Part II – Autumn – Elements of Embodied Judaism

Symbol of Community
Symbol of Community, photo by Jeff Kubina. Used by Creative Commons permission.

Back in January I wrote “Four Elements of a Embodied Judaism: Part I” — then I wrote a few posts around that topic and hosted a workshop, but never really picked the thread back up again.   I think it’s time to begin exploring this topic again.   Most likely I’ll post about this at the turn of each season to provide a guide for seasonally adapting your spiritual practice based on this concept.

Autumn is the season of Air (רוּחַ) within Earth (עָפָר), 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, Earth in this case, is the element we have in abundance.  The inner element, Air 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 Community (Air) through Resources (Earth). Community, is really a short way of saying “communal ritual/spiritual experiences” and “resources” is short for “the resources you consume.”

Let’s start with our abundant element of Earth a bit more.  Let’s start with a few of the correspondence that create our concept of “earth” in Judaism:

Autumn, Sunset, Ten Commandments, Raphael, Shekhinah, Rachel, David, Iron, Challah, Salt, Lulav, Etrog, Fruit, Flowers on Shavuot, Trees and tree planting, earth in coffin, burying sacred texts, shoveling earth on grave, building of stone altars (cairns), bones, gardens, fields, Ruth, Boaz, the Shofar (not blown), Stones, Behomot, Life, Assiyah, Doing, Nefesh (level of the soul)

Now let’s look at some of the correspondences for Air in Jewish tradition:

Spring, Dawn, Cloud of Glory, Balance, Leah, Jacob, Bronze/Copper, Uriel, Scent, Incense, Blowing of Shofar, Besamin, Sukkah, Greggors, Singing, Chanting, Speech, Spoken Prayer, Dancing, Breath, Blades/Knives (air feeds fire), Tzipporah, Inspiration, Imagination, Bells on Priestly Garments, Keturah, Tzovah, Ziz (aka Renanim, Sekewi), Judith, Solomon, Joshua,Wisdom, Briah, Thinking, Neshamah (level of soul)

Hopefully, these help to create a rich and diverse mental tapestry of what earth and air are, in an abstract form.

But these abstracts correspondences are just seeds.  We need to know which ones to plant and how to cultivate them for the Autumn.   The autumn is the season of the High Holy Days — the Days of Awe.   It’s time for the big four: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah!   Four holidays?  Four elements?  Yes, you can easily pick out which element aligns with each specific holiday, but that’s another topic for another time.  I also love that it’s the season where we have both the shofar, and the air that blows the shofar.  Thanks to Michael Chusid for this concept.

These holidays are the time of year where we come together as a community more than any other time.  Even people who never otherwise step into a synagogue find somewhere to go for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  This is the time where we are able to celebrate as a wider community because of the resources we’ve pooled together.  If not for that, there would be no synagogues to go to.  That is the purest expression of Community (air) through Resources (earth).  Even a Havurah with no fixed building pools its resources for the High Holidays to find a building big enough to bring the entire community together.

In your own spiritual practice, this is the time of year to celebrate what you build with your community and renew your commitment to sustaining it.   If you don’t belong to a congregation or specific spiritual community that has physical space, then think beyond that.  What are the structures that sustain you and your community?  Maybe it’s a web-based community?  Beyond even that, what are the structures that sustain your wider community?  Are their food banks and social service organizations? Maybe it’s something like the Isabella Freedman Center or Zeek that connect you to the wider world and community.

Autumn is the season to shore up the structures that support community.  In a traditional agricultural society, we’d be doing this to ensure we can physically survive the winter to come.  In our spiritual work, it’s really not that different.  For those in the northern hemisphere, the days will soon grow shorter.  For many the temperatures will begin to drop, and it will get harder to physically get together as a community.

What do you need to do the shore up the communal structures in your life? What communal ritual experiences do you cherish that would be impossible if someone does not commit to building and maintaining the structures that enable them?   Whether you have abundant resources or are relying on these structures to survive, this is the season to explore and understand your relationship to the community.  It’s the season to enjoy the structures that enable community to exist.

Questions to Explore:

  1. What is your community or communities?
  2. What are the important community structures you rely on?
  3. What communal experiences do you treasure that those structures enable?
  4. What do you do or can you do to support the structures that enable your community to come together?
  5. What community structures support those in need, and what can you or do you do to support them? (Remember, you never know when it might be you that needs the help)
  6. If you belong to a Synagogue, or other community with a physical location, what is you love most about that space?  What can you do to enhance or preserve it?  What can you do to share with others what you find special?

I hope you’ll share what you experience by applying this, or just reading about it.  If you want to share your answers to the questions, it’s most welcome.  If you want to share actions you take or ideas you have — that is also most welcome.

Elements of Embodied Judaism Series:

{Note: the photo is from the Community Bridge Mural in Frederick, MD.  This came up on Flickr when I was searching for “community” images to use.  I’ve been to the bridge, it’s really gorgeous.  This photo is part of a set of really fabulous photos of the mural.  Very grateful how many people post pictures on Flickr with Creative Commons permissions that allow me to share them with the world!}