We are in the middle of a challenging three weeks, sometimes becoming even more challenging up until the ninth day of Av, or Leo. However, as we will come to see, the month of Av is actually about being able to receive the ability to transform what others call darkness, or challenge, into Light, and maybe even more importantly, to actually begin to experience that darkness completely differently.
In the Book of Formation, the Sefer Yetzirah, one of the first kabbalistic books ever revealed and the most important book on kabbalistic astrology, Abraham the Patriarch explains that if we want to know the essence of any month, we have to learn about the Hebrew letter, the spiritual conduit, that created it. And it says that the month of Av was created with the essence of the letter Tet. Therefore, if we want to understand what the essence of this month is, we have to understand the essence of the letter Tet.
In the Zohar, in Terumah, it says there is a place in the world where the forces of destruction and negativity cannot reside. This is not necessarily a physical place, but rather, a place of consciousness. It is a place we are all meant to eventually achieve, one where no negativity, death, or chaos can enter. And we'll come to see that this place is really the essence of the month of Leo, because it tells us the essence of that place is the letter Tet. Why? When the Creator was creating this physical world, the letter Tet was the letter that shines out life; the letter Tet is the essence of Light, and the essence of life. Therefore, because there is one place where that letter, that conduit of Light, is completely revealed, anybody who is attached to that place, to that consciousness of the essence of the letter Tet, has no death attached to them.
And so, Rav Shimon Bar Yochai begins the understanding of the month of Av with very exciting news: the essence of this month is the essence of Light and life. But we're in the middle of what is called the Three Weeks, a very challenging time, and the month of Av, historically, has been a challenging month… so, how do we understand this?
There is another section in the Zohar, the Prologue to the Zohar, verse 33, where the letter Tet is discussed. The letter Tet comes before the Creator and says, "I want to be the conduit by which this physical world is created,” to which the Creator says, "I cannot make you the letter, the conduit, by which this world is created, because your essence of goodness, your Light, is concealed within you."
Kabbalistically, we know that the journey of the soul and of our world is from where we are today - a world that still has pain, suffering, and death - to a state called the End of the Correction. In that state, there is no death or chaos. That state is concealed for most of us still; most of us still experience chaos, pain, suffering, and death. And the letter Tet has all the Light of Immortality, of the removal of chaos and negativity concealed within it. Its great Light is concealed within it; what does that mean for us this month?
We want to get to a state during Av where we know that what we need is right inside whatever it is in our life we are lacking, inside whatever darkness. If we get to that place, if we know without a doubt that the gift and blessing we need is right there in the middle of it, then are we ever going to get concerned? No; we will stand there in the darkness and not go look for it anywhere else, because we know the gift is right there in it. The kabbalists teach, therefore, that the real secret about removing darkness is that darkness does not exist. The real secret about darkness is that it is completely Light.
When we look at the letter Tet, the right corner points inside, as if to say, forget about what is outside, because inside there is a reservoir of eternal life. The right piece of the letter Tet is pointing inward, because what it is saying is - and this is the secret of what the month of Av is all about – we actually want to stand by the darkness when we are experiencing it, and remind ourselves not to fall to the illusion that it is dark or negative. We want to remind ourselves that without a doubt, there is only goodness hidden inside.
This month is about becoming comfortable with what others call darkness, knowing that having the consciousness that there is not darkness, only Light, is what transforms the darkness. But, it will only transform it for however long we can stay in that comfort, and based on how strong that comfort is. For most, it is experienced as darkness; for those of a higher consciousness, it is experienced as Light. Yet, our challenge for the month of Av is not just to elevate from the lower consciousness to the higher consciousness, but also, to know that the Light out of any challenge or difficulty is not going to come, for the most part, from being a spiritual person and doing the spiritual work; it is going to come from getting comfortable being next to what others would call darkness, and experiencing it as Light.
The essence of the month of Av, of the letter Tet, is only goodness and Light. However, it is not revealed Light. It is Light within the external shell. And so, the secret of the work, and the gift, of this month is to know that the essence of whatever difficulty or challenge we face is only Light. This month, we want to get to a state where for longer and longer periods of time, we are excited about what others would say is a challenge or darkness.