It is the new Jewish month of Shevat, and the sun is setting here in Eretz Yisrael as my son modge-podges a Star Wars puzzle he put together over Shabbat.
I can smell glue fumes so I open the windows. Now I can hear birds singing quietly in the trees surrounding my house. And it’s perfect timing, because I also now hear the men davening mincha at the shul across the wadi.
I live in Kiryat Tiv’on, a pastoral town carved from within a forest here in the north, on the edges of Mount Carmel. (I found out in Ulpan this week that “wadi” is actually an Arabic term meaning valley.)
Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the lunar month, is supposed to be a woman’s holiday, according to Jewish tradition. Many women will do special things and abstain from the mundane, like working or doing laundry.
A woman’s monthly cycles are also a form of renewal, much like those of the moon. I can feel the lunar phases and the way they affect me, often in sync with my own internal cycle.
Kabbalistic sources say that the renewal of the moon, or birth of the new moon every Rosh Chodesh, brings a new spiritual light, one that has never been illuminated before throughout time.
I wish I could say I feel exceptionally spiritual right now, but the opposite is true. The new moon is often a time of great irritability for me. I want to rest, to go within. But I forget and try to push myself, to do and create when I need to honor the natural rhythm and needs of my body and spirit.
Today I shed a lot of tears as I prayed to G-d to alleviate the emotional pain I’ve been experiencing. And then I slept.
It has taken me three decades of inner healing and growth work, along with 16 years learning Torah and kabbalah, to get to the point where I know that feelings aren’t permanent.
It is actually this inner darkness, if we are patient with it, that leads to greater light on the other side. Some are more sensitive to the ebb and flow than others. This sensitivity is a blessing when we are taught how to use it, how to relax and surrender to the waves rather than resisting them.
And the message I received today is that I need to share this, because I know of two people who recently chose to leave this world because the pain felt like too much.
Soon I’ll take a walk into town to buy a new puzzle for my son and some things I need for myself.
As I watch the sky turn pink and navy blue above the holiest place on earth, I surrender, take a deep breath, and ask G-d for the strength and clarity to continue serving him as Jewish woman in this world — during the new month of Shevat and as long as He needs me here.
Chodesh Tov with love, from Eretz Yisrael
I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord will support me.
ואֲנִ֥י שָׁכַ֗בְתִּי וָאִ֫ישָׁ֥נָה הֱקִיצ֑וֹתִי כִּ֖י יְהֹוָ֣ה יִסְמְכֵֽנִי: