I started this series in January 2010, with an Introduction to Embodied Judaism and “ Part I: Elements.” In the fall of 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.
Adar I, in a leap year, is the moment where the element of Aether/Void comes to the forefront. Truthfully, this fifth element — like all elements is always present. It is the element that transmits all other things. While the other four elements are well founded in Jewish tradition, you may be asking if Aether is really Jewish.
I don’t know.
But I do know that the idea of center and void are well founded in Jewish tradition, and there are five levels of the soul. It’s hard to call “void” an element, so I’ve chose to label it using a classical concept like aether. The Hebrew word I’ve settled on, at least for now, is Chashmal (חַשְׁמַל), which in modern Hebrew means “electricity.” Chashmal is the mystical substance Ezekiel describes as illuminating the Chariot of G!d(dess) in his vision in Ezekiel 14 and 1:27. The description in The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism made me think of the type of energy we talk about in mystical/magical circles — or aether, also called akasha.
How do you work with a non-element like Chashmal? Let’s start like we have with all the other elements, with potential correspondences to weave a mental tapestry:
AETHER/AKASHAH (חַשְׁמַל): Center, Void, Sabbath, Mt. Sinai, Wilderness, Liminal Space, Transformation, Gestation, Calendars, Mishkan, Temple, Passover Table, Seder Plate, Garden of Eden, Mystery, Sheol, Shamayim, HaSatan, Lilith, Sound of the Shofar, Baalot Ov, Circles, Shamir Worm , Foundation Stone , Moon, Torah, Talit and Tzittzit, Magen David, Tamei/Tahor, Menorah (6 branched), Containers, Vessels, Tohu v Vohu, Yechidah (level of soul)
In a sustainable spiritual practice we are looking to do more than have abstract ideas. We need to be able to work with them in a concrete fashion. To begin bringing these to life in a way that we can use them to guide and enhance our spiritual practice, we generally start by exploring the holidays that fall during an elemental phase, but there are no real holidays in Adar I in leap years!
In this case, we need to look at the idea of balance, center, and liminality in Jewish practice. In this case the practice is to engage with the symbols and what they mean to you.
Questions to Explore:
- What does the concept of “Center” mean to you?
- What activities are the center of your spiritual practice?
- What activities help you center yourself?
- What are the symbols of center and void in Judaism that resonate for you?
- If you made a collage of Aether/Void what would it look like? Which of the symbols above would you use?
- Can you list all the symbols of balance that maintains center in the Torah?
- Have you ever tried to meditate on nothingness?
I hope you’ll take advantage of Adar I, to engage with nothingness. I hope you’ll engage with what is there where there is nothing. I hope you’ll enjoy the chance to center and balance yourself before the journey begins again we head into Spring, Purim, and Pesach!
As always, 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 — that’s most welcome! If you want to share ideas you have or actions you take that is also most welcome.
Elements of Embodied Judaism Series: