12 Tribes/12 months
The Arizal teaches that there is a correlation between the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the twelve months of the Jewish Year. He learns this from Parshat Naso which teaches about the inauguration of the Holy Mishkan. Each day of the inauguration a prince from a different tribe brought their gift as an offering to the Mizbach-the Alter. Day one of the inauguration is/was on Rosh Chodesh Nissan and it continued for twelve days. With this the Arizal connects the day of the month to the Tribe which on that particular day gave its offering. Day one, which hints to the first month of the year, The Tribe of Yehuda brought its gift, and therefore The Tribe of Yehuda correlates to the first month-Nissan. Day two, Issachar-Iyar, day three, Zebulon-Sivan, day four, Reuvain-Tammuz, day five, Shimon-Av, day six, Gad-Elul, day seven, Ephraim-Tishrei, day eight, Cheshvan-Menashe, day nine, Benyamin-Kislev, day ten Dan-Tevet, day eleven, Asher-Shvat, day twelve Naphtali-Adar. When there is a thirteen month year-a leap year, the Arizal connects the thirteenth month to Yoseph.
Seeing also the formation of how the Tribes are camped around the Mishkan opens gates of our understanding of the The Jewish Year.
The source for this formation of the Twelve Tribes camped around the Mishkan is from the Midrash Tanchuma. Rashi quotes the Midrash (Bamidbar 2/2)and explains that the Twelve Sons of Yakov/Jacob before their fathers “death” were instructed by Jacob their father about the manner in which he wants his coffin carried out of Egypt. The instruction was that these three sons of mine will be on this side of the coffin in this exact order and so on.
With this we can also illustrate that the center of the formation of the Tribes, the Mishkan itself, represents their father Yakov/Jacob. This in turn represents our own center, our Panimiyot self which during the Jewish Year begins its re development during the month of Kislev, the third month of the Jewish Year. During this month we are reading in the weekly parsha about Yakov and the birthing of the twelve sons/Tribes of Israel.
This also enlightens us to understand Jacob’s blessing to his two grandsons Ephraim and Menasseh. The Torah tells us that Yakov/Jacob switched his hands crossing one over the other placing his right hand upon Ephraim and his left had upon Menasseh. Well low and behold, just look at our chart and imagine as we said, YakovJacob to be the center of the encampment, the Mishkan/Tabernacle itself, and from this perspective indeed Jacob in order to put his right hand on Ephraim and his left hand on Menasseh he must yes cross his hands!
Another enlightenment we can see from this chart is that now that we know from the Arizal that Ephraim who’s gift to the Mishkan was brought on the seventh day connects Ephraim to the seventh month-Tishrei, the month which begins with Rosh Hashanah, the onset of the Jewish Year. We also learn from the Midrash and Rashi that the Mishkan traveled East. Therefore The Tribes and Months on the Eastern side-Judah-Nissan, Issachar-Eyar, and Zebulon-Sivaan, are the months when our new Mishkan-New inner self, our Kedusha is being “brought out” to the world, whereas on the Western side, at the onset of the Jewish Year, Ephraim-Tishrei, Menassah-Cheshvon, and Benjamin-Kislev are months in which we are more so “going in” towards the Mishkan, to the Kedusha. We also see that these Tribes/Months which are “going in”, Ephraim, Menassah, and Benjamin are all Tribes which come from Yakov/Jacob’s main wife Rachel. This is the first three months of The Jewish Year when we are gaining a new level, growing in Chochmah, The Yud of G-d’s Name. The following three months, Dan, Asher, and Naphtali, are all sons from the “Handmaids”, servants. They are in a sense “serving” the growth we made during the first three months. Interestingly, the first of those months Dan, correlates to the month of Tevet which is “Tikune Bitul”, allowing ourselves to be nothing and serve our higher selves. This second set off three months correlates to the Hey of G-d’s Name. The nature of a handmaid or a servant is to deal more so with this physical world, and so too, our Sages tell us that with the Hey of G-d’s Name, this world was created and with the Yud, the beyond. We then see on the Western side the sons of Lea, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon, all positioned to “bring the Kedusha out” to the world. This next set of three months is when we develop the Vav of G-d’s Name, Daat, which is connected heaven to the earth. The next set of three is the second Hey in G-d’s Name which denotes Malchut–our actions which are serving our higher self here in this world. Daat is thinking and doing, and Malchut is just pure doing. So we also see that the another of the four sons of the Handmaids are on this side of the Hey of Malchut, Gad. We also see the two other sons of Lea, Reuben and Simeon are there together with Gad a son of a handmaid. The reason being is that Reuben is as the Torah tells us, a bit wild, and Simeon is super physical, able together with Levi, to destroy all of the town the town of Schem. Both sons did something quite wrong; Reuben moved his fathers bed and Simeon marred his sister Dina and being that she was sister from the same mother, this was not allowed. We also see by the curses, that Tribes who call out the curses include all of the sons of the handmaids plus Reuben, and Zebulon. Zebulon is also more about this physical world as we know he made the money so his brother Issachar could learn Torah. This makes six and Simeon is together with the ones giving the blessings.
We also see that the Jewish Year has four corners. On each corner is a flag for the three. As follows; the flag of Ephraim, the flag of Dan, the flag of Judah, and the flag of Reuben. Each flag represents a new direction and reality. Corner turns are not easy and therefore we are commanded to put “Techalet” the blue string on all four corners of our garments. “Techalet”, as I heard from rabbi David Aharon shares the root with the Hebrew word “Tachlit”, meaning purpose. Therefore when we are about to “fly off on the wings/corners of The Jewish Year to now go do something quite different, there better be purpose in it!