Plenilune of Av

Rosh Chodesh and Rosh HaShana, the Jewish new month and new year are notable in that they are celebrations of the new moons. They are not plenilune, the time of the full moon, but rather a time marked by the absence of a moon.

In that today is Tu B’Av, the Jewish Valentine’s Day, is the 15th of the month, I pause to explore the other plenilune celebrations on our calendar. We have Sukkot, celebrating our sojourn in booths in the desert after escaping Egypt. We also have Shushan Purim, Passover, and Pesach Sheni each a month from each other. Each of these is also a celebration of liberation. First not being killed in Haman’s genocide,then from slavery in Egypt, and then those who could not celebrate Passover. Another notable 15th full moon is Tu B’Shvat the New Year for the Trees. This is a celebration of nature, the advent of spring, and marks the liberation from the winter months. What do all of these celebrations on the 15th have in common?

In light of today being Tu B’Av, it is tempting to frame the full moon as an expression of our hearts being full with love in the air. But I wanted to offer another frame for these plenilune celebrations. What is a full moon?

The full moon is the lunar phase when the Moon appears fully illuminated from Earth‘s perspective. This means that the lunar hemisphere facing Earth—the near side—is completely sunlit and appears as an approximately circular disk. The full moon occurs roughly once a month. We see it as full because the light from the sun is reflecting off the surface of the moon unobstructed by our shadow.

There is a depth to thinking about these celebrations of love and liberation in a context of seeing things reflected in the world in their fullness without the weight of your pekelah on it. Our nature is to be self-centered and only look at things in the shadow of our needs. At the same time we are inherently limited to see things from our unique perspective. We need to strive for a balance between seeing things for our perspective and trying to also see the reality in its fullness. To experience love and liberation we have to deeply understand that we share this rock called earth. Merry plenilune of Av.

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