Do you remember the feeling as a child when your toes started to reach the edges of your shoes, the feeling of them being squeezed together prompting a trip to the shoe store for the next size? Think of this feeling as we explore what it has to tell us about this month.
We are at the beginning of the month of Tammuz. The energy of the month is one of transformation as we commemorate the 17th of Tammuz which led to the destruction of our Holy Temples but will ultimately lead to the times of Moshiach. According to Kabbalah, the Zodiac sign of the month "Cancer" is represented by the crab. The crab is a crustacean which sheds its exoskeleton as it grows, developing a new shell that will fit its larger body.
Although our bodies stop growing in adulthood, we are always growing and evolving internally. Growth can come from a challenging situation we've overcome, new information that we are integrating, or the natural growth that experience brings. Like the crab, we will outgrow our shells and require larger "garments".
The catalyst for the shedding of the exoskeleton is the feeling of discomfort and constriction the crab feels as it pushes against its shell. For a child, they will feel this in their feet when they are wearing a size 6 yet are ready for size 7. Internally, we can experience this as a feeling of discomfort and tightness we push against the limitations that once helped to keep us safe but are no longer needed. Although the experience of shedding what no longer fits and growing a new, larger shell is painful, it is infinitely less painful that cramming ourselves into an identity that we have outgrown long ago. The power of transformation that is in this month helps us achieve it.
In Judaism, the non-physical garments of a person are our thoughts, speech and action. Consistent and careful evaluation in these areas helps us identify thought patterns, ways of speaking or actions that are in need of an upgrade. In the time between the shedding of the old skin and the growth of the new skin, we can feel exposed, vulnerable and raw. This delicate time can send us seeking the feeling of safety we had gotten used to, but stay the course, it will be well worth it!
P.s. If the word exoskeleton is new to you, you're not alone. Mendel taught me this word last week; he is learning the life cycle of the butterfly and watching the caterpillars transform, another beautiful example of the growth that shedding brings.