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.