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Through Jewish soul stories, Kabbalistic teachings, inspiring case examples, meditations, spiritual and psychological guidelines, and practical recommendations, the easy-to-follow format of Kabbalah Month by Month makes this ancient wisdom accessible for people of all faiths and backgrounds. Each chapter includes information about the month's:
• Unique energy and healing area
• Astrological connections
• Torah portions
• Hebrew letter and permutation of the Divine Name
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About the Author
Melinda Ribner is internationally known for her pioneering work in Jewish meditation and meditative Kabbalah, is the founder and director of the Jewish Meditation Circle and Beit Miriam, and is also a licensed psychotherapist in private practice who uses meditation and Kabbalah as part of treatment. She is a student of the legendary Rabbi Shlomo Carebach and received a non-rabbinical s'micha (ordination) to teach Jewish meditation. A teacher of Jewish meditation for more than eighteen years, she offers a teacher-training program, seminars, and experiential workshops at synagogues, national conferences, and New Age centers throughout this country and Canada. Ms. Ribner is the author of best-selling books New Age Judaism and Everyday Kabbalah.
Read an Excerpt
Kabbalah Month by MonthA Year of Spiritual Practice and Personal Transformation
By Mindy Ribner
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7879-6152-3
Energy: Returning to the Inner Stillness Within Change
Area of Healing: Action
Astrological Sign: Virgo
Hebrew Letter: Yud
Hebrew Tribe: Gad
Divine Name Permutation: HHVY
Forgiveness is a major theme of the energy of this month. It is not always easy to forgive when we have been hurt, but it is easier when we realize that an attack against us is not personal. If we can see God's hand in what has occurred, and appreciate how the challenges we are facing are taking us forward, it is easier to forgive the person who hurt us because we see that they played a significant role in our growth. This month is dedicated to this kind of review.
In Elul, Michelle's daughter was invited to a few bar mitzvah celebrations at the synagogue where Michelle used to belong, and Michelle dreaded returning, even to drop off her daughter. Months earlier, Michelle had terminated her membership at this synagogue after several unpleasant experiences with the rabbi, the cantor, and a few women friends. She was afraid to return and face them. She felt they had betrayed her trust and her friendship and she felt like a victim.
Through therapy, Michelle realized that the greater truth was thatshe had spiritually outgrown her former synagogue. She was not a victim; rather, she exercised her powerful freedom of free choice an had chosen another place to worship. She felt betrayed by the rabbi and cantor, but she saw that what they did was not exactly betrayal. She realized, with the true seeing eyes of Tammuz, that what they did to her was not personal. Actually, in Tammuz she was given an opportunity to see clearly their all too human self-serving side and she no longer could hold them in the esteem that she had previously. As a true spiritual seeker, she realized that she could no longer in good conscience confine herself to the back-stabbing politics and spiritual narrow-mindedness characteristic of this synagogue. She needed to be true to herself.
In many ways this realization was a gift, because it enabled her to go to another synagogue where her spiritual needs would be better met. She was welcomed and appreciated in this new synagogue. Once out of her former synagogue, she could breathe more deeply. She felt liberated. She was asked to teach in the upcoming year and even read from the Torah, as she so much loved to do. She felt that it was a gift and a pleasure to be there.
When she realized the deeper truth about what had really happened in her former synagogue during this month of Elul, it was easy to let go of the feeling of being a victim. She understood that the circumstances with the rabbi and the cantor that had hurt her were the forces that propelled her to change synagogues. She was grateful on many levels that she had left. She saw God's hand in what happened. She could forgive the rabbi and the cantor for their human frailty, and yet still choose to move on. Having forgiven the rabbi and the cantor, she could enter into her former synagogue briefly as needed. She felt whole and good about herself.
Energy: Returning to the Inner Stillness Within Change
Elul is known in Judaism as the headquarters for teshuvah, which literally means "to return." Teshuvah has many facets to it. In its most common usage, it often connotes a return to or an acceptance of a greater level of Jewish observance. It also refers to the acknowledgment of an error, the resultant feelings of regret, and the commitment to correct a situation and behave differently in the future. On the deepest and most mystical level, teshuvah is the return to inner wholeness, beauty, and potential, a return to the soul and its innate connection with the Divine. Teshuvah is the healing and letting go of what keeps us separate from others and God and from being who we really are. Beginning with the second day of Elul, the shofar is sounded four times daily after morning services to highlight and intensify this inner turning and powerful awakening of the soul present in this month.
Elul begins somewhere toward the middle to end of August and continues to the middle of September. Even though the heat may still be strong, there is a subtle change in the quality of light upon the arrival of Elul, and we sense that fall will soon be upon us. In many places in the world, the days will become shorter, the air cooler, and the leaves will once again turn into beautiful colors before they fall to the ground. We will see before our very eyes the cyclical dance of nature. Some of us will greet these changes with joy and some with regret; nevertheless, the natural changes will occur. Nature will turn inward once again.
As we both witness and experience the inevitable cycles of life, we are drawn inward to the consciousness within us that does not change. Through the spiritual grace of this month it is easy to get in touch with what is pure and constant within us. It is interesting to note that the astrological sign of this month is Virgo, which is symbolized by a virgin. This is the only astrological sign that is feminine. According to Kabbalah, the feminine refers to the capacity to receive. There is a unique goodness that an inward-turning person can receive during this month. Kabbalah says that this is hinted to in Proverbs 18:22: "Who finds a wife [virgin] finds great good." Elul sweetens the judgment energy of the two previous months, Tammuz and Av, and brings a hidden goodness.
As our consciousness turns inward this month, we are able to access a certain detachment that enables us to become aware of the ways in which we strayed from actualizing our potential. We see the good and not so good within us. As the last month of the year, we naturally find ourselves reviewing, assessing, and evaluating the accomplishments, challenges, and shortcomings of the entire year. It is the time to get in touch with the essence of what is important in life. We find ourselves reflecting on the dominant themes of the last year, what soul qualities we were encouraged to develop and express during the year, what lessons we needed to learn. Many of us will be brought to new levels of appreciation for the personal relationships that have nourished us in this last year and the accomplishments we were able to achieve. Others of us will be more aware of unfinished business and the work needed to heal relationships so we can truly open to newness in the coming year.
Elul is a time of spiritual accounting. For those who have had a relatively easy year, it may be easier to come to terms. Those who have had difficult year may become discouraged, feel burdened by sins, and question the capacity for real change. Know that this despair is natural at this time and temporary and it can be a launching pad for the teshuvah experience. We are not really stuck. As we feel our regrets for the mistakes we have made in our lives this last year and we allow ourselves to feel our own brokenness, it becomes clear that we want something so pure and so deep and that we cannot do this on our own. If we call out to God from this place of brokenness, there is a heavenly grace that we can draw upon in this month that is unique. The gates of heaven are open during this month.
The first letters of the Hebrew verse "Ani ledodi vidodi li," "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine" (Song of Songs 6:3), spell out Elul. This signifies that there is an intimate and loving closeness between God and people this month. It is said that in Elul God wanders in the fields, while on Rosh Hashanah, God sits on His throne like a king. The metaphor of God sitting on His throne as King expresses the awe inspired by our awareness of God as the creator and ruler of everything. The perceived distance between us and God is reduced in Elul, God is very close to us, and the experience of God's unconditional love is more accessible. Nevertheless, we must want it, and we must work for it.
Elul directly precedes Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Elul is the time of spiritual preparation for the high holiday. The teshuvah, the inner work of returning to one's true essence, done during this month will affect our capacity to stand before God on Rosh Hashanah and draw down the blessings for the coming new year.
Kabbalah talks about two kinds of awakenings: from above to below and from below to above. In Nissan, which hosts Passover, there is an awakening from above, a flow of heavenly grace from the spiritual world to this physical world. In Elul, there is also a flow from above, but we must initiate it by our actions and spiritual yearning. Because we have to work for this heavenly grace, we earn the blessings, and this enables us to integrate them into our lives in a way we would not do if they were just given to us.
Take note of the kinds of conversations you have during this month. The quality of teshuvah is in the air, whether people are consciously undertaking the process of self-evaluation or not. I have noticed that teshuvah is the theme of many plays and television programs, even situation comedies.
During this month, you may also find that you are brought into contact with people you have not seen for a while and are now given an opportunity to heal and complete the relationship in a way that was not possible before. For example, Gladys ran into her ex-husband unexpectedly and had a chance to talk to him in a more sympathetic and communicative manner than had been possible during their separation and divorce. You too may have unexpected meetings or calls out of the blue. On the other hand, if you feel a desire to connect with someone you haven't had contact with in a while, listen to your inner voice and follow your heart. It generally is a good time to reach out to people you want to be close to and wish them a happy and healthy new year.
During this month, you may find yourself revisiting places and situations that on a conscious level you would choose not to, but nevertheless, opportunities are being provided for you to let go of the residual negativity imprinted on your soul, so you can truly go forward in your life. For example, we saw how Michelle had to return to the synagogue she left due to unpleasant experiences with a variety of people. Another person I know, Jennifer had to visit family members whom she had not seen in a long time and for whom she harbored negative feelings. In both these cases, an important exchange occurred that helped heal and liberate each woman from continuing limiting patterns of behavior. In all your encounters this month, look to bring forth the healing and the forgiveness needed in relationships.
Historically, Elul is the time period during which Moses returned to Mount Sinai to plead for forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf. Consequently, Elul is the month for us to work on forgiveness of ourselves and of others, allowing us to open to the higher worlds and receive new revelation. As we forgive others, so we open up to divine forgiveness. Much has been written about the benefits and importance of forgiveness. As difficult and stubborn as we can be, letting go of our hurts and anger is often the best thing we can do for ourselves. Though forgiveness is a spiritual practice for the whole year, it is a major theme for this month. As we approach the upcoming new year, forgiveness provides an opportunity to let go of the past and its limitations in order to enable us to open to the new year as fully as possible.
The spiritual awakening of Elul was augmented during the year of the writing of this book on September 11, 2001, the twenty-third of Elul, when the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorism. In this unique event, over three thousand people from all nations, all ages, all religions, died together. This horrific event was a shofar blast, a divine wake-up call, in line with the energy of this month of Elul. We woke up as a nation. People turned to God in a more immediate, authentic, and direct way. There were prayer services throughout New York City and national prayer vigils. This event facilitated a dramatic and authentic teshuvah experience for many people, which is characteristic of this month.
Out of such horrific events, people transform themselves in ways that they might not do when life is taken for granted. In light of this tragedy, there has been greater spiritual clarity about what is really important in life ever since. It is not the money one has, but the love. Our priorities shifted. We cared about people, not about business. We realized how precious and holy a human life is and how connected we really are to each other. We truly felt each other's pain. We cried together and felt a new degree of intimacy with people. America grieved and unified in a way it hadn't done in a long time. Particularly in New York City, people have become instantly connected to each other. Strangers even make eye contact on the street. There is a generosity of spirit and caring and opening of the heart that is extraordinary. There is a commitment and dedication to make this world a better place, and be the people God wants us to be. All of this is characteristic of the transformational energy of Elul. September 11 was a powerful teshuvah experience. One hopes we will maintain the awareness of the spiritual opening we received on September 11. Some people want to return to a September 10 world, but it is impossible to go back.
If something horrific like this was going to happen, this was the month for it. It was even predicted in the Zohar, the principal ancient book of Jewish mysticism. In the chapter of Balak it is said that three buildings in a major country would be destroyed on the twenty-third of Elul and that this event would begin the prophesied process of redemption. Many people in the Jewish community feel that we have now truly entered into this period.
General Guidelines and Goals
These guidelines and goals enable us to direct our energies in the ways that are optimal for our growth and transformation in accordance with the energy of this month. It is recommended that you read and meditate upon them often in the course of the month. Reflect on their applicability to you, and allow them to direct and inspire you often this month.
1. Complete unfinished business and plan for the future.
Take time to review the last year. What were the major themes? What do you still need to complete before the year is over? What was last year about? Take time to record any insights from these reflections.
Personal transformation and growth can begin only from where we are. Take time to review where you are. Be as honest and objective as you can be in the following reflections. Write a brief description and evaluation of your current status for each one.
Excerpted from Kabbalah Month by Month by Mindy Ribner Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
Tishrei September-October: Opening to Newness.
Cheshwan October-November: The Inner Work of Personal Transformation.
Kislev November-December: Rekindling Dreams.
Tevet December-January: Purification and Transformation of Negative Emotions.
Shevat January-February: Inner Renewal.
Adar February-March: The Joy of Oneness.
Nissan March-April: Moving Toward Greater Freedom.
Iyar April-May: Healing of Body, Heart, and Soul.
Sivan May-June: The Art of Receiving.
Tammuz June-July: Seeing Life as It Is.
Av July-August: The Wholeness of Brokenness.
Elul August-September: Returning to the Inner Stillness Within Change.
What People are Saying About This
"Mindy Ribner, an internationally acclaimed author, renowned for her dedication and compassionate concern for raising the spiritual level of all she can, has written an erudite and original book on the Jewish calendar with emphasis on enabling the reader to experience personal growth unique to the message and theology associated with each month. I sincerely recommend it."
— Rabbi Mordecai Tendler, Yeshiva University
"A remarkable contribution for helping to make the month-by-month Jewish spiritual journey. It is inspiring, and informing, and transforming. Based on Ribner's genial control of the sources and her experiential know-how, this book is a treasure."
— Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi, ALEPH, Alliance for Jewish Renewal; professor, World Wisdom, Naropa University