39 days of Omer 5780: Eternal Bonding, Netzach of Yesod

Today is thirty-nine days, which is five weeks and four days of the Omer in the year 5780. נצח שביסוד, Netzach ShebeYesod, Eternal Bonding.

Eternal Family Bonds

I joined my mom on a cousins’ Zoom call. Everyone on the call was related to my maternal grandfather and his many siblings. Papa Jack Margolis was the most important man in my life throughout our time together. My bond with him is so deep that I named my first-born in his honor. 

It was such a weird thing. I do not recall ever meeting, in person, any of the people on the call. And yet, I am sure we were together because we all had fond memories of deli food and swimming at the same aunt and uncle’s house. They had the coolest house, with an open floor plan and dolphins carved into the bottom of their pool. It was magical. 

I wish I could give my kids a summer full of swimming with their cousins.

Eternal Intellectual Bonds

I had my last history class today. It was supposed to be a day of reflection on a year of learning from the inimitable Dr. Bob Levy with Bob.

Unfortunately, it had to be time to reflect without Bob. He passed away completely unexpectedly and we are among the last people who had the honor of being his students. I cannot tell you how many books he referenced over the last year and said, “You have to have this.” Over time, I stopped writing down the names — afraid of tempting myself into even more overflowing shelves. But today, I had to buy some of them. If Bob thought they were important, then I need them on my shelves. (I ordered them used via Abebooks, along with a few Kindle samples. I will share Amazon links below.)

Eternal Spiritual Bonds

Our souls are intertwined with one another, whether by blood or by spirit. Bob’s love for all the strange corners of Jewish civilization. Papa Jack’s love for his mother and his eight siblings. Together, we are bound towards healing and wholeness. May we never forget our common humanity, our common origin, and our common conclusion.  

Previously on 39 days of the Omer

5779 / 2019: Painful cracks within eternal bonds.

5778 / 2018: Eternal community and personal responsibility.

5777 / 2017: The eternal foundation within my family.

Some books Bob Levy, z”l, thinks you’ve gotta have 

38 Days of Omer 5780: Harmonious Bonding, Tiferet of Yesod

Today is thirty-eight days, which is five weeks and three days of the Omer in the year 5780. תִּפְאֶרֶת שביסוד, Tiferet ShebeYesod, Harmonious Bonding.

What binds you to life during this pandemic?

My four year-old scream crying for an hour. Refusing to eat a single sauce-drenched carrot slice. 

The six year-old focused intensely on computer games. Willing to take a brief respite for the Tickle Monster. 

Older husband, mocking my attempts to take a break from writing my finals to watch Netflix, whilst the four year-old insists on hanging out with me. Remind me that there would be even less room for my casual indulgence if there were more souls to tend in our home. 

Relentlessly Pursuing Divine Sovereignty

The yoke of the Divine calls me. 

She gently pursues me, whispering in my ear the pleasures of sinking deeply into my truth self. 

Choose to be an echo of God’s grace.

Honor the eternal soul within and the eternal souls surrounding you. 

Choose life, above all. 

Continue to live and relentlessly support the holiness of the life that surrounds you. Remember this clarion call to support the lives around you.

38 days of Omer through time

5779 / 2019: Embracing your life’s purpose.

5778 / 2018: Witnessing the ordination of Rabbi Aviva Funke.

5777 / 2017: The truth at the heart of my journey.

37 Days of Omer 5780: Boundaries during COVID, Gevurah of Yesod

Today is thirty-seven days, which is five weeks and two days of the Omer in the year 5780. גבורה שביסוד, Gevurah ShebeYesod, Boundaries in Bonding.

How in the world do we maintain boundaries with the people we are sheltering with? Do you ever feel like there is enough space for you admit the chatter? If you are sheltering alone, are you several weeks past caring about flattening the curve? Do the boundaries feel completely oppressive to you?

Intentional Daily Activity to Reconnect with My Soul

Clear intentions allow me to hold clear boundaries. 

And yet, with the collapse of all that was normal, what is possible now?

What I know for sure: connecting to a daily activity that reconnects you to the things that matter to you is the key to riding the waves that will come with this pandemic.

Counting Omer creates space for me to breathe, though it strains my relationships with the people in this house.

Chanting prayers breaks my Yetzer HaRa’s destructive grip on my tongue. 

Shuckling, swaying to allow the Divine energy to flow through every part of my being, reminds me who I am. 

Recognize our limits

Whether you are deeply lonely because you are sheltering alone. Or you cannot hear yourself think because of the noise and humans around you. Honor that these are not normal times. 

Do not give up on the quest for inner clarity and the healthiest personality possible. 

One step at a time, we will move towards clear boundaries and displine in our bonding and our personalities.

This day of the Omer before COVID-19

5779 /2019: Boundaries in Bonding.

5778 / 2018: Hold space for yourself while building community.

5777 / 2017: Discipline in interpersonal relationships.

36 Days of Omer 5780, Covenantal Love in Personality: Chesed of Yesod

Today is thirty-six days, which is five weeks and one day of the Omer in the year 5780. חסד שביסוד, Chesed ShebeYesod, Covenantal Love of Foundation.

One’s personality can be described as one’s foundation. It is the prism and prison through which we see the world. In this week, I will endeavor to discuss how the sephirot are refracted through personality. 

Connecting to Covenantal Love

It is so easy to separate ourselves from the Divine. To see ourselves as completely separate from the Soul of Souls, the Ground of Being. Even worse, we get wrapped up in other people’s definitions of HaShem and declare “I don’t believe in God.” Every time I hear that, I want to say “explain what you mean, because I probably don’t believe in that god either.” 

We also have a hard time accepting covenantal love. As if accepting a formal relationship with HaShem excludes other people from having such a relationship. Or worse, perhaps we think our type of relationship is the only true way to connect with the Divine. 

Choosing Words Wisely

The deepest way I try to reflect covenantal love in my daily life is to choose the words I say and write. Let me admit, my ability shattered in the first weeks of sheltering in place. My ability to write has often backfired against me. Some would say I speak too freely about my personal life on this blog, and thus limit my future job prospects. 

I only know one way of being: truly honest, though with socially appropriate barriers to my personal depths. 

When I say that my goal is to not raise my voice nor use language that I do not want to hear from my children, it is not because I have never done those things. It is because I have experienced being on the other side of that. And I have witnessed how my anger only adds to my childrens’ disregulation. 

Moments of Prayer

I am trying to build up my prayer muscles. For now, I will say that prayerful moments and contemplative meditation on holy texts are gifts from God. May we all accept those gifts graciously.

Accepting our own limits

I cannot change my deep focus on my own studies. Nor can I change the number of gatherings I did not attend because I was in class or studying. I can only look forward and choose to be more mindful about creating space for all aspects of my life. I have never been more conscious of what a gift human contact is. It may be a long time before I am comfortable attending in-person gatherings. I am preparing now to be fully present at those events by focusing my attention on the humans I am with now. 

36 days of Omer before COVID-19

5779 / 2019: The child within clings to you.

5778 / 2018: Embracing full-throated love.

5777 / 2017: Selfless love connects covenantal communities.

35 Days of Omer, Shekhinah of Hod, Indwelling of Splendor

Today is thirty-five days, which is five weeks of the Omer in the year 5780. שכינה שבהוד, Shechinah ShebeHod, Indwelling of Splendor.

My meditation last year brings me comfort as I try to wrap my head around the tragic loss of my beloved history professor, Dr. Bob Levy. 

Bob Levy: Passionate Lover of the Jewish People

No one has ever lived who loved the Jewish people as fiercely as Dr Bob Levy. I have never experienced anyone as passionate in his lectures. His whole body became enflamed with outrage every week, with every catastrophe and slight he had to explain to us. Every expulsion and mass murder of Jews for being Jews. Every new iteration of Jew hatred and Judeophobia. And how we kept rising. When they murdered our babies, stole our sons for their army, forced us to choose death or conversion, somehow, we survived. 

Bob Levy: Progressive Defender of Zionism

Nowadays people mock Zionism and claim we can’t possibly be connected to our land because at one point Zionists wanted to move Jews to Africa. Bob mourned that it never came to fruition. Accepting space in Africa meant moving Jews en masse out of Europe. For people feared more killing would occur. Imagine if we left before the Shoah. That is why Bob mourned it so much. And he had such pathos for Herzl. In his lecture about the Uganda Affair, he described it thus:

Herzl was focused on Rescuing European Jewry – not gradually over decades, as his practical and cultural Zionist opponents wanted, but immediately. This desire for immediate refuge, took him to accept the British offer of part of Uganda (now Kenya). “The Uganda Affair” was so scathing that the stress has been surmised to have killed him. The controversy’s resolution was laden with dire and tragic consequences for the Zionist movement itself. 

My lecture notes, December 8, 2019. Dr. Bob Levy speaking on “Autoemancipation, Jewish Socialism, and Early Zionism”

I fear that the weight of physical distancing, compounded with underlying health problems, was too much for Bob. Our great lover of the Jewish people was crushed by the inability to be with us. Yet he leaves behind countless students and colleagues who learned so much from him.

Divine Mother spread Your Wings of Splendor over us

Remind us that though we cannot hug one another, nor wail together over this incalculable loss, we are all together spiritually. May Bob’s students and his student’s students and their students live for a thousand generations. Let us all feel in our bones the deep connections of the Jewish people. For we must proudly support one another. And may some of us carry on his progressive political perspective. 

Baruch Dayan HaEmet

5 Weeks Before this Dark Cloud

5779 / 2019: Splendor surrounds us and gives us life.

5778 / 2018: Allowing Splendor to flourish.

5777 / 2017: Three-fold souls and bonding with the Infinite.

Some books Bob loved

The photo on this post was taken at the beach in Tel Aviv by Richard van Liessum via Pixabay. May we all be as passionate as Bob was about Am Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael. (The people of Israel and the state of Israel.)

34 Days of Omer 5780, Bonding of Splendor, Yesod of Hod

Today is thirty-four days, which is four weeks and six days of the Omer in the year 5780. יסוד שבהוד, Yesod ShebeHod, Bonding of Splendor.

How do you connect the splendid indwelling of the Divine with the material world?

From where in the material world do you praise HaShem?

What tangible gift to the eternal splendor of the Breath of Life have you made?

Parenting is the greatest sacrifice and deepest joy I have ever known. I lived a long time before becoming a parent. And I knew I hadn’t fully become myself, even at the advanced maternal age of thirty-five. 

Remembering the bonds that root us

And so, as we all try to clear space in our heads for ourselves, may we remember the bonds we have with other humans are stronger than the chasm of space between us.

Our bonds are deeper than the arguments we have on Facebook. We may never all agree on the breadth of the threat we are currently facing, but one thing is for certain: the bonds of humanity connect HaShem to this world. 

Deepen understanding through the Enneagram

To deepen my connection to the world beyond my head, I plan to dive back into the Enneagram this summer. Books by Riso & Hudson on The Wisdom of the Enneagram and Personality Types introduced me. A good friend recommended Awareness, a book that connects the Enneagram to Jewish insight. So these are on my summer reading list. I pray to gain insight about the foundation through which other people see the world: the many prisms of personality through which we think, speak, and act. 

I am a Reformer in case that wasn’t clear from my writing. 🙂

Previously on the 34rd day of the Omer

5779 / 2019: Manifesting splendor in daily life.

5778 / 2018: Pursuing soul-nourishing, spirit-enhancing activities.

5777 / 2017: Leaving a rabbinical student retreat, praying to hold onto wisdom.

Enneagram Books

Image by Kim Hester via Pixabay.

Lag B’Omer 5780: Hod of Hod, Splendor of Splendor

Today is thirty-three days, which is four weeks and five days of the Omer in the year 5780. הוד שבהוד, Hod of Hod, Splendor of Splendor. That means we have reached the extremely minor holiday of Lag B’Omer!

Hod: creating a dwelling place for the Divine

According to Rabbi Finley, the energy of Hod helps us bring the emanations of the Divine into physical space. This is the energy that creates a mishkan, a dwelling place for the Divine. There is the dwelling place within our souls and there is the dwelling place in physical reality. 

When I can tap into both the dwelling place within and create calming space around me, then it is possible to be a clear conduit of the Divine. This is why retreats are so effective — we enter numinous space, untouched by the mundane burdens of everyday living. We gather with friends, old and new. We create an intentional, and time-bound community. And we flow in the life-giving waters of Divine-knowing. 

Retreats create space full of Hod, free of memories

I mourn for in-person community. My body rejects Zoom. Like my children, I am happy to be online for countless hours, but pretending to be connected to people on a computer screen zaps my energy like nothing else. Even getting the flu earlier this year was easier than being in class from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. via Zoom. I used to think there was something wrong with me personally. Now that more people are experiencing the soul-crushing reality of Zoom, I realize I am not unique. Computer screens are hard to focus on with emotional intensity for longer than thirty minutes.

Creating a mishkan within my home

So I dedicate myself to creating the dwelling place of the Divine within my home. Today, I shall clean the bathrooms and put away the laundry. Sometime this week, I shall make gluten-free pancakes and maybe even some gluten-free cookies. There will be laughter and love and lots of hugs to celebrate the Divine flowing through us and with us through these choppy waves of uncertainty.

I might even finish my courses on time within the next 1.5 weeks. It will be a miracle if it occurs, but stranger things have happened. B’ezrat HaShem. With the helps of the Ground of Being. 

Previously on Lag B’Omer

5779 / 2019: Cracking through the plain truth of Birkat HaShachar

5778/ 2018: What is your essential prayer for yourself?

5777 / 2017: Yearning for meaning and truth.

Photo by Michel van der Vegt via Pixabay

32 Days of Omer 5780: Eternal Splendor, Netzach of Hod

Today is thirty-two days, which is four weeks and four days of the Omer in the year 5780. נצח שבהוד, Netzach ShebeHod, Eternal Splendor.

Sinking into the Mishkan

Today I allowed myself to be fully honest with the adults around me. I accepted the fierce embraces of my child with as much affection as he gave me. And I allowed my other child the space he needed to enjoy his new found love of computer games. 

We cannot see the end of this pandemic. There is no way to know for certain what our next steps should be individually or collectively. The distance between our experiences widen. 

I choose to sink into the knowledge that the eternal splendor of the Divine meets me in the dwelling place of my soul. 

Stepping into today

I will honor the holiness of my physical space by choosing to create and maintain a schedule for cleaning it, and for doing the laundry in a timely manner. 

Pop culture: the balm for my weary soul

The lack of purely adult space is a bit exhausting. Last night, I gave myself the gift of beginning to watch Outlander on Netflix. Perhaps one day I’ll also sink into the novels the show is based on. For now, I am grateful to watch adult humans focused on adult human emotions without robots or children being at the forefront of their dialog. 

Prayer for Eternal Splendor to Reach You

May you be able to set aside all that binds you to anxiety and fear.

I pray you have moments of respite in the day ahead. 

Let us come together in awe of the eternal splendor reaching towards us. 

Divine Mother, nourish us with your warm embrace.  

The other days of Eternal Splendor

5779 / 2019: Eternal Splendor found within the rhythm of Jewish prayer. 

5778 / 2018: Is there something in life that connects us to pure holiness?

5777 / 2017: The holiness of community.

That book where Jamie has longer hair

31 Days of Omer 5780, Beautiful Splendor, Tiferet Hod

Today is thirty-one days, which is four weeks and three days of the Omer in the year 5780. תפארת שבהוד. Tiferet ShebeHod, Beauty of Splendor.

Harmony in Exile

Today was the beginning of our ninth week of exile, sheltering in place, avoiding the outside world. I have not taken up any new hobbies, learned any new languages, or started playing any new instruments. I’m not even a particularly good companion to the people I share 1,400 square feet with. 

Yet there are moment when I feel the hum of harmony. The perfect splendor of my tradition reveals itself daily in my studies. 

We Jews are a people first and foremost. Before Christians invented the idea of “religion” (a cleaner, less ethnically driven way to convert pagans), we gathered around HaShem and the revelation of Her word. Many people think they know our early history, as it is taught to Christians and Muslims alike. Even the stories in the Hebrew Bible don’t tell the whole story. My people believed in a female god alongside a warrior god; perhaps more so given the number of female figurines found through archaeological excavation. 

The men of the one unified understanding of HaShem learned to write, became the scribes of kings, and ultimately changed the course of Jewish history. Our Divine Mother peaks through in unexpected ways.

Entering the Day of Mothers

This is a hard day. Not just for those of us who had to oversee the creation of gifts to ourselves. It is a day of reconciliation: of recognizing how much we do not have, or perhaps did not have, in our relationships. Everyone deserves a deep and loving relationship with their mother. Everyone deserves to feel that their mother was the first person who loved them. Though the “mother archetype” may not even be female in your life, we each deserve that person. 

If your relationship with your mother is not ideal, I see you.

Those mourning mothers who have passed from this world to the next, I see you.

Sisters wishing for just one day away from their blessed children, I see you.

The harmony of splendor embraces us all

Regardless of whether you have harmonious or disintegrated relationships with the humans in your life, the harmony of splendor embraces you. There is a mishkan, a place, within you calling you gently back to the deepest part of yourself. Your soul is there with you, aligned with the timelessness beyond time, the space beyond worlds. May your day bring you a moment of alignment with this truth.

Harmonious Splendor Before 2020

5779 / 2019: The beautiful splendor of the yoke of the Divine.

5778 / 2018: Uncovering deep truth through prayer.

5777 / 2017: The beautiful truth of soulful community. 

30 Days of Omer 5780, Strength of Splendor, Gevurah of Hod

Today is thirty days, which is four weeks and two days of the Omer in the year 5780. גבורה שבהוד, Gevurah of Hod, Strength of Splendor.

Having the strength to lead my children

It is strange time to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week. To anticipate Mother’s Day while living into the eighth week of never leaving your children for very long. I am so fatigued that I avoid every non-mandatory Zoom gathering. 

Thing 1’s first grade class meetings are particularly difficult. My son ran away because he couldn’t handle the pressure of creating comparisons to describe me. Having consumed neither coffee or breakfast, I had no patience for the demands to describe me as pretty and nice. It was a wretched day. Oh wait, that may have just been yesterday.

In any event, today, he wrote those sentences on the book creator app. Blessedly, he found a single image of female rabbis to accompany his final sentence. “But most special of all, my mom is as special as a rabbi.”

He also finished the other Mother’s Day project (that I had to scrounge for blank back-sides of paper to print). 2020 will not include a present from Thing 2 because I refuse to create another piece of ephemera for myself. I remain buttressed by Thing 2’s continuous requests for hugs and tickles. 

The splendor of take out food

In this eighth week of isolation, we have caved into our cravings and ordered take-out. Previous weeks, one of us made every. single. meal. For Shabbat, we had the most glorious treat: freshly made spring rolls, fried tofu, tofu pad Thai, and for my husband, Chinese broccoli with tofu. If you are on the Western edge of the San Gabriel Valley, I strongly recommend nine & nine Thai kitchen in Pasadena. You could also order some books from Vroman’s bookstore for curbside pickup and have a perfect Pasadena expedition.

Grace for the lack of discipline

I usually push myself to lean into the discipline aspect of Gevurah and berate myself for not living up to the fantasies in my head. Today, I choose to have grace for myself. Perhaps in the coming weeks I will find the discipline to complete a Jewish prayer service daily. For now, I want to lean into gratitude that I am counting the Omer and chanting the Shema as I tuck my precious babies into bed. 

I look at myself in the mirror a lot — strange how every bathroom sink seems to have a mirror overlooking it. I’m watching my white hair grow around my face and reveling at the way my children are growing into themselves. Praying Thing 2 never outgrows his love of tickles and hugs. Hoping Thing 1 learns to use soap in addition to reveling the flow of water when he showers by himself. And I pray we never stop loving one another. 

Prayers for the Strength of Splendor

May our Shabbat, our holy day of connection with our souls and the Soul of the Universe, nourish us. I hope we feel the strength of splendor percolating in every moment. God, help us find the way to discipline our speech and remember that those around us are doing the best they can in an unprecedented time. 

Gevurah of Hod before COVID-19

5779 / 2019: Making space for the discipline of splendor.

5778 / 2018: Building a regular practice of gratitude.

5777 / 2017: Thoughts on splendor and conversion.