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Tu B’Shvat: Annual Start-Up Nation Day Celebration

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Photo Credit: Serge Attal / flash 90

It is no coincidence that Shevat was seen as an attractive time to hold the first annual Geek Awards. According to the Book of Formation, the sense that corresponds to the month of Shevat is taste or eating. But as Avi Schneider writes in his GeekTIme.com article “The end of Startup Nation,” while it is good to eat from the “fruits” of our efforts, it is also important not to be overly satiated with these “fruits.”

If you notice, the word “fruit” was put into parenthesis because Avi doesn’t overtly mention the Hebrew month of Shevat nor the Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of Trees. But once we conceptualize the impressions he took from the first Geek Awards conference, we can begin to appreciate the deeper significance.

An appropriate verse to have in mind during the entire month of Shevat, and specifically on Tu B’Shevat, is that “a tzadik (righteous person) eats to sate his soul; but the stomach of the wicked wants more.” Unrefined spiritual taste buds cannot truly enjoy food, because they constantly desire to consume more. By contrast, a tzadik, who neither starves himself nor eats crudely, can take pleasure in good food, thankfully blessing God.

I ended a recent article on CES with a thought about the Tree of Knowledge. That while the primordial sin of eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge entered the world into a state of exile of disconnection, we are now approaching the state where we will be able to both eat from the fruit, while still perceiving it as being connected to the tree of Divine consciousness.

But instead of the Internet of Things (now the Internet of Everything) as explained there, we are now relating the concept of “tasting knowledge” to the role of the start-up entrepreneur. In this article, we are specifically corresponding taste to technology, because more than any other industry, it symbolizes the search for both knowledge and connectivity. It is because of this that we also have translated Tu B’Shevat allegorically as “start-up nation” day.

Before we begin our meditation about technology entrepreneurs, we will first present them as two extremes. The one who tastes the most from the fruit of his efforts, we will call the “lifetime achiever,” and the one who tastes the least, the “serial entrepreneur.”

Two Approaches

Image1Kabbalists explain that trapped within the foods we eat are holy sparks, fragments of a special life force that cannot be found elsewhere. Only our bodies are able to release these sparks from their prison, and this is the way the soul is nourished with Divine life force. The tzadik hunts down the holy spark and elevates it. In this way, every time we consume food in the correct way, the bond between body and soul is reinforced. This union is illustrated in the form of the tzadik itself, where the yud (י) on top represents the soul, and the nun (נ) at the bottom represents the body.

Image2But the depiction we have included above is only one of the two ways that scribes write the letter tzadik. Instead of the yud facing the nun, looking at it “from above,” the second approach is to write the yud backwards. Instead of gazing at the nun, the yud appears to be staring off in the distance.

While there is more to this meditation,* in an effort to be brief, let us simply concentrate on these two versions of the tzadik, and what lessons we can take from this contemplation as related to the world of technology.

About the Author: Yonatan Gordon has spent most of his past 13 professional years in the world of Jewish publishing. He was the Marketing Manager at Kehot Publication Society (publishing arm of Chabad) for the better part of six years. He is founder of the website Community of Readers.


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