Although the Torah implies that Abraham and his descendants are removed from the fate of the stars (based on Genesis 15:5, Nedarim 32a) – meaning that their personal destinies are not determined through astrology – Judaism does acknowledge the basic astrological map of the sky, but not its efficacy. (For Rabbi Buchwald’s insights into this topic, click here.) The Talmud even includes a list of the Zodiacal signs that correspond to the twelve months of the Hebrew year. Like its corresponding zodiac sign Aquarius, the Hebrew month of Shevat is represented by the water-bearer.
Water is a physical necessity for the existence of life. Typically, the month of Shevat is the heart of the rainy season in the land of Israel, and Israel is the location on which all of the Torah’s seasonal guidelines are based. Water brings life, and the mid-point of the month of Shevat is the celebration of Tu (15th) Bi’Shevat, the day, according to the sages, on which sap in the trees begins to flow.
Just as water is essential for physical life, so too is Torah a spiritual necessity. And as the sages often compare Torah to water, it is not surprising that “in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, Moses spoke to the Children of Israel, accounting all that God had commanded him to them” (Deuteronomy 1:3). Thus it was, that on the eleventh month, Shevat, and on the first day of the month of Shevat, Moses began his final presentation of God’s commandments.
What significance does this connection have over 3,000 years later? In the Northern Hemisphere, where most of the world’s Jewish population resides, the beginning of Shevat is not just the rainiest time of year, but the coldest as well. Shevat, however, is meant to be a season of hope. When life sometimes seems hardest, the seeds of inspiration begin to grow.
Jewish Treats wishes all of its readers a happy Rosh Chodesh (celebration of the new month) Shevat.
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