The month of Shvat is the eleventh month in the Hebrew calendar, when counting Nissan as the first month. In the Kabbalah, the number 11 symbolizes ability and power beyond the limits of worldly nature. The world was created by the '10 Divine Utterances (the expression 'G-d said' appears ten times in the biblical story of Genesis), parallel to the ten sefirot in the Kabbalah. The number 11, which is higher than 10, symbolizes supreme power above that of the universe. Thus, according to Kabbalah, in the month of Shvat we have special ability to grow and develop beyond our usual nature.
In the parallel relationships of the 12 months and the 12 tribes of Israel, the month of Shvat corresponds with Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob our forefather. The name Joseph in Hebrew means addition and growth, just as the month of Shvat is related to the world of plants, trees and fruit.
The zodiac sign of the month is Aquarius. In Shvat, most of the year’s rain has already fallen, the cisterns are full, the well-water rises, the buckets draw water from the top of the well and not its depths, and when they are lifted out, their rims are still dripping.
In the literature of the Kabbalah, water is likened to wisdom and a high level of consciousness. The sign of Aquarius, which implies abundance of water, indicates the advantageous qualities of the month for learning and gaining wisdom.
On the 1st day of Shvat of the last year that the Israelites were in the desert, before entering the Land of Israel, Moses translated the Torah into 70 languages and taught the Israelites the meaning of the Torah in each of these languages. The Kabbalah teachings tell us that the translation of the Torah by Moses is what enables the different civilizations and cultures of the world today to study and understand the wisdom of the inner dimension of the Torah and the Kabbalah in different languages.
In the middle of the month we celebrate 'Tu Beshvat' (15th of Shvat), the new year of the trees in Jewish tradition. The sixteenth-century Tzfat kabbalists established the custom of the 'Tu Beshvat Seder', a ceremony in which it is customary to eat many different fruits of the Land of Israel, and to say many blessings of praise for the Land of Israel. During the 'Tu Beshvat Seder' it is customary to drink four glasses of wine, parallel to the four spiritual worlds in the teachings of the Kabbalah – atzilut (emanation), beriya (creation), yetsira (formation) and asiya (action) – and to eat fruits that correspond to the qualities of each of these worlds.
In Jewish tradition, the month of Shvat is especially associated with the fruits of trees. Like the complex structure of the tree – roots, trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, sap, etc. – which is meant to produce fruit for the pleasure of humans, so too should humans aspire to make people around them enjoy and be happy by doing good and enlightening deeds.