Noah, The Ark, Judaism, the World 5782

Beautiful flower representing the regrowth of the world following the biblical flood in the Torah portion Noah.

Noah and the Flood

The Torah portions in Genesis feature many narratives. Most people have a memory of this portion, unlike some of the more technical passages later in the Bible.

A refresher video in case you’re new to the story:

BimBam also offers a source sheet, midrash (a parable that expands on the text in the Torah), and a lesson guide.

So much Jewish wisdom traces back to this portion, at a deeper level than the simple story of the flood. Before we get there, a reminder: I don’t read the Hebrew Bible as history. The events described did not need to take place for me to describe the Bible as holy and worthy of my attention. As Dr. Martin Sweeney points out, at least three other well-documented flood myths arose in Mesopotamia. I imagine a catastrophic flood wiped out many communities and myths were created to make sense of the situation. This correlates with the Black Sea deluge hypothesis. Regardless of why this story exists, how can it help us live lives of deeper meaning?

An ark to save us

Noah builds an ark, teivah תֵּבָה, in Hebrew. This ark provides physical safety for Noah’s family and all of the animals who survived the flood.

The Ba’al Shem Tov, a central figure in the popularization of Jewish spirituality, reminds us that the Hebrew word for ark also means word. His meditation on this portion brings forward the worlds contained within each word we read, we speak, and we think. In the larger tradition of Torah portion commentary associated with the Ba’al Shem Tov, an entire separate book is built into the Noah section. Here is a taste of how he connects the ark with spiritual salvation:

Enter the ark! The Hebrew word for ark–teivah–also means a word. If we are beset with a flood of mundane concerns, we must enter the sacred words, so that when we pray, we enter within and attach ourselves to the very letters of our prayers. When we study, we must enter within and attach ourselves to the sacred letters of the Torah.

Portions of Light: Teachings from the holy Baal Shem Tov on Torah and Festivals, translated by Chayenu, p4.

From here, we could go into the breadth of Pillar of Prayer: Guidance in Contemplative Prayer, Sacred Study, and the Spiritual Life, from the Baal Shem Tov and his Circle.

Righteousness Throughout the World

Judaism often gets a bad rap for the particularism of our prayers. Traditionally, Jewish wisdom centered on the unique place of Jews in the meaning of the world. Let’s remember history — it was quite difficult to be Jewish. From the Romans destroying our homeland and renaming it Palestine, to Christian mobs murdering us en masse during their Crusades, to our legal second-class status throughout Christian Europe and Islamic caliphates, our leaders needed to assure us that despite the difficulty of remaining Jewish, it was extremely important to remain within the tribe.

Simultaneous with our wholehearted belief in the relationship between the Jewish people and the Divine, we have also recognized righteousness among other peoples. Early in rabbinic Judaism, we understood righteous gentiles. By observing the “Seven Noahide Commandments,” a non-Jewish person obtains righteousness and a place in the world-to-come.

The Talmud expands on the words in the Torah portion Noah.

The descendants of Noah, i.e., all of humanity, were commanded to observe seven mitzvot:

  1. The commandment to establish courts of judgment; 
  2. Prohibition against blessing, i.e., cursing, the name of God; 
  3. The prohibition of idol worship; 
  4. Prohibition against forbidden sexual relations; 
  5. The prohibition of bloodshed; 
  6. Prohibition of robbery; 
  7. The prohibition against eating a limb from a living animal.

Sanhedrin 56a:24 from Kevin Wolf’s Noahide Lawes Sefaria Source Sheet

Please remember: Judaism sees a unique need for Jews in the world. And we recognize and lift up the righteousness of non-Jews. This is why the Noahide commandments became short-hand for describing righteous gentiles.

Choosing an ark of words

What words should we cling to? Personally, I am working towards separating myself from my social media addiction. I choose to live into deep thinking. My goal: allowing space for reading books rather than posts.

Additionally, I recognize that my words can form an ark of salvation or a battering ram of destruction.

My tone of voice matters.

Will my sharp wit respond to factually inaccurate beliefs?

Shall I approach situations wholeheartedly?

Further reading

Enveloped in the Divine Presence, 49 Days Omer 5781

We entered the forty-ninth day, which is seven weeks of the Omer in the year 5781. שכינה שבשכינה, Shekhinah ShebeShekhinah, Indwelling of Divine Presence. The last night I require myself to create a public meditation into the depths of my reaction to the refractions of the Divine.

Public ministry, personal musings

These meditations allow me to sink into something beyond the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, beyond my health concerns for those closest to me, beyond my own exhaustion at pandemic parenting. Many nights, I lose myself to doubt before I drag another few sentences out of my soul.

Rather than continuing my public reflections following this post, I am going to commit to the inner journey. Building the vessel within. Allowing myself to be available for revelation, consolation, and grace.

Reflecting on these seven weeks, I am a witness to death and a cheerleader of life, personal tragedy and public conflict weigh heavily on me. My soul yearns for communal, in-person prayer as a release for all of the spiritual turmoil within.

May I feel held by the Divine Presence, as She suckles me honey from the flinty rock.

Holding space for ethical mysticism

So many Jews hold fiercely to an agnostic identity that cannot be in relation with the mystical. I pray I can explain myself in words that do not alienate people from the core message yearning to be internalized.

Therefore, let my dedication to ethical mysticism have concrete outcomes. May we serve communities. Let us elevate the ideals that guide us, above the wealth around us. I pray we trust that the connection between us is real and lasts beyond the end of life. Love, Grace, Boundaries, Truth, Beauty, Eternity, Splendor, Humility, Foundation, Presence, and Sovereignty: may the values described in the emanations of the Omer help me live into the best version of myself. May I be a vessel of honest reflection and grounded service.

Previously last days of counting…

Indwelling Divine Presence in a Pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

Completion, Reflection, Expansion, 5779 / 2019.

Moving Towards a Coherent Philosophy, 5778 / 2018.

Acknowledging the Shadow Within, 5777 / 2017.

Core Books for the Journey


Image by kien virak via Pexels.

Foundation of Divine Presence, 48 Days Omer 5781

Shabbat shalom. This weekend, I am not writing for the skeptic within or the cynic beyond myself. I am writing to begin the conclusion of my Omer count in the year 5781. To reflect upon my fifth year of publicly meditating into Jewish mysticism for seven week.

Today is forty-eight days, which is six weeks and six days of the Omer in the year 5780. יסוד שבשכינה. Yesod ShebeShekhinah. Foundation of Divine Presence. What are our foundational beliefs? How do we live into our core values?

Sink into this Shabbat

I chose not to castigate myself for all the ways I fail to live up to the Ideal Rabbinical Student in my head. Nor to dwell on my daily parenting fails. Instead, this season and this day is about appreciate the Creative Flow and Grace surrounding us in every moment.

My beliefs are constantly unfolding and evolving. This is the beauty of Judaism: I can continuously sink into its depths and pull out new ways of centering my spiritual practices. Yesterday, I questioned everything about my path. Today, I know for sure that my soul called me to this journey for a reason.

May we each take the time to sink into the eternity awaiting us in the slower pace of the Day of Rest. May this Temple in Time help us appreciate the people around us and the journey within.

This is Hard

A colleague suggested that I take a break next year and not hold myself accountable to daily meditations for the Omer. Publicly writing about the journey was my way into making the Omer count a daily practice. Otherwise, the ritual alone fell flat for me. Perhaps next year I will riff for a few minutes on video, rather than attempting new prose read by my husband and the dog. Let me know if this has been meaningful to you.

My Foundation: Always Learning

Regardless of the sphere of human interest, whether it is pop culture or makeup application or dense philosophical texts, I enjoy grounding myself in the wisdom of other people. In some ways, it would be better for me to continue reading about the sephirot rather than writing these blog posts. The truth is that other people can provide insights that are much more deeply grounded in the depths of our tradition.

On the other hand, I see my work as rooted in bringing a rational, feminist lens to knowledge. I bristle at the androcentric language of medieval Jewish mysticism. Halakha is not the guidepost to my Jewish journey. Nor does the Bible need to be true for me to find holiness and depth in its pages. Insight into the human condition continues to evolve. I choose to learn from neuroscientists, psychologists, and science journalists as much I learn from playwrights, rabbis, philosophers, and the redactors of the Hebrew Bible and Talmud.

Previously on the 48th night of the Omer…

Yearning for Wisdom, 5780 / 2020.

Removing Veils Obscuring Foundational Truth, 5779 / 2019.

Allowing Space for the Divine Presence, 5778 / 2018.

Persona and Shadow, 5777 / 2017.


Image by icon0com via Pexels.

Splendor of Divine Presence, 47 Days Omer 5781

Today is forty-seven days, which is six weeks and five days of the Omer in the year 5781. הוד שבשכינה, Hod ShebeShekhinah. Splendor of Divine Presence. Is all this talk of God making you run for the hills? Why does mysticism and explicitly making space for God make so many Jews uncomfortable?

Journey beyond skepticism towards our souls

At the end of the day, I’m not here to convince anyone that a particular book is holy. Nor am I upset if you don’t agree with my descriptions of the Divine. What does frustrate me is how easily some Jews dismiss “mysticism” out of hand, as something so esoteric it has nothing to do with their rational, modern lives. Yet, they’re willing to sing Lecha Dodi on Friday night, welcoming the Sabbath bride with a poem written by a Jewish mystic. We seem to be living through a complete disconnect between the words on the pages of our siddurim and the words in our hearts.

These are the metaphors that connect me to my authentic self. I speak of the Splendor of Divine Presence because it reminds me that my anger is an illusion. Honestly, I worry about our mortality. Grief overwhelms me. I miss beloved colleagues, teachers, and family members. I worry about the people of Israel and Palestine. So I try to sink into this poetry to keep me from screaming in anger. Like I said, the anger is a blanket covering deep, unsettled emotions.

Humility on the journey

Today, Splendor, Hod in Hebrew, refracts the Divine Presence. A character trait often connected to Hod is humility. May I have the humility to accept that some people will never be interested in this blog.

Previously today…

Holding Space for the Divine in a Pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

Creating a Relationship with El Shaddai, 5779 / 2019.

Remembering God’s Glory, 5778 / 2018.

Encountering the Eternal Flame of Knowing, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Nick Kwan via Pexels.

Eternal Divine Presence, 46 Days Omer 5781

Today is forty-six days, which is six weeks and four days of the Omer in the year 5781. נצח שבשכינה, Netzach ShebeShekhinah. Eternal Divine Presence. Does the Eternal, Never-Ending, Beginning without End call to you? Personally, I felt lifted out of soul-piercing depression through the Presence and Place of Eternity, Shekhinah and HaMakom.

Spiritual response to depression

To be clear, many people find deep transformation through anti-depressant medication and psychotherapy. This blog is not medical advice and I am not advocating that you avoid your mental health needs by diving into a spiritual journey. Rather, I am sharing part of my journey.

Depression runs in my family. When I was younger, I felt the edges of deep depression and watched as it slowly took over. Several deep dives into that abyss left me feeling broken and alienated from the world. I filled myself with peace activism, hoping to build fundamental social change to alleviate the world’s problems. This volunteer work left me with little time for self-reflection, and an abundance of judgmental self righteousness.

My cynicism, anger, and depression transformed into gratitude, heartfelt pain, and eudaimonia: deep certainty of the importance of each life’s journey. Finding the Eternal Presence, making space for HaMakom in my life, made my transformation possible.

Uncovering the depths of Jewish wisdom

After my Grandma Elsie died, z”l, my Uncle Paul invited me to his synagogue. My eyes were opened to the depth and breadth of wisdom encapsulated in the Jewish civilization. Through Rabbi Finley, I found deeply rooted Jewish ethics, mysticism, rationality, and neo-Platonic ideals. After years of attending his adult education courses and Shabbat services at Ohr HaTorah, I felt the call to become a rabbi myself. I chose to attend the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, the seminary co-founded by Rabbi Finley. Five years into this new identity, my influences have expanded and my gratitude for my professors and colleagues is infinite.

Pain and suffering still exist

I don’t have answers to why humans choose to kill one another. Or why death happens. Nor why pandemics and science-denial co-exist. All I can say for sure is that the Eternal Divine Presence embraces us with comfort and love. May we become vessels worthy of goodness and truth.

Previously today…

Spiritual care during a pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

Rejecting suicide, embracing Eternal Divine Presence, 5779 / 2019.

Words Create Reality, 5778 / 2018.

Breathless embrace of God and Shabbat, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Kyle Roxas via Pexels.

Strength of Divine Presence, 44 Days Omer 4781

Today is forty-four days, which is six weeks and two days of the Omer in the year 5781. גבורה שבשכינה, Gevurah ShebeSchechinah, Strength of Divine Presence. Yesterday in Jewish time, earlier today in secular time, I had the distinct honor of hearing the thesis presentations of Erev Rav Jamie Hyams and Erev Rav Deborah Lewis. I continue to ruminate on the breadth of their presentations.

The Divine is Real… does that matter?

My meditations speak towards the Divine that holds sway over my life. Yet, it feels a bit too much like marketing to focus on convincing you that my beliefs are true. Holding yourself accountable to values and refining your interactions with other people can occur without belief.

I suppose I am saying: religion does not matter. Believing in God cannot be the end goal.

These vessels create space within me to attempt to live into my best self. I hear my kids struggle when I raise my voice. I know my best parent days are ahead of me.

Choosing Divine Presence is my way of choosing uprightness and truth. Though this is the path I choose to take, I think we can support one another regardless of how often our paths intertwine.

Strength of Divine Presence

Today I choose to greet the Heavenly Mother with prayers of gratitude. My strength and Her song will be to me salvation.

Recalling that each moment is an opportunity to be born anew, I shall circumscribe my lips.

Relish the love that surrounds me. Reach out to loved ones far away and around the corner.

I shall sink into Rabbi Abarbanel’s wise words:

כי היתה העבודה והאהבה שניים במאמר ואחד במציאות

“Because service and love are two words when you say them, but one in actuality.”

(With deep gratitude to Rabbi Avraham Greenstein’s Hebrew V class for sinking into this gorgeous text.)

Previously today…

Choosing Strong Divine Presence during a pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

The Divine Feminine Radiates Through Us, 5779 / 2019.

Mothers Reflect Divine Strength, 5778 / 2018.

Embracing The Divine, 5777 / 2017.


Image by kien virak via Pexels.

Flow of Divine Presence, 43 Days Omer 5781

Today is forty-three days, which is six weeks and one day of the Omer in the year 5781. חסד שבשכינה, Chesed ShebeShechinah. Flow of Divine Presence. May Her Presence flow through you, filling you with certainty and peace.

The cornerstone of many Jewish lives is not Emunah, Faith. We connect firmly with our people, even when our certainty in the Divine wobbles or shatters. This meditation through the Omer is my attempt to make the reality of the Divine clearly present in the vicissitudes of my life. May the Presence of The One open you to depths of your soul, as She has opened me to the possibilities of my life.

Suckling the Divine honey from the crag

Psalm translations often mute the physicality of Hebrew verbs. In Deuteronomy 32:13 the music comes alive, if we focus solely on the actual meaning of Hebrew verbs.

וַיֵּנִקֵ֤הֽוּ דְבַשׁ֙ מִסֶּ֔לַע וְשֶׁ֖מֶן מֵחַלְמִ֥ישׁ צֽוּר׃

As Robert Alter translates:

He suckled him honey from the crag

and oil from the flinty stone.

It is striking that the verb of this verse occurs in its masculine form, implying that the male God nurses. Or perhaps this is an example of the Divine Feminine being subsumed by the singular male identity. In any event, the Song of Ha’Azinu, is a gorgeous declaration of Divine grace. May we each find the strength to reach towards the depths calling us.

A book to help suckle the depths of Torah

Previously today…

The Divine Presence in a pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

The Divine Mother nourishes us all, 5779 / 2019.

Allowing the Divine Presence a place in my life, 5778 / 2018.

Seeking the Divine Light within, 5777 / 2017.


Image by David Mark via Pixabay.

Indwelling of Bonding, 42 Days of Omer 5781

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.

Previously today…

Honoring our physical vessels, 5780 / 2020.

The foundation of being is ever-present, 5779 / 2019.

Sovereign bonds in life, 5778 / 2018.

Bonding with the Immanent Divine, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Kanenori via Pixabay.

Core of Foundation, 41 Days of Omer 5781

Today is forty-one days, which is five weeks and six days of the Omer in the year 5781. יסוד שביסוד, Yesod ShebeYesod. Core of Foundation. What binds you to this life? What is the foundation of your journey? Does your speech and actions reflect your soul?

Layer by layer, discovering our foundation

Just as the above picture features rice paddies on multiple levels down a mountainside, so too does my inner world contain multiple layers.

Take this forty-first day of the Omer to reflect into your own depths. What is the truth calling to you in this moment? How can you be fully present to the people around you?

Try to have one soul-nourishing conversation today. Not just transactional. Listen to the depths of your conversation partner. Remember to tell them how much you appreciate them.

May this Shabbat bring you a sense of deep understanding, soulful community, and blessed rest.

Previously today…

The Bedrock That Guides Me, 5780 / 2020.

Experiencing the Divine Within, 5779 / 2019.

Rooting Myself in Community, 5778 / 2018.

My Personality is My Foundation, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Quang Nguyen Vinh via Pexels.

Splendor of Foundation, 40 Days Omer 5781

Today is forty days, which is five weeks and five days of the Omer in the year 5781. הוד שביסוד, Hod ShebeYesod, Splendid Holiness of Foundation. Hod is the vessel of holiness, while Yesod is the foundation of personality and outward demeanor. Bringing together the energy of these two sephirot allows us the opportunity to root our actions in the depths of our souls.

The breadth of my being calls to me

It’s been a difficult week. Unexpected death forces me to confront how deeply each day is a blessing. I am struggling mightily with the forces within me that want to distract me from this pain with retail therapy. My husband often asks me why I’m in such a rush to finish school. Losing a professor and three colleagues, along with my beloved uncle, in the last few years deepens my reflections. I thought my desire To Finish was rooted in my ego’s need for validation. I cannot deny that is a part of it.

The underlying truth is that spirituality cracked me open in ways nothing else ever could. And I am anxious to help people waken to the souls within them. Simultaneously, the breadth of what I do not know, and how much I need to grow, takes my breath away. I’ve always been a voracious learner. I am grateful to find a calling that allows me to continue learning every day I am blessed with life.

Take a moment to make space for holiness today.

Ground yourself in the reality of splendor.

Appreciate your own breath.

Acknowledge the wonder of your body.

And revel in the opportunity to fully live into this day.

Previously today…

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 via Pixabay.