Moon Over Maui

A Jewish Mystical Journey through the Year

Your First Step begins the Journey

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Aug• 15•12

The month of Elul is an essential beginning of the High Holiday season, and it begins this Friday evening. It provides each of us an opportunity—an entire moon cycle of days—to intentionally prepare ourselves for a new spiritual beginning.

The birthday of humanity is approaching, and celebrates your specific and unique life journey.  It’s most essential to remember who you are.  To help me walk consciously through the month of Elul, I create a calendar. Although simple in design and measure, it is a holy caffeine-like anecdote that keeps me awake: daily awareness. It’s based on a design by Shira Markowitz, which I began using nearly a dozen years ago.

Once you have printed it out–Elul Calendar PDF– (or emailed me directly for the file), decide on one simple action you will do every single day of the Elul moon. During this act, you commit to placing your full attention on you. For that one moment—or five or ten or forty (!) consecutive moments—you breathe into and align yourself with clearest purpose and being

Commit to doing the same act of wakefulness each day of the Elul moon cycle (and the first ten days of Tishrei, too). Choose something that is easy to accomplish and that you won’t mind doing for 40 consecutive days (between now and Yom Kippur). Choose your moment with simplicity. Some suggestions: light a candle, turn off all screens and media, sit outside on your deck listening to sounds, take a slow intentional stroll through your backyard, meditate, blow the shofar (which is a traditional practice for this time of year). You get the idea. These moments are for you. Each day after you honor your commitment, check the box of the appropriate date.

These moments of attention are a strong and valuable commitment. There’s much to do during these holy days of Elul, some of which I’ll highlight in future (and past) blog posts. However, in the well known words of the famous Chinese master, (Rebbe!) Lao-tzu: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Be intentional about yours.

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TAKE NOTE: If you are interested in diving deeply into the stunning transformative power of these next two moon cycles, I encourage you to immediately buy Reb Simon Jacobson’s 60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays. Each page is beautifully designed, and packed with useful, interesting, and personal information about each of the sixty days of the Elul and Tishrei moon cycles. I pull this book off my shelf every year, its pages tattered and earmarked, a rainbow of Sticky Notes jetting off most of the pages. It deepens my journey. Seek it out. You’ll probably be able to find it somewhere. Yet, if it is back ordered, order it anyway! You’ll want to have it on your shelf for next year, too.

 

 

Moon Brings the Tune

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Aug• 13•12

In anticipation of Birkat HaChodesh on Saturday, this Blessing-of-the-New-Month-inspired tune fell into my consciousness. I was humming it all day as Av’s waning crescent hung in the sky. Its verses are very loosely based on the formal prayer, but really are just for fun!  Hum along to the tune of the infamous Abbey Road Beatles’ track, “Here Comes the Sun,” if you’re so inclined.

Here comes the moon (doo doo doo doo)

Here comes the moon and we say,

Please bless these days of Elul and Tishrei.

 

Little darling, it’s been a long & challenging moon of Av

Little darling, it feels like so very long that Av’s been here.

Here comes Elul. (doo doo doo doo)

Here comes Tishrei.

And we say

A life of peace, a life of good, a life of blessing.

Please!

 

Little darling, renewal of the cycles comin’ round.

Little darling, months of clearing, light, and love are on their way.

Here comes Elul. (doo doo doo doo)

Here comes Tishrei, and we say

Physical health, abundance, honor, and awe of Heaven.

Please!

 

Elul, Elul, Elul, here it comes.

Tishrei, Tishrei, Tishrei, here it comes.

Here Comes the Moon …

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Aug• 09•12

I’ve never much liked surprises. I don’t mind the rush of adrenaline that courses through my bloodstream after a sudden burst of surprise. But more, I enjoy the building of anticipation knowing something is going to soon happen.

This week, excitement is eagerly building for the arrival of the “Sabbath of Blessing” (Shabbat Mevorchim). On Saturday—and (almost) every Saturday preceding a new moon cresting in the sky—we have the opportunity to anticipate and declare that a new cycle is about to begin, a new month, a new moon.

Each month, the crescent moon points to the awe of Creation, and connects us with our very nature.  It is a miracle to be alive. And no matter what we currently are living through—good or bad, uplifting or challenging—we are reminded by the moon’s endlessly renewing cycle that all life experiences are transitory.

This Saturday, August 11, 2012, is Shabbat Mevorchim, the Sabbath of Blessing. Typically on the Saturday preceding a new moon, we announce only one month. But this Saturday, we may proclaim the pending arrival of the next two moon cycles: Elul and Tishrei[1].

(The moon of Tishrei is the only month that Rosh Chodesh is not officially observed because it falls on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, beginning the month richest with holidays. For this reason, we may include it with Elul, the moon cycle during which we begin preparing for Tishrei’s Days of Awe.)

The formal blessing is called the Blessing of the Moon (Birkat HaChodesh), and can be found in prayer books or online. It includes proclaiming the day and exact hour of the new moon, precisely when the moon is between the earth and the sun.

Formality, however, is not essential. In fact, the Baal Shem Tov of blessed memory, one of the greatest Jewish mystical rabbis, taught that words from your heart are the highest form of connecting with the Divine.

So on Saturday, GO LOOK AT THE MOON. Participate in the Sabbath of Blessing. Declare for yourself and all of creation the prayers, hopes, and dreams that swim within you.  “The birth of each new moon provides a time for introspection, for setting priorities, and for giving voice to inner hopes for ourselves and others[2].” Allow the words to spill from your heart.

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1. J.D. Eisenstien, Otzar Dinim u’Minhagim (Tel Aviv, 1970), p. 57, as quoted in Celebrating the New Moon: A Rosh Chodesh Anthology (Maryland, 2006) p. 139).

2. V.H. Reinstein, Anticipating the New Moon: Birkat HaChodesh, p. 130 in Celebrating the New Moon: A Rosh Chodesh Anthology (Maryland, 2006).

Photo credit: Crescent moon: http://www.spacew.com/gallery/image003396.html

Joy Ebbs for the First Nine Days of Av

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jul• 19•12

The new moon of Av should crest in the sky tonight. I’ve anticipated its arrival since last month’s full moon. I always do. Part of my inners start to rumble with the pending intensity of Av, which is split almost equally into two halves.

The month of Av first focuses on consciously walking through the narrow straights of constriction and sorrow. Then at the full moon, power shifts abruptly toward comfort, vitality, and love.

In particular, the first nine days of Av, are a period of mourning. This is a time to grieve historical and present day experiences of hatred, death, destruction, and loss, both personal and universal. Most of the catastrophes in Jewish history—including the destruction of the First and Second Temples in 586 BCE and 70 CE—are said to have taken place in the month of Av.

To be honest, I can’t pretend to be an expert on the Av moon cycle. Certainly not. In fact, until my son was born on Rosh Chodesh Av 5767/2007, I tried to entirely avoid the first half of the month. But I acknowledge Av’s rightful place in the calendar, and I must confess: I don’t enjoy the focus of Av’s waxing moon, but I do value its place within my experience.

The first nine days of Av are set aside in the Jewish calendar to mourn what typically is ignored or dormant within us. Stay in steady contact with your inhalations and exhalations as you allow suppressed emotions to arise within you. What do you feel?  How you are affected? What are you reminded of?

Are you lamenting poor decisions? Feeling devastated by grief or betrayal? Is your mom ill? Did your partner leave? Is national morality shocking? Are you racked with angst about one of your children? Is the state of world religion horrifying?  Politics depressing? Perhaps job loss or physical pain overshadows you.

“As the month of Av enters, we diminish our joy” (Mishnah Ta’anit 4:6). Traditional practices suggest not only petitioning the depths of darkness within you, but also to intentionally shrink your joy in day-to-day living. This includes eliminating from your days pleasurable activities that are not a necessity, such as music, parties, shaving, bathing (for relaxation), giving gifts, consuming meat and wine, and more.

Set the stage and allow yourself to feel the depths of your emotions. Make time to feel, write, share, and shed tears. The Babylonian Talmud states, “Even when the gate of prayer is locked, the gate of tears is open” (Bava Metzi’a 59A). Make a listening date with a friend who will compassionately hear your cry. For 15 or 20 minutes a day, write down words flowing from your unedited stream of consciousness with a focus on your deepest feelings of loss, sadness, hatred, and betrayal. Read sacred poetry and lamentations. Be sure to only do these exercises if you feel relatively safe and stable in your life, and typically are in a state of strong emotional health.

Make the most of these first nine days of Av, if you can. The depth of penetration you experience may untangle and start to heal raw emotions festering within you. Be compassionate and brave. Nothing lasts forever. The growing Av moon is a harbinger of comfort and love that arises in just two weeks time, at the full moon of Tu b’Av.

The Shock of Tammuz

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jul• 12•12

Living near the ocean increases my awareness of the moon. I locate it more frequently in the sky than I do when I’m living in the city. Here on island, I’ve been awakened by the moon in the morning; sometimes even in the middle of the night. I’ve been writing and reading about it, meditating on it, and working its powerful presence within me. And still—bam!—without fail, the shock of Tammuz shakes my world every summer.

Most of us anticipate the coming of summer with excitement: more free time, longer days, fun adventures, travel, swimming, barbecues, and more. Right?!

Yet, on the 17th of Tammuz, a couple days after the full moon, all the fantasies of carefree summer fun most likely end up at the beach without you. The heat of Tammuz is the harbinger of challenging times, not frivolous ones. Tammuz begins an inward expedition into the narrow straits of deepest healing, where chambers of concern, fear, breached integrity, and lamentable action open for viewing.

Sometimes the tour of emotion is earth shaking. Sometimes you’re able to perceive it from a tolerable distance. But rarely will you completely avoid it. Tammuz begins a three-moon-cycle journey, which includes the coming moons of Av and Elul, and leads us into the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur). You may feel the earthquakes of Tammuz emotion as small tremors or as giant 8.9s on the Richter scale. But you will feel them. Don’t despair. Notice with compassionate awareness what arises when you feel the disruptions, fear, and intensity of Tammuz.

According to the Tammuz permutation H-V-H-Y of the four-letter Divine Name, there is a lot of emotional intensity to what unfolds in your life this month. Approach it with courage, steadfast alignment, patience, and trust. What is happening isn’t within your control; but you do have some say in how you feel and breathe your way through it.

Tammuz As Technology

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jul• 02•12

I’ve been tracking these first two weeks of the Tammuz moon cycle the way our ancestors used to—by looking up into the sky. For the past two weeks (and all of Tammuz, thus far), my family of four was on a “no-screens vacation” in the South Shore of Maui. No computer, no phone, no email—we even decided not to take many pictures. Consciously, we stepped away from the insistence of being technologically connected at all times. No artificial clicking, beeping, or tapping.

Instead, we fell into love and deeper levels of connection. We played at the beach, camped in the rainforest, swam in lava caves, and watched the sun set and rise. Conversations took more time. The texture and colors of our experiences, observations, and emotions were more palpable. We made baskets from palm trees. We made music from coconut shells.

Friends Jenny and Noah made this basket from fallen palm trees.

Of course, unplugging is easier to do while vacationing in Hawai’i, but still.

Many times, my six-year-old girl asked for my iPhone. “I have to look something up,” she’d emphatically say.

“Ask somebody,” I responded again and again, emphasizing the power of people knowledge. Not surprisingly, someone always knew what to feed a slug, how to fix a spool-knitting project, and could confirm whether violet and purple were, in fact, the same color. Who needs technology?!

We took more walks, colored more pages, laughed harder, and definitely snuggled more. The children’s courage rose; our interdynamics intensified. We noticed nature more and talked about it.

Everyone noticed the moon.

On our last night of vacation, Tammuz's glow on the Pacific woke me from sleep. (I took this picture off the lanai of our condo.)

 

“Hey, Mom/Jueli/Honey/Sweetie,” someone would say, pointing to the sky. “There’s the moon.”

My heart would smile first, as I followed the angle of their finger. And then my mouth would spread wide. There was Tammuz slowing growing in the sky.

In days long past, before any technology, people tracked the passage of time by following the moon cycles. In fact, the first commandment given to the Jewish people as they left Egypt as slaves was to keep track of time by the moon (Exodus 12:1-2). To be in charge of your own time is a sign of freedom.

Try keeping track of time by watching the moon this month. On Wednesday, its fullness will beam down on the eve of Independence Day, when the United States was birthed into freedom. Then, as the moon wanes down to a quarter and then sliver again, the month is coming to a close. You’ll know Rosh Chodesh Av (the moon of the coming month of Av) has begun when you see a new crescent moon hanging in the sky. And the cycle then begins again.

You don’t need to look anything up on the Internet; you just need to look up in the sky.

Tammuz Heats Up

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jun• 19•12

Aloha! I’m writing from the South shore of Maui, Hawai’i where I’m vacationing with my family of four.  We’re in paradise. Palm trees, lapping ocean waves, pink morning clouds, orange and yellow evening sunsets. And heat. We wake up to seventy-degree weather, and by mid morning we’re already baking under high eighty-degree temperatures.

But the environment in Hawai’i isn’t the only thing heating up this week. My children, too, have higher emotional intensity than usual. First, I blamed it on the time adjustment: They’re screaming because they’re tired, I said to myself. Then, I pointed my internal finger at the change of environment: My boy just shoved his sister because he’s cooped up in an unfamiliar (and smaller than usual) condominium. Next, I blamed the excitement: They’re over stimulated, I justified.

Then this morning, at 4 a.m. local time (three hours earlier then my usual West Coast time zone) it hit me: TAMMUZ! It’s the new moon of Tammuz, when everything heats up—not just the weather, but emotions, too. During the Tammuz moon cycle, the level of internal tumult dials up a notch.

So, be aware. When you (or others) start feeling thunderous during the start of summer, you’ll know why. Summer masquerades as a carefree season of pure fun and adventure; and then, BAM! Tammuz’s inner intensity often is concealed until you’re tumbling in its swirl.

Use the power of your breath and blessing to stay centered this moon cycle. Both will allow a moment of respite, a pause in your typical stride, that may stoke awareness instead of your fire. As you feel yourself pulled into the heat of reactivity, inhale and exhale a deep belly breath. Whatever you see right in front of you—be with it. Don’t act it out. Don’t yell. Don’t blame. Just observe and be with your intensity. Ten seconds, that’s all it takes. (Maybe ten seconds, ten times, but still…)

If you can muster a moment of gratitude—simply for being alive in the moment that you are in—practice saying that aloud to yourself. “Thank God for this moment.”  “I’m grateful to be alive experiencing [whatever you are feeling] right now.” It’s a powerful and simple practice that creates space within the experiences of your day. Space that allows you to pause, to land in your moment, in your life.

The sensory area of healing during Tammuz is sight, according to the Sefer Yetzirah. So look around. See what actually is in front of you. During Tammuz, do not pay attention to what you think about your experience; instead, use your vision to be within the glory of details that surround you. For example, if my kids wake up and start nudging each other, I can breath and pause. Taking a look around, I’ll use my sight to see their sweet eyes, their ruffled hair, the space between my boy’s front teeth, the freckles on my girl’s cheek. I will breathe, inhaling, and bring my attention to what I see: the palms moving in the wind, the flowers on the table, the colors against the sky, the small purple jewel from yesterday’s art project.

I am grateful to be alive. To have to two healthy young children, both of whom are vulnerable and sensitive. I am grateful to be on vacation here in the heat of Maui’s south shore, here in the heat of Tammuz.

Forty-Seven, Forty-Eight, Forty-Nine … FIFTY!

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - May• 24•12

We have counted—and continue counting—every day from the full moon of Nissan through to the sixth of Sivan (this Saturday night). The practice is—to the best of our ability—to count each moment, to use each day to be present, to awaken our sense of wonder, and to embrace the miracles surrounding us. Many people embrace this period of time as days of spiritual refinement, a practice begun by Kabbalists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The penultimate days of this journey unfold in these first days of the Sivan moon (May 22, 2012 through June 21, 2012). Sivan is the cycle of love, intimacy and connection. It’s no coincidence that there are a disproportionate number of weddings during the month of June/Sivan: the air is electric; the possibility—and probability—of true love touching you (nearly) certain.

Much of the call of Sivan is to open to receiving; opening to a more symbiotic partnership with the Divine. Some months, the partnership between the infinite and finite is more one-sided. Sometimes, for instance, we experience sudden openings, which are clearly inspired by something outside of our own effort (the Divine), including births, unanticipated opportunities, watercolor sunsets, sudden deaths, astonishing coincidences. Other months, we can’t sense anything beyond our own day-to-day living.

But during Sivan, we are touched and affected by a partnership of equals between the finite and the infinite. For any relationship to exist, both parties must come forward and participate.  “That which was above came down, and that which was below climbed up” (Exodus 19:20). During Sivan, heaven and earth meet in the middle. The Divine and Human come together in harmony and union. One does not exist without the other.

During the Sivan moon cycle, open yourself to the knowledge that you count. You are essential. The relationship between human beings and the Divine doesn’t exist without YOU! It’s not an easy acknowledgement to accept, but under the Sivan moon, practice bringing yourself at least to the possibility.

Spend the days of Sivan opening to the Divine partnership between yourself and the Infinite One. Use your breath as the link between these two worlds. Your breath and your soul as intricately connected as your inhalation and exhalation. Without one, you don’t have the other.

There’s an old Tic Tac mints commercial that illustrates the relational quality of your breath. It went like this: “Every time you exhale, remember someone. somewhere, is inhaling.” Your breath feeds the Universe, and the Universe fuels your breath. Every time you exhale, feel the Universe inhaling; every time you inhale, feel the Universe exhaling. Each is dependent on the other.

 

A Mandala of Moon Shadows

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - May• 23•12

The new moon of Sivan crested on Monday evening. The night before, the moon moved itself across the surface of the sun. Tickets to “scientifically” view the phenomena were sold out. So instead of heading to the observatory, my man and I went to a tapas & wine bar nearby.

“Here’s to Mrs. Ward, who gave me a C-minus in science,” I heard a man loudly state, as his tall shadow blocked the sun from my skin. I turned, and there on the wood side of an old wood fence was the eclipse pouring through a hand-punched hole of the yellow tapas menu.

 

Surrounding that clear shadowed star, was a mandala of moon shadows–literally hundreds of projections of the sun and moon’s most intimate dance.

 

 

It was a lunar fireworks display. Extraordinary and beautiful.

 

 

I know the eclipse happened three days ago. The professional journalist within me balks at the late timing of this post. “Yesterday’s news is today’s fish wrapping.”  It’s Journalism 101. Still, even three days post event, isn’t it exceptional?!

The Letter of Connection

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - May• 01•12

Every moon cycle has a Hebrew letter associated with it. For the month of Iyar, it is the vav, the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The vav is a connector letter. When the vav is placed in front of any word, it is the Hebrew equivalent of the English article “and.” For example, “v’ ha’aretz” means “and (planet) earth.”

 

 

Individual Connection 

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, in his wonderful The Book of Letters makes the point that it might seem the connector letter visually would be a horizontal line ——— connecting one to another by touching each side. But instead, the vav is a vertical line between heaven and earth. As a vertical line, each side remains complete and individual on both sides of the connection.

Commonly, especially in the Western US, being connected in relationship often is synonymous with merging. Empathy inaccurately becomes absorption. The vav reminds us that healthy relationship is only possible when you are able to stay in touch with your own breathing, your own feelings and experience. You allow another’s experience (or environment) to penetrate you—but not to become you!

 

 

Six Sides of Complete Healing

Every object in the world, including you, has six sides: above, below, in front of you, behind you, to the left, and to the right. The numerical value of the vav is 6, according to gematria. It is a letter signifying completion because something that is surrounded on all six sides—north, south, east, west, above, below—is complete.

How complete are you? Are you capable of living fully within your six-sided experience and allowing others the same opportunity? Do any of your six sides suffer gaping holes of neglect or superdevelopment? For example, what is your relationship to the spiritual world above? Does the earth below frequently feel shaky or unstable? Do you constantly look toward the future; or fixate on what you’ve left behind? You may be oriented to living mostly in the flow of loving kindness (your left side), or be more reliant on boundaries, judgment, and structure (your right side).

 

Every Object Has Six Sides----Including You

 

The Natural Healing Cycle of Iyar

The moon cycle of Iyar is a time ripe for natural healing. The acronym of the Hebrew letters that spell Iyar mean, “I am God, your Healer” (Exodus 15:26). Using the vav as your guide, use these days of Iyar to bring gentle awareness and healing to the areas that need it most.  What do you want to attract from the future? Or let go of from the past? Could you benefit from a bit more discernment? Or a little more flow? Do you yearn for more connection to the Divine? Would you have more success if your physical environment was more stable? Your complete six-sided experiential life beckons to your health, your healing, your joy, your happiness. Make it count!

 

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Photo Credit:
inner.org
grey-wolf-productions.com