, seeking to conceal his true transgression. It is noteworthy that Adam, being created directly by Hashem underscores the profound significance of his genuine sin.

The Kabbalistic nuances surrounding this day are extensive and compel a comprehensive exploration of its spiritual dimensions.

month of Shevat prompts abundance

The Redeemed Month

Certain months bask in a heightened luminosity, often distinguished by a unique type of radiance. Traditionally, Av, Tevet, and Tammuz are viewed as more challenging due to their association with days of mourning. According to the teachings of many Kabbalists, these months are perceived as being “captured” or influenced by the forces of evil.

As we bid farewell to Tevet, the month just past, our focus shifts to the rectification of the Sephira of Netzach (victory, eternity) within the masculine aspect of the spiritual realms. In Shevat, our attention turns to rectifying Hod (splendor, brilliance). Interestingly, the initial letters of Shevat, Tevet, Netzach, and Hod form the name of the Accusing angel, “Sa-tan” (השטן). This signifies that even during these two months, akin to Av and Tammuz, there is a concerted effort by malevolent forces to assert influence.

The narrative of Yaakov Avinu’s journey to the River Yabok for two small flasks (פחים קטנים) prompts reflection. In Kabbalah, nothing is a simple as the simple meaning.

Some, like Rashi and Rebbe Nachman, interpret this act as an acknowledgment that all possessions are derived from Hashem, and are infused with holiness and divine sparks. Our sages emphasize the preciousness of the money of the righteous, equating it with their very lives. The reason is that a Tzaddik knows that Hashem would not have given a certain thing if it wasn’t for his exclusive use.

Alternatively, certain Kabbalistic perspectives propose a different interpretation. Analyzing the numerical value of פחים קטנים, we discover it matches that of the accuser, שטן. Yaakov Avinu’s wrestling match with the guardian angel of Esav, the accusing angel, culminated in his victory.

The following is from the Siddur of Kavanot from Nahar Shalom (a Kabbalistic Yeshiva) on Tu B’Shevat:

Before releasing his celestial opponent, Yaakov declared, “I shall not leave you until you bless me.” Intriguingly, the phrase “until you bless me” (אם ברכתני) equates numerically to the combination of Tevet and Shevat (טבת שבת), with an additional value for the overarching concept. Furthermore, the names Yaakov (יעקב) and the one he acquired after his encounter, Israel (ישראל), precisely correspond to the numerical value of Tevet and Shevat.

In summary, the two small flasks symbolize the months of Tevet and Shevat, obtained by Yaakov Avinu from the grasp of Sa-tan after their intense struggle. The principle that the greater the challenge, the more substantial the reward underscores the unique radiance of these two months, representing their deliverance from the clutches of evil.

The permutation of YHVH for each month

Each of the 12 months (or sometimes 13 months) has a specific permutation of the names YHVH (יהוה) and EHYH (אהיה). While we never say these names out loud, the Arizal teaches us in Sha’ar HaKavanot that it’s good practice to meditate on them whenever possible during the specific month.

These permutations come from the initial or final letters of part of a verse as depicted in the first column. The second column shows the corresponding Nekud (punctuation) for both names.

The third column shows which Partzuf we are rectifying in the spiritual system of months; the male partzuf of Zeir Anpin is rectified during the winter months while the female partzuf of Nukva (the Shekhinah) is rectified during summer.

Each of the months from summer and winter also corresponds to a specific Sephirah, starting from Chesed, then Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod and Yesod. Finally, the last column shows each month. As you are probably aware, in Hebrew we actually read from right to left, so that would be the first column.

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Shevat – Revitalization and Abundance

Much like the trees embarking on the journey of regaining their vitality as winter recedes, Shevat ushers in a profound sense of illumination and renewal. During this time, many Jews engage in the deep and impactful Tikkunin (rectifications) period known as Shovavim, derived from the Parashiot of Shemot, Vayeirah, Bo, Beshalach, Yitro, and Mishpatim, symbolizing the rectification of severe sins, particularly those related to immorality.

Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, affectionately referred to as the “Rashas’h,” delves extensively into the Kabbalah of the Arizal. In his magnum opus Nahar Shalom, he expounds on the notion that each person possesses a unique spiritual system comprising all the higher worlds connected to them. Furthermore, every mode of service is intricately linked to its own distinctive system of higher worlds.

When an individual performs a Mitzvah, such as prayer or charitable giving, they rectify the entire system from the highest level of Adam Kadmon down to the lowest world of Assiyah assigned to them, a world that comes into existence at that specific day and hour. This revolutionary concept underscores the immense significance of each individual’s actions, providing a sense of profound purpose and importance.

Imagine that: Hashem created a system of spiritual realms, from Adam Kadmon to the lowest Sephira of the lowest world of Assiyah, for each and every act that you do – EXCLUSIVELY FOR YOU.

This understanding is a driving force behind the desire to increase the number of blessings on Tu B’Shvat. Recognizing the uniqueness within each person, we aim to bring our individual light to the world. Additionally, according to the teachings of the Arizal, each fruit possesses its own unique bracha and power that we can assimilate.

Thus, our goal for this month is to infuse it with the abundance of blessings available to us.

The central lesson of Tu B’Shvat is to acknowledge the tremendous power we hold in our hands. Hashem has intricately designed a marvelous spiritual system for each one of us. It is our responsibility to maximize the potential of this month. Reflecting on this concept eliminates feelings of jealousy, as we realize the profound value inherent in our individual paths.

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Summary of the points we just mentioned on Tu B’Shevat and the Month of Shevat

  1. Symbolism of Trees: Shevat is intrinsically linked to the symbolism of trees, and Tu B’Shvat specifically marks the New Year for Trees. This period signifies the awakening of nature after the winter slumber, symbolizing renewal, growth, and the potential for blossoming. In Jewish tradition, trees often carry profound symbolism, representing rootedness, resilience, and the connection between the earthly and the divine.
  2. Kabbalistic Significance: According to Kabbalistic teachings, Shevat is a time when the spiritual energy associated with the sefirah of Hod (splendor, brilliance) is accentuated. Hod represents receptivity and surrender to Hashem’s will. It is a favorable period for introspection, refining one’s character, and cultivating an attitude of humility and gratitude.
  3. Shovavim and Spiritual Purification: The weeks leading up to and within the month of Shevat are dedicated to the observance of Shovavim, a unique period for spiritual purification. The initials of the Torah portions read during this time (Shemot, Vayeira, Bo, Beshalach, Yitro, Mishpatim) form the acronym “Shovavim,” reflecting a focus on rectifying transgressions related to morality. This period invites individuals to engage in heightened spiritual practices and seek atonement for past actions.
  4. Personal Spiritual Systems: The teachings of Rabbi Shalom Sharabi emphasize the concept that each person possesses a unique spiritual system comprising all the higher worlds related to them. This understanding reinforces the idea that individual actions have a profound impact on the entire spiritual cosmos. It encourages personal responsibility, mindfulness, and a deep sense of purpose in one’s spiritual journey.
  5. Blessings and Individual Illumination: Tu B’Shvat inspires a desire to increase the number of brachot, not only as a communal expression but also as a recognition of individual uniqueness. Each person is seen as a source of light, contributing a distinctive radiance to the collective whole. The Arizal’s teachings extend to the idea that each type of fruit carries its own unique illumination and spiritual energy, urging individuals to seek and absorb these diverse blessings.
  6. Empowerment and Gratitude: The overarching lesson of Shevat is empowerment. Recognizing the intricate spiritual system designed by Hashem for each individual fosters a sense of empowerment and purpose. It encourages gratitude for the divine wisdom that governs our lives and prompts reflection on the potential for personal growth and positive influence during this auspicious month.
  7. Season of Potential Growth: Shevat arrives as a season of potential growth and transformation, mirroring the awakening of nature as winter wanes. The trees, still barren, hold the promise of blossoming and bearing fruit.

May we merit all the blessings of the month of Shevat!

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Chaim Apsan

Chaim is a teacher and Kabbalah enthusiast. He loves helping Jews connect with true Torah teaching and enhancing their spiritual growth. With a focus on meditation, he guides individuals on transformative journeys of prayer, contemplation, and connection with Hashem. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and kids, and is committed to sharing the wisdom and power of Kabbalah in a genuine way.

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