Moon Over Maui

A Jewish Mystical Journey through the Year

Forgiving Myself

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Sep• 09•11

The Elul moon is nearly at full illumination. Each evening, its incremental increase of light shines into my pumping heart. I wonder what I am holding onto and what I can let go of this year. Some ideas come rapidly. Others surface only once I’m certain that my judging critical self isn’t present.

A central theme of Elul is forgiveness. And though I know it is essential to ask for and seek forgiveness from others, a different need has bubbled to the surface. Under this Elul moon, healing is in forgiving myself.

For years, I’ve worked the same forgiveness muscles. My paternal thread—father and an accumulation of male teachers—always stakes out top territory, followed rapidly by more recent hurts and betrayals. And though each round awakens more acceptance and awareness, I’m struck from year to year that they haven’t yet completely healed.

This moon, however, all intimations point to me. As I’ve made the time to again gently explore what mars my essential state, needs to be revisited, let go of, healed, I hear my heart yearning to forgive myself.

To be gentle and compassionate. To understand and accept myself, all of me. To celebrate every experience, each breath, past and present. Even those that make me shutter. Even those I may not ever understand.

During the Elul moon, the Divine is intimate and close. Not something outside me, but within me. That presence is always available; but during the moon of Elul it
is even more accessible. Like a dearest friend who lives in another time zone, a plane ride away, but travels once a year to sit and sip tea and hear intimately about your deepest experiences, your truest feelings, your deafening wishes and aspirations. During Elul, God is this accessible.

Make time to talk or write or whisper to God this moon. Now. Pour forth from your heart your truth. Be surprised by what bubbles (or erupts) to the surface. Allow it to move through you, within you, to guide you.

Relationship Takes Work, but Is Rightfully Yours

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Sep• 02•11

Last night, the Elul moon set just beside the Coit Tower across the San Francisco Bay. I was driving home with my man, celebrating eight years of marriage, ten years of love, and an eternity of depth and connection. It was a glorious evening.

Elul, already 29 percent full, was afire with the sun’s orange reflection. The vision swept across my heart, penetrating my awareness of relationship with myself, the Divine, other people, and the world.

Orange Flame of Elul Sets across the SF Bay.

The Hebrew acronym for the month of Elul translates into English as: “I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me.” This reminds me of the guaranteed relationship we have with the Divine. We’re born that way. But every day, moments of action and breath, thoughts and feelings, affect how close or far we feel from the tangibility of Divine love and support.

The moon cycle of Elul is an auspicious period to review relationships to self, others, the Divine, and the world. Make  time for spiritual accounting during this moon cycle. Start by reviewing your day or this past week. Gradually, bring yourself back through the last four seasons of the year—summer, spring, winter, and fall. Allow your heart to be open and curious about which memories arise. Some may be specific. Others a bit vague. But capture them in writing—that is, jot them down—so you can review them.

Most people wait until something terrible has happened (suffering from an addiction, receiving a terminal diagnosis, etc.) before they do this type of review. The Elul moon cycle, however, provides this choice every year. During this twenty-nine day phase, we are encouraged to review, refresh, and reengage, so we may begin anew.

The Questions of Elul

Ask yourself: What patterns of behavior can you identify that keep you feeling isolated and alone? What experiences do you repeat—even when you don’t want to—that affect how available or open you are to yourself and others. Are there particular patterns of behavior, fantasies, or practices that cause discord, pain, or distance with people you know and love? What veils you from being in Divine relationship that is rightfully yours?

The first step is to notice the areas that arise when you contemplate these questions. Do not be critical of yourself, but allow the reality of your missteps and misperceptions to arise. Revisit—first just in your heart—people you may not have interacted with in the most tender or thoughtful of ways. Keep a list. Bring these events and people to heart and awareness in the coming days. As the moon waxes toward fullness, your actions will begin returning you to what is rightfully yours: love, acceptance, rebirth.

Elul Primes the Heart

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Aug• 30•11

The moon of Elul is my favorite cycle of the year. It promises love and purity. And it does it in a way that isn’t light and fluffy, but actually has depth and staying power.  We all know that no relationship—especially one with yourself—is easy all of the time. But with the right tools and intentions and actions, even the most challenging of times prove to be harbingers of deeper intimacy and connection.

Elul provides the framework—a month long cycle—to do what is necessary to heal and transform everything that keeps us from being in deep and honest love with ourselves, other people, and the Divine. Little by little, we reveal the pain, hurt, miscommunication, and misunderstandings that stop us from being open to feeling, giving, and receiving the pure love within us.

Beginning tomorrow night, on Rosh Chodesh Elul, make a commitment to begin compassionately excavating at least one area of your life that would return you to feeling more of the love and purity you were born with as an infant.

No one knows, really, what that one area is for you—maybe not even you. But make the time once a day for the next twenty-nine days to pause and breathe and be aware. Slowly, the awareness will begin to seep into your consciousness. Your first commitment is making the time. You can sit on your porch and look at your garden. You can light a candle. You can arrive a few minutes early and sit in the car without the radio playing. You can turn off your phone and your computer and sit at your desk. You can lay in your bed just after you awaken. The moments you make to pause and be aware will begin to prime your inner heart to return to yourself, to love, to insight, to purity, to truth.

The Same Av Moon Everywhere

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Aug• 18•11

The Av moon rose in orange glory over the East Bay Hills moments after we landed at San Francisco international airport. It greeted my family of four as we drove onto the ten-lane freeway abuzz with traffic and city-light stimulation. Rushing automobiles, big rigs, and the flash of neon billboards whizzed by me. To my right, across the Bay, rose the warm glow of a giant Av moon still low in the sky.

The Av Moon Welcomes Us Home to the Bay Area.

I felt comfort and assurance seeing the Av moon hovering above the greater San Francisco Bay area; the same Av moon that rises over Haleakala, the same moon that I sat beneath and searched for these past ten weeks above a small plot of land in the Pacific, the same moon that has been orbiting our planet for millennium.

Escorting us home, the Av moon played hide and seek. Each time the giant ball of Av floated into my view, I exhaled into peace lodged deep within me. I was reminded of the truth of the Av moon cycle: that love, joy, and forgiveness arise in the wake of sadness, despair, and loss.

The Shifting Focus of Av

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Aug• 17•11

Love and forgiveness are the promise of the full moon of Av. Typically, as a moon grows in luminosity, its associated areas of healing intensify day by day. The focus peaks on the eve of a full moon and then withdraws little by little as the moon wanes to darkness.

It’s striking that the moon of Av doesn’t follow this pattern. On the full moon Av, feelings of sadness, pain, and destruction aren’t more potent, they actually shift focus completely. There in the middle of the cycle’s deepest wailing comes a full embodied embrace of love and forgiveness.

The Mystique of Av, Full Moon 5771/2011

A beloved teacher recently shared with me that her grown daughter understood that even in her darkest hour, she knew her mother loved her. Her girl said, “Even if I walked into your living room and told you that I had killed someone, you still would love me.” Her mother agreed without hesitation. “Always I love you,” she confirmed. And then with some humor affirmed that her daughter didn’t need to test the particular example. Of course not, and they both had a chuckle.

Not many people know that no matter what they do, they are loved. It’s almost cliché. But then it’s not. I deeply question my fundamental (mis)understanding of this truth. I can cognitively philosophize, of course. But honestly, as I search within my heart, I realize I do not have visceral knowledge that I will always be loved no matter what I do or who I am.

Love Is Our Birthright

I also contemplate the participation of judgment in this deep loving. Would the mother judge her daughter if she committed murder? Or does she love without judgment?

The gift of the full and waning Av moon is the awakening of these questions. I am content to loosen the soil of my discernment and wonder. I can relax in the Truth of these teachings and embrace them before I completely understand or can possibly agree.

This is the journey.

Praying the Hours of Tisha B’Av

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Aug• 10•11

The curve of the bay

Catches my tears.

Chair low.

Feet deep in the sand.



The Divine name


Hour after hour

For generations.


Rolling waves break



Privilege; into






The Divine Spark

Burning within me

Harbingers the radiance

Coming today







The Destruction of Divine Love

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Aug• 07•11

I’ve known this day was coming. I’ve avoided it for years. I’ve averted my eyes and tucked my heart deeply away in protection from an onslaught of unwanted emotion.

Every year, just a few days before the full moon of Av, an entire 24-hour period of time is set aside to viscerally recall the deepest sadness and pain within us. It is actually an official period of mourning when you make time to recall and feel not only your own personal lifetime of devastating experiences, but also the catastrophe and struggle and annihilation that has accumulated over thousands of years of human existence.

That day begins tonight at sunset. (Tisha b’Av in the Jewish tradition.)

Tisha b'Av Begins Tonight at Sunset

I’m encouraged to embrace these 24 hours with a full, open, and curious heart. So far, I’ve invited the darker emotions of pain, sadness, and destruction of this moon cycle into my usual happiness bubble. I’m not lost in the swirl of overwhelming darkness. I haven’t been parallelized by the amount of pain and sadness lodged within the pits of my belly or from the history of our people.

Instead, what I have felt and been struck by, awestruck really, is that it is a balance. At the root of destruction is an indistinguishable ember of direct love and connection. It doesn’t feel that way at the time, of course. But from here, within a life of fortune, beauty, and relative ease, I live by the privilege of retrospective insight.

I’m not saying pain and destruction and overwhelming sadness doesn’t exist or that they don’t exist within me. They do in great proportion. Yet, as my heart opens to feeling the depth of these dark emotions, what I come to is love. What I come to is the balance of living. That we as a people—individually and collectively—are resilient. We are birthed from times of destruction.

We are alive in a tumultuous time, yes. But as my veteran friend said to me, even the sunset above the field of a raging war is beautiful.

I embrace these next 24-hours of darkness. I symbolically rip my fabric in official mourning. I will sit low and cry. And yet, I know that this is a conjuring. That if I turn just a little, and tip my heart just a bit in another direction, I will be enveloped by the truth and assurance of Divine love.

The Dark Days of Av

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Aug• 03•11

The Av moon already is nearly a quarter illuminated (23 percent) and I have yet to site it in the sky. I’ve always avoided the moon cycle of Av, but now I’m actually longing to see it.

The exact energy that historically has caused me to be afraid of Av—destruction, loss, betrayal—lasts only for nine days. It’s good practice for me to open my heart to these emotions and allow into the spotlight feelings of sadness and struggle. Typically, I live within a bubble of blessing and goodness. During these first nine days of Av, however, I’m finding the courage to plum my depths and open to millennia of historical annihilation that lives inside of me and the world.

Accept the Divine invitation of Av to delve into feeling true loss and pain.  Though maybe unpleasant, it is healing to acknowledge and feel the atrocities and truth of war between nations, destruction of sacred sites, massive genocide. Also, explore these feelings within the microcosm of your own heart. Learn to tolerate feeling—if only briefly—the deep accumulation of personal hurt, sadness, abuse, loss, and betrayal you carry within you.

This dark mournful period reaches its peak in five days, on the 9th of Av (Tisha b’Av). Then, when the Av moon is full, the focus shifts to epic proportions of Divine love and forgiveness. Be courageous and vulnerable now; a bounty of love is on its way.

I’m Afraid of the Av Moon

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jul• 29•11

With only 4 percent of the Tammuz moon still reflecting in the sky, my annual concern and secret fear about the approaching moon of Av is beginning to boil. I’ve always been afraid to embrace the moon cycle of Av. It asks that we look at and embrace epic levels of pain and destruction, sadness and tragedy. Not just our own, but of the world’s. And not just to look at war, famine, greed, devastation, and blood spill that is taking place right now, but also to remember it in relation to the entire history of people.

Just writing that sentence freaks me out. My head shakes, my belly churns, my heart is flooded with overwhelm; everything in me screeches NO! I’m fascinated by people who are attracted to the dark underbelly of living, but I’m not naturally one of them. So, typically, I skip studying the moon cycle of Av. Instead, I spend the moon of Av preparing for the next moon cycle Elul (which is easier for me to embrace and happens to be my personal favorite).

My Boy Was Born Rosh Chodesh Av 5767/July 2007 (Pictured with Sis)

Four years ago, my boy was born on Rosh Chodesh Av. You’d think that would have been enough to shake awake my interest. He came into the world gorgeous and healthy, but crying whenever he wasn’t sleeping, eating, or being bounced on an exercise ball 100 times a minute for hours on end. The medical community labeled his behavior colic. I didn’t know what to call it. I knew I was tired and my thighs were sore from the physical exertion. I secretly whispered in his ear, “Grow! Grow!”

About 10 days later, I joined my boy’s crying and our joint spillage of tears went nonstop for another four weeks. Perhaps it was due by my boy’s arrival during that year’s annual worldwide mourning fest of Av. Perhaps it was what the medical community labels post-partum anxiety, or what my man calls irrational behavior. I didn’t care what it was called or why it was happening, I just wanted it to stop.

Secretly, I Whispered, “Grow! Grow!”

Last year, a dear friend’s second-born son arrived during the moon of Av. Days before his birth she called to ask me about the moon cycle. Tell me what to think about Av, she prompted. I confessed that I was terrified of the month and knew basically nothing. She told me straight out that I had to get over it.

And so it goes.

This year, Av 5771/July 2011, I commit to read, write, study, and meditate on the moon of Av. I will be open to its apparent wisdom and beauty, no matter how dark it may be. Here in the final days of Tammuz, which are intricately linked to the first two weeks of Av, I begin the journey in earnest, though I’m shaky and resistant, too. I will share with you what I learn along the way.

A Healing Meditation: See Just In Front of You

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jul• 27•11

To amplify the healing available this moon cycle, make a meditation date with yourself. Block out your calendar, turn off your phones, and establish a time and space for you to be without interruption for five to 45 minutes. Best if you can be outdoors, but not imperative. Choose whether you want to sit or walk. If you can’t find the time, commit to an impromptu meditation while sitting in your car or for a few minutes before you rise from the dinner table.

A Healing Meditation: To See Just In Front of You (Kihei, Maui)

Close your eyes for a moment and take a few deep belly breaths. Once you feel quieter inside, whisper aloud your intention to receive healing through what you see. Open your eyes and slowly look around you. Be deliberate. Do not move yet. Just look. Gaze. Be quiet. Breathe and see. At first, you might notice broad colors and shapes: the leaf on the palm, the graying mortar frozen into permanent ooze beside the red brick steps. Keep breathing. Soften your gaze, blink a few times, and see again.

Soon, details may emerge that were not before present: the ladybug crawling across her green palm highway; a penny dropped between two bricks months ago. Keep seeing. And breathe.

Pay attention to how you are feeling. Is your heart pounding? Is your mind wandering? Use as your focus that which you see through the window of your eyes. Continue to gaze. Continue to see. Breathe. When the five to forty-five minutes has ended, take another few breaths. Whisper aloud your gratitude for these moments of quiet healing. If you feel comfortable, write about your experience. Before beginning another activity, make a commitment to again heal through seeing by doing this meditation at least once more before the Tammuz moon cycle ends in six days on Sunday, July 31.