Tonight we begin counting the Omer for the first time in the year 5780. We are either counting the time to harvest our wheat or we’re deepening our connection to the aspects of the Divine that are most easily understood in this world. One way or another, from the second day of Passover for seven weeks we will count. And when we count to 49, we’ll celebrate on day 50 with Shavuot, a holiday whose name literally means Weeks, yet is only one day long. More on how to count the Omer for yourself is available in my blog archive. Just to repeat myself: Jewish days start at night. My hope is to blog every night after putting my kids to bed and before losing myself in streaming videos.
Take a break from all your worries…
Clearly, 5780 is a year like no other in my lifetime. I pray to take a few moments away from the growing death toll and into the inner spiritual realm. Even during times of physical limitations, we have the opportunity to grow into spiritual freedom. Don’t take my word for it — read Man’s Search for Meaning.
Today is one day of the Omer, חסד שבחסד. Chesed SheBe Chesed. Covenantal Love of Covenantal Love.
I usually take this week to sink into God’s grace. It is the clearest way that I understand this emanation. On a technical level, the Hebrew equivalent of grace is חן, chein. If you’ve studied the psalms or had a good Hebrew teacher (thank goodness for Rabbi Miriyam Glazer, Vered Hopenstand, and Rabbi Avraham Greenstein), you’ll know that my midrash on חסד isn’t exactly what is meant. Chesed means covenantal love. And in fact, during this time, it is quite important to meditate on what a covenantal relationship means.
Covenant: what do you choose?
Let’s set aside the modern Jewish arguments over whether or not covenant / particularism is good. Let’s reach down into the root of the word. “A formal, solemn, and binding agreement.” What do you choose to be in a covenantal relationship with? Do you feel obligated to love that?
When I got married, I chose a covenantal love with my partner. I broke my connection to all who came before and all who might come in the future and said that our lives are now bond to one another. Similarly, I chose covenantal love with my children.
And let’s be clear: at no point did I choose to be stuck in 1400 square feet with them. I definitely did not at any point make a binding agreement to teach a six year-old a language that I dropped out of after one semester (Mandarin) along with all other aspects of first grade. I never decided to be a preschool teacher or butt wiper in chief. But alas, my covenantal love has brought me those pleasures regardless of what else is going on in my life. (Seared in my memory is Rabbi Anne Brener leading a beautiful meditation via Zoom whilst Ezra yells, “Somebody wipe my butt!”)
So I’m really clear on whom I am in covenantal relationships with. My work now is to sink into covenantal love.
Combining Love and Covenant
It is fairly easy to rest on the wings of the Shechinah, to suckle honey from the crag, and expect the Divine Mother to take care of me. It is quite a different thing to recognize my obligation to be a conduit of Divine Love and Divine Covenant in this world.
Here’s what I know for sure: I need to lean into all of the ways I have sustained myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually before becoming afraid to walk my dog into my reality in the present moment.
This begins with living consciously. Which begins at night with choosing to sleep. And then waking up with a prayer of gratitude for being alive. Setting the tone of my day by tethering myself to the Divine Goodness that surrounds us. Wrapping myself in my people’s spiritual technology, the waves of intimacy awaiting me in Shacharit, morning prayer.
It continues by being conscious of every choice, particularly what I choose to put in my mouth and how much I choose to stretch my body.
Most importantly, I manifest covenantal love by using neither my voice nor my strength to overpower my children and force them to submit. Even if that means giving up the dream of having bilingual kids. Or giving into another hour (or another day) of endless streaming videos. Because as long as we end the day snuggling together with books and tucking them in with the Shema, our covenantal love will survive one day more.