Lag B’Omer, 33 Days of Omer 5782

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.

Previously on Lag B’Omer…

Gratitude in Pandemic Times, 5781 / 2021.

Creating a dwelling place for the Divine, 5780 / 2020.

5779 / 2019: Splendor surrounds us and gives us life.

5778 / 2018: Allowing Splendor to flourish.

5777 / 2017: Three-fold souls and bonding with the Infinite.

Image by sagar pradhan via Pixabay.

Endurance within Gratitude, 32 Days Omer 5782

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.

Spiraling 32 Days of the Omer…

The essence of being comes from God, 5781 / 2021.

Pop culture as the entrance to eternal splendor, 5780 / 2020.

Rhythm of Jewish prayer opens eternal splendor, 5779 / 2019.

Connecting to pure holiness, 5778 / 2018.

The holiness of community, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Ezra Jeffrey via Pexels.

Truth within Gratitude, 31 Days Omer 5782

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.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֶלוֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם זוֹכֵר הַבְּרִית וְנֶאֱמָן בִּבְרִיתוֹ וְקַיָם בְּמַאֲמָרוֹ

Baruch ata Ado-nai Elo-heinu melech ha’olam zocher ha’brit v’ne’eman bivrito v’kayam b’ma’amaro.

Source of Blessing are You, HaShem, our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who remembers the covenant, and is faithful to His covenant, and keeps His promise.

(text for the rainbow blessing with slight translation changes via Chabad.)

What Truth Pulls You Towards Gratitude?

The innocence of children.

The deep thirst for knowledge.

The fierce embrace of a six-year-old.

The anxiety of an eight-year-old.

The love of a beshert, a soulmate.

May you find the Truth that pulls you toward Gratitude.

The Spiral of 31 Days of Omer…

Celebrating Outlander and my beshert, 5781 / 2021.

Pandemic reality, Mother’s Day, 5780 / 2020.

The yoke of the Divine holds beautiful splendor, 5779 / 2019.

Prayer uncovers deep truth, 5778 / 2018.

Soulful community creates beautiful truth, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Cindy Lever via Pixabay.

Discipline of Gratitude: Prayer, 30 Days Omer 5782

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?

Landscapes: Meditations into Gratitude

Forget the mass murders happening daily. (Buffalo grocery store, Laguna Woods church)

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.

In 14 days of the Omer, 15 days by the solar calendar, I will be ordained.

The Spiral of 30 Days of Omer…

An essay on prayer as the gratitude highway, 5781 / 2021

Reveling in the splendor of daily life, 5780 / 2020.

The discipline of splendor, 5779 / 2019.

Building a regular practice of gratitude, 5778 / 2018.

Thoughts on splendor and conversion, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Ian Procter via Pixabay.

Covenantal Love within Gratitude, 29 Days Omer 5782

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?

Four years ago, I posted a translation of Psalm 13 to reflect on today. That poem prayer is rattling through my mind, challenging me to express something as profound as its sparse lines.

לַמְנַצֵּחַ מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד׃

עַד־אָנָה יְהֹוָה תִּשְׁכָּחֵנִי נֶצַח עַד־אָנָה  תַּסְתִּיר אֶת־פָּנֶיךָ מִמֶּנִּי׃

עַד־אָנָה אָשִׁית עֵצוֹת בְּנַפְשִׁי יָגוֹן בִּלְבָבִי יוֹמָם עַד־אָנָה  יָרוּם אֹיְבִי עָלָי׃

הַבִּיטָה עֲנֵנִי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהָי הָאִירָה עֵינַי פֶּן־אִישַׁן הַמָּוֶת׃

פֶּן־יֹאמַר אֹיְבִי יְכׇלְתִּיו צָרַי יָגִילוּ כִּי אֶמּוֹט׃

וַאֲנִי  בְּחַסְדְּךָ בָטַחְתִּי יָגֵל לִבִּי בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ אָשִׁירָה לַיהֹוָה כִּי גָמַל עָלָי׃ {פ}

Psalm 13 Hebrew courtesy of Sefaria.

The entire poem is a clear expression of my approach to theology. The below translation is based on Robert Alter, with deviations to reflect my modern sensibility.

For the lead player, a psalm of longing.

How long, Ground of Being? Will You forget me always?

How long will Your Presence be hidden from me?

How long shall I desperately seek advice, dread nipping at my essence?

How long will the forces of Chaos loom over me?

Pay attention! Answer me, Creator of Being, my God!

Light up my eyes, lest I sleep death,

Lest Chaos say, “I’ve prevailed over her,”

Lest my foes exult when I stumble.

But I in Your kindness do trust, my heart exults in Your rescue.

Let me sing to the Creator of Being, for She bountifully embraces me.

Filled Beyond the Brim with Gratitude

I know that so much is going on in the world and there is so much heartache. I know I have not fully processed these past years of parenting. I know there is more to feel and do about pandemic deaths, the racist murder of innocent people in Buffalo at a grocery store, the Jew-hatred at the heart of “white replacement theory” hatred, the death and destruction in the Ukraine by a fascist neighbor, and the impending removal of my bodily autonomy by the Christian hegemonic Supreme Court.

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.

In fifteen short days, I will be ordained. How could I possibly approach these coming weeks with anything but gratitude?

Theology That Grounds Me

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.

The Spiral of 29 Days…

Bridging the chasm between skepticism and belief, 5781 / 2021.

Diving Light enters where we let it, 5780 / 2020.

Receive the flow from the wellsprings of life, 5779 / 2019.

Embracing gratitude and praise, 5778 / 2018.

Commit to supporting someone else, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Ian Procter via Pixabay.

Divine Presence within Endurance: 28 Days Omer 5782

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.

The Spiral of 28 Days of Omer…

Indwelling of Eternity, Becoming a God Knower, 5781 / 2021.

Indwelling of Eternity, Pausing to Acknowledge Mortality 5780 / 2020.

Shabbat and The Way hold space for the Indwelling of Eternity, 5779 / 2019.

The Truth I am Discovering, 5778 / 2018.

Physical and Spiritual Life Cycles, 5777 / 2017.

Image by JamesDeMers via Pixabay.

Foundation of Endurance, 27 Days Omer 5782

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?

As an aside, AJRCA published my blog post on my journey to the rabbinate.

The Spiral of 27 Days…

Prioritizing People and Community, Bonding with the Eternal 5781 / 2021.

Sinking into the Foundation of Eternity, 5780 / 2020.

The foundation of my endurance, 5779 / 2019.

Aligning speech and actions with ideals, 5778 / 2018.

Cleave to the eternal truth within, 5777 / 2017.

Image via Pixabay.

Pillars of the Temple, 26 Days Omer 5782

Today is twenty-six days, which is three weeks and five days, of the Omer in the year 5782. הוד שבנצח, Hod ShebeNetzach, Splendor Within Endurance. These two emanations are connected to the legs of a person, and the pillars of the Temple. They hold up our ability to reach towards the Divine: Endurance / Will and Splendor. Both are connected to prophecy. What defines your life? Aside from responsibilities, what brings meaning to your life? How do you judge your journeys?

Choosing a Life of Virtue

I’ve often said that virtues sounded goyish to me the first time I heard them. The only reference point I had was horror movies which connected them to the seven deadly sins.

In reality, virtues have an intrinsically Jewish key. Early rabbinic thinkers spoke about Yetzer HaTov, the inclination towards goodness; and its counterpoint, the Yetzer HaRa, the inclination towards destructiveness. At all times, we have both inclinations within us. In every moment, we have the opportunity to choose which path to take. God is our shepherd because She guides us towards a life of Goodness. She provides spiritual sustenance, regardless of what is happening in material reality. When we denounce the dark side, the Force pulls us into harmony with the world.

Place Higher Ideals Before Me

There is a Jewish practice of hanging a Shiviti on the wall. It begins with Psalm 16:8 “I place HaShem before me always.” It draws the viewer into a meditative practice, realigning with one’s core understanding of the Ground of Being. What guides your journey? How do you connect with God? What questions do you need to sort through to have a personal relationship with the unknowable Oneness beyond all human understanding?

I choose 49 days of meditating into the sefirot because it constantly draws me back towards the virtues that I want to guide my life. I am far from perfect. Yet, I choose to place HaShem before me always. And that is enough.

Spiral of 26 Days of Omer

Connecting With the Eternal Now, 5781 / 2021.

Bringing eternity into focus, 5780 / 2020.

Bringing holiness into every day, 5779 / 2019.

Time twists, we roll, 5778 / 2018.

My core truth, 5777 / 2017.

Image via Pixabay.

Eternal Endurance, 25 Days Omer 5782

Today is twenty-five days, which is three weeks and four days of the Omer, in the year 5782. נצח שבנצח, Netzach ShebeNetzach. Eternal Endurance. Allowing the expansiveness of eternity into the cells of our bodies. Setting aside the agonizing question, “why must people die?” Swimming in the pools of never-ending will.

Let Go of Yesterday

What if we forget for a day all the stories we tell about how we got here?

What if instead of haranguing myself for wasting time, I swim in the pools of now?

Aside from our responsibilities, what brings meaning to our lives?

How can we allow the Eternal into the mundane?

The Way, Halakhah

The correct direct translation of Halakhah is The Way. It is the Jewish way of living in order to make space for Eternity. Long before there were codified laws, there were schools of philosophers orienting themselves around something beyond animal sacrifice and a single holy space.

It is quite easy to denigrate my Judaism if you are basing your standards on “what you know to be practicing Judaism.” What I’ve learned, especially during this last semester of seminary, is that we are all doing Jewish. Every Jew navigates their relationship with Halakhah.

Personally, I do not believe either the Hebrew Bible nor the Talmud was transmitted to Moshe on a mountaintop. Therefore, I feel free to mold this man-made religion into the forms that make the most sense for me. This too is The Way.

Judaism is My Pathway to Eternity

People get hung up on terms like “the chosen people.” It is not a universalist approach to humanity.

I feel chosen. Not superior; but chosen.

Chosen to swim in the pools of this wisdom tradition and help translate it for today’s wisdom seekers.

What do you feel called towards?

A Book to Ground Us

The Spiral of 25 Days of Omer

Enduring Will in the Heart of a Pandemic, 5781 / 2021.

Entangled with Eternity, 5780 / 2020.

Bat Kol, The Still, Small Voice of the Divine, 5779 / 2019.

The companionship of Will, 5778 / 2018.

Holy, enduring, eternity, 5777 / 2017.

Image via Pixabay.

Harmonious Endurance, 24 Days Omer 5782

Today is twenty-four days, which is three weeks and three days of the Omer, in the year 5782. תפארת שבנצח, Tiferet ShebeNetzach, Harmonious Endurance. Do you allow yourself time everyday to sink into your soul? How does the Eternal speak to you?

Moving Closer to My Destiny

Yesterday, I completed the journey of 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 presented a twenty-one minute introduction to the focus of my scholarly interests: how Jewish wisdom develops across time. For me, the Jewish intellectual organism is a combination of ethics, mysticism, and Halakhah. One cannot be understood without the development of the other three aspects of Jewish thought. While ethical mysticism is my focus, my rabbinical school training has given me a profound appreciation for the power of The Way, Halakhah.

Choose Integrated Living

I am beyond grateful to my colleagues and professors for the gift of their wisdom. I am also grateful for the medical professionals who have helped my family and me live into this moment. I’m not a medical professional, so I can’t tell you whether a soul doctor or a physical doctor is needed. I can tell you that my life is enriched by appreciating the necessity and limitations of each form of human knowledge. May we all regain trust in professionals and may we sink deeply into our own journeys.

Reconnect With Someone You Left Behind

Maybe I’m the only one who experienced this, but I’ve had epochs in my life where different people were intensely important. I’ve lost touch with many of them. I have never regretted reconnecting with someone. See if the same is true for you. Perhaps the person you most need to connect with is yourself.

Remember that the stories we tell about our lives are a refraction of the lived experience. If your story is holding you back, gently thank it for helping you reach this day and then let it go. I cannot tell you how many personal narratives I had to let go in order to grow into myself.

Embrace Your Passion

I don’t believe everyone has to quit their day job and focus on hustling their passion into a viable business. I also know we live fuller lives when we fully embrace our passions. Did you give up drawing? Do you have a model kit waiting to be built? Do you think fondly of a previous decade when you would get wrapped up in books instead of endlessly scrolling social media? Whatever it is, try to let your passion back into your life.

Personally, I am gently trying to wean myself from my phone. I need to be less connected to the internet in order to be fully present to my life. It’s a daily struggle. It’s also why I am not forcing myself to write every meditation on the night that an Omer count begins. I’m prioritizing riding my stationary bike over this. Find something that makes your heart race and free yourself from the bonds of the present. Sink into the luscious vitality of eternity.

Spiral of 24 Days

Compassion and Empathy within Will, 5781 / 2021.

Sinking into the Eternity of this Moment, 5780 / 2020.

I need a roadmap for this thing called life, 5779 / 2019.

Wisdom, discernment, understanding, 5778 / 2018.

Courage to speak from truth, 5777 / 2017.

Books for the Journey

Image by Karl Egger via Pixabay.