All the beasts will teach you . . .
Sept 27, 2014
All the beasts will teach you . . . “
For our annual Shabbat Shuvah hike, we met in the field at entrance to Temescal Canyon Park. Three 4-leggeds hiked with us, a bit rambunctious in their greetings to each other, and, at times later in the day. Still, it was good to have their energy with us as we combined our usual Shabbat Shuvah reflections with our ongoing inquiry into the understanding of the animal beings within and around us.
Check-ins were held under an expansive oak tree in a clearing a bit of a hike into the canyon. Medical and health issues predominated, and it was clear a healing circle was called for, and was held at the end of the gathering.
To give us a bit of focus on our work with the animals, we read a few paragraphs from Chapter 3 of Reb Gershon Winkler’s book, “Magic of the Ordinary”. In this chapter he expands on his discussion on the Hebrew Medicine wheel and the 4 Winds (4 Directions), naming and referencing primary texts to illucidate the meaning of the animals that are found in each of the directions.
Ezekiel 10:1: The vision of the chariot includes the verse which aligns each of 4 animals with a primary direction. Thus, Lion to the East, Human to the South, Buffalo (water buffalo or ox) to the West, and Eagle to the North.
Job 12:7 “All the beasts will teach you . . . “ This verse is aligned with Native American and other indigenous traditions that understand the way of the animals to be a primary teaching for human beings to know how to live in right relation to the earth and each other and all relations. Indeed, there are Hebrew teachings that speak even more overtly to this point: ADD The point was made that to really learn from the animals, one must be amongst them, must be quiet and must listen . . . if one does so in these times one might become aware of them yelling to us about climate change.
Buffalo/ox/bull – (Hebrew: Shor)
The Bull/Ox/Buffalo is identified as the keeper of the West, the place of merging and blending, where day blends into night, life into death, the place of healing, the archangel Raphael (healer of God). The bull is a herd animal, a merger In Moses’ blessing of Joseph, he speaks of the majesty of the ox, one of its major qualities. Though the English translation using the word “gore” in speaking of the ox raises images of violence, the Hebrew and the contextual meaning of the full verse speaks more of making an opening, bringning together, weaving, and speaks of the buffalo in terms of majesty (Hadar, which is the energy of the sephirah Hod), nobility (the word for horn, keren, may be used to signify crown), strength, power, and may have to do with protection of the people. The verse speaks of the Karnei r’eim – the horns of an oryx, a large antelope and the totem of the tribe of Menashe and therefore related to the ox/buffalo (the totem of Ephraim). A dream image shared: a large male oryx, a protector at the edge of his herd, facing down a lion, each animal recognizing the power of the other and coming to a nonviolent, respectful relationship with each other.
Isn’t the bull associated with the Hebrew letter Aleph, someone asked? No, that’s the alephant, another answered. And we moved on.
Lion (Hebrew: Aryeh)
Hosea 13:7. I am become like a lion to them
Though the verse literally refers to devouring the people around the time of the exile, metaphorically the energy of lion (Aryeh) may help us to awake from our stupor to devour our delusions, like a lion. Lion holds sthe East, the place of new beginnings, where the sun rises and we move forward on new adventures and paths.
Eagle (Hebrew: Nesher)
Eagle is the keeper of the North, the place of mystery, hiddenness. The eagle is a messenger, and brings us to spirit, as in the verse from Parashat Yitro (Exodus ): “And I carried/will carry you on the wings of eagles, and brought/will bring you to me”. Eagle is also referred to in Hebrew tradition as protector, especially the female eagle, as in protection under eagles’ wings, or the commentary from Rashi that the mother eagle carries her young on her back to protect them from arrows being shot from below (though this seems not an actual behavior of eagles, and may be more reflective of Rashi’s fantasy, or if we give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps a dream or wisdom teaching).