Harmonious Foundation, 38 Days Omer 5782

Today is thirty-eight days, which is five weeks and three days of the Omer in the year 5782. תִּפְאֶרֶת שביסוד, Tiferet ShebeYesod, Harmonious Foundation. Do you have a personal mission statement? A vision for how you want to be in the world? I’m not talking about a 5 year career plan. Do you know where you want your soul to be in the coming week?

Live Into The Truth Calling Towards You

There’s a very personal, very deep story at the center of my journey to the rabbinate. I’ve told it so many times, it feels cheap and threadbare. One more time, since I don’t have to speak out loud, I’ll repeat it.

At Shabbat morning services, I spent the morning meditating into a single prayer:

Blessed are You, Sovereign of the Universe, Who guides us on life’s path.

What would it mean if I believe that statement to be true? What would be different about my life?

As I sunk into that question, I recognized that I am the best version of myself in synagogue. i wanted to live into that part of myself and help other people live into the best parts of themselves.

And that’s when i gradually started moving towards rabbinical school. It took me six years to accept the call. And another six years to complete the journey. Twelve years have past since I meditated into that prayer.

What Stops Us?

So many things.

Numbing ourselves with good TV.

Numbing ourselves with endless YouTube videos.

Giving our every movement over to the Chinese government by scrolling TikTok (join me and just say no).

Duty. Responsibility. Exhaustion.

Choose Life

Every journey begins with a vision.

The vision leads to a step.

One step in the direction of your dreams. That’s all it takes.

Join me. Let’s embrace the Harmonious Foundation of our Lives: the Truth our souls are calling us toward.

My Strength, and the Song of God, shall be to me salvation. (Exodus 15:2)

38 Days Omer Through the Years…

Waxing poetic about ethical mysticism, 5781 / 2021.

Harmonious Bonding in a Pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

Embracing my life’s purpose, 5779 / 2019.

Witnessing Rabbi Aviva Funke’s ordination, 5778 / 2018.

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

Image by Antonio López via Pixabay.

Endurance within Gratitude, 32 Days Omer 5782

Today is thirty-two days, which is four weeks and four days of the Omer in the year 5782. נצח שבהוד, Netzach ShebeHod, Eternal Splendor. The pillars of the Temple within each of us. Endurance within Gratitude. How do you create space for splendor within your body? Do you take time to refocus on what matters throughout the day?

Endurance, Not Perfection

We are only human. Despite what some religious writers want you to believe, we cannot become perfect. Striving to live in the world, in relationship with other humans, means we will stumble. The goal of counting the Omer is appreciating the strengths we already have and opening up to the possibilities in front of us. This is not about castigating ourselves for All We Do Not Do.

Sometimes, we yell instead of comfort. Other times, people take advantage of us. Life is not a straight line and the only end is the completion of this material life.

Gratitude through Blessings / Prayer

Jews are encouraged to say 100 blessings a day. This idea is first recorded in a baraita, a story remembered from the time of the Mishna but not included in the Mishna.

It is taught in a baraita that Rabbi Meir would say: A person is obligated to recite one hundred blessings every day, as it is stated in the verse: “And now, Israel, what [ma] does the Lord your God require of you” (Deuteronomy 10:12). Rabbi Meir interprets the verse as though it said one hundred [me’a], rather than ma. (Menachot 43b:15)

The Shulchan Aruch is the most definitive compendium of Jewish laws. Many Jews feel obligated to strive to do all of the positive commandments and avoid all of the negative commandments contained in this treatise, which was written in 1563 in Safed, Israel by Rabbi Joseph Karo. It has four sections, the first, Orach Chayim (“The Way of Life”) includes the following commandment based on the above Talmudic passage:

חייב אדם לברך בכל יום מאה ברכות לפחות:

One must bless each day at least one hundred blessings

This is not about commanding OCD. This is about commanding mindfulness, awareness, and ultimately, soul-expanding, immersive gratitude. When we choose to see the good in every situation, we bring forth light into the universe. We become conduits of God and we reflect holiness through our thoughts and feelings. This is the heart of the Endurance of Gratitude.

Spiraling 32 Days of the Omer…

The essence of being comes from God, 5781 / 2021.

Pop culture as the entrance to eternal splendor, 5780 / 2020.

Rhythm of Jewish prayer opens eternal splendor, 5779 / 2019.

Connecting to pure holiness, 5778 / 2018.

The holiness of community, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Ezra Jeffrey via Pexels.

Discipline of Gratitude: Prayer, 30 Days Omer 5782

Today is thirty days, which is four weeks and two days of the Omer in the year 5782. גבורה שבהוד, Gevurah of Hod, Discipline within Gratitude. What defines your gratitude practice? Do you acknowledge the work that goes into growing and cooking food before you eat it? Is prayer meaningful or arcane? Do you have deeper faith in spontaneous prayer? Or do you express gratitude through more physical acts?

Landscapes: Meditations into Gratitude

Forget the mass murders happening daily. (Buffalo grocery store, Laguna Woods church)

Sink into the timeless beauty of landscapes. Swim in the brilliance of skilled photographers.

Choose expansive consciousness

“There is no poverty like the poverty of consciousness.” –Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 41a, quoted in Pillar of Prayer: Guidance in Contemplative Prayer, Sacred Study, and the Spiritual Life from the Baal Shem Tov and his Circle.

How do we cultivate expansive consciousness? By making fixed times for prayer. Contemplate things that ground you. Wrestle with God. Allow yourself time to sink into gratitude.

The Baal Shem Tov taught “one needs to study and to pray with the presence of mental clarity and open awareness.” (Pillar of Prayer, 23).

“For implicit in a person’s thought is the entire Divinely emanated cosmic structure…Now, thought is the expression of the attribute of Wisdom, and speech is the offspring of thought; and indeed, thought is also [subtly] composed of letters. Thus, when one’s thought is not connected with one’s words, it is like wasting seed; for one’s words are one’s very life essence.” (Pillar of Prayer, 25).

Prayer is Unpopular

So many people are turned off by prayer.

People are afraid to invite others to join them in prayer.

Having set time for communal prayer is inconvenient and requires people to change their habits and commit to a counter-cultural act.

Yet, prayer is an equal-opportunity technology: available to every soul to help us expand our consciousness and sink into gratitude.

I am dedicated to making prayer accessible and meaningful to as many people as possible. I hope you will join me in building communal space for soul expansion.

In 14 days of the Omer, 15 days by the solar calendar, I will be ordained.

The Spiral of 30 Days of Omer…

An essay on prayer as the gratitude highway, 5781 / 2021

Reveling in the splendor of daily life, 5780 / 2020.

The discipline of splendor, 5779 / 2019.

Building a regular practice of gratitude, 5778 / 2018.

Thoughts on splendor and conversion, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Ian Procter via Pixabay.

Covenantal Love within Gratitude, 29 Days Omer 5782

Today is twenty-nine days, which is four weeks and one day of the Omer in the year 5782. חסד שבהוד, Chesed ShebeHod, Covenantal Love within Gratitude. Embracing the Divine despite the the chaos around us. How can we live into our fullness?

Four years ago, I posted a translation of Psalm 13 to reflect on today. That poem prayer is rattling through my mind, challenging me to express something as profound as its sparse lines.

לַמְנַצֵּחַ מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד׃

עַד־אָנָה יְהֹוָה תִּשְׁכָּחֵנִי נֶצַח עַד־אָנָה  תַּסְתִּיר אֶת־פָּנֶיךָ מִמֶּנִּי׃

עַד־אָנָה אָשִׁית עֵצוֹת בְּנַפְשִׁי יָגוֹן בִּלְבָבִי יוֹמָם עַד־אָנָה  יָרוּם אֹיְבִי עָלָי׃

הַבִּיטָה עֲנֵנִי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהָי הָאִירָה עֵינַי פֶּן־אִישַׁן הַמָּוֶת׃

פֶּן־יֹאמַר אֹיְבִי יְכׇלְתִּיו צָרַי יָגִילוּ כִּי אֶמּוֹט׃

וַאֲנִי  בְּחַסְדְּךָ בָטַחְתִּי יָגֵל לִבִּי בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ אָשִׁירָה לַיהֹוָה כִּי גָמַל עָלָי׃ {פ}

Psalm 13 Hebrew courtesy of Sefaria.

The entire poem is a clear expression of my approach to theology. The below translation is based on Robert Alter, with deviations to reflect my modern sensibility.

For the lead player, a psalm of longing.

How long, Ground of Being? Will You forget me always?

How long will Your Presence be hidden from me?

How long shall I desperately seek advice, dread nipping at my essence?

How long will the forces of Chaos loom over me?

Pay attention! Answer me, Creator of Being, my God!

Light up my eyes, lest I sleep death,

Lest Chaos say, “I’ve prevailed over her,”

Lest my foes exult when I stumble.

But I in Your kindness do trust, my heart exults in Your rescue.

Let me sing to the Creator of Being, for She bountifully embraces me.

Filled Beyond the Brim with Gratitude

I know that so much is going on in the world and there is so much heartache. I know I have not fully processed these past years of parenting. I know there is more to feel and do about pandemic deaths, the racist murder of innocent people in Buffalo at a grocery store, the Jew-hatred at the heart of “white replacement theory” hatred, the death and destruction in the Ukraine by a fascist neighbor, and the impending removal of my bodily autonomy by the Christian hegemonic Supreme Court.

I choose to rebel and acknowledge that this month is full of blessing for me. I’ve finished my master’s thesis, “Inner Growth, Human Relationships, and Reaching Towards God: The Concurrent Development of Ethics and Mysticism in Early Modern Jewish Texts.” I completed my presentation on the thesis. I have roughly four more assignments to complete to finish my rabbinical studies.

In fifteen short days, I will be ordained. How could I possibly approach these coming weeks with anything but gratitude?

Theology That Grounds Me

The Creator of Being does not need to have the independent ability to act in physical reality for me to believe.

God does not need to be all powerful, omnipotent, to be real.

I cannot believe that God chose to be present in the Iron Age and then decided to recede to the background while millions were slaughtered. The God of the Bible is a human creation. God exists beyond our imaginations.

Goodness, Truth, Love, Judgment, Strength: these values lift me up and bind me to God.

May my life be lived in service to these ideals.

May my rabbinate help those around me encounter, embrace, and enhance the essence of their true selves.

The Psalter in a Jewish Key

The easiest way into Jewish prayer is the Psalter, the book of Psalms. Here are the companions on my journey into this wellspring.

The Spiral of 29 Days…

Bridging the chasm between skepticism and belief, 5781 / 2021.

Diving Light enters where we let it, 5780 / 2020.

Receive the flow from the wellsprings of life, 5779 / 2019.

Embracing gratitude and praise, 5778 / 2018.

Commit to supporting someone else, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Ian Procter via Pixabay.

Indwelling of Strength, Day 14 Omer 5782

Today is the fourteenth day, which is two weeks, of the Omer in the year 5782. שכינה שבגבורה, Shekhinah ShebeGevurah, Indwelling of Strength.

You are my Rock

כִּי־סַלְעִי וּמְצוּדָתִי אָתָּה וּלְמַעַן שִׁמְךָ תַּנְחֵנִי וּתְנַהֲלֵנִי׃

For you are my crag and my bastion, and for Your name’s sake guide me and lead me. (Robert Alter translation, Psalm 31:4).

This right here is the reason I am a Jewish spiritual leader. Allowing God to guide me and lead me. My hope is to open gateways to God. The path of righteousness, the path of justice, the path of truth: they are all the same path and the are all guided by HaShem.

May we all have time this Shabbat to sink into the Strength within us and the Rock Who guides us.

The image was taken by Archie Binamira and found with Pexels. This beautiful photo of a real mountain in the Philippines reminds me of the Pixar short, “Lava” —

The Spiral of Today

The Divine Mother showers us with Strength and Perseverance, 5781 / 2021.

The Upright Ones, the Yeshurun 5780 / 2020.

Don’t abandon your toys in the search for truth, 5779 / 2019.

Having boundaries can be generous, 5778 / 2018.

Let go of limiting narratives, 5777 / 2017.

The Psalms Open Us to God

Foundation of Strength, Day 13 Omer 5782

Today is thirteen days, which is one week and six days of the Omer, 5782. יסוד שבגבורה, Yesod of Gevurah, Foundation of Strength.

El Shaddai: my Rock and my Redeemer

Contemporary Judaism shies away from focusing directly on HaShem. God is so unknowable that we often take Her out of the conversation. We want to be so inclusive that we don’t want to offend people who don’t believe in God. Absolutely, Jewish community does not have a belief litmus test. Yet, I would be lying if I ignored the Force at the center of my life.

Still, it has been difficult to write my meditations this week. I get worried about offending people. Once, I was accused of being a Christian missionary because my words were enflamed by God’s grace.

Nevertheless, this is a truth that keeps nipping at me.

Tzuri v’Go’ali. צוּרִי וְגֹאֲלִי my Rock and my Redeemer.

These words from Psalm 19 conclude the personal prayer written by Mar son of Ravina that is recorded in Berakhot 17a (a section of Talmud). Mar son of Ravina was my first teacher. In the prayer books I grew up with, the only poetry left in the English translation was his prayer. It pierced my soul from the first moment I was able to read it. Every time I read it, my heart is transformed. I had a particularly emotional response to this phrase at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center for Davvenen Leadership Training Institute.

The Foundation of my Strength is God

To be clear, God is my Rock. The sure foundation to all that I do and all that I aspire to be.

I am a conduit to spirituality because HaShem is near to all.

We are all worthy and we are all needed.

Love permeates the universe. God gives us the strength to live into it.

God is my Redeemer

Every day, every hour, every minute: I have the choice to turn towards God.

God redeems me.

God assures me that my habits do not define me.

God reminds me that my better nature is my true nature.

God redeems me from my inclination towards evil, my Yetzer HaRa.

God has given me the gift of life.

May you feel God’s presence

May today be a day when God consciousness awakens you.

May you know that you are loved just as you are.

May you know you have the strength needed for life’s journey because God is with you.

Shabbat shalom.

The Spiral of Today

Foundation of Strength in Family, Community, and the World: 5781 / 2021.

Human connections are the foundation of strength, 5780 / 2020.

The one with an adorable photo of my kids, 5779 / 2019.

Find the rock of your strength, 5778 / 2018.

Beginning to stumble onto this path, 5777 / 2017.

Image by Frank Ravizza via Pixabay.

Prayer for Ukraine

The Ukrainian people are fighting against Russian imperialism.

Ukrainians are fighting for their right to live.

They fight so that they are not raped, tortured, and murdered by the Russian army.

I pray for peace.

I pray for the peace that can only come when a people defend themselves.

I pray that heavy weaponry from the United States and elsewhere arrives speedily.

I pray the Ukrainian army has every plane, every tank, every bullet it needs to stand up to evil.

I know this prayer is jarring, so I do not presume to pray on behalf of the kahal.

May the Ukrainian people of all ethnicities and all religions be safe and secure. May those who have fled the war be supported. May all refugees of all nationalities be helped.

May we have the strength to fight evil. May we never turn our backs on people who fight evil.

May Ukraine’s sovereignty be honored and her people return.

May God strengthen our resolve. May democratic and free people remain united in support of Ukraine’s defense.

May victory come speedily and soon for Ukraine.

Slava Ukraine. Glory to Ukraine.

Slava El Shaddai. Glory to God, the Source of Protection.

Composed for the AJRCA minyan, April 25, 2022.

Image by Michael Jahn via Pixabay.

Two Day of the Omer 5782: Boundaries within Covenantal Love

Today is two days of the Omer in the year 5782. גבורה שבחסד, Gevurah ShebeChesed, Boundaries within Covenantal Love. The human soul expands beyond its previous limits through spiritual discipline.

The contours of Judaism are hard to describe. Even among Jews, there is little consensus on what it means to be Jewish, or what a Jewish worldview entails. Very often, we get stuck in denominational alleys or Halakhic brinksmanship. Here’s what I know to be true: boundaries create freedom.

Professional artists need creative briefs. Given free rein, they can work for days or weeks on projects that don’t answer the problem trying to be solved or that are too ambitious for the budget (or not ambitious enough). There has to be a box before you can think outside of it.

Similarly, human beings need guidelines for living. Creating a schedule, marking time, deciding what we want to accomplish in time — all of these actions help create boundaries for us, focusing us, and pushing us towards achieving things. These boundaries give us the freedom to achieve.

This model is not just about getting a paid job done or finishing homework on time. Rather, by being conscious about how we use our time, we become more thoughtful about how we allow time to slip away. Smart phones, tables, computers, and TVs distance us from conscious choice and lull us into passivity. We all need downtime — but when every waiting period turns into an opportunity to scroll social media, when meals are times to “catch up with friends” online, we choose to let go of the boundaries between us and machines. We become guided by endorphins rather than choice.

Prayer: a conduit to conversation with myself

I find it so interesting that so many people are alienated by prayer. This is part of my life’s work: defining the resistance and figuring out what prayer modes actually speak to people’s souls. Prayer is a transformative technology. It is the clearest mindfulness practice I know. I find meditation and “secular mindfulness” banal. I need my people with me as I flow into the Source.

My favorite person in the world was my Papa Jack, zichrono livracha. I don’t have many memories of our conversations, but there is one that sticks out to me clear as day. We went grocery shopping with my mom at night and she left us in the car to talk to one another. He lamented that when his wife, my Bubbie Lillian, z”l, was alive, he always declined her invitations to attend Friday night services. He was too committed to watching “Dallas” on TV. And he wished he had made it a priority.

I keep my family with me as I pray. My grandfathers who were never religious. My grandmothers who were profoundly connected to the pulsing heart of Jewish practice.

Returning to My Prayer Practice

Despite the depths I open by praying, my prayer practice is not as regular as I would like it to be. Social media distracted me. The pandemic distracted me. The Russian genocide of Ukrainians distracted me. My thesis distracted me.

Somehow, I will figure out how to not be so distracted from the source of my strength. May you find a spiritual practice that grounds you and guides you towards your soul’s freedom. Spiritual discipline is the boundary within covenantal love that i seek to enliven with my intentional use of my time.

In previous years on the 2nd day of the Omer…

Boundaries within Grace, Two days of the Omer 5781 / 2021

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

Helpful Books

Image by ThuyHaBich from Pixabay.

Bissel of Mysticism

On Saturday, March 5, I had the pleasure of discussing Jewish mysticism with members of Temple Beth David as part of my Bissel of Judaism adult education series. The goal of this course is to provide some overview information on the breadth of Jewish knowledge, in order to inspire further inquiry.

Mysticism is a particularly difficult topic to introduce to a Jewish audience. So much of its language is foreign to us. Modern Judaism was built separate from this wellspring of inspiration. Many of our 20th century prayer books removed the poetry from our translations in addition to the mystical concepts. This is the beginning of my attempt to reclaim spiritual reverence for the modern, rational, Jewish soul.

Further Reading

There are more books on Kabbalah than anyone could read in a lifetime. More than reading a book, experiencing a teacher has been the most important factor in me integrating mysticism into my spiritual journey. I welcome the opportunity to bring this rich tradition to life for your community. I will again be meditating into the sefirot during the counting of the Omer this year between Passover and Shavuot. That is a concrete way to experience how Divine emanations can transform our lives. Similarly, a spiritual lens can be brought to the prayer experience. And finally, there are so many wonderful ways to learn about the history of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism more generally.

A mystical frame for prayer

The weekday service and the four worlds explained by my professor, Dr. Tamar Frankiel:

Beloved leader of Renewal Judaism, Reb Marcia Prager provides insight into the Jewish prayer formula:

Jewish prayer as a form of meditation, a classic book by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, z”l:

Omer Counting and the Sefirot

Overview Books

God appears, Vayeira 5782

The weekly Torah portion, Vayeira, includes Genesis 18:1-22:24. The first two verses are as follows:

The LORD appeared to him;“וַיֵּרָ֤א אֵלָיו֙ ה֔
by the cashew trees [terebinths] of Mamreבְּאֵלֹנֵ֖י מַמְרֵ֑א
he was sitting at the entrance of the tent וְה֛וּא יֹשֵׁ֥ב פֶּֽתַח־הָאֹ֖הֶל
as the day grew hotכְּחֹ֥ם הַיּֽוֹם ׃
Looking up, he sawוַיִּשָּׂ֤א עֵינָיו֙ וַיַּ֔רְא
and look, three menוְהִנֵּה֙ שְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה אֲנָשִׁ֔ים
standing near him.נִצָּבִ֖ים עָלָ֑יו
As soon as he saw them,וַיַּ֗רְא
he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them,וַיָּ֤רָץ לִקְרָאתָם֙ מִפֶּ֣תַח הָאֹ֔הֶל
bowing to the ground. וַיִּשְׁתַּ֖חוּ אָֽרְצָה׃

The first sentence includes the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter proper name of God. Rather than writing out that holy Hebrew word, I replaced it with a ה״, indicating “HaShem” — “The Name” is the way this word is referred to when not praying or formally studying holy scripture. When praying or studying, Jews do not pronounce this name and replace it with the word “A’donai,” which is usually translated as “The LORD,” though it actually means “my Lord.” The word A’donai is often used as a name of God, even written in the Hebrew text using the letters of that word (as in the formula for a Jewish prayer). It can also be used to refer to human rulers. As my Hebrew professor, Rabbi Avraham Greenstein, is fond of reminding us: context matters.

Recognizing the Presence of God

When we choose to see what is around us and within us, we have the opportunity to bring holiness into the world. Avraham Avinu, Abraham our forefather, felt the presence of God. He paused from his busy day to connect with God. The content of that conversation is not provided — instead, we swiftly move to Avraham interrupting that holy moment in order to greet strangers approaching his tent.

Getting wrapped up in myself

These two simple lines have torn me open in the last week, as I have wrestled with the implicit expectation within them. Perhaps, like me, you have heard that Judaism prioritizes welcoming the stranger. Yet, can you imagine interrupting your prayers in order to offer a stranger food and drink? When you are in the flow of creation, or in a rhythm at work — are you able to graciously stop yourself and joyfully welcome an interruption?

For much of my life, I prioritized becoming “the best me” I could be. I relentlessly pursued knowledge. I wanted to completely understand the world of work. So, when working as a secretary for a magazine, I religiously read Ad Age magazine. Then, when Twitter came along, I drank in the fire hose of information pouring through that medium.

I walled myself off from other people. Never intentionally. I listened to podcasts while walking with my kids. I read a book while waiting for a class to begin. These simple actions, which were full of good intentions, left me separated from the people surrounding me. Our current time of relative isolation woke me up to the ways in which I was already separated from the physical world.

Making space for God in the age of smartphones

So I choose to follow Avraham Avinu’s example. Whatever I am doing, it can wait. Choosing to be fully present to the people around me, deepens me. Experiencing a six year-old’s inner logic is a truly enlightening experience. You might notice that prayer is not my husband’s jam. Whereas, I’m happiest spending a full day, or a full week, immersed in prayer and study. Living into the beauty of traveling through life deeply connected to people unlike yourself can be soul-expanding. In addition to reflecting on Vayeira, I’ve been pondering how fast the last decade went by. Tomorrow is my tenth anniversary and yesterday was my son’s sixth birthday.

What does “God” mean?

I started by chanting the beginning of this week’s Torah portion. Most of the time, Jewish sources claim that there are many barriers between human experience and God. This portion begins by declaring that God, using God’s unspeakable proper name, appeared before Avraham. Do you think God was more fully present in the world during the Bronze Age than today? Do we have the ability to sense God’s presence? Looking down at our phones, is it possible to sense spiritual shifts?

Define God to make religious experience possible

For a long time, these questions never occurred to me. Stories of our forefathers did not pierce my consciousness. The Bible felt unrelated to modern life. I avoided Jewish religious practice because I was certain that I did not believe in the judgmental God of the Bible.

Until adulthood, I did not know there are a multitude of ways to describe God from a Jewish perspective.

No single set of beliefs in Judaism

Jewish understandings of the world and God changed over time. Our civilizations were influenced by the people around us. Our intellectuals constantly communicated with Christian and Muslim scholars. Since Judaism began before the Christian idea of “religion,” we are not tied to a single set of beliefs. Instead, our culture defines us. What we do distinguishes us from other people.

Thus, it is perfectly reasonable to be an agnostic Jew. Or even an atheist Jew. My goal is not to convince you to believe like me. Rather, I hope that together we can make space for questions and disagreement. 

For me, I am constantly seeking more precise ways to understand God. Yes, I want a definition of what I believe. I also need a coherent set of descriptions of God in order to sink into prayer. God is likely to be spoken about in every Jewish prayer service. So what does all the God language in prayers mean? And how does the God in prayers relate to my lived experience?

Describing God allows us to sink in prayer

Let’s try to define God.  Do you see God as directly responding to prayers?

Do you think our spiritual energy can help heal the people around us and the souls within us?

Does prayer help you connect with God?

What does the formula of Jewish prayers mean to you?

Our prayer formula begins:

בָּרוּךְ אָתָּה ה״ אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הַעוֹלָם

“Baruch atah A’donai, E’loheinu melech ha’olam”

Traditionally, this is translated as: “Blessed are You, Lord, Our God, King of the Universe.” 

Those same Hebrew words can be understood as: “Source of Blessing are You, Ground of Being; Our God, Sovereign of spiritual reality.”

When we make space for alternative English translations of well-known Hebrew phrases, we open ourselves up to the worlds contained within each word. May we each find a word or phrase to meditate into this week, so that we can recognize when the Divine is appearing in our lives.

Shabbat shalom.