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Seventh Month: Mental Sharpness, Humility and Joy

17 0 10

Somewhat strangely, the Jewish calendar marks a new year in its seventh month. Tishrei is sated with holidays mentioned in the Torah: Yom Zikaron-Taru’ah, Yom haKippurim, Sukkot and Sh’mini Atseret. The other holidays mentioned in the Torah appear to be similarly joined together, occurring six months before in what is designated the first month: Pesach and the counting of the Omer which provides a bridge, culminating in Sukkot. Notwithstanding Shabbat, all other Torah holiday’s are rooted either in the first or the seventh month.

In Hebrew, all words for numbers have metaphorical significance. Nevertheless, when considering the dates associated with Torah holidays, the numbers for first, seven, tenth and fifteen are repeating themes. Although there is some variation to be found between these two groupings of holidays, there is a skeleton or scaffolding of numbers and dates that they share. Specifically, the Torah states that Pesach occurs in the first month and Yom Zikaron-Taru’ah (Rosh haShanah) occurs on the first day of the seventh month. On the tenth of the first month, a Seh must be acquired for the Pesach offering, whereas Yom haKippurim occurs on the tenth of the seventh month. Next, there is a seven day festival beginning on the fifteenth day of both months. In the first month, it is Chag haMatsot and Sukkot is in the seventh month. Although, it is commonly understood that a seven day holiday of Pesach begins on the fourteenth, twice the Torah specifically states that there is a pesach for haShem between the evenings on the fourteenth and that the seven day festival of Chag haMatsot begins on the fifteenth day (Lev23:5)(Num28:16). In a manner somewhat analogous to Pesach’s being prefixed to Chag haMatsot, Sh’mini Atseret is added on the eighth day, after Sukkot in the seventh month. Thus there is a pattern of events in both months utilizing the metaphors associated with the first, tenth and fifteenth and lasting for seven days.

The holidays prescribed in the Torah commemorate dates in the annual cycle of historical and/or agricultural significance. However, allegorically Torah holidays serve to focus and ultimately propel each individual toward engaging with the opportunities that can be found in life experience. After all, the purpose of life is to live it and to strive to live it to the fullest. For other animals, this basically entails finding and creating shelter, acquiring food, reproducing and defending oneself from threats. In addition to these basic needs, human beings have the opportunity to develop emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. As is true throughout the Hebrew language, the quintessential characteristic that distinguishes us from all other creatures forms the basis of our name, b’nai adam (בני אדם). This name, after the first archetype, Adam, evolved from the verb DaMaH (דמה) meaning to think, plan and make comparisons. This ability to mentally process requires an input of external stimuli. More than any other sense, our ability to see tends to be the dominant source, often serving as a motivator and a navigator of our ability to engage existence.

One of the earliest commandments in the Torah is the designation of the month of Aviv, the month of Pesach, as the first month of the year. The Hebrew word for first, rishon (ראשון), is derived from the word for head (Rosh – ראש). The silent aleph is vestigial, suggesting that the biliteral root from which it evolved was Ra/aH (ראה) to see, thus making the word for head (Rosh – ראש) to literally mean “the place of seeing.” So the first month represents a time of seeing. It is in the first month that haShem catapults us into a metaphor for living, initiated through the act of seeing. Allegorically, Pesach symbolizes our taking a leap (pasach – פסח) to G-d’s bringing forth of existence (ליהוה). Traditionally, we think of the holiday as beginning on the fourteenth day of Nissan. But for allegorical purposes, it is important to remember that it occurs in the month of Aviv (אביב), a word derived from the verb /aBhaH (אבה), to willingly give forth of oneself, thus representing our springing forth into action.

The names of the months in current use come from the Babylonian calendar. However, the name Aviv comes from the original Hebrew calendar. From this calendar, only four months are mentioned in the TaNaKh: Aviv (1st), Zeew (2nd), Aetanim (7th) and Bul (8th). Even though the ancient name for the seventh month is not utilized in the Torah text, ironically it has the same metaphorical value as the Hebrew word for seven. Both Aetanim (איתנים) and Sh’vi’i (שביעי) represent a perpetually overflowing and satiating amount of experience. The Hebrew word for seven (Sheva\ – שבע) is etymologically related to a similar root that differs only in its initial sibilant consonant, (Sava\ – שבע) meaning to be bloated, full and satiated by what is bubbling (בעה) and by extension by what is startling (בעת).1

Shabbat, which occurs on the seventh day of the week, epitomizes this symbolism. Although the Torah emphasizes that Shabbat is a day of rest, a day of spurning the performance of m’lakhot (מלאכות), acts of going off to do unrelated tasks2, metaphorically it symbolizes a full embrace of G-d’s bringing forth of existence. After all, Shabbat is a day of emulating haShem and the Torah specifically says, “ויכל אלהים ביום השביעי מלאכתו“. Before stating that G-d rested on the seventh day, the text specifically says that Elohim was completing his task on the seventh day, the day that was full and satiating. HaShem’s task is of creating existence, of creating the experiences of our existence. The allegory of the text specifies that it was being finished on, and metaphorically, through a satiating bubbling up of experience on the seventh day. Although the word Shabbat does mean to cease and rest, literally it means “to settle back into something.” It is related to........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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