Today is thirty-nine days, which is five weeks and four days of the Omer. נצח שביסוד, Netzach ShebeYesod, Eternal Bonding.
Have you found your people? Are your people spread out, never quite all together in one place?
Or do you feel like few people really get you? That it’s hard to go deep with most people?
There are many things I could talk about for hours. My contempt for the end of Game of Thrones (and my refutation of the male fantasy of the superiority of masculine asceticism over deeply bonded feminine spirituality). My pursuit of a blush that stays visible all day (and my new found fascination with YouTube).
And most of all: the soul-crushing impact of poorly managed spiritual communities. The impact of the membership dues structure of American synagogues is difficult to put it into words.
Jewish community sometimes fails deeply
I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey to rabbinical school. How surprised I was to hear the call and how unsurprised people who have known me all my life were. After all, I was the first kid from the kids’ choir to be asked to join the adult choir when I was Bat Mitzvah’d. I immediately began tutoring other kids for their B’nai Mitzvah. And I was deeply involved in USY.
In the middle of my childhood, my folks requested a reduced-fee membership and the synagogue declined to give it to them. I continued working there and my folks started using my choir seat High Holiday ticket to get into services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. That was the beginning of a slow, but steady slide away from organized Judaism. For eight long years, I was completely disengaged. Facing my mortality via thyroid cancer forced me to re-evaluate my life choices.
Despite having just completed my third year of rabbinical school, I still have anxiety about my eternal bond. My commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people has not wavered. Yet, the soul piercing wounds of rejection (first, for not being rich enough; then for daring to have unpopular political opinions) remain with me.
Creating communities of love and support
I get that synagogues are organizations that need money to function. I don’t expect to offer my professional abilities for free. On the other hand, I hope to be part of communities who are always equally welcoming, whether you can afford to attend a gala or you can barely afford the gas to get to synagogue. Similarly, I hope to model radical inclusion across the political spectrum. I am living proof that people can evolve: that given time, even the most engrained ideas can be transformed. And I know moral people can disagree deeply on fundamental issues. After all, that is the legacy of the Talmud.
May we all heal from the wounds of disrupted bonding. And may we make space for eternal bonding to our true selves, core values, and the foundational communities of our lives.
Previously on this day in the Omer
39 days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Eternal community and personal responsibility in relationships.
39 days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Eternal foundation within my family and within myself.