Rosh Chodesh Shvat: Rejuvenation

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Shvat 5784:

Nightfall Wednesday, January 10 – nightfall Friday, February 9, 2024

Pronunciation: Shvaht

Wellness Area: Eating

Astrological Sign: D’li (Aquarius)

Hebrew Letter: צ Tzadi

Holiday: Tu B’Shvat (The New Year for the Trees)

(evening of Wednesday, January 24 – Thursday, January 25, 2024)

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Knowing where we come from is so crucial for our sense of Self . This text highlights the significance of knowing our place of origin. When Adam was created, The Divine presented all the animals to him for him to name, signifying his deep understanding of each animal’s essence and purpose.

After this task, the Divine asked Adam his own name, prompting him to reflect on his own creation from the earth, and thus identifying himself as "Adam," which comes from the word “Adamah”/Earth in Hebrew.

Adam, and every human being created after, has a deep intimate connection with the natural world. It is both our birthplace, as well as the place we will return after death, as it says, “You are earth and you will return to earth” (Bereishit 3:19).

(ד) וַיִּצֶר ה' אֱלֹהִים מִן הָאֲדָמָה (בראשית ב, יט), בְּעוֹן קוֹמֵי רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי, כְּתִיב (בראשית א, כד): וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים תּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה לְמִינָהּ, וּמַה תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר וַיִּצֶר ה' אֱלֹהִים מִן הָאֲדָמָה כָּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה, אָמַר לָהֶן לְהַלָּן לַבְּרִיאָה, וְכָאן לְכִבּוּשׁ, הֵיאַךְ מַה דְּאַתְּ אָמַר (דברים ב, יט): כִּי תָצוּר אֶל עִיר יָמִים רַבִּים, אָמַר רַבִּי אַחָא בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לִבְרֹאת אֶת הָאָדָם, נִמְלַךְ בְּמַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת, אָמַר לָהֶן (בראשית א, כו): נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם, אָמְרוּ לוֹ אָדָם זֶה מַה טִּיבוֹ, אָמַר לָהֶן חָכְמָתוֹ מְרֻבָּה מִשֶּׁלָּכֶם, הֵבִיא לִפְנֵיהֶם אֶת הַבְּהֵמָה וְאֶת הַחַיָּה וְאֶת הָעוֹף, אָמַר לָהֶם זֶה מַה שְּׁמוֹ וְלֹא הָיוּ יוֹדְעִין, הֶעֱבִירָן לִפְנֵי אָדָם, אָמַר לוֹ זֶה מַה שְּׁמוֹ, אָמַר זֶה שׁוֹר, זֶה חֲמוֹר, זֶה סוּס וְזֶה גַּמָּל, וְאַתָּה מַה שְּׁמֶךָ, אָמַר לוֹ אֲנִי נָאֶה לְהִקָּרֵא אָדָם שֶׁנִּבְרֵאתִי מִן הָאֲדָמָה, וַאֲנִי מַה שְּׁמִי, אָמַר לוֹ לְךָ נָאֶה לְהִקָרְאוֹת אֲדֹנָי, שֶׁאַתָּה אָדוֹן לְכָל בְּרִיּוֹתֶיךָ. אָמַר רַבִּי אֲחָא (ישעיה מב, ח): אֲנִי ה' הוּא שְׁמִי, הוּא שְׁמִי שֶׁקָּרָא לִי אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן. חָזַר וְהֶעֱבִירָן לְפָנָיו זוּגוֹת, אָמַר לַכֹּל יֵשׁ בֶּן זוּג וְלִי אֵין בֶּן זוּג, (בראשית ב, כ): וּלְאָדָם לֹא מָצָא עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ, אֶתְמְהָא, וְלָמָּה לֹא בְרָאָהּ לוֹ תְּחִלָּה, אֶלָּא צָפָה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שֶׁהוּא עָתִיד לִקְרוֹת עָלֶיהָ תִּגָּר, לְפִיכָךְ לֹא בְּרָאָהּ לוֹ עַד שֶׁתְּבָעָהּ בְּפִיו, כֵּיוָן שֶׁתְּבָעָהּ, מִיָּד (בראשית ב, כא): וַיַּפֵּל ה' אֱלֹהִים תַּרְדֵּמָה וגו'.

(4) “The Lord God formed from the ground every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens, and brought them to the man to see what he would call it; and whatever the man would call every living creature, that was its name” (Genesis 2:19).
“The Lord God formed from the ground [every beast of the field]” – they raised a question before Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakai: It is written: “God said: Let the earth produce living creatures after their kinds” (Genesis 1:24). Why then does the verse state [here again]: “The Lord God formed [vayitzer] from the ground every beast of the field”? He said to them: There [the previous verse] it was referring to the creation [of the animals], and here it refers to domination,13He claims that “vayitzer” does not mean “God formed” the animals, but that He placed them under man’s domination. as it says: “When you besiege [tatzur] a city many days” (Deuteronomy 20:19).
Rabbi Aḥa said: When the Holy One blessed be He came to create man, He consulted with the ministering angels. He said to them: “Let us make man” (Genesis 1:26). They said to Him: ‘This man, what is his nature?’ He said to them: ‘His wisdom is greater than yours.’ He brought the animals, the beasts, and the birds before them and said to them: ‘What is its name of this one?’ And they did not know. He passed them before Adam and said to him: ‘What is the name of this one?’ He said: ‘This is an ox; this is a donkey; this is a horse; this is a camel.’ [He then asked:] ‘And you, what is your name?’ He said to Him: ‘It is appropriate that I be called Adam, as I was created from the ground [adama].’ [He asked further:] ‘And I, what is My name?’ He said to Him: ‘It is appropriate to call you my Lord [adonai], as You are the Lord [adon] over all your creatures.’ Rabbi Aḥa said: “I am the Lord, that is My name” (Isaiah 42:8) – that is My name that Adam the first man called Me.
He then passed them [the animals] before him in pairs. He [Adam] said: All of them have partners, but I do not have a partner – “and for the man, he did not find a helper to be alongside him” (Genesis 2:20). This is bewildering; why, in fact, did He not create her for him at the outset? The explanation is that the Holy One blessed be He foresaw that he [Adam] would complain about her in the future;14See Genesis 3:12. therefore, He did not create her until he requested her explicitly. After that, “the Lord God cast a deep slumber…” (Genesis 2:21).

Reflection Question

  • What does this story reveal about Adam’s wisdom?

  • Can you share a story or memory you have from your place of origin?

  • When did you feel the most connected to your birthplace? What is your relationship to it now?

(טו) וַיִּקַּ֛ח יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיַּנִּחֵ֣הוּ בְגַן־עֵ֔דֶן לְעָבְדָ֖הּ וּלְשָׁמְרָֽהּ׃

(15) God took earthling and placed it in the garden of Eden, to serve and guard it.

(א) רְאֵה אֶת מַעֲשֵׂה הָאֱלֹהִים כִּי מִי יוּכַל לְתַקֵּן אֵת אֲשֶׁר עִוְּתוֹ, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, נְטָלוֹ וְהֶחֱזִירוֹ עַל כָּל אִילָנֵי גַּן עֵדֶן, וְאָמַר לוֹ, רְאֵה מַעֲשַׂי כַּמָּה נָאִים וּמְשֻׁבָּחִין הֵן, וְכָל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָאתִי בִּשְׁבִילְךָ בָּרָאתִי, תֵּן דַּעְתְּךָ שֶׁלֹא תְקַלְקֵל וְתַחֲרִיב אֶת עוֹלָמִי, שֶׁאִם קִלְקַלְתָּ אֵין מִי שֶׁיְתַקֵּן אַחֲרֶיךָ

(1) Look at God's work - for who can straighten what He has twisted? (Ecclesiastes 7:13). When the Blessed Holy One created the first human, He took him and led him round all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him: “Look at My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are! And all that I have created, it was for you that I created it. Pay attention that you do not corrupt and destroy My world: if you corrupt it, there is no one to repair it after you.

Reflection Question

  • What stands out about this text to you?

  • Does the line, “And all that I have created, it was for you that I created it.” make you uncomfortable? Why would the Divine say this?

The Divine warns Adam: “Pay attention that you do not corrupt and destroy My world: if you corrupt it, there is no one to repair it after you.” What feelings or thoughts arise when you hear this?

מתני׳ ארבעה ראשי שנים הם באחד בניסן ר"ה למלכים ולרגלים באחד באלול ראש השנה למעשר בהמה ר' אלעזר ור"ש אומרים באחד בתשרי באחד בתשרי ראש השנה לשנים ולשמיטין וליובלות לנטיעה ולירקות באחד בשבט ראש השנה לאילן כדברי בית שמאי בית הלל אומרים בחמשה עשר בו:
Mishnah: There are four "beginnings of the year." The first of Nissan is the beginning of the year for kings and holidays. The first of Elul is the beginning of the year for animal tithes. Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Shimon say [animal tithes start] on the first of Tishrei. The first of Tishrei is the beginning of the year for years, for the Sabbatical years, the Jubilees, for planting, and for vegetables. The first of Shevat is the beginning of the year for trees, so says Beit Shammai. Beit Hillel says it is the 15th of that [month]

Babylonian Talmud, Ta'anit 7a -1

Translation Original
Rav Nahman bar Isaac said: Why are the words of the Torah compared to a tree, as it is said: “She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her” (Proverbs 3:18)? This is to tell you that, as a small log may set fire to a large log, so do the lesser scholars sharpen the wits of the greater. And Rabbi Hanina said the same: Much have I learned from my masters, and more from any colleagues than from my masters, and from my disciples the most. [Translation by CAJE]
אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק: למה נמשלו דברי תורה כעץ, שנאמר +משלי ג'+ עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה, לומר לך: מה עץ קטן מדליק את הגדול - אף תלמידי חכמים, קטנים מחדדים את הגדולים. והיינו דאמר רבי חנינא: הרבה למדתי מרבותי ומחבירי יותר מרבותי, ומתלמידי יותר מכולן.
הואיל ויצאו רוב גשמי שנה - שכבר עבר רוב ימות הגשמים שהוא זמן רביעה ועלה השרף באילנות ונמצאו הפירות חונטין מעתה:

[What is the significance of the 1st/15th of Shvat?] Since the bulk of the rainy season is already passed; now the sap begins to rise in the trees. The fruits will begin to blossom at this point.

“In the month of Shvat, sap rises in the tree, beginning the process of producing fruit. So too is a person like a tree of the field … the potential to draw up ‘sap,’ that is emotion and faith in one’s heart eventually produces fruits of mitzvot and good deeds.” Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda, the 20th C Klausenberg Rebbe

Rabbi Jill Hammer, "That's not Dirt. Its Earth."

...This is also a teaching for our inner soil, the ensouled bodies we have been given to walk this earth. We too need fallow time. We too need to stop the cycles of work, of planting and harvest, of making ourselves produce, and give ourselves true rest. True rest is play. True rest is rediscovering the wild self, the self of dreams and visions and prayers, the self that God invents, not us. I can’t help but think of the artist and author Maurice Sendak of blessed memory, who died this week, and who taught so many of us about the importance of being among the wild things for a while before we go home for dinner. We too need to go back to our original owner, who is not our employer or our customer or even our beloved families or friends, but the holy blessed One. We need to free ourselves from the indentured servitude of our assumptions and routines. We need to remember that the messy stuff inside us is not dirt, it’s earth, and earth grows things.

I want to suggest that there is an even greater mystery in the law of the jubilee year. The freeing of the land and its inhabitants is not only a matter of ethics or of self-discovery; it is also a matter of quantum physics. You can’t own land. The topsoil of this planet isn’t a thing; it is a life-giving mystery permeated with water, air, and organisms. You can’t own space. Space is full of atoms that are mostly nothing; it is an immensely potent and dynamic emptiness. You can’t own souls. What we call ownership and control and inheritance and commerce is really stewardship. The Torah teaches that our interactions with all physical entities, including the earth, need to be touched by humility and by holiness.

(כג) וְכִי־תָבֹ֣אוּ אֶל־הָאָ֗רֶץ וּנְטַעְתֶּם֙ כָּל־עֵ֣ץ מַאֲכָ֔ל וַעֲרַלְתֶּ֥ם עָרְלָת֖וֹ אֶת־פִּרְי֑וֹ שָׁלֹ֣שׁ שָׁנִ֗ים יִהְיֶ֥ה לָכֶ֛ם עֲרֵלִ֖ים לֹ֥א יֵאָכֵֽל׃ (כד) וּבַשָּׁנָה֙ הָרְבִיעִ֔ת יִהְיֶ֖ה כָּל־פִּרְי֑וֹ קֹ֥דֶשׁ הִלּוּלִ֖ים לַה' (כה) וּבַשָּׁנָ֣ה הַחֲמִישִׁ֗ת תֹּֽאכְלוּ֙ אֶת־פִּרְי֔וֹ לְהוֹסִ֥יף לָכֶ֖ם תְּבוּאָת֑וֹ אֲנִ֖י ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃

(23) When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten. (24) In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubilation before the LORD; (25) and only in the fifth year may you use its fruit—that its yield to you may be increased: I the LORD am your God.

יומא חד הוה אזל באורחא חזייה לההוא גברא דהוה נטע חרובא אמר ליה האי עד כמה שנין טעין אמר ליה עד שבעין שנין אמר ליה פשיטא לך דחיית שבעין שנין אמר ליה האי [גברא] עלמא בחרובא אשכחתיה כי היכי דשתלי לי אבהתי שתלי נמי לבראי

One day, he was walking along the road when he saw a certain man planting a carob tree. Ḥoni said to him: This tree, after how many years will it bear fruit? The man said to him: It will not produce fruit until seventy years have passed. Ḥoni said to him: Is it obvious to you that you will live seventy years, that you expect to benefit from this tree? He said to him: I found a world full of carob trees. Just as my ancestors planted for me, I too am planting for my descendants.

Reflection Question

  • What is the story’s lesson? What else stands out to you about the story?

  • What are personal practices that you do to protect the environment?

(יט) כִּֽי־תָצ֣וּר אֶל־עִיר֩ יָמִ֨ים רַבִּ֜ים לְֽהִלָּחֵ֧ם עָלֶ֣יהָ לְתָפְשָׂ֗הּ לֹֽא־תַשְׁחִ֤ית אֶת־עֵצָהּ֙ לִנְדֹּ֤חַ עָלָיו֙ גַּרְזֶ֔ן כִּ֚י מִמֶּ֣נּוּ תֹאכֵ֔ל וְאֹת֖וֹ לֹ֣א תִכְרֹ֑ת כִּ֤י הָֽאָדָם֙ עֵ֣ץ הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה...

(19) When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. For is a person like a tree of the field ...?

“A person may only grow spiritually by becoming as nothing … As the verse says: “a person is like a tree of the field.” The word person (adam) reminds each of us that we come from the earth (adamah), which encourages humility. Like the seed that disintegrates in the soil, we will become elevated to the next level, like the fruit that sprouts and becomes a fruit-producing-tree.” Rabbi Yisrael Friedman, 19th C Chortkov Rebbe

(יח) עֵץ־חַיִּ֣ים הִ֭יא לַמַּחֲזִיקִ֣ים בָּ֑הּ וְֽתֹמְכֶ֥יהָ מְאֻשָּֽׁר׃ (פ)

(18) She is a tree of life to those who holds her and happy are all who hold her fast.

באחד בשבט ר"ה לאילן: מ"ט אמר רבי אלעזר א"ר אושעיא הואיל ויצאו רוב גשמי שנה ועדיין רוב תקופה מבחוץ מאי קאמר ה"ק אע"פ שרוב תקופה מבחוץ הואיל ויצאו רוב גשמי שנה ת"ר מעשה בר"ע שליקט אתרוג באחד בשבט ונהג בו שני עישורין
§ The mishna taught: On the first of Shevat is the new year for trees, according to the statement of Beit Shammai. The Gemara asks: What is the reason that the new year for trees was set on this date? Rabbi Elazar said that Rabbi Oshaya said: The reason is since by that time most of the year’s rains have already fallen, and most of the season, i.e., winter, is yet to come, as it continues until the spring equinox, which usually occurs in Nisan. The Gemara asks: What is he saying? The Gemara explains: This is what he said: Even though most of the winter season is yet to come, nevertheless, since most of the year’s rains have already fallen, it is considered the end of the previous year of rain, and anything that grows from then on is considered produce of the next year. The Sages taught in a baraita: There was once an incident involving Rabbi Akiva, who picked an etrog on the first of Shevat and set aside two tithes. This occurred in the second or the fifth year of the Sabbatical cycle. In the second and fifth years one sets aside second tithe, whereas in the third and sixth years one sets aside poor man’s tithe. Rabbi Akiva set aside both second tithe and poor man’s tithe because he was in doubt about the halakha.
בעא מיניה ר' יוחנן מרבי ינאי אתרוג ר"ה שלו אימתי א"ל שבט שבט דחדשים או שבט דתקופה א"ל דחדשים
Rabbi Yoḥanan inquired of Rabbi Yannai: With regard to an etrog, when is its new year? Rabbi Yannai said to him: It is in Shevat. Rabbi Yoḥanan asked again: Are you referring to the lunar month of Shevat or to the Shevat of the solar season, which begins thirty days after the winter solstice, but on a different date each year? Rabbi Yannai said to him: I am referring to the lunar month of Shevat.

Excerpt from Chana Bracha Sigelbaum, Tu B’Shevat – The Holiday of Redemption

The Sequences of the Seder Corresponding to the Four Worlds
The fruits of the Tu b’Shevat Seder are divided into four categories corresponding to the Four Worlds that link the upper and lower reality. Each sequence of fruit culminates with a cup of wine. As on Pesach, the wine is poured before the text is read and drunk afterwards. The first cup is white wine symbolizing the refined ethereal upper world of אֲצִילוּת/Atzilut – Emanation. This cup is followed by a cup of white wine with a drop of red added, corresponding to the world of בְּרִיאָה /Beriyah – Creation. The third cup with equal red and white wine reflects the world of יְצִירָה /Yetzirah – Formation, whereas the fourth cup filled with red wine, represents our coarse material lower world of עֲשִׂיָּה /Asiyah – Action. During the Tu b’Shevat Seder we spiral downward from the highest world of Emanation beyond any physical manifestation, through the worlds of Formation and Creation, ultimately landing in our physical world of Action.

The Different Categories of Fruit and their Corresponding Kabbalistic Worlds
1. There are no fruits that correspond to the world of Emanation, which is totally spiritual beyond physical manifestation. However, for this category, we have chosen the Seven Species by which the Land of Israel is praised, since these fruits take precedence according to the laws of blessings as will be explained.
2. Wholly edible fruits correspond to the world of Creation.
3. Fruits that are wholly edible except for their inner pits correspond to the world of Formation.
4. Fruits that have outer inedible shells correspond to the world of Action.

It is interesting to note that the Seven Species include fruits from each of these

(ט) טַעֲמ֣וּ וּ֭רְאוּ כִּֽי־ט֣וֹב יְהֹוָ֑ה אַֽשְׁרֵ֥י הַ֝גֶּ֗בֶר יֶחֱסֶה־בּֽוֹ׃
(9) Taste and see how good the LORD is;
happy the man who takes refuge in Him!

Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, a Chasidic Tzadik, interprets this verse to mean, “Taste and see that all goodness is in fact Hashem"

Journal Prompts for Shvat

Set a timer for 3 minutes for each question. We encourage you to write by hand, as you are able. Keep writing the whole time, to stay open to the flow of new realizations.

  • What do you love about trees?

  • Where in nature do you feel most alive?

  • How do you rejuvenate your energy?

Drawing Exercise for Shvat:

In Deuteronomy, it is written, "Human is a tree of the field," suggesting a shared existence with roots, a trunk, branches, and fruit. Let's embark on a journey to explore these shared aspects, using the metaphor of a tree. Even if you don't consider yourself an artist, this exercise is not about the artistic representation but rather an introspective exploration of ourselves.


Begin by drawing the roots of your tree. These represent your lineage — your ancestors, birthplace, and your connection to the past. Write a few words representing your roots, such as your ancestral land, key figures like your matriarchs, or the place of your birth.


Move on to drawing the trunk, the core of who you are. Explore what makes you stand tall and proud. Reflect on the sources of your confidence and the elements that define your identity.


Draw the branches, symbolizing the pathways you have taken in life. Contemplate the decisions that have shaped your journey. Consider the various roles you play in life and ponder what aspirations still drive you.

Fruit and Flowers:

Illustrate the fruit and flowers of your tree, representing your spiritual offerings to the world. Identify and celebrate your unique gifts that enrich the lives of others.

Saraf (Sweet Sap):

Shvat, derived from the Hebrew word "Shvatim" meaning branches, marks the awakening from winter dormancy. Draw the rising Saraf (Sweet Sap) up the tree, using any color and pathway that feels enlivening. Contemplate what this rising sap represents in your life, symbolizing the nourishment and awakening of the life force within you.

כִּ֚י יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ מְבִֽיאֲךָ֖ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ טוֹבָ֑ה אֶ֚רֶץ נַ֣חֲלֵי מָ֔יִם עֲיָנֹת֙ וּתְהֹמֹ֔ת יֹצְאִ֥ים בַּבִּקְעָ֖ה וּבָהָֽר׃
ood land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranat
אֶ֤רֶץ חִטָּה֙ וּשְׂעֹרָ֔ה וְגֶ֥פֶן וּתְאֵנָ֖ה וְרִמּ֑וֹן אֶֽרֶץ־זֵ֥ית שֶׁ֖מֶן וּדְבָֽשׁ׃
ood land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranat
אֶ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹ֤א בְמִסְכֵּנֻת֙ תֹּֽאכַל־בָּ֣הּ לֶ֔חֶם לֹֽא־תֶחְסַ֥ר כֹּ֖ל בָּ֑הּ אֶ֚רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲבָנֶ֣יהָ בַרְזֶ֔ל וּמֵהֲרָרֶ֖יהָ תַּחְצֹ֥ב נְחֹֽשֶׁת׃
ood land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranat
וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ וּבֵֽרַכְתָּ֙ אֶת־יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ עַל־הָאָ֥רֶץ הַטֹּבָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָֽתַן־לָֽךְ׃
ood land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranat