Renewing Trees, Crossing Seas


This Shabbos is Tu B'Shevat (The Rosh Hashanah for the Trees) and on thi

Shabbos we read the Torah portion recounting the crossing of the Red Sea.

Because these events occupy the same day, we know that they are connected to

each other and we need to understand their connection and relevance to our

lives. It is interesting and important to note that in the month of Shevat

we are reading about the Jewish people's departure from Egypt. These Torah

portions give us an insight into the spiritual energy and opportunity of

this month.

Let's travel back in time in our imagination so we feel ourselves as a part

of the Jewish people who just left Egypt, but now we find that the Red Sea

is in front of them, making it impossible for us to go forward, and

Pharaoh's army is quickly approaching from behind. What should we do? Should

we return to Egypt? Should we fight the Egyptians or should we drown

ourselves in the sea and commit suicide?

These were the three options that the Jewish people saw and there were

groups of people who advocated for each position. Take a moment to feel

where you may have stood in this situation.

For a brief time, the Jewish people were stuck, arguing among themselves,

not knowing what to do, until time required that a choice be made. When none

of the options that they could think of were viable, they realized that they

needed to raise their consciousness beyond what was logical and they prayed

to God.

Moses then hears God telling him in so many words "Don't cry to me. Go

forward into the sea. Raise your staff and I will split the Sea." This wa

a possibility that they hadn't imagined, even though they had just witnessed

nature changing before their very eyes in all those plaques. It hadn't

occurred to them that the Sea would split open for them. Once the Jewish

people had heard this solution to their dilemma, they had no choice but to

go forward with trust and faith that somehow they would survive. It was said

that [Nachshon ben Aminadav] had to enter into

the Sea until the water was up to his nose and only then did the water


Now, let's take a moment to apply this story to our own lives. We are all

facing challenges and problems of varying degrees and forms all the time, it

is the nature of the human condition. As free as many of us may be or like

to think that we are, no one is entirely free and there are areas in life

where we are stuck. Take a moment now to come in contact with the challenge

that you are facing today.

Often the internal challenges people face play themselves out in the area of


and/or work. You may have a problem with a family member or with someone at

work. Or you may feel that the work that you do is not connected to who you

really are and you want change but don't know what to do. Or in the

relationship sphere of one's life, you do not have that wonderful

relationship in your life and you want one. Or you have a relationship, a

family and it is so challenging, you wish you were single again. Or simply,

you may feel bored by the routine of life and you do not know what to do or

question whether you could do anything else in your life.

Most of us at this time feel a strong desire to go forward in our lives, to

express ourselves in new and more expanded ways. After a cold winter which

is symbolic of challenge, we are all yearning for spring, a time of rebirth.

We may now know exactly what form this will take and what it will require

from us, but we are thirsty for newness, for more joy, and more light. We

want to feel more alive. We know that we need to make changes in ourselve

in order to live our lives with greater authenticity, creativity and joy but

we may not know what or how to do it.

When we confront our personal dilemma, whatever it may be for us, we often

first try to solve our problems in a logical manner. Much like the Jews of

old, we review all the logical and rational options that we can think of,

but sometimes that does not solve our problem, enabling us to go forward.

When none of these options seem viable, we feel stuck. Sometimes, the

solutions available to us leave us feeling damned if we do and damned if we

don't. We may know what we really would like, but that does not seem


We basically have the three options similar to Jews before they crossed the

Red Sea and there are voices within each of us advocating for each position.

Much like the Jews who wanted to return to Egypt, there is the inner voice

of the ego mind telling us to give up, resign ourselves to our fate; change

is not possible now or ever. This voice says variations on these mantra

"This is who you are", "Accept your limitations". "Play it safe". "Life i


There is another voice within us which is the voice of judgment. This voice

is angry, and blames others, and even oneself for the unhappiness we feel

about our existing life situation. This voice says variations on thi

mantra, "If only this did not happen, then would be____. And oftentimes,

this harsh voice turns its judgment inward into self- criticism and chant

variations of "I am not good enough ". Sometimes people feel that by being

angry at others or themselves they will be able to effect the changes they

want in their lives. Just like the Jews who wanted to fight the Egyptians,

even if they would die in the process, this kind of anger may also rob us of

the vitality needed to go forward. Anger may enable us to make changes in

our lives but they are reactive rather than integrative and they will not


There is yet another voice inside that tells us to go forward in our lives,

to go into the Sea, to go through whatever that the Sea represents to each

of us. But how do we cross the Red Sea and not drown? How do we go through

our fears? We each face all kinds of fears that are rooted in the deeper and

more primal fear; that is, the fear that we will die in the process of going

forward to what we want in life.

Like the Jews of old, when we are stuck in life, we need to be reminded to

raise their consciousness in prayer, listen to the tzaddik Moses who

represents the highest soul revelation within oneself and then go forward

without hesitation. The key here is to pray, to move forward, and trust in


That is true for all times, but on Tu B'Shevat, we receive additional

blessing to go forward in our lives. Tu B'Shevat, the full moon of the month

of Shevat, i

kabbalistically one of the highest days of the year. On Tu B'Shevat, the

most heavenly energy is flowing and is available to enable people to begin

their lives anew. The Torah tells us that a human being is likened to a

tree. It is said that at the time of Tu B'Shevat, the tree is also at the

end. It is dying and unless it receives new life, it will not be reborn


On Tu B'Shevat, the sap in the tree begins to flow once again to revitalize

the tree. On Tu B'Shevat, our creative juices begin to flow; we are also

revitalized so we will bear new fruit and flowers as well.

The kabbalists of Safed in the 16th century instituted the Tu B'Shevat Seder

to enable us to draw down the awesome heavenly energy available on this day

and transmute it from the higher worlds to the lower worlds. Modeled after

the Passover Seder with four cups of wine, but instead of matzah, on Tu

B'Shevat, we eat varying kinds of fruit. We journey through the spiritual

worlds as we revisit the journey that God went through in Creation,

By eating the fruits and drinking the wine associated with the spiritual

worlds, we mirror God in creation.

Tu B'Shevat is becoming increasingly popular and is celebrated in many

different ways. For some, it is a day for gratitude for all the fruits in

the land of Israel and to deepen one's connection to the land of Israel. For

some it is a day to focus on ecology, celebrating our partnership with God

and remembering our responsibility to take care of the land.

There are numerous hagadahs available on the internet but I have seen that

most of them take the journey from the lower worlds to the higher worlds. A

my rebbe would

say, this is nice and sweet and maybe it goes for most people but I do not

think that this order expresses the intention of the kabbalists who

instituted this Seder. A kabbalistic Seder is a channel for the most

heavenly creative energy and as such it must begin in the highest places. To

be truly creative in one's life, to be open to and to live from inspiration,

this requires meditation, quieting and focusing of the mind and

nullification of the ego self. That is why the Seder of the kabbalists and

the one that I tell my students to do begins with the highest world of

Atzilut. Please see my book Kabbalah Month by Month for a guideline to the

Seder and my book New Age Judaism for a description of the worlds and the

process through which this world was created.

In closing, I wish everyone a beautiful Tu B'Shevat and Shabbos. May we and

the world be revitalized with the most heavenly energy and blessings. Please

feel free to share this message with anyone, and please invite them to join

the Beit Miriam email group. They can contact me at

or just sign themselves on at

Love and blessings, Melinda ( Mindy ) Ribner

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