Twenty-two days of the Omer: Lovingkindness of Eternity

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

Contemplating and Creating Eternal Endurance

This is the beginning of a new week of contemplation. Netzach means endurance. It also means eternity. It is the emanation of will, of bundling up all that comes before it and creating it in the material world that surrounds us. This is a week of action. Of concrete steps towards the person I want to be.

My connection to public meditation is altered. I understand that I am articulating something universal, while also revealing deep personal cracks that are not normally seen in people aspiring to become clergy. The reality is, I don’t have a road map for life. There’s no instruction manual for being a mother (though plenty of people will sell you books on parenthood). There’s no instructions for a meandering career path that leads to full-time student status at mid-life.

Creating Concrete Goals

This I know for sure: I thrive within routine. I blossom when I pray. My kids prefer to have a conversation rather than threats. (That’s the extent of my parenting advice; and I’m still learning how to implement it.)

Mother’s Day Reflections

I think a lot about people whose lives do not start from lovingkindness. Who feel unwanted, or are abandoned. I pray this Mother’s Day is not too hard for them. I wonder what foster kids do during obligatory Mother’s Day art time at school.

I also wonder what kids in loving families that do not include a mother do. I pray single-dad families and queer families feel fully supported.

I pray we mothers who have to work or go to school on Mother’s Day do not feel guilty for supporting our families and supporting our dreams. Our families know we love them and appreciate them every day of the year.

I pray…

I pray to remember to use my voice with kindness, to speak lovingly even when I am passionate. I pray to use this time when my vocal cords need rest from too much coughing as a reminder to slow down and consider the words that I speak before they leave my head.

Previously on this day in the Omer

22 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Enduring toddlers with grace.

22 Day of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Hold steadfast to your goals.

Twenty-One Days of the Omer: Indwelling of Truth

The end of twenty-one days, which is three weeks, of the Omer, is at hand. My meditation on the permutations of beauty and truth, Tiferet v’Emet, תפארת ואמת have been cursory this week. When I finally admitted to myself that my nightly meditations were doing more harm to my wellbeing than good, I collapsed into sleep. A few days later, my allergies decided to take over my body.

I am still not 100%, but I can see the other side. Baruch Ha’Shem, I am not battling a deadly illness, and like previous pollen seasons, I will survive.

Judaism is androcentric, Male-centered

A truth I am trying to grapple with is the casual androcentrism of Judaism. In a 2009 overview of the academic study of Jewish magic, one scholar cites another scholar to assert: “Once we admit that the Jewish magical tradition was not the sole domain of women and marginal figures, but of the intellectual elite as well (Idel 1989), we must try to understand this aspect of their Judaism, and place it in a wider religious and philosophical context.”[1] You see, irrational religion isn’t solely the domain of women. Elites did it too!

Or I could try to follow the advice of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, who explains in his classic book The Path of the Just, that I should neither touch nor look at any woman to whom I am not married because obviously that would lead to uncleanliness. (Chapter 11, Specifics about the Virtue of Cleanliness).

I can no longer hide from the androcentrism of Judaism. Like most culture, it has developed in a world dominated by men. My whole life, I have approached Judaism as a space separate from feminism. I have learned deep wisdom that is completely unrelated to the feminist gaze. But now, three years into my deep dive into the oceans of Jewish knowledge, I must confront the obvious truth that has been staring at me all along: I am periphery. As a woman, my ability to cook and procreate is more highly valued that my ability to wrestle with texts. The true mark of the covenant occurs not on my heart, but upon the foreskin of my male children.

Peripheral is not Powerless

I have felt my peripheral status for awhile. And yet, despite it all, my status as a rabbinical student creates a different color to conversations. My husband has told more co-workers about my studies than about the fact that we met working at his place of employment. (It’s true, we had the complete Mad Men experience.) I am constantly reminded that the stories we tell about ourselves are as restrictive as the experiences we have.

So yes, I live in an area without a critical mass of Jews. But my son thinks I’m good at praying and cooking, so I must be doing something right.

Truth doesn’t fold into easy to digest packets. It’s as messy as life. That’s okay. Whether I continue to meditate publicly or return to private counting, this Omer roadmap will help me refine myself and hopefully allow me to become a vessel for revelation on Shavuot.

Previously on this day in the Omer

21 Days 5778 / 2018: Also Shabbat, also clarity.

21 Days 5777 / 2017: The clarion truth She whispered to me…

[1] Gideon Bohak in “Prolegomena to the Study of the Jewish Magical Tradition” in Currents in Biblical Research.

Twenty days of the Omer: Bonding of Beauty

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Today was twenty days, which was two weeks and six days of the Omer. יסד שבתפארת. Yesod ShebeTiferet. Bonding of Beauty. Foundation of Truth.

Beauty is essential to life. Beauty intensifies our connections, to our core values, to the world, and to each other.

When we align ourselves with deep beauty, we align ourselves with the Divine emanating into material reality. True beauty is intrinsically connected to the Source of Creation. Beauty uncovers depth, creates the opportunity to pierce the veils and discover deep truth.

This is why I am so attracted to nusach, traditional ways of chanting Jewish prayer. The beauty of flowing together with generations of seekers, moving towards the same goals of expanding love, deeper knowledge, and pure connection.

It is why the theatre pulls me in — the revelation of experiencing art being created live, beautifully articulating the deep truth of humanity. (And it is why bad theatre tears at my soul.)

May you find the beauty that provides a foundation for your experience of truth.

Previously on this day in the Omer

20 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Depression is a sin.

20 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Creating a daily practice.

Nineteen Days of the Omer: Splendor of Beauty

Today was nineteen days, which was two weeks and five days of the Omer. הוד שבתפארת, Hod ShebeTiferet, Splendor of Beauty.

Ephemeral moments define us. The pull of prayer, the calm embrace of eternity. I reached heights as a teenager without understanding what was happening. Because I had no words for the spiritual and mystical pull of Jewish prayer, my cynical brain infantilized the experience, declaring me duped.

The Splendor of Beauty within Judaism pulled me back into living within my full self. It reminded me that I am not at the center of my story. My purpose is deeper and bigger than the breaths of my life.

I honor those who came before me, bearing witness to eternal truth. I am humbled to be walking in their footsteps. And I pray that my voice brings a fraction of the splendor of beauty within Judaism to a wider audience.

Previously on this day in the Omer

19 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Awakening to the temple of my body.

19 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: The holy splendor of leyning Torah.

Eighteen Days of the Omer: Enduring Truth

Image by enriquelopezgarre from Pixabay

Today was eighteen days, which was two weeks and four days of the Omer. נצח שבתפארת, Netzach ShebeTiferet, Eternity of Beauty, Enduring Truth.

Counting the Omer adds meaning to my life because making space for thinking about the ideas that form the matrix of meaning in my life is soul nourishing. Every year, my count is different. And so, even though I did not meditate on the eighteenth day in order (due to illness), I am making time for the reflection.

Enduring Truth. The revelation of Judaism’s daily relevance pierced my soul. It took several years to chip away at my cold exterior, to reignite my passion for deep wisdom. Growing up, I did not have access to complicated ideas, to the wisdom behind the myths. I only knew The Law and the ways we navigate between What is Right and What We Do.

Enduring Truth is not historical accuracy. It is not the police blotter report, “just the facts,ma’am” version of events. It is the meaning underneath the events that creates experience.

Enduring Truth are the core values that animate a fully present existence. It is knowing that no matter how deeply you feel, or how passionately you know, your perspective is not the ultimate perspective.

Enduring Truth is the pulsing love that connects everything to everything. It is the Divine manifesting reality.

May we each experience Enduring Truth and may we rise to the challenge of living within its shadow.

Previously on this day in the Omer

18 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Beautiful order in the physical world making space for grace.

18 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Praying for Enduring Compassion.

Seventeen days of the Omer: Truth of Truth

Today was seventeen days, which was two weeks and three days of the Omer. תפארת שבתפארת. Beauty of Beauty. אמת שבאמת, Emet ShebeEmet Truth of Truth.

The perfect synthesis of grace and judgment, loving kindness and discipline. Beauty so perfect, it reveals deep truth. Have you experienced the awe of a great work of art? A play so perfect, revealing something utterly essential about the human condition?

At an interview before our wedding, my partner and I were asked if we had season theatre tickets because “we’re supposed to.” I found it such a strange question. I mean, I guess there are people who do cultural things to keep up with others. We go to the theatre because it nourishes our souls. (And sometimes it provides comedic relief when bad.) 

A baby’s first smile. A toddler’s giggles. A child’s wonder. These are beautiful things that reveal such profound truth.

The following three books are so beautiful and such a triumph of human ingenuity. I believe the truths they reveal are important for all people. 

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Z’l 

The Path of Blessing: Experiencing the Energy and Abundance of the Divine by Rabbi Marcia Prager

Conscious Community: A Guide to Inner Work by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalyan, z’l

I wrote the above post on the seventeenth day of the Omer and did not post it because I was becoming sick and decided to sleep instead of posting. The Omer is counted for forty-nine consecutive days. I have been doing the count consistently this year, but I missed four days of blog posts due to illness. I am not publishing about those days of the Omer because I feel it is useful to have a record of my connection to this practice as it unfolds within me every year.

Previously on this day in the Omer

17 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Sinking into pure Beauty and beautiful Truth.

17 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Struggling towards pure compassion.

Sixteen Days of the Omer 5779

Image by Stefan Schweihofer from Pixabay

Today is sixteen days, which is two weeks and two days of the Omer. גבורה שבתפארת. Gevurah ShebeTiferet. Powerful Beauty, Strong Truth, Boundaries of Beautiful Truth.

Art as a meditation on Divine truth

The best art is made within boundaries. Limitations based upon type, materials, and time. Michelangelo’s David was limited by the size of the slab of marble he carved from.

Truth approaches us through different mediums. For example, see if you can guess the inspiration behind this sentence I wrote for my Homiletics class last year:

Each Jewish holiday provides a soul gem, together they form the Jewish Infinity Gauntlet,[1] unlocking our deepest potential and guiding us on the journey to wholeness and holiness.  

Obviously, I appreciate the ways my Jewish forebearers developed superheroes as much as I appreciate the breadth of holy writing compiled.

Limitations also deepen the search for meaning

The same concept applies to my pursuit of meaning: there are natural limitations on my quest for depth. I have responsibilities to complete my course work, attend classes, take care of my family. I do not have the breadth of time available to an ascetic pursuer of deep truth. And yet, the truth I am able to carve out is more meaningful because it is built in relation to a community of seekers who came before me and a family that grows around me.

This is the truth of life: there is just one life. In my life, all of my pop culture fandom and holy reverence play side by side.

Understanding God consciousness

My Hebrew teacher, Rabbi Avraham Greenstein explained Pirkei Avot 2.1 today. This sentence describes what it mean to be God conscious: “Keep your eye on three things so that you will not sin: Know what is above you; an Eye that sees, and an Ear that hears, and all your deeds are written in a book.” This is a metaphoric statement, not a literal one. All that you do, all that you say, matters. What you do matters eternally. The way you spend your time has permanence.

May I sink into eternal truth. May I have reverence for the beauty that surrounds me, both made by human creativity and within the natural world. And may I recognize the healthy limits of every pursuit.

Previously on this day in the Omer

16 Days of the Omer 2018 / 5778: Setting boundaries on compassion helps everyone.

16 Days of the Omer 2017 / 5777: Nurture your boundaries and honor your own needs.

[1] Metaphor based on the Infinity Gauntlet as described in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; the ultimate McGuffin, which requires six “soul gems” to be complete and rule the universe. See and “Guardians of the Galaxy” (movie).

[2]While dating my husband, I invited him to a lecture based on our mutual interests. To my surprise, I was inviting him to hear a high school buddy, Arie Kaplan, speak about his book From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books.

Fifteen Days of the Omer 5779: Graceful Beauty, Empathetic Truth

Today is fifteen days, which is two weeks and one day of the Omer. חסד שבתפארת, Chesed ShebeTiferet, Graceful Beauty. חסד שבאמת, Chesed ShebeEmet, Empathetic Truth.

Choose concrete steps towards a better you

None of this matters if your daily life doesn’t change. The purpose of counting the Omer is identical to any spiritual practice: reflect on deep wisdom, analyze yourself, create a vision of who you want to be, take the steps to get yourself there. Thinking about how the human desires for meaning and connection can be manipulated has made me more hesitant. I don’t have answers – I will forever be a seeker of wisdom. I have many material reality abilities for which I feel confident in my skillset. The more I learn about inner depths and deep truth, the less confident I am in my ability to transmit the knowledge.

I can say that letting go and being present have been the greatest gifts for myself and for my family. I love that my son argues for more books before bed, regardless of the time (or how sleepy his older brother is). I know my duty and try hard to reserve my judgment when my husband sleeps through every single thing that wakes me up (the dog’s nails hitting the hardwood floor, the kid claiming to be hungry before 7 a.m.). This is the empathetic truth I have woken up to through counting the Omer. It doesn’t mean I always read stories before bedtime. Or that I’m perfectly calm in the morning. But I am more deeply accepting the grace that surrounds me and not shielding myself from what I once thought was its inevitable destruction.

Sink into the beauty that surrounds you

My yard is a mess. The grass and avocado trees are struggling. Yet, the roses still bloom. And the African daisies fill my front yard with gorgeous color. I am determined to sink into the beauty and allow it to propel me to support the rest of my menagerie better.

Create a Vision, Begin a Daily Practice

Omer counting is fleeting. No matter how long it seems, it is finite. I am determined to allow this time of refection to jump start the daily practice I have been yearning to achieve. May we each embrace the graceful beauty that surrounds us and allow ourselves to give birth to empathetic truth.

Previously on this day in the Omer

15 Days of Omer 2018 / 5778: Poetic prose on graceful truth.

15 Days of Omer 2017 / 5777: Thirty day social media cleanse (with daily check-in, because cold turkey is so 2016.)

Fourteen Days of the Omer 5779: Indwelling of Strength

Tonight, as we usher in Shabbat, we will welcome the fourteenth day, which is two weeks, of the Omer. שכינה שבגבורה, Shechinah ShebeGevurah, Indwelling of Strength.

Children are the strongest force in the universe

When I was young, before my Shadow grew and my Protective Shells hardened, I was the strongest force in the universe. When you slow down and experience a child, you begin to sense that strength. The inner fortitude, the clarity of their reason, their stranglehold on fairness.

Part of the work of adulthood is making space for the purity of childhood to shine through. Allow yourself to be completely and authentically you. Recognize the power within you that comes directly from God. Know that your strength is meant for you and that you have the opportunity to turn your strength to the service of Goodness and Holiness.

Don’t abandon your toys in the search for truth

People often see me carrying around Tokidoki bags and think I’ve borrowed them from my child. Actually, when I speak I tend to come across as intensely focused on Adult Concerns. I carry pop culture ephemera with me to remind myself that (a) I should never take myself too seriously and (b) having fun / enjoying life is part of the journey. I owe it to myself not to abandon the child within. And that’s why I’m determined not to abandon my toys, my playmates, or my swimming pools in my search for meaning.

My toys: my silly t-shirts, my kawaii bags. My playmates: my sisters from Wellesley, past activism, and past jobs. My swimming pools: social media, TV shows, superhero movies. Swimming was my favorite activity as a kid. I’ve never lived in a house with a pool, but I always love to dive into the deep end of whatever I’m doing. Immersing myself in experiences, and learning to let go of the guilt that my time isn’t solely focused on Worthwhile Activities.

Revel in the Discipline and Power within

Too often, my meditations on Gevurah lean into all that I’m not yet doing. These forty-nine days are about returning towards the path you want to be on, and starting to repair the damage you’ve created in each aspect of the emanations. On the other hand, submerging in guilt over all you haven’t accomplished will never motivate you to make a change and turn toward that vision of yourself.

I find it more useful to revel in the breadth of discipline and power innate within me. Though I may be having trouble fully embracing discipline, I know that I am on the right path to achieve it. And I have faith that all of the tools I need to live a happy and healthy life exist within my control.

May you have the fortitude to revel in your own strength.

Previously on the fourteenth day of the Omer…

Fourteen Days 2018 / 5778: Hold space for others while asserting your own presence.

Fourteen Days 2017 / 5777: Transform your understanding of the past, break free of limiting narratives.

Thirteen Days of the Omer 5779: Foundation of Strength

Today is thirteen days, which is one week and six days of the Omer. יסוד שבגבורה, Yesod of Gevurah, Foundation of Strength.

I have been waffling for over an hour about this meditation and post. I was inspired by a Pixabay image of a father and son. I thought – yes, exactly. The true foundation of a person’s strength is the strength of their bonds with other people. This is such a core value in Judaism. I should use a picture of my family to illustrate this.

And then I thought – should I really do that to my kids? And this conundrum sat in my head for over an hour. An hour that I should be sleeping. Try as I might to meditate on discipline, I have yet to find a way to go to sleep at a reasonable hour.

All accomplishments rely on human connections

Human connections as the foundation of strength. You don’t have to be a parent to feel this. It’s why Facebook and the rest of the social media platforms have such a hold over us. I’ve been listening to The Dream podcast. First, it emphasizes the human need for social interaction and the deep ways that we trust other humans more than we trust institutions.

Yet, it also has me thinking about all the ways that foundational values can be twisted. From prosperity theology to the casual erasure of the Jewish origins of Proverbs 31, it is an interesting podcast to consume while attempting to sink into Jewish wisdom.

As the podcast reminds me, the need for relationships is so fundamental to human existence: to be seen, to be accepted, to be wanted. When relationships are healthy, they are the foundation of strength.

The bedrock of my strength is my family

I am deeply blessed that as flawed as I am, my primary adult desire–to find a partner and build a family–has been fulfilled. While perhaps the least “feminist” aspect of my personality, the desire for belonging is entirely normal. Again, I fully respect that not everyone wants to be a parent — and not everyone who wants to be a parent is able to. I also know that there is nothing greater than watching my kids’ minds grow, learn, and transform.

There are many other things I have wanted to do professionally — build a peace culture, transform the international and national political paradigm, market products people need when they need them, and help people connect with like-minded people to achieve collectively what is nearly impossible to achieve individually. All of those career goals were focused on my individual contribution to the world. At the back of my mind, while working and while surviving thyroid cancer, it was the yearning for a partner on the journey that left the deepest hole in my heart.

And so, perhaps the thing I need to do today is step back from ruminating on discipline. I need to recognize that my strength comes from my family. And relish that reality while I prepare to welcome in the Sabbath Queen.

What is the deepest source of your strength? When everything material is stripped away, how do you stay connected to your vision?

Previously on the thirteenth day of the Omer

13 Days 2018 / 5778: Building a firm foundation of strength that incorporates humans and ideas.

13 Days 2017 / 5777: Reverence as the bedrock of strength.