Av: Destruction and Redemption

By Dr. Terry Segal | tsegal@atljewishtimes.com

Rosh Chodesh Av begins Friday, July 17. Av is an intense month of destruction and redemption. Historically, the 9th of Av is a day of disasters, including the destruction of the first and second

Temples, burned by fires fueled by hatred.

Today we are witness to that same inflammatory kind of hatred. If we don’t elevate that level of intense energy, there is likely to be a repetition of the destruction.

Av means “father” and is from the root “to will” or “to desire.” Av is characterized by an intensity of heat. The sun rules at this time of year, and the sun is the powerful body around which everything else revolves. It’s a source of light and heat.

While the 9th of Av is considered the lowest point, the 15th is the highest, observed as a holiday of love. It is believed that on this midsummer’s day, when the yearly peak of the sun, masculine energy, converges with the monthly peak of the moon, feminine energy, a wholeness is created during the full moon that invites an opening for one to find a soulmate.

The sages teach that the Mashiach is born on the 9th of Av and reveals himself to his bride and is betrothed on the 15th of Av. Interpretations suggest that the birth might not be literal but rather the sprouting of a lofty concept that is mulled over, integrated and sealed with action.

We look to the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) to understand more about how to balance our divine gifts. The Zodiac sign for Av is Leo. The Hebrew letter is tet; the tribe, Shimon; the sense, hearing; and the controlling organ, the left kidney.

HaShem gives us areas of strength, weakness and challenges. Our task is to use what we have and develop what we are lacking to overcome the obstacles.

Leo is associated with Av and the lion. Those born under this fire sign are said to be natural leaders who possess a giving heart and a strong, theatrical presence. They see projects through to completion, are dignified and loyal, possess a sense of honor, are self-assured, and have a zest for life.

Just as all the planets surround the sun, Leos are comfortable shining at the center of attention. When out of balance, they can become overbearing, autocratic and bossy or respond with wounded pride that can collapse the power of the lion.

The letter tet resembles the womb, like a circle with an extension hiding within it. This holds the hidden good. Aryeh, Leo in Hebrew, means “lion of G-d.”

The tribe of Shimon is the only tribe that Moses does not bless at the end of the Torah. This tribe seems to have been involved with the sins of Pe’or, such as engaging with foreign women who were prostitutes and committing idolatry.

The sense is hearing. To hear, in Hebrew, means to understand. The Shema then translates to “Understand, O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is one.” There is a distinction between hearing and understanding. We are required not just to process sound, but also to integrate the meaning of power, directed by the ultimate leader, G-d, and bring it into our thoughts and through our hearts.

With the controlling organ of the left kidney, we seek balance between the masculine (yang) and feminine (yin) aspects of the soul. In Chinese medicine, the bodily fluids arise from the left kidney, and balance must be maintained between metabolic heat and fluids so we don’t get dehydrated and depleted. Yin deficiency must be prevented during these hot months because, like a strong leader at the helm of followers, other organ systems depend on the kidneys to perform their tasks.

As we wrestle during Av with contrasting emotions of grief and hope, we must become aware of our weak spots and deficiencies that affect the ways in which we maintain ourselves. Each of us needs to be a strong link in the chain that connects our people.

Meditation focus: What are your strengths in your physical body, your mind, your spirit and your emotions? What are your weaknesses in each? What must you work on to strengthen the important link that you are?