Monday, 13 October 2014

Rain Summoning Ancestral Hut

Rain, a blessing
It's Succot time, one of the three pilgrim festivals to celebrate the end of the harvest season. For this particular festival we build a temporary structure to commemorate surviving the desert. As well as wave a palm, willow and myrtle branches with a funny looking citrus fruit called an etrog.

The waving is to spread blessing, the succah (temporary booth... or rain summoning ancestral hut, as I like to call it) is to remind us that this world is a temporary abode where spirit and body inhabit (approximately) the same space.

Zombie Apocalypse

Whilst it's a happy festival - there is a note of sobriety injected by reading the book of Koheles / Ecclesiastes. However, the reading of Zechariah 14:12 made me consider my mortality:

"...This will be the plague with which Hashem will strike all the peoples that have organized against Jerusalem: Each one's flesh will melt away while he is standing on his feet; each one's eyes will melt away in their sockets; and each one's tongue will melt away in their mouths..."

Is it me, or does that read a bit like there will be a zombie apocalypse?

Death, A Dark Room

In all seriousness though I recently came across a beautiful and very moving description of dealing with loss of a loved one. This was written by Rabbi Avi Weiss following the death of his mother:

"...To what can death be compared? To a person who enters a darkened room  for the first time and trips over the furniture. Each time he enters the room, he learns more and more where the furniture stands. In time, he becomes familiar with the room, and despite the darkness knows how to get around...

So, too, death. There is a darkness in death that cannot be chased away. But it is possible to learn how to go on living despite the darkness that forever remains..."

New Year Retrospective

The last topic I want to touch on in brief is that of retrospectives. In project management it's used to drive continuous improvement (amongst other reasons). Generally 3 questions are asked: "What went wrong?", "What went well?", and "What can we improve on next time?"

"They tried to kill us.
They failed.
Let's eat!”

is the summary for most Jewish holidays and history in general. The main take-away message though is that survival is not just enough - we need to try to make the world a better place.

These past few blog posts have not touched on Kabbalah, golem building, or mysticism much. What I hope they have touched on is emotional resilience and well being. As I read further in chapter 4 of Sefer Yetzirah - I realize that emotional balance is not just a nice-to-have when it comes to the practice of magic, it's a survival skill. And as I've stated above - survival is not just enough - we have to do better.

Your minhag may vary (YMMV)