Monday, December 25, 2006

Llewellyn, Levanah, and Love

I am thrilled and delighted that Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. Has agreed to publish the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism. For those of you unfamiliar with Llewellyn, it is the world’s largest publisher of occult and New Age books. Now at first glance it may seem an odd match, a publisher devoted to

[Woodcut of Jews blessing the New Moon]

works on witchcraft, Neo-Paganism, and the occult, publishing a book devoted entirely to Judaism. And indeed, this is a new venture for the folks at Llewellyn. But as far as I am concerned, Llewellyn and the EJMMM are perfect for each other. I knew it the moment I saw the Llewellyn logo. For those of you who don’t already know, it’s a crescent moon.

Llewellyn chose this symbol because...well, I'm really not sure. I suppose it's because many people in the West associate the moon with paganism (to a lesser extent, people also connect it to Islam). Few realize it is an ancient Jewish symbol as well. In fact, the moon (Heb. levanah) is central to Judaism. Our sacred calendar is based on its monthly cycle, as the Hebrew Bible reveals with its frequent references to keeping time via “New moons and Shabbats.” But there are deeper, more esoteric Jewish meanings. So what is some of the Jewish occult lore concerning levanah?

The moon is a symbol of the Jewish people:
The Midrash (a kind of Bible commentary written in a particular style) compares the Jewish people to the moon. Like the moon, the Jewish people often find themselves outshone by more powerful nations and empires (which the Midrash compares to the sun) who have dominated us. Like the moon, we wax and wane in our fortunes. Yet like the moon, we always return; and visible or not, we are always strong spiritually (Genesis Rabbah 6:2).

The moon is a symbol of God’s authority:
The crescent moon is the same shape as the Hebrew letter kaf, which is also the first letter of the word kissei, “throne” (Batei Midrashot 2:406). Because of these associations, Jewish esoteric tradition imagines the moon to be a visible sign of God’s throne (and therefore, God’s sovereignty) set in the sky, shining on us all.

The moon is a symbol of love:
In the teachings of Jewish mysticism, the natural order here in this plane, the "world of action" (Asiyah), is a reverberation of the divine structures. That includes the most powerful forces in human life: love and sex. These forces are part of the divine dynamics also. For the universe to be sustained, the masculine and feminine aspects of God must undergo constant union – what is termed zivvuga kadisha, “sacred coupling,” in Kabbalah. The moon in its beauty signifies the Shekhinah, the feminine dimension of God (Rabbi Abayye says in the Talmud that to look upon the moon during the blessing of the new moon, it is as if that person has received the face of the Shekhinah {Sanh. 42a}). Its waxing and waning signifies the cycle of the heiros gamos, the cosmic union of the male and female principles On High that lovingly nurtures creation below.

So as you can see, the moon is, both in its mainstream and its esoteric traditions, a powerful symbol in and of Judaism.

To learn more, go to the entries Moon, Calendar, and New Moon in the EJMMM.


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