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.

Covenantal Love within Endurance, 22 Days Omer 5782

Today is twenty-two days, which is three weeks and one day of the Omer, in the year 5782. חסד שבנצח, Chesed ShebeNetzach, Covenantal Love within Endurance. My Will to be a conduit of Covenantal Love is eternal.

The Week of Netzach: Eternity, Endurance, Will

נצח, Netzach, is a noun that means eternity. The shoresh, the three letters of the noun are also the Hebrew root for winning. This is a week to begin creating concrete manifestations of our path toward spiritual liberation. After three weeks of heady meditation, now is the time to determine how I want to act in the coming year. How will I create the will to embrace eternity?

I wrote the above paragraph last year. This year, I want to add another layer of reflection: How have I endured the trials of living? How can I honor the strength it took to reach this point?

Within Eternity, Grace Beckons

Within Jewish circles, it can be easy to focus on doubt and lack of belief. It is hard to reconcile how “the chosen people” have been chosen for discrimination, less-than-human status, and death throughout most of recorded history. We have been useful servants of kings, until they coveted all of the wealth procured through our service. And actually, even when elite Jews were court Jews, the vast majority were extremely poor and relied on the communal redistribution system for basic necessities. So, how do you believe in a God that allows the Shoah, the Catastrophe, to annihilate one-third of Jews?

For me, the answer is simple: the Bible is a holy narrative, but not a history book. God’s providence does not create certainty that things will go right for the righteous or wrong for the wayward.

Grace is not about allow God to take the wheel in my life. For me, flowing with Grace allows me to align myself with the ideals that guide my life, the ideals that are reflected in the sefirot specfically, and Jewish mysticism generally. I choose to live into Covenantal Love because it allows me to be a conduit for Love.

Covenantal Love Called Me to Eternity

I could tell you the specific moment when God called me toward the rabbinate. Yet that story is only a half-truth. The reality of my life is this: I am always happiest in Jewish community. My soul sings in Jewish prayer. I come alive most fully through Judaism and I am so blessed to be a part of it.

I find universalism a strange concept. It is really a Christian concept, though perhaps it also exists within Islam. It is definitely a hegemonic concept. Yes, Jewish messianic idealism proclaims that at the end of time all people will acknowledge HaShem and proclaim the oneness of God. But our worldview isn’t focused on that time in the future. And we don’t proselytize. Yet, somehow, our unique relationship with God has become a cudgel, used to denigrate our unique existence.

The reality of “God’s chosen people,” is that we had to believe in a unique reason for being in order to survive centuries of persecution. We need a mission in the world in order to continue living our counter-cultural lives.

I cut the foreskin of my lips.

To be a conduit for Goodness, I hold my tongue.

I circumcise my sons.

They are physically part of a separate people.

With all my words, with all my being,

I choose to be a God Wrestler.

May we find the Light within,

And live into the Path of Righteousness.

Spiral of 22 Days of the Omer…

Letting Go of Bad Habits, 5781 / 2021.

Endurance during COVID-19, 5780 / 2020.

Mother’s Day Reflections, 5779 / 2019

Enduring toddlers with grace, 5778 / 2018.

Holding steadfast to my goals, 5777 / 2017.


Image via Pixabay.

Strength within Beauty, 16 Days Omer 5782

Today is sixteen days, which is two weeks and two days of the Omer, in the year 5782. גבורה שבתפארת. Gevurah ShebeTiferet. Strength within Beauty. Art nourishes the soul, strengthening our bodies to face reality with inspiration, communal understanding, and conviction.

Allow the Light In

Immersing in good art strengthens the soul.

Whether a well-crafted play like Indecent.

Or a rapturous yarn of historical fiction like The Weight of Ink.

A lyrical memoir like Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered.

A Biblical space reimagined like The Red Tent.

A relationship brought to life in two-dimensions like Rembrandt’s The Jewish Bride.

The ongoing struggle to be human and yearn towards the Divine, as in Leonard Cohen’s poetry.

The carefree glory of an intricately-designed human-scale superhero series, as in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

And the feel-good depth of great television, like Ted Lasso. Or writer and actor Brett Goldstein on Sesame Street.

Art Strengthens Us, Creating the Ability to Face the Unknown

Today I was wandering the library. In our small town, the library is a fraction of the size of the amazing Central Library of Los Angeles. Nevertheless, while browsing the biography section, I ran into two books I own: Paris Letters and A Paris Year, written by my former coworker Janice Macleod. You really should read Paris Letters: it’s an incredible and incredibly realistic memoir of making a decision and changing the direction of your life.

This is what art does: it creates relevance and deepens our understanding of our collective past, present, and future. I learned more about the Great Depression from The Grapes of Wrath than from any history book. My soul is expanded by every art museum I walk into. And the power of theatre and cinema to transport us is undeniable. So is the soundtrack of music for our journeys.

May you find time today to sink into art and relish being alive.

The Books Mentioned Here

The Spiral of 16 Days of the Omer

Allowing Ourselves to Sink Into the Strength of Compassion, 5781 / 2021.

Structure helps the soul sing, 5780 / 2020.

Find Divine truth in art, 5779 / 2019.

Boundaries creates healthy compassion, 5778 / 2018.

Honor your needs, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Viktoria Goda via Pexels.

Reflecting on A Bissel of Judaism

For the final class of the Bissel of Judaism series, we reflected on the journey we’ve been on and how we’d like to use this information in the future individually and as a community. The conversation was specific to Temple Beth David, so I did not publish it on YouTube. Here is the portion of the class where I summarized the journey we’ve been on in this series of classes.

Resources

Strength within Strength, Nine Days Omer 5782

Today is nine days, which is one week and two days of the Omer in the year 5782. גבורה שבגבורה, Gevurah ShebeGevurah, Strength within Strength, Judgement within Judgement, Discipline within Discipline.

God is The Rock.

She holds us steady when we falter.

We lean on Her staff.

Her rod guides us back to our best selves.

HaShem Tzuri, God is my Rock.

Hold Judgment Lightly

Judgment lightly held is discernment.

Discernment leads towards awakening.

Awakening grows change.

Change creates space.

Space brings harmony.

Harmony expands flourishing.

Flourishing recognizes revelation.

Stay tuned…

Later today, I will post my final words to the AJRCA community minyan, also reflecting on Gevurah ShebeGevurah.

The Spiral of 9 Days of Omer

Strength Through Presence, 5781 / 2021.

The heart of discipline during a pandemic, 5780 / 2020.

The lion within pursues me, 5779 / 2019.

Internal battles, 5778 / 2018.

Spiritual discipline and parenting a toddler, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Julius Silver via Pixabay.

Covenantal Love within Discernment, 8 Days Omer 5782

Today is eight days, which is one week and one day of the Omer, in the year 5782. חסד שבגבורה, Chesed ShebeGevurah, Covenantal Love within Discernment.

Beginning the Second Week: Reflecting on Gevurah

The second week of the Omer is dedicated to meditating into Gevurah. This sefirah gets a bad rap because in the Kabbalistic imagination, Gevurah unchecked by Chesed creates the Sitra Achra, the Other Side. In other words, evil emanates from the Divine when strength and judgment go unchecked.

I am choosing not to comment on the world this year in my Omer counting. Instead, I am looking within to see how the positive aspects of this map of reality speak into me.

Discernment: Choosing Life

There are many phrases from the Hebrew Bible that speak to the clarity created by Gevurah. Most clearly, Deuteronomy chapter 30 verses 19 and 20:

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life—if you and your offspring would live—

by loving your God יהוה, heeding God’s commands, and holding fast to [God]. For thereby you shall have life and shall long endure upon the soil that יהוה swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them.

JPS translation via Sefaria

When we align ourselves with the Covenantal Love of HaShem, we choose life. We discern that there are better and worse ways to live. We start with love, we choose the freedom of living in alignment with virtues, and we choose rituals that connect us with the breadth of time and space.

Listen to the Voice Within

The voice within beckoned me to the future I am creating. That future required sacrifices. Many of those sacrifices were done by the people around me. My husband. My children. My in-laws. My parents. All of these people held space for me while I traveled deeper within myself and the depths of Jewish wisdom.

The first step I took was deciding to change jobs. I took a leap into the unknown. Then another leap and another. Every step of the way, I had clear discernment about what mattered most to me: healthcare, a living wage, and deeper purpose.

Not all of us have the luxury of aligning our paid work with our highest ideals. All work is honorable. The important thing is not what you do for a living, but how you make a life. That is what the voice within calls each of us towards: alignment with our greatest vision for ourselves.

Source of Blessing, Your Grace Flows

Source of Blessing, Your Grace Flows;

Your Grace washes over me,

Your Covenantal Love envelops me

Calm within the ever-present circle of Your Love,

I can see clearly the outlines of who I am meant to be.

Blessed are You, Source of Blessing, for giving me life and making this day possible.

Amen. Selah.

The Spiral of the 8th Day of the Omer

Flow within Discipline: the light touch of holiness, 5781 / 2021.

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 RODNAE Productions via pexels.

Indwelling of Covenantal Love, Day 7 of Omer 5782

Today is the seventh day of the Omer, which is one week in the year 5782. שכינה שבחסד, Shekhinah ShebeChesed, Indwelling of Covenantal Love.

We are constantly surround by Love. Grace flows freely throughout the universe. The Flow waits for us to find it. Can you pause your scrolling long enough to embrace Eternity?

Making Space for Depth and Rest

The hardest thing to hold onto in the past few years has been sustained deep thinking. No longer bound to a schedule of Going Places, times has been filled by doom-scrolling. My brain flits from priority to priority, often taking longer than it used to before it settles down to a single task.

The seventh day of the Omer, which completes the first week of counting, is Shabbat. Our count follows the traditional Jewish way to count a week. The days of the week are numbers, counting towards the completion point of Shabbat. What could it mean to orient our minds in the same way? Towards a day of rest, completion, and fulfillment?

Embracing Positive Descriptions of Covenantal Love

So often, “covenant” is seen as a negative thing. As if individual / communal purpose negates the shared humanity of people outside of the covenant. The idea of being “chosen people” is offensive to some Jews. We should embrace the perennial Torah of those who choose to join our tribe. Jews by choice understand that this is a unique path. They embrace their identity with earnest delight. May we all find the way in which our spirituality enlivens us and helps us live into our depths.

Covenant of What?

Judaism actually has a dual physical covenant. It is not just brit hamilah, the covenant of circumcision of male genitalia. We also circumcise our lips, reminding ourselves that what we say deeply matters.

We circumcise our hearts, the traditional seat of thought and identity. We recognize that our egos must be checked. Our judgment must be tempered. We choose to be a conduit for Goodness. We seek Wholeness and Truth.

Some of us follow “traditional” Halakha. Others, use the Jewish Way as a roadmap to depth.

Personally, choosing to be bound by Judaism is the most life-affirming thing I have ever done. I am more capable of supporting all people and communities because my connection to my own community is firm. My covenant is with the people around me and the Indwelling Presence of God/dess.

God, Goddess, Rock, Presence

HaShem is beyond gender, so using gendered language cannot diminish the Essence, the Source of Life. I am not pagan because I occasionally use Goddess in my prayers (nor do I disparage pagans).

I seek authentic connection to all sparks within me: both the masculine and the feminine elements that connect me to the souls around me and Source of Souls.

God is my Rock. Perhaps sometimes I might hold a rock to remind me of the Source of Strength.

God is the Immanence, the intangible Presence of Flow and Grace. Beyond any visual or physical manifestation, I know Goddess is with me on my journey. Each year, each month, each day — I have the opportunity to shed a bit of brokenness and grow more deeply into who I am meant to be.

The Source of Life is the Inspiration calling forward my meditations. May we each listen to the voice within and bend towards the Grace seeking to flow through us.

One Week of Omer in Previous Years…

Praying for Indwelling Flow, 5781 / 2021.

Grace: the Indwelling Presence of God’s Love, 5780 / 2020.

The Sovereignty of Love, 5779 / 2019.

The Presence of Grace, 5778 / 2018.

The Indwelling of Love, 5777 / 2017.


Image by Tom Fisk via Pexels.

Foundation of Covenantal Love: Six Days of Omer 5782

Today is six days of the Omer in the year 5782. יסוד שבחסד, Yesod ShebeChesed, Foundation of Covenantal Love.

This year, I am meditating on חסד, Chesed, as Covenantal Love. There are many ways to describe Chesed. I am choosing this traditional understanding of the term because I hope these meditations deepen my commitment to aligning myself with the Divine. Covenantal Love is the way we choose alignment with The Source, which is then reflected back on us as the Grace flowing into us.

Our human covenants reflect our eternal covenant

Who we choose to connect with.

How strongly we prioritize community.

When we choose to put our needs aside and focus on other people.

Surrounding ourselves with love and safety.

These are human covenants we can make with one another. By moving from individual to communal focus, we cleanse ourselves of the ego’s grip. The space we make for other people opens us up to the Indwelling Presence, the Shekhinah.

Living into the communal understanding of rhesus macaques

When I stare at this photo, peace envelops me.

I know that before any words, my foundation rests on sleep and love.

Like our primate siblings, I choose embracing the present and caring for my neighbors.


Image by Pavan Prasad via Pixabay.

Previously Today…Past Meditations on The Sixth Day of Omer

Foundational Flow: Choosing Life in the midst of a pandemic, 5782 / 2021.

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.