Covenantal Love of Splendor: 29 Days of Omer 5780, Chesed of Hod. Create Space for the Divine Flow

Today is twenty-nine days, which is four weeks and one day of the Omer in the year 5780. חסד שבהוד, Chesed ShebeHod, Covenantal Love of Splendor.

To be perfectly honest, I avoided writing this meditation. Then I thought with dread about the possibility of falling asleep without writing it and adding it to my excruciatingly long to-do list for tomorrow. I suppose my course assignments are not that over-taxing. It’s just between primary parenting and having the attention span of a gnat, completing them is a heavy lift.

Inspo from Last Year: Undermining the notion of purely rational Litvaks

Skimming last year’s post, I recalled the depth of explanation revealed in The Soul of Life. The irony of this book, foundational to Litvak / Lithuanian Jewish culture, is how poetic, dare I say mystical, it reads. You see, Litvaks pride themselves on their rationality and deep intellectualism. They look down upon the poetic Polish Jews with their “backward” belief in amulets and Hasidism. Scratch the surface of these distinctions and realize their sugar essence. They dissolve under scrutiny.

In reality, all Jewish societies connected to rational Talmud study, mystical Zohar / Lurianic Kabbalistic study, and ethical / Mussar study. The trifold merger of the three foundational aspects of Judaism: ancient wisdom, philosophical / mystical Medieval expansion, and the nuts and bolts of being good and keeping yourself accountable to the good. 

Understanding the metaphor of Divine light

Rabbi Yosef Chayyim of Baghdad explained why “light” refers to activities of The One Without End (HaShem beyond the sephirot) and the sephirot: “it is not because they are really light. Rather, it’s only because of the limitation of our intellect while it is still clothed in the physicality of the body to grasp the truth nature and the essence of the spiritual, and so it is impossible to describe spiritual actions as they are, so as to assign them a sufficiently descriptive name; for that reason they assigned it the name ‘light,’ for it is the most precious of the perceivable.” (Footnote 91, Page 45)

Not even the light of HaShem is meant as a literal expression according to Jewish mystics. They realized how insufficient language is to contain what exists beyond the physical world. And yet, they also fully embraced the physical world. 

Shunning hermits, accepting the need for space

Judaism shuns hermits. Sometimes wise men may go off into the woods, or hole up in their studies. But only after getting married and producing offspring. Often, their wives financially support their mystical roundabouts. I think about this precedent when I accept that my partner takes charge of the kids after dinner to allow me to write these posts. When we believe in the work our partner is doing, it is not a burden to give them the space to continue the work. We take turns making ourselves the priority. Eventually it all gets done. 

Entering the week of Splendor

We have entered a new week of Divine permutations. Hod, Splendor, focuses the prophetic speech of Netzach, creating the temple within our bodies and in our physical location wherein we engage the Divine. The Covenantal Love of Splendor is the recognition that by making space for the Divine, we create the possibility of feeling Divine reality, recognizing the truth of God, and finding our way into relationship with HaShem. 

Clear the decks: letting go of an omniscient and omnipotent God

How can we clear the mental debris and make space for that relationship? Personally, I had to let go of Christian ideals binding my imagination. I no longer feel guilty for not believing in an all-powerful and all-knowing God. HaShem is no less ultimate, no less ever-present because I recognize the limitations of HaShem in physical reality. As Isaac Luria noted in his creation myth, making space for non-God shattered the vessels containing God. Material reality broke the Divine. By healing the brokenness within myself, I heal the Divine. This is why I named my blog Broken Rabbi (in training). I admit my brokenness. My fear lives with the anxiety of wondering if I can heal enough to be useful to those around me. 

Everything has its place

I must start with simple steps towards creating the physical space to hold me and accompany me into relationship with Eternal Strength and Grace. 

Chesed of Hod before COVID-19

5779 / 2019: Opening and expanding to receive the flow of the wellsprings of life.

5778 / 2018: Translating Psalm 13, embracing gratitude and praise.

5777 / 2017: Commit to concretely support someone else.

A book to swim in


Cover image created by Peter H and sourced through Pixabay.

Indwelling of Eternity: 28 Days of Omer 5780, Shekhinah of Netzach

Today is twenty-eight days, which is four weeks of the Omer in the year 5780. שחינה שבנצח. Shekhinah of Netzach. Indwelling of Eternity, Presence of Endurance.

Sinking into Netzach is hard during physical isolation. The only eternity that seems real is my ennui.

Seeing both mortality and eternity with clear eyes

With over 250,000 COVID-19 deaths worldwide, it is hard to stay focused on the importance of every human life and the tragedy of every death. Compassion fatigue sets in. We begin to rationalize the world as it is, rather than remembering what should be. 

Tonight I forced myself to fully see the tragic death of Ahmaud Arbery. Made myself fully understand the fate of an unarmed black man jogging in broad daylight in his own neighborhood. He was murdered by his neighbors. Most news stories only detail the murderers’ claim of a “series of break-ins in the neighborhood.” Actually, there was just one robbery reported in the neighborhood: a gun was supposedly stolen from one of the murder’s car. None of the stories I read contained any details of the dead man’s life. 

To save a life is to save the world. For each person contains a soul and in that soul is an entire world. 

The news is not providing clear guidance on the importance of each soul lost. Nor is mass culture doing a good job of helping us navigate the meaning of life and death. 

Westworld v Mamet: What would you do for the ones you love?

Mostly I hate-watched Westworld this season. It is a familiar narrative. I made it through the exhaustion of watching humans murdered with abandon last season. And this entire season was devoid of emotional investment. At the end, I realized why: philosophical inquiry without soul is torture. I cannot care more for the death of a robot child than I do about the death of a human child. Being expected to have extreme sympathy for the loss of a robot child while accepting the death of a human child as a necessary, character-building, empathy-laden plot point broke me. 

On the other hand, one of the last plays I was able to see live, The Christopher Boy’s Communion, placed a sharp spotlight on what it truly means to be a mother during an unspeakable tragedy. I do not claim David Mamet’s latest play is perfect. Rather, he successfully focused the spotlight on people other than a crime victim. 

Westworld pretends to care about philosophical inquiry, but dismisses the notion of God. Conversely, Mamet is concrete in his belief and his spiritual foundation. If the Divine is merely a creation of men, then nothing is ultimately important. If Goodness and Justice exist beyond human mortality, then the choices we make in our lives have infinite meaning. For me, this is the difference between Westworld and Mamet: playing with infinite resources to create a world devoid of infinite meaning vs playing with finite resources to uncover the eternity underneath each moment. 

Prayers to make space for the Indwelling of Eternity

May we each be inspired by our cultural consumption to swim in pools of depth. Let us find meaning in our daily grind. I pray to remember my eternal embrace of my children, regardless of how irritating I find their penchant for mischief.

Indwelling of Eternity before COVID-19

5779 / 2019: Contemplating the Indwelling of Eternity through Shabbat and The Way.

5778 / 2018: The truth I am discovering was meant for me.

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

Sinking into Foundation of Eternity: 27 days of Omer 5780 Yesod of Netzach

Today is twenty-seven days, which is three weeks and six days of the Omer in the year 5780. יסוד שבנצח, Yesod ShebeNetzach, Foundation of Eternity.

Today felt like an eternity

First, the anxiety of speaking in front of an entire class led to the destruction of a diorama (and clay and legos strewn across the house). Then, in the afternoon, they climbed up to the top of the closet, took down brand new Play-Doh, combined it to create mud color, and then mixed it with mounds of water. On the hardwood floor. 

Tuesdays were always the hardest day of the week for me. On Sunday, I teach religious school at 9:15 a.m. on Sunday. Then I go to school 1:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. On Monday, I am in class 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Before the pandemic, I never understood why Tuesday was the least productive day of my week. Well, I suppose mostly because I had a hospital chaplaincy internship to go to and keep me motivated, so Wednesday became my day to collapse. 

The long goodbye

I miss that hospital internship. Thinking a lot about hospital chaplains, patients, and patient families. Praying they are holding each other together through this incredibly difficult time. Especially since the need for community hospitals does not stop for a pandemic, but maybe people aren’t getting the treatment they need because they fear the virus. 

Two more weeks of classes in my spring semester, plus a two-day “residency” (via Zoom). So I’ll formally finish at the end of Memorial Day. My son’s school year ends at the end of that week. No word yet on how classes will resume in August. This uncertainty is unnerving. 

Getting beyond the grind

I could read psalms or pray. 

Perhaps, I should watch movies I’ve never seen or movies from my childhood or series that are new to me. 

Instead, I endlessly scroll Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

And yet, I know I need to find firm footing. Eternity rumbles with dull continuity or provides deep pools of clarity depending on one’s perspective.

Resolving to Bullet Journal

In the past, plain bullet journaling (not artistic masterpieces, but the original BuJo), helped me gain clarity, stick to mindful eating, and remember to be kind. This is the foundation of my path through eternity that I resolve to reconnect with on the 27th day of the Omer in the year 5780.

Foundation of Endurance before COVID-19

5779 / 2019: Acknowledging that passion is the foundation of my endurance.

5778 / 2018: Align your speech and actions with your higher self.

5777 / 2017: Cleave to the eternal truth within.

Book to Design the Future

In all honesty, there are fundamental truths in this book whether or not you stick with BuJo. The other great thing is that you don’t need to buy a planner and you don’t have to waste any pages — just pick it up when you can for as long as you can.

Hod of Netzach, the space that brings eternity into focus. 26 Days of Omer 5780

Today is twenty-six days, which is three weeks and five days of the Omer, in the year 5780. הוד שבנצח, Hod ShebeNetzach, Splendor of Endurance.

Netzach and Hod are the pillars of bringing the Divine into lived reality.

Having the vision to move towards the Good and the Holy: Netzach.

Creating a temple within yourself, clearing mental space and ordering physical space in alignment with that vision: Hod. 

Hod of Netzach, the space that brings eternity into focus. 

Allowing myself space to pray

Today, I allowed myself to sink into deep, contemplative prayer, uncovering painful and revelatory truths. 

I realized how deeply my ability to pray transformed through Davennen Leadership Training Institute. Sadly, the beginning of DLTI 11 is postponed. And I do not know when I will see that spirit family again in person. 

My Yetzer HaRa convinced me that prayer was not a practice I needed to seek if I could not sleep. Now I remember my soul yearns for the sweet suckle of Divine intimacy only available through the expanding flows of Jewish prayer. There is an order to the day that becomes clearer when benchmarked by Jewish services. Morning blessings, afternoon gift, evening kiss. 

Prayers for my family, my friends, and the world

Pain flows when I allow myself to sink into how much I miss the other people who help me thrive in this world. In particular, I wondered when I will see Yosef again, who lives in Baltimore and gives amazing hugs. He also gave me the most amazing gift, a copy of Siddur Masorti, an egalitarian Sephardic weekday prayer book, at the end of the fourth and final week of DLTI. I am so grateful we are eternally connected through our love of traditional prayer and egalitarian space. 

May we each find the way into self-reflexive meditation and contemplation that expands our souls and reminds us that we are on a journey through the splendor of eternity. 

Eternity before COVID-19

5779 / 2019: Bringing holiness into daily life.

5778 / 2018: We cannot control the twists of time.

5777 / 2017: Sinking into the core truth of my life.

Eternity of Eternity: 25 Days of Omer 5780, Netzach ShebeNetzach

Today is twenty-five days, which is three weeks and four days of the Omer in the year 5780. נצח שבנצח, Netzach ShebeNetzach. Eternity of Eternity. The pure essence of Endurance and Will.

Taking a moment to see beyond the moment

Sometimes, I catch myself observing my circumscribed life. Usually, this is easiest to do when observing fraught interactions between my spouse and children. Of course, I am apt to have the exact same reaction to obstinate fractionally formed humans as my husband. Still, from the distance of a few dozen meters, I can see the ways they are living past each other. 

Du Fu’s “Song of a Painting”

In college, I took two courses of Chinese literature in translation. I have this gorgeous anthology of Chinese literature compiled by Stephen Owen. I take it with me fondly from residence to residence, never actually reading it. A talisman for when my heart cracked open to the rhythms of poetry and the nuance of understanding history through literature. 

Du Fu (712-770) wrote a poem called “Song of a Painting.” According to Owen’s translation, the poem ends thus:

“Just look from ancient times till now
at the greatest names of all,
how all their days hardships and troubles
entangled them.”

Over twenty years ago, this is what I wrote in response to the stanza: How true! The greatest names lived through difficult lives, and were stronger because of it.

Entangled in Hardships

I think now about what hardship we are living through. How difficult this is for the many families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. How many people lost their jobs, are preparing to be furloughed, and are otherwise economically affected by the physically distancing measures taken to save lives. I consider the mental strain we are all under, regardless of whether we are sheltering alone or with family or with friends. Our mouths speak the anguish of hearts often with words more vitriolic than we truly mean. 

Endurance to Find the Will to Lean Into Goodness and Grace

I cannot proscribe speech or actions for anyone beyond myself. I can only resolve to choose compassion, acknowledging the experiences of those around me. By living into the uncertainty and anxiety that bubbles up around us, I can swim towards growth. 

Eternity before this unending pandemic

5779 / 2019: Bat Kol: the source of my eternal will.

5778 / 2018: Realizing the companionship of my will.

5777 / 2017: Embracing the holiness of enduring eternity.

The book (which, alas, is expensive)

True Eternal Will: 23 Days of Omer 5780, Tiferet ShebeNetzach

Today is twenty-four days, which is three weeks and three days of the Omer in the year 5780. תפארת שבנצח, Tiferet ShebeNetzach, Harmonious, True Eternal Will.

Sinking into the Eternity of This Moment

While it is true that there are so many aspects of me yearning to be expressed, there is part of me that never wants this moment to end.

I love my family fiercely and I love being surrounded by them. My four year-olds need for random hugs, my six year-old learning new words every day. Their father sinking into his original artistic passions for drawing and woodworking. The dog always at my side, guarding my neshama, my soul.

I will need to ease into life without their constant presence. I will need to know they are safe and not in danger of contracting a fatal illness before I am comfortable opening the doors to our home again. 

Beautiful Truth Guiding My Eternal Will

Here are some truths I have learned that I try to live by:

The judgments of my ego are usually not the words the people around me need to hear.

Observing the world with love softens the edges of criticism and guides me towards being a healing presence.

No matter what they do, yelling at my kids will not make their actions more rational or make me feel more at peace.

Curses indicate weakness. True strength lies in speaking words of love and respect.

Sealing my Intentions towards my Rock and my Redeemer

I am reminded of Psalm 19. It reflects my deep desire to constantly remember covenantal love for humanity and discipline in repeating my ego’s judgments before allowing anything to leave my mouth. Urged towards remaining awake for this journey, and directing my passion towards Divine Goodness. 

“Let my mouth’s utterances be pleasing,
And my heart’s stirrings before You,
Ground of Being, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Psalm 19, verse 15. Robert Alter translation from The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary with my understanding of a better translation of God’s Name. 

The Omer before COVID-19

5779 / 2019: I need a roadmap for this thing called life.

5778 / 2018: Wisdom, Discernment, and Understanding.

5777 / 2017: The courage to speak my truth even when others hide their essence.

Books for the journey

        

Strength of Eternity: 23 Days of the Omer, Gevurah ShebeNetzach

Today is twenty-three days, which is three weeks and two days of the Omer, in the year 5780. גבורה שבנצח Gevurah ShebeNetzach, Strength of Eternity, Disciplined Endurance.

Whatever happened today, Eternity awaits

When I was in seventh grade, I became super curious why we die. I checked a book out of the library full of philosophical discussions on mortality. The part that I understood concluded that having a finite amount of time provides a reason for existing. 

It seems that the open-ended nature of this pandemic expands its impact on our collective psyche. However good or bad today was, tomorrow is more of the same. Our ability to change our circumstances are quite circumspect. Eternity, ever distant, weighs heavily on us. 

A Shabbat of Eternity

We Jews are fond of citing Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. He was a spiritual giant, a poetic writer, and greatly misunderstood and maligned while alive. His book, The Sabbath, speaks about creating a temple in time. By separating ourselves from regular day existence, we provide a respite for the soul and reconnect with the holy essence of the universe. 

I imagine he would be disturbed by the preponderance of digital Shabbat services. So many synagogues vying for attention throughout the week, and especially on Shabbat. Yet, if we are really real with ourselves, we would admit that we are exhausted by being online and having the strength to let go of our digital devices for twenty-five hours might be the most truly soul-expanding thing we could do. 

As I write these thoughts on Shabbat, I admit to you that I am not strong enough to fully let go of this lifeline to the outside world. 

Disciplined Endurance of 24/7 Childcare

I marvel at people who can take care of young children 24/7 while maintaining mindful eating, not drinking alcohol, and not consuming chocolate. Personally, I placed an order for clothes in the next size up. 

This has been a particularly trying day. I pray I have the endurance to focus on the completion of my assignments prior to my class meetings on Sunday and Monday. I definitely did not imagine myself in the role of primary parent without childcare when I signed up for five classes this semester.

May we each feel held by an unending love while we reach towards the discipline to align with the enduring will calling to us. 

Eternity before COVID-19

5779 / 2019: Disciplined Endurance to Accept Who You Are Today.

5778 / 2018: Four books for finding will / changing habits.

5777 / 2017: The source of evil.

Books by and about Rabbi Heschel

                       

Meditating on Endurance During COVID-19, 22 days of Omer 5780, Chesed ShebeNetzach, Covenantal Love of Eternity

Today is twenty-two days, which is three weeks and one day of the Omer, in the year 5780. חסד שבנצח, Chesed ShebeNetzach, Covenantal Love of Eternity, Eternal Will.

Traditionally the week to reflect on Enduring Will

In the past, this is the week where I clarify my plans for the coming year and assert my intention to follow a particular path. 

Previously, I committed to mindful eating, daily prayer, softening my interactions with other people. All of those things are great and beneficial and I wish good favor to everyone who can follow those paths. 

Enduring Will to Survive and Begin to Thrive

Nothing has taken more endurance than being enrolled in five graduate courses while overseeing a Mandarin Immersion first grader’s homework schedule. I barely keep up with my own homework assignments. I lose sleep to escapist streaming television. Rinse and repeat. The days blur together. 

I can hardly imagine what this would look like if I had a full-time job rather than the flexibility of being a full-time student. I think about the rhythm of my children; how I had to decline continued snuggles from my four year-old to write this reflection. I do not know if this path is the right one for my young children. All I know is that I was compelled to take this journey. My soul announced its intention, waited six years for my ego to have the courage to follow the dream, and there is no way back. 

Still, I wonder about my laser focus on the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom over the past four years.  Did I dismiss my responsibility to participate in childhood too quickly? I am not talking about sending the kids to daycare, preschool, and aftercare. That would have happened if I was working. I mean the way it is so difficult for me to be fully present to the whims and wants of small children. Babies make sense to me. Children who can read but are not sure if bunnies have fur are a mystery. 

Eternal Connection to the Eternal Child Within

So much healing can occur when we maintain contact with our inner child. When I see her struggles in the light of an adult mind. Endless love for her insatiable curiosity. Connecting to the joy and spiritual grounding that existed before I understood synagogue economics and class dynamics. 

Love no matter what

My covenant with myself and my family require me to root my interactions in love. When I fail to temper the sound of my voice or the words I utter, I recoil and return to love. 

May we all find the covenantal love that propels us into alignment with enduring will. 

Before the pandemic…

5779 / 2019: Contemplating and Creating Eternal Endurance

5778 / 2018: Enduring toddlers with grace.

5777 / 2017: Hold steadfast to your goals.

Divine Presence Guides Beautiful Truth: 21 Days, 3 Weeks of Omer 5780. Shekhinah ShebeTiferet

Today is twenty-one days, which is three weeks, of the Omer in the year 5780. שכינה שבתפארת, Shekhinah ShebeTiferet, Indwelling Presence of Beauty / Truth.

Mourning our Summer Plans

My family had the distinct privilege of knowing our summer plans before the pandemic, and having the resources to plan a family vacation. More than the specific itinerary, it was the opportunity to spend two weeks with my extended family that I am mourning. Celebrating my father’s 80th birthday with my parents, siblings, niece, and nephews. We are FaceTiming more than we ever have before; but as my six year-old will tell you, it is not the same.

Iguazu Falls, the largest chain of waterfalls in the world, is on my bucket list of places in the world I hope to see. Where do you hope to travel when this pandemic passes?

Divine Presence Guides Beautiful Truth

As I say shalom to Israel Independence Day, I am left with the shimmering presence of the Ground of Being. She is ever-present, always available, constantly nourishing our souls.

The beautiful truth of God’s existence and how to allow Her Sovereignty in my life is incredibly powerful. My life is infinitely better without my ego as the ultimate decider. I align myself with the Good, the Truth, the Beauty; Love and Discernment; Eternal Will; Well-Ordered Space; Foundational Support. I suckle Divine support with every breath I take, every prayer I utter, every kind word I speak. 

May you find your way to an intimate relationship with the Cause of Being. 

Previous Divine Embraces…

5779 / 2019: Indwelling of Truth: Judaism is Androcentric and I am peripherally powerful

5778 / 2018: Shabbat and clarity.

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

Photographs on this blog…

Willian Hludke took the above photograph of Iguazu Falls and made it available on Pixabay. Pixabay is a search engine for free stock photography that doesn’t require attribution. When photographers list Instagram accounts, I try to credit them on my Instagram posts, but I am not consistent. When I list the credit as a caption on the photo, it becomes the preview text for the blog. So, I have mostly left off crediting the photographs in this series. If you search for them on Pixabay, you will find them. 

Foundation of Truth: Celebrating Israel Independence Day and 20 days of the Omer 5780, Yesod ShebeTiferet

Today is twenty days, which was two weeks and six days of the Omer, in the year 5780. יסד שבתפארת. Yesod ShebeTiferet. Bonding of Beauty. Foundation of Truth. It is also the 5th day of Iyar, which means it is Israel Independence Day, Yom Ha’Atzmaut.

A short meditation

Find the foundation of truth within your life. Do not be alarmed if that foundation shifts. Embrace your people and love them fiercely. 

Am Yisrael Chai!

and now for the longer (yet still abbreviated) story of how I became a Zionist…

The Season of Birthdays

Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom is celebrating its 105th birthday. My partner is slightly younger than that. Today, Israel honored its fallen soldiers. Tonight, we begin to honor Israel Independence Day

Such important book ends for me. Peace and Justice Studies, my college major led me to see a women’s peace organization as the perfect landing place for my intellectual and activist pursuits at the end of four years at a women’s college. I learned how the UN operates. How civil society engages with the international apparatus. Most importantly, the limits of holding countries accountable to international law. 

WILPF saw the opportunity to advocate for the passage of UN Security Council 1325, the first to acknowledge the connection between gender and security issues. The UN Security Council has now passed ten resolutions relating to the women, peace, security agenda. Of course, none of this means anything unless we implement the vision of these resolutions and insist on women’s equal involvement in every level of government. The other major program of WILPF, Reaching Critical Will, focuses on disarmament and arms control, including banning nuclear weapons. 

My life as a peace activist

For a long time, my life revolved around WILPF. I joined the national, international, and local boards of directors. In 2007, I led a workshop in Bolivia to convince explain how blogging would be a great way to expand our activism on global policy issues. I crafted e-newsletters and formal statements to support the organization’s agenda. I even tried to participate in a capacity-building mission to the WILPF Middle East sections. Potential funders deemed my participation problematic. They saw me as biased and chose to defund the mission. They claimed my insistence on separating the words “Jew” from “Israeli” (especially within the context of activism in the United States) proved a bias in favor of Israel. None of these people who made those statements had observed me engaging directly with women from the Middle East at the WILPF triennial congress in Bolivia. 

At the time, I could not see the anti-Jewish bias inherent in the BDS movement. I actually took a paid job at another women’s peace organization after that incident. The organization had multiple campaigns, including BDS. My focus was ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bringing the money home for the needs of American cities. All of my years of peace activism culminated in 2011 with the passage of an anti-war resolution by the US Conference of Mayors

Providing tools rather than grassroots leadership

My focus shifted again when I went to work for NationBuilder in 2012, a tech startup designed to allow people to harness the power of online organizing to create tangible change in their communities. I let go of my political activism and focused on creating software based on the principals I had learned from my years as an activist. 

Formally renouncing membership

In 2017, realizing BDS was no longer a movement I could endorse, I formally separated from WILPF. This included recusing myself from my “lifetime membership.” WILPF was my home for 18 years before I realized I needed to move forward without it. At the time, I wrote the following:

Confronting the antisemitism of progressive spaces is painful and exhausting. 

It took me a long time to see past the rhetoric of the left and understand Zionism is the rational, reasonable desire for Jewish political sovereignty. Just as I defend the need for women’s spaces while acknowledging the rights of trans folks, intersex folks, and men, I will defend Jewish spaces.

I know how divisive this issue is within the Jewish community and beyond it. I am not going to stop working for peace and justice. I am choosing more carefully how to do that. 

I can no longer ally myself with organizations that support BDS, even if my involvement has nothing to do with their work regarding Israel / Palestine. Therefore, I am giving up my life membership in Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. This won’t mean much to most people. It is the end of an era for me. Shabbat shalom.

Zionism: Jewish self-determination and self-preservation

The hatred of Jewish people and Jewish civilization has been a constant since the Roman Empire. Zionism is one logical way for Jewish people to combat Jew hatred.

Jewish people wanting political freedom is not racism. Yet, many people describe Jewish settlement in Israel “colonizing.” Archaeological evidence proves Jews have a longer continuous history on the soil than any other group.

And yet, it is also true that Israel is a refuge for Jews from around the world. Just as we have been thanking God for thousands of years for making us Israel (one of the traditional morning prayers, using Israel as a collective name of the Jewish people); so too in the modern era have we made a state to support our continued existence as individual humans and as a collective people. 

After the pandemic, I pray I will be able to go to Israel

The reality is, I have never been to Israel. Birthright started right before I graduated college. At that point, I had no interest in a propaganda trip. I had already been called a self-hating Jew for years. By the time my understanding changed, I aged out of the free trips. My seminary was designed for mid-career transition. While we are encouraged to study in Israel, it is not required. And frankly, as the primary parent of young children, I have no idea how I would actually spend a summer away from them at Pardes

Last year, I participated in an inter-seminary student seminar from the Shalom Hartman Institute. I drank from the pools of Ahad Ha’Am in an overview of Jewish philosophy course taught by the incomparable Rabbi Tal Sessler. And I’ve been swimming in Jewish history, first from Dr. Joel Gereboff and now learning details of Israeli history from Dr. Bob Levy. So there is so much more I could write about Israel’s Independence Day specifically and Zionism generally. For now, I needed to provided a bit of an overview of my journey to this truth. 

Foundation of Truth: Justice, Peace, and Freedom

Throughout my life, the pursuit of justice, peace, and freedom guided me. Not merely the absence of war, but the development of deep peace. Engaging all people in social and political decision-making. Where all people have their basic needs met. Long before universal basic income there was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted the same year Israel became a state. it guarantees all people economic, social, and political rights. 

My journey is a particularly convoluted path. Part of me has a deep fear that my previous activist life will keep me from finding paid work once I become an ordained rabbi. Perhaps this blog will make people wary of employing me. This much is true: writing words into paragraphs and sharing my ideas with the world is an activity that brings order to my world and joy to my soul. 

I pray that by sharing my journey with you, you feel a little less bound to the person you are today. May we each take the opportunity to grow into the depths of ourselves. May we be fearless when given the opportunity to overcome the limits of our previous identities.

Previous ruminations on 20 days of the Omer

5779 / 2019: Deep beauty in nusach and theatre.

5778 / 2018: Depression is a sin.

5777 / 2017: Creating a daily practice.