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Alphabet Soup for the Soul - Part 7


ז/Zayin is a weapon sharpened by opposition and debate,

cutting through delusion,

reaping what’s sown, whetting an appetite for more,

when well wielded, satiating the soul for good.

WORD: The name of the 7th letter as noun is a ‘weapon’ and as verb means ‘to nourish.’ It represents the promise of the Sabbath [7th] Day, the prophetic call to "sow swords into plowshares."

WORD-PLAY: The seven-day festival, Sukkot, celebrates the fall harvest. It arises each year with the full moon of the 7th Hebrew month, inviting practitioners to step outside the comfort of their homes and dwell in temporary ‘booths’ and, in the season of abundance, to acknowledge impermanence. Rather than filling a “Festival of Joy” with only ‘good’ and ‘happy’ things, Sukkot is celebrated by holding opposites in one’s mind, heart or hand. The mind embraces the bear market of the fall harvest against a backdrop of a full-day fast and forecasts of the bare shelves of winter. The heart harbors the hope of home-coming, the promise of purpose, and gift of life, alongside the big fears of homelessness, purposelessness (or as Kohelet/Ecclesiastes calls it, ‘vanity’), and death. And in our hands we hold the subtle but significant distinction between sword and sickle, shaking the branches and leaves of palm, myrtle, and willow.

The intellect, in several spiritual systems, is represented by a sword, or sickle, and it is sharpened through friction, opposition, debate. Thus it is an act of faith to step outside the ‘permanent home,’ our ‘comfort zone,’ seeking out sparring partners who can challenge our thinking, press us to sharpen our reasoning and resolve. In such encounters, the goal is not conquest by the sword, but a harvest that is shared. This is the aspiration signaled by the ז/zayin.

PRACTICE: How does one turn a sword into a plowshare in our time? Option #1: Ask a trusted to friend to play ‘devil’s advocate’ and engage you in energetic debate about an issue, opinion or ‘conviction’ you are willing to test. Option #2) Consider a person in your life with whom you have difficulty conversing because you disapprove of (or even feel contempt and outrage towards) a perspective they espouse. Feed them a meal and invite your guest to teach you their thinking and reasoning, noticing yet containing your internal reactivity.

In either case, seek out a willing partner. Bring sickle rather than sword. Seek mutual satisfaction rather that conquest. In so doing, turn swords into plowshares, wielding the full power of the sacred 7th symbol, the ז/zayin to nourish and satiate.

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