Forty-nine days of the Omer 5778

Today is the forty-ninth day, seven weeks of the Omer. It is Shabbat and the day before Shavuot. מלכות שבמלכות, שכינה שבשכינה, Sovereignty of Sovereignty, Divine Immanence of Divine Presence.

In Jewish tradition, formal mourning does not begin until a loved one is buried. There are prescribed rituals for the first week, month, and year after a loved one is buried. All of those rituals are interrupted by Shabbat and other holidays. While a mourner is not permitted to attend a wedding, they are supposed to find a level of joy in Shabbat, our sanctification of time.

Because it is Shabbat and will soon be the Day of Revelation of the Torah, I am not going to speak further about death. I will say that Abraham Joshua Heschel implores us to have a coherent philosophy that is as meaningful in times of misery as it is in times of prosperity.

We must hold fast to our values, draw the Divine Presence close even when it feels God is hidden forever. God is near to all who call, to all who call upon The Cause Of Being in peace.

Our souls yearn for meaning, for purpose beyond material possessions. Our duty is to each human being we encounter. We must find a way to be of service to one another, to enhance human flourishing, and to expand goodness and holiness in the world.

May you have a peaceful and loving Shabbat. May you allow yourself the time to let go of the world and sink into yourself and your journey towards freedom. Shabbat Shalom.

Forty-eight days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty-eight days, which is six weeks and six days of the Omer. יסוד שבמלכות, יסוד שבשכינה. Yesod ShebeMalchut, Yesod ShebeShechinah. Bonding of Sovereignty, Bonding of the Divine Indwelling.

Are you secure enough in your own identity to bond completely with another person? Can you turn off the chatter of your ego mind long enough to feel the Divine Presence and attach as completely as possible?

Take time today to silence your thoughts. Take care before speaking your mind. Ask yourself: am I speaking honestly with another soul or creating rhetorical flourishes to exacerbate the divides between us?

We prepare for the day of rest from the mundane, a day of commune with the holy and the good. Try to reconnect with someone who has been important in your life. Thank them for helping you on your journey. Ask how they are doing. And let them know about this weird Omer counting thing you’ve been observing this year.

I thank you for traveling this path with me. Sharing ideas helps make them real.

Today, I procrastinated from writing my final paper of the semester by challenging people’s views on Israel and Gaza. I am still learning how to communicate about controversial subjects with grace and humility. I pray to become better at sharing my perspective while leaving room for other people. I pray for all who lost their lives in the past week. And I pray that one day soon, people will recognize Zionism as the patriotism of Israelis. May we come closer to peace and reconciliation.

And as we move towards revelation, may we be fully prepared for what awaits us. Shavuot and Pentecost occur this Sunday (Shavuot starts Saturday night after sunset). And it is also the fourth day of Ramadan. May the blessings of the season increase our understanding of one another.

Forty-seven days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty-seven days, which is six weeks and five days of the Omer. הוד שבמלכות, הוד שבשכינה, Hod ShebeMalchut, Hod ShebeShechinah. Splendor of Sovereignty, Splendor of Divine Presence.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel, of blessed memory, said: “God’s glory is found wherever we let God in.” This quotation is found in Alan Morinis’ book, “Everyday Holiness: the Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar.” In the same chapter on the yirah, awe/fear of the Divine, Morinis summarizes the experience: “the one who is called yirei shamayim—having a keenly felt sense of the presence of God and of being called to be in the divine presence.”

Why fear? Some say it is important to direct natural fear (I.e. the instinct that causes fight or flight) towards God’s will. Alternatively, Morinis states: “I have heard a Mussar teacher call on us not to fear punishment for our sins but rather to fear punishment for not living up to our full spiritual potential.”

May we each feel the Splendor of the Indwelling of God and allow that Presence to help us be the person we want to be.

Forty-six days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty-six days of the Omer, נצח שבמלכות, נצח שבשכינה, Netzach Shebe Malchut, Netzach Shebe Shechinah. Eternity of Sovereignty, Eternal Indwelling Presence.

Facebook has been an extremely divided platform today. Perhaps that is why today’s meditation from Chabad spoke to me:

“We are not passive observers of this universe, but rather partners in its creation. We are the ones who assign each thing its meaning, who bring definition and resolution to an otherwise ambiguous world.

Don’t imagine that you are just “telling it the way it is.” Choose your words, choose your perspective, like a witness on the stand. Because the way you tell it, that is how it is.

From the wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory; words and condensation by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman.”

I’ve been accused of being an apologist and of not caring enough about death today. I take mortality and theodicy deeply seriously. I mourn the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza. And I mourn the inability of people to see the humanity in their opponents.

Today, I also learned of a great man’s passing from on this world to the next. He deserved many more decades with his family. His family deserved many more decades with him.

I imagine every death creates this sentiment in someone. Hold your loved ones close. And if you feel alone, know that the Eternal Presence is always with you.

Forty-five days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty-five days, which is six weeks and three days of the Omer. תפארת / אמת שבמלכות, שבשכינה. Tiferet Emet Shebe Malchut, Shebe Shechinah. Beauty / Truth of Sovereignty, of Presence.

Honor the holiness that perpetually pulses beyond time and space. Make space for the beauty and truth that surrounds you.

Think before speaking. If you begin to speak or act waywardly, stop yourself. Remove yourself from the situation until you become calm.

My homiletics teacher, Rabbi Dr Schochet suggests replacing “you” with “we.” To explicitly include myself in needing the advice. Let me be clear: I am learning these lessons, I am trying to embody these lessons, everyday. I fail every day. And I keep trying.

May we all have the will to keep trying. And whatever stands in our way — a toddler who refuses to sleep through the night or a intractable boss — may we have the truthful presence to silently endure.

Forty-four days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty-four days, which is six weeks and two days of the Omer. גבורה שבשכינה,גבורה שבמלכות, Gevurah ShebeSchechinah, Gevurah ShebeMalchut, Strength of Feminine Presence, Discipline of Sovereignty.

Ideally, our mothers help us learn how to be better people. How to act graciously, keep negative comments to ourselves, and treat each person we encounter with deep respect. If your inner dialog makes it difficult to live up to this standard, it’s time to discipline your mind to focus on the higher path and not get caught up in a web of decaying, destructive thoughts.

May the Presence within you lovingly challenge you before you speak negatively, with anger, or with resentment today. May you be connected to all that is good in the world and may you be a vessel radiating goodness.

Forty-three days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty-three days, which is six weeks and one day of the Omer. חסד שבמלכות / חסד שבשכינה, Chesed ShebeMalchut, Chesed Shebe Shechinah. Grace of Sovereignty, Gracious Love of Indwelling Presence.

Can you smell the spiritual freedom in the air? Today, as we honor birth mothers, mothers by choice, chosen matriarchs, and those who choose to mother themselves, we relish the gracious love of the Divine Feminine.

Ultimately, God is beyond gender definitions, in part because God is beyond all definitions. The Divine is without limits; time, space, and words cannot contain The One. And yet, it is intriguing, as a tradition heavy on male metaphors, to consider that one of the earliest Jewish names for God may be “God with Breasts” or “Nurturing God,” El Shaddai.

This week’s emanation of the Divine is closest to us. It is connected to the immanence of God’s presence in our lives and in our souls. The still, small voice inside you is connected to the Shechinah, the Indwelling. When you sink into prayer and feel the love of the universe surrounding you, you are experiencing The Presence.

Allow yourself to take a brief moment beyond skepticism, beyond philosophical doubts rooted in the fundamental question, ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ Instead, focus on the pulsing heart of the universe yearning to be with you.

And how can you be with the Divine? By walking the path of virtue. You define the path. Religion can provide guideposts along the way, but ultimately it is your journey.

Your life’s journey can either be a lonely walk to death or an open-hearted dialog. God’s sovereignty is a poetic way of saying: there are virtues and values that are more important to me than the vague urges of my ego. I am determined to attach all of my being, all of my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions to my higher self. El Shaddai will protect me. And I will relish Her loving embrace. May you have a soul-nourishing day.

Forty-two days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty-two days, which is six weeks of the Omer. מלכות שביסוד, שכינה שביסוד, Malchut ShebeYesod, Shechinah ShebeYesod, Sovereignty or Indwelling / Presence of Bonding / Foundation.

Do you allow your bonds to be sovereign in your life? At times of stress, do you put the needs of others before yourself? How do you hold your bonding sovereign in your life?

Do you allow those bonds to be eternally present? When you get depressed, do you allow your people, your community to lift you up or do you hide in shame? Are you present when others are in crisis?

Today, I realized my presence in my family is a thousand times more important and life-nourishing than focusing solely on my studies. May life remind you how important your presence is to your community and to the Divine.

Forty-one days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty-one days, which is five weeks and six days of the Omer. יסוד שביסוד, Yesod ShebeYesod. Bonding of Bonding, Foundation of Foundation.

Today is a day to contemplate the ways in which you bond with others. Are you close to people? What actions do you take to enact your bond? Are you committed to a group of people, an organization, or a company? What do you do that solidifies those bonds?

Are you wary of forming bonds? Interrogate your skepticism. Have you been hurt? Do you think you’re protecting yourself by holding people at arms length? As Les Miserables teaches us, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Try to open yourself to bonding. Physically reach out to someone and do something to create or solidify a bond.

And you can also think about the values that form the foundation of your journey. What do you do to bring those values alive? What is at the root of your being? What brings you meaning? What reminds you of the meaning of your life?

May your journey to the roots of your bonding, to the rock of your foundation nourish you. May your actions contribute to human flourishing, to eudaimonia. And may you know that your presence and your bonding is vital and life-giving to the people around you.

Forty days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty days, which is five weeks and five days of the Omer. הוד שביסוד, Hod ShebeYesod, Splendor of Bonding.

When your beloved takes a bite of food and relishes it. When your child hugs you tightly and refuses to let go. When you are in the flow and your workday flies by as you swim in the meaning you were meant to bring to the world. When you share a meal with friends and realize how deeply you care for one another. When you sink into the present moment and feel the Divine by your side.

These are all examples of the Splendor of Bonding.

May you have the opportunity to be fully present to someone today. May your body flow with the understanding that you are where you were meant to be. May you honor the Splendor of you, along with the relationships you’re building.