Adar: Zehirut (זהירות) Illuminated Awareness

Adar is the Moon of Revealing (February/March)
This is a month to be perceptive to the things that may be hidden from plain sight and reveal things in their right time.

Middah & Netivah

  • Zehirut (זהירות) Illuminated Awareness
  • Leitzanit (ליצנית) Sacred Fool

Note: this is for non-leap year Adar and Adar Bet in a leap year

Keys

  • Hitlamdut (התלמדות) Self-awareness
  • Anavah (ענוה) Humility
  • Yosher (יושר) Integrity

Counterweights 

New to Mussar or the Kesharim K’doshim approach? Read the intro first.


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Zehirut (זהירות) Illuminated Awareness

A radiant light shines within. 

Alan Morinis

Zehirut (זהירות), the soul-trait for Adar, simply translates as “watchfulness”, but within mussar it has a different meaning which is illuminated or shining awarness. One might think this is a really creative translation – and it is and it isn’t. Remember that all Hebrew words have a three letter root, and the root of zehirut is same as zahar (זָהַר) – to be bright and zohar (זֹהַר) – shining.  This makes much more sense to me, considering that the genesis of zehirut in mussar is this saying: Torah brings to zehirut (תורה מביאה לידי זהירות) – (Talmud: Avodah Zara 20b). 

What makes more sense to you – learning brings illuminated/shining awareness or caution/watchfulness?

This translation isn’t just a modern, new age, wishful thinking that is uncomfortable with structure, order, or darkness, just read Daniel 12:3. These teachings really come from David ben Joshua Maimonides (15th century), descendent of the Great Rambam (Rabbi Moses ben Maimonides). In his teachings of mussar, The Guide To Detachment, that I learned about from an article by the Mussar Institute, he introduces this reconceptualizing of zehirut. 

David ben Joshua (c. 1335-1415), the last of the Maimonideans recorded by history, was also interested in Sufism.  His work al-Murshid ila t-tafarrud (The Guide to Detachment), one of the last creations of neoclassical Judeo-Arabic literature, represents the most far-reaching synthesis between traditional rabbinical ethics and the spiritual states of the Sufi path.  Followingthe tradition of Sufi manuals, which begin with a definition of Sufism, the author first proposes a definition of hasidut. The body of the work is based on an ethical formula [Mussar] taught by the rabbis, which David develops as the central motif of a spiritual program largely construed int he light of mystical stations of the stuff path and the Illuminationist philosophy of Suhrawardi. Thus he drives the initial virtue, zehirut, normally signifying ‘precaution,’ from the root zhr “to shine,” associating it with the Illuminationist notion of ishraq, since the first step on the path to perfection is motivated by the quest for light.

The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy (pg 211-212)

Yes. The descendent of the great RAMBAN (aka Maimonides) mixed Jewish mussar with Sufism.  If this isn’t a soul-trait made for Adar, when we turn things upside down and break all the rules, what is?!

In truth, until the modern era there was a lot of cross-pollination between the Islamic and Jewish worlds.  By the way, If this excites you, check out the work of my teacher Taya Mâ and her work with Makam Shekhinah.

Did that blow your mind?  Turn your world a bit upside down?  Maybe, maybe not — but it’s that upending of the traditional order / default mindset that is one of the reasons this is the soul-trait for the month of Adar.

The month of Adar brings us the holiday of Purim, and the Netivah of the Leitzanit (Sacred Fool) both of which turn the world upside down, use humor to speak truth to power, and challenge our default conventions and convictions.  

A true Leitzanit (Sacred/Holy Fool) sees six steps ahead, they don’t just walk into walls. They know that what they are doing will get a particular effect or have a particular result.  Holy Fools use humor and even totally inappropriate behavior with forethought and wisdom, to reveal truths we don’t want to see.  They use this to speak truth to power, without losing their own heads (most of the time).  The Shakespearean concept of the fool, is just this type of being.  The exemplar of zehirut sacred foolery in Shakespeare’s plays, I think is Puck from a Midsummer Night’s Dream. While the character of Bottom acts foolishly and unintentionally teaches lessons — Puck brings that wisdom and shining awareness as he plays the fool.  While not always included in lists of Shakespeare’s fools, he/she/they is a great example the Leizanit and zehirut.Don’t give me vigilance.

By definition, you can’t make a difference if the big ambition is standing sentry to your innocence.

Dessa – from her song Fire Drills

Adar is a trickster month, it’s the end of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, but just as the trees begin to bud and bloom — we often have a snow storm that seems to come out of no where upsetting our sense of balance and “proper order.” While all of the soul-traits are interconnected with what comes before and after them, as well as their counter-point on the wheel of the year, I find Adar unique in its connection to the counter-point, which is hineni (הנני) presence and the Tzovah – the Shrinekeeper – in the month of Elul. The Tzovah tends to Divine Presence and people’s engagement with it. The Leitzanit challenges the Tzovah’s carefully tended boundaries, order, rituals and rules. The Tzovah is also connected to Virgo, if that helps round out this dynamic tension.

This month, see if you can cultivate your own sense of watchfulness, shining awareness, internal illumination and how it changes how you view and engage with the world around you. 


Practice

Reflections

At this moment in time…

  • WHAT does zehirut (זהירות) shining awareness mean to you?
  • HOW much of your life seems to be filled with illuminated awareness?
  • WHEN are triggered you to respond/act in ways that are mutually beneficial? And when do you to fall back into habits that you know aren’t healthy for you or others?
  • WHICH of your senses tells you that you are in zehirut?  Do you feel, smell, or hear something?
  • WHERE do you struggle to respond/act in ways that are mutually beneficial in tough/triggering situations? Who suffers when you are triggered – yourself, others, or both? 

Text Study

  • And the knowledgeable will be radiant (יזהרו) like the bright (כזהר) expanse of sky (Daniel 12:3)
  • Be as mindful of small acts as great ones for you cannot know the consequences of either. (Pirkei Avot 2:1, translation by Rabbi Rami Shapiro)
  • Zehirut (זהירות) directly translates as “caution” but within mussar it has a different meaning which is illuminated or shining awareness. The Hebrew root of zehirut is same as zahar (זָהַר)  to be bright and zohar (זֹהַר) shining.  This is why it is said that “Torah brings to zehirut.” – Talmud: Avodah Zara 20b-.  (Ketzirah HaMa’agelet, #MussarWithMe teachings on Zehirut)
  • We embody the Fool when we make plain what society has declared invisible—when we yell “watch out!” about a danger everyone has agreed not to notice.    (Rav Kohenet Jill Hammer, “The Leitzanit and Zehirut”)

Affirmation 

  • See The Impact Before You Act.
  • Use Laughter to Reveal Deep Truth.
  • Turn Things Upside Down.
  • Speak Truth to Power.

from the Eht/Aht: a netivot wisdom oracle.

Embodied Practice

  • See where you hold anger, impatience, or tension in your body.  Take note of them so you can let them be an early warning system and use laughter to transform them.
  • Before taking an action or reacting — take a breath and visualize the results of your action. Let your awareness flow to both your desired reaction and other possible outcomes. Take another breath and see a shining light illuminating they way forward.

Action

  • Bring your attention to a specific object in the world (feathers, coins, mushrooms, etc) and pause when you see it to take a photo or otherwise give it your attention and take a moment of mindfulness– regardless of how foolish you seem to others.
  • As you enter any room, take notice of how you react to the environment and those in it and vice versa.

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