Mystical Fruit: Tu BeShevat

Mystical Fruit: Tu BeShevat

CosmicFruit_3_smallEnter the world of Pri Etz Hadar, the first published Kabbalistic Tu BeShevat Seder (c. 17th century).

We learn that there is no physical thing here below that does not correspond to something above. — Pri Etz Hadar

Kabbalah: a world view in which everything points beyond itself. In the Kabbalistic world, everything is both what it simply is and also a metaphor for something else. You enter this world by practicing what A.J. Heschel calls “radical amazement,” a recognition that everything hints at the presence of God.

Including fruit.

This mystery is mentioned in…Bereisheet…as it is written in the Torah, “God said, let the earth bring forth…fruit trees that produce fruit.” — Pri Etz Hadar

Of course fruit trees produce fruit! Why does the Torah speak twice about fruit in this single sentence? To remind us that fruit points beyond itself. And to remind us that fruit comes into being through the uniting of two energies. In order for a fruit tree to produce, pollen from a flower’s stamen must be moved to its pistil. For human procreation, a human sperm must find its way to a female fallopian tube. For creation of the world, transcendent masculine Divine energy must be channeled through indwelling feminine Divine energy. For God’s presence in the world to be effective, God must be united with a beloved people. For the created world to bear fruit, we must engage with it.

Eat your fruit with awareness, and remember this chain of associations. Remember to say a blessing before you eat, connecting yourself with the Divine.

Whoever enjoys produce in this world without pronouncing a blessing is called a robber. For by means of the blessing, one draws down shefa [Divine plenty]. … Through eating an aspect of creation [without blessing it], one eliminates the spiritual element that it contains, thus preventing that Divine power from being manifest in the world. — Pri Etz Hadar

The spiritual element of creation is delicate. We have to replenish it constantly, by pumping in our own spiritual awareness.  To live in a world buzzing with Divine energy, we have to practice radical amazement. Raising our awareness improves the outcome when we build, problem-solve, study, and relate interpersonally; it does the same when we explore spiritually.

Theologically, you might say: ein od milvado, nothing exists except  God (Deut. 4:35). Every idea and object is more than itself; it is also an expression of Divine energy. Everything present to our consciousness has its source in God. The more dimensions of our consciousness we know, the more dimensions of Divinity we encounter.

Four worldsYou can learn this theology if you observe a peach carefully. A peach is a series of concentric circles: skin, flesh, shell, seed. A black and white line drawing of a cross section might look like a diagram of  the four worlds of consciousness as taught in some versions of Lurianic Kabbalah. Outside the peach sits Eyn Sof, Infinite Divine Energy. The peach’s thin skin screens out only a bit of Divine light, representing the spiritual world of Emanation. Its thicker flesh screens out a bit more light, representing the intellectual world of Creation. Its harder pit screens out still more light, representing the emotional world of Formation; its seed represents the physical world of Making.

With more Divine light, we see ourselves more clearly. But no human being lives purely at the level of spiritual awareness or intellectual discernment. Just as all four layers are part of a peach, experience in all four worlds happens at every moment of our lives. To really know a peach, to really know ourselves, to really know how God is present to us, we need to know all four layers.

Eat a peach.

Let your mind be satisfied that a single fruit can hint at God’s presence. And then let your restless mind drift to another metaphor. Four worlds, four kinds of fruit. Perhaps each world of consciousness can be explored by eating a different fruit.

There are thirty kinds of fruit trees. Ten have their roots in the World of Creation. Since their roots…are close to the purely Divine World of Emanation, they have no shell, either within or without. They may be eaten as they are. — Pri Etz Hadar

All the divine light in these fruits is accessible. If your consciousness is analogous to this kind of fruit, you have no shell or hard centre. You have no scars, no tough exterior, no hardened complexes. Others find you easy to be around, never needing to work hard to see the real you beneath the scars. God’s light shines easily through you.

The following correspond to the World of Making: pomegranates… — Pri Etz Hadar

When a pomegranate first emerges, its skin is thin and soft. But as it matures, and responds to the challenges of its environment, its shell thickens and hardens. When we live in pomegranate consciousness, we gradually harden ourselves against threats. We are not strong enough to harvest God’s light from the threats, and we bury our own light behind a protective shell.

Which fruit are you now? When are you one kind, and when another? Where is your spiritual awareness now? Where does it go when it is not activated? How can you reclaim it?

In order to effect this tikkun [repair], it is fitting for us to eat all kinds of fruit on this very day and to bless them with this intention. … Through the beauty of this tikkun, one can correct what one distorted. — Pri Etz Hadar

Metaphors are used for creative problem solving in industry, psychotherapy, art and philosophy — why not in the search for deepening spiritual awareness? Through the beauty of this metaphorical tikkun, we can see ourselves differently, and begin, perhaps, to correct what has been distorted.

Blessings for a deeply reflective Tu BeShevat.

Translation of Pri Etz Hadar: Rabbi Dr. Miles Krassen, http://opensiddur.org/2010/11/pri-etz-hadar. Images: “Cosmic Fruit” by Angie Young, thefathersart.com; Four worlds, www.sacred-texts.com

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