My soul is blooming and I promise to nourish my soul by staying curious. When I was pregnant with my second daughter, my due date and delivery were in the month of Tevet. At first, I was worried and scared for my daughter to be born in a month that is governed by Esau. The Kabbalah, an ancient Jewish mystical tradition, teaches that every month falls into the category of Jacob, good inclination, or Esau, evil inclination.
A mantra I try to live by is, gam zu l’tova, this, too, is for the good. I applied this logic to my situation. My soul instinctively knew where to direct me. I dived head first into the Jewish tradition of Eid Al Banat, which is celebrated in Tevet. This tradition was celebrated among Jewish communities primarily in North Africa, Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia. This tradition elevates the divine feminine power, strength, wisdom, and most of all, sisterhood and good health. Women, young and elderly, gathered in celebration to study, eat, dance, sing, pray, give gifts, and pass down healing remedies and hope from generation to generation. Being a ‘girl mom’ I was immediately comforted by this tradition. I became excited by my newfound understanding of the strength of Tevet.
To understand the month of Tevet we need to look at Sefer Yetzira (“The Book of Formations”): “He made the letter Ayin king over anger and he bound a crown to it and he combined one with another and with them he formed Capricorn in the universe, Tevet in the year and liver in the soul.” Tevet offers a chance to rectify anger and go to its roots. As someone who was pregnant at the time and raising babies with baby nervous systems, learning how to rectify and work with anger seemed fitting.
I asked myself what goes on in the brain and body when anger is present. This is what I found: the sympathetic nervous system and the amygdala communicate signals of perceived threat, putting an alarm that activates neurotransmitters that increase heart rate, blood flow, blood pressure, and breathing. This process then activates other neurotransmitters and hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that further increase physiological changes, keeping anger the driver in an alert state. John and Julie Gottman refer to this bodily sensation as flooding. When a person is flooded it is wise to walk away and regulate one's nervous system. The Me’am Loez (a Ladino commentator) teaches that emotional suffering damages the organs. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) explains how anger is the emotion of the liver and gallbladder. According to TCM, those organs are affected when there are long-standing feelings of repressed anger such as resentment, frustration, irritability, sadness, and despair.
“Take your anger and throw it on the yetzer harah [selfish impulse].”
— Talmud Tractate Berachot 8
I am constantly inspired by the innate wisdom of Jewish women. It is no coincidence to me that a festival of girls was celebrated in the month of Tevet. The word Tevet comes from the word tov, “good”. The letter Ayin, which is paired with the month of Tevet, is associated with the eye. I believe the women understood this power and created a tradition that celebrates “the goodly eye”. The source of the power of blessing, as it is said: “the goodly eye shall bless.” It seems that if Eid al Banat had one mission, it was to come together and bless each other and the next generation. This celebration was the antidote to the potential destruction of the month. According to our sages, all destructive processes begin with the “evil eye” of hatred. From hatred comes anger, the fire of destruction. Learning how to acknowledge anger and transform it for good is an ancient skill.
A further lesson of Eid al Banat connects us to Queen Esther and Judith. These women teach us how to utilize a healthy dose of anger for justice. Learning how to deal with anger is essential as a parent and beyond. Learning to understand one's anger and when it’s appropriate to respond and become protective. There are times when healthy anger allows us to be assertive and persistent in an appropriate amount. I began to ask myself very important questions: When I get angry do I still have access to perspective? Am I able to look at a situation from various angles? Am I able to see the other person’s side and do I feel that they see my side?
Asking these questions assured me that I am doing the work that will positively affect my children. The sages teach us that the “liver is angry.” In Kabbalah, the liver corresponds to the primordial snake, “nachash.” The snake represents the initial state of immaturity of the soul, characterized by anger. The venom of the snake is hot, like the fear of anger. The function of the liver gives us insight in regards to inner spiritual work. The function of the liver is to purify the blood. Thus, when the heat of anger is converted to good, the fire energy of the blood warms up the entire body. My soul continues to direct me to my inner chambers that remind me that goodness is inside me. Being human is not an easy task. We can ask Hashem, the divine source, for help and clarity when we feel worried or scared. The most human thing we can do is to continue learning. I am blessed to have access to resources that let my soul bloom.