Sivan: Emet (אמת) Truth| Neviah

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Table of Contents:


New to Mussar or the Kesharim K’doshim approach? Read the intro first.


TEACHING

Emet (אמת) Truth by Kohenet Ketzirah HaMa’agelet

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel teaches, Three things ensure the world’s survival: justice, truth, and peace, as it is said, “Speak truth, establish peace, and render honest judgments in your gates.”  

(Pirkei Avot 1:18, translation by Rami Shapiro – Ethics of the Sages)

Truth.  Since 2016, we have lived in a post-fact world and it’s hard to fathom the impact on us as individuals and as societies.  What is truth?  It is easy to mis-read the teachings on truth and say that we can never say that another is not being truthful and hold them accountable. What we can do, is acknowledge that a sick soul may be incapable of seeing what is an isn’t true.  

The Talmud teaches that truth is one of the three pillars that holds up the world and yet ew know that we live in a time where, once again, we not only allow our leaders to lie to us, but too many of us embrace the lies because they make us feel like we are bigger, more powerful, and “better” than someone else. 

In EverydayHoliness, Alan Morinis seems to be channeling the current mindset of many that saying whatever is on your mind at any moment equals “truth”: 

“Some people equate “truth” with speaking their minds, but speaking your mind may simply be articulating your unexamined prejudice or bias.” 

Maybe that is your momentary truth, but shouldn’t we all be seeking truth that can survive more than a fleeting moment? 

“Avtalyon teaches, Do not mistake words for truth lest you become exiled in cleverness where every well is poison, and all who drink from them will die, and thus diminish the Name of Heaven.” 

Pirkei Avot 1:11, translation by Rami Shapiro – Ethics of the Sages

In Mussar teachings, lying is understood a symptom of spiritual illness. For some it may be a minor cold, but I think we can see plenty of examples where it is a chronic spiritual illness that has utterly disconnected someone from their own soul.  Like many illnesses, it does not just affect the infected person. It is contagious and damaging to the world around the liar.  When we can’t trust what others are saying, then it breaks down our ability to trust anything – including ourselves. 

Rabbi Hillel encourages us to not only see the world through our personal perceptions — but rather to stretch ourselves spiritually to see it through others’ experiences.   

We choose our truth by the scope of our vision.

Lawrence Kushner, The Book of Words

It’s also fascinating and wonderful that “do no harm” supersedes the need to tell the truth in Jewish teachings. So being a jerk can’t be cloaked in a veil of “I was just telling the truth,” because the worst thing you can do is harm another person.  It is better to lie and say you are full, than insult your host’s cooking.  

Truth requires judgement, which requires a healthy soul to exercise that judgement. A commitment to truth, seems to offer up more opportunities for bechiramoments(choice points) than many other soul-traits in our life’s curriculum. Each time there is an option to tell the truth, shade the truth, or straight up lie – we have to think about what the best option is in the situation. Who benefits from each?  Who is harmed from each? What is our real motivation in telling the truth vs shading vs lying?   

Truth is also an exercise, a judgment, and a test. The goal is to live truth according to the guidance of your discerning heart, for the sake of the soul you are as well as the souls of others.

Alan Morinis, Everyday Holiness

In Mussar Yoga, three questions are offered for us to examine our speech as part of exercising judgement of truth.  Before offering up “truth,” ask yourself: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? 

I find the last one, “is it necessary?” To be really powerful and important.  Sometimes we are very hurtful under the guides of truth-telling in situations where it just wasn’t necessary – we just weren’t willing to hold our tongue.  And sometimes we are even less kind by not speaking out.  How do we know when to speak truth and when to hold back?  

Anyone who has prejudices and whose perceptions are colored by self-interest will never see the truth in any area in which his bias operates. Only when his bias is removed will he be able to understand the truth.

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler

In several readings on emet, there are reminders of another truth – that if you remove the letter aleph (אמת) from emet the word becomes death (מת) – met. Wise discernment about truth and how to wield it, are not just a spiritual exercise.  It is about life and death. When we lose track of truth as individuals, it becomes easier to lose track of it as a society.  Both as individuals and society, a loss of truth can lead to harmful paths that are not life-bringing, but rather death dealing.   

When Love and Truth meet, then Justice and Peace will kiss.

Psalm 85:11

As you discern what is truth and whether you should or shouldn’t speak it in a given moment, there are many possibilities to consider.  A connection to the holiday of Shavuot, which occurs during the first week Sivan, offers us a guide.  Shavuot is the holiday of revelation at Sinai.  We read in Exodus 19.18:

Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke,
for the LORD had come down upon it in fire;
the smoke rose like the smoke of a kiln,
and the whole mountain trembled violently.

Ex 19.18

There is a wonderful chant by R’Shir Yaakov that uses is drawn from this.

olam shanah nefesh (עולם שנה נפש)
v’har sinai ashan culo (והר סיני עשן כלו)
(space time soul. and the mountain was entirely smoke) 

Chant by Shir Yaakov

What is the truth of the revelation at Sinai, if we each heard in our own way?
olam = space
shanah = time
nefesh = soul

There are three words here and three letters to the word for truth (אמת).  Those three letters are the first, middle, and last letter of the aleph-bet.  Mussar teaches us that they provide stability, which is how we find truth — through how the three hold up.

The original Jewish geography, according to our mystical tradition, has three components–Place, Time and Soul (Olam, Shana and Nefesh). These are the basic dimensions in which we exist and interact with our world.

My Jewish Learning

Can we use olam, shanah, nefesh to help us better discern truth?  

  • Aleph Mem Tav 
  • Olam Shana Nefesh 
  • Justice Truth Peace 
  • Past Present Future 
  • Internal External Mythic 
  • True Kind Necessary 

Can we hold something as true, and know that someone else holds a different truth?  Where is the space in between?  

The signature of the Holy Blessed One is truth.
And Reish Lakish said: The letter tav is the last letter of the seal of the Holy One, Blessed be He, as Rabbi Ḥanina said: The seal of the Holy One, Blessed be He, is truth [emet], which ends with the letter tav. Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said: The letter tav teaches that these are people who observed the entire Torah from alef through tav.
Shabbat 55a.12


JOURNAL INQUIRIES

At this moment in time…

  • WHEN have you easily told the truth and when have you easily lied or shaded the truth? 
  • WHAT is a truth that you don’t experience through your own life, but need to work to understand through others’ perspective? 
  • HOW do you differentiate truth from fact and fact from truth? 
  • WHEN you feel someone else is not being truthful, what is your reaction?  Which soul-traits do you or could you call on? 

EMBODYING THE MIDDAH
by Kohenet Alumah

What is truth really? How do we embody truth? Where do we find it? And how at this time of revelation, of the prophetess, do we come to our truths so we can both receive and hold truth? For where there is truth , there is peace.

It is said that “the seal of G-d is truth (Shney Luchot Habrit; Eliyahu Munk)  as well as that truth can be found in the body, our bodies, the body of Torah, and  the bodies of the letters that inhabit Torah.

A way I have always found helpful to understand words and images contained within is indeed by exploring the body of the letters both in my body and in space. Their placement, their energies , their combinations; are all ways to understand and embody the concepts held in the building of letters into words and worlds.

Emet, the middot for this month is a wonder of a word. Encompasses, indeed all the letters of the alep bet, the first, the middle and the last it also holds  within it the words, et (Shekinah) em (mother) met(death) ta(chamber).  With that alone we are told  of the expanse of truth, She  is with us from the beginning thru to the end, we are birthed in the chamber of mother and move thru the cycles to death. Amazing but ,there is so much more here, truth be told.


We will look at each individual letter, the gematria and other words that share the same numerical value and then take it inside the space of the body, and feel what this may teach us.

The gematria of truth is 441, the same gematria (combination of letters numerical value) is shared with the words….and i shall be, and the oil thereof, and like the deeds, and the soul.

Often words sharing the same gematria help us understand the meaning of the word.

What amazes me here is the knowing that human beings possess the duality of body and soul, flesh is mortal but that isn’t the truth of who we are , of our essence yet vahanefesh and the soul, that is the truth of our life and our immortality. That truth helps us to be, ignites the sacred oli of our souls to be like the deeds that merit and bring forth truth.

THE LETTERS

Ps. 119 Your very first utterance is truth..

Aleph, a mother letter of air and breath, aleph itself is truth, is integration, is dynamic in its holding of all, is representative of one, The One, the Great I of anochi.

It is made of two yuds, one occupying the heavens, one planted on this plane and a vav bridging the two together. There is a teaching that the upper yud represents Divinity above our comprehension and our understanding of that essence is a mere dot. The below is  to represent us, who dwell here on earth; with the vav being our faith. 

The mem, yet another mother, shaped like a womb to birth and flow begins words such as water, the ever flowing source of Torah, mikveh, mitzvah, malchut, middot,  Moshiach, Mishnah. Being the thirteenth letter of the alphabetit , it representative of the thirteen middot and its numerical value is that of 40 and transformation. There are forty days of gestation, forty years in the desert, forty days of the flood. Mem holds us until ready to flow with the waters of transformation and revelation

The last letter of the aleph bet, tav, is a dalet and a vav, with the numerical value of 400. The dalet to me shows us that the truth is a doorway to ourselves and gives or offers us  a form of connection to this world and that greater than us. I  love that this is the last letter of this word, for it is as if we are being told,the  essence of truth, seal of truth is determined at end of journey, not at beginning. Beginning words such as teshuvah, tikkun, Torah it speaks of sealing, of change and of the moving forward thru healing.

Weaving these thoughts together, as we allow ourselves to be in the silent, standing ,witness  of aleph in unity, in integration in the great I, we are able to flow with the many births mem can bring and move forward to true healing and connection, sealing us in that movement, in the seal that is truth. A truth that demands total accuracy from beginning to end and all pints between. This standing, this flow, this moving forward aids in the discovery of the truth of self thru stillness and new depths of soul revealed.

Sfat Emet says “Where to look for truth? Where does one need to investigate and look again and again when it is not seemingly apparent? We look for the hidden kernel of spirit and truth placed by The One into every item of creation.

With that thought in mind, i invite us to enter our body of creation and find where truth resides in silence, in stillness, and let the truth of our own being and body be revealed to us.

EMBODIED PRACTICE

After moving thru this I found that for me and maybe all of you as well, truth is finding our own being, the truth of that being and that truth will enable us to stand and flow and speak and move with truth, our truth.

There are a number of ways to embody this word; thru actual poses and postrues, thru directed imaginings of the letters in our bodies , yet i feel to have our own essence of being and truth be revealed to us thru our own felt sense. If any of you desire actual postures or somatic prompts email me and i certainly  will offer them.

So let’s first begin on our backs if possible, feet on floor,( kness facing ceiling or if that not possible sit in a chair, feet on floor, spine resting against back of chair) as we enter our bodies with a breath practice.

Feel your feet on the floor, notice how they are touching, where and how the big toe is, the second toe, the middle toe, the fourth and the baby. Notice your heels and how they land.Feel your sit bones, noti e of how is higher then the other, your hips, the lower vertebrae in the lumbar spine, the middle of the thoraic, the upper cervical. Feel you head resting above the spine. Notice your breath, whether it is fast or slow, deep or shallow. Inwardly watch it as it moves thru the noise, down the palette, the neck, the central channel. Watch and witness this for three breaths

Place your hands on your belly. With each receiving of breath, feel the belly rise, expanding on the inhale, contracting on the exhale. Feel it rise and fall under your hand for seven breaths. As you are doing this , see or better feel the directionality of the breath. As the bely lifts what else may be happening?

Now place your hands on the sides of your ribs. As you breath, notice how the ribsmove outward and come back. Offer breath here for seven breaths.

Move your hands to the collar bone. Can you feel the breath here and if so what directions is it moving.

Coming back to belly, with each exhale sound ah for seven times.

Arriving at ribs on exhale sound sssssss, seven times

At the collar bone, ha is the sound.

Notice what happens at each place where sound is offered.

Rest with a regular breath , eyes remaining closed feeling what was just witnessed.

Safet Emet says that truth is its own witness so perhaps as you breathe and feel, a sense of truth may arise for and within you.

Now with eyes still closed, imagine the aleph in your body..how does it feel to hold the tension of the opposites, to have unity within? To have the expanse of air fill you? As its form fills you what are you feeling? Are you hearing something? Is the Great I within  speaking in a whisper to you?As you embrace the form and sound of aleph, breath deeply three times, give your thanx and feel that it leaves this imprint in your body.

As you begin to see , feel and find a place for mem in your body, can you feel into the flow of its form? What can this flow birth for you now? How can this shape help you be ready to receive truth and be truth? What will birth within?

Sealing arrives with  tav. Where will this seal be inside you?How will the placement of this letter and form offer you truth? How can this sign move you forward to stand at Sinai? In the Talmud it states that the letter tav represents emet. It also states the signature of G is the word emet. Just as every  artist puts their signature on paintings G imbeds, engraves that signature on and in the universe which we are indeed part of. This concept is found in the Ohart as well in its explanations of the last three words in creation story…bara Elohim laasot . The final letters of these words spell the word emet because this painting is imbued with the signature of truth as now you have found and engraved in your own body.

Slowly open your eyes. When ready rise to standing. Take a moment to feel you body in this upright position. See if you can find and feel what you just found within.

May you all find your place and space at the mountain. May you rise in peace, may the holy fire birth and bless you ever more connection to Torah, healing and may you know the seal of trutht thru what is spoken and silent, hidden and revealed, felt and sensed within the marvels of the your body…ma nora ha makom ha zeh.


NETIVAH MESSAGES

  • “I am the Neviah (נביאה), the Prophetess, and I bring the gifts of drumming, dreaming, and the ability to speak and be heard. The still small voice that you may choose to ignore, I cannot. I am the embodiment of inspiration, prophecy, ecstatic practice, and justice. “
  • “I am the Neviah (נביאה), the Prophetess, and I bring the gifts of drumming, dreaming, and the ability to speak and be heard. The still small voice that you may choose to ignore, I cannot. I am the embodiment of inspiration, prophecy, ecstatic practice, and justice. “

The Neviah by Rachel Kann

From the book How to Bless the New Moon: The Priestess Paths Cycle and Other Poems for Queens.

Meyaledet Hamsa by Kohenet Bekah Starr

Prophetess Hamsa by Bekah Star, used with permission of the artist
Speak truth to power, inside and beyond. Speak clearly fro the depths of being, illuminate the darkest places so truth can be known. What do you stand for?

CONNECTION POINTS

Correspondences for Sivan

  • Moon of: Receiving 
  • Mazal: Gemini
  • Tribe: Zevulon
  • Sense: Walking
  • Letter: Zayin (ז)
  • Color: Golden Yellow
  • Guide: Left Foot 
  • Netivah: Neviah (נביאה) Prophetess
  • Seasonal Elements  Water (מים) within Fire (אש)

From Sefer Yetzirah, Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute, Inner.org, Devotaj Sacred Arts, and Jewish Book of Days

Counterpoints

  • Netivah: Baalat Ov
  • Middah:   Yirah (יראת) Awestruck
  • Season: Autumn/Winter
  • Month: Kislev

Holidays in Sivan

  • 5th: Final day of Omer
  • 6th: Shavuot

PRACTICES

Scentuality by Kohenet Alumah Schuster

“Let truth spring from the earth”

Bereshit Rabbah 8:5

In this month of receiving revelation, of receiving the gift of mattan Torah and of coming to center of story and blessing and drawing that deep into the earth and our bodies, the idea of truth, our middot ,springing from the earth sems aprepo. As we settle, and quiet and prepare often in the silence of our bodies and minds and hearts, something stirs us to truth. I once read that truth arises from humble silence and so the blend for this month is one that helps to silent and steady the mind, ground us into ourselves so we can allow receiving into the vessel of this body.

The oils in this blend are mostly earthy, from the root, the sap to center us and bring quiet  and the flower to blossom in beauty as we receive truth in the form of revelation of both ourselves and Torah.

  • Vetiver from the root has a cool and moist property with its main element being earth. It nourishers, restores and reconnects us to self and Self, a connection necessary to reach truth and revelation
  • Spikenard also from the root, warm earthy, woody, heals wounds, stabilizes mind, encourages faith and surrender.
  • Benzoin is a gum, sticky and deeply dark in color , it adheres well with other oils with its soothing, stabilizing ,nurturing , earthy scent.
  • Myrhh, also a gum, offers tranquil solitude and transcendent peace with its warm , dry qualities.
  • To raise the vibration and sweeten this blend, rose and neroli.
  • The rose offers from the petals and heart of the flower forgiveness, and love .

Neroli, also from the orange flower, brings reassurance, renewal and remembering, it is unifying and carries harmonious qualities.

The combination of these scents can bring one to a state of stillness and openness, where one may be able to both see and feel the truth of their selves and something greater…may that something spring of the earth of their bodies and being in action, in word.

Keep a Lying List from Kohenet Ketzirah

This practice was inspired by one in the book Mussar Yoga.

Keep a lying list for a week. At the end of each day, write down all the times you were less than truthful. Don’t beat yourself up, just do it as information.  Then, take a few minutes to examine why you chose to not be truthful and be honest with yourself about it. 

In each of these situations, was there a way to be honest without being hurtful to others? Which soul-trait is out of balance that you may feel the need to exaggerate or shade the truth?
Consider also the places where you did tell the truth, and it felt like a bechirah moment – you had to make an active choice.  Think through what happened in that moment and why/how you told the truth.

Then take a few minutes and jot down where you felt another was being untruthful.  Do you think this person even knew they weren’t being truthful? How do you know or why do you feel what they said/did wasn’t honest (for them). How did you react to this moment? Did you offer a loving rebuke?  Did you get curious and inquire as to where their position was coming from? Did you pretend to agree? Did you stay silent?  Did you gossip about them the moment they left?  In Mussar everyone and every moment is our teacher. What can you learn about your own spiritual journey through other people’s dishonesty?

To support you in this practice, begin by listening to and chanting “Love and Truth,” by R’Shefa Gold.


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How to Bless the New Moon: The Priestess Paths Cycle and Other Poems for Queens (Jewish Poetry Project)

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How to Bless the New Moon: The Priestess Paths Cycle and Other Poems for Queens (Jewish Poetry Project)  by Rachel Kann


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CONTRIBUTORS THIS MONTH

Content Weaver

Kohenet Ketzirah HaMa’agelet
Kohenet Ketzirah HaMa’agelet, founder of Devotaj Sacred Arts, is a maker and teacher of the sacred arts. In 2009, she received ordination as a Kohenet as well as a Celebrant of Becoming, a spiritual community she co-led in Washington DC from 2002-2012. She is the creatix of Kesharim K’doshim Mussar and the Eht/Aht: a netivot wisdom oracle, as well as author of several haggadot and a collection of poetry, prayers, and midrash. Kohenet Ketzirah is also known for her work crafting fiber art and mixed media amulets, altars, and shiviti.  Learn more about her work and creations at www.devotaj.com, and you can find her regularly on Instagram (@devotaj_arts), and occasionally Facebook/devotaj.arts and Tumblr (devotaj.tumblr.com).

Contributors

Rachel Kann
Poet. Performer. Author. Practitioner. Ceremonialist. Seeker, Dancer. Jew. Teacher. Artist.
TEDx Poet Rachel Kann has been featured on Morning Becomes Eclectic on NPR and as The Weather on the podcast phenomenon, Welcome to Night Vale. She’s received accolades from the James Kirkwood Fiction Awards, Writer’s Digest Short-Short Story Awards, LA Weekly Awards, International Poetry Slam Idol and Write Club Los Angeles. She’s performed from The Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe to Disney Concert Hall with people like Marianne Williamson and DaKAH Hip Hop Orchestra. She teaches poetry through UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, where she is the 2017 Instructor of the Year. Visit her at rachelkann.com.

Kohenet Alumah Schuster
As Shomerit Eish Lavananh, Guardian of the White Fire, Kohenet Alumah ardently witnesses, and gently guides . She enters, explores, delves and honors the often silent vast expanse of potentiality that exists in the innermost spaces between. Whether that be  the space between bodies as she works as a Hospice Chaplain and end of life doula, or helping to find the wisdom hidden deep inside the body as both a somatic practitioner and yoga instructor, or in the body of Torah as she parses thru the letters and the spaces they inhabit . As a certified aromatherapist her ability to scent and sense space helps her to help others deepen the arc of devotion with both reverent and irreverent methods. Her deep commitment to learning through embodiment and text opens others to remove and drop their outer garments and reveal their inner light, under the skin, revealing the true nature and bringing them ever closer to Self and self.

Kohenet Bekah Starr
I am a Sacred Artist.
In creating visual art & ritual I weave the magical, mystical, often hidden, wisdom of the Hebrew people, and the Divine Feminine, in a way that allows me to be a translator for you. I use embodied artistic practices to assist us in being present to spiritual moments.
www.bekahstarrart.com 


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