Summer Solstice 2004/1 Tammuz 5764
This ritual was created for June 2004, when the summer solstice (June 21) and the first of the Hebrew month of Tammuz (June 20) almost overlap. The actual words here are not important unless one likes them—in fact, the ritual needs few words.
If possible, the ritual is performed by the sea or another body of water. Participants have brought instruments if desired.
The group sings:
The river is flowing
flowing and growing
the river is flowing
back to the sea (2x)
Mother, carry me
your child I will always be
Mother, carry me
back to the sea (2x)
The group may choose to ask everyone to say their names, to talk about Tammuz or the summer solstice, to tell a story, or to welcome everyone in some other way.
If you wish to invoke the four elements, one can do this by using the following invocation from Ecclesiastes 1:4-7 (with an ending line from the poet Nelly Sachs). Alternatively, ask four members of the circle to welcome earth, water, air, and fire in their own ways, or meditate on the four letters of God's name (yud, heh, vav, and heh, representing the four worlds of atzilut/spirit/north, beriyah/mind/east, yetzirah/feeling/south, and assiyah/body/west) while facing toward the four directions.
One generation goes, and another comes,
but the earth remains the same forever.
The sun rises, and the sun sets
and returns shining to where it rises.
Moving to the south,
turning to the north,
ever turning blows the wind.
All rivers run to the sea,
but the sea is never full.
To the place from which the rivers flow
there they return again.
So ending flows to beginning.
II. Invocation of the Solstice of Tammuz
The sun is a gold coin slipping into
an envelope of sea.
The sea is a mouth
that opens at the horizon
Everything in the sky
falls into her...
She draws him into her,
a round harvest...
Tomorrow he will rise
crescent by crescent
above the dusky hills...
--from "Meditteranean," Ruth Whitman
It is the longest day.
The stories of our people tell
that on the summer solstice
there are no shadows.
This is the day of sun
on the full-blown rose,
green seeds of the grass
glowing in the light
and sand hot on the footsoles,
water warm in the rivers
and the moon attended by frogs and crickets
and rippling wind, like a pond in the sky.
This is the day of the sacrifice of the apricot
and the presentation of the peach,
The day where divinity is a grape
and the blueberry sanctifies,
the day of fullness and fatness.
This is the day of letting go into the flow of life.
Today Adam and Eve left the garden
and let go of Eden to face death.
Today Joseph let go of his mother’s womb
to be given to pit and prison and throne.
Moses this day struck and got water from a stone,
and went into exile. To save the people,
he let go of his dream of the land,
and Miriam's well of healing returned.
And Tammuz, the young and beautiful god of love,
let go of life and fell into the underworld,
while Israelite women wailed and tore their hair.
So too, the branch lets go of the fruit
and the stem lets go of the flower.
So too, we let go into the season of warmth,
and rest beneath the willow and the beech tree.
So too, we fall into the flow of life,
while the sun lets go of its reign
and the Holy One plunges it into the sea,
while the cauldron of life
refills at midsummer from light on the water.
We immerse in the water beneath the sun
to let go of ourselves in the well of life,
to let go into light,
to let go of the path
and find it again.
On this day
under this bright sun
there are no shadows around us.
There is only us, here,
facing the dark,
and loving the cracked light.
III. Offering of Leaving Eden:
(This ritual and the immersion ritual that follows it both stand on their own--choose one, or perform them one after the other. If you use this segment of the ritual, you will need a basket of fruit for the center of the circle.)
One person speaks:
Part of summer solstice is saying farewell to the glory and perfection of high summer. The first of Tammuz, the new moon of the summer solstice, is the day that Adam and Eve left Eden and all its perfection and beauty, and went into the world of fertility and mortality, where they would have to plant their own seeds. We eat this fruit knowing that we too must venture out into the world, and knowing that there are some things about Eden we are glad to leave behind. As you take a piece of fruit, say one thing you want to leave behind in Eden.
Everyone takes a fruit and says what they are leaving behind, like "my belief in perfect parents," "unhealthy dependence," "fear of death," etc. When everyone has spoken, say the blessing over the fruit and eat it. if possible, bury the seeds.
Blessing over fruit:
Masculine: Baruch ata Adonai, eloheinu melekh ha’olam, borei peri ha'etz.
Feminine: Beruchah at Shekhinah, eloteinu ruach ha’olam, boreit peri ha'etz.
Blessed are You, God/Holy One/Shekhinah/Goddess, guide and spirit of the world, who has created the fruit of the tree.
Ask everyone to find a way to get in touch with their inner light or with the being that represents light to them, and imagine that this being will help them to overcome their shadows. Let the group be in silence for a few moments.
One person speaks:
A Jewish legend says that on the summer solstice there are no shadows. Today we have the opportunity to wash and transform our shadows. By immersing, the tradition Jewish way of making transitions, we mark the doorway of the summer solstice and let go of the shadows we carry.
Participants walk into the ocean or other body of water (if you have no body of water you can pour water over people). Each person names a shadow he or she wants to let go of or transform. Others put their hand on him or her in blessing. Then he or she immerses. When everyone is finished, and if you are in the ocean and there is someone present who has not seen the sea in thirty days, recite the blessing over seeing the sea:
Masculine: Baruch ata Adonai, eloheinu melekh ha’olam, she’asa hayam hagadol.
Feminine: Beruchah at Shekhinah, eloteinu ruach ha’olam, she’asta ha’yam hagadol.
Blessed are You, God/Holy One/Shekhinah/Goddess, guide and spirit of the world, who has made the great sea.
Participants leave the sea and sing or dance.
A person speaks:
This is the summer solstice, when the light is brightest, and the time of the new moon, when the light is rekindled. Take in all the light you can and store it for the dark times. Take great armfuls of it. Harvest this light and take it with you.
Participants may mime gathering or harvesting light (they can use their arms or also nets, vessels, or other symbolic containers.) They can "give" this light to one another. People may respond to the gift by saying "shalom aleichem" (peace upon you).
Group repeats after leader:
From You, Well of Life, come the clouds, the rain, the rivers, and the sea.
Draw forth from me a life of blessing
as You first drew life from the sea.
Titchadesh ateret tiferet, venitchadesh kamotah.
The crown of glory (the new moon) will renew herself, and we will be renewed with her.
(from the liturgy of kiddush levanah, sanctification of the moon)
We are a circle within a circle
with no beginning and never ending.
Rabbi Jill Hammer is a poet, author, teacher and ritual-maker, as well as a senior associate at Ma'yan: the Jewish Women's Project of the JCC in Manhattan. She is the founder of Tel Shemesh. Her book is entitled Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women.
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