Thirty-eight days of the Omer 5777

Today is thirty-eight days, which is five weeks and three days, of the Omer. Tiferet of Yesod. Beauty / Truth of Bonding / Foundation.

Holding onto a holy foundation is difficult. It is easy to become consumed by ephemeral material concerns — checking your Facebook feed, worrying how many likes your latest Instagram post has, getting lost in the never-ending supply of quality television. None of these things are evil, but when they are done without limits, we create space for the Yetzer HaRa, the inclination toward evil, and we close the door to our souls.

Sometimes, the truth we feel is so painful it tears apart our equilibrium. We lose sight of holiness when we enter depression — indeed, some sources say depression is the ultimate sin. This is a controversial statement to people steeped in medical diagnoses of mental health.

Consider this example: a young woman struggles to find her place in the world. She questions whether she deserves to be alive. Slowly, incrementally, while part of her observes the process, she sinks into depression. Eventually, she stops functioning and medical professionals declare her depressed and put her on a series of medications. But the fog doesn’t truly lift until she finds solid ground — within herself and beyond herself — on which to live a life of meaning and service.

The solid ground is the Jewish wisdom tradition, including prayer rituals, mystical insights, acknowledgement of the spirit, and struggle through the material world.

And the young woman isn’t so young anymore.

I recognize how tremendously psychiatric drugs can help people’s lives. I also recognize that there are limits to how psychiatry treats human suffering. I do not shy away from learning from psychology and neuroscience — Jung, neo-Jungian / depth psychology, Seligman’s positive psychology, and Siegel’s mindisght are bedrocks in the foundation I have built for myself.

In honor of Chris Cornell, whose memory will always be a blessing, may we take some time to reflect on what it means to create a foundation of truth. How can we bond with our friends and family in a way that supports them, and ourselves, in times of psychological and spiritual crisis? How can we be there, staying near to people even when they act poorly, speak hurtfully, and generally ignore all of our help?

Do we spend enough time outside of the social media nirvana bubble to know how our friends are truly doing? Are we physically present, mentally connected, and providing concrete support to those in need?

Our journeys through this world are interconnected. May our souls support one another, lift one another up, and help each other inhabit the beauty and truth of a holy foundation.

Thirty-seven days of the Omer 5777

Today is thirty-seven days, which is five weeks and two days, of the Omer. Gevurah of Yesod, Discipline in Bonding.

Don’t be co-dependent and give your partner space is one way to look at today’s aspect of Divine wisdom.

On a deeper level, a foundation is only as strong as its limits. Create a clear blueprint of the life you want to live, the values you want to embody, the lines you will not cross before laying your foundation. Refer back to those blueprints and decide whether opportunities align with your higher judgment.

Clear boundaries create the space needed to flourish. By understanding what is within your purview, you shut out the noise and give yourself permission to thrive. This is part of the generative power of Yesod.

And in case the sephirot are completely new to you, Yesod is symbolized by the phallus. In my experience, having the discipline to honor the deep connection forged by sexual intimacy greatly heightens its potency.

It is healthy to have more dependency on others when we are children. The discipline in my bond with my toddlers is rooted in love rather than strict judgment. My hope is that by experiencing healthy bonding in childhood, they will not seek unhealthy attachments in adulthood.

May we all have the strength to nurture our inner children, provide ourselves with the boundaries we need to thrive, and stay firmly rooted in building the beloved community.

Thirty-six days of the Omer 5777

Today is thirty-six days, which is five weeks and one day, of the Omer. Chesed of Yesod. Love / Grace of Foundation / Bonding.

What do you cleave to in your life? Did you have a happy childhood, full of appropriate levels of parental bonding and family bliss? Or (more likely) were there bumps along the way? Are you naturally wary of other people, always keeping your guard up?

I invite you to imagine cleaving to another person in a healthy, loving way. Imagine selfless love connecting you to one another, and to a larger community. Imagine the depth of meaning this type of foundation would infuse in your life. This is one aspect of Rabbi Sid Schwarz’s theory of covenantal community: mutual obligation in support of a shared vision.

The Grace of the Divine, the selfless love of the universe, can also infuse your bonding towards a moral, ethical life, bringing more light into the world. May the intensity of all that has gone before this day help you create a healthy bond with another person, based on mutual respect and responsibility.

Thirty-five days of the Omer 5777

Today is thirty-five days, which is five weeks, of the Omer. Shechinah / Malchut of Hod, Indwelling / Kingdom of Splendor.

How do you allow your body to be a temple of Splendor? Be humble.

Kabbalah teaches that everything in the world has a soul, a nefesh. Even a rock, a carrot, a car has an essential aspect that connects it to the Divine. There are three levels of soul, nefesh is the lowest level. Think about the way the atoms of the universe are all connected – how when a proton jumps from one location to another, it disappears. That ether that we’ve begun to describe with quantum mechanics, that is the realm of nefesh.

Every human you encounter also has a ruach, a soul connected to her ego’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. And she has a neshama, a soul that reaches beyond her to connect with the infinite.

So when you encounter another person today, remember her three-fold soul and pause before criticizing, complaining, condemning, or continuing conflict. May we all have the ability to recognize the Splendor of the world around us and may our actions elevate the day and the world.

Thirty-four days of the Omer 5777

Today is thirty-four days, which is four weeks and six days, of the Omer. Yesod of Hod, Bonding of Splendor.

I had the privilege of meeting over twenty rabbinical students and new rabbis from seminaries across the country. I got a taste of Dr. Erica Brown’s Torah of leadership and Rabbi Sid Schwarz‘s vision of covenental community.

My meditation for this day is to connect all that I learned from these teachers and colleagues into my own vocation.

All of our work is important to help people connect with the deepest part of themselves. May we each find time today to reflect on how we connect bursts of inspiration to our daily lives. May we each hold onto gratitude, meaning, and truth as we complete the mundane tasks of daily living.

Thirty-three days of the Omer 5777

Today is thirty-three days, which is four weeks and five days, of the Omer. Lag B’Omer, Hod of Hod, Splendor of Splendor.

All of us yearn for meaning and depth. My colleagues and I are on a journey to share the way Judaism can add depth to every day of your life. I am blessed to know them.

May you have a good week, a week of peace. May happiness and joy increase.

Happy Lag B’Omer and Happy Mother’s Day.

Thirty-two days of the Omer 5777

Today is thirty-two days, which is four weeks and four days of the Omer. Netzach of Hod. Eternal Splendor.

Jewish wisdom is deep and can be life transforming. Yet the institutions we build to share our insight and build community do not always achieve the depths of support we need. I am blessed to be surrounded by others who want to be the change they wish to see within our ancient tradition.

The splendor of building community with rabbinical students (and newly ordained rabbis) from across the Jewish spectrum fills me with awe. I learned that the Jewish Humanist movement does not recognize a rabbi willing to lead a service with God in the prayers. Yet, they are willing to share space with the rest of us who place God at the center of our lives.

I met students from the Orthodox movement’s two vibrant schools lighting the way — they are ordaining women at Yeshivat Maharat and men at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. And students from Hebrew College (a pluralistic school founded by Rabbi Arthur Green), AJR New York (transdenominational), the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative), Hebrew Union College (Reform), and the ALEPH Ordination Program (Renewal).

And being away from my family makes me appreciate our eternal bond even more. Shabbat shalom!

A small addition: Attending the Transdenominational Rabbinical Student Retreat hosted by Rabbi Sid Schwarz was a life changing experience. It forced me to face my imposter syndrome head on. And it created relationships for me, not just with students from other seminaries, but with students farther along the process at my own seminary, the Academy for Jewish Religion, California. I am eternally grateful for Rabbi Schwarz’s insight and determination to keep building bridges between us.

Thirty-one days of the Omer 5777

Today is thirty-one days, which is four weeks and three days, of the Omer. Tiferet of Hod. Beautiful Truth in Splendor.

The beautiful truth I witnessed today was my fellow students patiently waiting as I tried (for an hour) in vain to retrieve my jacket and scarf from the plane. And my sister letting me borrow her sweatshirt. And my husband sending me recordings of my children saying I love you.

May we all be blessed with soulful community to help us along our journey. May the kids allow my husband to sleep. May we all have the opportunity to retreat from daily life to reconnect with what brings us meaning.

(I am at a rabbinical student retreat in Maryland.)

Twenty-nine days of the Omer 5777

Today is twenty-nine days, which is four weeks and one day, of the Omer. Chesed of Hod, Grace of Splendor / Gratitude / Prophecy.

Each person must recognize their own limits. Today, I was forced to face my own limits and to recognize how myopically I have been focused on rabbinical school since I started attending full-time last fall.

It is easy to focus on the ego’s desires. When you focus deeply on your own needs, wants, and hopes, you can miss the soul expanding world surrounding you; broken and hoping to be healed. Setting aside your desires and feeling the grace that surrounds you – committing to a concrete action to support another person or a larger community, can help you grow deeper than any individual journey.

And sometimes, committing yourself to a larger community is as mundane as submitting receipts for reimbursement before the grace period expires. This may be the most expensive lesson I have ever learned.

Thirty days of the Omer 5777

Today is thirty days, which is four weeks and two days, of the Omer. Gevurah of Hod, Judgment / Discipline in Splendor / Prophecy / Gratitude.

I’ll be honest- Hod and Netzach are the hardest sephirot for me to try to write something original about, particularly something for seven days straight. This feels like a particularly obvious permutation. Of course you don’t want to walk through life with rose colored glasses and accept whatever happens as the will of the universe. Life is meant to be lived. In creating space for the flow of the universe, we must also align ourselves with a vision of our better selves, and the better world we wish to live in. We each have responsibility to keep moving forward toward wholeness, toward our best selves.

I have no proper transition to what is really on my mind — I had the pleasure of hearing from many learned scholars today, including Rabbi Dr. Rachel Adler and Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Cohen (and the world’s best mohel, Dr. Andrew Shpall.) The topic was brit milah, and hatafat dam brit, as part of conversion. In English – that’s the fact that circumcision is an integral part of Jewish conversion. It’s not simply a physical act — if one was circumcised without the ritual, a ceremony must be performed. There are a variety of interpretations of this entire process and I can’t do justice to all of my thoughts right now. I will say – it was my first time hearing from a feminist theologian and I’m such a fan. The event was sponsored by the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din.