This month is jam-packed with holiness. It wins the contest for having the most days of special events out of all twelve months. Rosh HaShannah, Yom Kippur, Succot, and Shmini Atzeret all fall out in Tishrei. Each one of these days has a specific flavor of spiritual elevation associated with it. The famous kabalist Luzzatto wrote that every year a similar influence from the spiritual realm is let loose on us on each holiday, giving us a year’s worth of its special quality.
One of the reasons why Tishrei is chock full of holidays and their mitzvot is to help us start a new year off with a jump-start of merits. The custom is to take a spiritual accounting before Rosh HaShannah, the first of Tishrei. On Rosh HaShannah we are judged for the previous year. After Rosh HaShannah we start another year of accountability. God stacks the deck in our favor by starting off the year with a large number of opportunities for spiritual growth. The mitzvot of shofar, fasting on Yom Kippur, lulav and Succot are all powerful ways to connect to God and spirituality.
Justice and judgment are the heavenly influence for this time period. But by declaring God our King on Rosh HaShannah and showing Him we want to be close to Him throughout the holidays, we thereby mitigate the judgment and arouse divine mercy. The symbol of the scales of justice is this month’s constellation, Libra. It’s God’s way of letting us know the world stands in judgment. We respond by trying to come closer to Him. This is also indicated by the Hebrew letter which the kabalists assign to this month – Lamed. This letter towers high above all the other letters of the alef-bet, symbolizing our desire to reach up toward the heavens as high as we can. The word “Lamed” in Hebrew means to learn. You’d expect some clear connection to study in Tishrei, yet there isn’t one. However, the high holidays have been commonly referred to as the “Days of Awe” because of their ability to increase our awe of God. This is the connection to study and acquiring wisdom, as it says in Psalm 111: “The beginning of wisdom is the awe of God.” Tishrei, being the first month of the year, starts off a new yearly cycle of acquiring wisdom by giving us an opportunity to gain more awe of our Creator. Tishrei is a time of “beginnings”. Another example of this is that the completion of the creation of the universe happened in this month. Also, some say that Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov were born in Tishrei.
This month is considered the beginning of a yearly cycle. There are actually four different yearly cycles in the Jewish calendar. The monthly calendar’s first month is Nissan which makes Tishrei the seventh month. This is very significant considering the importance of the number seven in Judaism. The sages say “all sevens are beloved”. The seventh day is a Sabbath, a holy day. The seventh year is a sabbatical year to the land of Israel. From Avraham to Moshe was seven generations. What is “beloved” about Tishrei? One of the things that is special and precious about Tishrei is the spiritual connection which happens between God and the Jewish people. The kabalists relate Tishrei to the aspect of the consummation of marriage. That marriage is between us and God.
This month is the time to start a new yearly cycle off right, by using the mitzvot for the time to increase our awe for God. It’s a time to renew our commitment to Judaism and spiritual growth.