Bucket, bucket, who’s got a bucket? A bucket (d’li)? That’s the astrological symbol for the month? How unglamourous is that? Not that a set of scales is glamourous, but it’s not a bucket. But the truth is that buckets, vessels that carry water, play an important role in Torah. A bucket on it’s own is useless, too. There must be a water carrier for the bucket to serve it’s role in the world.
Rebeka, wife of Issac and mother of Yisrael, is one of the most famous water carriers in the bible. We first meet Rebeka in Gen 24:16-22 when she is drawing water for her sheep and for Abraham’s servant. Her willingness to work as a water carrier is one of the criteria the servant sets for the women he will bring home to Issac as a bride. (Gen 24:14)
How do we connect the humble d’li, water bucket, with trees for Tu B’Shevat. The easy answer is that we use buckets to water trees. We also use buckets to collect fruit from the trees. After all, a bucket can hold things other than water. Tu B’Shevat is the day when the sap in the trees begins to rise, which is an invisible sign of the coming Spring. According to a midrashic tale found on Telshemesh.org, “In the month of Shevat, God throws down three burning coals to warm the earth. On the seventh of Shevat the first coal falls, to warm the air. On the fourteenth of the month the second falls, to warm the water in the trees.
On that day the Arabs say: Today water has entered the trees. On the twenty-third of Shevat, the third coal is thrown, to warm the soil.” A while back it occurred to me that this is the season of tapping trees for maple sap/syrup in my region of the world. What a great tie-in for Tu B’Shevat and the humble bucket. Both are partnerships of human ingenuity and G!d(dess) given resources. Tree sap doesn’t help us much if we don’t learn to make use of it and it still requires the same basic techniques and buckets that it always has. It also reminds us that with a little effort and patience we can experience the sweetness of life.
Taking these connections a bit further, we can connect to the Star card which is the image of a woman pouring out two containers of water, an obvious connection to the bucket. This connects us to the idea that this is “the celebration of God’s flowing life-force, the ever-young sap that runs through the branches of the universe.” (telshemesh.org) The Star card is a representation of this idea. This card can also be seen as a symbol of Miriam, another of our “water carriers.” Legend’s tell us that Miriam’s well sustained us in the desert. Another connection can be found through the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov who said “that when one meets a water-carrier carrying pitchers full of water, it is a sign of blessing. The tzadik is a true manifestation of a water carrier. ‘Water’ refers to Torah.” (inner.org) In the Star card, you have a women (or man) pouring the waters of Torah out into the land and also to the pool others will come to draw for themselves.
The month of Shevat, and Tu b’Shevat are our chance to rebalance ourselves and our energy before the season of real growing begins. The Tu B’Shevat Seder has participants ingest each of the four worlds and the holiday occurs at the mid-point of the month, which are both symbols of centering and balance. This is our cosmic opportunity to center ourselves and determine our priorities for busy growth in the late spring, summer and fall.
In Shevat we must the ask important question, “will I use that bucket or just let it lay there?”