The month of Shevat and the holiday of Tu b’Shevat are our chance to rebalance ourselves and our energy before the season of real growing begins.
I bet you expected this month’s symbol to be all about trees and planting of trees — but that’s so easy to find! Here we’re going to talk about drinking and drinking vessels! How did I get to cups (כוסות) and the drinking of wine as the practice which symbolizes the month of Shevat. It was an easier leap than you might think. While the Tu B’Shevat seder may not be as ancient a practice as the Passover Seder, it has grown and grown in awareness and popularity. While both also have four cups of wine, the Tu b’Shevat seder is even more focused around the drinking of these cups than Passover is. It also aligns well with the astrological sign of the month, the bucket or vessel. So cups is our object for the month and the act of blessing and drinking a cup of wine, is our action.
Cups seem, understandably, to also take on the association of whatever they are holding. In Judaism they have a strong association with life and celebration, because those are the most common associations of wine in Judaism. In Tarot they are associated with emotions, and in European heraldry they are closely associated with fertility and of course Communion and the Holy Grail. In Judaism we also immediately associate them with the Sabbath, Passover, Elijah, Miriam, and often Joseph (Genesis 44:2, goblet = גְּבִיעִי). They are also, in Jewish tradition, symbols of good or bad fortune (i.e. “my cup runneth over”).
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Adapted from a post originally written for Peeling a Pomegranate (2003-2013) by Kohenet Ketzirah haMa’agelet