The Jewish Month of Elul: The Double Rainbow of Your Lifetime

 Gettin' figgy with it. (Yes, I said that).

Gettin' figgy with it. (Yes, I said that).

I stayed with my cousins last week and their abundant green fig tree. The fruit was oozing and drooping (there’s another analogy but I’m not going there this time folks). My cousin was up early every morning putting away fig jam. That’s Elul. Cooking it up and, sealing it up.

In Elul you stir the pot and begin to prepare the dish you want to be served in the coming year. You get to use all the hard moments, the times you missed your mark and transform them into sweetness. Your preparing your jam.

 
 

Dudette, my cousin made fifty jars! That’s essentially a jar a week. Sweetness everyday for your gf toast that you can eat with joy knowing all the hard work you put into it!

In Elul we blow the shofar, the ram’s horn every day. This sharp, horned, fleeting, piercing, screeching, deepening call awakens our spirits. It says: Wake up people! Be alive! Climb out of your despair! Have courage! Turn! Turn away from what does not serve! Turn towards the true desires of your soul! Commit to living a life more aligned with your value!

You do all this preparation to answer the call of your beloved, who you will meet on Yom Kippur (more on that next month) to spend one precious day embodying the eternity of your true essence. Deep I know, the ultimate cliffhanger for next month’s blog post ;).

Your beloved is everything that came before and everything that is to come. It’s your ancestors, your time in utero, your birth, all the days of your childhood, all of your relationships, all the feels you’ve felt. If you are embodying your beloved it’s also all that is to come, your dreams, visions, what’s to be held in your hands.

 Elephant in utero.

Elephant in utero.

The basic format of Judaism is similar to most spiritual or moral practices. We take the same steps. And Elul is our time to reflect and prepare for the coming year.

Here are some tried and true suggestions for working Elul for your most beneficial growth:

  1. Say it loud. Tell someone you trust what you did, talk it through and seek counsel. This applies not only to ways you’ve hurt others, but yourself as well.

  2. Fix up your mistakes. Apologize and find support to change your behavior (only apologize if it won’t hurt the other person or yourself).

  3. Give. Do things to get out of your own head, free yourself with this.

  4. Move on and seal it up. Turn turn turn towards what is true, what is good. Wind up like a top and keep the momentum going.

Good luck! You got this you champion queens!

 
 
 
 

Card for the Month: Love (Yiddish: LEEB-shaft) 

Love. The love card.

Speaking of unforgettable double rainbow experiences...What we see is what we can love. But how to love what we cannot see? This is the month of the unknown love.

As the last dog days of summer are upon us we have our final adventures. We can use the emotions of fleeting and unabandoned freedom to support our unknowingness. This month may seem very foggy. Our task is to bath in the fog as if it’s the divine’s breath coating us in her delicious lull. To receive the vision of love with faith because we can’t actually see the love this month.

We have to feel it.

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.

 

The Jewish Month of Tammuz: Joy and Pain (like sunshine, what else, and rain)

 WITHERING ROSES

WITHERING ROSES

Sixth grade (stay with me on this metaphor people): a time of unsurpassed joy and excruciating pain. In my first year teaching public school I was handed, sixth grade. I used to tell people, “They are feeling things they’ve never felt before, they’re thinking things they never thought before. Hormones are intense.”

Teaching sixth grade for the first time is only comparable to being in sixth grade for the first time, lemme tell ya. We talked about gender, racism, death and, how to format an essay. (Oh the wrath of the formatted essay!) My own experience of sixth grade included my first need for deodorant, heavy acne and accidental discharge; among other perils! All of which to say, Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s song (which they sampled from Maze), Joy and Pain that came out the year I entered sixth grade, 1989, was deeply appropriate.

What you might ask does sixth grade have to do with the month of Tammuz?!

In the U.S. it is now summertime. Freedom from (for many of us as youth) the confines of public school and wide open time. But for many, as hurtful as public schooling can be, it also provides a structure and a summer without structure can be confusing, at best.

Our ability to feel pain is matched to our ability to feel joy.

It's all about joy and pain. But it's kind of more about pain right now. Tammuz is the Hebrew month of mourning. The time traditional Jews remember Jerusalem's walls falling to Rome and enter a three week period of mourning. To those of us who had summer's off from school as youth, it might seem counterintuitive to associate summer with a time of mourning. But the time without structure and long hot days did have pain in it, for some of us.

Think about it. The depth of summer: the rose petals fall to the ground, the stream beds dry up, we ache for cold drinks to quench our thirst, our bodies want nothing more than the relief of ocean, river, lake. There's a lot of unsatisfied yearning and potentially, pain. 

On my walks around the neighborhood I've been stopping to smell the last of the roses. Oh that smell and it's encroaching disappearance! I want to collect all the fallen petals and save them, for something! This impetus reminds me of the blown glass vessels of Roman times, tear catchers. The petals are like teardrops to save in a bottle.

In Roman times tear catchers were all the rage and in Victorian times they made a comeback. As a former glass blower (yes, in my past life I was a glass blower) these little blown vessels to hold our tears (with special seals so the tears would evaporate!) are an intriguing analogy to the month of Tammuz. In this time of mourning we have the opportunity to collect our tears, our emotions of grief. The heat of summer is like the special seal on the vessel; allowing the tears to dry up, to evaporate. As the grief leaves us, we are left with the salt of our tears. And what is salt but the key to bringing out the most potent flavor of life?

My Blessing For You: May the angels of sunlight and the angels of tears comfort you as you let the pain exist and transform, as it falls away. 

Card for the Month:
Cycles: (TSI-klen, Yiddish)

 

"Day / Night

Death / Rebirth

Fall / Winter / Spring / Summer

-excerpt from the Moon Angel / Malakh Halevanah book, Cycles #18

In this time of summer we are harvesting and preserving fruit, hanging like sagging boobs from the trees. It's right there, wanting to be picked, to be licked, to be tasted. There is deep satisfaction in the devouring of ripe fruit. But there is also sadness as we watch the trees empty.

Easy come, easy go.

Some of the ripe, rotting fruits also drop to the ground, never touching our lips. But the earth absorbs the nutrients, the animals eat those fruits. They then poop out the seeds and a new plant begins its next life.

What goes, comes again, what dies is reborn. There must be death for there to be birth. Take it easy dear people of the earth. You get lots of chances, lots of turnings, lots of seasons. Let yourself go through the whole cycle. Please.

Happy Summer.