Rosh Chodesh Elul // Womanhood and Goals for Elul // Video Vlog

We’re entering my favourite month of the year – Elul! I am a bit of a self improvement junkie, so I connect super well with the spirit of Elul, which is all about improvement and going deep. I’m including here my notes on the month from a range of difference sources (links included at the end), and a video summary of some of those thoughts directly below!

Reflect on the past year, and when we have “missed the mark” and how to move forward.

Take ownership of our lives – don’t be a victim. Be honest with yourself.

Elul is the time of year when the call to become aware of exactly where we are, and — from that heightened awareness — how to proceed is amplified to its loudest levels.

Elul – hit the reset button. A month where we can make choices and have supernatural power to move forward.

Getting ready to forgive others for their “human-ness” too.

“Anger and resentment are heavy, sticky things. These feelings bind us to victimhood and tempt up to ignore our own culpability. Do yourself and the rest of the world a huge favor: act with radical compassion for yourself, and all other humans. In Elul, begin to let go of whatever you’re holding onto so tightly. The release will purify, heal, and liberate you. We promise.” – At The Well

Personal Journal Questions (From At The Well)

As a side note, I wanted to say that I am sharing these very raw and personal comments in an attempt to be vulnerable to help others who feel the same way feel less alone, (hopefully) document a way forward starting at the place I’m at now, and also – I find writing to be therapeutic! Please refrain from comments that are too “helpful” – I’m not looking for suggestions, just for my voice to be heard!

  1. What is it time for you to wake up to? What is the Shofar blowing for? Wasn’t sure about this for a few days, but have realised I need to wake up to my humanity – as in the failings and reality of my body and health circumstances.
  2. If you were on your deathbed today, who would you forgive? What are you waiting for? Myself. My body. 
  3. Which pain is pressing on your heartstrings at the moment? Not feeling loved/wanted/appreciated. Simultaneous feeling like a burden to others, but also alone – that there is no one I can rely on.
  4. What are you returning to this year? Joyfulness and vulnerability. 
  5. What do you fear in this moment? Going through this conversion, which includes converting the children and for that to end up being a disservice to them – that they will reject parts of Judaism, and therefore would have been better off living as Noahides without the burden of being a Jew.
  6. What do you desire? To be loved, to be in a loving regular (as in, meeting up regularly) mama community, to be close in location to my greatest friends and allies. My old life?
  7. In what ways have you been alienated from your body and self? I think when you’re sick you can become really disconnected from your body. It’s what I imagine being old is like – that your have these moments thinking “I’ll do that” or “I like that thing”, and then in reality your body just can’t do that. Lately I’ve been exhausted constantly, and spend many moments in bed in the day. I still get up and do things, because I have little children to look after, and they need to DO stuff, but sometimes I hold back tears because I am just so exhausted. That’s really hard, because then logically I know that I slept well, and long, and really don’t do much, but the actual physical feeling of exhaustion is just totally overwhelming.
  8. In what ways or moments have you felt alienated from the Divine? A lot. Just lately I feel alienated because I wonder why I have been brought to such a difficult time and place when my life was so wonderful before. I’m not sure why all these feelings are back. I wonder if coming back to these feelings in cyclical, or circumstantial? It’s not a constant feeling, but when it’s here it burns through my soul. I am finding it difficult to connect with Hashem, despite increasing my time meditating on Torah, and praying more.

Mindfulness in Elul

self love <- self awareness <- introspection (hello Elul!)

A big month of preparation – preparing physically for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. But also preparing spiritually and soulfully for change and renewal.

Selichot – days of mindfullness

Elul = mindfulness

Ways to encourage Selichot:

  1. Meditate. Set aside some time to be with yourself, be with your breath, and notice what is.
  2. Time for reflection/year in review. What happened this year? What was awesome? What was hard? What have been the biggest opportunities to rise to the occasion? The greatest joys? How did you grow? What did you accomplish? What are the things you want and need to leave behind? What will you let go of?
  3. Forgiveness. Forgive those who’d hurt you, apologise for your part in bad relationships.
  4. Spend time in nature. 
  5. Reconnect with family and friends. Send a card to welcome in the new year!
  6. Set a practical intention. 
  7. Perform a ritual/mitzvah that’s like a fresh start.

Feminine month – month to receive as we turn within.

Letter of the month – Yud.

Yud represents the selflessness needed to come closer to Hashem.

First letter of Hashem’s name, Yisrael, and Jew (Yehud?).

Hashem is the inner point within us – meditate on this (the Yud) this month. The power of smallness and humility.

The first letters of the Hebrew verse “Ani Ledodi vidodi li” I AM MY BELOVED’S AND MY BELOVED IS MINE” ( SONG OF SONGS 6:3) spell our Elul, signifying that there is an intimate and loving closeness between God and people during this month.

Teshuva – the inner work of spiritual accountability and returning to one’s true essence.
 

Closeness with Hashem

 
Elul – Moshe returned to Mt Sinai to plead for forgiveness for the Israelites after the golden calf. So Elul is also a month of asking for forgiveness and self reflection of our sins throughout the year.
As liberating as it is to forgive others, it is even more important to love and forgive yourself. 
In Elul, it is our “job” to get close to Hashem, and pursue this closeness.
In Elul we try to get close to Hashem. In Nissan it is the opposite – Hashem tries to get closer to us.
Blow the shofar every day in Elul except Shabbat, and except Erev Rosh Hashanah.
Elul is the month to be trying to be a better person in our aim to get closer to Hashem.
Fear of G-d is not the idea that if you eat a prawn you’ll get hit by lightening. This is not a truth of Judaism. True and right fear of G-d is the idea that if you eat a prawn you’ll be separated from G-d, and THAT should be where the fear is.
Relationships need constant renewal, and Elul is a great opportunity for this.
What can you add more this month?
 

Womanhood in Elul:

To meditate on the maiden on her wedding night – expectant, ready for her King, full of love and desire, happy and celebrating.
 

Goals fo Elul:

Meditate/Practice Mindfulness every day this month.
Once a week do deep inner work in preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

All these ideas are from the following places:

At The Well https://www.atthewellproject.com/moon-manuals-all
Mindy Ribner’s emails (email her to subscribe – beitmiriam (@) msn.com )
Live a Little Higher.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hl16zFfgRsY 

Rosh Chodesh Shevat 5778

shevat art journaling page

Rosh Chodesh Shevat

What is Shevat all about?
This is a month BURSTING with information and insight. The explanations of the month are as full of growth and potential as the month itself! The dreams we made in Kislev, the progress we made to work through anger in Tevet, are culminating together to be planted like seeds in Shevat.

There are so many aspects I could talk about this month – newness, gratitude, food, nature, righteousness, or trees, but I just want to focus on one or two. I will put links at the bottom to all my favourite resources, so you can do your own research if you want!

Shevat is a month to start bearing new fruit and to welcome newness within you. We did so much work on ourselves in Tevet, tilling the soil so to speak, that now it is time to really bury those seeds, water them, get excited, and feel the growth and new life rising within us.

I challenge you this month to say “yes” to some things that you’ve been putting off, or de-prioritisng. Say yes to self care, and say yes to new experiences – especially ones that take you out of your comfort zone a little and bring some excitement!

Of course I can’t go past the obvious connection to food this month, starting with the tribe of the month is Asher, which means happiness, and is connected to the sense of taste. The tribesmen of Asher were rich because they were abundantly happy. They were so happy because of their contentment with what Hashem had given them – they were not a tribe who often compared themselves to others, or were always wanting more.
They experienced pure joy and happiness because of their contentment with what Hashem had given them.

So it should be with our food – not always lusting after this meal, or what someone else has. But being content to eat good, nourishing food. Being mindful of the food we eat.

At the full moon this month is the minor holiday of Tu B’Shevat, which is like a new year for the trees. A great time to be mindful of the environment and our responsibility to look after it. But also to be mindful of the food we eat. Definitely make time to research a Tu B’Shevat seder, or just put out a platter of the 7 species of Israel to enjoy on this day.

There are many many rules in the Torah about food, and this reminds us that God really does care what we put in our mouths and when. I am loving researching kosher laws, brachas before eating, and Jewish ways of eating this month. The purpose of eating is the elevate the godliness in food, and we can do that by honouring God with good healthy food that he has deemed acceptable.

I’ll end with this quote from At The Well.
“Jewish teachings have long equated humans to trees. The Rebbe equated a tree to the spiritual life of a human. The roots represent a person’s faith, the body represents the spiritual life through intellect, emotions, and practical achievements, and the fruit and seed the power in each of us to in uence others and help everyone in our community become their own healthy trees. “It’s not enough to feel and experience God just when you’re in prayer. You need to feel and experience him in the every day.

Holidays:
Tu B’Shevat. – Full of Moon of Shevat. 15th.

Questions & activities for personal reflection:
Spend some time in nature this month. What are you doing to help repair the world in an environmental sense?
Be mindful of what you’re putting in your mouth. Think about why you are eating, and ask yourself if this is how Hashem intends for it to be.
What new things do you hope to welcome into your life this month?
Are you content with what Hashem has given you, or are you always wanting more?
Write out a continuous gratitude list. Don’t break your list up into days, or worry if you miss a day, just keep adding to the list every time you thin of something to be grateful for!

Rosh Chodesh Tevet 5778

Chodesh Tov! We are a few days into the month of Tevet, a month of purification, emotional healing, and self reflection. Tevet is often considered a challenging month, but only because our souls are yearning to be improved, and so our weaknesses rise to the surface, waiting to be healed.

The sense connected with Tevet is anger. Anger can of course be righteous. Hashem himself is described as being angry in Tehillim, and when we respond to an injustice in the world with anger, or a sin in our life, and that anger causes us to take action and make a change, then it certainly can be righteous.

But for most of us our experience with anger isn’t usually righteous. It is in fact, usually sinful.

For ages I felt guilty about the anger I felt, and the way I erupted, but through my research on Tevet I’ve seen that this anger is actually just a wound within me that needs to be healed. Of course, Hashem is the ultimate healer, and while I am often really focused on physical health, I need Him to be with me and by my emotional and spiritual healer as well.

This month of Tevet is a great opportunity to spend some solid time in prayer (more than your morning or evening prayers – some deep reflection time) so that you can find the root cause of any anger within you. Finding this cause gives us an amazing opportunity to grow, heal & expand. Talk to G-D about the hurt and anger you feel and ask Him for help and direction on how you can respond better.

ancient oil lamp

Questions & activities for personal reflection:

  • Today and tomorrow, take specific note of how you act in the day. Do you experience any negative emotions? Prayerfully choose which ones you want to work on this month.
  • Alternatively, look inward, and ask yourself “What is a negative emotion I often have?”. See what pops into your head first. Trust that this is Hashem leading you.
  • Do you experience any anger in your life? Is it frequent, or sporadic? Does it affect other people? What is the root of this anger? Note: This is an internal root – it can not be another person, or another situation. This has to be something within.
  • Write yourself a letter specifically addressing this anger or negative emotion. Treat yourself like a mentee you are looking after. Be truthful, but kind in your critique and encouragement.
  • Once you’ve discovered the root cause of your anger or negative emotion, make an action plan of how you will process it. Do you need some time to cry, pray, and write
  • Organise a time with your spouse, or someone else who can help so you have time this month to heal.
  • Create yourself a beautiful reminder that you can stick to the wall in your kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, car… anywhere you spend a decent amount of time and need to be reminded!

Rosh Chodesh Iyar (Ziv)

Welcome, new month.

 

psalm 30v2

Iyar (Ziv)

It’s the second month of the Biblical year – Iyar, also known as Ziv. The theme this month is light, and lumination. I pray that during this month Hashem shines His light into your life, and shows you where to make your next improvement. Where there is light there is no darkness.

Each Hebrew month has a letter associated with it, and the letter for Iyar is a Vav. The Hebrew letter Vav is a connecting letter, and we see Iyar as a connecting month. Last month was Nissan, where we celebrated Passover, and now we count the Omer every day of Iyar, through to next month – Sivan, where we celebrate Shavuot.

Because we see Iyar as a connecting month, it is also often associated with connecting with Hashem, and we see this shown again as we make our way through the sefirat each day of the Counting of the Omer.

The sense for Iyar is “thought”, which isn’t surprising considering we are spending every day thinking and counting the Omer, and recalling which day we are up to, and how we can grow in the specified emotion.

If you’re not already counting the Omer, and working through each sefirat each day, I would encourage you to do so! It has been a real blessing to me so far, and it is wonderful to spend these 49 days improving your self and preparing for Shavuot – which celebrates the giving of the Torah. You can view all the sefirat and the journal prompts here.

Back to the letter Vav. Vav is the 6th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and has the numeric value of 6. 6 is the number of man, which I find is really on point, because we are doing so much prayer, self reflection and self improvement this month! It really is a month of focusing on who we are, and who we want to be – submitting ourself over and over again that we might be more like Hashem.

Another big theme this month is healing. Iyar is an acronym for “I Am God Your Healer”. So if you have anything wrong in your body, this is a great month to be praying earnestly for Hashem to heal you! Over and over again Hashem says that the Torah brings healing, so I see this as a perfect time to really dig deep into your Bibles and just bask in Him.

I won’t go into the topic of healing & Iyar too much here, as I’m still learning about it. But I wanted to mention it in case you are doing your own study! I’ve included a few of my favourite links below with more information on this month!

Live A Little Higher – Rosh Chdoesh Iyar

Iyar is a journey – a daily stepping to learn more about God, and to live more for him. And so I think it’s important to remember, that on any journey there are bumps, and parts that sometimes make you trip. If you see those times happen during this month do not be dismayed – soldier on, and keep your eyes on the prize. I temptations come, stand strong! If pains follow you, pray through them.

I pray that Iyar is a month of great healing and spiritual growth for you. xo

Journal Questions

The emotions we cover in the sefirat, as we count the Omer, are Chesed (loving kindness), Gevurah (discipline), Tiferet (compassion), Netzach (endurance), Hod (humility), Yesod (bonding), Malchut (nobility). How am I improving in these areas?
(see this link for more specific questions and exercises related to this)

Are there parts of my body that need healing? Are there parts of my mind that need healing? Pray about these now, and make a habit of praying for them daily during this month.

How can I share G-d’s love with other people this month?

Am I ready to receive the Torah personally? Am I preparing my heart for the next feast – Shavuot?

What do I plan to do this year for Shavuot? If you haven’t already, organise your time off work, and start preparing your menu.

Rosh Chodesh Nisan (Aviv)

exodus 12v2 - aviv nisan

Aviv (Nisan)

Aviv is the month of new beginnings. Exodus tells us that it is the beginning of the year. Like how we have different “new years” in our Gregorian calendar (financial new year, new year by year, school year, etc.), there are several new years in the Bible as well. My understanding is that here we start the spiritual new year, and the new year for the feasts calendar.

Aviv is a good opportunity to ponder our beginnings, specifically when we first started our relationship with Hashem. How did He bring you personally out of slavery and into freedom?

Because this is the start of the year, lets take some time to look at the coming year as a whole. Mark each feast or fast day in your calendar, and make a plan for how you intend to celebrate them. Ask for time off work if necessary, and even organise your budget so you have money saved to enjoy the feasts! Even consider the weekly Shabbats, and monthly Rosh Chodesh – how are you called to remember these times, and honour G-d?

This month we celebrate Passover, First Fruits and the Feast of Matzah. We are reminded over and over in this month of the story of the Hebrews leaving Egypt, and how G-d cared for them and faithfully lead them out of slavery and into Freedom. Even in slavery they praised G-d, and trusted Him.

Each month there are different Middot assigned to the month, and this month they are chesed (loving kindness), faithfulness, and loyalty. How can you work on these characteristics?
What does it look like (practically) for you to show loving kindness?
What does it look like (practically) for you to show faithfulness?
What does it look like (practically) for you to show loyalty?

How has G-d shows his chesed (loving kindness), faithfulness, and loyalty to you? What area of your life need a new beginning? Pray for renewal in these areas.

children felt passer seder plate

Clearing the Chametz

During, and in the lead up to Passover Chametz (leaven) represents sin. As we clean out our homes of all the chametz lets pray about what chametz is in our life that G-d wants us to pay attention to and clean out.Do we have any chametz in our relationships that we need to work through?
Do we have any chametz in the form of things we need to submit to G-d? Things we aren’t trusting him to look after (worrying about), or things we want to control.
Do we have any chametz in the form of our mental state, including our emotions? Things we need to repent of and move forward from?

Exodus 12:23 says Adonai himself will pass over your door to be with you and not allow the slaughterer to enter your home and kill you. How does it feel to know that Adonai is with you – in your house, fighting for you, and protecting you? 
Considering using this as a drawing or art journal prompt as you ponder this.

Rosh Chodesh Tevet

I love learning about the Jewish months.

Chodesh Tov - sunset with moon sliver

Shalom! Welcome to a new month – Tevet, and a new collection of research!

Tevet is strong but humble month. The big themes for Tevet are self-reflection, judging, and two sides. For this article we’re going to focus on self-reflection, as it ties in nicely with the secular new year in a few days time.

As I go through the month of Tevet I’ll be asking myself some questions about my life, and who I am. Questions like:
“Are there areas of my life that I’ve been compromising on, that need to be brought back into line with G-d?”
“Are there areas of my life that are less than “good” that need to be submitted to Hashem?”
“Are there things I’m doing that hinder my relationships – either with Hashem or with my family or friends?”
“What impact am I making in the world for Hashem – where is my light shining, and is this still where I’m meant to be?”

I personally find parenting to be one of the areas that I need great wisdom in. And so I will be praying even more this month than usual for wisdom in that area. Wisdom comes more easily when we’ve submitted our lives, and have everything in Hashem’s hands. And that only comes through personal dedication and prayer, and our action. My experience has been that we can’t just pray “Oh G-d, please give me wisdom!” and expect Him to give it to us if we haven’t made any room in our lives for such wisdom. When we look critically at ourselves, and make direct efforts to lessen the “noise”, we often find it is so much easier to receive that wisdom from Hashem, and find His shalom.

And the lesson to be learnt here (the lesson I need to learn over and over again), is that this often requires my effort. It first requires me to stop and ask myself what I need to give up, or move or DO. Submitting an area of our life to Hashem doesn’t just involve making a verbal commitment (though we should definitely do that), but it also means making a physical commitment.

If my particular struggle is with parenting one of my children, then my verbal commitment is asking Hashem for His wisdom and help, and the physical commitment is going and reading some articles, spending time with my child and talking to him, to try and understand him better.

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: What do we need to submit to Hashem, and what physical action can we take to contribute to that? Do we need to submit our words about ourselves, our words about others, our actions online, our actions in private, our distractions (phones, social media), our marriage etc.

My prayer for you is that Tevet is a month of great self-reflection, and submission to G-d, and that He blesses you abundantly for your commitment to Him, and your desire to become less as He becomes more.

Important days:

In Tevet we finish the last few nights of Chanukah – a great opportunity to look at the hanukkiah all lit up with so many candles and not only reflect on Hashem’s light spilling into the world, but also into our own lives – casting light so darkness can not live. What areas of your life is the light revealing in the last few nights of Chanukah?

Tevet 10 is a day of fasting, mourning and repentance as it remembers when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, which resulted in the destruction of the temple. If you’re choosing to fast this day it is just from day break to night fall (instead of night fall to night fall). The secular date is Jan 8th 2017.

Psalm 37:3-7

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

 

– Rosh Chodesh –
The Rosh Chodesh is not often celebrated these days, but I’m not letting that stop me! Traditionally the Rosh Chodesh is particularly important to women, as they are often in tune with the moon, and considered a “Women’s day”. Some women like to take time off from some of their regular household duties and spend time reading the Torah. Perhaps you’d like to meditate on the Psalm I’ve posted above. xo

Rosh Chodesh Kislev

I love learning about the Jewish months. Rosh Chodesh means “New Moon” or “New Month”. Chodesh Tov means “Good month” – it is a greeting given on the Rosh Chodesh.

Chodesh Tov - sunset with moon sliver

Rosh Chodesh Kislev.

Shalom and Chodesh Tov to you! Here we are at the start of a new Hebrew month – Kislev.

At I sit down to write this blog post to you all I have been reflecting on the last two months since the Jewish new year started. For me, these two months have seen lots of changes and things I didn’t see coming! I have learnt so much in these few months, and intend to keep learning. I always find it so exciting (as well as a bit uncomfortable) when I find Hashem is changing my focus. It really is like someone grabbing you by the shoulders and changing which way you’re facing. You want to be open to the change, but at the same times it’s all a bit stiff and jolty and uncomfortable! But once you’re headed in the right direction again it’s all worth it.

Let us talk about Kislev. The 9th month of the Hebrew calendar. One of the themes of Kislev is that of darkness and light. In Israel Kislev is in the Winter. The days are as short as they will ever be in the year, and therefore the darkest. BUT we have a light as well – on the 25th of Kislev is the start of Hanukkah. Hanukkah sees us lighting candles and bring light into the dark night! When we light an additional candle each night for 8 nights, and slowly bring more and more light into the month, we can think about the light we are called to be, and how we are sharing Hashem’s light into the darkness of the world.

As we look forward towards Kislev, lets think about what light we are bringing into our world, and how we are representing our Hashem.

Psalm 1

1 How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand in the pathway with sinners,
or sit in the assembly of scoffers!
2 Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands;
he meditates on his commands day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by flowing streams;
it yields its fruit at the proper time,
and its leaves never fall off.
He succeeds in everything he attempts.
4 Not so with the wicked!
Instead they are like wind-driven chaff.
5 For this reason the wicked cannot withstand judgment,
nor can sinners join the assembly of the godly.
6 Certainly the Lord guards the way of the godly,
but the way of the wicked ends in destruction.

– Rosh Chodesh –

The Rosh Chodesh is not often celebrated these days, but I’m not letting that stop me! Traditionally the Rosh Chodesh is particularly important to women, as they are often in tune with the moon, and considered a “Women’s day”. Some women like to take time off from some of their regular household duties and spend time reading the Torah. Perhaps you’d like to meditate on the Psalm I’ve posted above. xo