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.

Flowing with Compassion and Kindness: Psalm 25 verse 6

Recall Your compassion, Cause of Being,
And Your kindness;
For eternal are they.

זְכֹר-רַחֲמֶיךָ ה״
וַחֲסָדֶיךָ
כִּי מֵעוֹלָם הֵמָּה

Compassion begins in the womb

In Hebrew, the root of compassion is womb. רֶחֶם, rechem, means womb and from that root, רַחֲמִים, rachamim, compassion forms. In the womb of the Divine, I am surrounded by compassion and covenantal kindness / love / faithfulness. 

Kindness rooted in covenant

חֶסֶד, chesed, is a truly foreign concept, thus difficult to translate. 

Brown-Driver-Briggs gives the primary definition of chesed as kindness. This seems a simple word to accept, but I am compelled to precisely define kindness, because it is often replaced by lovingkindness when translating chesed. Google / Oxford Languages defines kindness as “the quality of being friendly, generous, considerate.” Google defines lovingkindness as “tenderness and consideration towards others.” 

Rabbi Miriyam Glazer taught a course on psalms at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California. In that course, she stressed that the actions implied by the word chesed rest on the covenant between God and Israel, the people who wrestle with God. 

Ultimately, the word represents the outflowing of positive energy based on a concrete relationship of chosen connection. This is why the root in a different form, חַסִיד, chasid, means a pious person. 

Tetragrammaton

When I type Hebrew names of God, I try to change them according to traditional malformations to indicate the ephemeral nature of this website. So, I wrote Elokai, replacing an “h” sound with a “k” sound. The true name of God is abbreviated as ה״, which itself is an abbreviation of HaShem, The Name. Jews do not pronounce The Name. Instead, we say the word Adonai, which means my Lord. 

The true name of God is referred to as the tetragrammaton, a fancy word that means “four letter word.” The precise translation of the tetragrammaton could be “was, is, will be.” It is a form of the Hebrew root “to be.” That is why I translate it as either Cause of Being or Ground of Being.

Existence rests on HaShem. The Oneness, the point before the Big Bang, the flow of reality. These are the essential aspects of the Divine. When I sink into my soul, when I rise above my ego’s attachments, then I can begin to connect with the Cause of Being. 

Values before material existence

Ultimately, this verse reminds me of a very Jewish concept: there are things that existed before the beginning. The essential thing that existed was Wisdom (see Proverbs 8). From wisdom flowed other aspects of the Divine, including compassion and lovingkindness.

This idea of the outpouring of Divine energy, which occurred before the beginning, finds voice in Jewish mysticism, particularly Lurianic Kabbalah

Concluding with verse 7

Alone, this verse is a patchwork of words and concepts. Psalm 25 verse 6 reaches towards verse 7, surrounding it with love and acceptance. Tomorrow, with the help of the Divine, I will sink into that reality.

Beautiful books


Image by Comfreak from Pixabay.

49 Days 5780: Indwelling of Divine Presence, Shekhinah

Tonight begins the forty-ninth day, which is seven weeks of the Omer in the year 5780. שכינה שבשכינה, Shekhinah ShebeShekhinah, Indwelling of Divine Presence.

Returning to the world that is

These meditations have been flights upward into the worlds of ideas and ideals. Though, I have endeavored to stay grounded in the current reality while making space for the expansive. 

Facing reality clear eyed

I had my annual physical this week via teleconference. My doctor suggested getting used to this physical distance for at least a year. It was helpful to hear a medical expert confirm my expectations. 

Growing up, one of my favorite songs was “Dead Man’s Party.” We SoCal kids reveled in the macabre, dancing away our worries with Oingo Boingo as our life soundtrack. As I face death on the personal, national, and global scale, I marvel at the simplicity of those years. Yet, there is something soul penetrating about the entire album. 

Don’t be afraid to dance

Sometimes, I think we feel guilty for finding joy in these troubled times. These seven weeks have brought me back to myself. My imposter syndrome abated. I am allowing myself to flow into myself. 

I pray you are able to hear the truth seeking you in the coming days. 

Shavuah Tov!

Other Ends of the Omer Count

5779 / 2019: Completion, Reflection, Expansions

5778 / 2018: Moving towards a coherent philosophy.

5777 / 2017: Acknowleding the Shadow and Pharoah Within.

48 days of Omer 5780: Foundation of Divine Presence, Yesod of Shekhinah

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.

Wisdom yearns to accompany us

A pandemic may seem like a terrible time to expect Divine revelation. And yet, the breadth of spiritual texts across traditions speaks to the revelations found through hardship. 

I am not saying God chose this path for humanity. Rather that since this is the path we are on, we should choose to sink into meaning. 

Counting Barley, Creating a Foundation 

In years past, I chose to eat more mindfully because of my Omer count. I clarified aspects of my understanding of the sephirot through these meditations. This year, I remind myself of my ability to communicate.

I no longer strive to constantly be better. Rather, I hope to be present and find joy and meaning in life, regardless of the outer world.

What is the foundation for your existential nourishment?

Previously on 48 days of the Omer

5779 / 2019: Rejoice the masculine, feminine, and shadow within

5778 / 2018: Sharing ideas make them real.

5777 / 2017: Relationship between persona and shadow.

47 days of Omer 5780: Splendor of Divine Presence, Hod of Shekhinah

Today is forty-seven days, which is six weeks and five days of the Omer in the year 5780. הוד שבשכינה, Hod ShebeShekhinah. Splendor of Divine Presence.

Arms holding space for the Divine

Netzach and Hod are the arms holding space for the Divine. The eternal prophecy of Netzach is contained in the splendor of space created through Hod. 

Marking time

A traditional Jewish day was once marked by sacrifices to the Presence. Now, we reflect on eternity by praying. Not just in the morning, afternoon, and evening, but with every act of our day. Our eating becomes meaningful when we stop to speak words of gratitude for the morsels we are about to consume. Imagine being so rooted in gratitude that you have the presence to stop before every random chip and grape that enters your mouth. 

Gratitude pursues us

Judaism gives us the opportunity to reflect on the the ultimate Cause of Being, while being grateful to the immediate humans and seasons that allow us to be fulfilled by the fruits of the earth. 

Amorphous time finds shape through meaning

Time can feel infinite during a pandemic. And yet, when a loved one is dying, every moment can feel like eternity. It is strange the way that the same amount of time feels different depending on where we focus our attention. 

Pandemic reality past and present

Until recently, I had no idea more people died of the flu than lost their lives in World War One. Neither AP European History, nor History of the Great Powers, nor any international relations course I took in college mentioned the 1918 flu. It only made an appearance during my Medieval and early modern history course with Dr. Bob Levy, z”l. 

I think about how much more difficult this pandemic is. The mental and physical demands. The lack of US federal government oversight. The inability to rise above partisan differences to face this medical problem head on. Above all, how hard it is to face death in the year 2020. 

Creating physical space that welcomes holiness

Usually, Hod is seen in our communal physical spaces dedicated to holy community. It is still far too dangerous to gather together for prayer. And so, we are each impelled to create space for Shekhinah, Her Presence, within ourselves and our private spaces. 

Every time we clean our bathrooms, we make space for the holy. 

Putting away toys and books creates holy space.

HaMakom is where we make space for Her

HaMakom, The Place, is not just the bimah with an ark and Torah scroll. After all, that most Jewish of words — bimah — is merely a Greek loan word that means platform. Throughout time, we thrive because we adapt. 

May we have the resilience to adapt and find moments of deep connection, grounded joy, and human flourishing. 

Previously on the 47th day of the Omer

5779 / 2019: Shuffling into Jewish prayer and a relationship with El Shaddai.

5778 / 2018: Remembering God’s glory.

5777 / 2017: Encountering the Eternal Flame of Knowing.

46 Days of Omer 5780: Eternal Divine Presence, Netzach of Shekhinah

Today is forty-six days, which is six weeks and four days of the Omer in the year 5780. נצח שבשכינה, Netzach ShebeShekhinah. Eternal Divine Presence.

Houses of Worship Offer No Respite From Disease

I often wonder why religious communities are planning for in-person services at a date in the near future. There is no cure nor treatment for COVID-19. Spiritual gatherings have a proven track record of spreading the disease. 

As much as it grieves me, I do not expect to be in a synagogue until a vaccine or effective treatment is found. I am studying to become a rabbi and face the possibility that I will not be in a synagogue during the final two years of my rabbinical training. 

I scarcely expect to be near anyone beyond my children and husband for the next two years. 

Maintaining Human Connections

Nevertheless, our connections to one another are even more important now. Personally, I need a deep break from Zoom. Something about not knowing where I should look, intensely staring at a screen, it drains me in a way that is soul crushing. 

Still, one-to-one conversations feed my soul. Even when speaking to perfect strangers, I find solace in our shared humanity. A few weeks ago, I even ran into the receptionist from my dentist’s office while walking my dog. Which is pretty remarkable, given that my dentist is on the other side of town. 

Eternal Divine Presence

Whether with a community or alone, the Eternal Divine Presence yearns to connect with each of us. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we can make space to feel Her Presence, wrap ourselves in Her Embrace. 

On the wings of the Shekhinah, we will survive. 

Spiritual Care is Available

It is curious that I have not mentioned this before. I am one of the volunteers providing spiritual care through Ruach. The goal of the volunteer organization: “We hope to provide pluralistic, inclusive, and accessible emotional and spiritual support to individuals of all backgrounds and faiths, with an emphasis on serving those who are otherwise unaffiliated or marginalized from the Jewish community.” On a practical level, if you request support, you will be matched with a Jewish spiritual care provider who will meet with you for 30-45 minutes, once a week, for up to six weeks. 

It can be quite helpful to have a friendly ear as you think through your emotional and spiritual landscape. This is not therapy — it is the opportunity for your soul to be accompanied briefly during this unprecedented time. 

Listen to your own needs

We are being called forth, spiritually cleansing ourselves in preparation for Divine revelation. Shavuot, Weeks, is on the horizon: marking the end of the seven week barley harvest. The seven weeks of harvesting understanding of how the Divine emanates in this world, clarifying how we can be better vessels for holiness and goodness. 

Whatever you need: whether that is another call to a friend, more sleep, or one more episode of escapism into the television, listen to your needs. Just don’t forget to sleep, eat, drink water, and walk your dog (if you have one.)

Previously on the 46th Day of the Omer

5779/ 2019: Life is precious: reject suicide.

5778 / 2018: Death and the holiness of life.

5777 / 2017: Sketching an outline of Eternal Divine Presence.

45 days of Omer 5780: Beautiful Divine Presence, Tiferet of Shekhinah

Today is forty-five days, which is six weeks and three days of the Omer in the year 5780. תפארת שבשכינה. Tiferet  ShebeShekhinah. Beautiful Divine Presence.

Sephira within Sephira: the circular nature of the Sephirot

First, a Hebrew lesson. Sephirot is the plural of sephira. The ten sephirot are the fundamental emanations of the Divine. Aspects of the Divine perceptible by humans. The lower seven sephirot form the basis for the Omer journey we are on.

There are many ways to diagram the sephirot. One way, explained well in the introduction to the Tanya, is spheres within spheres. Each sephirah encircles the sephirah that is a more purer refraction of the Divine and through each sphere, one discovers a clearer understanding of the nature of the Divine / the ground of being propelling us through the world. If you have ever been to an eye doctor, it is a bit like the ways each new lens clarifies and obscures the object you are trying to see. 

Balancing, beautiful Tiferet

Tiferet is a balancing quality, bringing in covenantal love and strength in balance to create the harmony needed for healthy living. The beauty of this balance holds the Divine Presence firmly within one’s life. 

Sinking into the Truth that God Exists

At its core, I sense this final week of Omer counting as sinking into the reality of HaShem. 

HaMakom, The Place we yearn for surrounds us at all times. A loving embrace. Motherly nurturing. Suckling us honey from the crag. Strong protection. Clear guidance. All of it is within us already. Spiritual practices awaken us to the truth that has been pursuing us since the moment we took our first breath. 

I cannot hold to a theology that God is in control. She is with us on the journey, supporting us as we aim towards our best selves. Hopefully, this knowledge is enough to gird us as we face this uncertain future, alone together. 

Previous refractions of 45 days of the Omer

5779 / 2019: Truth beyond the veil.

5778 / 2018: Holiness pulses beyond time and space.

5777 / 2017: Finding the core truth that motivates you.

44 Days of Omer 5780, Strong Divine Presence, Gevurah Shekhinah

Today is forty-four days, which is six weeks and two days of the Omer in the year 5780. גבורה שבשכינה, Gevurah ShebeSchechinah, Strength of Divine Presence.

Shabbat: vessel of Strong Divine Presence

Traditionally, many aspects of modern life are set aside on Shabbat.

Others meld cultural norms of the majority culture with their Jewish expression. Or perhaps ignore the call of Shabbat entirely. 

Shabbat exists whether or not we choose to mark her presence.

She is the weekly vessel of Divine Presence. Shabbat calls out to us in every seventh second of every minute of every hour of every day.

Choosing life during the pandemic

Life is a series of choices. We can choose to face this entirely novel situation with clear-eyed belief in the strength of the scientific establishment. We can choose, as Jews who believe saving a life is superior to all else, to align ourselves with public health experts urging caution.

With the strength of Divine Presence, we can gain the fortitude necessary to weather these long days, and months without physically seeing our communities. 

I expect to spend the High Holy Days as I spent Pesach — surrounded by my immediate family. Yet, I do not know when I will be able to hug my extended family; never mind my larger Jewish communities.

Choosing to wrap myself in my tallit, reminding myself that I am always supported by the Strong Diving Presence.

Previously on the 44th day of Omer

5779 / 2019: Strength of Divine Feminine radiating through us.

5778 / 2018: Mothers reflect Divine Strength.

5777 / 2017: Letting go and embracing Divinity.