Literally, Shavuot means the Feast of “Weeks.” Shavuot marks the end of a week of weeks. Seven weeks, that is, 49 days.
In temple times, that’s seven weeks of sefirat ha’omer. Taking measure of the ripening grain. But, since Kabbalistic times, it’s also seven weeks of sefirot ha’omer. Observing the sefirot, divine energies, in own inner lives. As they flow through our minds and our bodies.
So, each week we focus on a different sefirah. On a different spiritual attitude, that is. How we understand it. Feel it in our bodies. And thus act on it.
You might call the seven weeks a very slow dance. Yes, the romantic kind. Because that’s how the early Kabbalists imagined God’s true nature. As a kind of circle dance of spiritual elements. And, if we know how to pay attention, then we can feel the dance in our own bodies.
So, here is a guide to paying attention, week-by-week. For each week, the quality in Hebrew, then English, then finally, a body spot to notice.
(If you are reading this, then odds are you just finished this journey. Still, please dance along to the end!)
- Chesed, Love, right arm
- Gevurah, Power, left arm
- Tiferet, Balance, heart
- Netzach, Endurance, right hip
- Hod, Splendor, left hip
- Yesod, Grounding, penis
- Malchut, Presence, cervix
So, I’m trying to picture the dance. I’m imagining a slow dance. The romantic kind.
First, love awakens. You may already know your partner. But today is special. Perhaps you saw your partner act kindly. Maybe their smile reminded you of a special memory. Or a sudden spark of pheromone caused a deep yearning. So, you reach out your right arm. You invite them to dance.
Next, you see the power of your gesture. Because your partner accepts. So, you extend your left arm, as well. Together, you take a few tentative steps.
Then, you find a balance. Your two bodies line up. Between your hearts, there’s an invisible centre of gravity.
Next, you endure. You continue. Together, you dance so well. Carried in a rhythmic spell, you move closer. Right hip to right hip.
Then, left hip to left hip. You dance in unison now. Take each step together, in a splendid cosmic rhythm.
And, finally, you are overcome. You are grounded in your dance now. Present only for your partner. You merge in desire. Become a new whole. And, together, you move towards a peak moment. A shared orgasm, some would say. Opening into peace, relaxation, and bliss.
This is the climax of the dance. It’s the Mt. Sinai moment. The moment of receiving Torah.
So Torah itself acknowledges: all the people saw the voices (Exodus 20:15). The revelation at Mt. Sinai was a psychedelic experience. A break from ordinary mental processing. A mystical union.
That is how philosopher Franz Rosenzweig saw it, as well. God says, I (Exodus 20:2). And the people feel commanded. Drawn powerfully into love. So, they open their arms to embrace the present. A unity where waiting and fulfillment merge. That is the essence of Torah.
Yes, this sounds so beautiful. So filled with love of Torah. But, doesn’t it fall far away from any literal meaning of the word Torah?
Not really. We use the word Torah in so many ways. Sometimes it means the Five Books of Moses. But sometimes it means the whole Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). Or the Tanakh plus commentaries. Or the whole religious path explained in them. Torah can even mean “any spiritual teaching.” As in, “that’s some great Torah you got from your little grandson this morning!”
So, why not add one more meaning? One found in Torah itself, and present to many who celebrate Shavuot. Torah is also mystical experience. A dance with the divine, that teaches us, without words, to reach for peace.