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Kabbalah and the Calendar
Kabbalah outlines the mystical identities of the months.
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Kabbalah and the Calendar


In this week's Torah reading, G-d tells Moses:
"This month will be for you the first of the months; it will be for you the first of the months of the year." (Ex. 12:2)

Since this communication occurred two weeks before the Exodus (ibid. 12:6), this verse establishes that the month of the Exodus, Nisan, is to be counted as the first of the twelve months. This verse thus establishes the basis of the Jewish calendar:
"[G-d] showed [Moses] the new moon and said, 'When you see the moon renewed [like this], consider that day the first of the month." (Rashi on Ex. 12:2)

Furthermore, Nisan is always supposed to be in the spring. (Rashi on Deut. 16:1) However, since the Jewish calendar is based lunar months, it is necessary to intercalate the year when the lunar year lags behind the solar year.

Know that all the months are [manifestations of] malchut [i.e. Nukva of Zeir Anpin]. There are two aspects to this [relationship]: the first is the way [malchut relates to the months] intrinsically, and the second is the way [it does so] by virtue of its relationship with the male [partzuf, Zeir Anpin], as we will explain with G-d's help.

The moon is one of the physical manifestations of the feminine principle….

The Jewish calendar is, as we said, a lunar calendar, and the moon is one of the physical manifestations of the feminine principle, Nukva of Zeir Anpin. The moon reflects the light of the sun, just as Nukva receives its inspiration from Zeir Anpin. In general, Zeir Anpin is associated with the three dimensions of space [the six sefirot from which it is constructed correspond to the six directions], and Nukva is associated with time.

[This relationship between malchut and the months] beings with the month of Nisan. Now, know that all the months are called the "head" month, because they all are [in some way] a beginning. And therefore, every month has the larger number of days, i.e. 30.

The order [of the association between the months and the various aspects of malchut] is as follows:

In the following section, the six months of each half year are associated with six of the seven organs of the head - skull, 2 ears, 2 eyes, nose and mouth. The association between these seven organs [excluding the skull and splitting the nose into the 2 nostrils] and the seven days of the week, the seven visible planets, the seven blessings of divine beneficence, and the seven letters of the Hebrew alphabet that can take a dagesh kal is given in Sefer Yetzirah 4:7-14. There are, however, differing versions of this text.1 The Arizal's system is given in Etz Chaim 5:6.

beit

chochma

right ear

gimel

bina

left ear

dalet

netzach

right eye

kaf

hod

left eye

pei

tiferet

right nostril

reish

daat

left nostril

tav

malchut

mouth

As we said, in the following system, the nose is considered as one entity and the skull is considered.

Nisan is associated with the gulgalta [of Nukva].

The gulgalta ["skull"] of a partzuf is its keter, which in psychological terms is the will to actualize the content of the partzuf. The exodus from Egypt was and is an act of will, as we see from the fact that those Jews who did not want leave Egypt remained there, perishing in the plague of darkness.

Iyar and Sivan are associated with the two ears [of Nukva].

Iyar is the month of counting the Omer, the preparation for the giving of the Torah, which occurred in Sivan. These two months are thus focused on hearing the word of G-d. In the chart above, the two ears are chochma and bina, the sefirot of the intellect used for learning the Torah.

Tamuz and Av are associated with the two eyes….

Tamuz and Av are associated with the two eyes [of Nukva]. This is why the Temple was destroyed in the months of Tamuz and Av, as an expression of the verse, "My eyes, my eyes, flowed with water" (Lamentations 1:16) [the repetition] alluding to the two eyes.

Now, when we understand what these eyes are, [we know that] they are manifestations of netzach and hod. Therefore, the destruction occurred mainly in the left eye, the month of Av. This is the mystical meaning of the phrase "…sick the whole day" (ibid.1:13); [the word for "sick", "davah",] when spelled backwards, spells the word "hod".

Netzach is located on the right axis of the sefira-tree and hod on the left. These two sefirot are associated respectively with Tamuz and Av and the right and left eyes. Netzach and hod are associated with prophetic insight, the divine consciousness promoted by the Temple.

"Davah" is spelled: dalet-vav-hei.

"Hod" is spelled: hei-vav-dalet.

Both these verses are from the Book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah's dirge over the destruction of the first Temple.

Elul is associated with the nose [of Nukva].

In the associations above, the two nostrils are associated with tiferet and daat, which define the middle axis of the sefirotic tree, just as the nose is on the central axis of the face. In Sefer Yetzirah, Elul is associated with sexuality, carnal "knowledge" in the Biblical idiom.

This leaves the mouth, which is not associated explicitly with any month, but whose presence [in this array] is hidden.

The mouth, the organ of speech, is associated with malchut, the sefira of expression.

This same order applies to the [association between Nukva and the months due to its relationship with the] male, [Zeir Anpin]:

Tishrei is associated with the skull of the male.

Just as Nisan is considered the first year of the month from the seasonal perspective, Tishrei is considered the first month in that years are counted from it.

Our ongoing process of self-refinement is more dependent on our own initiative during the "male" half of the year….

It is explained in Chasidut that our ongoing process of self-refinement is more dependent on our own initiative during the "male" half of the year, i.e. from Tishrei to Adar. During the "female" half of the year, i.e. from Nisan to Elul, G-d takes the initiative and our job is just to capitalize and respond to this initiative. The clearest indication of this is the festival of Pesach, in which we were pulled out of Egypt by G-d Himself. Similarly, the springtime renewal of nature, which occurs in Nisan, practically forces us to undergo a similar renewal of inspiration, and all we have to do is respond to it and ride the wave of renewal.

In contrast, the male half of the year begins in the fall, as night becomes longer and the forces of evil represented by darkness gain more and more control. During this half of the year, we have to summon more of our own inner strength to progress in our divine self-redefinition; hopefully we have stored up this strength during the spring and summer months, just as we eat during the winter from the food that has grown and been harvested in the spring and summer. The clearest expression of this dynamic is the High Holidays of the month of Tishrei, in which we work on ourselves intensely in order to establish a higher and more profound relationship with G-d for the coming year. This process involves awakening our deep, innate desire and will to relate to G-d and accomplish His will, which, as we said, is synonymous with the skull.

Cheshvan and Kislev are associated with the two ears [of Zeir Anpin].

Cheshvan possesses no festivals; this reflects the male abstraction of chochma. The festival of Kislev is Chanukah, in which the intellect of the Torah vanquished Greek pagan philosophy.

Tevet and Shevat are associated with the two eyes [of Zeir Anpin].

Adar is associated with the nose [of Zeir Anpin].

Here, too, the mouth['s place in this array] is hidden.

[The fact that the mouth is hidden] is the mystical reason behind the commandment of sanctifying the new month, in which the judges [of the rabbinical court] are required to verbally sanctify the month.

Astronomically, a lunar month is a fraction of a day longer than 29 days. Since calendar months can only be composed of full days, a calendar month can be either 29 or 30 days long, depending on when the new moon is sighted. When witnesses testified before the central court in Jerusalem that they had seen the new moon, the court declared that day the first day of the new month. This is called "sanctifying" the month, for once the first day of the month is determined, the day on which any holidays that fall in that month is also determined.

By using their mouths to verbally articulate the sanctification of the new month, the judges mystically complete the array of associations between the face-organs of malchut and the months.

Now, since the mouth is missing from the male [array], the only month that may be intercalated is Adar.

As we said, in order to keep the holiday of Pesach in the spring, i.e. after the vernal equinox, it was sometimes necessary to add a thirteenth lunar month to the year. The only month Jewish law allows to be doubled in order to do this is Adar.

The mystical reason for this is that in the array of face-organs, the order is: skull, ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. Since the mouth follows the nose - which is associated with the month of Adar -the only place the mouth can be used to insert another month into the array is after [the first] Adar.

This was the mistake of King Hezekiah, of blessed memory, who intercalated a second Nisan in the month of Nisan. His mistake was that we must only intercalate a second Adar, for it takes the place of the mouth of the male, and thus forms part of the preceding year, completing [it with] the mouth. Nisan, in contrast, is part of the next year.

In the beginning of his reign as king, Hezekiah restored the service of G-d to its full force, after his wicked father, King Achaz, had suspended it. "Hezekiah then sent word to all of Israel and Judah…to perform the pesach-sacrifice to the L-rd, the G-d of Israel. For the king and his officers…decided to perform the pesach-sacrifice in the second month, for they could not perform it in its time [i.e. in Nisan], for not enough priests had sanctified themselves yet, and the people had not been gathered to Jerusalem by then." (Chronicles II 30:1-3) In order to give the repenting populace time to purify themselves before offering the pesach-sacrifice, King Hezekiah decided to add an extra month to the calendar.

According to one opinion in the Talmud, he made this decision in the month of Nisan, and added a second Nisan so that the festival of Pesach could be postponed. According to other opinions, he did intercalate a second Adar, but he did this on 30th day of Adar, which is forbidden by the Sages. Since the 30th day of Adar can potentially be proclaimed the 1st day of Nisan (if witnesses testify that they saw the new moon on that day), the sages declared that this potential sanctity disqualifies it from being declared the 1st day of the intercalated Adar. In other words, we may not declare the month that would have otherwise been Nisan to be a second Adar on the very day this month could have become Nisan [had we not decided to intercalate]. When King Hezekiah did this, he was interfering with the proper order of the months. (Sanhedrin 12ab)

* * * * *

Regarding the [order of the] months, we have already explained (in our exposition of the prayers of Rosh Hashanah) that [the months] from Tishrei to Adar [are associated with] the six extremities of the male [partzuf, Zeir Anpin]. In this context, Adar is associated with the nose of the male, and Nisan with the mouth of the male, which becomes the skull of the female. This is because the breath issues from the mouth of the male [in order] to [become] the skull of the female.

The month of Nisan thus plays both roles of male mouth and female skull. The words of the male inspire the female, transforming into her will.

Through the breath of the judges the skull of Nukva is formed….

Thus, Nisan is used both by him and by her. This is why we intercalate the month of Adar and none other, so that the intercalated month may assume the association of the mouth of the male. For the same reason, [the court] must sanctify the month verbally and proclaim, "Sanctified!", as it is written, "[these are the festivals of G-d…] that you shall proclaim in their [proper] times." (Lev. 23:4) For through the breath [of the judges] the skull [of Nukva] is formed.

The judges here act as the mouth of Zeir Anpin, sanctifying time [i.e. Nukva], inspiring the collective source of the souls of the Jewish people to bring divinity into reality through sanctified islands of time [the festivals], each of which grants us a unique and essential aspect of divine consciousness, which we then transfer into our daily lives.

The text now proceeds with a sentence that Rabbi Chaim Vital argues is incorrect from a philosophical or semantic perspective.

There are also six [months] from Nisan to Tishrei, in which scheme Elul is the female nose and Tishrei her mouth and his skull.

If this is true, then the same process works in reverse. But…

It appears to me, Chaim [Vital], that the mouth can only be associated with Nisan [and not with Tishrei], when his mouth becomes her skull. But Tishrei is only his skull, and not her mouth. For his skull cannot be formed from her mouth, and the proof of this is that [if it were so] we would intercalate Elul just like Adar.

Since we don't, it means that there can be no second Elul to assume the association of the mouth of the female. The mouth of the female therefore, in this paradigm, remains hidden, and does not become the skull of the male. What this essentially is saying is that there is a difference between the male and female archetypes, and that they are not simply inverses of each other. True, the female can inspire the male, but then she is manifesting her male aspect.

[Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Taamei HaMitzvot; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."]

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FOOTNOTES
1. See Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan edition of Sefer Yetzirah, pp. 178-179.

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky   More articles...  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria […Ashkenazi ben Shlomo] (5294-5332 = 1534-1572 c.e.); Yahrtzeit (anniversary of death): 5th of Av. Buried in the Old Cemetery of Tzfat. Commonly known as the Ari, an acronym standing for Eloki Rabbi Yitzchak, the G-dly Rabbi Isaac. No other master or sage ever had this extra letter Aleph, standing for Eloki [G-dly], prefaced to his name. This was a sign of what his contemporaries thought of him. Later generations, fearful that this appellation might be misunderstood, said that this Aleph stood for Ashkenazi, indicating that his family had originated in Germany, as indeed it had. But the original meaning is the correct one, and to this day among Kabbalists, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria is only referred to as Rabbenu HaAri, HaAri HaKadosh [the holy Ari] or Arizal [the Ari of blessed memory].
Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky is a scholar, writer, editor and anthologist living in Jerusalem. He is a co-founder of Ascent Institute of Safed and one of the first contributing writers for KabbalaOnline.org. He has recently produced two monumental works: "Apples from the Orchard: Arizal on the Weekly Torah" (available for purchase from KabbalaOnline here) and a Chumash translation with commentary based on the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Kehot).

 



 


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