Sacred Time: Introduction & Tub b’Shevat
As we move through the cycle of the year, every month has its own nature and lesson to teach us. We’re starting a new series of regular bulletins to help our readers stay in tune to the spiritual nature of every month. They will include inspirational teachings from Rebbe Nachman and Reb Nosson and others that reveal the inner dimension of the flow of time.
One of the great works of Jewish mysticism which is attributed to the patriarch Abraham is called the Sefer Yetzirah, the Book of Formation. In it, we find that every month is associated with one of the signs of the zodiac, one of the twelve tribes, with a particular letter, a mode of being or sense, and an organ of the body. In short but powerful pieces, we want to share Breslov teachings that can help us understand these different elements, so that we can see more clearly the world of spirituality that awaits our discovery every month.
The New Year of the Trees
“Is a man a tree of the field?” (Devarim 20:19)
Rebbe Nachman taught: “Know, that there is a kind of tree upon which grow leaves, and each leaf needs to grow for a hundred years… It is reasonable to assume that, as it grows for one hundred years, it has to go through a great deal. But, afterward, at the end of those hundred years, it goes off [and flowers] with great force and sound, like a cannon. Understand this parable well…” (Likutei Moharan II:48)
“The New Year of the Trees” falls out on the fifteenth of Shevat, also known as Tu b’Shevat. The Talmud teaches that there are four “new years” during the course of a calendar year, each of them signifying the renewal of a particular part of the world. When it comes to trees, human beings have a natural affinity. They are slow to develop, some bear fruits and some don’t, they symbolize wisdom, and even their upright form and crown mirrors our own.
The Torah asks, “Is a man a tree of the field?” and in a way, the answer is, yes. On Tu b’Shevat, the sap begins to rise; even though spring’s leaves and blossoms and summer’s fruits are still ahead of us, the vitality that feeds them starts to stir in the dead of winter. Even when we appear to be lacking life-force and spiritual vitality, there are currents of nourishing heat that still move within us. When Rebbe Nachman speaks of the tree that needs to grow for a hundred years, and all through that time it, “goes through a great deal”–what is he talking about? He’s talking about us, and all that we have to go through during our lives. And even if a person gets to that hundredth year and it seems as though he never really blossomed, his flower will eventually burst forth. Because it was always in the making, even though it took its time.