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“Blow the shofar on the new moon, at the appointed time of our festive day.” (Psalm 81:3). That time is now! Another passage of the Old Testament states, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first of the month, it shall be as a Sabbath for you, a remembrance of Israel through the shofar blast, a holy occasion.” (Leviticus 23:24)
Tonight’s new moon is the new moon described above. It’s part of an ancient lunar calendar set to begin each month on the new moon. Judaism considers this new moon to be the birthday of Earth. It marks the New Year on the Hebrew calendar. This is a celebration of creation. It’s a deeply spiritual honoring of the spiral of life.
Whether or not it is your personal religion, there are universal teachings of age-old wisdom embedded in these cultural traditions that everyone can benefit from practicing. It starts within each of us and our relationship with ourselves, with each other, and with a Higher Power.
We can hear the call of the season by listening to the sound of the shofar, the trumpet made of a ram’s horn, which serves to remind us that we must do the work needed. Pay special attention to the conditions in the environment of our immediate surroundings during the earthy Virgo phase of the sun and the moon tonight. The astrological alignment can help us bring life into balance.
The magic power of this new moon is an organizing principle that asks us to release with dignity what no longer serves us in order to reorient ourselves, seek out improvements, and make course corrections on our path. The Jewish people consciously spiral around an annual sequence of, quite literally, biblical proportions. And return again each year at this new moon to Rosh Hashanah, the Head of the Year, alternatively translated as the Jewish New Year. Now begins the annual anniversary of eternity known as the High Holy Days or the Days of Awe.
As a whole, this particular cycle of the moon asks us to review and renew. It is an actual prescription with real rituals. Every new moon repeats symbols of new beginnings. But this new moon is the beginning of the beginning, of not just the next month but the year. It is the origin point, the Genesis if you will. Genesis is defined as beginning in English because it is the first word written in what’s known as the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, the Hebrew Bible, and the Old Testament. “First recorded before 1100; from Latin: literally ‘generation, nativity, creation’ Genesis, the Greek rendering of Hebrew bĕrēʾshith, the first word of the Biblical book, traditionally translated “In the beginning.”
However, this New Year new moon, as significant as it is, is only the beginning of the High Holy Days. This moon phase initiates the moon cycle that consists of multiple religious festivals leading up to the full harvest moon and celebrating for another week beyond that. Rosh Hashanah begins a period of repentance culminating in Yom Kippur, as well as beginning the cycle of autumnal religious festivals running through Sukkot and ending in Simchat Torah / Shemini Atzeret. It’s a big month!
Ten days from now, it will be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest and most serious Jewish holiday, with its commandment to fast from food and work. The focus is to look at the past year and to look deep within. We see where we have missed the mark. We apologize directly to those we have wronged. We pray for our names to be in the Book of Life for another year. In other words, we hope for a clean slate and a chance to do better.
And we also pray for an abundant harvest at the upcoming Sukkot, Festival of Booths. This pilgrimage holiday will begin soon, on the next full moon, which coincides with the harvest moon. Focused on agriculture, the ancestors built temporary huts in the fields to eat and sleep in during the heavy workload of harvest time. Modern Jews build similar huts outside their homes or at the local synagogue and hold festive gatherings of commemoration.
At the end of Sukkot is another pivotal turning point of observance. With origins attributed to medieval times, the holiday of Simchat Torah celebrates the Torah scroll itself, the written words at the center of the Jewish faith. The last sentence and then the first sentence of the Torah are read in one breath, symbolically keeping the circular systems of both spirit and matter intact and consistently moving forward, ending while beginning again.
And Shimini Atzeret, another annual rite of passage with a separate meaning yet more ancient, an attribution than Simchat Torah, is honored alongside it on the same day. It is the theological signal that it’s time to pray for rain, with a specific invocation added to the Amidah daily prayer for the next six months. Knowing about these traditional transitions, many of which are actually far older than even Biblical times and adapted in every generation, is yet another way to feel the deep connections aligned with the nature of this time.
Tonight’s new moon is also a crucial time to evaluate our crops. We take time to take stock of our hearts and our harvest. Since last spring, we put sweat equity into all our dreams. We proceed now, not with judgment, but with an assessment. The best thing to do at this moment is to take a deep breath, be aware, have faith, and wait as the moon grows toward the Autumn Equinox and Harvest Moon during this cycle. In fact, for us, it’s the main event of the year, and it’s happening very soon, only two weeks away. So now, we gather the tools needed for the harvest, sweep out storage spaces, sharpen the scissors, and make preparations as best we can. And pray the weather holds on. Autumn can be temperamental. It’s time to plan for what could make or break the whole year. If you are a seasonal farmer, like we are, the harvest is everything. Significant in so many ways!
Here in northern California, we’ve picked our apples and peaches. We still have lots of tomatoes coming in from the garden, while the summer squash plants are just about done, and the hard-shelled winter squash and pumpkins are nearly fully matured. We can see our cannabis plants moving quickly toward finished flowers. Wish the scent of the variety of cultivars we grew this year could be shared virtually. Mendo Funk, Headband, Strawberry Shortcake, Green Apple Gas, and our California State Fair gold medal winner, Supreme Gelato, putting out all the skunky, sweet, gassy, earthy, fruity terpenes. Although some of those beautiful buds will be ready in as little as two weeks, others may take as long as six weeks. And that’s okay. It depends on many factors, and they have their own ways of showing us when they are ripe and ready to pick.
To go back to the beginning again because it’s always best to begin at the beginning. And this time frame is a grand example of the beginning of everything. Honoring the Rosh Hashanah new moon phase tonight, through Simchat Torah, when the global Jewish community together begins the Torah reading cycle again. What does the beginning of the Torah say? “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:1)
Look up tonight and see the light. We can let the stars help us find the Divine spark of passion within us. Release conflicts in order to allow for compassion to emerge. This is a supercharged time of change, redemption, and powerful emergence, not only for the next month but for the next year. There is a ritual to eat apples with honey on Rosh Hashanah and also to light candles and make blessings over wine and bread. Anyone can use any of the above-described traditions to deepen their personal connections to the divinity within nature. We’re all in this life together, cycling through time, and everything is connected… make it sweet!
HAPPY HIGH HOLY DAY NEW MOON NEW YEAR LIGHT
All photos: Martyjuana
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