Shvat is the eleventh of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar.
The 15th day of Shevat—Tu Beeshvat—is the "New Year of Trees" according to the school of Hillel; according to the school of Shamai, the "New Year of Trees" is the first of Shevat. The "New Year of Trees" is the day from which the new year is reckoned for the fruit of the trees with regard to the mitzvot of ma'aser ("tithes"; fruit that blossoms after this date may not be taken as a tithe with fruit that blossomed before) and orlah (the fruit of a tree less than three years old is called orlah, and is forbidden to eat). Tu Beeshvat is celebrated by partaking of fruit, especially of the seven species with which the land of Israel is blessed.
Tu Beeshvat, the 15th day of the 11th month alludes to the secret of God's essential Name, Havayah (י־הוה). The value of the first two letters of Havayah, (the yud and hei, which represent the higher, concealed level of unification) is 15. Its last two letters (vav and hei, which represent the lower, revealed level of unification), equal 11. Indeed, as explained elsewhere, the full secret of the Havayah is the secret of the "Tree of Life," the tree of the month of Shevat.
The letter tzadik (צ) symbolizes the true tzadik ("righteous one"), "and the tzadik is the foundation of the world." The one consummate tzadik of the generation personifies the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden (all of whose trees correspond to the souls of the righteous).
The very form of the letter tzadik (especially its final form, ץ, which represents the true manifestation of the tzadik in the future) resembles a tree. In the Torah, man is called "the tree of the field" (עֵץ הַשָׂדֶה), which equals 474. 474 is also the gematria of "knowledge" (דַעַת), the unique property of man in general and of the tzadik in particular. The word "knowledge" in Hebrew implies the power of "connection." Thus, the month of Shevat is the month for connecting to the true tzadik of the generation, the Tree of Life of the generation.
The New Year of Trees of the month of Shevat is the time that the rain waters of the winter months begin to ascend in the veins of the tree and bring it new life. The ascent of water in general is represented by the "pail" (דְלִי), which in Hebrew steams from the root meaning "to lift up," as in the verse "my eyes are lifted up to heaven" (Isaiah 38:14). The letter of the previous month, Tevet, is the ayin (ע), which literally means "an eye." When the ayin of Tevet is lifted up to connect with the tzadik of Shevat, the word "tree" (עֵץ) is formed.
The Ba'al Shem Tov said that when one meets a water-carrier carrying pitchers full of water, it is a sign of blessing. The tzadik is considered the true manifestation of a water carrier.
"'Water' refers to Torah." The month of Shevat is referred to as the new year for the study of Torah. The eating of the fruits of Shevat corresponds to the partaking of and integration of the sweet fruits of Torah wisdom. And so the waters of Shevat represent the sweet waters of Torah.
The name "Asher" (אַשֵׁר) means "pleasure" and "happiness." Our father Jacob blessed his son Asher: "from Asher comes delicious [lit. fat] bread, and he shall provide the delicacies of the king" (Genesis 49:20). From this it is evident that Asher represents the sense of taste and eating.
The special tree which Asher personifies is the olive tree, which gives the goodly oil with which Asher's portion in the land of Israel was blessed. Of the seven species of the land of Israel, the olive is the sixth, which, in Kabbalah, corresponds to the sefirah of foundation, and to the tzadik who is described in the Bible as, "tzadik, foundation of the world" (Proverbs 10:25). Olive oil represents the potent seed of the tzadik to bear and sustain blessed generations of Jewish souls.
The rectified sense of eating is the special sense of the tzadik, as is said: "The tzadik eats to satisfy his soul" (Proverbs 13:25). This verse continues: "but the stomach of the wicked is always lacking." The soul-oriented tzadik feels "full" and happy with a little; the body-oriented wicked person never feels content.
Eating from the Tree of Life, the tzadik derives great pleasure ("life" in Torah means "pleasure") from the Divine sparks of light and lifeforce present within the food he eats. In his rectified state of consciousness he is continuously aware that "not on the [physical dimension of] bread alone does man live, but on each utterance of the mouth of God does man live."
The time of greatest pleasure in partaking of food is on the day of Shabbat. The word for "to satisfy [his soul]" (שֹׂבַע) is cognate to the word for "seven" (שֶׁבַע), alluding to the seventh day of Shabbat. A true tzadik experiences the pleasure of Shabbat the entire week (in the Zohar, the tzadik is called Shabbat). The word Shevat itself transforms to Shabbat (since the two letters tet and tav, both letters of the tongue, are phonetically interchangeable).
The relation between the stomach and sense of eating (and taste) is clear.
Our sages state: "the kurkavan [espophagus] grinds." The process of grinding is essential to digestion. Dissecting the coarse food substance to fine parts is necessary in order to release the sparks of Divine lifeforce contained within the food. By "grinding" (similar to the "chewing" of the mouth) the stomach "tastes" the inner essence of the food. This inner, spiritual sense of taste controls the more external sense of taste and eating in the mouth.