An Av Flow
What is the connection between the name of the month “Av” (which means father) and that the month is the time of the greatest destruction and sadness in Jewish history?
A: A father does what is best for you even if its letting you get destroyed - bc true love is learning natural consequences of actions. You will never learn if someone always saves you. You need to be stripped of your bare essence, to your absolute naked self of no defenses, no excuses, pure humility and humbled self to grow and become a different person. most of AA members, they only join when they reach the lowest of the low. Or else we can constantly hide behind our excuses for the rest of our lives,adn never be stripped to that most essential vulnerable deep place. And that is what father is - in kabbalah, the first of the ten traits in which the world was formed is called chochma- which is called the father. Chochma in hebrew is the trait of wisdom, actual basic facts. It can also be broken down into two words - Koach - ma - the power of what is. A man contributes a drop of semen that sparks an entire cycle of fertilizing an egg and then the 9 month process of creating a child- (Bina, is the second trait of the ten, is building, boneh, which build the everything, the whole 9 month process) and it is in the times of the greatest destruction that we figure out who we truly are at our core essence -back to that singular point and spark of our most pure self. In the story of the temple - we were too focused on externals and rules and we were not good people on the inside. So gd took everything away from us, stripped us of all our defenses. The world, which ultimately only supports us in goodness, would not support a fake life, so we had to be stripped of the fakeness to our most pure essence, which was a relationship. Gd doesnt want your service, yes it's important, yes it makes sense, yes you should do it, especially bc its a commandment from the universe to do it - but what gd wants is our hearts, our souls, a relationship, us to yearn for it.
Questions for reflection - what are we yearning for? What do we currently yearn for in our lives? Is it a spiritual yearning? What shifts can I make in my life that create space for me to crave spirituality? What can I do that will naturally enable me to yearn for more spiritual experiences?
A: it can be anything from learning ideas to help you understand, to meeting with people that inspire you, to doing good deeds, to trying to commit to take on new character traits or habits!
So the connection between the saddest month of the time of destruction and the fatherly relationship is “destruction is ultimately for our good because it strips us of our defenses back down to our most original and pure self, what we are at our essence” its a link and a hint to what we are at our essence .
Why does this month of sadness and destruction come before the month of holiness and beginnings (Ellul)?
A: Only once we hit that point of pure good and love at the deepest sense of our core can we begin to build it up a new and fresh. Once we get to a core, when everything is destroyed around us, all we have left is the spark left from the ashes, a fire can still be kindled from that spark, and it will be a fresh new fire with clarity, direction and purpose. Meaning, we have to hit the lowest of the lowest before we can skyrocket.
Question for reflection: When was a time in your life when you felt like you were in the deepest of the lows? What was it like? Did you learn anything about yourself from those times? What came out of that low time?
Q3: How does Av being a sad month 2000 years ago relate to our current day to day lives?
A: why is it sad now? We discussed that time is cyclic, the times affect me now the same way the energy came down into the world 200 years ago, the same time the energy comes down now, and the energy of sadness. Or you can see it as the energy of choice - because if you want to understand something in the torah we go to the first time it was mentioned and there we can see what its essence is. There were many bad things that happened over history, but the first bad thing recorded in the torah regarding this day was when the spies came back from israel and said it was a bad land, and the jews cried about it instead of trusting in gd that it would be a good land, so Gd decreed that since you cried about this, for the rest of time you will cry on this day in this time. I think this is particularly relevant to what dani spoke about regarding tammuz and sight- can you see past what seems to be bad and see the good despite the seemingly stressful and not good situalitions - Av is correlated to the ability to hear - the sense of hearing, and it almost takes it one step further - the jews heard that the land was bad. There lies the choice - The jews did not have to believe what they heard. You have a choice when interpreting what you hear! You have a choice in how you want to hear what you hear! In how you interpret it! You can choose to listen to your own internal voice or you can listen to the voices of the world around you that scream that the world is horrible. You can choose to perceive what you hear, as opposed to sight, where it's hard to spin what you have literally seen.
Question for Reflection: Can you recall a time in your life when you’ve tuned into and heard your inner voice? Was there a time when maybe everyone was telling you one thing, and you knew there had to be something else to the story? What do the stories we tell ourselves say? What are the inner monologues we listen to in our minds? Are they positive and serve us in our lives, helping us feel joyful, happy, kind and benevolent? Or do those voices create feelings of stress, anxiety, negativity and sadness? What do we listen to inside our minds?
Being Jewish often means being able to see the bright side of sad times, and not forget the sad note at happy times.
Av is father - chochma, power of what-
Who do I want to be?
What kind of life do I want to live? And yes, I know we’re already “living” our lives… I have three kids, married, in uni, have jobs, maybe dating, maybe already married with kids - we already have lives. But does the life we’re living match up with the ideal life we’re meant to live? The ideal person we’re meant to be?
Who can I be if I were to utilize all my greatest talents and all my greatest strengths? Av is the flash of inspiration where we can see the ideal self and life we’re meant to be living. To put the month in context, iyar was the duality of both sides, trying to figure out who we are, finding that space in the middle to just listen and observe between the two sides, tammuz was utilizing our power of sight and seeing through the dark times to see the true reality, and then ELLUL is all about love and relationships- ani vi dodi vi dodi li, a bit of a trailer to the ellul month- if step one becoming aware, step two is seeing clearly who we want to be, step three is getting there and that starts with love. Self love, relationship love between us and ourselves, which is really us and gd bc at our most core essence we’re a piece of gOd, that’s what our neshama is. But that’s the ellul series!
Back to Av. So we leaned into our duality,observed and became aware, and now in Av everything is taken from us- sometimes it is when you have absolutely nothing at all that’s when you realize what you truly do want.
Example: it’s when you lose someone that you realize how much you needed them, it’s when you break up bc your not ready to get married that you realize you actually do want to get married and start a family . However those aren’t bad choices. The ability to make choices and have free will yet knowing that Gd is in control and completely has our back and everything is for the best is the core or our belief. We have free will to make decisions and choose, yet we understand
that God knows everything that will happen. The way to hold both of these two ideas in one hand is to realize that our choices that cause us to feel pain and might have been bad choices are ultimately for the good as well to build us, grow us, and create us as a person to become our ideal self. The mistakes we make, the choices in our lives that we make that seem to cause our life crashing down and it’s our fault from our choice, the world is still in gods control. He’s still got my back. It helps relieve some of the pain I might feel from the choices I’ve made. No one is saying they are good choices- or they should have been made. But the reality is we have free will and we can choose, and that god loves us more than anything else in the entire world, and everything is for the best. It’s hard to hold those two thoughts together. They seem so contradictory! But we’re coming off from Tammuz, we’ve just learned the skill of how to hold two different things by creating space to just observe and notice. So now in Av, when things seem to be crashing down because of our poor choices, we have to remember that through this will come the greatest redemption and realizations. Exactly in this mire of ashes, pain and destruction is where the spark of the future is created. Av- the father. The teaspoon of semen they can create millions of children. Unlimited potential, options, and from that tiny drop, a whole person and life is formed.
How could this relate to the destruction that happened in this month? In a sense, if you look at intimacy for what it is at it’s essence, you are loosing your own individual identity (at worst, which is a rape) or a best, which is a marriage and you are becoming two - not two individuals living together raising children, but a singular unit of living and loving your spouse as your self. The individual self has be destroyed- but a new identity of the potential of what you can create together, for the future, what what you are really meant to be doing here, what your purpose may be, is born from that union. The greatest and first mitzvah in the torah is to have children - because it is through that relationship you will be refined as a person through the challenges you will endure, and understand from the other side of the spectrum what a parent and child relationship is like. When all we are is a child, we can’t really fathom the depth of gods love for us . When we become a parent, and relish in our Children, love them with our whole soul and heart, then we can apply that to ourselves. Every time I look at my children and just feel a sense of pride and love, that is so comparable to any other feeling in the world, I imagine God feeling that way when he looks at me. And from this place of love, building a beautiful relationship, then true change can occur. (Ellul, I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me, the love, the relationship.)
The first step is analyzing that spark that chochma , that ”what”- asking it what are you? What are you meant to be? Who is your best self? What are you going to achieve and accomplish? Who will you be, who do you need to become? We are asking ourselves those questions, because right now we are that spark. We’ve all made bad choices in life but at the end of the day they let us to exactly this moment. Every second of our life is a spark of unlimited potential - what will I choose? What will I do? Who will I become? What choices can I make right now to help me get there?
I’ve been reading this phenomenal book called “the story of our life” by yaakov Klein, and The eloquence in which he writes about how destruction, poor choices and mistakes are so fleeting and really a part of the greater picture as a whole. So the only way to move past the destruction is to realize that there’s always a spark left smoldering. What will you focus on? Will you focus on the destruction, ashes the smoke the burning wood or the horrors? Or will you focus on finding a spark to rebuild the flame again. How do you rebuild the flame from the spark? Feeding it. Nourish your body soul mind with information and ideas that let you up and you will build a raging inferno of passion fiery love for what you believe in and who you are. Remember, that spark represents your potential. Analyze it deeply - really try to understand what it is (who you are) on the most fundamental levels. What are your strengths? What are your weakness? What do you love doing? What do you hate doing? What is needed of you in the world that you are good at doing and naturally feel inclined towards? What can you do that no one else can?
Who can you be? Who are you meant to be?
We weren’t put here to chill, there is a very specific role we are meant to play in the greater scheme of life. And you won’t know unless you try to figure it out. We don’t know how it will effect the world - but we have to act as if ever action can tip the balance of the world over, always acting as our best selves.
**story of a man at the kotel, not religious or affiliated really connected at at, and he went and next to him was a man Chassisdish, Payis, black hat, whole garb, and praying his heart out. The first man was so moved by the Chassisdish man. He goes home to Texas where he lives. One day the rabbi of the orthodox shul gets a call, someone would like to meet with the rabbi. It’s our man from the kotel. He sits down with the rabbi and says rabbi, id like to donate some money to your organization, i saw a man at the kotel and he inspired me so much that i wanted to support where ever he comes from, whatever type of Judaism he practices. And he writes a check and leaves. The rabbi opens the check and it’s for a huge sum of money. How crazy!!! The guy at the kotel has no idea - but look why he caused! That’s how we have to conduct our lives, what it really means to be a light upon the nations - always our best selves. But what about when it’s hard! What about when i am exhausted after a full day with my three little monsters? What if you’ve come home from three grueling lectures at uni and tests all week? Or your boss stressed you out at work or someone was rude? How can we act then?
I learned that we will have to account for every minute and second we were on this earth, and that motivated me very much (as i am someone who likes my leisure very much) but I found this teaching very compelling because if i can do anything well, i can win my arguments. And i don’t think it’s because i make stuff up, i think i have a strong sense of truth and authenticity, what’s actually true…. So I will have to be my own defender! And I know myself better than anyone- how will I get out of this? There’s no getting away from being lazy any more!!! Does that mean we have to be robots? No, but that consciousness of thinking about the whys of every minute and second of my life, so I can justify reasons and rationalize why I am doing what I am doing, if it is good and in alignment with the person i want to be, it makes me a more mindful person! I am conscious of the reasons behind why I do what I do! And i think that is such a powerful tool to have in your back pocket to live as an enlightened human! Why do you do what you do? Are you in control of your behavior? Or do your habits control you??
Perkei avot teach us “who is strong? One who conquered their nature, self control”. That doesn’t mean never doing anything relaxing or fun. It means doing those things as a means to an end, not as a means in itself. I am relaxing to rejuvenate myself in a healthy way to keep myself healthy. I think i probably need 10 minutes to chill time to zone out and relax my mind, to scroll on instagram or ticktock or whatEver. But when the time is up, the time is up. Now how can i use my time to keep me inline with my goals? What am i doing with my time? What are my goals- what steps am i taking to get there?
Sometimes there’s the pain of not knowing what your goals and purpose is. And then sometimes there’s the pain of knowing it, but not being able to fulfill it. There’s the difficulty in making the choice to actually fulfill the goals, and lastly, there’s the difficulty in getting the goals done or in the aftermath of doing them(ie exhausted after hosting 25 people for shabbat)
Of all the difficulties, the obvious choice is the last one! All the other pains linger and never go away, or feel satisfying? The pain and discomfort of actually fulfilling our goals is sometimes a beautiful pain! Sweating at the gym, not buying something because you're trying to save, you name it.
Av is a sad time because we’ve lost the battle in becoming our greatest selves. The ashes still remain, and there is a spark we will kindle back into a raging fire! But in the external nature of the world it seems like we’ve failed. We were so close to perfection - the Jews had the temple- but we didn’t get it right. We weren’t real on the inside. The outside looked great, but the inside was empty and fake. So everything was taken away. Except the one thing that can never be taken away, our internal selves, who we are at our core, our actual self. And taken away in Av, when we remember that Gd is our father bc he’s only doing this so we can be even closer and actually closer, and not only that, but because He wants the best for us, and sometimes that looks like accepting the natural consequences of our actions.
it is my prayer that this Av we will hear the sounds of redemption as we sit and soak in the pits of our low times, and will have truly known now that the low times are ONLY and ALWAYS for. a. purpose.