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Sacred Time: Podcast for the Jewish Months

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

Welcome to Sacred Time, a podcast series exploring the healing art of the Hebrew Calendar. Here I am sharing reruns of the podcast that Ganga Devi Braun and I created together, produced with Living Jewishly, for the full moon of every month. While this podcast is from a couple years ago, each episode holds wisdom that is ever relevant. Jewish time is like a slinky and we are always returning to the same holidays, but each year ascending higher with greater growth. The Jewish calendar, or the wheel of the year, is one of the most precious tools that Judaism holds for growth, development, and reflection. Each month holds within it lessons from ancient wisdom that can guide us in the present as we blossom into the future.

Sacred Time Elul (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur)

“These holidays are such an opportunity for us to be looking at our lives, to be stepping in fully with humility and with honesty, and with care for each other and for the Earth — to find the capacity to forgive so that we can renew.” – Bluth In this episode exploring the significance of the month of Elul, Bluth and Ganga Devi unpack major themes related to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  The month of Elul is a time of intimacy, love and relationships. It reminds us that the sacred is in the mundane — we are beloved because we feel G-d every day, in every human and messy moment. Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li is the acronym for Elul and it means “I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me."

Elul’s reflective energy guides us into the New Year, preparing us for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is our shared story of the birth of the world and humanity, celebrating creation by honouring the Earth and looking forward to our collective future. Yom Kippur tells the story of the sin of the Golden Calf and the second chance given to humanity. This is a day to practice atonement and forgiveness — so we can enter the New Year with integrity.

By reflecting on the past year, we hold ourselves responsible and accountable so that we are able to cleanse and renew. In doing so, we return to Elul’s beloved meditation on loving and forgiving ourselves as well as others. Listen as Bluth and Ganga Devi discuss the importance and benefits of shadow work, humility, and alignment of values as we introspectively and collectively work toward renewal and integrity during the high holidays.

“If we can recognize ‘this is where I’ve been missing the mark, this is where I’ve been out of integrity, this is where I’ve been out of alignment,’ [we can] actually recognize what are some of the possible benefits and blessings and lessons.” — Ganga Devi Sacred Time Tishrei (Sukkot)

“There’s a stability, I think, that everyone can find in relation to the calendar.” — Ganga Devi As we exit the period of Rosh Hashanah and venture further into the month of Tishrei, we transition from a time of serious contemplation and teshuva into the time of our joy. 

What should we be bringing with us into this period — and what should we be taking out of it?  In this episode, Bluth and Ganga Devi explore the holiday of Sukkot, looking at the fragility, stability, and joy of this time in which we step out of our ordinary homes and find home and communion in relationship with the natural, living world. Sukkot is a pilgrimage holiday that incorporates rest, remembrance, and celebration. It is a commemoration of not only the years that Jewish people spent in the desert while seeking the Promised Land, but also of their resilience and the protection granted them by G-d. During Sukkot, we step out of our habitual lives and boxes of our identities, and find new revitalization in nature and in communion with those around us. Join us for a deep discussion of the nourishment that we can find during this precious time.

“Sukkot comes as a time of our joy, when we actually transition from seriousness… and step into the natural world. ”

— Bluth

Sacred Time Cheshvan

“Even when it doesn’t feel like there is excitement, there are our rhythms and there are our cycles.”

— Bluth 

After the social and structured rituals of the High Holidays, the month of Cheshvan is a period of personal contemplation during which we turn to the quieter rhythms of our daily commitments. The absence of Holy Days during this month challenges us to source our connection with the sacred from within. In doing so, we are able to look both back and forward to address our priorities — what is meaningful and important at this moment. Bluth and Ganga Devi discuss the month of Cheshvan, and the many ways that we can develop structures and systems to reconnect us with our true priorities in life. Though it is a more introspective month, it is still one of action. The process of self-inquiry identifies what is precious and tender to us, so we are then able to step fully into those relationships — with the divine, with our loved ones, and with ourselves.

“The structures and systems of religions should exist to support each of our own personal and direct relationships with what is sacred.” — Ganga Devi

Sacred Time Kislev (Chanukah)

“Dreaming is a necessary complement to our waking life that allows us to rest and integrate and regenerate.” — Ganga Devi

As home to the holiday of Chanukah, Kislev is a time for celebration, light, and togetherness. But it is also a time for sleeping, for dreaming, and for integrating the teachings of our dreams into our waking lives.

The beauty of the cyclical nature of our Hebrew calendar is that it creates space for us to explore its universal and resonant themes each year as different people, bringing with us new experiences and perspectives that shift and re-shape the ways in which we engage and reflect.

Looking toward Chanukah as a time of light, dedication, and grace within a time of darkness, this conversation deeply examines Kislev’s overarching themes of sleep, death, dreams, and light, and moves thoughtfully through the cyclical nature of the rhythms of creation.

“There’s something about this time of sleep and slumber and darkness — we are actually deeply held.” — Bluth

Sacred Time Tevet

“Anger can be illogical and it can cause a lot of harm. But it also can be righteous and it can be rectifying something that’s wrong.” — Ganga Devi

What is the role of anger in our lives? And what can we learn from our sense of it?

As we bid goodbye to Chanukah, we enter Tevet, the tenth month of the calendar. This is a time of cold and darkness, but one that evokes a fiery emotion. Its 10th day commemorates the onset of the siege of Jerusalem — no wonder that Tevet is associated with the sense of anger. 

Tevet is also connected to the story of Purim, as it is in the month of Tevet that Esther was taken to the King Achashverosh's palace to be chosen as Queen. 

Most of us are only aware of anger when we feel it or when others feel it toward us, but in these heightened states we are unable to reflect on and understand the wisdom and potential carried within it. Tevet offers us the rare opportunity to examine anger from a place of peace. Through drawing on Kabbalistic themes and psychological tools, we may work intentionally with anger and see it with new eyes. This episode explores anger’s purpose — how it can point us to unmet needs and fuel us to make necessary changes in our lives, relationships, and social systems.

“That is what Tevet gives us to work with. It’s understanding: what is anger? What does it mean to play with the fire of anger?”

— Bluth Sacred Time Shvat

“Real rest is the act of rejuvenating the inner person… the soul.” — Dr. Elliot Malamet

While we stay indoors during the cold, dark months, we must remember that the time of winter rest is crucial for the blossoming and ripening of spring. The month of Shvat is a period of subtle renewal, and Tu B’shvat (often referred to as the Israeli Arbor Day) celebrates our beautiful and lifegiving friends, the trees. Falling on the 15th day of Shvat, the “New Year of the Trees” may be celebrated as an agricultural holiday or a day of ecological activism — or both!

During Shvat, we focus on self-nurturing. As the sap rises in the trees in preparation of bearing fruit, we take a moment to ready ourselves to embark on our own pursuits — this is part of the journey of renewal taught to us by the trees.

In honour of the restful nature of Shvat, we offer a taste of the School of Living Jewishly's lesson on rest called “Welcoming Shabbat". Through this lesson, you’ll learn about the importance of rest to creation, the symbolism of different customs for candle-lighting, and the meaning behind the phrase “bringing in Shabbat.” 

“Candle-lighting is the marker of transition — a liminal space between there and here, between the workweek and the realm of Shabbat.” — Bluth Sacred Time Adar I *note: Some years only have one month of Adar. If this is one of those non-leap years, skip to next month's episode or double up for fun!

“What I ask myself and what I want to ask other people is: what do you need more time for?” —Ganga Devi

Mishenichnas Adar marbim b'simcha! As Adar enters, we increase in joy. Adar Aleph of the first Adar marks the Jewish Leap Year, which is also known as the Shanah Me'uberet, or “pregnant year,” a nod to its fullness and its potential. It grants us not one additional day, but an entire additional month of Adar, the final month in the religious calendar. This necessary inclusion to the lunar calendar protects the sacred timing of holidays such as Passover and Sukkot, in terms of their symbolic and agricultural importance.

It is the spaciousness of this extra month that gives us containers for experiencing deeper rest, for cultivating more joy, and discovering more liberatory ways of being, on the way to the celebration of Purim. This is a time of care and chaos, rest and release. We invite you to tune in for an enlightening conversation about the origin and meaning of the Jewish New Year cycle, and to join us in celebrating the arrival of Adar Aleph.

“We’ve been talking a lot about Shabbat as a time of rest, but it’s not like an apathetic rest. It’s not a detached rest. It’s a rest that is then filled or inhabited… we inhabit the boundaries of our rest with what? With joy.”

— Bluth

Sacred Time Adar II

“How do we integrate in the way that we are constantly living in relationship to these sweet, high moments that we have?” — Bluth

How do we integrate the experiences of Purim into our every day? And what lessons can we learn from the month of Adar II? Some years, we celebrate two months of Adar, the last month of the Hebrew calendar. It is a month of laughter and joyful chaos, one that holds the infinitude of G-d in its very name. After a month of such intensity and abundance, we need effective ways to integrate our experiences — and work through our “Purim hangovers!”

In this episode, Bluth and Ganga Devi explore how to better integrate delight into soft daily experiences, how to open our hearts to the immense pain and joy in the world, and the deep connections between those emotions.  Bonus: this episode also contains a beautiful, healing, immersive sound journey, created with intention for this month. 

“In the absence of G-d being explicitly present in any particular way… the body of what is unfolding is the body of G-d, is the presence of G-d.” — Ganga Devi

Sacred Time Nisan (Passover)

“There is such a kindness in this calendar. There is so much opportunity to truly heal, to truly shift how we relate to ourselves and our world.” — Ganga Devi

As we enter the month of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew calendar, we enter a time of freshness, new beginnings… and bold possibility. With Nisan comes springtime, with its beautiful themes of renewal and life. As we look forward with anticipation to the possibilities ahead, we also look back on the past year and all that we have learned.

In this episode, Bluth and Ganga Devi reflect on the past 12 months that have been explored on the Sacred Time podcast, honour and organize what has been, and create a container of reflection and fertile ground for what may come next.

“Each moon cycle brings us through new energy, new time, and a new chapter.”

— Bluth

Sacred Time Iyar

“The beauty of the cyclical nature of our Hebrew calendar is that as we move through the seasons and holy days and months, we revisit universal themes each year as new people.”  — Bluth

This is a replay of our Iyar episode, exploring its rituals, its agricultural origins, and the meaning we may find in it. The month of Iyar is a time of healing, development, and growth, one marked by the 49-day ritual of counting the Omer. As we record and reflect upon our journey from Passover (celebrating our freedom from slavery) to Shavuot (when we celebrate receiving the Torah), our attention is drawn to a variety of divine characteristics, including loving-kindness, beauty, acknowledgment, and foundation.

The rich themes of the Hebrew calendar allow for fertile space in which to uncover new insights. We invite you to re-join us for our Iyar discussion with fresh eyes (and ears) and consider how the last 12 months may have changed your perspective… and how this new perspective may guide your actions throughout the next 12.

“If you actually study earth systems, it doesn’t take long to realize that we are living and breathing and speaking and talking and moving and thinking aspects of the earth… just as all living things are.” — Ganga Devi Sacred Time Sivan

“How do we move forward in a way that both integrates and sustains whatever it is that we want to carry with us?”

— Rabbi Bluth

This episode focuses on the month of Sivan. Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, is an important holiday early on in the month of Sivan. The holiday commemorates the day that the Jewish people first received the Torah at Mount Sinai in 1312 BCE. Shavuot also marks the end of the Counting of Omer, which was discussed in last month’s episode of Sacred Time.

Sivan is a time of ripening, as we move more deeply into spring. It is a beautiful time for follow-through on things that we have initiated... or dreamed of doing. And it is a month of movement — once we receive the gift of the Torah, we must decide how and where we move forward. In a time when many are sensitive to their privilege, it can be difficult to know how to receive gifts, both material and spiritual. Abundance can come with a feeling of shame or guilt — how can we appreciate what we have in a world with such an unequal distribution of resources? And what steps can we take toward creating a better outcome for our communities? 

“Power is something that is beautiful. Power is something that is sacred. And the only thing that’s shameful about power is when it is stripped from people or when it is denied.” — Ganga Devi

Sacred Time Tammuz

“What does it mean to be healing through a process of bringing trauma... to our awareness and to our consciousness?” — Ganga Devi

Trauma does not merely live in the past. It lives in our bodies… until we do the work of healing. Tammuz, the fourth month in the religious Jewish calendar, holds and commemorates the memory of a lot of the pain, trauma, and destruction that we have experienced as a people.

In Tammuz, we descend into the heat. In the following month, Av, we emerge from it. During Tammuz, we recognize and reflect upon the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem and commemorates the destruction of two holy temples. This is a sacred time of mourning — a time when we give space to anger and despair while also contemplating our own boundaries and violations. It is necessary work that plays a vital role in our collective healing.

When we hold trauma inside of ourselves, we may be doomed to a cycle of retraumatization. This episode discusses the nature of trauma, the different ways we may approach it, and steps that we can take to heal.  “Trauma is undigested experience.” — Ganga Devi

Sacred Time Av

“We all hold different cards in life… part of the idea of Av is to see our cards and say: all right, how can I love this? How can I love where I came from, and how can I use this to improve my life?” — Idan Lumi

Av is a complex month. It’s a period during which we consider our own responsibility, in our lives and our history, but it also reminds us of the softer aspects of being human. Av begins in a time of heat, mourning, and destruction… then guides us through a period of grief to one of potential, renewal — and love. 

Love plays a significant role in the month of Av. This is the month in which we celebrate Tu B'Av, known as the “Jewish Valentine’s Day.” This holiday has in the past been celebrated as a day of matchmaking, but now takes on the role of a celebration of love, playfulness, and connection (both with ourselves and others). It’s been described as one of the happiest days of the year, along with Yom Kippur.

This episode of Sacred Time revisits our exploration of Av and of the concept and practice of love — the shapes that it can take, the process of becoming more loving, and the links between love, accountability, and grief. Ganga Devi, Bluth, and guest Idan Lumi explore love of self, love of others, and love of the divine as they delve into the significance of this sacred month.

We wish you a love-filled and joyful Av!

“This month holds inside of it the whole process of taking responsibility and paying your dues, and then moving along and enjoying the flowering.” - Idan Lumi

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