Ritualwell

Tradition & Innovation

Healing Through the Phases of the Moon

By Sue Gurland

I. Welcome to our Healing Circle. I’m ________and this is my co-facilitator and song leader, _________.

II. If this is the first time you’re joining us, we want you to feel comfortable and welcome; participate as much or as little as you want; you won’t be put on the spot, you can always pass.

  • Our intention is to create healing community for ourselves and all those who need healing
  • We ask you to keep confidentiality; speak with “I” statements; and remember that the most healing thing you can offer each other is not advice, but listening.

III. Grounding

  • Before we introduce ourselves, we start by grounding ourselves and our circle. It’s important to have a foundation for any spiritual work we do, and since we’re always connected to the Divine, we always need to be grounded.
  • Invite to stand, ground like tree, bring light down over us. (This can be done as a seated visualization, meditation, or whatever leader feels comfortable with.)

IV. Introduce ourselves—Please say your first name and how you’re feeling in your body right now. Take a moment to check in.

V. Midrash tells us that Rosh Hodesh was a holiday given to women because they refused to contribute their jewelry to the making of the Golden Calf. The New Moon is also connected to women through their monthly cycles, which wax and wane like the moon, and because the moon in Jewish mysticism is a symbol of the Shekhinah, the indwelling feminine presence of G-d.

The Talmud tells us that “One who blesses the New Moon is regarded as one who greets the Shekhinah,” so we always welcome the New Moon with a prayer. 

Would someone read the following poem?

Prayer for the New Month
By Marcia Falk

May the month of Kislev be a month of blessings:
Blessings of goodness,
Blessings of joy,
Peace and kindness,
Friendship and love,
Creativity, strength, serenity,
Fulfilling work and dignity,
Satisfaction, success and sustenance,
Physical health and radiance.
May truth and justice guide our acts,
And compassion temper our lives
That we may blossom as we age
And become our sweetest selves.
May it be so.
 

Would someone please read the following text?

"Sacred Mother of the Moon, You have given us this time of Rosh Chodesh for enjoyment and renewal. As Your daughters gather in the darkness, we attune to Your sacred energy. Your crescent sign, a reminder of the waxing cycles of the Jewish people, is for us a symbol of Your ever-present ability to restore our souls. We light candles to honor Your presence and welcome You with warmth as our female ancestors did in the desert.

Shekhinah, Feminine Divine Presence, You have remained with us through hard times. Observing Rosh Chodesh was almost a forgotten observance, yet You have again demonstrated Your steadfastness by helping us recover our sacred time. Be with us again as we enter this new month, filling our lives with bounty and blessing."

—Susan Berrin

VI. Debbie Friedman composed a blessing which calls on the Shekhinah to shower us with peace and love, at this time and always. Please chant together:

Brukhot ha-ba'ot. Takhat kanfei ha-Shekhinah. Brukhim ha-ba'im takhat kanfei ha-Shekhinah.

May you be blessed beneath the wings of Shekhinah. Be blessed with love, be blessed with peace.

VII. There’s also a connection to Rosh Hodesh with this week’s Torah portion, Toldot. The letters that form the words Roshei Hodeshim, the heads of the months, also form the word Rekhem or womb. In Toldot, we read about Rebecca’s pregnancy and the struggle in her womb between Jacob and Esau. Just as pregnancy follows a cycle of growth, fullness, birth, and then diminution, so do the cycles of the moon, of the seasons and of our years. As we read on Sukkot in Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season, a time to be born and a time to die.” So let’s see what we can learn about healing by considering the cycles of the moon, from darkness to full light to a return to darkness, only to begin anew. 

VIII. The New Moon begins in darkness, as the old month ends in darkness. Just like on Simchat Torah, when we read the last lines of the Torah and begin immediately again with Creation, we end one month in darkness and re-start the monthly cycle in darkness again. The first healing lesson is one of trust and faith, optimism that the light will return, the certainty that even in the darkest times, light will come again. The midrash tells us that at the end of the first day, Adam was afraid all through the night that the world had ended. When the sun rose again, he exclaimed that “this was the usual course of the world.” The poet, Marge Piercy, writes about this resiliency of hope in her poem, ”At the New Moon: Rosh Hodesh.” Will someone read this excerpt from the poem?

We greet the moon that is not gone
But only hidden, unreflecting, inturned
And introspective, gathering strength to grow
As we greet the first slim nail paring
Of her returning light. Don’t we understand
The strength that wells out of retreat?

Let the half day festival of the new moon
Remind us how to retreat and grow strong, how to
Reflect and learn, how to push our bellies forward,
How to roll and turn and pull the tides up, up
When we need them, how to come back each time
We look dead, making a new season shine.

IX. Another testimonial to the healing power of the dark comes from Rachel Naomi Remen, a physician, author and gifted healer.

“Darkness has suffered bad press for millennia. Yet is it really so surprising that spontaneous healing imagery may present itself in this way? According to the traditions of alchemy, darkness was the necessary condition for purification and transformation. Alchemists put impure dross metals into a sealed flask, creating the perfect darkness required for the transformation into pure gold.

As light represents the archetype of masculine energy, darkness suggests the power of the feminine, and it makes an intuitive sense that the experience of healing may be associated with darkness. Darkness is a condition of the beginning. The body first comes into being in darkness. It is nurtured, as a seed, in darkness. Some people may find their healing in remembering the beginning.”

—Rachel Naomi Remen, MD

X. As the moon grows larger, we appreciate the light that comes to balance the darkness. Let’s chant, “Roll into Dark, Roll into Light," by Noam Katz.

Roll in to dark, roll in to light
Night becomes day, day turns to night

Bo-rey yom va’laylah,
go-el ohr meep-ney hoshek
Go-el ohr meep-ney hoshek,
v’hoshek meep-ney ohr

XI. As we emerge from darkness, we begin to gather strength. Think of your healing process from any illness, or coming out of shiva. It’s a gradual re-awakening, identifying practices and people who support you, nurturing yourself, just like the moon, gathering light and power in her monthly cycle.

Last month—and again this month—we’ll be treated to the most “powerful” moons of the year—two “supermoons” in the middle of the month. These are the times when the moon is closest to the earth and appears 14% larger and 30% brighter than normal. Impressive powers are ascribed to the full moon—tides are greater and we receive more “illumination”—on a physical and maybe spiritual level. Many of our festivals fall on the full moon—Passover, Sukkot, Purim, Tu b’shvat and Tu b’Av—and this is supposed to be the optimal time for healing energy. So let’s time-travel in our imaginations two weeks hence and draw on some of the full moon energy for our own healing and for those we love.

XII. Take a moment to get centered. Feel your feet on the floor, the chair supporting you. Take some deep breaths from your lower abdomen. Now, imagine that the moon is full. In your mind’s eye, connect with the moon. Feel her energy flow in and through you. Imagine your entire body is transparent, like a window. Feel the reflected light of the moon shine into you, filling you with light. Feel your entire self become brighter and brighter. As you feel the moon’s light and energy flow into you, let it flow through you, out into the world as a beacon of hope and light. Fill the room with light. Embody the words of the psalmist, “In your light do we see light.”

Now, bring your attention to your heart and shine the light through a green lens around and into your heart. Bring into your heart all those for whom you are praying for healing. Envision them whole and healed. Remember it’s fine to include yourself. We are all in need of healing.

XIII. When you’re ready, those who would like can come up and light a candle. Please speak the names of those in your prayers, as names connect the soul’s energy to the body. Please only light one candle for all those for whom you’re praying. The rest of us will hold you in our attention. 

XIV. So now, as we move from the full moon to the waning moon, and back to the darkness at the end of the month, it’s a time to let go, to surrender to the downward and inward movement of energy. This is analogous to the falling leaves of autumn, or the waning years of our lives. This is the time to harvest the “gems” of this monthly cycle—nurture the seeds that have been planted and let go of the rest. And this is the precise time of the year that Hanukkah appears.

Hanukkah is the only holiday that spans two months—that occurs in the darkest time of the year. It’s interesting to me that there are 8 phases of the moon, and 8 nights of Hanukkah. The 8 represents the number of eternity and transcendence—the number beyond the completion of 7, beyond the natural cycle of existence.

We know the power of one candle to illuminate a whole room. Candles and fires were also associated with Rosh Hodesh—both announcing the new month and bringing light into the darkness. So we’ve come full circle—retreating to the dark, gathering our resources, harnessing our potential. This, again, is an example of living in harmony with the seasons and cycles of time—the best way to harness our healing potential. And to remember, that even in the midst of darkness, to keep our inner light shining.

The Maccabees found just enough oil to keep the light burning in the darkness. Proverbs tell us that “The soul of humans is the candle of G-d.”

XV. So let’s rise, and join in a song of hope, light, and resilience that will keep us healthy through all the phases of the moon. 

Light One Candle
By Peter Yarrow

Light one candle
for the Maccabee children,
give thanks that their light
didn't die;
Light one candle
for the pain they endured
when their right to exist
was denied;
Light one candle
for the terrible sacrifice
justice and freedom demand;
Light one candle
for the wisdom to know
when the peacemaker's time
is at hand!
Don't let the light go out,
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love
and our tears!
Light one candle
for the strength that we need
to never become our own foe;
Light one candle
for those who are suffering
the pain that we learned long ago;
Light one candle
for all we believe in,
let anger not tear us apart;
And light one candle
to bind us together
with peace as the song
in our heart!
What is the memory
that's valued so highly
that we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment
to those who have died
when we cry out,
“They've not died in vain,”
We have come this far,
always believing
that justice will somehow prevail;
This is the burden
and this is the promise,
this is why we will not fail!

XVI. Now let’s raise our arms, collect all that light from above and bring it down over and through our bodies, extending it around the circle, out into the room and beyond this building, out into the universe. Feel yourself held in the light, feel the connection of the circle and the connection to the moon. Carry that with you as you go on your way and continue to bring light wherever you go throughout the month.

Let’s clap and send the energy out into the world. Hodesh Tov!

 

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