Moon of Receiving (May/June)
Sivan is the month of receiving both communal and personal revelations at Sinai on Shavuot.
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- Linear Month: 9
- Torah Month: 3
- Season: Spring
- Holidays: Shavuot
- Offerings1: Wheat, Dairy, First Fruits
- Element2: Mayim (מַיִם) Water within Eish (אֵשׁ) Fire
- Spiritual Focus3: Uncover and expose hidden truths
- Netivah: Neviah (נְבִיאָה) Prophetess
- Astrological Sign: Gemini
- Letter: Zayin – ז
- Tribe: Zevulon -זְבוּלֻן
- Sense: Movement
- Tarot Card4: Lovers
- Soul Trait5: Emet (אמת) Truth
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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Shavuot is the holiday of revelation and first fruits. Agriculturally we are harvesting the first fruits of the year, and spiritually we are receiving the first fruits of our tradition — the ten commandments. Some believe that the entire torah was received on Sinai, but my read of the scripture is that it was the ten commandments. Tradition also tells us that each person heard Gods voice her/himself in the way that was right for them. Shavuot is truly the birth of the Tribe of Israel as a people – or the beginning of the tribe’s “marriage” to God.
The Torah portions around this time really are the story of a relationship. They go from the bride getting cold feet at Mt. Sinai (think about the Golden Calf) to the joyous wedding to the first fight between the couple (the “grumblings”) and the setting of ground rules for how the couple will live out their lives. There are several Jewish traditions that call the Tribe of Israel the bride of God, and its easy to read this month’s portions and watch the journey of this relationship unfold.
The tradition of eating dairy products on Shavuot often seems incongrous, but I think the simplest answer is from our agricultural heritage. This month would be when traditional cultures would begin milking cattle, goats, and sheep for the summer. According to Jessica Prentice, in her book “Full Moon Feasts,” points out that this is the time known as the Milk Moon for just this reason. In “The Rosh Chodesh Table” by Judith Solomon, it’s pointed out that Chalav, the Hebrew word for cheese, has the numerical value of 40. This is the same length of time that Moses stayed on Mt. Sinai to receive the ten commandments. This is just one of the connections that the rabbis have given us for the tradition of dairy on Shavuot, but the agrarian connections truly make the most sense.
Key Dates in Sivan
|1st||Rosh Chodesh Sivan|
Waters of Great Flood begin to recede, traditional
|3rd-5th||Sheloshet Yemei Hagbalah – 3 Days of preparation for the revelation at Sinai|
|6th||Shavuot – “The Feast of Weeks”|
Yartzheit of Baal Shem Tov (1780)
King David birth & death, tradition
|7th||Shavuot – “The Feast of Weeks”|
|17th||Noah’s ark comes to rest on mountain top, traditional|
Shabbatai Zevi declared himself the Messiah on May 31, 1665 (17 Sivan, 5425)
|20th||Fast day was observed until WWII, in remembrance of Chmielnicki massacres of 1648 and 1649|
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.
This time a traditional reading matches up with our Netivah reading. There are many reasons tradition gives us for reading the book of Ruth during Shavuot. One is that King David, Ruth’s great-great-grandson is said to have both been born and died on Shavuot. So to honor this line, we read the Book of Ruth. Shavuot also marks the end of the wheat harvest, which figures so prominently in the Book Ruth. Naomi is in many ways a prophetess. As you read the book of Ruth, look to the many ways that Naomi reveals herself as a secret prophetess. Imagine if she knew that Ruth’s line would lead to King David? Imagine if she knew, as the rabbis tell us, that Orpah’s line would lead to Goliath?
Numbers 12:1-14 “Miriam’s Trial”
- If Moses is the father of the tribe, then Miriam is the prophetess. I call this passage Miriam’s trial because it is the test of her strength as a prophetess and leader. She speaks an unpopular truth, suffers and is reborn again. This passage is a small section of the traditional parsha read on 11 Sivan. I have written a midrash on this passage that seeks to re-frame the story from a feminist perspective. Look for it on http://www.peelapom this month.
II Kings 22:14-20 Hulda the Prophetess
- Explore the words of one the least known of the seven prophetesses of the Torah! Hulda appears and is named as Neviah, prophetess, in II Kings. So many of the women’s stories have been lost to history, here is one who’s words remained.
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.