Today is thirty-five days, which is five weeks of the Omer in the year 5782. שכינה שבהוד, Shechinah ShebeHod, Indwelling of Gratitude. How do we hold space for Splendor & Gratitude?
I love getting lost in nature photography. I’m not that great in the outdoors, but the expanse of my mindscape is beyond measure. How do you beckon Serenity into your soul?
Welcome a Day of Rest
The conclusion of the week of Hod, Splendor / Gratitude is Shabbat. Day of Rest.
Five Weeks of the Omer is Concluding. Only two weeks remain. Before we conclude this cycle, the tagline of my website will change. On the forty-fourth day, I will become a rabbi.
My gratitude for this journey is beyond words. I’ve been struggling to write something worthy of posting. Perhaps I will add to this post later. Probably, I will simply allow Shabbat to wash over me. This Shabbat and the next one are my last days of rest before ordination. I intend to fully embrace just being.
Today is thirty-four days, which is four weeks and six days of the Omer in the year 5782. יסוד שבהוד, Yesod ShebeHod, Foundation of Gratitude. Is there a place where you feel instantly at peace? What nourishes your soul?
Sinking back into the joy of reading
I have one more paper to write and then I am done with my rabbinical school assignments. There are no more books I am required to read. In ten short days, I will be ordained.
Now I get to sink back into the joy of reading. My mind cannot settle on one book at a time. There are too many gems calling to me. I am so grateful for the ability to read.
Understanding Life Through Fiction
As a child, I was a voracious reader. I felt inferior because there are many classic works I’ve never read. Though I did read the entire Sweet Valley High collection and was thoroughly bored with its predictable structure by eighth grade. There were other series I read — some of which were entirely inappropriate for an elementary-school aged kid. I marvel at how innocent my kids are in comparison. It might be difficult for me to handle the things they learn on the internet, but it is better than the aspiring 20+ year-old I became as a small child religiously watching soap operas.
Human Relationships Ground Me
My children, my partner, my family, my colleagues, my communities: these human interactions ground me and fill me with deep gratitude.
I’ve been physically separated from some of the people that mean the most to me for decades at this point. Going to school outside of Boston, having family scattered across the country — my ties have been virtual long before the pandemic.
I am so grateful for all who are on this journey with me.
As part of my master’s in rabbinic studies, I wrote a thesis titled “Internal Growth, Human Relationships, and Reaching Towards God: The Concurrent Development of Ethics and Mysticism in Early Modern Jewish Texts.” I analyzed Tomer Devorah, Mesillat Yesharim, and Nefesh HaChayim. Here is a vide of my thesis presentation, which basically covers the introduction to my thesis.
If you would like to read a copy of my thesis, please email me. Here are links to some of the books I read.
The above list is not complete. Many of my important sources came from articles available on Academia. My favorite essay is the one that opened up the world of Talmud as literature and the beauty of Jewish mysticism for me: “Four Entered Pardes Revisted,” from the Harvard Theological Review by Alon Goshen-Gottstein.
Today is thirty-three days, which is four weeks and five days of the Omer in the year 5782. הוד שבהוד, Hod ShebeHod, Gratitude within Gratitude. Lag is the way 33 is said transposing the Hebrew alphabet as a counting system… thus the name of the minor holiday of Lag B’Omer!
Gratitude for Dr. Bob Levy, z”l
Lag B’Omer is the second yarzheit, the second anniversary, of Dr. Bob Levy‘s death. I learned of his passing while in a Zoom shiva meeting for a colleague’s mother. Dr. Levy was a passionate historian, an honored B’nai Mitzvah tutor, and a proud Jew. No one has ever taught with such animation and pathos for the suffering of our people. I had the distinct honor of being among his last students. He passed away before our final class, which was supposed to be a reflection point on a year of soaking in his knowledge of Jewish history from the Middle Ages to modernity. Instead, we spent our final class mourning our beloved professor.
I didn’t know Dr. Levy personally. I was looking forward to the next chapter in our relationship, when I could be among the former students that he bear-hugged in the hallways, always eager to know what people are up to. There are so many things about Jewish intellectual history, Jewish professional life, and the future of the Jewish people that I want to discuss with Dr. Levy. I pray one day to merit the opportunity to continue our conversation.
Gratitude Within Gratitude, Splendor Within Splendor
When we are truly able to appreciate our own, individual gifts, we become able to emanate Gratitude.
When we take the time to get out of our heads and make our personal space beautiful, we reflect Spendor.
Love, Healthy Boundaries, Beauty, Truth, Compassion, and Endurance together create Splendor.
When we allow ourselves to be conduits of light, we become beacons of Gratitude.
May you be able to sink into Joyful Gratitude. May we all acknowledge the Splendor of Being.
Today is thirty-two days, which is four weeks and four days of the Omer in the year 5782. נצח שבהוד, Netzach ShebeHod, Eternal Splendor. The pillars of the Temple within each of us. Endurance within Gratitude. How do you create space for splendor within your body? Do you take time to refocus on what matters throughout the day?
Endurance, Not Perfection
We are only human. Despite what some religious writers want you to believe, we cannot become perfect. Striving to live in the world, in relationship with other humans, means we will stumble. The goal of counting the Omer is appreciating the strengths we already have and opening up to the possibilities in front of us. This is not about castigating ourselves for All We Do Not Do.
Sometimes, we yell instead of comfort. Other times, people take advantage of us. Life is not a straight line and the only end is the completion of this material life.
Gratitude through Blessings / Prayer
Jews are encouraged to say 100 blessings a day. This idea is first recorded in a baraita, a story remembered from the time of the Mishna but not included in the Mishna.
“It is taught in a baraita that Rabbi Meir would say: A person is obligated to recite one hundred blessings every day, as it is stated in the verse: “And now, Israel, what [ma] does the Lord your God require of you” (Deuteronomy 10:12). Rabbi Meir interprets the verse as though it said one hundred [me’a], rather than ma. (Menachot 43b:15)
The Shulchan Aruch is the most definitive compendium of Jewish laws. Many Jews feel obligated to strive to do all of the positive commandments and avoid all of the negative commandments contained in this treatise, which was written in 1563 in Safed, Israel by Rabbi Joseph Karo. It has four sections, the first, Orach Chayim (“The Way of Life”) includes the following commandment based on the above Talmudic passage:
חייב אדם לברך בכל יום מאה ברכות לפחות:
One must bless each day at least one hundred blessings
This is not about commanding OCD. This is about commanding mindfulness, awareness, and ultimately, soul-expanding, immersive gratitude. When we choose to see the good in every situation, we bring forth light into the universe. We become conduits of God and we reflect holiness through our thoughts and feelings. This is the heart of the Endurance of Gratitude.
Today is thirty-one days, which is four weeks and three days of the Omer in the year 5782. תפארת שבהוד. Tiferet ShebeHod, Beauty of Splendor; אמת שבהוד, Emet ShebeHod, Truth within Gratitude. This is not blind humility or a false front for the sake of appearances. Within true Gratitude, Truth pulses. What Truth guides you towards Gratitude? How can we maintain a positive attitude when evil and chaos exist?
The Rainbow Connection
I don’t have to believe in the Bible as literal truth to appreciate rainbows as a sign of God’s love for living things. The Splendor of a rainbow draws us back to our true selves. That’s why there is a special blessing when you see a rainbow. A rainbow is a reminder both of God’s presence and our ability to be present to values beyond physical reality.
Today is thirty days, which is four weeks and two days of the Omer in the year 5782. גבורה שבהוד, Gevurah of Hod, Discipline within Gratitude. What defines your gratitude practice? Do you acknowledge the work that goes into growing and cooking food before you eat it? Is prayer meaningful or arcane? Do you have deeper faith in spontaneous prayer? Or do you express gratitude through more physical acts?
Sink into the timeless beauty of landscapes. Swim in the brilliance of skilled photographers.
Choose expansive consciousness
“There is no poverty like the poverty of consciousness.” –Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 41a, quoted in Pillar of Prayer: Guidance in Contemplative Prayer, Sacred Study, and the Spiritual Life from the Baal Shem Tov and his Circle.
How do we cultivate expansive consciousness? By making fixed times for prayer. Contemplate things that ground you. Wrestle with God. Allow yourself time to sink into gratitude.
The Baal Shem Tov taught “one needs to study and to pray with the presence of mental clarity and open awareness.” (Pillar of Prayer, 23).
“For implicit in a person’s thought is the entire Divinely emanated cosmic structure…Now, thought is the expression of the attribute of Wisdom, and speech is the offspring of thought; and indeed, thought is also [subtly] composed of letters. Thus, when one’s thought is not connected with one’s words, it is like wasting seed; for one’s words are one’s very life essence.” (Pillar of Prayer, 25).
Prayer is Unpopular
So many people are turned off by prayer.
People are afraid to invite others to join them in prayer.
Having set time for communal prayer is inconvenient and requires people to change their habits and commit to a counter-cultural act.
Yet, prayer is an equal-opportunity technology: available to every soul to help us expand our consciousness and sink into gratitude.
I am dedicated to making prayer accessible and meaningful to as many people as possible. I hope you will join me in building communal space for soul expansion.
Today is twenty-nine days, which is four weeks and one day of the Omer in the year 5782. חסד שבהוד, Chesed ShebeHod, Covenantal Love within Gratitude. Embracing the Divine despite the the chaos around us. How can we live into our fullness?
I choose to rebel and acknowledge that this month is full of blessing for me. I’ve finished my master’s thesis, “Inner Growth, Human Relationships, and Reaching Towards God: The Concurrent Development of Ethics and Mysticism in Early Modern Jewish Texts.” I completed my presentation on the thesis. I have roughly four more assignments to complete to finish my rabbinical studies.
The Creator of Being does not need to have the independent ability to act in physical reality for me to believe.
God does not need to be all powerful, omnipotent, to be real.
I cannot believe that God chose to be present in the Iron Age and then decided to recede to the background while millions were slaughtered. The God of the Bible is a human creation. God exists beyond our imaginations.
Goodness, Truth, Love, Judgment, Strength: these values lift me up and bind me to God.
May my life be lived in service to these ideals.
May my rabbinate help those around me encounter, embrace, and enhance the essence of their true selves.
The Psalter in a Jewish Key
The easiest way into Jewish prayer is the Psalter, the book of Psalms. Here are the companions on my journey into this wellspring.
Today is twenty-eight days, which is four weeks of the Omer in the year 5782. שחינה שבנצח. Shechinah within Netzach. Divine Presence within Endurance. When we reach beyond what we think we could handle, God is with us. When we sink into how great it is to be alive, God surrounds us.
Choosing To Be Israel, Choosing To Be A God-Wrestler
When I first returned to deep Jewish practice, my brain was flooded with “peace” activist rhetoric. I found it so disturbing to read blessings for Israel every day. It took me quite awhile to break through the anti-Jewish bias that had accumulated in my thought process. I finally broke through to understanding that the majority of the time “Israel” is mentioned in Jewish prayer, it is as a collective name for my people. And the name means God-wrestler.
God Is With Me Always
My understanding of the Divine is quite different from many people. I try hard not to attempt to convince anyone of God’s existence. Although, I am known to defend God from specious arguments. My goal in writing these blog posts is to help people sink into a more expansive understanding of God. Breaking free of childhood narratives. Diving into the mystery at the heart of the universe.
Omer Counting is about allowing space for God to enter into our daily lives. As Shabbat begins, how are you greeting the Ground of Being?
Remembering Those Lost to COVID-19
Two years ago, I reflected on the seemingly overwhelming fact that 250,000 people worldwide had died from COVID-19. Now, we are marking an even grimmer day: almost one million people in the United States have died from COVID-19. Globally, over six million people have died from COVID-19. Each person contains worlds and each death is painful. We have ripped through the fabric of humanity.
Yes, we need to endure and move forward. Yet, we must also recognize that this disease continues to hunt us. Getting sick, especially getting infected more than once, can increase long-term negative health outcomes. And people continue to die of the ever-increasingly contagious disease. I am not a health expert. I rely on county public health experts, medical experts via Twitter, and Your Local Epidemiologist to understand what is happening with this pandemic. May we never forget those whose lives were cut short. May we stay vigilant for our own health, and for the health of all who live on earth.
Today is twenty-seven days, which is three weeks and six days of the Omer in the year 5782. יסוד שבנצח, Yesod ShebeNetzach, Foundation of Endurance. Connecting with the piece within that helps us endure these unprecedented times. Knowing our “why” that sees us through all circumstances.
Are There Cracks in Your Endurance?
Baruch HaShem, we are all alive. But are we all completely here? We aren’t fully on the other side of this pandemic. We have not processed all the experiences we’ve lived through. The rifts between us seem to be widening. Brokenness is a natural part of life. If we are living honestly, we recognize that being “only human,” means that we never stop living with brokenness.
Yet, our spiritual practice can hold space for that brokenness while moving us forward on our journeys. That’s why Leonard Cohen wrote Anthem:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
Leonard Cohen, “Anthem” lyrics provided by MusicMatch in Google search
We must honor the cracks within us, while never letting them overwhelm us. It is a dance between our brokenness and our growth.
Realistic Goals, Realistic Companionship
Whatever you want to do in your life, start small. Take it one step at a time and never beat yourself up for stumbling back into bad habits. Honor yourself by being a realistic companion to the Ideals compelling you towards revelation.
This Omer journey is not about book knowledge or perfectly understanding the sefirot. It is about inner contemplation, honoring the values we hold dear, and clearing away the debris that stops us from fully hearing God’s revelation on Shavuot, which begins in the evening on Saturday, June 4. Five days after my ordination. What sign posts are you moving towards in your life?