Moon of Making Space (August/September)
In Elul … “we become hollow to see what we will create in the space we make. We do tzimtzum, self-contraction, in memory of the first moment of making.”
~Rav Kohenet, Rabbi Jill Hammer via Telshmesh.org
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- Linear Month: 12
- Torah Month: 6
- Season: Summer/Fall
- Holidays: None
- Offerings1: Mirrors, Copper, Water, Grass & Herbs, Cow Meat & Leather
- Element2: Ruach (רוח) Air within Ephar (עפר) Earth
- Spiritual Focus3: Community through Resources
- Netivah: Tzovah (צבאה) Shrinekeeper /Guardian of Gateways
- Constellation: Betulah (בתולה) Virgo
- Letter: Yud (י)
- Tribe: Gad (גד)
- Sense: Action
- Tarot Card4: Hermit
- Soul Trait5: Hineni (הנני) Presence
Note: Letter, Tribe, and Sense are derived from the Sefer Yetzirah
See NOTES for additional information on sources of these all correspondences.
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The month of Elul leaves us with few crutches to grasp. There are no holidays. We are left to explore the dark places alone. But we must find the strength to do this, because each of us must face the New Year in our own way. No one can tell us what we must do or who we must be. The term for the Hermit in Hebrew, נָזִיר , does not just indicate one who lives alone. It really translates as “anchorite,” and obscure English word that means: “a person who has retired to a solitary place for a life of religious seclusion” (Random House Dictionary). This is not someone who is just anti-social. It is someone who secludes themselves for spiritual reasons.
Elul is the first full month where the spiritual focus changes to Community through Resources, and yet we are given neither to enjoy. The palpable absence of holidays, only heightens our awareness of both Communal Ritual and Community Resources when we experience them in abundance Tishrei. Our time alone also allows us to linger just a bit longer with our focus on our personal connection to the Divine that has filled the summer months. As Elul is said to be an acronym of אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song of Songs 6:3), it is a reminder that we have nothing to fear in the justice of Tishrei — if we have been honest with our Beloved.
So turn inward. Light the dark places you fear to look. Be honest. Seek honesty. Remember that you are loved and treat all other creatures with love.
As we bless the Source of Life, so may we be blessed. As we bless the Source of Life, so are we blessed. (Marcia Falk, The Book of Blessings)
Key dates in Elul
|1st||Rosh Chodesh Elul|
|2nd||Shulchan Aruch, the most recent book of codified Jewish law, was published on this day in 1555.|
|8th||George Washington responds to Jews of Newport, Rhode Island (USA) on this day in 1790. Washington’s letter confirmed the vision of a pluralistic American society where people would be free to worship as they chose. Read the letter at http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/documents/hebrew/reply.html|
|17th||Noah releases the dove to find dry land on this day in 2105 BCE (traditional)|
|20th||Begin reciting Selichot with morning prayers until Rosh Hashanah|
|23rd||Dove returns to Noah with olive branch on this day in 2105 BCE (traditional)|
|25th||According to the Chabad and other traditionalists/literalists creation began on this day in 3761 BCE (traditional). For the rest of us this marks the final countdown to Rosh Hashanah, which is supposed to be the birthday of humanity (Adam).|
Shabbat Torah/ Haftarah Readings
Note some months the parshiot fluctuate and in others it is always consistent.
These readings were selected by Kohenet Ketzirah HaMa’agelet to pair with the weekly Torah portions.
- The Tzovah in Torah (Exodus 38:8)
These two short readings are the two times in the Torah that the Tzovah is mentioned by name. Tzovah is usually translated “women who serve” or “women who did service.” But it is also said that the Prophetess Huldah held her court at the gates of the city. We will read Gen 35:1-38:20 again
- Huldah at the Gates (II Kings 22:13-20, II Chronicles 34:22-28)
While these references to Huldah the Prophetess do not mention her at the gates, tradition tells us she held court there. The Huldah Gates still exist today in Jerusalem and the prophetess is said to be buried nearby. They give many reasons for those gates being called the “Huldah Gates,” but let’s envision a world where they are named after a Tzovah Prophetess who served as the guardian at those gates.
- Story of Creation (Genesis 1:1-1:31) The Tzovah is the one who guards the gateways and our comings and goings. This means the story of creation is hers. It is the gateway that transitions us from one year to the next. According to tradition, the world was created during the last few days of Elul finishing with the creation of Humanity on Rosh Chodesh Tishrei – Rosh Hashanah.
1: Offerings & symbols were developed by Kohenet Ketzirah haMa’agelet for use as physical offering practices or in artwork.
The interpretations of the Sephirot are also from Rabbi Jill’s teachings. Specifically, they are from her Omer Calendar of Bibilical Women.
3: The spiritual focus is my own concept of sustainable spiritual practice. It is based on my interpretation of the wheel of the year and the Jewish holidays, as taught by many. The specific focus is for a season, as based on the element have/need system taught by R’Jill Hammer in the The Jewish Book of Days, as referenced above. For example Autumn is the time of Air within Earth, we have Earth we need Air and is the spiritual focus of Community (Air) within Resources (Earth) or more simply: communal resources.
4: While tarot is not intrinsically Jewish, it is a derivative of Kabbalah and a can be a useful tool for self discovery and exploration. Tarot correspondences here follow Kabbalistic tree of life by Issac ben Luria, the Ari, as opposed to some of the more common Christian systems.
5: The soul-traits for each month are based on Kesharim K’doshim Mussar, developed by Kohenet Ketzirah HaMa’agelet.