Jewish months don’t always correlate with the secular calendar. Somehow, though, they come close. Thus, during January, the Hebrew lunar month is mostly Tevet. February will coincide with Shevat, March with Adar, and so on. Judaism teaches that time has spiritual significance; Shabbat, holidays, and even months have distinct sanctity and spiritual messages. A closer look at these monthly messages shows intriguing correlations to 12 Step work. There are no coincidences in G‑d’s world. Perhaps we Jews in recovery can draw strength from what our tradition teaches us about our place in cosmic time as we work the Steps.

Step One: January/Tevet - Powerlessness.

The main event of the month of Tevet is the siege of Jerusalem, which occurred about 2500 years ago, and ultimately led to the destruction of the Holy Temple. The tenth of Tevet marks the day that the protective walls around Jerusalem were breached. Think about it: foreign armies surround your city, depriving you of water, food, dignity. It’s unmanageable!  Your walls can no longer protect you. You can’t live like this! Powerless!

Step Two: February/Shevat - Restoration to Sanity.

During Shevat, the holiday known as the New Year for Trees, Tu B’shvat, is celebrated. Look at a tree and think of the Power greater than ourselves that created it and sustains it. Even in winter the bare tree has life. Although invisible to the naked eye, nourishing sap is beginning to flow upwards from the trunk of the tree; ultimately spring will bring blossoms and fruits. G‑d, the Master and Designer of the Universe, is working unseen wonders, bringing life to what we perceive as desolate. Our attempts to change reality, repeating the same behaviors and expecting different results, have not prospered. He, not we, controls the way the world operates. We can be restored to sanity!

Step Three: March/Adar - Turning to G‑d.

Adar’s claim to fame is the holiday of Purim, and the concept of joy. The Talmud states: "When Adar arrives - happiness increases." Purim teaches us that things have a way of turning around when we turn to G‑d.  Evil decrees of annihilation were annulled through fasting and prayer. There was great celebration, which we recreate by celebrating festive (substance-free) meals at Purim every year. Ultimately, there can be no greater joy than that which we experience when we make the decision to trust G‑d. I can’t, He can. - I’m gonna let Him!

Step Four: April/Nissan - Inventory.

Nissan is the month of Passover, which is all about redemption. Our sages teach us that in Egyptian times, the Jewish people were at the lowest possible level of spiritual impurity consistent with human life. Had we fallen any further, we would not have been redeemed. But G‑d found us worthy and freed us from Egyptian bondage. In the Fourth Step inventory, we may discover many qualities which have caused us to harm ourselves, to hurt others, and to keep us enslaved to our passions. We have been prisoners of our self imposed exile. We may think our character defects leave us totally unredeemable. Not so! Our searching and fearless moral inventory unearths our assets too. Even with our character defects, G‑d considers us worth redeeming.

Step Five: May/IyarAdmitting.

During Iyar, we are commanded to count the Omer(the 49 day time period from Passover until Shavuot). As we make the blessing and count out loud each evening, we are mindful of the day, and of the week, readying ourselves to receive the Holy Torah on Shavuot. In addition, we use the time to try to refine our character. Mystical teachings explain that each day and week is specifically suited for focusing on a particular character trait. We strive to become more kind; to use boundaries; to reflect humility, etc. During the entire month, we spend some time each day dedicating ourselves to self improvement. Iyar is for admitting our defects to G‑d, to ourselves, and to other human beings.

Step Six: June/Sivan - Ready for Removal.

The month of Sivan contains Shavuot, the holiday of the giving of the Torah. Tradition teaches that all other nations were offered a chance to accept the Torah, with all its laws and commandments. One after another, groups of ancient people declined G‑d’s offer, preferring instead to continue practicing idolatry, murder, and immorality.  The Jewish nation was the only one willing and eager to receive G‑d’s gift of the Torah. Entirely. No questions asked. In the past, we might have clung to our familiar ways of being, even though they did not serve us well. But now, having dedicated ourselves to work the Steps, we are ready!

Step Seven: July/Tammuz - Humbly asked Him.

Tammuz is a summer month. We tend to get lax in our commitments. The beach, sun, and fun are often all too inviting. We need to stick with the Steps. The seventeenth of Tammuz is a fast day marking the beginning of three week period that led to the Holy Temple’s destruction, along with other historic events that have been devastating to the Jewish people. In Tammuz, we need to ask G‑d to remove our character defects. Humility lies in knowing that in a moment, without His help, we individually and collectively find ourselves lamenting destruction all over again. Been there, done that. We are not masters over our shortcomings. Please G‑d, we need You to remove them.

Step Eight: August/Av - Made a List.

The month of Av is noted for the inauspicious day, Tishah B’Av, which sadly commemorates the destruction of both our Holy Temples in Jerusalem. Our sins of idol worshiping, murder, and immoral relations led to the destruction of the First Temple; baseless hatred resulted in the destruction of the Second. The Temples housed G‑d’s spiritual manifestation in His physical world. We, Jewish people, long for the rebuilding of the Third and final Temple, which will be eternal. We’ve got to do our part to get it. We've got to correct the actual sins that sent us into our 2000 year exile - the current darkness that leaves us with so much pain, suffering, and spiritual plight. This month, we can certainly identify whom we have harmed, and become willing to make amends. We want to see the Ninth of Av become transformed from the day of fasting and repentance to the day of great rejoicing that our Torah promises it will ultimately be.

Step Nine: September/Elul - Made Amends.

Elul is the month before Rosh Hashanah. The Shofar is sounded daily, waking us up to the reality that a New Year is coming. The King, G‑d Himself, is said to be “in the field”; i.e., more accessible to our sincere repentance than at any other time of year. G‑d is ready to forgive. We can have a fresh start. However, we can’t ask G‑d to forgive our sins until we ask forgiveness from those we have hurt. That includes ourselves. The work of Elul implores us to make amends.

Step Ten: October/Tishrei - Continuing Personal Inventory.

Making amends is never really over. Neither is our opportunity for Teshuvah (returning to who we really are - pure and G‑dly). Holidays fill this month. Self reflection abounds, as we crown G‑d as our King (Rosh Hashanah); pray for forgiveness (Yom Kippur); and celebrate His festivals (Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret). We have endless new possibilities in the New Year, provided we continue to take stock, and keep our side of the street clean.

Step Eleven: November/Cheshvan - Prayer and Meditation.

In Cheshvan, we come down to earth. After the high of the festivities of Tishrei, Cheshvan leads us back to work, back to school, back to the Steps. We want to hold on to the gains we have made in our sincere attempts at self improvement and forgiveness. We must surely spend time in prayer and meditation in order to stay consciously connected with G‑d. We have done a great deal of work. Especially in Cheshvan, we need to ask Him to help us to know what to do next, and to give us the power to do it.

Step Twelve: December/Kislev - Carrying the Message.

Kislev hosts the miracle of Chanukah. A small grassroots Jewish army was victorious over the mighty Greco-Roman enemy who sought our spiritual decimation. One tiny jug of pure olive oil lasted for eight days. Tuned in to our own personal miracles of recovery, we are spiritually awake. The light of our inner Menorah, our soul, is shining. Just as we display our Menorahs publicly, spreading the light of the holiday, so, too, we are empowered to share the light of our recovery with others. Practicing the principles we have learned through working the Steps throughout the twelve months is an attainable goal. We need only gaze into the warm Chanukah lights each night, and see ourselves as G‑d sees us; for a soul of man is a candle of G‑d.

Any particular Step can obviously be worked any month (or any moment). Similarly, any Jewish spiritual energy is available to us at any time. We need not wait for Purim for joy; for Passover for redemption; for Yom Kippur for forgiveness. My mentor teaches:  the unique spiritual dimensions of Jewish time are always present, just that each is "on sale" during a particular month or festival. Everyone loves a bargain. Try tapping into the Jewish calendar’s spiritual energy as you work the Steps; it’s bound to aid in Jewish Recovery.