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SEASON Summer shading into autumn WIND The west HALF OF THE YEAR The sun ELEMENT Air within earth GATE The sky ANGEL Raphael (healing) DIVINE FACE Shekhinah/The Presence The Fruit 15 av to 29 elul They shall build houses and dwell in them, they shall plant vineyards and enjoy their fruit . . . and like the days of a tree shall be the days of My people —ISAIAH 65:21–22 368 orn from a seed, the tree bears seed. The land spends itself to create what will thrive next spring. Fruit swells to bursting. Humans, animals, and birds harvest the grains, nuts, and berries of the land. Plants begin to fade, their life concentrated on a single point: the new kernel, pulsing with stored-up life. We too know the journey will continue past the present moment. We turn from one year to the next. We use the growth of past seasons to sustain a new one. The Jewish calendar now wends its way toward the new year. This eighth segment of the calendar begins with Tu b’Av, the obscure and mysterious talmudic holiday of dancing, love, and rebirth. The 15th of Av falls six days after Tisha b’Av, the day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. This full moon of late summer represents the spiral of life rising out of death, union rising out of brokenness, planting rising out of harvest. In the Jewish calendar, Av is the month of the hinge, when death turns on itself and becomes birth once more. This is a time of healing, of rediscovering the miracle of being human. The Shekhinah is closest to us at this time: From Tu b’Av on, Her mourning turns to dancing. From Av we move to the month of Elul, when Jews blow the shofar each day to signal the season of return has begun. The 25th of Elul, according to legend, is the date of the making of the earth and heaven. Seven days later, the 1st of Tishrei marks the new year and the anniversary of humankind’s creation. For many peoples, this is the time of midharvest. Lammas (August 1) in the Celtic and Christian calendars and Second Planting (August 1) in the American calendar mark thanksgiving for the grain as well as a time to begin one more cycle of planting and harvest before the cold arrives.1 Lammas is also a festival of death and rebirth, like Tu b’Av.2 In Japan, the Bon Festival is a season to celebrate with family and honor 369 B 370 one’s ancestors.3 In North America, Hopi kachinas appear to pray for the cold weather to arrive so that the water in the earth will be replenished.4 The gate of the heavens is open, but we are in a new season of earth and air. We stretch ourselves between body and spirit, between sky and earth. Physically, this is the time when we eat from the fruit of the ground. Spiritually, this is the season of breath, the time of the shofar blowing, the dance of the spirit and the breath. We are still in the days of the sun, the days when we focus on the outer world, but soon the days of rain will come, the days of inner growth. Rich with the fruits of the year, we prepare to be winnowed down to a single seed: the new beginning of our lives. 15 av to 29 elul Today is Tu b’Av, the 15th of Av, a dancing festival when women go out to the fields wearing borrowed white clothing, so that none would know who was rich and who was poor. They would dance and celebrate the grape harvest. Men would go to that field to find wives. Tu b’Av was a holiday of love in which dance partners chose a life together. Coming six days after the 9th of Av, Tu b’Av contains the remedy for exile: joining together in love, without shaming anyone. The women purify their garments like priestesses as they oversee this crucial movement from death to life. In legend, 40 days before the conception of a new person, God decrees who that person’s life partner will be (Babylonian Talmud, Mo’ed Katan 18b). The B’nei Yissaschar, a commentary by Tzvi Elimelekh Shapira, demonstrates that Tu b’Av falls 40 days before the legendary date of Creation (the 25th of Elul). This is the moment...


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