Rosh Chodesh Sivan begins at sundown June 3. The task this month focuses on balance. We live in the middle ground on the earth plane, where we glimpse divinity as well as the depths of the world in its lower vibrations of crime, poverty and hatred.
We’re charged with understanding what creates those lower vibrations and working toward eradicating them. The how-to involves reaching up toward the Divine and mindfully bringing Hashem’s presence into our daily lives. This is manifested in our thoughts, words and actions, whether with strangers or in the sacred task of raising children who are kind and aware.
During Sivan, we celebrate the wheat harvest in Israel, and observe the pilgrimage festival of Shavuot, with all night Torah study, eating dairy, and reading from the Book of Ruth. Shavuot means “weeks,” with the day upon which it falls determined by counting the omer.
There are differing stories about why we eat dairy on Shavuot; cheesecake, in particular. According to Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, aka “Chofetz Chaim,” the tradition began on Mount Sinai. The Israelites received the Torah from Moses and were instantly held to all of its laws, including the regulation of ritual slaughter. Apparently, there was no time to prepare kosher meat before the feast, so they ate a dairy meal.
In the Talmud, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch says that before the Torah was given, the Israelites were not permitted to eat dairy products, considered “a part of a live animal.” After the Torah was received, with passages that referenced Israel as the Land of Milk and Honey, eating dairy was allowed.
But how did cheesecake make it to the top of the list of desserts to serve on Shavuot? It may be the dessert of choice because it’s sweet, like milk and honey. According to Aly Miller of The Nosher food blog, it could be because early cheesecake recipes in Greece included milk and honey in the ingredients and was fed to the Olympian athletes. “In the 1930s, Arnold Reuben, a German-Jewish restaurateur, became known not only for inventing the Reuben sandwich, but also for his decision to use cream cheese instead of milk curd in cheesecake for the first time.” This became the New York cheesecake.
So now to the Book of Ruth. She is held up as an example of how we can be when we take the worst of the worst situations, remain good and true to our nature, and are rewarded with loving kindness by Hashem. The end. Let’s eat cheesecake. But seriously, in between, the story goes that Naomi and Elimelech fled with their two sons, from Bethlehem and the famine, and settled in Moab. Elimelech died. The two sons married Moabite women and shortly after, both sons tragically died. Naomi, left with her two daughters-in-law, told them to return to their families and marry again. Orpah reluctantly returned home, while Ruth vowed to stay by Naomi’s side. This is why the theme of loyalty is a focus on this holiday. It also highlights the relationship of mother-in-law to daughter-in law and references the first conversion to Judaism. The abbreviated version, most familiar to us, contains the words: “For wherever you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your G-d, my G-d.” As Ruth was loyal to Naomi, she was rewarded by the kindness of Boaz, a wealthy landowner, who granted her access to grain at the edges of his field. Touched by her kind heart, he married her.
The zodiac sign for Sivan is Gemini, the twins. Each of us, inherently, has the inclination towards goodness and towards evil. Through teaching of goodness, by word and example, most people grow up to be good. We can’t remain stagnant in our goodness, however. We must constantly strive to be more like Hashem. Sivan is a time to elevate ourselves, and choose goodness in the energy of the warring Gemini twins.
Meditation Focus: Instead of a grain field, if you leave a portion of your energy field to be in service of others, how will you use it to feed their bodies or souls?