The Hebrew Month of Av

Permutation for Av

 

The Month of Av

The summer is at its most high. The sun sits strong and holds court with our patience and ability to go about our days when the earth beneath us sends its heat toward us. The High Holidays are still a way off and the last spate of communal spiritual time feels distant. For some, this time feels isolating and empty, hard and challenging. This is the month of Av.

Av is about experiencing our hearts in the most present and animated capacity. The most difficult month of the year, Av is about keeping our emotional and spiritual balance as we move between the extremes of sadness and joy, mourning and celebration. Ultimately, it is about understanding that the real temple is inside of us. We take pause in the heat of summer to remember history; our personal and collective.

And this Av also has its own tragedy happening. This is the time to listen to each side and listen to each other. So much pain and fear that is as hot as the air in our own backyard.

Historically many tragedies befell the Jewish world on the 9th of Av-Tisha b’Av. The two temples were destroyed, in 1492 Spain expelled the Jewish population and the gas chambers of the Holocaust were put into operation to name a few.

However, on the 15th of Av-Tu b’ Av good things occurred. On the 15th of Av the relationship between the tribes of Judah and Israel were reestablished. The prohibition of intermarriage between the tribes was abolished and we were again enabled to flourish. This day became a day when hearts were mended and in turn became a day when all was forgiven and soul mates were now found. The Talmud connects this day to Yom Kippur. We have come through the despair and judgment.

 The month begins with the destruction of what many consider to be the standing heart of our faith and ends with the rebuilding of our heart through joining in love.

The letter that created the month is Caf and the letter that rules the sign for the month, which is Leo, is Tet. The soul fixing-tikkun- is hearing. The permutation is Hey Vav Yud Hey. The element of the month is the fire of Leo. The tarot card for Caf is Strength and The Wheel of Fortune for Tet.

kaph1305418727672Caf is connected to the source. Its numeric value is 20 which puts it in direct relation to the letter Yud whose value is 10. Yud is the letter that begins every other letter, every utterance. It is the closest to source, the divine, of all the energy paths of all the letters. Caf means palm, and the palm can catch that source and give it over-as in healing and holding the hands of connection, or the palm can close and hold back.

teth1305359499889Tet is the container that can hold, hide or share what it has, for good or for bad. It can vacillate and vibrate and beat like the heart of a lion or it can hiss like a serpent. Although Tet means serpent it also begins the word ‘good’ and also, according to Rabbi Akiva refers to mud. Its numeric value is nine which is a number of foundation. It is also a number that depicts work. Hence, the energy of Tet can help us to do the work we need to do through our hearts in this world. Serpents are also a most primal creature. They are wise and loving when they wrap themselves around you, but can also crush you. They shed their skin and move forward. A lesson indeed. And they are a form of the Divine Feminine. Women have capacity to embody both pain and joy. This is Av.

Leo is the fierce and magnanimous lover. Majestic and giving, Leo has a heart as big as the universe. This can warm you, but it can also burn you if it gets out of control. When you hear through your heart, it opens and becomes deep and quiet. Leo-the proverbial ruler of the forest-the one with ego enough to take on that position will thrive if that ego is healthy and unselfish. But an ego that is out of control has a roar that overrides everything else. It has no capacity to hear because it is using up all the airwaves. Leo can be  selfish and demanding of center stage as it can be giving. The fire of Leo can heal or destroy. The month is infused with the fires of the heart which emanates from Leo.

Hearing is the soul fixing-the tikkun- of this month. It is hard enough to hear your own thoughts and soul clearly with all the processing and inner work that goes on in Av, so being present enough to hear another can seem an insurmountable thing. But isn’t this what Av entails-rising above the insurmountable? To hear truly means to quiet yourself and take in another from their deepest depths to yours. True hearing involves all the senses, you see beyond the physical, touch beyond the outside. Until you can hear on this level, how can you really connect?

This is where the letters can help. To begin to hear another you need to give them yourself in total presence. Imagine your hands palms up-visualize the Caf and let its energy offer yourself to this person. And then, let the Tet energy help you receive and hear them.

One of the names for the ‘Creator’, the ‘Divine Intelligence’, or G-d is comprised of 3 Hebrew(one of the letters is used twice in this name) letters that are never pronounced. (The letters are just said in succession. This is a sign of respect for this particular energy. Let’s leave this for another newsletter.) As each month has a different energy, these letters are rearranged, or given different permutations to further enhance each month’s energy and teachings. They can also be meditated and energetically worked with.

There are 4(actually 5, but one is not ‘used’ in this system according to tradition) different spiritual worlds-of which ours is the lowest and most dense. Each letter is connected to one of these worlds. The letters are rearranged for each month, so the way the four worlds come into play varies, and again, imparts a unique teaching. These four worlds, from ‘highest’ to ‘lowest’ are Atzilut, Beriyah, Yetzirah and Assiyah.

All Hebrew letters also correspond to the Tree of Life and the energy centers-think of them as chakras on tree branches-that are 4 levels on the tree. These are, from highest to lowest- Keter, Chockmah/Binah, Zeir Anpin and Malchut.

The letters themselves, also stand alone with rich and deep meaning, levels and meditative and healing capacity.

So the permutation for Av is: (read from right to left)

heyyudvav aahey

(Hey Yud Vav Hey)

So just looking at the different levels, you can see that this month is about the reverberation between searching and intuiting for wisdom and understanding, to bringing in down into a form that which you can begin to understand, then releasing yourself to the highest source for inspiration and to imbibe you and then coming down to a level where you can really work with it. We go from level to level taking the energies and lessons and building upon them.

1-We reach upward to understanding and wisdom in the spiritual realm of archetypes

2-We bring this teaching to the world that forms our emotional landscape

3-We connect to the big ‘why, the higher source for deeper support of our souls

4-We bring this down to the more grounded world to grow and heal

Each month holds a different journey for us to make between these worlds.

So Av is about creation, re-creation, the holy within and without, the profane within and without. It is about listening, strength, the holy containers-ourselves and the divine, about mourning and rejoicing. We ponder the past and try to understand the reverberations they have on the future and our present. The world was created by contraction so that there could be a space for creation to occur. We contract to make space for others and for what else we need in our lives. We contract our inclination to hold onto what is no longer serving us so that we can make room for what we do need.

Ultimately, the temple is never lost because it resides within each of us.

 

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Trauma and Incarceration

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There’s No Place Like the Present

It has finally become understood that being incarcerated equals being traumatized. When someone suffers trauma, their whole life and world view lives through this lens.

The trauma that is caused by the incarcerated experience overlays the trauma that created the circumstances that led to the incarceration.

People who have had difficult lives often make their way through life reacting to and making choices through the lens of past pain. This pain, or trauma, has caused them to disconnect from part of themselves, so that they are not able to fully engage and be fully present in their lives and bodies.

When you live in this Past you cannot live in your Present

Nothing happens in a vacuum. What you do, what you feel, for good or not, is often influenced by your past experiences of peer pressure, abuse, anger, hurt, habit, family and generational history and story, trauma, earlier bad choices. These drivers help create the perfect storm for addiction, violence and crime.

When this is not addressed, as it most often is not, your body(your brain, nervous system and vagus nerve system) becomes stuck in the trauma response. Trauma imprints in our body memory through this sensory system and becomes our present state of being, whether we are aware of it or not.

Before our minds can recognize and analyze a situation, we receive stimulus/information through this sensory system.

This is the non-literate aspect of ourselves that creates the field for trauma reaction, or the reactive dissonance cycle, to set seed.

Our bodies respond to a situation that feels menacing before our brains cognitive capacity-our pre-frontal cortex- can step in to access whether this is the truth.

When you live through your past physical and/or emotional harm; your behavior, thoughts, emotions, physical and brain health today will reflect this. This will hinder you from moving forward to create the life you want.

So trauma is not about our cognitive capacity. It is about our body being set to interpret our surroundings and the interactions we have in it as a dangerous world.

Although you are living in one physical location of time (where), the actions of another time (when) in your life are influencing you today.

Life is not only Where you live but also When you live.

The trick is to get them to jive.

The good news is that there are ways that we can heal from our traumas.

 

 

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Why I Light Two Menorahs

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This has been a tough year for many personally, and for the country and world, it has been a collective mess. There was little helpful communication and much pain. People and their ideals were at each others throats. The earth has been under siege for many years, but this year we have seen the last straw begin to tear. I don’t think I know anyone who is not eager for this year to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.

Chanukah ushers in my favorite season of Jewish holidays: Chanukah, Tu B’Shevat and Purim. These are about light, growth, process and reaching beyond ourselves and facing the shadows and what holds us back. These are also about nature in a more direct way, and the deep mythos of the human spirit. We can swim in the primordial sea, so to speak. We can travel between realms. These are less about concrete history and more about attributes of the soul and of the community and earth as a whole. The historical significance of Chanukah is not lost on me, but it is not front and center.

And yes, all of the holidays reach deep within but for me the resonance of this part of the year is a little deeper for that; not that I don’t love each spoke of our holy wheel, though. I have certainly gone on about them all.

So why do I light two menorahs with one menorah adding candles each night and the other way reducing them? While I have discussed this in a past article, that also has other morsels about the holiday, (https://insighthealingdotcom.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/the-hebrew-month-of-kislev/), here is an additional insight, and I think for what we are faced with globally, a helpful practice.

Chanukah is in the Hebrew months of Kislev-the first 6 nights-and Tevet-the last 2 nights. Each month was created by a Hebrew letter. The letter Samech created Kislev and the letter Ayin created Tevet.

Kislev – Samech   01-15samech                  Tevet – Ayin    ayin

Samech reflects the concept of ‘Ain Soph’: the endless infinity that surrounds and sustains us. Like the circle that the Samech resembles, we are supported by the ever present and ever moving infinite reach of spirit and time. It can charm you with its welcoming moonbeam smile, but it also lets you know that you are part of it as well. Just like the Samech is a letter that is without end, we are also without end, as is our continuing human story. The letter means to support. This circle of support is there for us.

Ayin reflects the concept of ‘nothingness’. In Hebrew,’ Yesh M’ayin’ (in Latin-ex nihlio), translates to ‘something from nothing’. It is this absence that is necessary for the infinite to fill. It is non-being that waits for its creation. How can a no thing be a container that holds the thing of creation? How can light come from a cold candle wick. It becomes its potential by a flick of a spark that is within the head of a match. This is the act of creation from seemingly nothing. The letter Ayin means eye. We can see from nothingness if we have the spiritual eyes to see potential.

When we can see with the eyes that the Ayin offers us, our eyes, we can see into the void and to the other side. We can see the Samech and garner its support.

From nothingness to somethingness, from expansion to contraction; lighting candles that grow and diminish each night creates an energy flow in both directions. For those who experience this energy as a palpable force, I invite you to use this to radiate forward.  This is the richest metaphor that I can think of for where we are at this moment. These movements are the breathing of the universe, the breaths that we each take, the words that we each say, that can bestow love and understanding or hurt and anger.

This is what we need to do now. As we move toward a time when taking communal action to repair what has been broken must be a priority we need to be committed, to be brave and to be aware of what fires we light and how to reach without and within.

Tikkun Olam is Hebrew for repair the world. May we all be blessed to do just that.

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Kislev- The Moon,Miracles and Menorahs

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11/12 and Counting-Election Reflection

election

11/12 and Counting

Tuesday:

I went to sleep half an hour before the election was called. My sleep was grey and dreamless.

Wednesday:

 I awoke unable to take my usual deep and nourishing morning breath. The only thing I could manage was a thin inhale that had to maneuver between stone piled upon stone.

I was in a supreme oxygen-withholding-deep-dread-awareness-of-the-day-before mode. This soon became laced with organ menacing fear. My blood and breath were running their course, but with their backs to one another. This felt like a mirror of what is going on in our country. Those on opposite sides and preference have turned away from each other to lick their wounds or shine their win.

I thought about what will happen to Standing Rock. I thought about how deeply ingrained our country’s misogyny is; how fierce it is in our cultural geology. It is scary-squared to think about Trump and Pence having a go at us. I thought about friends who voted for Trump and Pence and their vile views. What might this do to friendships? These were all issues that had been contentious conversations before the election. What would happen now?

We: those who voted for Hillary, those who voted third party and those who did not vote at all, are part of how this happened, as is the campaign and Hillary herself. Did we really believe no matter what happened that we had this election in the bag? Were we just too complacent to call out the behind the scene chicanery of ‘our’ party and the media? What if we protested then and not now?

I know that even if we did all we could, that the political machine is not a cool and witty steampunk contraption. It is a behemoth of gears of unrelenting disregard for those who do not oil it. We may still have had this outcome.

Thursday:

It was a blur of grasping for a normal moment; but normal is reshaping itself. It is throwing off our old expectations and behavior. That normal is chalk on the sidewalk outlining a body waiting for a forensic examination. This will be blown away by January’s snows. Don’t try to catch the glittery dust. There is no romance in those sparkles. My mantra for the day was, “We don’t need the SYFY channel. We are living it.”

Facebook was a flutter with condemnation, allegations and challenges of retribution. Some questioned if they should unfriend their friends who stood on the opposite side. Others tried to educate by posting endless articles and memes meant to show each other the way. Some tried to placate and reach out. Basically, Facebook used some funky mushrooms in its soup recipe post.

People look for comfort and explanation when bad things happen in order to cope. Posts and conversations began to talk about how Trump is our shadow figure and that this is a good thing to have happened so that now we can fix it. One article told me that Trump is really our spiritual teacher and that we can learn all about the darkness from him. Can you guess what my shadow wanted to do when I read that?

While there is some truth to this; to hear this now feels like an easy way to take the sting out of what happened through the guise of being ‘spiritual’(and I am part of that world).But I don’t want to take the sting out. I don’t want to risk losing the urgency to act. We need the sting.

The time will come when this shadow can be our guide to action, but we need to become stronger and unified first, or risk becoming passive because we are overwhelmed with the task.

Friday:

In a need for some relief of growing fears I wondered “What would be in my swag bag from this new venue of the Un-United States?” The grips dissolved in my hands when I picked it up. Clearly, I didn’t have a handle on this thing yet.

But then there were the swastikas.  I remembered learning about Nazis as a child, and being afraid to go to the bathroom at night because I would see two Nazis there with guns.

The hatred and bigotry is not only pointed toward Jews, I know this; but because the Nazi Swastika is still the symbol used, as it has become a container for all hatred; I cannot help but feel the time when I was in third grade and had rocks thrown at me for being Jewish.

The darkness of generational pain and loss again stops my breath, but it also sharpens my eyes and makes my feet want to walk hard on the path to join in the fixing.

We cannot become quiet and still after the first spate of protests fade, and our everyday lives call us back. What is ahead is daunting. It is bigger than each of us. It has also happened before. We have to look at history and finally learn from it. I fear that if we do not do this, and do not work together in a committed, compassionate and smartly strategic way, we will become the country of our nightmares.

Friday Night-Shabbat

It is Friday night. The sun has set on the fourth day since the elections. Autumn night Shabbats are my solace. The early darkness of these weeks, that only last till the next solstice, is a precious time to me. It is richly lush with the scent of the shifting earth. There are still some leaves left to swirl in the winds and our gardens are putting themselves to ground to begin their new year of regeneration.

This is a poignant image of what we need to do right now. We need to look deep into our own interior landscapes and then we need to look toward each other.

I remember lighting candles and singing with the friends with whom I am now at odds. Politics and religion are hard issues to clash over, and this election has brought them both out full force. I am not sure that the- we should just agree to disagree-solution will work this time.

The principled stance, despite the different ideas about what that is, has become a central pillar of discourse. The politic and the moral are deeply interwoven in the Trump/Pence platform. They see their politics growing out of their religious beliefs. Separation of their church and state does not exist in this world view that is rife with twisted and hateful declarations and plans to act on them.

“I long for the day that Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history,” said Pence. How can we respond to this? Action, not only words, must become the new response. Registering Muslims is the beginning of another holocaust, and not disavowing David Duke is agreeing with him.

 

I have friends who voted for this ticket because of its economic policies. They say they disagree with the misogyny, racism, xenophobic plans, denial of climate change, LGBTQ rights, voter suppression, etc. They do not see the disparity of this.  Those who are vehemently opposed to Trump/Pence do not see how they can miss it. This is where communications break down, and friendships find themselves in peril.

“When we judge others – we contribute to violence” – Marshall Rosenberg

Friday Night- Shabbat Mantra: “Before you taste anything, recite a blessing.” Rabbi Akiva

Saturday-Shabbat Morning:

It is Saturday, still Shabbat, and five days in and counting. The air is crisp and I feel fried. I have spent some time on Facebook posting and responding to other’s posts. I told myself that I would limit this because I didn’t want to get pulled into the whirlpool of call and response of the frustration, anger and pain. I needed a break and I wanted some solitary time to collect my own thoughts. I can take in just so much before I begin to lose my already off kilter center. And it is Shabbat, so why did I even turn on my computer?

Saturday-Shabbat Late Afternoon:

Words are difficult to reach now. The past days have lodged themselves in my body. As the sky begins to turn toward the evening, the end of Shabbat is coming. I usually feel filled with new energy for the incoming week, but I feel tired and heavy with concern and despair. When the body, mind and emotion are on overwhelm, the spirit steps back to make room for what the soul needs to process. The extra soul that we receive on Shabbat has not been a comfort to me because I can hardly feel it. My heart is wide eyed with pain and turmoil. I fight with myself to find my hope, the belief that we can make it through what is to come, and then, somehow, I feel a fragile smile of resolve.

Saturday night:

Hasn’t come yet. Can I presume I know what to assume? Not anymore.

But I do know that we cannot just crawl back into the cocoon of stillness. We need to fight that inclination and then fight the fight. Inaction is not acceptable.

Cry, if you are inclined, with tears of salt or howl with tears of primal tones. Let those tears roil into a sea of engagement. We need to move into the waves of action and wisdom.

I am afraid that the earth’s hands will let her fingers, that have been so entwined to hold us, dissolve and we will fall into the muddy abyss if we do not.

*******************************************************************

This was originally published in Vermont Views Magazine:

http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.vermontviews.org%2Fvermontviews.org%2FAn_A-musing_Life.html&h=cAQFYMhPt&s=1

 

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Blessed Samhain

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The Divine Presence

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In the month of Elul the Earth, our world is born. In the following month of Tishrei, we are born, specifically on Rosh Hashanah. It is said in these two months God/Goddess,the Divine(Ha Melech-the King in traditional Jewish liturgy) is very close. The Divine walks in the garden, the same that we walk in.

‘Hineni’ is Hebrew for ‘here I am’. When Abraham and Moses are called by God they answer, ‘Hineni’, “Here I am”.

When Moses is told to go back to Egypt to free his people, he asks this god, what name can he give to this force that has brought him back to his people. The name is “Eh He Yeh”, I am that I am.

But for these two months, God tells us “Hineni” and we tell God “Eh He Yeh”

The Divine Presence

What is the splendor of the royal divine

The hand that offers the beginning of time,

Who’s wind of beauty’s breath,

Fills form with its spirit.

Our hands reach toward,

a grasp tremulous,

Urged by the pulse of earth

And heart of our soul.

This time, when earth has again come into its rebirth,

When the last harvest offers its cool time bounty,

And we begin our own new season,

The holy is in this place and calls to us,

We walk in the garden verdant with the scent of earth’s turning

And hear, “Hineni”.

“I am here”

In a swirl of spirit

Vines wend themselves, with leaves green as hope,

Into a path that leads to life’s vibration.

“Remember,” is whispered to our souls,

“I walk with you at your birth and hold you up.

I tell you I am here when you forget,

I only ask that you tell me who you are when you remember”

Like the light that makes flowers translucent in petal,

We become iridescent in tone

And answer “Eh he yeh”

“I am who I am”,

For this is all we can be.

And so we return and

step forward in our prayers that are woven

with our joy and tears,

with our questions and yearning wrapped around us.

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