Pesach 5771

Passover and the Power of a New Beginning

What’s In a Name?

There are many names for the divine but this Passover none is more powerful than the Tetragrammaton, the Shem Hameforash, the most explicit and unutterable name, the way that we name that which everything is resting on and drawing from is the name yud-heh-vav-heh (the “Name”).

According to the Zoharic tradition (the foundation of Jewish mystical texts), everything is somehow expressed by this name yud-heh-vav-heh.  It is everything and everything is in it.  And every secret is somehow related to these letters.  It is the hermeneutical DNA underlying all of creation: It represents the basic structure of divine energy which results in manifestation in the world, which results in time, which results in the human body.

The Secret of the Seasons

According to the mystical tradition, every month of the year has a special verse from the Bible that goes with it.  And these verses, or pieces of verses, always have the four Hebrew letters of the Name, in some particular order that corresponds to the energy of the month.  Usually, this means that there is a verse with a sequence of at least four words, and one will begin with ayud, one will begin with a heh, one will begin with a vav, and another will begin with a heh.

So the mystics over the centuries studied the Bible very carefully in Hebrew, and looked for hints where these letters come together; because the Name is so powerful, there’s so much energy in that Name, that if you can find a place where those four letters come together it could give you a clue to some deep significance.  As in the alchemical, scientific or raja yoga tradition, seekers within the Jewish Mystical tradition applied their insight and mind power towards looking for hints.  Hints that could help us learn more about who we really are and what the world really is and how everything works.  A lot of the mystical tradition, you could say, is basically that.  It is gilui sodot – revealing of secrets: secrets of heaven, secrets of the earth, secrets of our souls.  And these secrets are windows into reality that we must find and open.  Experimenting with the new view to see what it can do for us.  People have been guided in their search to certain powerful sources and places, and because of their motivation they have put themselves deeply into the investigation of what could be found by opening that particular window.  Often if they discovered something, they wrote a sefer [holy book] about it.  Or, if unsafe to publicize, they shared it with someone trustworthy, hence our oral traditions.

What they were doing was studying the flow of time and seeing what they could learn about the energy of different tekufot, different seasons or periods of the year.  Like the Julian calendar, the Hebrew calendar has four seasons.  Each season has three months: in Spring, the months each have a Biblical verse beginning with yud; in Summer, with vav; in Fall and Winter, with heh.  As one season ends and another begins, there is a tremendous release of energy, like a power-surge.

The heavens and earth rejoice together: alignment, flow and joy

And so when they were studying how the energies implied by the Name relate to the year, they came to the conclusion that this month, Nissanwhich is one of the two most powerful months of the year, is a month that is related to the power of the nameyud-heh-vav-heh in the natural order of its lettersIt’s the only month of the whole year for which the energy of the divine name is expressed in perfect order.  So the name for Nissan, is the Name, yud-heh-vav-heh.

And the verse that is connected to those roshei tevot [initials] is:

Yismechu Hashamayim, V’tagel Ha’aretz 
The heavens are rejoicing and the earth is in great joy (Psalm 96).

Nissan is a time of tremendous joy.  It is the only month of the whole year when heaven and earth are rejoicing together.

Even though the letters of the Name are the infrastructure of every person and every thing and every interaction, at most times of the year there is a disconnect, something is hidden or out of order.  And when the letters are out of order, we’re out of order; we’re confused and unhappy.  But when all the energy of the letters is in the right order and they are revealed and we are in alignment with those letters, then heaven is happy and we are happy. That is the potential of the month of Nissan.

Yismechu Hashamayim, Vtagel Ha’aretz.  It’s a beautiful image: heaven is having a fabulous celebration and we are at the party. 
ismechu Hashamayim, V’tagel Ha’aretz.

Nissan: the new year of the Goddess

It is a happy new year.  The Jewish tradition actually has two months that are called new years.  In the Gemara, one of the most famous disputes is whether the world was created in Nissan, or whether the world was created in Tishrei.  And generally we think that the world was created in Tishrei (or maybe a few days before, actually, if you really study the texts carefully), and we celebrate Rosh HaShanah on Rosh Chodesh [new moon], on the first of Tishrei.  But the Torah calls the month of Nissan “the first of the months.”  Hachodesh hazeh lachem rosh chodashim (Exodus 12:2).  This is the rosh [head] of all the months, and that’s why the rabbis have this machloket [dispute] about it: how could this month be the head, the rosh of all the months, if the monthTishrei is the beginning of the year?

Accordingly, when the kabbalists look at the year, they divide it into two halves, an upper half and a lower half – the light months and the dark months.  The months from spring to fall, and the months from fall to spring.  The months from fall to spring are considered male months; the months that are provided for by the male aspect of divinity, which is usually called the Holy Blessed One [kadosh baruch hu].  And the months from the month of Nissan until the beginning of Tishrei, those six months are the feminine months or female months; those six months are provided for by the feminine aspect of divinity, which is known as the Shechina.

And so if you look in the mystical secrets of the months written by Isaac Luria he says that this month, the month of Nissan, is the month of the gulgolta d’nukba.  The gulgolta d’nukba is like the sahasrara chakra of the Goddess.  In other words, it’s the crown of the head of the Shechina.  That is what gulgota d’nukba literally means.  What is revealed in this month is the crown of the head of the Shechina.  All winter, the Shechina, the goddess energy is hidden. This is obvious in most places in the world where during the winter months you do not see much new growth, all evidence of the goddess is below the ground.  And when you look at the way the calendar works, we celebrate Tu b’Shvat on the 15th of the month of Shvat because that is when the sap is supposed to start rising in the trees, but it is not revealed yet: you do not see the fruit yet.

But the month of Nissan, which is the month of Aviv, the month of spring, is the month when the top of the Shechina’s head starts to be revealed.  It is like the Shechina is poking her head out. You see signs of divine energy, you see signs of growth; you see fruit and leaves starting to appear.  It is one of the two most powerful months.

There is a verse in the Bible that says “he’chacham einav b’ rosho” – the wise person keeps their eyes in their head (Ecclesiastes 2:14).  The Zohar says – well where else would their eyes be?  And the answer is that rosh doesn’t just mean the head; it means the source, it means the beginning.  A wise person keeps her awareness on (or at) the source.  In Nissan, that source is revealed in a very powerful, special way so that we can better pay attention to it.

The whole point of the month of Nissan then is contained in its letters: nun, samech, yud, nun.  The “yud nun” at the end is like a plural form, so you can read it nissin, or in other words nissim – this month is the month of miracles.  The month of miracles. The month of not understanding and of seeing everything as miraculous:  of realizing the miraculous nature of existence. Of experiencing a taste of the crown chakra of the Shechina, pushing her top higher.  An energetic display that completely overwhelms any capacity to rationalize or analyze the way things are, but puts us into the state of radical amazement – an amazement that is overwhelmingly thrilling.

So we have the verse Yismechu Hashamayim V’tagel Ha’aretz: when the Shechina pops her head out, you can actually see the energy of all those lotus petals unfolding.  Heaven and earth are filled with joy at the miracle of the single bloom opening up to reveal its scent.

To embody this teaching though meditation, follow the Crowning Exercise for Nissan below.

Crowning Exercise for Nissan

In this exercise we will attempt to embody the teachings we have just learned. We will be moving through the four Kabbalistic worlds of Atzilut (Emanation), Briah (Creation), Yetzirah (Formation) and Assiyah (Doing).

[For those of you familiar with Yoga, we will start in Bala-asana, or Child Pose and move through modified versions of Vajra-asana, or Thunderbolt pose and Tadasana, or Mountain pose.]

1.Sit on your knees, feet together with your buttocks on your heels.  Close your eyes. He’chacham einav b’rosho.  The Zohar teaches us that a wise person keeps her awareness on (or at) the source.

2. Take a deep breath and as you exhale let your body fall forward, resting your forehead on the floor (or, if not possible, on your knees), reaching your arms above your head along the floor.

3.Bring your arms to your sides, palms up to receive. You are now in a fetal position.

4. Relax.  Breathe gently as you imagine yourself curled up like a fetus in the womb.  You are now in the realm of Atzilut, where everything is present but unexpressed.  You are pure Chochma, the seed from which all your potential can grow.

5. Inhale as you sit up on your heels, placing the palms of your hands on your thighs and keeping your back straight.  As your head rises, imagine the seed within you beginning to sprout green shoots as you move into the realm of Briah, creation.  Now imagine that green force of life coursing through your body, awakening your internal organs, tingling in your fingers and toes.

6. Continue to rise up to a standing position slowly, pushing down with your legs into Malchut and feeling the energy of the Shechinah as the green shoots at your crown break through the surface of the earth.  You are in the process of formation, in the world of Yetzirah, in the season of Spring.  You are the  bridge between earth and sky, so feel yourself pushing down through your legs and feet to secure your roots firmly in the ground while your upper torso and head grow away from your roots towards the sky.  Take a moment to feel the point of balance within that connects what is above with what is below.  Is it in the heart? Yismechu hashamayim v’tagel ha’aretz, heaven and earth are together in this joyful state.

7.  Continue to breathe as you stretch your arms up above your head, palms facing your ears, stretching your fingertips as far as they can.  You are entering the world of action, of Assiyah.  In your stretch you bring all your inner potential into the outer world.  Feel how the heart and the mouth are aligned within you, on the bridge connecting the world of Assiyah, the earth, with the world of Atzilut, the heavens.  You are full of potential ready to be expressed.  In a moment you will open your eyes, and then your mouth, as you re-enter the seeing, speaking world.  Remember this channel of divine grace that exists right now in your body.  You have created the energy of joy.  Remember to keep the mouth speaking from this dimension in your heart so that you may spread the energy of Pesach, the energy of Nissan, throughout the whole year.

Open your eyes.

Based on Kabbalah, Yoga and adapted from the Seed Exercise in Paolo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage.