Happy 4th…

The Alameda 4th of July Parade

Sign on the Temple Israel entry in the Alameda 4th of July Parade, created by our wonderful president, Betty Riback.

This morning was so glorious. It was the reason I rushed my family into Alameda: so we could join the Temple Israel of Alameda 4th of July float. Along the parade route, I heard “there’s a synagogue in Alameda?” and also “you should have used spell-checked; there’s a misspelling on your sign.” (From a man convinced my last name should have been written as the name for a different type of clergy.) These were the more out of place responses to our celebration of community and patriotism. At other times, I heard people read the sign or shout “Welcome, Rabbi.” And I shouted back, “that’s me!”

Honestly, it was a joyous occasion. We didn’t see all of the parade entries, but we did see people from a plethora of communities — Native Americans, Mexican cowboys, Chinese dragon dancers, East Bay Korean community, along with churches, Boy Scouts, marching bands, and queer pride. The entry in front of us featured a drag queen who walked half the route in incredibly high heels. Behind us was dance music on loud speakers and amazing dancers who kept the joy flowing throughout the parade.

Joyous Community and Political Reality

Along the route, we saw plenty of signs that brought joy to my heart. Alameda is a progressive community that strongly supports reproductive healthcare and diversity. The parade was canceled the last two years and the crowds weren’t as big as they were pre-COVID. Yet, we had the opportunity to gather as a community to celebrate the nation we are building together.

Nationalism doesn’t belong to any political party. As a Peace & Justice Studies major at Wellesley College, my understanding of communal identity was solidified by Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson. There’s no way I could ever give up on the idea of America, regardless of the atrocious decrees of the Supreme Court. The communities we are building, the nation we are weaving, will outlast the regressive decisions plaguing us this year.

Mass Death at Highland Park Parade

So, I came home excited to share my first public experience as a rabbi. Of course, I was stopped in my tracks by the mass shooting at a similar parade in Highland Park, Illinois, a community with a large Jewish population. Six people dead and at least twenty-four wounded. Person of interest identified, though not arrested at the scene despite heavy police presence.

Living Through Social Upheaval

When I was in my mid-20s, a documentary of Bob Dylan came out that used the phrase “social upheaval” to describe the 1960s. I had been searching for a name for my political blog and decided to use the phrase to describe the nonviolent paradigm shifts I saw as necessary to create a more just society. That blog isn’t really available anymore. I still use the handle on Twitter, in part because my last secular boss enjoyed having me post professionally from the handle.

As a young idealist, I never imagined this would be the social upheaval I would live through. Where people ignore the raging pandemic around them. Ignore the life-altering possibility of Long COVID, ignore the continuing death, and declare masks so obtrusive that no one is required to wear them. I never thought a president would lie about losing re-election and that so many of my fellow citizens would be taken in by that lie — including elected officials. I didn’t think Christian nationalists would take over the Supreme Court and make women less equal. I always thought the reproductive freedom movement was bilking people of money, fundraising for a right that was firmly settled. As a peace activist, it drove me crazy that no one seemed to care about international human rights or increasing women’s involvement in peace-building and nation-building efforts. I could not imagine that the Supreme Court would remove the rights of every person with a uterus to their own healthcare decisions, based on a Christian understanding of “souls” and “life.” Nevermind that the concept of the soul was created by pagan Greeks, making its way into Judaism in the Hellenistic Age (after our Bible was written). Or that Jewish religious freedom to prioritize living life over potential life is denied by the ruling. Never did I think a Supreme Court would rule based on a lie, making public schools open to forced Christian evangelism.

This is not the social upheaval I signed up for.

Moving Forward

As we hold space for more dead, we must join together in action. The following organizations are not a complete list of every organization working on the issues of gun violence, COVID, reproductive healthcare, Ukraine support, and Jewish social action in the United States. They are some of the most prominent (from a progressive, Jewish perspective).

Moms Demand Action

Brady

Long COVID Support

National Council of Jewish Women (Sponsors of Rabbis for Repro)

Abortion Funds

HIAS Ukraine Support

Joint Distribution Committee — Ukraine Fund

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action

COVID is airborne, therefore follow experts on Twitter for information

Lean into Mourning

Don’t overlook the need to mourn all that has been lost. Remember that we might need to see graphic photographs of mass killing victims to awaken the silent majority in this country. We need to realize that the humans who died lining a street to watch a parade were innocent victims, just as the children in Uvalde were, and the Black grocery shoppers in Buffalo. No matter how often these horrific events happen, we cannot ignore them. Each life lost was infinitely important.

The Three Weeks Are Coming

The Jewish calendar has an interesting summer cycle. We descend into mourning and then climb our way up to spiritual renewal on Rosh HaShanah. The mourning period begins on the 17 of Tammuz, a date on the Hebrew calendar that corresponds to July 17th this year. I know many of us are already mourning the loss of shared understanding of what it means to be American. The annual mourning period in the Jewish calendar reflects collective mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Spiritually, it also provides a rhythm to the annual journey around the sun and with the moon. We must dive into the depths of our souls and reckon with the darkness before we can reach for the light.

Sovereignty of Divine Presence, 49 Days Omer 5782

Today is the forty-ninth day, which is seven weeks of the Omer in the year 5782. שכינה שבשכינה, Shekhinah ShebeShekhinah, Malchut ShebeMalchut, Sovereignty of Divine Presence. As we are enveloped by the Sabbath Queen, we anticipate the day after today: Shavuot, Weeks, The Day of Revelation. During this Omer, I became a rabbi. How are you called to acknowledge God? Do you bind yourself to something beyond your ego?

Iguazu Falls: Largest Waterfall Chain in the World

Over 275 individual water falls. On the border of Argentina and Brazil. This is the natural wonder I most look forward to visiting one day. Water is essential to life. The flow of water reminds us that life continues to flow, beyond heart ache, beyond horror, and beyond our individual time in this life.

Making Space for the Sovereignty of God

There is nothing that makes my heart sing more than recognizing the truth of God’s existence. These seven weeks of meditation are about how I implement godliness into the world. What are the Emanations of God that I can see refracted in this material reality? How can I make myself a better conduit of goodness? What do I need to do to be a servant of God?

Remembering Those We Have Lost

One of the kindest souls I’ve ever known, Gloria Jean Delia, left the world too soon. She knew with great certainty that one day I would be a rabbi, even before I was committed to the path. I think about a conversation we had during a late-night Shavuot study session when her delicate spirit confirmed my future for me.

I think about the wisdom and dignity of Rabbi Yaniv Dotan, z”l. And of course, of Dr. Bob Levy, of righteous memory. Ben Telushkin. Sheldon Minster. Kenny Minster. And Katie Cerullo. These are only the people whose passing have touched me deepest. I am still in search of Bar Mitzvah videos, trying to hear the voices of my grandparents one more time. The past is so elusive. Perhaps that is why time travel is an enduring fantasy.

My Prayer For the Days Ahead

Breathing fully into each day.

Committing to the future we want to create for ourselves and our communities.

Embracing eternal wisdom.

May we each reach towards El Shaddai.

May we feel embraced by the Unending Love enveloping us.

49 Days Omer Previously…

Enveloped in the Divine Presence, 5781 / 2021.

Indwelling Divine Presence in a Pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

Completion, Reflection, Expansion, 5779 / 2019.

Moving Towards a Coherent Philosophy, 5778 / 2018.

Acknowledging the Shadow Within, 5777 / 2017.

Books for the Journey


Image by José Machado via Pexels.

Foundation of Divine Presence, 48 Days Omer 5782

Today is forty-eight days, which is six weeks and six days of the Omer in the year 5782. יסוד שבשכינה. Yesod ShebeShekhinah. Foundation of Divine Presence. Am I still connected to the Creative Flow within? Or have I given up the pursuit, spellbound by doomscrolling?

Desire for Silence

There is so much about this part of the journey. Perhaps I should have written in a journal. What I know for sure is that now is not the time to “reflect” in public view. I am still in the midst of my transition. There is no reflection possible when reality feels so surreal.

This is my sixth year of public meditations into Omer counting. I wrote reflections every year of my rabbinical training. Next year, I will not write daily meditations. Instead, I am going to sort out how to continue to generate public thoughts while maintaining space for my internal journey, and supporting my congregation.

Floating On Air

I never want to take a day for granted. I want to appreciate the journey, while reveling in where I am. Sometimes, I think about the people I met along the way and wonder what they’d think about this chapter of my life. Is your life a simple through-line? Growing up, my folks had this Lincoln Perseverance Motivational Poster on our coffee table. (I doubt it cost that much 30 years ago.) I feel ready for the next chapter of my life.

Embrace the Voice in Your Head

When I read Eat, Pray, Love, I was vacationing in New York City. I hung out with myself during the day and enjoyed my friends’ company through the night. I had just quit one marketing job and was about to start the next one, where I would meet my husband. In 2013, I read Paris Letters: A Travel Memoir About Art, Writing, and Finding Love in Paris. By this time, I was having breakfast at IHOP with my husband and newborn son. Instead of reading about a random writer’s search for self, I was reading the true adventure of a woman who had been my copywriter at the first LA-based marketing job I had.

The voice in my head told me to dive into Judaism. I reminded myself that I prefer who I am within a Jewish worldview. I knew there was more to the search for meaning than world travel. The kid who attempted to read philosophical treatise about why people die needed deeper answers than can be found in art museums and church tours. So I sunk in. Now, I’ve come up for air with a new title in front of my name.

This is such a glorious time to be alive. We have the opportunity to create a brighter future for ourselves and for the world. Let’s prepare for Shabbat and Shavuot. Let’s embrace the revelation rushing towards us. Let’s begin.

Those Books Again

Previously on 48 Days…

Remembering Learning as My Foundation, 5781 / 2021.

Yearning for Wisdom, 5780 / 2020.

Removing Veils Obscuring Foundational Truth, 5779 / 2019.

Allowing Space for the Divine Presence, 5778 / 2018.

Persona and Shadow, 5777 / 2017.


Image by sebastian del val via Pexels.

Splendor of Divine Presence, 47 Days Omer 5782

Today is forty-seven days, which is six weeks and five days of the Omer in the year 5782. הוד שבשכינה, Hod ShebeShekhinah. Splendor of Divine Presence. I am surrounded by the security of God’s Presence. She envelops me with Love, Gratitude, and a thirst for community. How do you experience God?

Holding Space Beyond Ourselves

Deep community is a human need. We are fractured and splintered. Our ties were frayed before the pandemic. We cling to our phones, unable to allow ourselves to be fully present in the physical realm. World news, national news, local news overwhelm us.

May we have the strength to allow ourselves to sink into our bodies.

May our breath help us find our way to our souls.

Let our souls sing eternal wisdom into our hearts.

Let eternal wisdom guide us towards Gratitude.

A Book for This Moment

I first learned about The Secret History of Wonder Woman when Jill Lapore wrote an article for the New Yorker in 2014, combining information she gathered writing the book with info on the first Gal Gadot film. I even purchased a copy for a friend. Yet, I didn’t start reading it until this year.

There is a lot to consider about the creators of Wonder Woman and what it says about the pursuit of gender equality. The United States consistently refuses to acknowledge the cost of raising children. Nor can we agree that access to birth control and abortion are human rights issues. Those causes were central to the creation of Wonder Woman.

This is not a straight biography of any single individual. There are dozens of factoids sprinkled in its pages and the writing style does not flow as easily as some other popular historical writing. Nevertheless, once you enter into the maze of reality weaved by Lapore, you too will be hooked.

47 Days of the Omer Through Time

Journey Beyond Skepticism, 5781 / 2021.

Holding Space for the Divine in a Pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

Creating a Relationship with El Shaddai, 5779 / 2019.

Remembering God’s Glory, 5778 / 2018.

Encountering the Eternal Flame of Knowing, 5777 / 2017.


Image by sebastian del val via Pexels.

Eternal Divine Presence, 46 Days Omer 4782

Today is forty-six days, which is six weeks and four days of the Omer in the year 5782. נצח שבשכינה, Netzach ShebeShekhinah. Eternal Divine Presence. This day represents the essence of my acceptance of the yoke of the Divine. If God is the name for the Essence Beyond Description, The Cause of Being, the Oneness of Ideals — are we called to be aligned with that Oneness? Or can we ignore it and live a life of hedonism? What binds you to Love, Justice, & Truth?

The Sovereignty of Divine Presence

Traditionally, the final sefira is known as Malchut, which means kingship / sovereignty. Shekhinah is a somewhat secondary name, which connects to the Divine Presence. Shekhinah is feminine and the feminine energy of God has been mangled, distorted, and hidden for most of Jewish history. Merging these two concepts is a tikkun, a rectificaiton, in itself. I am called to be a servant of HaShem because I am aware of Her presence. Since She is here, I align myself with Her.

What Binds You? What Do You Obligate Yourself Toward?

One of the things that can leave us lost is the freedom of time. Neither my children nor I have definite plans this summer. I know what I need to accomplish and a rough timeline of how long I have to accomplish it. Since most of those tasks are not time-bound, it is up to me to balance the load.

Similarly, we can choose whether to follow The Way (Halakhah) set out by the Jewish tradition, in order to make our time count. We can choose an expansive approach to The Jewish Way and create a personally meaningful life. We can also choose Netflix and Chill as our forever ideal. Leisure time should be applauded. It’s just when our leisure time binds us to our phones and our tablets and our digital wallets, then we are not choosing to relax — we have entered a different dynamic.

Binding With Gratitude

I created a simple formula for my family’s English blessing over eating. Thank the person who made the food and thank God for creating the food. My mom made me a chocolate graduation cake. So, when eating a piece today, my son chose to say: “Thank you Bubbe for baking this cake, and thank you Mama for cutting this cake, and thank you God for bringing us this food.” I love his precision and expansiveness. We should all find a way to bind ourselves with gratitude.

Previously on 46 days of the Omer…

Jewish Wisdom is a Spiritual Salve, 5781 / 2021.

Spiritual care during a pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

Rejecting suicide, embracing Eternal Divine Presence, 5779 / 2019.

Words Create Reality, 5778 / 2018.

Breathless embrace of God and Shabbat, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Quang Nguyen Vinh via Pexels.

Beauty of Divine Presence, 45 Days Omer 5782

Today is forty-five days, which is six weeks and three days of the Omer in the year 5782. תפארת שבשכינה. Tiferet ShebeShekhinah. Beauty within Divine Presence. Before this day began, the Beit Din of the Academy for Jewish Religion, California awarded me smicha. I became a rabbi.

Words Fail Me

Throughout the day, I lost my words. And then, we processed. I came into the sanctuary with my master degree hood on and got to my seat. I could not stop crying. The ceremony continued with the awarding of master’s degrees to the chaplaincy graduates. They gave their speeches. We were called individually to the Beit Din and received a blessing. We came together, as rabbinical candidates and accepted the conditions of smicha. Then, we were proclaimed rabbis by the duly constituted rabbinical court. Next, the cantorial candidates were awarded ordination. Then, we each gave our speech. In between and after these events, there was a beautiful choir of our student peers and alumni colleagues.

Each graduate could only invite five attendees. All others had to watch on a Zoom webinar. After, I gathered with my family at my cousin’s house. Our kids swam together. She and her husband set up gorgeous decorations for me. We ate and ate and ate. We watched old home movies and I heard my grandparents’ voices for the first time in decades. It could not have been a more magical day.

Thank you to everyone who helped me reach this day.

I have floated on God’s Love all day. The Beauty of Her Presence surrounds me. And now, I’m going to sleep.

Previously on the 45th Day of the Omer…

God is with us on the journey, 5781 / 2021.

Beautiful Divine Presence, 5780 / 2020.

Truth beyond the veil, 5779 / 2019.

Holiness pulses beyond time and space, 5778 / 2018.

Finding the core truth of motivation, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Antonio López via Pixabay.

Strength of Divine Presence, 44 Days Omer 5782

Today is forty-four days, which is six weeks and two days of the Omer in the year 5782. גבורה שבשכינה, Gevurah ShebeSchechinah, Strength of Divine Presence. Today I will be ordained a rabbi. Today, I have the honor of experiencing the depth of Divine Presence and accepting the honor of dedicating my life to its constant renewal.

To Be A Rabbi

To be a rabbi is to be a Jew.

A simple Jew,

Fully committed to living a Jewish life.

To be a rabbi is to commit oneself to lifelong learning and honestly mean it.

To be a rabbi is to be a daydreamer, a learner, and a shepherd.

Amen. Selah.

Boundaries, Strength, Discernment

These are my greatest strengths. I am deeply rooted in Gevurah energy. I find it the most auspicious day to be entering the rabbinate on the 44th day of the counting of the Omer.

Previously Today….

Does it matter that the Divine is real? 5781 / 2021.

Choosing Strong Divine Presence during a pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

The Divine Feminine Radiates Through Us, 5779 / 2019.

Mothers Reflect Divine Strength, 5778 / 2018.

Embracing The Divine, 5777 / 2017.


Image of Janet’s Foss by Tim Hill via Pixabay.

Covenantal Love within Divine Presence, 43 Days Omer 5782

Today is forty-three days, which is six weeks and one day of the Omer in the year 5782. חסד שבשכינה, Chesed ShebeShechinah. Covenantal Love within Divine Presence. May Her Presence flow through us, girding us for the what lies ahead. May we have the strength to be conduits of love.

Words Are Failing Me

As my ordination approaches, words are failing me. I feel like stopping. Just being. Allowing others to speak. I want to soak in every last moment before this transition, and also to be done waiting. I am overflowing with love, and breaking with anguish. When police care more about their own lives than the lives of children and schoolteachers, I am unclear what world we live in.

We Will Build This World From Love

Rabbi Menachem Creditor wrote this song. In the description box that accompanies this YouTube video of him singing it, he wrote: “I wrote this song for my daughter, born right after 9/11. This world will be built by love: ours and God’s. In the best and worst of moments, non-fundamentalist “believers” and “atheists” are reaching for the same hope using different language. Amen to both.”

El Shaddai, God of Breasts, Help Us

El Shaddai,

God of Protection,

God of Breasts,

Suckle us honey from the crag.

May we feel Your Love flow through us.

Hold us,

Nourish us,

Remind us that we are strong.

May we have the strength to do better.

Previously on the 43rd Day…

Sinking into the Flow of Divine Presence, 5781 / 2021.

The Divine Presence in a pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

The Divine Mother nourishes us all, 5779 / 2019.

Allowing the Divine Presence a place in my life, 5778 / 2018.

Seeking the Divine Light within, 5777 / 2017.


Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie posted on Instagram about El Shaddai.

Image via Pexels / Pixabay.

Indwelling of Bonding, 42 Days of Omer 5782

Today is forty-two days, which is six weeks of the Omer in the year 5782. שכינה שביסוד Shekhinah ShebeYesod, Indwelling of Bonding. Memorial Day Weekend is beginning. Ordination is in three days. Our Shabbat table included my parents. Everyone finished the school year — I now have a fourth grader and a first grader and no more rabbinical school assignments. I am so blessed and so grateful for everything and everyone in my life.

Shabbat Rest and Renewal

Sinking into the Flow of Time.

Allowing ourselves a Digital Sabbath.

The horror and anger and frustration and need will be there waiting tomorrow.

Choosing one full day away from the pull of doom-scrolling.

Blissful Shabbat

Snuggle up with a good book.

Take a nap.

Hug someone.

Take a walk.

Nondenominational Judaism

Perhaps the hardest part of graduating is letting go of the intellectual community at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California. I am excited that I will be living closer to one of my favorite professors, Dr. Joel Gereboff.

I am so grateful for my pluralistic and inclusive rabbinical school. We are truly colleagues with everyone at the seminary — cantors, chaplains, Master of Jewish Studies students, as well as rabbis-in-training. I am a better person and a better spiritual leader because of the people I’ve been on this journey with.

AJRCA has existed in multiple locations in the six years I have matriculated. These last 2.5 years have been the hardest, as we’ve only been on Zoom. I am grateful I will be eating dinner with many of these folks in person on Sunday (outside) and will have an in-person (though strictly limited attendance) smicha experience.

Shabbat Shalom. I don’t have much further insight on the Indwelling of Bonding. I pray we all find our way to our truest selves. So that you too can experience this overwhelming need to be quiet and just be.

My Queen, My Mother, Shekhinah showers me with Love with every breath I take.

The world is pulsing with desire for meaning. Let’s dive into the pools of wisdom today. Let’s allow ourselves time to heal and rest. Soon enough, we will start the journey towards creating a beloved future.

Previously on the 42nd Day…

Bonding with the Source of Life, 5781 / 2021.

Honoring our physical vessels, 5780 / 2020.

The foundation of being is ever-present, 5779 / 2019.

Sovereign bonds in life, 5778 / 2018.

Bonding with the Immanent Divine, 5777 / 2017.


Image by sun jib via Pixabay.

Foundation: Grounded and Lifted, 41 Days Omer 5782

Today is forty-one days, which is five weeks and six days of the Omer in the year 5782. יסוד שביסוד, Yesod ShebeYesod. Core of Foundation. I choose to be rooted in my connection to God. Recognizing that Virtues / Ideals / Emanations of the Divine are eternal. Whenever I stay grounded in these truths, my life is lifted and my soul sings. How do you stay rooted?

The End and the Beginning…

There is a comfort in the “student” label. It gives you an out. It reminds people that you are still learning. Nevermind that the core value of the rabbinate is lifelong learning. Spiritual exemplar and all, people forget that clergy are human.

I think the thing I’m happiest about is that I was totally correct when I prayed into this future. This journey allows me to sink into the deepest parts of myself. Every day is a blessing. I am so grateful to be alive.

Turning Towards the Light

I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading the news. That will not be the focus of the final posts in this Omer count. For the coming days, this space will be a respite from outside forces. A place to nestle with the Creative Flow encouraging us towards our best selves.

The Jewish tradition is my rock. I lean on the staff of my ancestors. Their insights guide me into broader insights. I don’t have to throw out the tradition because it is male-focused and rigidly insular. I am incredible grateful that my people maintained the boundaries they needed in order to stay alive. Now, I have the obligation to open up their insights to wider audiences.

I hate filiopietism. I cannot gloss over the difficult parts. I’m also dedicated to reaching beyond my inclination towards criticism. Core truth awaits. Practical application and soul expansion are at stake. I still haven’t bothered getting “higher education” in order to have letters after my name. All of this is in service to my spiritual journey and the souls around me.

What grounds you? Where does the Foundation of the Universe meet the Core of Your Being?

41 Days Omer Through Different Prisms…

Consider the depths calling you, 5781 / 2021.

The Bedrock That Guides Me, 5780 / 2020.

Experiencing the Divine Within, 5779 / 2019.

Rooting Myself in Community, 5778 / 2018.

My Personality is My Foundation, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Frank Winkler via Pixabay.