Ten Days of the Omer 5778

Today is ten days, which is one week and three days of the Omer. תפארת / רחמים / אמת שבגבורה ושבדין, Tiferet / Rachamim / Emet ShebeGevurah VShebeDin, Beauty / Compassion / Truth in Strength (Power) / Judgment (Discipline).

Though there are ten Sephirot, each is expanded not just by the way it interacts with other emanations, but also by the different ways a single sephira is described. Gevurah means strength / power / might. The emanation is also deeply connected with Din, judgement / discipline. Sephirot that sit in the middle of the map synthesize the two preceding Sephirot, so since Tiferet is a synthesis of Chesed and Gevurah, it contains a wider range of definitions. Tiferet means beauty, it is also Rachamim, compassion, and Emet, Truth.

It must sound like word soup to ask what the Beauty, Compassion, Truth of Power / Discipine is. Here is where we begin to see the depth of how Sephirot can describe ideal actions as well as ideal attitudes.

Power that knows it’s proper dimensions is beautiful. A parent overseeing a child’s development and knowing when to step aside and when to step in; that’s beauty. Star Trek is another example of envisioning beautiful power: all sentient beings united for peace, prosperity, and scientific discovery (yes, with the exception of outliers).

Power can also be compassionate and through might we can glimpse ultimate truth. Human dominance of the planet requires compassion towards other living things to survive and by being stewards of the earth we grasp truth.

On an individual level, today is a day to be compassionate with yourself about the ways you find it difficult to hold the line on the path you set for your transformation. It is a day to meditate deeply on what discipline you want to take for yourself in this moment. How can that discipline lead towards a deeper understanding of the true nature of yourself and the world?

May your contemplation of power and judgment help you connect with your inner strength and your deep will. May you not be afraid of your strength. May you know how to express your will and determination with compassion and with the goal of shedding light on truth. And may you have compassion for your Shadow and the ways it diverts your attention from your will.

Nine Days of the Omer 5778

Today is nine days, which is one week and two days of the Omer. גבורה שבגבורה, Gevurah ShebeGevurah, Strength of Strength, Judgement of Judgement, Discipline of Discipline.

At the center of Gevurah is a clear path. It is the path you follow to reach the highest version of yourself, your complete actualization. Being true to this path strips you of all pretense, allowing your soul and your spirit to walk freely and confidently in the world.

The lower aspects of Gevurah lead to the Sitra Achra, the Other Side. That is where your Shadow lives; where Yetzer HaRa, the inclination toward evil, pulls you away from your true path.

The Yetzer HaRa is cunning. It claims to be helping you by giving you a break from your stress and your focus. Just one more Facebook break, just one more tv show, just one more scoop of ice cream and you’ll feel better.

This is a day of the internal, eternal battle. Choose Life. Choose Light. Know you have the strength to outwit your Yetzer HaRa. Don’t deny the existence of your Shadow. Listen, and try to re-engage the parts of yourself that you cast off to form the current you. Have a vision of who you want to be and know you have the strength to walk the line every day.

Eight Days of the Omer 5778

Today is eight days of the Omer, which is one week and one day of the Omer. חסד שבגבורה, Chesed ShebeGevurah, Love in Power / Discipline.

Gevurah is translated as strength or power. The emanation is also closely associated with דין, Din, Discipline. When passing judgment, one should always begin from love, speak from love, and be motivated by love.

Strength by itself is not the essence of strength. Discipline must be in service of something beyond itself. Gevurah rises to meet Chesed, rises to meet the Knowledge and Understanding and Oneness that hovers beyond and within us.

My life has been rooted in Gevurah. It took me decades to understand that protecting my heart meant people only saw my strength and rarely saw the loving heart within me.

I’ve been thinking a lot this year about how these values should transform me; separate from how to explain them, or even how to engage these values as a mother, wife, and student. What does it mean to have discipline rooted in grace?

For me, this means deciding how to live and not holding anyone else to that standard. Rather than judging what others are doing, holding the line for myself and speaking to others from grace. Stripping away my sarcastic shield, my biting commentary, and not being afraid to allow my soul to engage the souls around me.

May you have the strength to find the work you need to do today, this week, this month, this year. May you have the determination to stay disciplined to your vision while engaging others with grace.

Seven Days, One Week of the Omer 5778

Today is seven days of the Omer, which is one week of the Omer. מלכות / שכינה שבחסד, Sovereignty / Indwelling of Grace / Love.

As we allow שבת, Shabbat, to settle within us, we welcome the Presence of Love in our lives.

How do you manifest love in your words and actions?

Do you feel the Presence of Grace so deeply that you are able to extend that knowledge to the world around you? What blocks you from fully accepting grace? Does the idea feel foreign? Can you imagine a love so pure it does not require anything in return and is always surrounding you regardless of what you do? That is the Presence of Grace connected to this day.

What we choose to make sovereign in our lives is what binds us. Our actions can be mindless, we can choose to solely pursue material gain, we can become so enslaved to our work or our phones that the idea of a value being sovereign seems preposterous.

As humans, we cannot expect to walk the path perfectly. Rather, we can choose to make empathetic, disciplined, whole-hearted love sovereign. We can choose the Kingdom of Grace as our dwelling place.

May you have a joyful and soul nourishing Shabbat. And may the Sovereignty of Love reveal itself to you.

Six Days of the Omer 5778, Yesod ShebeChesed

Today is six days of the Omer. יסוד שבחסד, Yesod ShebeChesed, Foundation of Love / Grace.

Yesod channels the energy of all of the Sephirot above it on a Kabbalistic map and pushes them forth into material reality. While traditionally connected to the penis, its meaning is deeper than a heteronormative understanding of human relationships.

Balancing the endurance of Netzach with the glory of Hod, Yesod is the foundation those pillars stand on. How we manifest love and grace in our thoughts and actions is determined by how much we cultivate and create space within ourselves.

What is your initial reaction to adversity? Do you yell in anger or castigate yourself? When are you able to rise above the trouble around you and what trips you up?

Today, I sang Modah Ani while my children yelled. It felt good not to be dragged into their difficulty transitioning from one activity to another. I may not have had the presence to rise above my circumstances if I wasn’t counting the Omer.

The world is a turbulent place. It feels more divided than at any other time I can remember. And yet, we can choose how to engage. I’m not suggesting rose colored glasses — I’m saying that inner calm, and a foundation of pure love connected to the grace that supports the world, will help you and the world far more than anger, depression, fear, or resentment.

Consider what tactics connect you to the foundation of grace within you. Decide how to build scaffolding to support the love that flows through you. May you feel blessed by your ability to connect lovingly with others. May you have the strength to speak and act from love all day.

Five Days of the Omer 5778

Today is five days of the Omer, הוד שבחסד, Hod ShebeChesed, Glory of Grace / Love.

Some traditions connect Hod to prayer, where it is said one deflates the ego and submits to the will of the Divine. From this, the value of humility became attached to glory.

Netzach and Hod are seen as the pillars that make it possible to bring the higher Sephirot into the material world. The Mishkan, the Tabernacle was built from Hod and Netzach. Which also connects these Sephirot with prophecy, the Divine will speaking through the conduit.

The majesty of life can be awe-inspiring. Watching a mind grow, get caught in cul de sacs, and grow some more is breathtaking. Whether that means observing how overwhelming tv shows can be or listening to the inner dialog of a two year-old who just found his voice, it’s all quite special. And at moments of reflecting on the power of humans to grow, humility is the pinnacle response.

Other times, acknowledging the prophetic voice within is the most important thing to be done. We cannot shy away from destiny. As you build a Mishkan for love and grace in your life, how will you secure its foundation? With humility? With prophetic messages? Both?

May you experience limitless love that propels you towards humility and prophecy. May you hear the voice within calling you to your depths. And may you have the courage to heed that call.

Day Four of the Omer 5778, Netzach Shebe Chesed

Today is day four of the Omer, נצח שבחסד, Netzach ShebeChesed, Endurance / Victory in Love / Grace.

The essential elements of love are described in the first three days: the pure love of God, the grace that surrounds all of us; human love that is bounded by the recognition of the need to distinguish the beloved’s journey from your own; and empathetic love that speaks from pure love even when admonishing the beloved.

So now we root the value of love in the world. What can we commit to that will help love endure? What is the first step you can take to allow your thoughts, feelings, and actions to emanate from love? How will you set aside anger, fear, regret, and resentment to live fully in this moment and in the moments to come?

What will you say to adversity when trying to live as though your soul depends on the happiness you spread?

How do you respond in person to someone who disagrees with you politically? What is your social media policy towards people with whom you disagree strongly?

Live from grace / love in every interaction. Live with the confidence that your enduring love will not fade away. May you be blessed with enduring love. May you be graced with victory over your darker angels.

Day Three of the Omer 5778 Tiferet of Chesed

Today is three days of the Omer. תפארת (אמת) שבחסד, Tiferet (Emet) ShebeChesed, Beauty / Truth of Love / Grace.

When you harmonize the all encompassing love of Chesed with the Discipline of Gevurah, you experience beauty and from that beautiful merger, truth emerges. There are many levels of truth; the truth found in Tiferet, in Beauty, speaks to your soul, pierces your shell, focuses you on what really matters.

When your Love includes empathy, you’ve encountered the Tiferet of Chesed. When you are able to speak and act from love regardless of how others act, you are living the Tiferet of Chesed.

If you are a giving person, you probably feel like this describes your essence. And yet, it is always possible to lean too far into a soul trait. Tiferet is about balance. While it softens the judgements of Gevurah, it does not annihilate them. Remember that empathy does not mean acquiescing. Tiferet of Chesed does not mean giving without acknowledging your own needs, rather it leads to overflowing love that supports both you and the object of your love.

Empathy means stepping back from your immediate reaction to a situation and considering the scene from alternative viewpoints. It means that when a toddler is crying and refusing to follow directions, you should take a breath. Rather than getting caught up in your embarrassment that your kid is making you look like a fool, think through what could be going wrong for the kid: is she tired? Hungry? Over stimulated? Fearful? Empathy will help you connect and redirect her energy towards the desired outcome.

If it wasn’t obvious yet, I am using this time to reflect on how to become the parent I want to be. I have a lot of trouble slowing down and staying present and empathetic with small humans.

I also have a strong tendency toward Gevurah. My husband is my Chesed. While I hope I’ve learned a bit from his example, I also feel a responsibility to protect him from his tendency towards selfless giving. We all need space to grow and nourish our own creativity.

May we each practice empathetic listening today. May we approach each interaction with others as an opportunity to model truthful love, beauty, and grace. May we speak kindly to each person we encounter, regardless of what they do. May our presence help others find the truth they are seeking. And may our actions help reveal the grace and love that surrounds us all.

Two Days of the Omer 5778

Today is two days of the Omer, גבורה שבחסד, Gevurah ShebeChesed, Discipline / Discernment in Love.

When Chesed enters the world of human interaction, it can only be healthy after being refined by Gevurah. Pure love without boundaries is unhealthy in human relationships. We each must recognize that another soul exists and that our love cannot create or consume that soul’s journey.

Similarly, if we offer love without discernment, we are not truly supporting our beloved. A child needs to learn boundaries to thrive in the world. A beloved cannot be a partner if she does not understand what your needs are. Similarly, acquiescing to every expectation of your beloved is a sign of lower Chesed, Chesed that has been tainted and twisted. Human love must make space for your own needs and desires. You must have a vision of where you want to go in order to support any one else’s journey.

People often remark how stressful it must be that I’m in rabbinical school with two toddlers. As if the love and responsibility of parenthood somehow makes it particularly difficult to study ancient wisdom. While sleep deprivation can be problematic, I find my life easier than when I was working full time. Because now I am able to do things that fully support my soul’s journey toward actualization; whereas when I was using my secular skills, it was easier for me to get caught up in my ego’s pain. Perhaps from the outside it looks like I am not as focused on my children as other people are — my fervent hope is that I am modeling boundaries, allowing them space to explore life without me. And sometimes, my desire for discipline overwhelms my capacity to express love. Toddlers are uniquely gifted at ignoring instructions and the patience it takes to always speak from love is a key thing I am working on today and every day.

Some information on why I am writing these meditations….Jews are commanded to count seven weeks of Omer, beginning on the second night of Passover. Originally, omer was a measurement of barley. Passover was the spring harvest festival when ancient Israelites would begin the barley harvest. By counting seven weeks, they knew when to harvest their wheat, which is the original purpose of the Shavuot (“weeks”) festival.

Kabbalists, Jewish mystics, mapped the lower seven emanations of the Divine to this count. By studying different aspects of each emanations on each day, you participate in a process of purification, making yourself a vessel capable of receiving Divine truth on Shavuot.

The Sephirot can be used as a psycho-spiritual system, helping to define the values one holds most dear and how those values should help you interact with other people. I believe this information can be useful to anyone, regardless of their beliefs. I don’t think you need to “believe” in the Sephirot to access this wisdom, nor do I think you need to believe in God or be a Jew to meditate on these values. My meditations are enhanced by the Chabad Omer counting app and my years learning from Rabbi Finley at Ohr HaTorah Synagogue (Los Angeles). I write these daily thoughts after counting the Omer, so they are posted at night since Jewish day’s start after sundown. And in case you don’t know me, I’m a second year rabbinical student at AJRCA.