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.
Caf 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.
Tet 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)
(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.