Enduring Strength, Day 11 of the Omer, Netzach ShebeGevurah

Tonight begins eleven days, which is one week and four days of the Omer in the year 5781. נצח שבגבורה, Netzach ShebeGevurah, Endurance within Strength.

What keeps you going when the waves crash over you? Is your vision clear enough to see you through the storms of life?

Choosing to live into the day

I decided to stop apologizing for not being perfect. There are many ideals in my head, including the super human I expect myself to be. This year, I choose to grow into me. The best way to weather a storm is to ride the waves.

Embodying a wave rider, I choose to lean into joy and possibilities, rather than fear and anxiety.

Approach everyone with humility and compassion

As I continue to re-read Tomer Devorah, I was halted in my tracks by the depth and beauty of the prose. Wanting to sink into the reality of its call towards goodness, I couldn’t continue reading. So, I switched to Twitter and immediately entered a tumultuous sea of vitriol.

Jewish ethical mysticism declares that emulating HaShem is the ideal. Cultivate humility and meet everyone with compassion. Somehow, we’ve lost this thread in our digital communications. Whether or not you agree with someone, ad hominem attacks separate us from the Source of Life.

Jews, social class, and unions

Specifically, Jewish Twitter blew up around a recently published interview with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Her strident tone responding to Laura Adkins’ questions offended many. Weingarten’s all-encompassing declarations about who Jews are was a grossly simplistic, socialist critique of wealthy Jews. I think she was making a statement about how vocal some Jews in Los Angeles have been in denouncing school closures while Black and Latinx union leaders have been working to support the continued health of their colleagues. Her “pointed response” was laden with outdated assumptions about the ethnic and socio-economic makeup of American Jews.

So, to be clear: I am not defending Randi Weingarten’s choice of words.

Nevertheless, as a parent in a school district that has remained in distance learning this entire school year, I am tired of the relentless attacks on teachers’ unions. I care about human life even more than I care about education. My family accepts the situation we are in this school year. We look forward to our children returning to in-person teaching in the fall. They may not always be willing to do their class work, but they most certainly have continued to learn via Zoom.

There is a larger conversation that Jewish Twitter is failing to have as it falls over itself to attack Weingarten. Many American Jews are wealthy. In Los Angeles, some Jewish parents loudly demand in-person instruction, while teachers seek to not die for the sake of a paycheck. These are the realities Weingarten spoke inelegantly about.

Imagining a future beyond vitriolic divides

Socialist screeds no longer hold any sway over me. Nor does unfettered capitalism. As the mother and wife of Chinese Jews, it would be hard for me to form a sentence that negates the existence of Jews of color.

The public discourse I envision is humble and compassionate. Believing people enter the public square with good intentions, until proven otherwise. Words can cause damage and every human is made in the image of the Divine, b’tzelem Elokim.

All Jews deserve equal access to Jewish communal spaces. Rather than pointed rhetoric, may we approach our political differences humbly and with genuine curiosity for other viewpoints. May we have the Enduring Strength to meet each other with kindness.

Books for the journey

Spiral of 11 Days of Omer

Eternal Judgment, 5780 / 2020.

Enduring Discipline: Clarifying My Vision, 5779 / 2019.

Your Will is Powerful, 5778 / 2018.

Clear-eyed Focus on My Path, 5777 / 2017.

Image by John Callery via Pexels.

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  1. Pingback: Eternal Strength, 11 Days Omer 5782 – Rabbi (in-training) Minster

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