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.

43 days of Omer: Covenantal Love of Divine Presence, Chesed of Shekhinah

Today is forty-three days, which is six weeks and one day of the Omer in the year 5780. חסד שבשכינה, Chesed ShebeShechinah. Covenantal Love of Divine Presence.

Falling into the Warm Embrace of the Divine

We have entered the final week of the Omer. The taste of spiritual revelation is in the air. Shavuot is coming. 

The Many Faces of God

Shekhinah, the Divine Mother, goes by another name: Malchuyot, Sovereignty. She goes in drag to spaces where women are not allowed. She pretends that sovereignty has a permanently male connotation. The gendering of the Divine and the holy language is another veil concealing and revealing aspects of truth. When we connect with a gendered God, we are connecting with the aspect of the Divine we need to cling to at this moment. We are not seeing the totality of the Ground of Being, since the Divine is not only beyond gender, She/He is beyond words. At Her core, the Shekhinah, the Presence unfolds as Ain Sof, Without End.

Complete certainty in the existence of the Divine

3,581 Californians died from COVID-19. 

95,087 people in the United States died from COVID-19.

334,621 people in the world died from COVID-19.

Still, with complete certainty, I know the Divine exists.

These forty-three days I have been describing aspects of the Divine. Ways of seeing the Shekhinah, the Presence, in this world. I can pray for healing without expecting an old man in the sky to grant my wishes. I know my prayers help the healing process, just as I know I can choose to be a healing presence. 

The pandemic is not a hoax. Scientists are real heroes.

I have little patience for claims that we must go back to normal. That amorphous mental health concerns are more real than documented physical health concerns. I know the world is suffering psychologically and spiritually. Going back to generic in-person encounters without a vaccine is a death sentence. Not just for people with underlying health issues; but for countless people felled by this powerful virus. 

With a dose of Stoicism, I choose life. I choose mourning the loss of in-person community in the short term in order to ensure its continued existence in the long term. If I am to contemplate the Divine, surely I can accept a few months or years of disruption to the life I expected. Surely we can create new paradigms through which to navigate this new world. 

Falling into the loving embrace of the Divine Presence

When I remember She is calling to me in every moment, I remember the core of me.

Knowing why I place a yarmulke on my head: my attempt to learn humility in the presence of Infinity.

May you be touched by Divine covenantal love today. I pray Her Presence pulses within you and helps you radiate warmth. 

Previously on the 43rd day of the Omer

5779 / 2019: Reflecting on the Divine Mother who nourishes us all.

5778 / 2018: Allow the Divine Presence a place in your life.

5777 / 2017: Struggling to meditate into the Divine light within.

42 Days of Omer 5780: Shekhinah of Yesod, Indwelling Bonding

Today is forty-two days, which is six weeks of the Omer in the year 5780. שכינה שביסוד Shekhinah ShebeYesod, Indwelling of Bonding.

The union of masculine and feminine within. The point of physical union. Whole-bodied completeness of the person you want to be. 

The physical vessel is important

Not aspiring to a perfect physique. Nor finding the perfect wardrobe. The external expression of your personality is useful, but not the most important part of the physical world. 

Recognizing our bodies as holy vessels. Accepting our physical urges as rooted in holiness. This is the work before us today. 

May you have a pleasurable union with yourself today.

Previously on the 42nd day of the Omer

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

5778 / 2018: Sovereign bonds in my life.

5777 / 2017: Indwelling bonding with the Divine: you are a source of goodness.

Photo by Johannes Plenio via Pixabay.

41 Days of Omer 5780: Essence of Foundation, Yesod of Yesod

Today is forty-one days, which is five weeks and six days of the Omer in the year 5780. יסוד שביסוד, Yesod ShebeYesod. Essence of Foundation.

The bedrock of you

What bonds you to this life and this time?

Always, shall an earthling revere The Cause of Being, privately and publicly.
Acknowledging the truth, and speaking the truth in her ego / personality / core self.

Rabbi Finley introduced me to these lines from Birkat HaShachar. Of course, like most of Jewish prayer, it was written in the masculine. I have transformed it in my mind in Hebrew and English to the feminine, both to allow myself to fully embody it and because the patriarchy of received Judaism must be shattered in order for its essence to grow. 

The Sovereignty of the Divine is a core theme of Rosh Hashanah. Like all holiday themes, it reflects how we should live each day of our lives. 

Beyond myself, there is something deeper, wiser, eternal to which I cling

The aspects of the Divine refracted in the sephirot are ways of understanding God within time and space. There is nothing all-powerful or all-knowing about the Divine in time. God is not in control of me or the universe. God is the Ground of Being upon which we tread. 

We can choose whether to live in alignment with the overflowing goodness and pulsing love calling us towards our best selves.

Choose how we react to the daily stress of life. How to handle the dull, ever present stress of the pandemic. 

This is the way.

More than a catch phrase from The Mandalorian, that statement describes my attachment to Judaism.

The best translation of Halacha is not “Jewish law,” It actually means “the way.” Halacha is not the way I travel through Judaism, but Judaism is the way I travel through life. 

Choosing to become a rabbi

It’s the question people most often ask me. The breadth of my story of becoming a rabbinical student is so long and so personal. 

Here is the essence: I awakened to the depth of meaning within the Jewish civilization. I saw past the veil of pediatric religion spoon-fed to me in my youth. I came to understand that a Jewish worldview is much broader and more expansive than a code of laws. Jewish contributions to philosophy, ethics, and mysticism enliven me. 

I want to know more about what it means to be human. 

Living into the Jewish responses to the human condition. 

Helping others learn more from our vast libraries of thinking. 

Supporting communities become the best versions of themselves. 

And having an excuse to keep buying books. 

These are the reasons I chose to make a mid-career transition to the rabbinate. How are you living into your core self?

41 Days of the Omer from other perspectives

5779 / 2019: Experiencing the Divine within.

5778 / 2018: Rooting myself in community.

5777 / 2017: Importance of understanding one’s personality.

40 days of Omer 5780: Splendor of Foundation, Hod of Yesod

Today is forty days, which is five weeks and five days of the Omer in the year 5780. הוד שביסוד, Hod ShebeYesod, Splendor of Foundation.

Hod is the vessel which holds the refractions of the Divine that preceded it. How we carry forth the Source of Goodness, the Ground of Being. Yesod is the foundation of our exterior self: the personality and perspective we bring to the world. 

The strength to endure isolation

Even those of us who are sheltering with other people are experiencing isolation. 

Many of us are living into the reality that large communal gatherings will not be happening for quite a long time. How can we move forward without our beloved communities?

Today is a day to reflect the solitary journey. To gird myself with the splendor of Divine knowing. Relishing how deep knowledge can transform the prison of my personality. 

Choosing to create a holy vessel

I choose to let go.

Allowing my son to play with my hair throughout the day; accepting the lack of personal space or ability to control my own body. 

Deciding to meet rebellion with patience rather than anger. 

Relishing the laughter and chatter amongst my boys. 

Enjoying home cooking and delicious take out.

Staying in touch with family, reaching out to relations I never knew. 

Sinking into the splendor of grief; the depths of our bonds

I will not hide from my feelings and pain. 

I grieve the extended family vacation not occurring this summer. The swimming lessons put on hold for another year. 

The conversations silenced mid-sentence by death. 

Chatter stifled by terminal diagnosis. 

We will wade through these troubled waters. Some of us will not make it to the other side. Together, we shall rebuild; more reflective and resilient than we were two months ago.

40 Days of Omer before COVID-19

5779 / 2019: Sinking into the future we are building together.

5778 / 2018: Blissful, total presence with another.

5777 / 2017: Letting go of our material bonds to allow Divine splendor in.

39 days of Omer 5780: Eternal Bonding, Netzach of Yesod

Today is thirty-nine days, which is five weeks and four days of the Omer in the year 5780. נצח שביסוד, Netzach ShebeYesod, Eternal Bonding.

Eternal Family Bonds

I joined my mom on a cousins’ Zoom call. Everyone on the call was related to my maternal grandfather and his many siblings. Papa Jack Margolis was the most important man in my life throughout our time together. My bond with him is so deep that I named my first-born in his honor. 

It was such a weird thing. I do not recall ever meeting, in person, any of the people on the call. And yet, I am sure we were together because we all had fond memories of deli food and swimming at the same aunt and uncle’s house. They had the coolest house, with an open floor plan and dolphins carved into the bottom of their pool. It was magical. 

I wish I could give my kids a summer full of swimming with their cousins.

Eternal Intellectual Bonds

I had my last history class today. It was supposed to be a day of reflection on a year of learning from the inimitable Dr. Bob Levy with Bob.

Unfortunately, it had to be time to reflect without Bob. He passed away completely unexpectedly and we are among the last people who had the honor of being his students. I cannot tell you how many books he referenced over the last year and said, “You have to have this.” Over time, I stopped writing down the names — afraid of tempting myself into even more overflowing shelves. But today, I had to buy some of them. If Bob thought they were important, then I need them on my shelves. (I ordered them used via Abebooks, along with a few Kindle samples. I will share Amazon links below.)

Eternal Spiritual Bonds

Our souls are intertwined with one another, whether by blood or by spirit. Bob’s love for all the strange corners of Jewish civilization. Papa Jack’s love for his mother and his eight siblings. Together, we are bound towards healing and wholeness. May we never forget our common humanity, our common origin, and our common conclusion.  

Previously on 39 days of the Omer

5779 / 2019: Painful cracks within eternal bonds.

5778 / 2018: Eternal community and personal responsibility.

5777 / 2017: The eternal foundation within my family.

Some books Bob Levy, z”l, thinks you’ve gotta have 

38 Days of Omer 5780: Harmonious Bonding, Tiferet of Yesod

Today is thirty-eight days, which is five weeks and three days of the Omer in the year 5780. תִּפְאֶרֶת שביסוד, Tiferet ShebeYesod, Harmonious Bonding.

What binds you to life during this pandemic?

My four year-old scream crying for an hour. Refusing to eat a single sauce-drenched carrot slice. 

The six year-old focused intensely on computer games. Willing to take a brief respite for the Tickle Monster. 

Older husband, mocking my attempts to take a break from writing my finals to watch Netflix, whilst the four year-old insists on hanging out with me. Remind me that there would be even less room for my casual indulgence if there were more souls to tend in our home. 

Relentlessly Pursuing Divine Sovereignty

The yoke of the Divine calls me. 

She gently pursues me, whispering in my ear the pleasures of sinking deeply into my truth self. 

Choose to be an echo of God’s grace.

Honor the eternal soul within and the eternal souls surrounding you. 

Choose life, above all. 

Continue to live and relentlessly support the holiness of the life that surrounds you. Remember this clarion call to support the lives around you.

38 days of Omer through time

5779 / 2019: Embracing your life’s purpose.

5778 / 2018: Witnessing the ordination of Rabbi Aviva Funke.

5777 / 2017: The truth at the heart of my journey.

37 Days of Omer 5780: Boundaries during COVID, Gevurah of Yesod

Today is thirty-seven days, which is five weeks and two days of the Omer in the year 5780. גבורה שביסוד, Gevurah ShebeYesod, Boundaries in Bonding.

How in the world do we maintain boundaries with the people we are sheltering with? Do you ever feel like there is enough space for you admit the chatter? If you are sheltering alone, are you several weeks past caring about flattening the curve? Do the boundaries feel completely oppressive to you?

Intentional Daily Activity to Reconnect with My Soul

Clear intentions allow me to hold clear boundaries. 

And yet, with the collapse of all that was normal, what is possible now?

What I know for sure: connecting to a daily activity that reconnects you to the things that matter to you is the key to riding the waves that will come with this pandemic.

Counting Omer creates space for me to breathe, though it strains my relationships with the people in this house.

Chanting prayers breaks my Yetzer HaRa’s destructive grip on my tongue. 

Shuckling, swaying to allow the Divine energy to flow through every part of my being, reminds me who I am. 

Recognize our limits

Whether you are deeply lonely because you are sheltering alone. Or you cannot hear yourself think because of the noise and humans around you. Honor that these are not normal times. 

Do not give up on the quest for inner clarity and the healthiest personality possible. 

One step at a time, we will move towards clear boundaries and displine in our bonding and our personalities.

This day of the Omer before COVID-19

5779 /2019: Boundaries in Bonding.

5778 / 2018: Hold space for yourself while building community.

5777 / 2017: Discipline in interpersonal relationships.