Rosh Chodesh Av on July 22 begins the month just nine days from Tisha B’Av, the culmination of the three-week period of mourning the historic destruction of the First and Second Temples.
We move from our lowest point to the highest, during Tu B’Av, which takes place on the 15th day of the Hebrew month. Traditionally, this marks the beginning of the grape harvest that ends on Yom Kippur. During the time of the Second Temple, the day was spent matchmaking unmarried women. In modern Israel, this day of love likened to Valentine’s Day, is considered to be a glorious day for a wedding.
The first mention of the holiday is in the Mishnah, where Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is quoted as saying: “There are no happier days than Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Jerusalem go out in white and dance in the vineyards.”
This year Tu B’Av begins at sundown on Tuesday, Aug. 4. August’s full moon appears on the night of Sunday, Aug. 2, but reaches its peak on Aug. 3. Always at the same time on the lunar calendar, the full moon adds a touch of romance to the day that sweethearts meet.
August’s full moon is also called the Sturgeon Moon because of the large number of fish in the lakes where the Algonquin tribes fished. Other names for this full moon include Green Corn Moon, Barley Moon, Fruit Moon and Grain Moon from Old English/Anglo-Saxon.
According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the word “sturgeon” means “the stirrer,” which is what this giant fish does when it is looking for food; it stirs up the mud and silt on river and lake bottoms.
During Av, not only hearts may be stirred, but angry emotions as well, since this is when the yearly peak of the sun’s masculine energy converges with the monthly peak of the moon’s feminine energy.
Our task this month is to review the strengths that Hashem has blessed us with and also examine our weaknesses in order to develop them. This first half of the year has brought many challenges and the rest of the year is likely to follow suit. It can serve us well to do this inner work for what’s ahead as we struggle to balance grief and hope.
The zodiac sign for Av is Leo. Aryeh, Leo in Hebrew, means “lion of G-d.” This fire sign in balance is dignified, loyal, self-assured and displays natural leadership. Out of balance, there’s bossiness, my-way-or-the-highway autocratic rule and responding from the wounded self. Even if you’re not born under this sign, the month charges you with balancing your own energies.
The Hebrew letter tet, likened to the womb with a circle containing an extension, houses the hidden good within. As politics, the continued spread of the coronavirus, heightened emotions around racial injustice and economic challenges stress us, we must look deep inside for that goodness and allow it expression.
Av’s tribe is Shimon, the only one that Moses didn’t bless at the end of the Torah due to the sins of Pe’or, such as engaging with foreign women who were prostitutes and practicing idolatry. Currently, we’re aware of stirred emotions, inappropriate and misplaced, as more details of Jeffrey Epstein’s life surface.
The sense this month is hearing, which in Hebrew means to understand. We’re urged to block out the noise in order to hear G-d.
With the controlling organ of the left kidney, we seek balance between the masculine (yang) and feminine (yin) aspects of the soul. 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. When there are dual organs, each must perform its functions in order to maintain equilibrium in the body. So it is with G-d at the helm and each of us creating stability in the system through our thoughts and actions.
Meditation Focus: What is currently stirred inside of you? Listen to and understand its specific origin within you and invite Hashem to filter out what’s waste and what can be used as purified energy.