Ode to the Moon of Shvat

January 24, 2017Rabbi Vicki Hollander, MFT

Despite growing up in Cleveland, the kingdom of winter,
for the past 13 years, I’ve lived with relative sunshine in fall-winter.

Yet even so, increasingly, I feel the withdrawal of light each fall.
And find winter weighs on my soul.

But what aids, are the moon cycles.
With their layers of symbols found in traditional and mystical texts.
Symbols laden with meaning, healing, comfort, and inspiration.

For my heart lifts with Shvat’s approach.

Immediately I see almond trees in Israel, blossoming.
I’m lifted by the message embedded
in the almond’s tree’s Hebrew name.
“God is watching.”
I feel heartened, relief, when Shvat arrives.

I suspect our teachers too felt the weight of winter.
For Shvat and her accompanying symbols
bear hope and sustenance.

As a student of these symbols, it’s a joy to share them.

So we enter the Moon of Shvat
and greet her symbols

Her settings:
in nature: of Earth, Sky, and Holy Day

In the night sky, the symbol of Deli, (water drawer) appears.

Graciously pouring from her vessel,
her life-sustaining waters now nourish the earth.

While the land lies in
mid-winter (Choref), encased in ice.

In mystical text (Sefer Yetzirah),
this season, too, is linked with the element of water.

Water, place of our unconscious,
place of creation, transformation, renewal.
Place of birth,
with capacities as well
to destroy.

And as the full moon rises, on the 15th day of Shvat, so comes her holy day,
Tu BiShvat, the new year of the trees.
When according to legend,
that very night, the moon pulls
and sap stirs within the trees, rising upwards.

Other symbols linked with this Moon from Sefer Yetzirah

The Hebrew letter Tzadi,
decked with tagin (crowns).

The Tzadi rules over taste,
linking with the holy day,
where we taste-swallow-take in
the fruits of the trees.

Thereby, according to tradition, enlivening the Tree of Life
for one more year.

Tzadi, also is linked to korkeban, our stomach,
place of receiving food, transforming nutrients,
and thereby sustaining life.

Encouraging us, to take in during this time,
that which deeply nourishes.

Ninety, the numerical value of Tzadi,
reminds us of Sarah who became pregnant at the age of 90,
and birthed Isaac.
Teaching we too have the capacity
to bear new life,
whatever our age or stage in life.

Themes of nouns that begin with Tzadi,
embrace a myriad of delicate young creatures-life-forms,
Tzon: flock, sheep, small cattle
Tzav: tortoise
Tzfardeiah: frog
Tzvi: deer, gazelle
Tzipor: bird, fowl, swallow

And motifs of light and shadows,
which Tzadi holds in her two arms,
the delicate balance of life.
Tzadik: righteous, just, honest, innocent
Tzarah: trouble, anguish, sorrow
Tzeva: color
Tzhav: yellow, golden
Tzel: shadow

Additional symbols linked with this Moon

The tribe of Asher,
who offers through his blessing, “Asher’s food shall be rich,”
the invitation to taste that which gives pleasure.

Asher’s banner waves, embroidered with an olive tree,
source of oil and light.

It was Asher who lit up the darkness,
standing valiantly in the coldness of the North
round the Mishkan.

Asher brings us light, oil, and sustenance
for body and for soul,
in this time of cold and darkness.

Additionally, the Sefirah, Hod, appears adding splendor, glow, to this moon.

While the angel, Gavriel, made of fire, also rises now.
Mighty warrior, protector,
prince of dreams,
he watches over us as we sleep.
Accompanies us throughout this month.

So in this moon of cold and night,
as we sit in the light of the moon,

we bask in Asher’s light,
are held safely in Gavriel’s circle,
are illuminated by Hod’s glow,
and held by the Tzadi’s branches,
as we celebrate the trees new years,
aiding the Tree of Life to renew.

Dreaming in the night,
we’re watered now
by many sources.

May these offer sustenance
as you walk through the winter, in the Moon of Shvat.

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