Above: This detail from the Arch of Titus depicts the looting after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. (Photo by Sodabottle via Wikimedia Commons)

New Moon Meditations by Terry Segal / tsegal@atljewishtimes.com

Rosh Chodesh Av begins Friday, Aug. 5. Av was, and still is, a month of intensity. We remember the Day of Disasters, the destruction of the first and second temples on the 9th of Av nearly 650 years apart, as the lowest point of the month.

Dr. Terry Segal

Dr. Terry Segal

By contrast, the 15th of Av is the highest. This is the midsummer’s day known as the holiday of love. Astrologically, the masculine energy from the sun is at its yearly peak, and the feminine energy of the moon is at its monthly peak. These converge to create an opening for one to find a soulmate.

Av is the hottest month of the summer in our part of the world. Current events make us aware of imbalance in the energies. There is violence, hatred and destruction.

Political leaders are ego-driven, and the divisive attitudes make people’s blood boil. There have been wildfires raging out of control, and the heat index has also broken records.

We look to the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation), energy medicine and astrology to understand more about how to deal with these strong energies. The zodiac sign for Av is Leo; the Hebrew letter, tet; the tribe, Shimon; the sense, hearing; and the controlling organ, the left kidney.

During August’s new moon phase, predictions suggest that the heated acts of violence may worsen before there is some relief. This is the last new moon before the solar eclipse Sept. 1. It’s time to make plans for how we will progress.

Leo, symbolized by the lion, is the zodiac fire sign of Av. Each of us needs to harness the energy of poised Leos to become strong leaders within our own families and communities, fiercely protecting our safety and rights, while maintaining the qualities of dignity and honor. A Leo off balance becomes bossy and self-serving.

The Hebrew letter tet is a vessel, with a little section of hidden goodness tucked within it. We need to protect and nurture that goodness.

The tribe is Shimon, the only tribe Moses does not bless at the end of the Torah. Members of Shimon were associated with acts of debauchery and corruption, known as the sins of Pe’or. These themes of heated lust mistaken for love, hedonistic swapping of love partners and discord remind me of the themes present in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which takes place during Tu b’Av, the holiday of love.

Passion, control, love and hate become convoluted as the characters wrestle with these energies. Parental control is challenged, and potions confuse and confound the four major Athenians, who often can’t distinguish reality from illusionary dreams. Chaos ensues with the seasons falling out of sync when there is discord between the king and queen of the fairies.

Peace is not restored for anyone until they settle their differences, and the order of the universe is in place once more. This doesn’t feel far off from our present-day life.

The sense this month is hearing. To hear, in Hebrew, means to understand. We hear presidential candidates make claims, defend, argue and boast. We’re required to go beyond just hearing to understanding and discerning who will be most able to lead our country and make wise decisions that affect us.

With the controlling organ of the left kidney, we seek balance between the masculine (yang) and feminine (yin) aspects of both kidneys and look for the equilibrium within our own personality traits. The kidneys process out impurities through bodily fluids and manage metabolic heat.

Our best decisions are not made in a clogged, overheated state; instead, they demand that we are clear and cool-headed.

Av of ancient times, as Av of 2016, contains contrasting emotions of grief and hope. Each of us has a vote and an opportunity to consider the issues of love and hate, tolerance and intolerance, despair and optimism. Do we need to learn through crisis, or can we grow by training ourselves to hear what’s beyond the words?

Meditation focus: If we are truly in the darkness before the dawn, what preparations must we make? What must we reconcile within ourselves in order to find balance and align with Hashem?