|Rebbetzin rejoicing with her sons|
During the Tishrei Holidays we are like in a spiritual incubator – in between “end” and “beginning” – “harvest” and “sowing,” “living” and “rebirthing” absorbing all the lights and spiritual nutrients for the entire year. This is the time to take a break from our regular habits, and go with the flow. I went to hear a beautiful concert for women into past midnight, way past my “regular” bedtime, I slept long and missed my “regular” six am swimming at the pool, and I didn’t feel badly! I can begin anew and turn a new leaf in the book of my life.
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach teaches that during the year the Torah is a heavy burden but after the pure and holy air of the Sukkah we grasp how much the Torah is light. I don’t carry the Torah, the Torah is carrying me! I realize that the Torah is not just telling me what to do and reminding me of what I’m doing wrong. Rather the Torah empowers me. The Torah believes in me, that I can become the holy of holiest.
This year I'd like to share with you some highlights on the cycle of the times based on Sefer Yetzira the most ancient book of Kabbalah attributed to Avraham our father. So read on if you would like to squeeze out some more drops of light for the last week remaining of the month of Tishrei.
Monthly Correspondences from Sefer Yetzira: The Book of Formation
Letter: למד /lamed
Sense: תשמיש/tashmish – Love making
Bodily part: מרה/mara – Gall bladder
Constellation: מאזנים/mo’oznaim – Libra
The Meaning of the Name: Tishrei
אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר הָֹשֵם אֱלֹהֶיךָ דֹּרֵשׁ אֹתָהּ תָּמִיד עֵינֵי הָֹשֵם“The eyes of Hashem your G-d are always upon it, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year” (Deuteronomy 11:12).
אֱלֹהֶיךָ בָּהּ מֵרֵשִׁית הַשָּׁנָה וְעַד אַחֲרִית שָׁנָה
אֱלֹהֶיךָ בָּהּ מֵרֵשִׁית הַשָּׁנָה וְעַד אַחֲרִית שָׁנָה
The name תשרי/Tishrei indicates that it is the beginning of a New Year, for it contains the letters of the word ראשית/Reishit – in the beginning. The letters of תשרי/Tishrei proceed in the opposite way starting with the last letter of the alphabet, because it is a month of judgment. The meaning of the Aramaic word “Tishrei” is atonement, enabling us to turn over a new leaf in life and begin afresh. Tishrei is called יֶרַח הָאֵתָנִים/yerach ha’eitanim – “the month of the strong” (I Melachim 8:2). In this month we receive the strength for the entire year.
כל השביעין חביבין לעולם למעלן השביעי חביב (מדרש רבה ויקרא פרשה כט פסקה יא)“All sevens are dear” (Vayikra Rabbah 29:11).
This refers to the Month of Tishrei – the seventh month. The word “seven” is connected to being “satiated” and so is the month of Tishrei referred to as “the most satiated of months” for more than any other moth of the year it is full of holidays and Mitzvot.
The Letter Lamed
Lamed – the letter with which the month of Tishrei was created symbolizes the heart. Tishrei is regarded as the heart of the year as the heart receives and distributes the spiritual energy for the entire year. The letter lamed, being the only letter whose shape ascends above the upper boundary of the letters symbolizes the sublime opportunity to rise from the depths of sin to the greatest spiritual heights in this month. It reflects its great existential longing and aspiration to return to its ultimate and absolute source in the essence of G-d’s Infinite Being. This is the experience of the true teshuvah of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. G-d’s infinite light descends and becomes manifest in the two lameds of the lulav. The letter of Elul – yud together with the lamed of Tishrei spell out the Hebrew word לִי/lee – mine, for during this time we return to become Hashem’s, through the unification of G-d with Israel during the Tishrei Holidays. These letters are also respectively the first and the last letter of the word Yisrael, thus symbolizing that Yisrael is created to unify with Hashem.
The Sense of Love
During the month of Tishrei the unifying relationship between G-d and the Jewish people was formed. This is reflected through the intimate relationship between husband and wife. Perhaps we can say that during Elul we began dating Hashem, so to speak. On Rosh Hashana the cosmic engagement took place and on Yom Kippur we stood under the marriage canopy and received the Two Tablets of the Ten Commandment as a wedding gift. The seven days of Sukkot are the Sheva brachot (the traditional seven days wedding celebrations), and on Shemini Atzeret – all the guest go home and Hashem and the Jewish people unite privately as a married couple.
The Weekly Torah Portions of the Month
During the month of Tishrei we are rounding up the weekly Torah portions (parshiot) and beginning anew just as the year is coming to a full circle of blessings with the last Torah portion:
וְזֹאת הַבְּרָכָה /v’zot habracha – “This is the blessing,” and is born anew in this month with returning to the first Torah portion: בְּרֵאשִׁית /bereishit – “In the beginning”
The Astrological Sign: Libra
According to astrology, people born under the sign of Libra are especially blessed by harmonious and pleasurable feelings in marital relationships. Scales signifies the Day of Judgment that opens this month and dictates a period of soul searching, weighing the deeds of the past year. On the sixth day of creation, in the tenth hour, Adam was called to judgment. G-d told him,” Just as you are now standing before Me in judgment, so too in all of the generations to come, your descendents shall stand before Me in judgment on this day.”
The Tribe of the Month
The unity between the tribes of Yosef and Yehuda is indicated in the relationship between the month of Nissan (whose tribe is Yehuda) and Tishrei (whose tribe is Efraim). The judgment on the first of Tishrei is complemented by the grace of the month of Nissan. Efraim is the son of Yosef, the archetypal soul who had the power to elevate and sanctify sexuality, his son Efraim represents the power to procreate in marital union. The name Efraim derives from G-d’s first commandment to Adam on the day of his creation – the first of Tishrei “be fruitful and multiply” (Bereishit 1:28).
וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם אֱלֹהִים פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת הָאָרֶץ וְכִבְשֻׁהָ“G-d blessed them, and G-d said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it” (Bereishit 1:28).
Spiritually, this mitzvah is performed in ongoing stages throughout all the holidays of Tishrei, from Rosh Hashana to Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.
Whenever vav, heh precede yud, heh it indicates judgment. The permutation of the month of Tishrei spell out וְהָיָה /v’haya – “and it shall come to pass” In Scripture, this expression always indicate good tidings and happiness (Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 10b). True happiness comes to a person only after one goes through a period of toil and judgment. The first half of the month of Tishrei is set aside for judgment, and the second half which opens with Sukkoth – with Simchat Torah as its center piece – is a time of rejoicing. By means of this rejoicing expressed through the Simchat Beit Hashoevah (drawing the water for the altar of the Temple), we merit the drawing into ourselves the inspiration of the Holy spirit (Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 50b). May it come to pass that our new year recently reborn will be a year of rejoicing and jubilation!