Thirty-two days of the Omer: Eternal Splendor

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Today is thirty-two days, which is four weeks and four days of the Omer. נצח שבהוד, Netzach ShebeHod, Eternal Splendor.

Eternity and Splendor, the pillars of the Temple. The pillars of the structure we build to meet the Divine. What are your inner pillars? What ideas do you hold fast to when life doesn’t go exactly right? I hold onto Goodness and Holiness. Goodness, my vision of a just and truthful world. Holiness, the grace and compassion that shelter the world in a loving embrace.

It used to make me anxious and feel unworthy that my thoughts, words, and deeds were not always rooted in Goodness and Holiness. I am beginning to sink into the fact that I am an unfolding love. I maintain responsibility for my speech and actions, but I try to not hold myself to the impossible standard of perfection.

By realizing it is not possible to stay completely connected to Eternal Splendor all the moments of my life, my attachment to Eternal Splendor deepens.

Moments of Eternal Splendor

Every time I wrap myself in a tallit, a holy prayer shawl, and pray that my soul will be able to bless the Divine.

Every time I wrap tefillin around my arm and crown myself with tefillin.

Every time I wind the teffilin around my middle finger and betroth myself to the Holy One, Blessed be She, using the same words I used to betroth myself to my beshert.

Every time I sink into Ahavah Rabbah, and feel the Divine’s unwavering love for me and for the entire universe, and know that the pursuit of knowledge is wrapped in heavenly love.

Every time my person meditation crescendoes into the holy words of Elohai N’tzor, My God Guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking lies.

Danny Maseng’s beautiful interpretation of Elohai N’tzor

Previously on this day in the Omer

32 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Is there something in life that connects you to pure holiness?

32 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: The holiness of community, reflected from my first experience at Rabbi Sid Schwarz’s Transdenominational Rabbinical Student Retreat.

Thirty-one days of the Omer: Beauty of Splendor

Image by Alex Hu from Pixabay

Today is thirty-one days, which is four weeks and three days of the Omer. תפארת שבהוד. Tiferet ShebeHod, Beauty of Splendor.

There are so many roadblocks on the way to a meaningful Jewish prayer experience. Theology and theodicy get in the way. The literal words of traditional prayers seem anachronistic, sometimes goyish. The intellectual brain doesn’t want to turn off. The world is exhausting and curling up with a good book or a bad TV show sound more appealing.

I know my words alone wont convince anyone that prayer is beautiful. My job is to sort out how to create meaningful prayer experiences. To open up the possibility of meaning through active participation. That is why I am participating in the Davennen Leadership Training Institute. I’m not going to wow you with my guitar skills (I have none; my hands cramp up holding a pencil). I won’t be writing new melodies. My goal is to deepen my own prayer practice and deepen my ability to create space for other people to find their way into prayer.

Personal prayer is a deeply meditative experience. It helps me rise above my immediate reactions and to hold space for other people. It also reminds me to do my duty, regardless of how I’m feeling. I suppose that is the Stoic influence of Rabbi Finley in my prayer. It goes back to my understanding of the yoke of heaven.

What does it mean to be bound by The Holy One? To accept a yoke? Is it merely a heavy burden of arcane law? Or is it a guiding force, correcting natural inclinations and moving me in the direction I yearn to travel?

I choose the ethical, mystical yoke of Judaism. Throughout the day and the year, Jewish practice reminds me of what is most important to me and who I want to be. Jewish wisdom guides my transformation. Holding space for prayer creates the opportunity to experience beautiful splendor. Emptying my mind of worries, and pop culture obsessions, frees me to dance with angels.

Previously on this day in the Omer

31 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Uncovering deep truth through prayer.

31 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: The beautiful truth of soulful community.

Thirty Days of the Omer: Discipline of Splendor

Image by Alex Hu from Pixabay

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

Unfortunately, I do not reach the depths of my being every time I pray. Nor do I feel at one with the universe. When I am disciplined and make time for prayer on a daily basis, I am most likely to get to that place, and sink in more quickly, than when I lean into my excuses.

Opening up space within myself for expansive love and revelatory splendor does not come naturally. I have to remind myself that I am worthy of becoming more deeply me. I have to remind myself that who I am today is not bound by who I was yesterday.

When you make space for splendor on a daily basis, you make space for the possibility of overwhelming change and complete stasis. I have always been a loving person building bridges to the infinite. The discipline of my splendor reminds me that the process continues to unfold.

Previously on this day in the Omer

30 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Building a regular practice of gratitude.

30 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Meandering thoughts on splendor and conversion.

Four Days of Catch Up

My 2019 Omer count did not include four daily meditations due to illness (i.e. I counted without blogging). I published these thoughts today to provide myself a complete reflection of the Omer for 5779.

17 Days of the Omer 5779: Three books that illuminate the Truth of Truth.

18 Days of the Omer 5779: Judaism is the Enduring Truth that animates me.

19 Days of the Omer 5779: The pull of prayer; the calm embrace of eternity.

20 Days of the Omer 5779: Beauty is essential to life.

Twenty-nine days of the Omer: Grace of Splendor

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

We begin a new week of the Omer. While every emanation contains multitudes, Hod is a particularly amorphous sephira. The twin pillar of the Temple, Hod stands alongside Netzach, Eternal Endurance. Hod is prophecy and it is prayer. Join me in reflecting on prayer this week. It was the theme I chose last year, and frankly, it is the urtext of my journey.

Rav Chayim of Volozhin wrote The Soul of Life. The complete book was translated into English by Eliezer Lipa Moskowitz. Today, I read a few sections for my Jewish thought class. Here are some highlights:

And the matter of the word “blessed” is not an expression of attributing glory and giving praise as is commonly accepted among the masses…

However, the truth is that ba-rookh, its meaning is an expression of increase and expansion….

…that “ba-rookh ah-tah YHV”H“, its meaning is to draw forth and cause the flow of life [force] from the Source of Life to the name of the Holy One (blessed be He)…

The Soul of Life, p200-202

To be blessed is to increase and expand. Expand beyond the limitations imposed on us, by ourselves and by others. Break free of the chains of bondage. Walk upright, without shame, towards the person you are.

From the wellsprings of life we come. The Source of Life is always available, and I have the opportunity in each moment to flow with Goodness and Light. I choose whether to lean into my cynicism or my sincerity. I pray that I choose Life.

Previously on this day in the Omer…

29 days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Translating Psalm 13, embracing gratitude and praise.

29 days of the Omer 5777/ 2017: Commit to a concrete action to support someone else.

Twenty-eight days of the Omer: Indwelling of Eternity

Today is twenty-eight days, which is four weeks of the Omer שחינה שבנצח. Shechinah of Netzach. Indwelling of Eternity.

Shabbat: the Palace in Time

Our grandest vision for Shabbat is to experience the Indwelling of Eternity. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, we build a palace in time to meet the Divine.

As with all aspects of Judaism, I have wrestled with this concept. I try to understand my guilt for Not Keeping Shabbat Like I know I Should. I try to understand the will within me that keeps me glued to electronic devices.

I sink into prayer and flow with the universe and forget my neuroses.

Wrestling with the Divine and The Way / Halacha

Rabbi Jeremy Kridel, an erudite Humanistic Jew, published a meditation on Shabbat this week. We have a fundamental disagreement in that I know the Divine exists. Nevertheless, his poem calls to me. It reminds me that everything I know about How to Keep Shabbat was created by humans. I believe the Jewish tradition, including Halacha, offers a deeply soul-nourishing experience. At the same time, I am no less Jewish if my Friday night through Saturday night occurs without the prescribed prohibitions and compulsory prayers / sanctification.

I pray Jewish prayers, I enact Jewish ritual because it is the spiritual technology that speaks in my soul’s frequency. I touch the deepest parts of myself in prayer. My soul speaks when I chant Torah and Haftorah.

Towards a Unified Existence

I am still working towards a unified existence. And while I hope my prayers will become more regular, I am consciously trying to let go of the voice within who judges me for “Not Being a Better Jew.” The Halachic way is not the only way to be Jewish. In fact, it never was. I say this not to disparage Halacha; I have deep respect for it. I say this because I want to embrace the fullness of who I am and be grateful that I can deepen myself through Judaism, as a God-knower without being a strict observer of The Way. (The Way is a more accurate translation of Halacha than ‘Jewish law.’)

It is not my Shabbat observance that I am most anxious about. I worry most about how I speak to other people. Am I learning from my mistakes as a parent? Am I helping my family deepen their connection to their own soul and the souls around them? Am I stating my needs clearly, while holding compassion and empathy for the people with whom I interact?

We shall never be ashamed

The Ahavah Rabbah, The Great Love of the Divine for humanity described in the prayer that precedes the Sh’ma, states:

“Unite our hearts to love and revere Your name,
so that we may never be ashamed.”

Translation by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in The Koren Sacks Siddur

I’ve been thinking about ולא נבוש לעלם ועד, v’lo navosh l’olam vaed, the second line of this phrase. It is a common concept in Judaism. Participating in Judaism is designed to keep us from being ashamed. Always a collective verb. Olam means world. A more accurate translation is throughout all space and time. In every tangible, measurable aspect of consciousness, we shall be free of shame.

I am determined to spend some time during this Shabbat living into this idea. Letting go of my shame and being present to the joy that surrounds me.

May we all have a bit of time in the next 25 hours for pure presence. May we make space for the Indwelling of Eternity.

Previously on this day in the Omer

28 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: The truth you are discovering was meant for you.

28 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Your body is feeding the universe and will continue to do so after you die.

Twenty-seven days of Omer: Foundation of Endurance

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

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

The world is not burning and you are important

There are plenty of shadows in the world. Plenty of real things to fear and to fight. Nevertheless, endurance requires allowing ourselves to take time to reflect on our personal journeys, which are as important as our communal life.

Ideals: where are they when things don’t go your way?

Is the foundation of your speech rooted in love? When you become enraged, are you able to contain the anger or does it seep into all of your interactions?

I have a very low tolerance for lies. I try to understand that people tell them to avoid confrontations and to protect themselves. One of the things that I am trying to understand more deeply is conflict avoidance. I was forged in fire. I am deeply attracted to cool, calm people; yet, I fear I will never fully understand the source of their power.

No one’s perfect; Lean into your gifts

In any event, the key is recognizing your essence and working with it. The Foundation of my Endurance is my passion. I have no poker face — it lights up when I’m engaged in a topic and it drifts away when I’m bored.

I cannot believe how blessed I am that my beshert believes in my passion enough to make it possible for me sink into wisdom. Still, it’s hard to stay focused on academics 24/7, especially when fighting off illness. So I am equally grateful for TV (even when it makes no sense) and makeup.

Previously on this day in the Omer

27 days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Align your speech and actions with your higher self.

27 days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Cleave to the eternal truth within.

Twenty-six days of the Omer: Splendor of Endurance

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

Hod and Netzach are the pillars of the Temple. Splendor and Endurance hold up the edifice we create to interface with the Eternal One. They are drawn to one another, and rarely are discussed separately. They shimmer in and out of view. I think more has been written about them by modern seekers defining the counting of the Omer than you will find in any classical text of Kabbalah.

How do you bring holiness into your life on a daily basis?

I try to remind myself that I am not the center of the universe, or even the center of my existence, by covering my head. Either with a yarmulke or a hat (or on a rare occasion, with a headband). If you ask me about my kippah, and you’re a stranger, I’ll probably smile and tell you I wear it for the same reason a man wears one.

My head covering is my most consistent outward manifestation of my search for depth and meaning. For years, I’ve tried to have a consistent, daily prayer practice. I am deeply troubled at how hard it is for me to fulfill this desire. It is probably the reason my public meditations on the Omer are not consistent this year. Because I am staring into the abyss between who I want to be and where I am.

Perhaps I should stop writing until I sort out how to live the life I want to live. And then, I remind myself that this blog was created to be an exploration of my journey. I’m not perfect and never will be. Let’s continue reaching for splendor and eternity together.

Previously on this day in the Omer

26 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: The river of time and the journey of life take twists and turns we cannot control. 

26 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Sink into the core truth of your life.

Twenty-five Days of the Omer: Eternal Will

Today is twenty-five days, which is three weeks and four days of the Omer. נצח שבנצח, Netzach ShebeNetzach. Eternal Will.

The flow I hope to swim in has been coursing through my veins since before my veins existed. I may not have been planned; but I have always been planned. My narrative has no through line, and yet it has the eternal through line: HaShem has been calling me into the best version of myself since before I was born.

בת קול, Bat Kol, Daughter of Voice. Traditionally, the time of the prophets closed when the Book of Prophets closed. No Jewish leader since then has been a Prophet, though many have had a prophetic voice. We say they heard the Bat Kol, the Daughter of HaShem’s Voice. It’s a murmur, a whisper in the background, the still small voice that speaks to you from within when you are deeply immersed in prayer or meditation or prayful meditation.

Bat Kol is the source of my eternal will. I have been striving to live deeply within Jewish wisdom my entire life. And yet, life pulled me away many times. Trusting my connection to my eternal will is a struggle. I live with anxiety and fear about the present and the future. May I allow myself to swim with my eternal will and enjoy the flow.

Previously on this day in the Omer

25 days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: The ability to accomplish your will has always been there.

25 days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: A day of being embraced by the holiness of enduring eternity.

Twenty-four days of the Omer: True, Harmonious Endurance

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

I need a roadmap for this thing called life

In my early twenties, I wrote a song called “I Need a Road Map for this Thing Called Life.” Its chorus has been stuck in my head as I meditate on enduring will. The longer I study wisdom, the deeper I know that I don’t have a road map. The stories I tell about how I got to this point or where I’m going from here shift on a daily basis. I hope my stories continue to stretch and grow as I seek deeper truth and more complete embodiment of the person I want to be.

How an image devoid of humans reminds me of tiny ones

This photo reminds me of the deep bath tub I soaked in as I encouraged each of my babies to leave my body. I don’t have answers, but I have experience. That feeling of holding my first child for the first time, barely allowing myself a moment’s rest. And I compare it to the feeling of holding my second child for the first time, exhausted and afraid I was going to drop his 9lb 10 oz body. Being alive is a miracle. Enduring life is a miracle.

Allowing myself to be guided by love

More miraculous is allowing yourself to be guided by love. To speak and act from love, while maintaining healthy boundaries. I struggle to embody this simple truth. Sometimes, like today when my 10 lb dog got attacked by a large dog who wasn’t on a leash, I lose all sense of propriety. (Always use a leash when walking your dog. Always.)

And yet, I’ll sink back into harmonious, enduring truth. I will serve goodness and light. I will honor the strength of the body that carries me through life, and accept its limitations with grace. And I will continue to meditate on the emanations of the Divine that help me become a vessel for holy truth.

Previously on this day in the Omer

24 days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Why this counting? Wisdom, Discernment, & Understanding.

24 days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Have the courage to speak your truth even when others hide their essence.

Twenty-three days of the Omer: Disciplined Endurance

Today is twenty-three days, which is three weeks and two days of the Omer גבורה שבנצח Gevurah ShebeNetzach, Disciplined Endurance.

We are constantly battling the Yetzer HaRa, the inclination towards destructiveness. This force, which resides in each person is cunning. It’s logic seems sound and following its advice feels pleasurable in the moment. Sleep a little longer, have more dessert, ignore responsibility and enjoy life.

It is important to make space for the Yetzer HaRa. Denying its existence, burying it, makes it more powerful. So if, like me, you are struggling with discipline ask yourself: am I truly ready to change? Is it important for me to love myself now, as I am, rather than beating myself up for not living up to the standard I want to achieve?

Sometimes, strength means more than discipline. Sometimes, it means being strong enough to accept life just as it is.

And while you accept yourself, consider when and how you could open yourself up to new vistas. As my semester rapidly approaches its end, I am looking forward to a summer full of possibility. There is so much for me to do in my time off, I am afraid I will schedule too much and not accomplish half of my goals. So first, I will brainstorm all of my ideas. Then, I’ll prioritize them. And then, I’ll schedule them.

I’m still recovering from a crazy draining allergy attack. I know I won’t magically transform today. But I can meditate on the life-nourishing power within endurance. And I can savor the ways I have already transformed myself towards the person I want to be.

Previously on this day in the Omer

23 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Four books for finding will / changing habits.

23 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: The source of evil.