There are no holidays in Cheshvan, so it was harder to decide which object to explore this month. I thought about exploring Besamin, the spices we use at Havdalah, since according to the Sefer Yetzirah the sense of the month is smell. I thought about yahrzeit candles because there are many famous yahrzeits celebrated in Chesvhan. I even thought about umbrellas because rain is so closely associated with Cheshvan.
Finally I decided that the “red string” was the appropriate physical object to explore as a symbol of Cheshvan. One of the yahrzeits we celebrate in Cheshvan is that of Rachel Imeinu, Rachel the matriarch. The “red string” as protective amulet is closely associate with Rachel and her tomb, although it’s not the only association. The use of red as a color of protection and spiritual cleansing is a common on in Judaism, just think of the “Red Heifer.” Red, or scarlet/crimson, is also one of the four classical colors of Hebrew scripture. Red generally symbolizes joy, life, and sin. It also symbolizes the earth and man (think Adam, and Adamah).
Tishrei 5772 begins at Sundown on Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The shofar is not only a symbol we all associate with Tishrei, but it’s also a symbol of Judaism. Many of us only think about the shofar at the High Holy days, but in ancient times it was used regularly in religious rites.
Blow the shofar at the new moon, at the full moon for our feast-day.
In Psalms, we see the order to blow the shofar at both the new moon, Rosh Chodesh, and the full moon feast days. Historically the shofar would have been used to call us to prayer and attention for a myriad of reasons and events. The shofar was also the sound of G-d/dess’ voice we hear at Sinai. Is it any wonder that this ancient relic is one we still treasure today? When considering the shofar, also remember that it is a sign of our history as a nation of shepherds. I’m exploring purchasing my first shofar, and finding that I not only want one that is beautiful and playable — but also that I know comes from an animal that is not just kosher, but was also raised with respect and given a good life. I also want it to be local. Why should I import a shofar from a foreign country, when there are so many sheep right here? I would like to learn to play the shofar, but I also want to incorporate it into my fall altar, or spiritual focal point if you prefer. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of having a Jewish personal altar, here’s a post about the practice.
Gad (גָּד), the patriarch and tribe associated with the month of Elul (אֱלוּל), is the seventh son of Jacob. Seven is a lucky number in many cultures, Judaism included, and not only is he the seventh son, but he also fathers seven sons. He is of the line of Leah, through Zilpah. Gad’s name means “good fortune,” and in Genesis 30:11 it says that “Leah said: ‘Fortune is come!’ And she called his name Gad.”
In case you missed Rosh Chodesh services at OneShul.org on Friday night, here’s the video. If you didn’t know, I’m leading monthly Rosh Chodesh services at OneShul.org every month! Come join me. You can attend in your pajamas through the wonder of cyberspace, the service is posted on the OneShul Prayer Service page. It’s live streaming video and during the service there is a live chat space (text, not video) so you can engage and interact with me and the other people who are attending.
We had a bit of technical difficulties (we being, me), but once we started over, all was well. I am very excited that I was able to feature the paintings of D’vorah Horn this month. She’s been painting the wheel of year, one painting to represent each month, and I finally thought to ask her if I could use her painting to kick off Rosh Chodesh services. I totally forgot to ask Shir and Epryhme if I could use their music, so I’m really hoping they don’t mind! Go buy their album. It’s awesome, which I why I wanted to feature it!
Shimon, also known as Simon and Simeon, is the second son of Jacob and Leah. His name alludes to the word for “hearing” in Hebrew, as Leah said in Genesis 29, “because the LORD hath heard that I am hated, He hath therefore given me this son also.” His story is often one of the wielding of strength, the tarot card associated with the month. He is best known for the story of Genesis 34, called the “rape of Dinah.” This difficult portion of the Torah often leaves many wondering if they want to hear more. It is appropriate with this and the root of Simeon’s name that the sense associated with the month is hearing.