The Jewish Month of Av: Love and Destruction

If you haven’t already guessed, there’s a running theme of contradictions in my Rosh Chodesh reflections. Holding the oys and joys. This month of Av has an intensity like no other, in my humble opinion! 

Av is a lot about death (and also--wait for it--love). There has always been death and destruction on this planet. And, since patriarchy made it’s way into our reality, oppression. It’s been an intense last couple months, with the Orlando tragedy, the killings of Alton Sterling, Korryn Gaines and Philando Castille by police, as well as multiple incidents of violence in Syria, South Sudan, France and Turkey. It’s left many of us shaken with grief and with renewed energy toward action and working for justice. 

In Judaism we celebrate the holiday of Tisha b’Av in the month of Av. This holiday marks the anniversary of two separate destructions of the Temple. I’ve been thinking so much of a quote by artist Lauren Bon: “Artists need to create on the same scale that society has the capacity to destroy.” Destruction and creation are eternally caught up together.

Nettles hold this contradiction in plant form, growing where there has been devastation. A burnt down house, an uprooted forest and then they can do their healing. Though the season has passed, I saw nettles gone to seed by Strawberry Creek in Berkeley last week. They stuck in my mind as an analogy for the month of Av. We’ve been stung. Capitalism has stung each and everyone of us; it’s a nightmare on our street. We are all connected like spores of a two mile long mushroom. How are we going to make art from the sting? How are we going to hang out long enough to plant and nurture the seed?

 

 Av, the opposite of a LTR.

Av, the opposite of a LTR.

Av gives us another holiday that may be the key, Tu b’Av. This is the holiday of love. Ahhhh, the soft, tender embrace of love. In ancient times people would go out into the fields on Tu B’Av to find their love. The story goes that everyone would pool their white clothing together and mix them up. That way the poor and rich could not be distinguished by what they were wearing, it was mixed up. Of course there is a heteronormative version of this story but here’s my interpretation / how I choose to remember the story:

All genders of people would put their clothing in a big pile. Who ever chose to be the chosen or the sought after would pick something to wear that was not theirs. If one was poor, perhaps they would choose something fancier, if they were rich perhaps they would choose something more humble. But it was each person’s choice. Then, they would go out into the fields, dancing. The mating ritual would begin. Some would experience a one night stand that felt like eternity, others would find their life partner. But love would be the focus and merry meeting would be just as sweet as merry parting. Bodies of love, dancing, playing, sexing. The original anonymous sex, not knowing a thing about the other person. Trusting the pull, the embrace, the spores of connection.

We can make art and love at the same rate that patriarchy (and all that falls into that category-racism, sexism, ableism, classism, xenophobia) is seeking to destroy it.

My blessing for you: Surrender to the sting. Go through the grieving of destruction. Then, wait for the seed. Put it inside of you. Let your creative love be the prayer that you grow.


Card for the Month: Poop on a Stick / צואה אויפ א שטעקן / TSOY-eh oyf a SHTEK-n

"Making something out of nothing."

Hey everybody, everything’s been pretty poopy recently. Poop, poop plop. Goddess almighty, I have been feeling it! Recently a teacher of mine posted the Poop on a Stick card on her facebook page. Someone’s comment was that the card looked like a diagram of the Kabbalistic teaching about tzimtzum. I loved this!

Turnin’ poop into compost, people.

Tzimtzum is the teaching about the beginning of time. A.K.A. the Big Bang, quantum leap etc etc. In the beginning of time there was only the infinite filling all of existence which was totally non-existence (getting existential over here). When the will to create began, a contraction and expansion happened simultaneously. Within the contraction everything existed, in one tiny point. But it needed to expand in order to express itself completely.

I made this card to express some of the most poopy, uncomfortable experiences in life but it’s really all in how you look at it. Holy Shit.