THEME: FRUITFULNESS; PLEASURE
BODY: THE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM
The day you were born is the day God decided that the world could not exist without you. ~ Rebbe Nachman
PSALM 139: God-Who-is-There
CREATIVE EXPRESSION: Find ways to illustrate and express in your journal the theme and what you are learning and experiencing this month.
Psalm 139 powerfully expresses the fact of God’s omniscience, He is all-knowing of our every word and thought and of every aspect of our personality. As has been said, “He knows us better than we know ourselves!” He also is omnipresent – there is nowhere we can can hide from Him. For those who know and love Him, this is a great comfort.
Verse 10 describes how His left hand guides us. It is on the side of the heart, and is the more gentle hand, as of a Shepherd, who caringly leads his flock. And His strong, redeeming right hand, often associated with Adonai Tzevaot – the Lord of Hosts, is the one that holds and protects us.
David highlights how intricately and wondrously our physical bodies are formed, and concludes with a plea that his heart and spirit would be guided in God’s “everlasting way.”
To which we can say “Amen”!
SHEVAT is the 11th month of the Hebrew calendar and Jacob’s son Asher was placed 11th in the tribal formation in the wilderness. What do we know about Asher, who was born to Leah’s maid Zilpah? At his birth Leah declared, “Happy and prosperous (b’osher) am I! For the women will call me happy” (Gen. 30:13). Asher, thus, is related to happiness. Other connotations of osher are: to be straight (yashar), honest, to go forward, to prosper.
Jacob’s deathbed blessing of Asher reads, “Asher’s food shall be rich, and he shall yield royal delicacies” (Genesis 49:20). This richness is attributed to the fact that his territory in the Land would be filled with an abundance of olive trees.
We are blessed to have witnessed the rebirth of the Land of Israel and the quality and abundance of its trees and fruit once again. Of the physical restoration of the land and the people, Isaiah prophesied: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly” (35:1-2).
Water, together with air, is the element necessary for life. Speaking of God’s great salvation, spiritual life, the prophet Isaiah describes, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; …for waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert” (35:6). The spiritual water we need is mayim chaim, the living water of the Word of God. At the great water-pouring ceremony in the Temple at Sukkot, Yeshua stood and proclaimed, as the Word enfleshed, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37).
Water and oil generally do not mix, but here we can find a link between water and the oil of joy – osher. In the Holy Place of the Temple, the symbol of the living water of the Word of God is the golden Menorah. The vital fuel that provides its light is pure olive oil. The Word of God and the illumination of the Spirit of God; Life and Light; water and oil – both are needed for the fullness of understanding and abundant joy (osher) to be found in His Presence. The deepest joy is found not in the material pleasures of worldly things but in the spiritual delight of intimacy in our relationship with God.
THE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM
Just as we saw the joyful benefit of the combination of two different elements, water and oil, so we can examine the differences, and unique properties necessary to bring forth fruitfulness, life, and joy in man and woman, the masculine and feminine.
Physically, the anatomical differences between a male and a female are obvious. In the God-given reproductive process that enables human beings to reproduce and bring forth new life, a husband and wife join together, become one, in an intricate, mysterious, and pleasurable, sexual union. The male’s sexual organ is external to the body…it is outward, and extends and gives. The female’s sexual organs are housed within the body…as a vessel prepared to receive. This design also reflects the innate nature and qualities that are found in men and women.
For example, the man is given the seed of potential by God, which he gives to the woman who completes and nurtures what she receives. A man tends to be the initiator, while the woman patiently develops and brings forth new life. A particular aspect of the feminine nature is nurturing, which we see illustrated physically in that a mother has the ability to naturally provide milk as nourishment for her baby.
In Judaism, it is considered that the man has the characteristic of chochma, wisdom – intellectual knowledge, and a woman has binah – understanding. Wisdom without understanding is cold and essentially useless but, when combined with deeper understanding, the proper application can be made that will produce positive results in one’s life. The combination of wisdom and understanding, one can compare head and heart, and the balance between the two leads to da’at – true knowledge of God.
King Solomon wisely declared, “A woman of valor is the crown of her husband” (Proverbs 12:4). She completes and honours him. In this regard, we can compare the six workdays of the week as ‘masculine,’ which are crowned with the ‘feminine’ Shabbat. During the week, we work, our actions are outward and giving. But Shabbat is a day to rest in the feminine mode of receptivity; which is why the Shabbat often is referred to as a Queen – Shabbat Ha’Malka or a Bride – Kalla. Work is an act that demonstrates man’s mastery over the world through his intelligence and skill. Shabbat, on the other hand, is a day of rest, drawing back from exhibiting dominance over nature and contentedly existing in a state of harmony with it – absorbing and appreciating the blessings and fruit of the weekday efforts.
While we look forward in faith and anticipation to “the day that will be all Shabbat’’ when Messiah is ruling from Jerusalem and the Father’s Kingdom of love and peace is being established in the world, we can enjoy a taste of that day every Shabbat.
As we greet one another with, “Shabbat Shalom!” we express the peace that this day is designed to bring between man and nature, reflecting the harmony between God and His creation. A wise woman once said, “The Shabbat does not only make you holy, it also makes you whole!” The real depth and mystery of Shabbat is the unity and delight of echad – oneness. Another word from the same root is shevet – to dwell; as in the beautiful verse in Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to [shevet] dwell together in unity!” In unity, one-ness, harmony we find Shalom. A third word from the same root is shev -to sit, indicating a position of rest. God worked and created the world in six days and then, on the seventh, He rested and made it His home [bayit] – His dwelling place; a place of rest, harmony, beauty and peace. There was Shalom Bayit. This Shalom Bayit is God’s design and will for every husband and wife, every family and home.
The physical dimension mirrors the spiritual, and the perfect unity and ‘oneness’ of God is reflected in the union of a husband and wife. It is in this unity that God’s image can most perfectly be reflected on earth; which, very likely, is why the greatest aim of the enemy of God is to destroy this image – man and woman, masculine and feminine, husband and wife. Adam and Eve first were created as one being; then God separated Eve from Adam and said to them, “Now become one!” Unity takes work and vision, and building together in harmony. When a husband and wife, and we can extend this concept to people in general, interact with each other with utmost respect and love, the full glory of God can be revealed.
In a marriage, each partner’s approach to sex in their marital relationship is the main indication of how much they have matured emotionally and of the strength of their character, psychologically. There needs to be a balance of the essentially feminine characteristic of chessed (the ability to love and care for, and nurture another unselfishly) and the more masculine gevurah (sound judgment, self control and restraint). This capacity will be expressed in the way a person relates to their spouse before, during, and after sexual intercourse. Of course, key, and of utmost importance is for each one to have the awareness of including God as central to the relationship, especially in the bedroom.
The Hebrew word for marriage is Kiddushin, from the root Kadosh – holy. When a couple understand the beauty and intimacy that exists also in their sexual union, when two opposites become one, then new spiritual heights of pleasure and joy are attained, and God’s image in their life together becomes stronger and clearer. On the other hand, if sexual desire is reduced to merely satisfying one’s bodily lust, this will lead one further from God and reduce the act to an animalistic level.
If a marriage is based solely on physical attraction, without an awareness of the spiritual dimensions of love, the marriage may likely deteriorate over time. One or both may even become entangled in an illicit, extra-marital affair. Falsehood then enters the dying relationship and fear of discovery erodes whatever was left of it. If chessed (love and kindness,; compassion) is no longer operating in a marriage then the covenant is damaged. It probably was not true love, which is based on a spiritual bond. Any adultery, being untrue to one’s partner, damages the covenant between the couple and with God. It is equivalent to idolatry, disloyalty to the Divine. Without true knowledge of God, which includes love of Him, faith in Him, and trust in Him, so-called love and compassion can be distorted and turn into cruelty.
Rebbe Nachman taught:
The prophet foretells (Isaiah 11:9), “They shall neither destroy nor harm in all My holy mountain, for the earth will will be filled with Da’at [Knowledge] of God as the waters cover the sea.” The attributes of compassion and kindness depend wholly on [this] Da’at, and in the Messianic Future, Da’at will be very great. For this reason, when Mashiach comes, there will be no cruelty or desire to harm others. Compassion will spread far and wide.”
BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it… (Genesis 1:28).
God spoke these words first to Adam and Eve, and we see them echoed through the Scriptures, to Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and eventually to the nation of Israel.
The primary response to the blessing and command is physical. People have the ability to procreate physically, in accord with their human bodies. As important is spiritual fruitfulness. If spiritual fruitfulness, which stems from one’s own being, is missing in a relationship, whether it be with God or one another, the relationship will not thrive and grow into its full potential, and may even wither and die.
The apostle Paul emphasises this truth in Ephesians 1:4,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord and Messiah Yeshua, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Messiah, even as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love:
How do aspire to be “holy and without blemish”? He tells us, by cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in our lives:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… (Galatians 5:22).
Early Israel poster for Tu’B’Shevat
The 15th of the month, Tu b’Shevat, is celebrated as the New Year for Trees and is the time that the sap in the trees begins to rise, ushering in new life, and feeding and strengthening the tree for the year to come. The dormant tree is waking from its winter’s sleep and we are reminded that although the tree looks dead with no greenery, and no fruit, inwardly there is much life.
During this Hebrew month of Shevat our attention is very much focussed on the physical trees in Israel and the fruit they bear. The quality and abundance of fruit that is produced on a tree is dependent on the quality of soil in which it is rooted and in theatre it receives and the care with which it is maintained. The same factors can apply to the production of spiritual fruit in our lives. Is our life rooted in our Father’s Love and being nourished by His Word? Are we caring for and maintaining the growth of our spirits? The fruit, or lack of it, in our lives will be evidence of that.
The reassurance and comfort we have is that, as we do our part to the best of our ability, our Father God – the Master Gardener, is working with us.
And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9: 6,8).
May the Garden of our lives abound this month with the fruit of the Spirit of Holiness, and may they nourish and sustain and encourage the other precious souls He has placed in our lives. And, as we go forward in His light and love, may His glory shine even more greatly in the earth.
~ Keren Hannah
For more information on the New Year for Trees, Tu b’Shevat and a Seder to celebrate please visit the His-Israel website – www.his-israel.com