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.

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.