Today is two days of the Omer, 5780. גבורה שבחסד, Gevurah ShebeChesed, Discipline / Discernment in Covenantal Love.
Explaining God without shutting anyone out
This picture reminds me how little discussion of the nature of God was included in my religious education as a child. I learned what Conservative Judaism was, and how much better it was than Reform Judaism. Clear mandates on how to be a Good Jew, which totally confused me. I felt no one was following the Conservative understanding of Halacha, the Way, the Jewish understanding of how to live to increase goodness and connection to the Divine.
So I don’t really know how to talk about God with my kids (age four and six). And I hesitate to focus on HaShem with adults. Because I think the depth of my conviction can be quite off-putting. And it is confusing that even though I am clear on what I connect with, that doesn’t mean I can’t be in community with other people.
Evil lurks beyond Gevurah
Right, so since the Omer is all about meditating into aspects of the Divine, I figured my posts shouldn’t ignore that aspect of the Sephirot. Gevurah can be translated as strength, and is connected to God’s judgment and some would say wrath. The Sitra Achra, Other Side, split off from Gevurah and is the home of the Yetzer HaRa, inclincation towards destructiveness, and all other negative, life-shortening aspects of human nature of global reality. Sort of the Upside Down world of the Kabbalah.
I’m not talking about the vengeful God you may think I believe in…
Now many Christians are convinced that Jews worship a vengeful God, that Gevurah is the only aspect of God we found through our Bible and our communities. There are a lot of traditional prayers that beseech God to act in favor of the righteous and to avenge the pious. Perhaps because that is an understandable reaction to being constantly murdered and expelled by your Christian neighbors. But I don’t have faith in God’s ability to change the course of history and that’s not what I’m meditating into today.
The reality is that HaShem has provided a path of discipline within covenantal love that helps me become more of the person I want to be. I have always been Jewish, though for most of my life I did not have the words or understanding of how to do Jewish in an authentic way.
Remembering the spiritual discipline at the heart of my covenantal love
Even now, in my fourth year of rabbinical school, I completely lost my way when we were all thrown into social distancing. I barely tread water my first three weeks of full-time parenting and full-time graduate school attending. And recently, I remembered that the discipline of covenantal love is the brilliant sapphire path towards the Divine. What do I mean in plain English? Waking up and journaling. Deciding to work my way through the Book of Psalms. Keeping myself on track by posting those journal entries on Instagram. (Getting all the way to the computer is too much for me. I enjoy writing on my new dry erase board.) And then thinking through what I want to accomplish each day — which, to be honest, has become less and less each day, which helps to keep me sane.
So that’s it. Remembering to read Jewish texts each day. That’s the discipline of covenantal love that brings me back to my higher self and guides me towards loving myself, the people in my house, and the world in the way I want to be present to life.
I mean yes, prayer and community and exercise and eating well, those too can be part of one’s covenant with oneself and with the Ground of Being. But I haven’t figured out how to have a consistent daily prayer practice, and my son hates video calls so I’m trying to maintain some distance from community for the sake of Shalom Bayit (peace in the house), and I haven’t focused on exercise since I had my first kid, and worrying about what I’m eating is the farthest thing from my mind these days.
A brief prayer
L’chaim! To life! May we all find the discipline that helps us manage the stress of living through a pandemic. May we sink into love in healthy ways and may we know that there is strength in our empathy. May we not tune out from compassion fatigue, but may we also not feel guilty for needing endless Youtube videos more than we need endless news updates.
Books bringing me joy
This day happens often…
Two days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: boundaries in love? (the year of beginner’s mind)