Monday, December 10, 2012


It's time to kiss Kislev goodbye; this transitional month when winter creeps onstage for its debut. Wet and dreary, dark and cold, then suddenly illuminated by the celebration of a miracle. Kislev embodies the opposing forces of fire and water, which collide to form Keshet (a rainbow, the mazal of the month).

All the darkness in the world
cannot conquer the tiniest of flames
It may have seemed dark already, but we have not yet reached the depths of this year's darkness. That moment lies in wait for us still, in the month of Tevet.

Each Hebrew month is a treasure chest of connected ideas and symbols. I love how you can pick Tevet's color blue, letter ayin (ע), mazal Gedi (goat, or Capricorn), feeling of anger, tribe of Dan, etc. and run with it for miles to learn a million things about where we're standing right now in the yearly cycle. We can, for example, start with the meaning behind the name Tevet.

Tevet (טבת) is derived from the word tov (good). I've already got a post on the meaning of good and bad, so we'll just jump over to Dan for a moment. There's a very famous character from this tribe named Samson. He certainly wasn't the most upright man to ever judge the nation of Israel, but G-d saw (ayin is a letter but also a body part: the eye) the good in his heart and let him have one last fit of holy rage (attribute of anger, which Samson had plenty of) to destroy his enemies. Pretty cool, right? You know what else is interesting? Tov (טוב) equals 17 in gematria and so does Gedi (גדי).  Let's see what else we can connect...

Goats were made for climbing. You can see them around Israel, perched on a steep slope, munching away at the wild winter growth that is sprouting out between the rocks like the nose hairs on Israel's 89 year-old president, Shimon Peres. Goats are tough and sturdy...unless you get 'em around four months and then they're really tender and taste great barbecued.

Who says goats are ugly?  Ok, some are...
A beautiful Yael at Ein Gedi - photo by Yuval Rosenberg
In the darkest days of the year, cornered into the recesses of your home by rain and snow, goats are a great image to meditate on. Imagine yourself out on those rocky hills, making the best of what nature has to offer, confidently jumping higher and higher, and you don't have to worry about what might come your way because your pals are all around and the shepherd is nearby watching over all of you.  When the deep, dark blues of winter overcome us, we need positive and bright imagery to help us see the good in life and give hope until the heavy hibernation lifts itself from nature in the springtime.

You know what sounds like Dan?  Dinah.  It's the feminine form of the same word; judgement.  We just read about Dinah on the Shabbat before last in parashat Vayishlach; how she was abducted by Shechem.  Her brothers were very angry and, even though one could say they were justified, their father became angry too as a result of their actions (namely, killing all the males in the kingdom).  Yeah, I guess they overdid it.

Speaking of goats, Yael is the Hebrew word for a Nubian Ibex, a desert-dwelling goat native to Israel.  A mother of four, named Yael, was recently attacked by a Palestinian (not related, but named themselves after the Philistines who pestered the Israelites during the days of Samson).  Her husband wasn't home that night when the Arab man broke into her house armed with a knife.  Thankfully, she knew Krav Maga and cornered him into the bathroom. After wedging him in there with furniture, she called for help and he escaped out the window.  Lesson to take from this?  Every woman should take self-defense classes.  Tevet seems like a "good" month to start them.

What do you like about this time of year?  Which symbols and hidden meanings speak to you?

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