As a child, I imagined God as an old and wise man – a king who was too busy to be bothered by someone like me. He appeared distant and unavailable, especially during the High Holy Days when he would sit in a grand chair before an elaborate desk. His brows would be furrowed, and his focus intense, conveying, “Don’t bother me.” He would lean forward, reading, thinking, and writing in a great, big bound leather book. He would carefully and thoughtfully turn page after page, making decisions impacting everyone – who will prosper and who will be impoverished, who will win and who will lose, who will love and be loved, and who will be lonely. Above all, he would decide who will live and who will die.

SPiRal Galaxy

poetic liturgy

During the Yamim Noraim, Days of Awe, Jews pray for renewal, release, and realignment to manifest blessings in the new year. The Book of Life is open, and everyone signs into it with their actions. Some liturgy references “Sefer Haiim,” “Living Book” , other liturgy – Sefer haHaiim, “Book of Life.” Sefer Haiim, The Living Book implies that we play a role in the destiny that is unfolding. The embryonic spiral is being brought in pointing to the mystery of ongoing creation. These words create a sense of community and responsibility. “Living Book” is found in many established prayer books, like Siddur Oz HaT’filah (Mizrahi), Hatmeinu LHaiim (S’fardi), and Hozen Ovadyah; they are Mizrahi and S’fardi liturgy.

considering “Sefer”  

The letters samekh, peh/pheh, and reysh.


A Hieroglyphic Perspective

This is based on writing attributed to Isaac Luria in a commentary on Sefer Yetzirah.

The first letter is a samekh, a circle ם. The circle, then transforms into a spiral as see by the the second letter peh/feh. It is a spiral פ. The next letter is a reysh, it looks like the movement of the SPiRal completing.   ר

The sequence demonstrates movement from circle to spiral toward completion, the scrolling through a SPiRal. “Sefer,” then, points to movement, like the movement of (embryonic) spirals repeating again and again. Each one is unique.

Through these means, we see that “SeFeR”, points to much more than a simple book

Sefer yetzirah

The earliest Jewish mystical book, Sefer Yetzirah, is thought to have been written around the second or third century. In the first mishnah it elaborates on the word “SeFeR” by completing with, ‘…created the world through three S’firot (Ciphers); Book, Numbers, and Story.’

SeFeR” ­ Book; “S’FaR” ­ Number; and “SeePuR” ­ Story.

This same root references “SaPiR”; Sapphire; the physical matter (stone) that makes up the Throne of Glory in Ezekiel’s vision.

Sapphires come in all colors of the rainbow. This suggests that the Saphires in Throne of Glory models the rainbows colors that flow through it.

Etz Haiim, Tree of Life , models movement from No­thingness  (Light of Ayn Sof) to manifestation (Malkhut and Earth). The word “S’FiRah” points to energetic stations with Divine Attributes in the Tree of Life process the Light of Ayn Sof.

The handprint of each human

The High Hoy Day liturgy (Unetaneh Tokef ) teaches that The signature (‘v’Hotem yad kol Adam Bo) of each human is in Sefer Haim, Living Tree. We sign in with our actions.  Everything in our sphere is marked by our “fingerprints”. We have impact and with it comes responsibility.

Holistic Jew


Humanity is gifted with Freedom of Choice. Our day-to-day actions are how we sign in. Sadly, Earth is in crisis. Flooding, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and more are becoming frequent in a manner not experienced by contemporary community. It is imperative now more than ever to pay attention to our beautiful planet before the mechanisms we count on for life are gone forever. Blessings like clean water, fresh air, natural spaces, and stable ground are at risk. These are gifts previous generations took for granted. We no longer have that privilege.   If the trajectory we are on does not shift, Earth will not sustain humanity. Who by fire? who by water? who by plague? who by earthquake? who by dis-ease? Earth, herself , will be fine. It is humanity that will not sustain. Humans are like fleas making the planet uncomfortable, as George Carlin z”l pointed out decades ago.


Mass production industry drives much of this. It is imperative to pick goverment and spiritual leaders with attention to their stand on climate change; it is a matter of life or death. We are served to pay attention to who funds any politician and support those who are not indebted to the petroleum industry, gun lobby, factory farming, big pharma, or that ilk. Our leadership must be stewards of Earth to support life as we know it.

We can help by doing our part personally as well. Minimizing landfill (ex. use compostable plates and flatware rather than ones that end up as landfill,)  honor and treasure water and its life giving quality (fixing leaks goes a long way), create more garden spaces (green roof gardens for example). We cannot complete the work alone. If everyone does their part, we have a chance.

When you focus your heart and mind on loving and appreciating Earth, you will often organically find yourself involved and supporting the ongoing Living SPiRal. It will help you elevate others, even if you do not witness it all.

We each have a special part in making this planet more sustainable, of stacking the deck in favor of ongoing life.  If you are not yet clear about what you part is,  this is a great time to meditate, find or refine what it is. If you know your calling, bring it forward!  I’d love to hear about it.

Shanah Tovah. May you be inextricably weaved into SPiRals of ongoing life, love, and light.

Rabbi T’mimah blowing Shifar ib Auschwitz – image by Harry Aaldering

Tmimah Audrey ickovits