Gratitude within Bonding, 40 Days Omer 5782

Today is forty days, which is five weeks and five days of the Omer in the year 5782. הוד שביסוד, Hod ShebeYesod, Gratitude within Foundation. Three years ago, I was celebrating my eldest completing kindergarten. This year, my youngest has two more days in kinder. And in four / five days (Jewish / secular time), I will be ordained. I am so grateful for my family, the foundation of my spiritual practice. What binds you to living fully into life beyond the internet?

Finding Space for Joy

The world is frightening. The fractured nature of the United States is disheartening. The death of children and teachers, along with the murder of grocery shoppers and the attack on people in church, is overwhelming. The choice to ignore the ongoing pandemic and very real threat of longterm COVID could break me.

I choose to allow space for joy. For laughter and love. I cannot be somber and serious 24/7.

The ending of “This is Us” landed differently than it would have a few weeks ago. I couldn’t help thinking of the nineteen children and two adults who lost their lives yesterday. No neat ending. No chance to linger before leaving the material world. Just alive, celebrating accomplishments in the morning and dead by 1 p.m.

Even as I declare my choice to lean into joy, reality keeps tugging at my thought train.

The Cusp of Change

In less than a week, I will be an ordained rabbi. My thoughts will turn from counting the days left in school to sorting / purging / packing my home. (More on that later.)

Anxiety surrounds me. My family is nervous. Change is hard. Letting go of friendships, embarking into the unknown. Changing schools and communities. All of this would be hard without Evil rampaging through the country.

I am so grateful that the soul of my home is portable. Wherever my family is, I am surrounded by home. May we all find the people who ground us. May we each have the space to live into ourselves. May we continue to gather. And may our collective pain lead to collective action.

May we stop sacrificing children on the altar of guns.

40 Days of the Omer Previously…

Allowing Our Souls to Awaken, 5781 / 2021.

Holy vessel of grief and isolation, 5780 / 2020.

Celebrating kindergarten graduation and family, 5779 / 2019.

Blissful, total presence with one another, 5778 / 2018.

Loosening material bonds to allow Divine splendor in, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Torsten Kellermann via Pexels.

Covenantal Love within Foundation, 36 Days Omer 5782

Today is thirty-six days, which is five weeks and one day of the Omer in the year 5782. חסד שביסוד, Chesed ShebeYesod, Covenantal Love within Foundation. Yesod can be described as Foundation or Bonding. Connecting the Flow of the Divine into how we live into each day. Choosing to tie ourselves to ideals beyond the material realm. Today is a day to meditate on our connection to God’s Love.

Choosing Hope

We are living through unprecedented times. It is an act of will to see clear-eyed the dangers facing us individually and collectively while also embracing hope. The dangers from COVID-19 are not over. Russia, a fascist nuclear power, invaded a sovereign nation, Ukraine. Russian soldiers killed many Ukrainian civilians and raped / tortured even more. China continues to practice genocide against the Uyghurs and denies human rights to all of its citizens, including Hong Kongers and Tibetans. The basic right to bodily autonomy in the United States is under attack, with the Supreme Court on the verge of imposing Christian religious law on our secular democracy. Becoming contagious with a debilitating novel virus can be mistaken for catching a cold. Multiple COVID-19 infections increases the likelihood of longterm physical damage.

Nevertheless, I choose hope.

I choose to embrace God’s Love.

God’s Love surrounds me.

I am loved completely for who I am in this moment.

Meditating into God’s never-ending Love, I am never alone.

May the embrace of the Never-Ending Love pulsing through the universe ground you.

May you know how important the worlds within you are.

May the Foundation of your life be built upon the Rock of God’s Love.

Previously on 36 Days of the Omer…

Leaning Into Foundational Lovingkindness, 5781 / 2021.

Covenantal Love in Personality, 5780 / 2020.

Nurturing the child within, 5779 / 2019.

Embracing full-throated love, 5778 / 2018.

Selfless love and covenantal communities, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Frank Winkler via Pixabay.

God appeared on New Year’s Eve

Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year. 

Tonight is unusual – the last time Kabbalat Shabbat and New Year’s Eve occurred together was in 2011. 

Ezra Furman, a Jewish musician, said it best in a tweet. They wrote:

I like having both too. 

I would like to take a few minutes now to connect this week’s Torah portion to being on the cusp of a secular new year. That is, as time moves forward, how are we living into our foundational stories? And what does this week’s story reveal to us about building a future for ourselves, individually and collectively?

This week’s Torah portion, Va’era

This week’s Torah portion, Va’era, begins with the revelation of God’s True Name. 

God’s True Name is spelled yud, hay, vav, hay. In scholarly circles The Name is described as the Tetragrammaton, which simply means the four-letter word.

As Jews, we traditionally never pronounce The Name and cover it up with the word Adonai, which means “my Lord.” Adonai is most often translated as “Lord.” 

Claiming that God’s Most Essential Name is “Lord” has, unfortunately, left many of us disconnected from the Source of Life. It is a pious cover for revelation. A way to indicate God rules over us. The word “Lord” denies individual choice and freedom.

Rather than using “Lord” as the English translation of Y H V H, I will say “HaShem,” which simply means “The Name.” For me, HaShem is more forceful than Adonai.

God Appears Differently to Moses

The portion begins with God explaining to Moses the difference between The Name and how God appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It reads:

God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am HaShem. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name HaShem.”

Va’era is the first word of the second sentence – it means, “I appeared.” What does it mean that God appeared one way to earlier generations and differently to Moses?

Moses as the Pinnacle of Revelation

Traditionally, Judaism understands Moses as the pinnacle, the height, of human interaction with God. Moses knew God more intimately than any human before him or since him. This is why Judaism constantly connects innovation with Moses, claiming that all was revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai.

(Be sure to join us in three weeks, on January 22, for more regarding the revelation at Mt. Sinai.) 

Does Revelation Evolve Over Time?

But, if Moses experienced God more fully than previous generations, why should we believe that our understanding of the Divine ended on Mt. Sinai? Personally, I see this Torah portion as a proof text for the ongoing revelation of God.

What I mean is that human understanding of the nature of reality and the nature of God deepens over time. Our relationships, with each other and with God, are more complex than any previous generation.

The Jewish tradition is a roadmap for our journey. Neither humanity nor God stopped evolving on Mt. Sinai.

God Appears to Pharaoh Through Moses and Aaron

Following the revelation of God’s True Name, the Torah portion continues with Moses and Aaron taking up the mantle of leadership. God says to Moses: “See, I place you in the role of God to Pharaoh, with your brother Aaron as your prophet.” 

God explains the purpose of the ten plagues, saying: “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that I may multiply My signs and marvels in the land of Egypt. …And the Egyptians shall know that I am HaShem, when I stretch out My hand over Egypt and bring out the Israelites from their midst.” 

Leaders Guide Us Towards Our Best Selves

The Israelites needed Moses and Aaron to guide them out of Egypt. Leaders help us see the possibility of a future better than today. The process takes time and commitment. We have to trust our leaders in order to be transformed by their insights.

Like Moses and Aaron, modern leaders of the Jewish people remind us that it is possible to hear the call of freedom. Leaders guide us on the journey. It is within our power to overcome adversity and to revel in deep joy, love, and gratitude.

We can choose to strive towards our best selves. We can choose leaders who help us remember our deepest truths, and to break free of our bondage.

Choosing Joy This New Year’s Eve

Yes, our lives have been altered by this pandemic in ways that we could never have imagined a few short years ago. Yet, we continue to have this community to support us along the way. Every week, we have the opportunity to join together – appreciating our common humanity, taking time to live into the deepest part of ourselves, and connect to our Cosmic Companion.

God is More Abstract than How God Appears in the Bible

We do not need a burning bush or a magic rod to connect us with HaShem. We have the souls around us and the Soul of the Universe to hold us on our journey through time. 

A Prayer for God’s Appearance in 2022

As Temple Beth David steps forward into 2022, may we remember that God appears whenever we hold space for the people around us.  

God appears when we comfort mourners.

God appears when we pray for the sick.

God appears when we doubt God’s presence. 

God appears when we express gratitude for our food and our drinks.

God appears when we revel in the growth of our children. 

God appears when we choose to create space for holiness. 

When we acknowledge Shabbat and other Jewish holidays, God appears. 

May God appear to you this Shabbat. May you experience joyfulness and hope as we welcome a new secular year and the unfolding future of our beloved community. Shabbat Shalom.

Rosh HaShanah 5782: Allowing Grace to Transform Us

I am the rabbinic intern at Temple Beth David of the San Gabriel Valley and I had the honor of giving a sermon today, reflecting on my journey, God’s Grace, and using descriptions of the Divine as a blueprint for how we can live into the best versions of ourselves. L’Shanah Tovah U’Metukah. May we co-create a good and sweet year.

A PDF of the version of this sermon that I delivered at Temple Beth David is available if you click these words.

Boundaries within Foundation, 37 Days Omer 5781

Today is thirty-seven days, which is five weeks and two days of the Omer in the year 5781. גבורה שביסוד, Gevurah ShebeYesod, Boundaries within Foundation. This year, reflecting on the contours of the personality. Does it align with my highest vision for myself?

Our boundaries are misaligned with our highest potential. The mishappen gate in the picture can represent all the ways this pandemic has altered the course of lives, in ways both obvious and unknown.

Separate from ruminating on COVID-19, a personality can imprison us in bad habits, ideas, and identities. The cyncial, angry activist sees everything in the world as needing fundamental change. The consummate peacemaker can give into the whims of a tyrant until their own identity ceases to exist. Extremes in any direction lead down false paths. Flourishing occurs within the middle path, balancing all aspects of one’s personality.

This starts with a clear vision of the person you want to be. I knew the best version of myself emerged in Jewish communal prayer. I wanted to sink into that aspect of myself and moved myself, slowly, towards rabbinical school in order to better embody that aspect of me. Eleven years into this journey, I am constantly seeking further refinement. My interpersonal habits are deeply ingrained from childhood. This is why bullet journaling and the science of habits speak to me. Each year is an opportunity for me to become the best version of me I can be in this moment.

Define your vision

To understand the contours of my personality, I read about the Shadow, the Enneagram, and Neurosis. Carefully, day by day, I remind myself that who I was before does not define who I am in this moment or in the future. The grip of the story I told about myself began to loosen.

I remain a work in progress. Rather than trying to appear Perfect to my children, I admit my faults and let them know I am working to become a better parent. Just as my ability to preach is a never-completed process, so too is my ability to parent. Decide what relationships are most important to you. Clarify how you want to show up in each situation, especially the stressful ones. And hold yourself accountable to your vision.

Books for the journey

Previously today…

Boundaries during COVID-19, 5780 / 2020.

Boundaries in Bonding, 5779 / 2019.

Don’t lose yourself to the crowd, 5778 / 2018.

Discipline in interpersonal relationships, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Tim Hill via Pixabay.

Indwelling of Gratitude, 35 Days of Omer 5781

Today is thirty-five days, which is five weeks of the Omer in the year 5781. שכינה שבהוד, Shechinah ShebeHod, Indwelling of Gratitude.

Wouldn’t life be wonderful if we could dwell in the sacred knowing of our interconnectedness every moment? If the gratitude and splendor forever surrounding us infused every response? If instead of pandemic fatigue, we met each day with joyful excitement and wonder?

Magic wands wont save us. Belief in the power of gratitude alone cannot change us. Instead, we much do the painful work of walking towards change.

First, slow down long enough to observe what sets you off. Before I get angry, what is the spark? Before I started doomscrolling, was I bored? How can I offer myself a different response to each stimulus that leads to the same reward? This is the true work of spiritual transformation: recognizing that each day, we choose better and worse ways to respond to what is happening beyond us and within us.

May the Indwelling of Gratitude, marking the completion of five weeks of counting emanations of Divine overflow, help me transform my habits. May I emerge calmer and more deeply rooted within the speech and actions I wish to embody.

Previously today…

Grieving the profound loss of Dr. Bob Levy, may his righteous memory forever passionately envelop us, 5780 / 2020.

Splendor gives us life, 5779 / 2019.

Allowing Splendor to Flourish, 5778 / 2018.

Bonding with the Infinite, 5777 / 2017.

Still reading…


Image by Pixabay via Pexels.

Foundation of Gratitude, 34 Days Omer 5781

Today is thirty-four days, which is four weeks and six days of the Omer in the year 5781. יסוד שבהוד, Yesod ShebeHod, Foundation of Gratitude.

It is imperative to build a bridge between how I am feeling and the wellspring of gratitude. Regardless of how stressful the day is, or how overwhelming the year is: I should root my thoughts, emotions, and speech in gratitude.

Some days, the breadth of the pandemic overwhelms me. The never-ending drum beat of What Should Be Done crashes into the reality of What Holds Me Back. This was one of those days.

Welcoming the Sabbath Bride

I pray that the Sabbath Bride will envelop me in a spirit of gratitude. Let me remember love and understanding undergird my relationships. May she help me make space for all the ways each of us are doing the best we can. Even the children who don’t do their homework and never want to go to sleep.

The book I’m reading

Previously today…

The Enneagram and Personality Types, 5780 / 2020.

The Ethereal Meets the Material, 5779 / 2019.

Pursuing Soul-Nourishing Activities, 5778 / 2018.

Praying to Carry a Retreat Forward, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Pok Rie via Pexels.

Lag B’Omer, 33 Days, Gratitude 5781

Today is thirty-three days, which is four weeks and five days of the Omer in the year 5781. הוד שבהוד, Hod ShebeHod, Gratitude within Gratitude. That means we have reached the extremely minor holiday of Lag B’Omer!

Rather than trying to explain Lag B’Omer, let’s sink into the heart of gratitude.

Finding gratitude in a raging pandemic

Perhaps the pandemic seems waning to you, rather than raging. Thirteen months of life turned upside down can make the depth of tragedy occurring in India seem disconnected from the growing availability of vaccinations in the United States. Beyond the current horrors, the existence of COVID-19 in itself makes it far easier to root oneself in cynicism rather than gratitude.

How to stay connected to gratitude? I look at the blooming flowers outside my window. Marvel at the way my kids are growing and their bodies transforming. Watch my dog, anxious for me to join her for snuggles on the couch rather than writing this blog post.

Focus on the splendor of now

At the end of the day, regardless of what is happening in the world, there are sparks of splendor chasing us through each day. When I take the time to pause and appreciate the glory of today, gratitude fills me.

Books for the journey

Previously today…

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

Allowing myself to be transformed by Jewish prayer, 5779 / 2019.

Defining my essential prayer, 5778 / 2018.

Yearning for meaning and depth, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Jens Mahnke via Pexels.

Beauty within Gratitude, 31 Days Omer 5781

Today is thirty-one days, which is four weeks and three days of the Omer in the year 5781. תפארת שבהוד. Tiferet ShebeHod, Beauty within Gratitude. The eve of my partner’s birthday. The eve of the day I receive my second dose of the Moderna vaccine.

Mystical appreciation for the splendor of now

Anyone who has watched Outlander or read the books can appreciate the symbolism of a circle of stones with a beautiful sunset. Perhaps we too will slip through time and find our one true love. Or perhaps we will slip into the deeper meaning of this moment, gaining appreciation for the splendor continuously surrounding us.

It is terribly difficult to stay rooted in gratitude. Especially in these strange, uncertain times. Fear, anxiety, and exhaustion haunt my days. While I miss eating meals with friends, going to the movies, seeing brilliant theatre, and praying in-person in community, what I miss most is silence. The long hours of the day alone in my home, sinking into Jewish wisdom. The beautiful splendor of silence.

Of course, I can remind myself that now is also amazing. Watching my boys grow in height and knowledge. Starting to understand the the particulars of their personalities. Accepting that they’re children and I can’t undo the fact that while I was in class, they ate the edges of the birthday cake I baked. (Before frosting and before tomorrow’s birthday.)

Holy wonder for the miracle of today

Most of today will be April 28, 2021 in secular time. Such an incredible day. The birthday of the oldest member of my family. My beshert (soul mate), my Chesed (actual Hebrew name). Throughout our relationship, we have known that Chung-Mau is the lovingkindness to my strength and together, we create beauty and truth.

We also made two amazing humans. Surviving together in grand fashion. Even sometimes indulging in pop culture and junk food. Surrounded by Chung’s incredible creations.

And today I will join Chung in completing my vaccination for COVID-19. Perhaps a bit of the weight on our shoulders will begin to ease as we walk towards full-strength vaccination in two weeks.

Prayer for beautiful gratitude

Holy Source of Life, help me to embrace each moment. Let me see with eyes of gratitude. Allow me the rationality to see the beautiful possibility in every moment.

Books for diversion…

Previously today…

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 John Nail via Pexels.

After Death…Holiness, 5781

I had the honor of giving a d’var Torah, thoughts on the weekly Torah portion, for Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock today. The names of the portions for today are Acharei Mot — Kedoshim. After Death — Holiness. I added subheadings to my reflection to help the reading process. May we continue to sink into being and strive towards holiness.

It seems quite incredible that two extremely important and idea-filled portions are combined this year. This is the same conundrum Yeshayahu Liebowitz faced when writing his pithy commentary, Accepting the Yoke of Heaven. Indeed, there is no way to work through the breadth of the narrative, so let us dispense with that idea at the outset.

Instead, let’s nestle into the name of this double portion: After Death, Holiness.

After the death of Aaron’s two sons

The text is referring to the deaths of Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons. Which actually happened in chapter 10 and we are now in chapter 16. Previously, their actions were described. Nadab and Abihu approached HaShem in the Holy of Holies unsanctioned and perished.

The connection between these names and our lived experience feels very concrete for me. There has been so much death in the world. Yet, we have struggled to find our way to holiness. Whether in the Bronze Age or the postModern age, our access to holiness is not a given.

Making sense of death today

Sometimes, our political leaders have stumbled in trying to parse meaning from those deaths. Recently, Speaker Nancy Pelosi thanked George Floyd for sacrificing his life for justice. Obviously, it would be far better if Mr. Floyd had lived through his encounter with the police, rather than being murdered. And he had no choice about being killed. This episode reminds me that no matter how advanced society becomes, we strive to make sense of death, to justify it and make it holy. Acknowledging the depth of tragedy in death can be hard. Protests against George Floyd’s death were an inflection point in the national conversation about policing and the conviction of his murderer furthered the walk towards justice. Just as Aaron’s sons did not have to do die to bring us towards holiness, George Floyd did not need to die to move us towards justice. 

Similarly, it seems difficult to fully empathize with those mourning the loss of loved ones to COVID-19. So many people have died and so many people continue to die. Yet, what I see most often is anger about the changes made to communal life in order to protect public health. From the California gubernatorial recall to arguments about re-opening face-to-face learning to whether masks are necessary: our conversations are consumed by how this pandemic continues to affect the living. It seems impossible to truly hold space for the emptiness left by three million deaths worldwide, or the 570,000 deaths within the United States.

Moving towards holiness

So how, after all this death, do we dare assert space for holiness? I believe we need to take guidance from our Torah portions.

Here is my theory on the lesson of Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons:

Attempting to connect with the Source of Life is truly potentially dangerous. I have known far too many people who were lured by the false sense of clarity gained from drugs, who chase a mystical high over the cliff with catastrophic consequences. We must allow ourselves to be guided on our search for holiness, so that we don’t lose ourselves to the pursuit. This is the purpose of the instructions for priests on Yom Kippur found in Acharei Mot and the holiness code of Kedoshim. Guidelines keep us safe. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming Aaron’s sons.

Holiness through Jewish technologies

We no longer have Temple sacrifice and priests. Instead, we have rabbinical Judaism and a multitude of opportunities to hold space for what is greater than ourselves. We can use the temple in time, Shabbat, to connect with eternal values. We build holy community in synagogue. Our communal prayer has the ability to deepen the holiness within us individually more completely than individual meditation. We weave the words chosen by our ancestors, thereby connecting our spiritual elevation with hundreds of generations before us. And reflecting on our own mortality, we can choose to break free of the habit of living and truly sink into the holiness of each moment.

Holiness is not an attribute that can be conquered or experienced continually. It is an ideal to aspire towards. Step by step, we can choose to align ourselves with holiness, to live towards emanating holiness through our demeanor, our words, and our actions. Our most obvious signposts to help us become vessels of holiness are prayer, kashrut, and Shabbat. Daily setting aside time to refocus on Divine connection and personal meaning. Consciously choosing what we put into our bodies, and verbally expressing gratitude for the gift of food. And delineating between regular time and sacred time. These are our technologies to walk towards holiness. 

27 Days of the Omer

Another Jewish path towards holiness is counting the Omer. Each day, one can reflect on a different aspect of the Sephirot and deepen one’s connection with the concepts that bring holiness into the material world. Today’s Omer count amplifies the Jewish path of holiness. Today is twenty-seven days, which is three weeks and six days of the Omer in the year 5781. יסוד שבנצח, Yesod ShebeNetzach, Bonding within Eternity. We choose people to form deep community. We prioritize bonding on an emotional and spiritual level. And through our bonding, we touch the eternal.

Shabbat Shalom.


Image by Marion Wellmann via Pixabay.