Thirty-one days of the Omer 5778

Today is thirty-one days, which is four weeks and three days of the Omer. תפארת שבהוד, אמת שבהוד. Beauty of Splendor (Prayer), Truth of Splendor (Prayer).

For as long as I can remember, my soul has been transformed by Jewish prayer. Hebrew words, Jewish melodies, they have always been a balm. And I say this as someone who couldn’t translate a word of Hebrew until I started rabbinical school. For me, this is the essence of the beauty of prayer. When it speaks to you, enlivens you, transforms you beyond all the thinking.

Personal truth has been twisted and weaponized in US society. And yet, experienced truth, truth only you can know, is a deeper form of truth. Still, I feel the need to confirm that facts matter and verifiable truth, material reality, and reason should be the pillars of our communal secular discourse.

Our spiritual discourse is something else entirely. Religion succeeds by helping people give voice to the awe and reverence felt around life’s mysteries. Purpose and meaning can be found through religion, while they are often absent from scientific inquiry.

So let us sink into the possibility of uncovering deep truth through prayer. And let us revel in the beauty of intentional prayer and intentional communities of seekers.

Thirty days of the Omer 5778

Today is thirty days, which is four weeks and two days of the Omer. גבורה שבהוד, Gevurah of Hod, Discipline of Splendor.

Is there a regular pattern to your gratitude? Do you make time to acknowledge you aren’t the source of life on a daily basis? Do you pause before eating to thank the people who grew your food and the person who made the meal and the Source of the sustenance? When you finish eating, do you pause to acknowledge you are satiated?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how difficult it is to have a daily prayer practice, never mind three times a day. It can be easier to do when no one depends on you (ie you don’t have kids). And I’m not sure what is the tipping point — how much time must be set aside for reflection and gratitude to transform your life? No answers – just a series of questions…

Twenty-nine days of the Omer 5778

Today is twenty-nine days, which is four weeks and one day of the Omer. חסד שבהוד, Chesed ShebeHod, Grace / Love of Splendor / Glory.

We begin the week of Hod today. Netzach and Hod are usually described together and it can be difficult to differentiate them. Newer interpretations take these Sephirot to new places. Rabbi Simon Jacobson describes Hod as Humility. This week, I am going to focus on Prayer, a traditional aspect of Hod.

Prayer is a quirky thing. Many connect it with petition, as if all we need to do to get what we want is pray to God. Jewish prayer is more deeply connected with praise. Pausing from mundane responsibilities and praising the beauty that surrounds us, the miracle of life, the honor of living another day. This intense focus on praise is why traditional Jewish morning services start with “Verses of Praise,” including verses from psalms strung together to overflow a person with love of God.

The motive behind that section of the Shacharit service, the Jewish morning prayer service, seems to be the heart of Chesed of Hod. Honoring, Glorifying, Swimming in the Grace of God.

And yet, us mere modern mortals can have difficulty authentically accessing purest glory. Through my psalms class taught by Rabbi Miriyam Glazer, I have found the beauty and purity of reaching those glorious verses in their natural habitat. Reading a psalm from beginning to end can be the purest form of praise.

If like me, you struggle to disengage your skeptical, rational mind from this business of Splendor and Prayer, try reading Psalm 13. Its final line has a place of honor in Jewish morning prayers. But I find it more profound in its natural habitat.

Psalm 13 

To the lead player. A song. Of David.

How long, Cause of Being?!?
Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long will I take counsel alone?
Grief in my heart all day?
How long will my enemy loom over me?

Look!
Answer me, Cause if Being, my God!
Light up my eyes, lest I sleep death;
lest my enemy say, “I have overpowered this one!”
My foes exulting when I stumble.

But as for me,
In Your grace I trust,
My heart exults in Your rescue
Let me sing to the Cause of Being,
For She is good to me.


(My translation is based on the original Hebrew text and the English translations of Benjamin Segal, Robert Alter, Rabbi Richard Levy, and the Jewish Publication Society)

Posting in the morning because yesterday was dedicated to celebrating the birth of my Chesed, Chung-Mau Cheng. (Why yes, that is his Hebrew name.)

Twenty-eight days of the Omer 5778

This count is early so I can turn off Facebook for Shabbat.

Today will be twenty-eight days, which is four weeks of the Omer. מלכות שבנצח, שחינה שבנצח. Malchut of Netzach, Shechinah of Netzach. Sovereignty of Eternity, Indwelling of Eternal Will.

Four weeks. Almost half-way through counting. And this Shabbat, we bask in the Presence of the Divine. In the surety that the will we have been meditating on is connecting to the Eternal.

Revel in the knowledge that the truth you are discovering was meant for you. Share the joy of this deep wisdom with those around you. Be a conduit of love and rest from work if you can. May your day be filled with the holy presence of loved ones and may you be at peace with your journey. שבת שלום! Shabbat shalom!

Twenty-seven days of the Omer 5778

Today is twenty-seven days, which is three weeks and six days of the Omer. יסוד שבנצח, Yesod ShebeNetzach, Bonding of Eternity.

Do you root your speech in eternal wisdom? Do your actions reflect the eternal values you hold dearest?

What holds you back from using every moment to connect with the highest aspect of yourself?

Concretize your wisdom. Share your journey. Challenge yourself to be a conduit of goodness with every word you speak and everyone you interact with.

May I have the strength to align my speech and actions with my highest self.

Twenty-six days of the Omer 5778

Today is twenty-six days, which is three weeks and five days of the Omer. הוד שבנצח, Hod ShebeNetzach, Glory of Eternity.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory wrote

“We are not masters of that river–not of our ultimate destiny, nor of the stops along the way, not even of the direction of our travel. We did not create the river–its flow creates us. It is the blood and soul of our world, its pulse and its warmth.

Yet of one thing we have been given mastery. Not of the journey, but of our role within it.”


From Omer Counter by Chabad, available as a smartphone app

The river of time and the journey of life take twists and turns we cannot control. Let us honor the sacred journey today.

And let us not forget the holy obligation to access our will, refine our will, and do what we can to move ourselves in the direction of holiness, grace, truth, justice, and beauty. Join me in taking concrete actions towards personal refinement.

And may we all accept with grace our own limitations and hold sacred space for the pulsing flow of the Divine within and surrounding us.

Twenty-four days of the Omer 5778

Today is twenty-four days, which is three weeks and three days of the Omer. תפארת שבנצח, Tiferet ShebeNetzach, Beauty of Eternity, Truth of Endurance.

The eternal victory of Wisdom, Discernment, and Understanding; the three supernal Sephirot, emanations so holy and so devoid of human feelings and emotions that they are not incorporated into the Omer counting. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my explanation of the Divine is not easily categorized. The truth that I seek to make space for in this world is enduring, holy, and absolute. Yet, it also shows seventy different and equally valid faces. The paradox of my eternal values that point towards the Cause of Being are deep.

And what is the point of counting forty-nine days? We aren’t farmers; we no longer need to know when to harvest our wheat. (7 weeks after the first barley harvest, ICYMI.)

What’s my purpose in writing? I don’t expect many people to commit to counting the Omer simply because I tell you about it. After all, my counting wasn’t faithful until I started writing posts about it last year. But I do hope you’ll join me in defining the values that you hold closest. What are you striving to create in the world? Who is the person you want to be? How do you fall short of your ideals? What will help you achieve enduring victory?

May this post bring you closer to the truth you are seeking. May you feel the depth of community that surrounds you; the multitudes of people searching for meaning. And may the Cause of Being suckle you, nourish you, sustain you, on your journey.

Twenty-three days of the Omer 5778

Today is twenty-three days, which is three weeks and two days of the Omer גבורה שבנצח Gevurah ShebeNetzach, Strength (Discipline) of Eternal Victory.

This is a week to contemplate how to cultivate the will to put your vision into action. Whether you follow

this is the week to create and begin to act on a plan for the change you want to see in your life.

Today is a day of victorious strength. A day when discipline will flourish and clarity is available. A brilliant day to coincide with most of Monday.

May you have the strength to sink into your own eternity. May you be victorious, slaying the enemies within you who challenge your forward momentum. May your heart expand, your ego diminish, and your soul be nourished.

Twenty-two days of the Omer 5778

Today is twenty-two days, which is three weeks and one day of the Omer. חסד שבנצח, Chesed ShebeNetzach, Grace of Eternity / Endurance / Victory.

A new focus begins today. We are firmly rooted in the world of action. Eternal victory awaits the one who embraces and enacts love in all actions, thought, and feelings. The pure will to put the vision defined by your exploration of the previous three Sephirot into concrete actions: Grace / Love, Strength / Discipline, Beauty / Truth / Compassion.

I fail at this daily. I haven’t mastered parenting two toddlers with natural independent streaks. My words get short, I get frustrated and that leads to anger. I’m still not sure how to handle two kids running away rather than following me to the car. I know the process is exhausting for all of us — from how long it can take to get from point A to B, to the red hot judgment I feel from those around me, to the sheer ridiculousness of wasting time just trying to walk to the car.

And yet, we are called to endure with grace.

If I had extra time this week, I would spend it reading one of the half dozen parenting books on my shelf. I will do that once my semester ends. In the meantime, I’m going to find the backpacks with “safety straps” (aka leashes) & make sure my kids don’t get hit by a car while walking to our car from synagogue.

May you have the will to bring your vision of grace into fruition. May you be victorious over your inclination toward evil. And may your eternity be rooted in love.

Twenty-one days of the Omer 5778

Today is twenty-one days, which is three weeks of the Omer. שחינה שבתפארת, מלכות שבתפארת. Shekhinah of Tiferet, Malchut of Tiferet, Indwelling / Presence of Beauty, Sovereignty of Beauty (and Truth and Compassion). 

The most overtly feminine sephira completes the week and this year also corresponds with Shabbat, the day of Shekhinah, of the Indwelling Presence of the Divine.

Do you feel the pulsating heart of the universe calling to you? Is the truth you know in your heart guiding your actions when you are alone and when you are in public? Does your compassion respect other people’s individual sovereignty? 

As we melt into the Day Without Work, may we honor the beautiful feminine within each of us. Regardless of gender identity, there is a womb within each of us; we are each connected to the Divine who nurses us with honey from the rock. May you have the courage to soften into interactions today. May you feel rooted in the Sovereignty of Compassion, Truth, and Beauty.