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Tevet - Pruning Season

Tevet - Pruning Season by Chana-Toni Whitmont / Created Tevet 16, 5783 - January 9, 2023

Tevet finally revealed itself to me in the afterglow of the full moon the night before. I had been looking for clues for the previous two weeks, but its secrets had remained allusive.

Tevet is traditionally thought of as the month of winter cold, the month with the chush of anger, the month that starts off with the glow of the miracle of Chanukah but then descends into the triple challenges of the destruction of the First Temple, Ezra’s death, and the translation of Torah into Greek. Tevet is associated with the tribe of Dan, the viper who strikes at the tail. From Dan we go to din/judgment, gevurah/severity and withholding.

In my garden however, Tevet occurs in summer and after several years of drought, fire and then two seasons of cold and wet, this year Tevet has heralded a warm and welcoming season reminiscent of my childhood before we began to experience weather as threat. This Tevet has been lush and abundant. As for Dan and striking vipers, while there are always scary snake sightings in January with most of the country on holidays either in the bush or on the beach, I haven’t encountered snakes in our garden for years. Was Tevet to be found in my garden?

On the evening of Tevet 16, I barely slept. I often have trouble sleeping on the full moon but my wakefulness was encouraged in anticipation of a 4am zoom commitment timed for people living on the other side of the planet. I studied through to dawn completely aware of the glisteningly bright and clear night sky. The sun rose, beckoning me outside into its warm embrace. Pretty soon I found myself with secateurs and pruning shears in hand. For a satisfying several hours I gave the garden its annual hair cut. Paths that were overgrown were opened up again, plants that had lost their shape were suddenly revealed in all their glorious form, shrubs that had been swallowed up by their neighbours were pruned back to their appropriate boundaries. Everything that was dangling dangerously, excessive and overblown was pruned back to showcase the inner beauty of both form and function.

It seemed to me that this seasonal (Tevet) cutting away reflects some of our foundation stories. It goes that “in the beginning” the universe was tohu/chaos. It was then separated and ordered in a series of “let there be’s”. Similarly Lurianic Kabbalah gives us the schema of tohu/chaos of the first competing vessels of creation, none of which could contain the egoistic exuberance of their own energy and so consequently shattered. That was replaced by a more orderly, inter-included and co-operative sefirotic system. In a ridiculously microcosmic way, this annual summer/Tevet judgmental, gevurah-like pruning tames the competition between plants into a system of independent and yet inter-inclusive garden elements. And just as Abrahamic circumcision, (and the exhortation towards the metaphoric circumcision of the lips, and of the heart), takes away what is unnecessary for the purpose of revealing the authentic and vulnerable inner essence, so too does seasonal purposeful, mindful and skilful pruning. If you hack away at it with mindless ego to prevail however, you do more damage than good, and harmony and order are undermined.

Collage elements

  • This mixed media piece was created from leftover scraps of patterned papers from the AB Studio Green Bubble Tea collection. I was attracted to these papers because of the contrast between the stark black and white and the more nuanced pinks and greens. There was something about the whimsy of the design which spoke to me - the prickliness of the cacti, and the presence of the heart motif that although hard to discern, peeks through. I loved the work boots and gardening gloves, both transformed from simply utilitarian to something beautiful.

  • Photo taken in the garden that day - the green recycling bins overflowing with pruned away, excessive growth.

  • Secateur embellishment - my creation.

  • Stream of consciousness text box created on Canva reads:

  • Tevet: cutting off what is unnecessary to reveal the inner truth - Dan: viper in the tail, judgment leading to rear guard action - Anger/laughter: quivering body state of excitement and arousal, despite contradictory underlying emotions - Capricorn: the mazal of leaping over the struggle between nefesh and gun - Ayin: two ways of seeing, good eye, evil eye, possibility to look through to reveal inner properties. Tevet: the tov/good within the source of tohu: Divine hester/hiddenness revealed by pruning back excess - Season of circumcision of excess in th