Moon Over Maui

A Jewish Mystical Journey through the Year

Seeing in Tammuz Is the Gateway to the High Holidays

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jul• 26•11

The waning crescent Tammuz moon hangs in the sky. It just tipped over into a three week period of time (which includes two weeks of the next moon cycle Av) that is filled with introspection, assessment, and yearning. It’s July, for goodness sake, yet these final phases of the Tammuz moon indicate the very beginning of the Jewish High Holidays (slated to begin this year in late September.) These full hot days of summer are early preparation for the Jewish High Holidays. It’s hard to believe!

Waning Cresent Tammuz Moon, Wailea, Maui.

Ever since moving to the Bay Area nearly 14 years ago, the High Holidays have arrived earlier and earlier. When I was a girl, we went to temple on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Two days, that was it. Kids my age sat together in three designated side rows to the left of the pulpit. We whispered and flirted under the monotonous hum of prayers we knew by heart. Thigh-touching-thigh, we distractedly flipped through the prayer book pages, counted the colorful discs bobby-pinned onto men’s heads, and fell into shared yet silent girlhood hilarity.

The two days didn’t pass quickly, but they certainly didn’t linger either. Now, the first inner thoughts of the High Holidays arrive in summertime and don’t fully conclude until midwinter. Half of every year—six month’s, no joking—is devoted in some way to preparing, repenting, reviewing, inquiring, making amends, planning, assessing, and envisioning the year ending and the one about to begin.

Tammuz As a Gateway (Wailea, Maui.)

The first time I read Rabbi Alan Lew’s, ZT”L, book This Is Completely Real and You Are Not Prepared, I learned that the entire month of Av (August) also is part of the High Holiday journey

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. The year before, I had fallen in love with the Elul moon (in September) and learned it was a beloved month of spiritual accounting that brings us closer to the Divine. In between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the ten Days of Awe, each filled with deep meaning and fecund for spiritual inquiry. Then Sukkot a week after that. (I was shocked a few years ago to find myself building my own sukkah for the week-long observance of eating outside with friends and strangers. I loved it!) Then Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah got tagged on after that. (Whew, the official end, I thought.) But no! As a young Hebrew School student I learned that the book of life closes on Yom Kippur, but it isn’t actually sealed until a good two moons later, just after Chanukah (December).

And now I learn that smack in the middle of days filled with camps and beaches, swimming pools and ice cream cones, the High Holiday journey begins even earlier, turning our focus inward during the moon of Tammuz.

Lavender Wafts under the Healing of Tammuz  (Ali’i Lavendar Fields, Kula, Maui.)

The area of deep healing for Tammuz is inner seeing. Habitually, we focus our attention outward and see through a lens tinted by our life experiences. Without annual adjustment, our vision begins to warp into projections that see only what we most want to feel or avoid. For example, instead of understanding that my daughter’s perseverance to tolerate a yard full of unfamiliar new school mates is buoying her to new heights of social interaction, I freefall into my own childhood days and see her suffering in lonely isolation and discrimination.

It is the gift of Tammuz to wipe the shmootz from my glasses and to see clearly what is before me. To make the time and refresh my vision. To blink into reality and see that really, my husbands temper isn’t caused by me, my dog isn’t as decrepit as I often imagine, beauty and awe stand side-by-side with violence and death, my son is excited and joyous more than he is hyperactive, my professional life is resurrecting itself not suffocating.

Seeing Is the Healing Gift of Tammuz. (Water fountain, Wailuku, Maui.)

Curative introspection comes from relearning to truly see without projection or fear, longing or fantasy. Make the time to examine your vision. Be brave enough to take off the lenses of your past, wipe them clean, and open yourself to the beauty and dirt that surrounds you.


Dancing Under The Waning Tammuz Moon

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jul• 19•11

The Tammuz moon has seduced me night after night this month.

Waning Tammuz Moon, Paia, Maui.

I was certain the pinnacle of it’s beauty was on the night it was fullest, but the night before last the waning moon was so bright and beautiful it sucked the air out of my mouth. I ran inside to grab my camera and had to wake up my sleeping children to come and play beneath it. They danced and sang and ran around the cul-de-sac as if it were high noon, instead of closer to midnight.

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Dancing Under the Rising Tammuz Moon


The Full Glory and Heat of Tammuz

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jul• 14•11

I’ve been feeling a little depressed lately. It’s hard to admit, given the fact that I live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Several times a day I have to blink my eyes and remember that I’m alive and not dead. I mean it’s so beautiful here that it’s hard to believe—and even more difficult to remember—that it is real. Technicolor shades of blue and green set the daily scene of seduction. Minutes before the roosters crow, puffy cotton shapes begin a flamingo pink sky dance, frothy waves lap against smooth white sand, waterholes invite me to swim inside of black lava rock beds, waterfalls cascade onto the very roads I’m driving on. For goodness sake, what is there to feel depressed about?

I’m not really depressed. I’m actually quite content

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. Happy even. But I can’t deny the constriction in my heart, the sadness welling within me, the concern and love filling every blessed moment with an awareness of the pain and heat of the human experience.

Ever since Tammuz crested in the sky two weeks ago, I’ve been teetering on a burning equator: to one side life is gorgeous, fulfilling, an eternal gift; and on the other it is fleeting, vanishing, and shaded heavily with pain. It sounds like philosophical cliché; I wish it were. I don’t ever remember around me such a collective cluster of deep, painful, and challenging transitions regarding death and birth.

As I talked tonight with one friend who received a recent and shocking diagnosis of late-stage cancer, I’m reminded that life seems awful, and in fact is awful, but it is also extraordinary. She quotes her oncologist as saying, “If we are to have any chance of survival then we must start chemotherapy tonight.” My heart bursts, my wet eyes squinch shut, I forget to breathe. She shares about her hospital stay, her family, the strength and love she feels from those around her. As she talks, the light of the full Tammuz moon rises behind me. Its reflection in the mirror whips my head around for a full frontal view. It is beautiful and round and beaming above sunset-colored clouds. My heart swells to match its shape and reminds me of possibilities far beyond my own imaginings.



Intensity of Tammuz Gushes Like a Waterfall

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jul• 07•11

The moon is building in intensity and glow during this first week of Tammuz. Because the moon rises and sets one hour later than each previous day, the time when you can visually locate the moon in the sky varies

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. Some days the moon will escort you at the dinner hour while on other days it hangs in full view during afternoon tea or at dawn. In the middle of the Pacific, for example, the Tammuz moon currently is setting against a jet black evening sky, much past a child’s bedtime.

The Waxing Tammuz Sky, Wednesday night, Paia, Maui
The Waxing Tammuz Moon, Wednesday night, Paia, Maui

I use the visual moon as a mindfulness tool. Sometimes it peaks through a cloud or into a window frame (like it did last night), and the visual beam reminds me to pause and connect with myself and the Divine.

Every moon has a particular energetic flow associated with it. The four letter representation of the Divine name (Y-H-V-H) permutes into various forms specific to each moon cycle.

 In Nissan (springtime), for example, the Divine name is in its original form. During the Tammuz moon, it is exactly reversed (H-V-H-Y). Each letter holds a specific energetic flow: The H(ay) indicates where the greatest amount of movement and action is taking place; the V(av) indicates where the energetic flow moves swiftly through you; and the Y(ud) indicates a concentrated point of calm and focus.

When the Divine name is reversed during Tammuz, for example, the energetic flow amplifies action in the spiritual and emotional worlds. What happens to you this month may be intense and your feelings about it overwhelming. Still, it’s not advantageous to think or do anything about the heightened activity or feelings. Similar to a rapidly gushing waterfall, the intense movement flows through your thinking mind too rapidly for you to engage. Your actions are to still yourself, to be calm and focused within the storm of activity and emotion.

Use the moon in the sky as a reminder. When you feel engulfed by your experiences this month or you find yourself falling into an emotional vat of intensity, recognize the power of the Divine. Know that although you are participating in your life, you are not the final determiner of its happenings or outcomes. Sit still. Breathe deeply. Believe that the gifts of this month will reveal themselves. Accept that it is not advantageous to do anything about the events and emotions surrounding you. The days will pass, the moon will wane, the energetic flow will shift. Guaranteed.


Tammuz Heats Up

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jul• 07•11

The new moon Tammuz crested in the sky four days ago (see photo in posting below). Today, however, I felt the inner affects of the Tammuz heat burn against my tender heart. Death pulled its card on two of my dear friends

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. Neither of them willingly summoned this indiscriminate power: one sits in the final hours of her mother-in-law’s physical life; the other is fighting for triumph with chemicals, blood transfusions, hospitals, and prayers.

My heart rumbles and shakes loose a thread of anger, sadness, loss, injustice and pain. I gaze up at the blue sky, dip into the Pacific, and feel a loss of vitality as the water moves over me. I brood over the sureness that bad things happen to good people. I ask why more fervently than the waves rolling to shore. And then I catch myself. I notice the pattern of frustration and fear overwhelming me whenever someone I love is unwell. I slow down my breathing and look with my eyes at the beauty that surrounds me.

Each moon cycle has a healing energy. For Tammuz, it is to see life as it really is. Not as I wish it to be, or delude myself into thinking that it is; but to actually see clearly. To wipe clean the accumulation of dirt from my vision and open myself to the Truth, with a capital T. I look around with the eyes of my soul and see beauty everywhere. The waves rolling toward me, seaweed floating, fish swimming, the shimmer of sun reflecting, children playing. I slow down my breath and feel an abundance of grace and gratitude. I am alive. I feel the fragility and strength of human life.

I look skyward and search for Tammuz. It isn’t in the sky, but I feel the Divine flow. And for that and for this one moment in time, I am grateful.

The New Tammuz Moon Crests over the Pacific on Saturday Night

Written By: Jueli Garfinkle - Jul• 03•11

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