Elul: Lesson of Gad

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.”

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Rosh Chodesh Av Services

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!

Av: The Lesson of Shimon

Nomadic Markings by MSimonLevin - used by CC-A Permissions

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.

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Tammuz: Lesson of Reuben

binocular view
Clear your vision in Tammuz – Photo by Joelk75 CCA Permissions

Tammuz generally falls during the months of June and July.
Reuben (רְאוּבֵן) is the first born of Jacob and Leah is the tribe associated with the month of Tammuz (תָּמוּז).  His name, Reuben is directly related to the sense of sight, which is considered to be the sense of the month of Tammuz.   When Reuben was born, Leah exclaimed, “Because the LORD hath looked (רָאָה) upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” (Gen 29:32)


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Sivan: Lesson of Zevulon

Zevulon (זְבוּלֻן), also pronounced Zebulon, is the sixth son of Jacob and Leah.  His name comes from the word “zeved” (זֵבֶד), which means dowry or gift. Leah saw him as G!d(dess) endowing her with a good dowry with her six sons (Gen 30:20).   His standard, based on the blessing Jacob bestowed upon him in Genesis 49:13, generally contains a ship as Zebulon was considered a sea-faring tribe.

As we know from the lesson in the month of Iyyar, Zevulon is cosmically intertwined with his brother-tribe of Issachar. Zevulon is the merchant that supports the scholarship of Issachar. Zevulon is a tribe of movement and travel, which explains the “sense” of the month being, “walking.”  According to Inner.org, this refers “not only to physical walking but to the spiritual sense of progress or development.”  It’s also clear how both the mazal, or astrological sign, and tarot card relate to Zevulon.  The mazal is Gemini, also known as the twins, and the tarot card is   “The Lovers.”  Both of these relay the idea of partnership, interdependence, and important relationships.

Humans are not, generally, solitary creatures — and Judaism is not a solitary spiritual path.  It’s a tribal religion.  We rely on each other, we pray together,  we rejoice together,  and we care for each other’s dead.  Zevulon is the merchant who sails the world and brings back experiences to share with Issachar and the rest of the tribe.  But, while Zevulon’s core role is a merchant — it doesn’t release him (or us) from the responsibility of learning Torah engaging with Judaism.

The lessons I find in Zevulon are that no matter where you go, or what you do in life, Judaism and Jewish spiritual practice should be at your center.  We all engage with this in different ways.  We all find different aspects that move our souls.  At Sinai, at Shavuot, the Torah tells us that G!d(dess) spoke to each of us separately and we all heard different words — but together. The job for us all is to find those things that do connect us to the tribe, and remember that there are others to whom we can turn to help us find our way.