Part V – Spring | Elements of Embodied Judaism

Passover Seder - Sharing our Resources with the Community || Photo by Adam Baker used by Creative Commons Attribution
Passover Seder - Sharing our Resources with the Community || Photo by Adam Baker used by Creative Commons Attribution
Passover Seder – Sharing our Resources with the Community || Photo by Adam Baker used by Creative Commons Attribution

I started this series in  January 2010, with an Introduction  and  “Part 1: Four Elements.”   In fall 2010, I picked it back up in earnest with the first of four planned seasonal guides,  Part II – Autumn and Part III – Winter.    I started writing these in a fortuitous year, because it is a leap year.  We don’t move straight from Winter to Spring in leap years — we have a pause, a moment of liminal space, a moment to explore the element of Aether/Void, so I realized we also needed to add “Adar I, ” for leap years.

But now it is Tekufat Nissan, which is the marker of Spring in Judaism. Spring  is the season of Earth (עָפָר) within Air (רוּחַ), according to the  elemental system of RK’Jill Hammer which my concept is built on.  RK’Jill assigns each season with an inner and outer element.  The outer element, Air in this case, is the element we have in abundance.  The inner element, Earth in this case, is the element we need.   In the Peeling a Pomegranate approach to a sustainable spiritual practice, this translates to the idea of  Earth (Resources) through Community (Air). This is the flip-side of Autumn where we have Community through Resources.  Thinking this through, in Autumn we all are able to gather together in physical structures like Synagogues for our huge communal ritual holidays of the year — Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  The ability to enjoy community is brought to us through the resources we have built over time.  In Spring, we gather in private homes and share a small communal feast at Passover.  It is the communal holiday that gives us the opportunity to share our resources with friends and family.  Community, is really a short way of saying “communal ritual/spiritual experiences” and “resources” is short for “the resources you consume.”

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Tekufat Tevet – The Winter Solstice

Tekufah Tevet from the Beit Alpha Synagogue Mosaic
Tekufah Tevet from the Beit Alpha Synagogue Mosaic

Most people when discussing the tekufot align them with directly with the astronomical solstices or equinoxes, but according to the Jewish Encyclopedia they may actually fall up to 14 days after this.  For example, think about the fact that the Winter solstice is called the “Tekufat Tevet.”  This year (5771 / 2010) the Winter Solstice actually falls in the month of Tevet, but this is not always the case.

Many years, the Winter Solstice actually appears in the month of Kislev, and aligns with closely with Hanukkah, which occurs during the dark moon nearest the winter solstice.  If you look at the Gregorian calendar for 2000-2009, only five of those ten years had the Winter solstice falling in Tevet.  Want to see for yourself?  2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009) So on the years when the Winter Solstice falls in Kislev, when do you you celebrate Tekufat Tevet?  I say we celebrate the solstice on the solstice.  It’s an astrological event, not a subjective one.

“The winter solstice seems to have to do with sight, or the lack thereof. Mountains become visible to Noah, and the patterns of nature become visible to Adam and Eve. Leviathan is associated with inner site. Jepthah, on the other hand, is blind to his own wrong doings.  On the winter solstice the sun’s light begins to become stronger, and we too consider how to strengthen our vision.”  (From the Jewish Book of Days by RK’Jill Hammer)

There are actually many Jewish winter solstice tales and a great deal of lore around the Winter and other tekufot.  For a variety of reasons, we’re not supposed to drink water stored in the house or in “vessels” on the first day of the tekufot. The belief is that the water is poisoned with blood.  Each season seems to have its own reason for this.  At the Winter Solstice it’s because that is the day Jepthah sacrificed his daughter.

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