Cattle: Symbol of Elul

Elul is a month of preparation for Rosh Hashanah — at least in modern Judaism.  It’s interesting then, that the first of Elul is the “New Year of Cattle.”  In ancient Israel it’s the time when the cattle were counted and tithed.  Cows are mentioned from time-to-time in the Tanakh and other scripture — think about…

Eyes: Symbol of Tammuz

Tammuz is another one of those months with no holidays, except for a minor fast, and no real practices associated with it.  At least not any I’ve found.  This makes a lot of sense when you think of the Jewish wheel of the year in relationship to agrarian cycles.  The summer months are when there…

Milk: Symbol of Sivan

It’s traditional to eat dairy on Shavuot, which begins the first week of Sivan.  Because of this, we’re going to explore dairy for the month of Sivan. Let’s start with the separation of milk and meat in the Torah.  What it actually says is “don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (לֹא-תְבַשֵּׁל גְּדִי, בַּחֲלֵב…

Barley: Symbol of Iyyar

I’m not sure there can be a more potent symbol of the month of Iyyar, which generally falls between April and May, than barley (שְׂעֹרָה). Many of us are disconnected from the agricultural cycles of our world, and especially disconnected from the agricultural cycles that part of Jewish tradition.  But in the ancient world, and…

Haggadah: Symbol of Nisan

OMG-D! It’s almost time for Passover! With Nisan upon us, preparations for our annual journey out of Mitzrayim begin in earnest.  Whether you take a traditional or modern approach, believe in G!d(dess) or not — Passover is a holiday pretty much all Jews can connect to.  There are so many things we could explore as…

Hamantaschen: Symbol of Adar

Yes, it’s Adar and I decided to go exactly where  you expected me to this month — Purim and Hamantaschen.  But as opposed to doing a history of the fabled, and delicious, Purim cookie — I’m going to explore some of the mythic and ritual opportunities these humble cookies offer us. If you are unfamiliar…

Cups: Symbol of Shevat

The month of Shevat and the holiday of Tu b’Shevat are our chance to rebalance ourselves and our energy before the season of real growing begins.  I bet you expected this month’s symbol to be all about trees and planting of trees — but that’s so easy to find! Here we’re going to talk about drinking and drinking vessels! How did…

Candles: Symbol of Tevet

Tevet, the Jewish month that falls during December and January, is a tough month to pick an object or spiritual practice to be its symbol.  Hanukkah does fall during Tevet, but only first couple of days.  The only other holiday is Asara b’Tevet, which is a minor fast.  When you look at the themes surrounding…

Hanukkiah: Symbol of Kislev

In thinking about Kislev, I went right to the dreidel and the Hanukkiah.  I decided that if I had to pick one, it’s the Hanukkiah (but I may explore the other dreidels later in the month!)  The Hanukkiah is the nine-branched menorah that we light on Hanukkah.  Even though we generally just call it a…

Red String: Symbol of Cheshvan

There are no holidays in Cheshvan (except Shabbat), so it was harder to decide which object to explore this month.  I thought about exploring Besamin, the spices we use at Havdalah, since according to the Sefer Yetzirah the sense of the month is smell.  I thought about yahrzeit candles because there are many famous yahrzeits celebrated…