Asher: Tribe of Shevat

Asher was the eighth son of Jacob through Leah’s handmaid, Zilpah.  According to the Torah, midrash and rabbinical tradition Asher is a symbol of happiness.  There seems to be fairly strong consensus on this.   From his naming (Genesis 30:13) to his final blessing from Yisrael (Genesis 49:20) – Asher was blessed with happiness.

“And Leah said: ‘Happy am I! for the daughters will call me happy.’ And she called his name Asher.”  

Genesis 30:13

Asher’s emblem is the olive tree, which makes sense since the tribe of Asher was situated in an area that had them responsible for the production of olives and olive oil in ancient Israel.  The tribe of Asher was known for having an abundance of male children and daughters so beautiful they were sought out by “princes and priests.” (Jewish Encyclopedia)   Asher is also known for his daughter, Serach whose goodness was rewarded with eternal life and is said to walk among us this day like Elijah.

Shevat is a month where, in a non-leap year, we should begin to see the signs of spring emerging by the end of it – or at least know it is coming so very soon – and this makes most people very happy.   We celebrate the return of spring through the holiday of Tu B’Shevat, which is one of the four traditional Jewish new years. Asher seems to be associated with delicious food, too, “As for Asher, his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.”(Genesis 49:20)  What a perfect correspondence to the sense of the month, Taste, and the Kabbalistic tradition of a Tu B’Shevat seder that has become so popular in recent years.  Food is one of our simplest pleasures in life!

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