Flow within Discipline, 8 Days of the Omer, Chesed ShebeGevurah

Tonight begins eight days of the Omer, which is one week and one day of the Omer in the year 5781. חסד שבגבורה, Chesed ShebeGevurah, Flow within Discipline.

Setting Healthy Boundaries, Flourishing Within Them

Every week, I marvel at how much I learn from my children. When i get overwhelmed, I let go of my boundaries. It is easy to swim in pools of malaise, doom-scrolling or mindless hours of binging streaming television. There’s one boundary that is crystal clear for my young kids: bedtime. I don’t mean that both of them recognize this need, but without fail — the older one will fall asleep, whether in front of the television or tucked in bed.

This is the key lesson I’ve learned in my seven years of parenting: boundaries allow children to truly flourish. Having clear guidance on what is and isn’t acceptable gives one the confidence to explore and become one’s truest self.

Second Week of the Omer: Gevurah / Din: Strength, Judgment, Discipline

Rather than seeing refractions of Chesed, this week we are meditating into the counterpart sephira. She has many names, most often גבורה and דין. Last week, I allowed the Divine emanations to wash over me. Today, I begin to take responsibility for bringing their power into my actions, speech, and feelings.

I marvel at the strength within a five year-old. Determined to learn to read, he followed instructions via Zoom transitional kindergarten and began the process of unlocking knowledge. Similarly, despite preferring graphic novels with scatological foci, my seven-year old kept his own reading an adult-oriented Haggadah. Their ability to move with the Flow of pandemic living and maintain a level of discipline is truly remarkable.

Flow within Discipline: the light touch of holiness

My rigidity has always been my stumbling block. When first learning the Sephirot, I laughed and said I was Gevurah to my partner’s Chesed. Now, instead of castigating myself for not being perfect, or not living up to my highest ideals, I choose to lean into Flow.

Flowing with Divine love and kindness, I accept my own limitations with grace. I lean into the moment and set aside my anxiety about the future. I marvel at the calm completeness within simple routines, like walking the dog.

Prayer for Flow within Discipline

Holy One of Blessing, help me to live into the flow of discipline. May I remember that boundaries help me be the best version of myself. Source of Life, help me remember that refracting my judgment through loving eyes brings deeper clarity and wisdom.

The Spiral of the 8th Day of the Omer

Your rod and Your staff guide me through the pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

Contemplating martyrdom, Lori Gilbert Kaye, HaShem yikom dama, 5779 / 2019.

Discipline rooted in grace, 5778 / 2018.

The essence of discipline is love, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Máté Markovics.

Foundation within Flow, Yesod ShebeChesed: Day Six of the Omer, 5781

Today is six days of the Omer in the year 5781. יסוד שבחסד, Yesod ShebeChesed, Foundation within Flow.

Counting the Omer is a great pathway into Jewish spiritual engagement. For over half my life, I had no idea any of this even existed within Judaism. The energy of Yesod strengthens our resolve to bring forward these meatphysical concepts into our everyday lives.

Foundational Flow

How do you connect the metaphysical concepts of Goodness, Kindness, Strength, Boundaries, Beauty, Truth, Endurance, and Splendor into material reality? What is the foundation of your spirituality?

We all need more than beautiful platitudes. Pledging allegience to values — whether done three times a day in traditional prayer services, once a week on Shabbat, or once a year on the High Holy Days — means nothing without right action. Living into Divine Flow requires creating a foundation within ourselves for the Goodness that reaches towards us in every moment.

Choose Life

When I was younger, I owned a poster based on dialog from the movie Trainspotting. We all get to choose how we live our lives and what we prioritize in life. How can we become a conduit for our best selves? Do we choose to allow life to happen to us or do we take control of our feelings, thoughts, and actions? Do we prioritize external possessions or internal character traits?

Prayer for Foundational Flow

I pray for the discipline and will to build a Temple within myself. I pray to bring forward the best version of myself and to allow Divine Flow to move through me, creating a gracious demeanor and words of lovingkindness.

Six Days of Omer Spiraling Through Time

Spiritual Technology to Reinforce Your Foundation: 5780 / 2020.

Internal and External Foundations for Love: 5779 / 2019.

Channeling Divine Energy into Everyday Life: 5778 / 2018.

Actualizing Love: 5777 / 2017.

Companions for the Journey


Image by Pok Rie via Pixabay.

Day Five of the Omer 5781: Splendor within Flow, Hod within Chesed

Today is five days of the Omer in the year 5781, הוד שבחסד, Hod ShebeChesed, Splendor within Flow.

Netzach and Hod are twin sephirot. They are the pillars of the Temple within, the legs of a person, creating space for the Ultimate to have an impact on the material world. Hod welcomes us to revel in a well-kept home and a well-ordered mind. Perhaps you Bullet Journal to stay focused on what is most important to you. Or you declutter your home and remove items that are no longer sparking joy. These activities are infused with Hod energy. By setting everything in its place, we create the opportunity for Divine Flow to enter our world.

Today, we begin to imagine using our expanded consciousness within material reality. We make space for others and reflect on clear communication. May you have the opportunity today to pause and reflect on one way you would like to transform your physical reality and one way to bring forward your authentic self into your relationships.

Books to guide the journey

Spiral of Day Five of the Ome

Moments of Splendor During a Pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

Clarifying the Nature of a Sephira, 5779 / 2019.

The Majesty of Every Day, 5778 / 2018.

A Prayer for Humility, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Enrique Lopez Garre via Pixabay.

Four Days of the Omer 5781: Endurance within Flow, Netzach within Chesed

Today is four days of the Omer in the year 5781, נצח שבחסד, Netzach ShebeChesed, Endurance within Flow.

Interrogate your story

There is a beautiful explanation of this day in Benji Elson’s book, Dance of the Omer. Elson suggests picking up the rocks, the stumbling points, within your life. Examine each rock with a child’s curiosity. Try to see it from a new angle. Try to create a new version of your story, wherein the stumbles are not roadblocks. Rather, they are stepping stones.

Brené Brown provides clear detail on the power of story and the way in which transforming our stories helps us to become our truer selves in her newest book, Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Perhaps the hardest thing I have ever faced in life is the stranglehold that my internal narrative had on me. Paying respect to the way those stories helped you become the person you are today, holding the rock and giving it permission to sink into the flow of the river — that is deep work.

Prayer for Enduring Flow

Holy Mother of the Universe, Fount of Blessings, I embrace You. I welcome Your Shefa, שפע, Your Divine Flow, into this day. Every moment, I pray to stay connected to Your Enduring Flow. I pray for the discernment to know that cynicism is a trap of the inclination towards destructiveness. May I remember that the child within is neither naive nor helpless: she is willful and determined to be a conduit of Goodness and Holiness, Joy and Inner Wellbeing.

Guideposts for the Journey

The Spiral of Four Days of the Omer

Enduring will to nurture covenantal love: Day Four, 5780 / 2020.

Enduring prophetic love: Day Four, 5779 / 2019.

Choose grace in every moment: Day Four, 5778 / 2018.

Honoring the triumph of enduring love: Day Four, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Kai Vogel via Pixabay.

Two Days of the Omer 5781: Boundaries within Grace, Gevurah within Chesed

Today is two days of the Omer, 5781. גבורה שבחסד, Gevurah ShebeChesed, Boundaries within Grace. The human soul expands beyond its previous limits through spiritual discipline.

This immersive week of flowing within the light of the Divine requires clear boundaries. If you try to only catch the flow, you’re more likely to succumb to a mirage. Far too many people have been lost to the false messiah of hallucinogenic drugs. True freedom requires discipline, strength, and the ability to say no. May you find comfortable limits and gentle discipline to help you expand into yourself.

Spiritual discipline in unprecedented times

To be clear, I am no saint. If you are looking for advice on parenting during a pandemic, look elsewhere. I am treading water as I stumble towards becoming a better parent, and helping my children grow into themselves. Similarly, my spiritual discipline has waxed and waned in the last year. Recently, health issues broke me away from my daily prayer practice and I am struggling to regain my footing.

One thing is clear: I know how to help myself move into the flow. Jewish prayer has always swept me away. Before I understood a single word, the tradition spoke to my soul in a way I have never been touched by human speech or writing, regardless of the number of books I read. Experiencing the flow — whether in daily prayer, daily meditation (which, frankly, my prayer is my meditation), daily yoga, or daily woodworking: that flow is the Holy Mother of the Universe reaching towards us, encouraging us to be our best selves.

Give yourself the gift of recognition.

Choose a spiritual practice

Commit yourself to one spiritual act for the rest of the Omer count (beyond the counting itself). Whether that is conscious breathing for five minutes a day, or mindful stretching when you wake up and when you lie down: choose something. Accept an activity that will require your full body’s attention. Set aside your phone. Ignore the people around you. Choose to Be with yourself and with the flow.

Prayer for strength within the Divine Flow

I pray for the strength to stay within the Divine Flow regardless of what is happening around me. I pray that my resistance will lessen, and I will be able to outsmart my Inclination towards Destructiveness (my Yetzer HaRa). May the Divine Flow speak through me and help my children recognize that discipline is necessary for true joy.

The spiral of this day…

Discipline in Covenantal Love, Two days of the Omer 5780 / 2020

Clear Vision Beyond Existential Anxiety, Two days of the Omer 5779 / 2019

Healthy Boundaries in Love, Two days of the Omer 5778 / 2018

Boundaries in love? (Beginner’s mind), Two days of the Omer 5777 / 2017

Guidance for the journey


The North Platte River in Wyoming, photographed by 1778011 from Pixabay.

Choosing to be Guided: Psalm 25, verses 12 and 13

Whoever the person who fears the Ground of Being,
God shall guide them on the path that they should choose.
Their essential self in goodness shall rest
and their seed shall inherit the land.

מִי-זֶה הָאִישׁ יְרֵא ה״
יוֹרֶנּוּ בְּדֶרֶךְ יִבְחָר
נַפְשׁוֹ בְּטוֹב תָּלִין
וְזַרעוֹ יִירַשׁ אָרֶץ

Gender neutrality clearly separates human from Divine

I could not figure out anything to write about this couplet. The original language is written about the man and his seed. Using male pronouns seems to conflate human volition with God’s direction. Does God guide the man on a path that God chooses? Or does God’s guidance allow the man to choose the correct path? Since the same pronoun is used for both verbs in verse 12b, either reading is correct.

Transforming the English into gender neutral terms for humans and their actions allowed me to meditate into the couplet. My body completely resisted and rejected the abundance of verbs conjugated in the third person male with third person male pronouns. 

Who chooses when God guides?

The breadth of psalm 25 implies that God guides and a person chooses correctly. But that implication is hard to provide and even harder for me to connect with. The couplet doesn’t begin with “the man,” rather it begins with mi-zeh. This phrase can be translated as “who is this” or “whoever” or “whose.” When looking mi-zeh up in my Evan-Shoshan Concordance, I found another example of the phrase that clarifies and confirms my suspicions on the original intent of this couplet.

Consider the use of mi-zeh in Lamentations 3.37:
מִי זֶה אָמַר וַתֶּהִי
אַ״דֹ״נַי לֹֹֹֹא צִוָּה
Whose decree was ever fulfilled,
Unless the Lord willed it? (JPS translation)

Free will vs determinism

Herein lies the crux of the biblical understanding of human autonomy: we have free will, and all of our choices are ordained by God. I do not personally agree with this theology. Free will has ultimate meaning to me: we can choose to allow the Ground of Being to lead us. We can also choose to willfully ignore Goodness. 

Following the Divine

When we choose to follow HaShem, our essential self is at rest. This is not to say we will always prosper; or that true believers never feel sadness, anger, or grief. Rather, we are able to flow with life’s ups and downs. We can ride the wave, rather than getting pummeled into the rocks.

For me, this is what it means to be guided by HaShem. Not that my life will be perfect, but that I will be able to respond to life with equanimity. I am constantly falling off this path. And so, I return, repent, and renew my alignment with Kindness and Truth.  

May we all have the will to follow the path of kindness and truth. 

Signposts on the journey

Heart of Psalm 25: Verse 11

לְמַעַו-שִׁמְךָ ה״

וְסָלַחְתָּ לַעֲוֹנִי כִּי רַב-הוּא

For the sake of Your name, Cause of Being:
May You forgive my willful and wayward acts, though they are plentiful.

The heart of the psalm: acknowledging my waywardness, requesting pardon

Benjamin Segal states: “The central verse (v.11) stands alone.” He explains that it is a prayer for forgiveness in the singular. The second half of the verse is used as part of the Yom Kippur liturgy, which is unusual because sins are generally stated in the plural during our communal day of atonement. (Segal, p 115, 117)

Pandemic living and this season of joy

I have been so wayward during this holy season. It has been so difficult for me to stay rooted in joy. Throughout the pandemic, I have struggled to stay grounded and focused. Recently, I realized how much I miss being around other people. Past retreats I attended feel so much more meaningful in the rear view mirror.

My last time traveling was for the final week of the Davennen Leadership Training Institute in February, right before the shutdowns. DLTI supports creating meaningful prayer experiences for communities across the United States.

Last Sunday, I learned that a friend, Benjamin Telushkin, z”l, from DLTI passed away unexpectedly right before Sukkot. It is strange to bear such heartbreaking news to a community. Ben lived in NYC and our cohort is spread out across the country. So, I did not have the opportunity to have a socially distanced, in-person conversation with another grieving friend. Yet again, Zoom became our communal gathering space.

Benjamin Telushkin: embodiment of joy

It is quite easy for me to get stuck in my head, intellectualize my thoughts, rationalize my actions. In many ways, Ben was my opposite. He relished being Jewish, holding space for love to flow through him. With his wife Grace, he was creating a beautiful family.

Ben was also one of the first people I met on my way to DLTI. We both caught a ride from New York City to the Isabella Freedman Retreat center, sharing the journey with two other DLTI’ers. You never forget the first people you meet on your way to meeting 70+ new friends.

I pray Ben’s soul is released from the material world. May he ascend to the infinite with which he was constantly reaching towards. I pray his soul is able to continue its journey while also maintaining her connection with his wife and family.

Ben’s Gematria Poem:
Ipoem with the “I” in Uppercase

Resources for the Journey

“The Meaning of Life During COVID times” an interview on the study of happiness.


Image by Alexandru Manole from Pixabay

Steadfast Love and Truth: the Path of HaShem, Psalm 25, verse 10

The path of God is a narrow bridge. Steadfast Love and Truth guide me towards Goodness.

All of the paths of the Ground of Being are steadfast love and truth;
For those who guard with fidelity His covenant and His testimonies.

כָּל-אָרְחוֹת ה״ חֶסֶד וְאֱמֶת
לְנֹצְרִי בְרִיתוֹ וְעֵדֹתָיו

Chesed v’Emet: Steadfast Love and Truth

Is it kindness, lovingkindness, or steadfast love? How to translate the constantly morphing חסד? She pulses with life, avoiding exact translation. Chesed is the deep feeling of being held in sacred relationship: a healthy partnership, where kindness prevails.

Some translate אמת (emet) as אמונה (emunah), truth as faithfulness. This is also the root of אמן, amen

HaShem’s path is for the lowly and wayward. We are led in steadfast love and truth.

Christians and Guardians

Fun fact: נצר is Hebrew for Christian. Before that meaning was invented, it was a verb meaning “guard with fidelity, keep, observe: elsewhere of man observing the covenant.” Wikipedia has an interesting etymology connecting Nazereth with נצר.

Concentric circles of meaning. Fundamental differences separate me from my Christian friends and neighbors. Yet, the core of our spiritual pursuits is connected: striving towards the best versions of ourselves, living in alignment with God. 

Finding my way to the path of kindness and truth

I have been thinking a lot in the last week about wayward paths. How certain we can be that we are pursuing the good, aligning with the holy, when we are really elevating our egos and nestling into the death grip of the Yetzer HaRa, inclination towards destructiveness. 

God’s covenant and testimonies should lead us on the path of kindness and truth. We need lampposts along the way. Human guides to break our complacency; remind us of the lies nipping at our best intentions. And we need to be forever watchful that we do not reify other humans. No matter how charismatic our spiritual leaders are, they remain flesh and blood. 

So I return to the Ground of Being. I breathe in humility. Breathe out anxiety and fear. May I be a watchtower for kindness and truth. Loosen my ego’s grip. Accept the world as it is. Sing out testimony to the soul-nourishing, life-affirming truth within God’s path. 

Books for the journey


Image by jbauer-fotographie from Pixabay

Following God’s path: Psalm 25, verses 8 and 9

Good and upright is the Ground of Being
therefore He guides offenders on the path.
He leads the lowly in justice
and He teaches the lowly His path.

טוֹב-וְיָשָׁר ה״
עַל-כֵּן יוֹרֶה חַטָּאִים בַּדָּרֶךְ
יַדְרֵךְ עֲנָוִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּט
וִילַמֵּד עֲנָוִים דּרְכּוֹ

Translation relies heavily on Robert Alter, in addition to the BDB Lexicon

He is God. She is God. They is God.

I did not try to remove the gendered language from translation. I purposefully want to sit in the uncomfortable truth of the patriarchal representation of the Divine embedded in my tradition. 

Acknowledging patriarchy without diminishing the holiness of Jewish wisdom makes people uncomfortable. Sometimes, assumptions arise when I alter God’s gender in prayer. I see gender as a real thing that brings meaning to our lives. Yet the Creator of Reality is beyond gender. We attach to a gendered understanding of HaShem because it is the shadow of God that can be understood by humans. Becoming aware of God’s female aspects, of the ways in which the Divine is Goddess, allows us to break free of the barriers inherent in gendered language. Once we see that all gender expressions reflect Divine love in the world, we can live into deeper reality. 

Offenders and lowly: not willful sinners

Willful sinners know they are doing wrong and revel in their waywardness. Evil resides with willful sinners. 

Offenders — people who miss the mark, but are not intentionally going astray — seek guidance. Chataim is the plural form for people who commit chait. Rabbi Avraham Greenstein explains chait as missing the mark, short of ability. 

“Sin,” has gradations in the Jewish mind. The two other levels of sin involve stronger levels of choice in rejecting God’s instruction. Avon is a willful crookedness, being stuck on a tangential path. Pesha is rebellious rejection of God. 

Similarly, the lowly did not choose to be in that state. They may have been brought low by the inequalities inherent in society. Or they may struggle with depression. 

Waywardness exists within all of us

A core teaching of The Tanya: human inability for perfection.  Perhaps once in a generation, a tzaddik exists. Most of us are beinoni: pursuing the holy, struggling daily with the Yetser HaRa, the inclination towards destruction / chaos / evil. We beinoni have a war raging within.

These verses do not describe other people: they describe my own struggle to stay on the path of Goodness and Uprightness. When I raise my voice towards my children, I stray from the path of goodness. Every time I say things I regret. Every time I succumb to despair. It is easy to stray from the path of HaShem. 

The Ground of Being awaits my return. 

Alignment with Goodness and Truth is a daily struggle. I trust that the Cause of Goodness reveals the right way to me. As I move towards holiness, the Holy One, Blessed be She, moves towards me. 

Companions on the Journey


Image by Valiphotos via Pixabay.

Acknowledge the past, focus on kindness and goodness: psalm 25 verse 7

The offenses of my youth and my transgressions, may You not recall
In Your lovingkindness recall me. You.
For the sake of Your goodness, Ground of Being.

חַטֹּאות נְעוּרַי וּפְשָׁעִי אַל-תִּזְכֹּר
כְּחַסְדְּךָ זְכָר-לִי-אַתָּה
לְמַעַן טוּבְךָ ה״

Acknowledge transgressions and move forward

Has your mind ever played the trick of reminding you of every youthful transgression you ever committed? Perhaps the person you were in your early 20s does not resemble the person you are today. Let me put it simply: I am extremely grateful the internet was in its infancy when I was in college. 

Beyond my choices in college, perhaps I should try to scrub the internet of my blogging when I was in my 20s. Given the political nature of securing employment, perhaps I should have more anxiety about my peace activism. I do not want to hide my younger self: she was forged from Jewish values and persuasive rhetoric. Fundamentally, my persona coalesced around opposition to the status quo and mainstream ideas of security and nationalism. When I woke up to how rigid and angry I was on a daily basis, my surety cracked. Making space for uncertainty, I opened the door to returning to a relationship with HaShem. 

Wrapping myself in kindness and goodness

Lovingkindness / covenantal love: the choice to be in relationship and obligated to act faithfully.  For the sake of goodness. 

Within the text of psalm 25, HaShem is asked to remember these choices when connecting with a human. To embody the psalm, I must remember chesed, the sturdy love, the kindness, I should show to my family and my society. For the sake of Goodness, I choose to rise above my baser instincts. My transgressions are not as important as my commitment to lovingkindness.

Just as I ask HaShem to overlook my transgressions, so too must I probe to the deeper meaning of living in community. What words can I say to expand the reach of goodness? How can my actions embody the covenantal love embracing me continuously?

Flow through books


Image by Nina Czapska from Pixabay.