Seventeen days of the Omer 5777

Today is seventeen days, which is three weeks and three days, of the Omer. Tiferet of Tiferet; Compassion of Compassion.

Like all of the sephirot, multiple words are used to describe tiferet, including truth and beauty. Whatever word you choose, today is the day to contemplate its inner essence.

Rabbi Simon Jacobson says: “True compassion is limtless. It is not an extension of your needs and defined by your limited perspective. Compassion for another is achieved by having a selfless attitude, rising above yourself and placing yourself in the other person’s situation and experience.”

Real talk: on days when I’m with one or both of my kids all day, I have no idea how to come close to doing this. By the end of the day, I stop seeing the pure love that drives my baby to hug me All Day Long. And it gets quite difficult to feel selfless towards my spouse, who was with adults all day.*

As much as I still believe Chesed is the perfect name for my beloved, I am glad compassion of compassion is the sephira I’ll be meditating on during his birthday. He shows me every day the strength and pure beauty of selflessness.

*Not working is a work in progress for me…I know how stressful working is and I know I am negating all the ways working in advertising can be extremely stressful with that comment. I’m trying to be honest in these posts – not perfect.

Eight Days of the Omer 5777

Today is eight days, which is one week and one day of the Omer, Chesed of Gevurah, Love in Discipline.

The aspect of discipline I am least likely to exhibit. My steadfast belief in rules, order, and fairness have often led me to anger and vitriol. May I always remember that the pure essence of discipline is love. Having a clear-eyed vision of the virtues which should guide our interactions requires understanding the true freedom of a life aligned to higher values can never be fully attained. As Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Lialdi teaches in the Tanya, we are all benonim, intermediate ones – neither fully righteous nor fully wicked. As a benoni, I must always honor the sacred essence of others and judge behavior with love for my sisters and brothers. We are all flawed souls on the journey to freedom.

I struggle with these truths, and so my words are marginally coherent. I dedicate this day to deepening my ability to discipline my children with love, helping them discover their whole brains, and their innate ability to walk gently and true.

Fifteen Days of the Omer 5777

Today is fifteen days, which is two weeks and one day, of the Omer. Chesed of Tiferet / Emet. Pure Love in Compassion / Beauty / Truth.

The highest level of Truth is distinct from the whims of my ego. It is expressed through Pure Love. When we see Truth, we remark about its innate Harmony, the pure Beauty of it all. This Truth creates Compassion — understanding and being of service to others not to elevate one’s ego, but to elevate the holiness that flows through all of us.

I am deepened by my counting this year. In truth, it is the first year that I have been exact about counting each night and truly reflecting on the day’s sephira. Yet, it has also given me an excuse to delve deeper into my Facebook addiction.

So, in my pursuit of holiness and my desire to be present and compassionate to those around me, I am going to stop checking Facebook compulsively throughout the day. Hopefully, this will encourage me to begin counting as soon as the sunset allows me to. Here’s to thirty three days of visiting Facebook once a day.

Sixteen Days of the Omer 5777

Today is sixteen days, which is two weeks and two days, of the Omer. Gevurah of Tiferet / Emet. Discipline in Compassion / Truth.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sack’s podcast today spoke about Lashon HaTov, speaking positive things about a person. I am reminded of it because being truthful can hurt a person as easily as it can help, which is where discipline comes in.

This is extremely difficult for me. My passion often gets ahead of me — I can wield rhetoric with a sharp tongue and a desire for complete domination of any disagreement. Not surprisingly, this trait has not extended my friendship circles or hastened my career advancement.

Having Discipline in Truth means being able to rise above one’s feelings, acknowledging the souls that surround you. Once you are grounded in spiritual reality, deeper truths become evident — you’ll be able to articulate the core goodness emanating from those around you and express clear-eyed love for them.

And sometimes, it is simply impossible to extricate yourself from your ego. For me, that usually means it is time to go to sleep. I may have counted the Omer last night, but I expressed very little Compassion today and I deeply regret my choices.

Today, as I tried to navigate my day without adult companions via Facebook, I gave into my exhaustion. And when I’m exhausted, I have no filter. While my 1.5 year old can’t quite articulate all that he wants, I had no patience for his cries. When my 3.5 year old didn’t respond to my instructions at bedtime, I was only interested in punishing him. Oddly, it seemed that I was determined to go against every piece of advice I read in “No-Drama Discipline.” I think the biggest lesson I learned today is that it’s okay for adults to take a nap.

Fourteen Days of Omer 5777

Today is fourteen days, which is two weeks, of the Omer. Malchut/ Shechinah of Gevurah. Nobility / Indwelling of Discipline / Strength.

The discipline we choose for ourselves and our children should lift us up. I choose an elevated path because I am a Holy Vessel – a temple for the Divine. I must work each minute to ensure my instructions to my children are rooted in honoring the holy soul within each of them. The brightness in their eyes fades when I raise my voice; I struggle daily against my Yetser HaRa.

As we acknowledge the passing of another Yom HaShoah and Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, may we never forget the 6 million Jews murdered during WWII and the 1.5 million Armenians murdered during WWI.

I find this teaching from the Lubavitcher Rebbe particularly meaningful. It is part of the insight of the day on the Chabad OmerCounter app:

“If the past was a ring of futility, let it become a wheel of yearning that drives you forward. If the past was a brick wall, let it become a dam to unleash your power.”

Twenty-five days of the Omer 5778

Today is twenty-five Days, which is three weeks and four days of the Omer. נצח שבנצח, Netzach ShebeNetzach. Eternal Endurance, Pure Will.

The essence of will is knowing the ability to accomplish your goals has always been there. Your roots are deeper than you can imagine. Your spiritual ancestors are deep within you, nourishing you, supporting you on your journey. As you grow into the person you are meant to be, your roots gain strength and help you reach inward towards the Oneness that has always been calling to you.

May you know deep in your bones your own resilience. May you touch eternity with your vision of yourself. May your will manifest today in ways you never dreamed possible.

Thirteen Days of Omer 5777

Today is thirteen days, which is one week and six days, of the Omer. Yesod of Gevurah, Bonding in Discipline / Judgement / Reverence.

Whenever I judge, a piece of me gets stuck to the judgment. This is part of the reason gossiping is an extreme sin according to Jewish law. Judging capriciously or maliciously creates a place for evil. This is also why discipline that is fear-based backfires, causing our children to listen less; loosening the bonds between us.

My commitment is to seeking the higher path of discipline, always seeking to look beyond my immediate thoughts and feelings to the reverential essence of being.

I will explain to my children why we find it so disturbing that they drink bath water and attempt to drink from the dog’s water, rather than simply yelling and punishing. I will work harder to work through my feelings and respond without raising my voice. Yes, I am only human and I forgive myself for my inconsistency. Today, this is my exercise.

Twelve Days of Omer 5777

Today is twelve days, which is one week and five days, of the Omer. Hod of Gevurah, Humility in Discipline / Judgment / Reverence.

Humility is another virtue I am learning as an adult. There are times when I feel swimming in it (like when a fellow student calls me rabbi and I ignore him because, hi, I’m just a first-year student). When my judging brain is in action, humility is the farthest thing from me.

In secular work environments, I doubt anyone has ever considered “humble” as a fitting description for me. And yet, like many people, there is a deeply rooted feeling of being unseen / not rising high enough that distances me from humility.

The Meaningful Life Center exercise for the day is: “Before judging anyone, insure that you are doing so selflessly with no personal bias.” I’m not sure it is possible to judge without any bias. So I’m going to keep meditating on this exercise while I prepare for my first day of classes following Passover break.

Eleven Days of Omer 5777

Today is eleven days, which is one week and four days, of the Omer. Netzach in Gevurah, Endurance in Discipline.

Holding steadfast to negative judgements comes easily to me. Staying clear eyed and focused on my path is eternally difficult. Every day, I battle my Yetzer HaRa, my inclination towards destruction. I am trying hard to discipline my children by first disciplining myself – gaining control of my feelings before reacting to my precious toddlers. It doesn’t always work – sometimes, the bite of a teething toddler is too much.

May we all resolve to endure, to accept our own faults and keep moving forward toward the vision of ourselves connected to deep truth, meaning, and love. This is the endurance in discipline I strive for.

(And may my discipline endure this weekend – may I hold fast to my resolution to look without buying at the LA Times Festival of Books — except for age-appropriate kids’ books. Why yes, we do already own a treasure box of Harry Potter, Beverly Cleary, and Roald Dahl…)

Ten Days of the Omer 5777

Today is ten days, which is one week and three days of the Omer. Tiferet in Gevurah, Compassion in Discipline.

There is an inherent tension between those two words. I have trouble expressing pure compassion – selflessly accepting another on their own terms. I’m reading “Group Spiritual Direction,” by Rose Mary Dougherty, a Christian perspective on being present for another as they find their way to the Spirit within that flows through all of us.

While the theology of the book is not mine, it is helping me understand the principles behind the (required) spiritual direction class I am in. And it clarifies for me what it means to “channel and direct one’s strengths with compassion.” (Paraphrase of the Meaningful Life Center meditation for today.)

I didn’t accomplish a tenth of my agenda for the day. With compassion, I am accepting the vicissitudes of toddler time and moving forward.