But what does it all mean? 🙂
Well, let me take a stab at it – but I’m not going to talk about it all. I will cover some of the main points I was trying to make. Some of this poem is still a mystery to me. I learn things when I write, and sometimes I sense bigger ideas that I try to connect to. There are meanings in here that I don’t know yet, and I hope there are meanings in here for you as a reader, if we’re both fortunate. Hopefully some of what I include here as an annotation is illuminating.
This poem had a lot it was trying to say. I just went back and counted – my rough drafts and work writing this poem took 57 hand written pages. Let’s see if I can remember what I was doing when I wrote this a year ago 🙂
First, the title: New Year of the Trees. In Hebrew, the title would be be Rosh HaShana La’Ilanot
This day (the New Year of the Trees) is also called Tu BiShvat (which references the date of the New Year of the Trees in Hebrew).
The age of a tree was important to determining the payment of tithes. Tu BiShvat is the cutoff date for counting the age of the trees for payment of tithes. Per wikipedia:
Orlah refers to a biblical prohibition (Leviticus 19:23) on eating the fruit of trees produced during the first three years after they are planted.
Neta Reva’i refers to the biblical commandment (Leviticus 19:24) to bring fourth-year fruit crops to Jerusalem as a tithe.
Maaser Sheni was a tithe which was eaten in Jerusalem and Maaser Ani was a tithe given to the poor (Deuteronomy 14:22–29) that were also calculated by whether the fruit ripened before or after Tu BiShvat.
The time point around which this was measured to make acceptable offerings: New Year of the Trees.
This poem is about acceptable (and great and last) sacrifices as well as sabbaths. This poem is about universal hardship and changes of heart. It’s about the before and after, the “line cut off” (linea abscissa), the renewed/”newly new,” and about “scarification.” This poem is about redemption “at cost” and “in trade.” The title references before and after, acceptable sacrifice, renewal, weight and measure, and a host of other concepts. But you have to know the etymology of the title to catch all of those concepts. And now you know: Rosh HaShana La’Ilanot / Tu BiShvat. New Year of the Trees.
The stanza by stanza breakdown is next.
Just a couple quick overall notes…. First, as briefly noted in the Preface of this annotation, it was important to me that this poem (as opposed to the behind the scenes annotation) be non-denominational or multi-denominational or undenominational. I would like people from across worldwide faiths to be able to read this poem and have it resonate with them. Of course I write from the background of my own specific faith, and describe that here in the annotation – but I was trying to write a poem using the language of the Abrahamic faiths – and though I have my own personal meaning behind what was written here, I wanted what was written to be more universal and allow others to also find meaning within.
Another overall note: I was fascinated when I wrote this poem about the concept of words that carry more weight than others. Some words seem to be heavy-laden barges, other mere skiffs. The words of this title and others within this poem – these words that have such tradition, meaning, and heft, are so magnificent. They are laden barges.I grew up reading and loving the Old Testament and honor the Hebrew prophets. The Old Testament culture and language as translated through the King James Version of the Bible is certainly part of my personal, faith, and linguistic heritage. It is also my initial connection to Jewish traditions and history.
Learning further about Jewish and Islamic concepts helped me address ideas that matter a great deal to me in this poem. This poem is a nod of love and respect towards my fellow travelers on the road of faith and worship. This poem embodies a union of the three great faith traditions among the children of Abraham: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. While I ultimately write as a Christian, and specifically as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am also generally writing from a position of faith, honoring and recognizing that this life has a purpose and plan, and that God is over all. In that sense, I join my Islamic, Jewish, and Christian friends in worship through this poem – wherein I acknowledge that “it must be so,” that “it [in fact] is so,” and that under God’s “hov’ring hand,” “some great thing will thenceforth yield” from all that we suffer and enjoy together on this earth. Selah. Salaam.
Before I describe something of the meaning of each stanza, here is a reminder of the general outline and chiastic structure of the whole poem.
I. Modus Operandi: It must be so.
II. Chadash: Inedible until the sacrifice.
III. Clingstone: The [stony heart] must be cut from the flesh.
IV. Shiv’at HaMinim: The acceptable sacrifice, the first fruits.
V. Drupelet: In every human heart is sorrow.
VI. Ficus Carica: Yet we are covered.
VII. QED: It is so.
Link to the stanzas for their behind the scenes:
Jump to any part of the annotation here (including directly to the stanza by stanza descriptions):
- The conceptual outline of the poem, generally
- The basic layout, in reference to the concept of the jubilee.
- The use of the word “selah”
- The sets of sevens
- A stanza by stanza review of some of what it all meansLinks to the stanzas for their individual “behind the scenes”: