Achrayut (אחריות) Spiritual Responsibility
By Kohenet Ketzirah haMa’agelet (Devotaj Sacred Arts)
In my naming of the moons, Tishrei is the moon of gathering. We gather as a tribe and as families, and we gather our ancestors back to us. It is also the month of the High Holy Days, a time when we take responsibility for our souls as individuals as well as collectively as a community. Tishrei is also the month where we celebrate the critical autumn harvest that would have meant life or death, in ancient days (and still does in many places). While the simple definition of the soul-trait for Tishrei, Achrayut (אחריות), is “responsibility,” it means more than just being accountable for success or failures of your own decisions. The deeper layer of Achrayut(אחריות) is knowing that we are called to address the needs of others.
“Just as my ancestors planted trees for me, I too am planting trees for my descendants”
Through the Netivah of the month, the G’virah (queen/matriarch/warrior), we can see that responsibility is more than just taking care of yourself. A queen must know how to take responsibility for those whose lives, health, safety with which she is entrusted. She must also know how to delegate and allow others to bear some of the responsibility of caring for the community. We can learn more about the lessons of achrayut (אחריות) through a true Jewish G’virah ancestor: Doña Gracia Nasi. She was one the most powerful women of Renaissance Europe and you’ve probably never heard anything about. She was a converso (forced to pretend she was Catholic), whose family was one of the wealthiest banking families in Europe. Her family was expelled from Spain, then Portugal and then landed in Italy before she eventually moved to Turkey. When her husband died very young, she took control of the family business and the task of caring for the other conversos around her – both in body and spirit. When you are looking for G’virah inspiration, and the layers of what it can mean to embody, building a relationship with this ancestress may be of great service.
“Embodied Presence: rooted in the earth while open and receiving from above. “
Kohenet Judith Idit Breier
The word G’virah is also closely connected to the word Gevurah, which is the soul-trait of strength/boundaries. This is how we learn that we should not give more than we can. “Being” responsible and “taking” responsibility are two ways to engage with Achrayut (אחריות). Both have a strong sense of boundaries, but different connotations.
I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives.
Hon. Sonia Sotomayor
When we look at the Netivah and middah (soul-trait) that is connected across the wheel of the year from achrayut (אחריות) and the G’virah — we see the Na’arah (Maiden) and the soul-trait of joy. I find this such a good reminder that it’s easy when we are in a situation where we feel responsible that we lose our sense of joy. This is when a responsibility becomes a burden. This sacred connection across the wheel of the year can serve as a reminder and a tool, to continue to infuse our leadership with joy and to find joy in our leadership.
Tishrei and its soul-trait achrayut (אחריות), ask us to look at our spiritual commitments. What are our personal spiritual responsibilities and our collective responsibilities? Tzitzit are a visible reminder of our spiritual responsibilities. Tzitzit are the fringes that one sees on the corners of a Tallit, prayer shawl, or Canfot (Kohenet prayer shawl) and that some Jews also wear at all times on a special under-garment called a tallit-katan. I’ve had a practice for the past few years of cutting them off of my Canfot between Rosh Hashanah and re-tying them before Yom Kippur. It’s a way of actively acknowledging and re-committing to my spiritual practice and transforming the spiritual into something physical and embodied.
As you explore achrayut (אחריות) responsibility, find your ‘tzitzit’ – literally or figuratively. How can you take what is in your mind, soul, body and manifest it? What reminders will serve you well? What do you need reminding of? And regardless of your choice, let it be done with joy.
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