Some thoughts about the spiritual qualities of Sh’vat:
According to the mystical tradition, the stomach is the body part associated with this month and the water bucket, or dipper, is the astrological sign. It is also the new year for the trees. What is the connection between these symbols, trees and this month of Sh’vat?
In the northern hemisphere Rosh Chodesh Sh’vat comes in the depths of winter. Nothing is growing above ground. The landscape looks barren and the animals hibernate. The trees look dead, sprouting only bare branches. The sap that is starting to rise and the nourishment absorbed by the roots all happens underground out of sight.
For many people the stomach is where fear registers in the body. Hidden from view the stomach clenches, or churns when we are nervous. Similarly the dipper, or bucket, does its work underground, drawing up water from the well. One aspect of the spiritual work of Sh’vat has to do with drawing on hidden inner resources that help us move through fear that we feel in our gut.
Jeremiah (17:17-18) offers us a beautiful image of how this can work, describing a person who draws sustenance from trust in The Holy One:
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not see when the heat comes, but its leaf shall be green; and shall not be anxious in the year of drought, nor shall it cease from yielding fruit.
The ”year of drought” is that fear the clenches our stomachs. This person is connected to their source of nourishment and renewal and is able to productively move through the fear.
Sh’vat is a good time to discover or reconnect with those sources of nourishment that may be hidden from view. This could be a good friend that you haven’t seen in a while, a spiritual practice that needs renewing, or an artistic practice or hobby that you’ve been yearning to make a regular part of your life. When we draw water from these abundant sources, we are able to calm the stomach that churns in anxiety of the unknown.