Today is forty-two days, which is six weeks of the Omer in the year 5781. שכינה שביסוד Shekhinah ShebeYesod, Indwelling of Bonding. May my meditation be in honor of my teacher and friend, Yaniv Dotan. His memory will surely be a blessing and a source of deep faith and passionate conviction throughout all time and space.
Today is the marriage of all gender expressions within us. Shekhinah is the embodiment of the Divine feminine, and Yesod traditionally is the “creative” power of the masculine. Without modern biology, rabbinic Judaism assumed that the life force emanated from men, while women were seen a empty vessels. Let us move beyond simplistic, flawed understandings of biology and gender. May the breadth of possibility encapsulated in the Indwelling of Bonding connect us to the Source of Life.
Entering Mother’s Day
This seems like an ideal emanation for Mother’s Day. Recognizing that parenthood and childhood looks different for everyone. Whether you had a good relationship with your mother, or never had a mother, may this day honor the nurturing instinct in all of us. I pray we each have people and a community with whom we bond deeply and unequivocally.
May we recognize the spark of the Divine within each living thing. Let us honor our innate holiness with circumspect lips and open hearts. I pray a large smile and warm embrace envelop you today and every day.
Reverence for HaShem
Yaniv believed completely in the reality of the Divine. His faith in the Divine, and in the Hebrew Bible, was unshakeable. His certainty that our lives matter. Conviction that our depths matter far more than our physical appearance. I pray that all of Yaniv’s wisdom helps us face the future with dignity and determination.
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.
Today is thirty-six days, which is five weeks and one day of the Omer in the year 5781. חסד שביסוד, Chesed ShebeYesod, Lovingkindness within Bonding. Yesod can be described as Bonding or Foundation. The week of allowing all of the emanations of holiness to flow through me. Or the week of distracted defiance of the eternal. We each choose how to live into the week.
I choose to take the time to consolidate all of the wisdom and inspiration of the prior five weeks. This week of bonding will form a vision for my embodied experience that aligns with these supernal qualities calling me.
Transforming personality to align with values
The Sephirot describe eternal values. The stories I tell about myself can either describe a rigid personality marching through time. Or, I can emphasize the opportunities for growth in each moment. Did I face life’s challenges swimming in lovingkindness and truth? Or did I choose rigidity, judgment, and anger?
With adults, rooted in adult-level rationality, I find it easier to stay calm and open. With my children, I falter. They seem pre-programmed not to listen to basic instructions. So far, I consistently receive the following advice: stop caring whether your kid finishes his homework. For some reason, my partner and I cannot stop caring.
Nevertheless, my goal is transforming my responses to my kids away from judgment towards compassion. Perhaps I will reach my goal when they’re in their thirties.
Prayer for foundational lovingkindness
Soul of Souls, Source of Creation:
Envelop me in your Divine Flow.
Allow me the strength to be a source of lovingkindness.
Help me to reach towards my children and the world with eyes of compassion,
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.
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.
Today is thirty-two days, which is four weeks and four days of the Omer in the year 5781. נצח שבהוד, Netzach ShebeHod, Eternal Splendor. The pillars of the Temple within me. Endurance within Gratitude.
My day started much earlier than normal. I had a 7:50 a.m. appointment for the second dose of the Moderna vaccine. This means I woke my husband up early on his birthday to ensure I got out of the house on time. And then, I entered the never-ending wait. At first, I did well because I brought my travel siddur, prayer book, and prayed Shacharit. I got through the entire service before entering the building because the line was moving that slowly. Then, I watched as two people behind me got through the registration process faster than me, leading me to the end of the slowest vaccination line in the building. It was so hard for me to focus on gratitude because all I could think about was how much faster I would have been out of the building if I had made it into the other line. It must have taken another thirty minutes to actual get the jab. I barely remembered to say a blessing of gratitude.
Prayer of Gratitude for Goodness
The prayer I chose to say is: Holy One of Blessing, You are the Eternal Ground of Being, Sovereign of the Universe, who is good and does good. Barukh Atah HaShem, Elokeinu Melekh Ha’Olam, ha’tov v’hameitiv.
Jews never pronounce the Tetragrammaton, the four letter name of God. We often look at the word in Hebrew and say A”do”nai, which means My Lord. It is a pale shadow of the breadth of meaning contained in The Name. HaShem replaces the four letter name of God in non-liturgical writing. HaShem means The Name. The root of HaShem is the verb “to be.” It encompasses the idea of “was, is, will be.” Which is why some people translate it as Eternal One, while others say Ground of Being. The essence of being comes from God. This is the closest approximation for an explanation of the God I believe in.
Sleep is the salve for a weary soul
At the end of the day, my inability to stay rooted in gratitude is directly connected to my sleep deprivation. This morning, I realized that the fancy pillows I bought at the beginning of the pandemic have been destroying my sleep — they’re too large and too firm and my body is rejecting them, tensing up, and wrecking havoc.
Prayer for fortitude
Holy One of Blessings, allow me deep sleep. May I enter tomorrow full of gratitude for my many blessings. May my desire to help my children’s journeys outweigh my frustration at their pandemic fatigue and homework resistance.
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.
Today is twenty-five days, which is three weeks and four days of the Omer in the year 5781. נצח שבנצח, Netzach ShebeNetzach, Enduring Will. The ability to reach beyond the inclination towards destructiveness and accomplish your vision. Ultimately, deciding to keep on your upright path, despite the many ways the real world fails to live up to ideals.
The pounding voice of external reality
The farther inward I go, the deeper I feel the pain around me.
Black and Latinx children and adults dying from encounters with the police.
Horrific abuse and murder of Asian neighbors.
Skeptical refusal to accept the public health imperative to wear masks in public.
Sharp clarity regarding white skin privilege. Others firmly rooted in the denial of structural racism.
Splintering anger between those who assert “white Jews” exist and those who define themselves as “white-passing” Jews.
The divisions within us are real and growing. Yet, these are only social differences. We build our identities around material world views, never allowing for the possibility that our enemies share our enduring concerns.
Counting the Omer orients me towards the Eternal and Enduring. I waffle between wanting to share the metaphysical thoughts inspired by the day’s count and feeling drawn into the never-ending struggle to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.
Live into the truth pursuing you
I do not know how to compel a child to complete their homework. Clearly, yelling is not the answer. It is unclear to me exactly what is. So we plod along, praying that tomorrow the child will find the internal inspiration to complete his work.
I pray for the Enduring Will to complete this school year without pressure on my children or my spouse. May I have the focus to begin writing my thesis and the willpower to continue the journey. I pray the constant distractions that surround me daily are thwarted by my growing clarity and will.
Tonight begins eleven days, which is one week and four days of the Omer in the year 5781. נצח שבגבורה, Netzach ShebeGevurah, Endurance within Strength.
What keeps you going when the waves crash over you? Is your vision clear enough to see you through the storms of life?
Choosing to live into the day
I decided to stop apologizing for not being perfect. There are many ideals in my head, including the super human I expect myself to be. This year, I choose to grow into me. The best way to weather a storm is to ride the waves.
Embodying a wave rider, I choose to lean into joy and possibilities, rather than fear and anxiety.
Approach everyone with humility and compassion
As I continue to re-read Tomer Devorah, I was halted in my tracks by the depth and beauty of the prose. Wanting to sink into the reality of its call towards goodness, I couldn’t continue reading. So, I switched to Twitter and immediately entered a tumultuous sea of vitriol.
Jewish ethical mysticism declares that emulating HaShem is the ideal. Cultivate humility and meet everyone with compassion. Somehow, we’ve lost this thread in our digital communications. Whether or not you agree with someone, ad hominem attacks separate us from the Source of Life.
Jews, social class, and unions
Specifically, Jewish Twitter blew up around a recently published interview with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Her strident tone responding to Laura Adkins’ questions offended many. Weingarten’s all-encompassing declarations about who Jews are was a grossly simplistic, socialist critique of wealthy Jews. I think she was making a statement about how vocal some Jews in Los Angeles have been in denouncing school closures while Black and Latinx union leaders have been working to support the continued health of their colleagues. Her “pointed response” was laden with outdated assumptions about the ethnic and socio-economic makeup of American Jews.
So, to be clear: I am not defending Randi Weingarten’s choice of words.
Nevertheless, as a parent in a school district that has remained in distance learning this entire school year, I am tired of the relentless attacks on teachers’ unions. I care about human life even more than I care about education. My family accepts the situation we are in this school year. We look forward to our children returning to in-person teaching in the fall. They may not always be willing to do their class work, but they most certainly have continued to learn via Zoom.
There is a larger conversation that Jewish Twitter is failing to have as it falls over itself to attack Weingarten. Many American Jews are wealthy. In Los Angeles, some Jewish parents loudly demand in-person instruction, while teachers seek to not die for the sake of a paycheck. These are the realities Weingarten spoke inelegantly about.
Imagining a future beyond vitriolic divides
Socialist screeds no longer hold any sway over me. Nor does unfettered capitalism. As the mother and wife of Chinese Jews, it would be hard for me to form a sentence that negates the existence of Jews of color.
The public discourse I envision is humble and compassionate. Believing people enter the public square with good intentions, until proven otherwise. Words can cause damage and every human is made in the image of the Divine, b’tzelem Elokim.
All Jews deserve equal access to Jewish communal spaces. Rather than pointed rhetoric, may we approach our political differences humbly and with genuine curiosity for other viewpoints. May we have the Enduring Strength to meet each other with kindness.