Forty-five days of the Omer: Truth of Divine Presence

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Today is forty-five days, which is six weeks and three days of the Omer. אמת שבשכינה. Emet ShebeShechinah. Truth of Divine Presence.

Recently, there has been a lot of conversation regarding the lack of shared truth. How partisan news sources and social media distort basic facts, and society lacks grounding in shared truth. This can make people wary of discussing truth that is beyond material reality.

Honor empirical truth

Yes, we must honor empirical truth. We must honor scientific knowledge, and encourage respect for subject matter experts.

The Truth beyond the veil

Moving beyond polemics, we encounter a deeper level of truth. A welcoming prayer space provides a respite for all spiritual seekers, regardless of beliefs. In the right milieu, no one has to be taught how to be in a prayer space. We allow our bodies to release tension and sink into the present moment. Breathing deeply, we consider the miracles that surround us. Making space for the deeper truth within ourselves bursting to be actualized.

Allowing myself to sink into prayerful meditation helped me find the Truth of Divine Presence within me. First, I calmed down my inner dialog. I let go of work troubles. And I let go of the existential angst of feeling like I wasn’t being seen or living up to my potential (a deadly inner dialog that at times left me painfully frozen in destructive patterns).

Truth of Divine Presence revealed through Judaism

We can find depths everywhere. My soul is transformed by the depths of truth available through Jewish wisdom. My prayer is to share this journey with as many people as possible. I want to help reveal the Truths of the Divine Presence that become clear through a Jewish lens.

What is the Truth of Divine Presence calling to you?

Previously on this day in the Omer

45 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Honoring the holiness that pulses beyond time and space.

45 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Finding the core truth that motivates you.

Forty-four days of the Omer: Strength of Divine Presence

Trimlack image on Pixabay

Today is forty-four days, which is six weeks and two days of the Omer. גבורה שבשכינה, Gevurah ShebeSchechinah, Strength of Divine Presence.

Ideally, counting the Omer is a deep experience. Ideally, it allows us time to reflect on what we mean when we say God. The aspects of Divinity that pulsate through our highest selves into our lived experience.

All of that rich goodness radiates through the week of Shechinah, the Divine Feminine Who dwells with us. Today, we recognize the Strength of the Divine, the Force that calls out to us, reminding us of who we want to be. We bask in the glow of Her Presence, reminding ourselves that we are already enough. Just as I am, I am a perfectly broken vessel for Divine Strength. As I heal the cracks in my soul, and turn myself towards Goodness, I am healing the brokenness of the Divine.

May you feel the Strength of the Divine Presence today and may you allow Her to guide you.

Previously on this day in the Omer

44 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Mothers reflecting Divine Strength.

44 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Letting go of lower Gevurah and embracing Divine Goodness.

Forty-three days of the Omer: Grace of Divine Presence

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Today is forty-three days, which is six weeks and one day of the Omer. חסד שבשכינה, Chesed ShebeShechinah. Gracious Love of Divine Presence.

The final sephira is the only one that is understood as explicitly feminine from the beginning of this system of expressing how the Divine emanates into material reality. It is the reclamation of El Shaddai, the God with Breasts.

I am fascinated that kingship and male virility are much more common expressions of the power of the Divine. Our ancestors understood that breast milk is Divine nectar. That a human can be nourished solely by another human being is an incredible gift. We should honor the Divine gift of creating life and nourishing life.

I don’t think this week needs to devolve into a debate about the painful challenges to women’s bodily autonomy currently being waged in the United States. Nor are my reflections meant to cast judgment on women who choose not to breastfeed.

Rather, today is an opportunity to reflect on the Divine Mother who nourishes all of us. If you have a wonderful mother, she is a reflection of the Divine Mother. If you have struggled with your mother, or if you grew up without a mother, the Divine Feminine is still there to nourish you. (These statements should not be taken to cast any judgment on gay parents or single parents.)

We are all held in the bosom of the Divine. Divine lovingkindness is the nectar my soul craves. Allowing myself to sink into the warm embrace of the universe allows me to open myself up more deeply to the people around me.

May you feel the embrace of the Divine Presence today and every day.

Previously on this day in the Omer

43 days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Allow the Divine Presence a place in your life.

43 days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Struggling to meditate into the Divine light within.

Forty-two days of the Omer: Indwelling of Bonding

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Today is forty-two days, which is six weeks of the Omer. שכינה שביסוד Shechinah ShebeYesod, Indwelling of Bonding.

Completing the week of Yesod. The week of Bonding to our ideals and to our community. The foundation through which all previous emanations of the Divine flow out into the world. A week dedicated to the holy power of sexuality.

Committing to focusing on the holy during Shabbat

So much of life is based in desire and lack. Shabbat is a time of rest from the pursuit of material existence. Ideally, Shabbat is dedicated to relishing the presence of those who surround us. Shabbat is breathing into the wholeness that already exists within us. Shabbat is rededicating ourselves to bonding with the deepest part of ourselves.

This is why, traditionally, people do not speak about their professions on Shabbat. Rather than dirtying the holiness of the day with mundane worries, we focus our attention on eternal truths. I’ve been thinking a lot about the narratives we tell ourselves and our acquaintances. Conversations can become a tape set to repeat: a litany of complaints or a deluge of boasts.

Breaking the habit of complaint

I hope to hold space for other people today, and most days. If there’s some version of your journey that needs to be shared, I’ll listen. Most importantly, I hope to continue to process my journey specifically and regularly by myself. I hope to write down my complaints rather than repeating them ad nauseam to everyone I encounter.

The Foundation of my Being is Ever-Present

I also hope to recognize that the Presence of the Foundation of my Being is with me at all times, regardless of how well I am living up to my ideals. I am rooted within a matrix of Divine emanations and holy ethics.

May the Divine Presence hold you in a loving embrace today. May you be nourished by holiness. May you be embraced by communities that allow you to flourish. And may you understand the foundation of your depths.

Previously on this day in the Omer

42 days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Staying present regardless of life’s challenges.

42 days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Holiness illuminates your personality and the breadth of life.

Forty-one days of the Omer: Foundation of Foundation

Today is forty-one days, which is five weeks and six days of the Omer. יסוד שביסוד, Yesod ShebeYesod. Foundation of Foundation.

Can you hear the jubilee calling softly in the distance? Eight more days of reflection before we reach the heights of revelation on Shavuot. Today is a day of reflection.

Contemplating all the insight that came from the previous aspects of Divine emanation. The Foundation of Foundation is the bursting forth of Divine energy through the conduit of a single human. It is the magic of communal action towards the common good. It is the human flourishing achieved in deep community.

And it all starts within each person individually. How do you experience the Divine? What have these days of reflection meant to you? Have you started to change an engrained habit? Can you see yourself more clearly now?

Last year, my Omer counting led me to try to find ways out of my stress eating. This year, my counting is leading me towards deepening my service. It’s ironic that I accepted a job as a Bar Mitzvah tutor at age thirteen without a second thought. As a rabbinical student, I’ve been wary of entering Jewish spaces as a leader. This coming year, I am committed to sharing the gift of Jewish wisdom as widely as I can.

I am also reflecting on how much I still have to learn about the core values that drive me and the way I am perceived. Two years ago, I wrote about the importance of understanding one’s personality and the journey towards actualization as reflected in the Enneagram. I want to delve deeper into those waters.

What concrete steps will you take towards expressing the depths of your foundation?

Previously on this day in the Omer

41 days of the Omer 5779 / 2018: Rooting ourselves in community.

41 days of the Omer 5778 / 2017: Personality as the expression of one’s foundation.

Forty days of the Omer: Splendor of Bonding

Today Jack graduated from kindergarten!

Today is forty days, which is five weeks and five days of the Omer. הוד שביסוד, Hod ShebeYesod, Splendor of Bonding.

I’ve had a deeply emotional week. I said goodbye to colleagues who graduated and were ordained. Strong women who profoundly enriched my studies and soul journey. I’ve reflected on how much time procrastinating and electronic distraction distance me from the people who are right in front of me. I learned a bit about the history of Jewish women in Los Angeles, and witnessed a soul-affirming excerpt from the Jewish Women’s Theatre production, “True Colors.” And on this fortieth day of the Omer, I celebrated my eldest son completing his first year of elementary school.

The foundation of my life is my Chinese Jewish family. My husband, Chung-Mau, fearlessly pursues his passion for woodworking. He has been my role model since we began dating. He had a set weekend routine of going to Saturday morning classes, which gave me the push I needed to commit to attending Shabbat services consistently (and on time). Every step I’ve taken into the depths of Judaism have come from his support. I have been dreaming of our children attending Mandarin immersion public school since we were dating and the newspaper announced the opening of a new immersion school in West LA. My dream came true in the San Gabriel Valley.

This is the Splendor of Bonding. Allowing yourself to trust other people and sink into the future you can build together. It is easy to be cynical and sarcastic. It takes strength to be vulnerable and open.

Previously on this day in the Omer

40 days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Splendor of bonding flowing freely.

40 days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Connecting to the holy sparks within.

Thirty-nine days of the Omer: Eternal Bonding

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

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?

Passionate discussions

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.

Thirty-eight days of the Omer: Truth of Foundation

Today is thirty-eight days, which is five weeks and three days of the Omer., אמת שביסוד, Emet ShebeYesod, Truth of Foundation.

The deep truth that underlies the foundation of your life is the adult swan in the above picture. It shades you from the harsh light of alternative perspectives. It provides a soft landing for every new endeavor. A loving bed of feathers gliding on the stream of life.

Foundational truth: what guides your life?

Two years ago, I meditated into the truth that is the foundation of my Jewish journey. My psychological and spiritual health depends on Jewish wisdom and Jewish prayer. I still struggle with this truth. I challenge it and question it on a daily basis. Days like today bring me back to the full force of that reality.

Attending ordinations and graduations

Last year, I attended the Ziegler Rabbinical School ordination on the day before the thirty-eighth day of the Omer. This year, I had the holy honor of witnessing five of my colleagues transition from student to alumna. A brilliant Jewish artist, Revital Somekh-Goldreich, received a Masters in Jewish Studies. An incredibly insightful, soul-piercing sister, Dina Kuperstock, became a Jewish Chaplain. Two sisters whose voices ring with heavenly conviction, Orly Campbell and Bryce Megdal, became Cantors. And another sister, whose presence has invigorated my own studies over the last two years, Cantor Jennie Chabon, became a Rabbi.

I cried a lot today. There are so many levels of emotion involved in the completion of one’s studies. Today, Stephen S. Wise Temple’s sanctuary was filled with deep authenticity and holiness. Five women who represent so much of what Judaism have to offer: artistic engagement and democratization of text study; the next frontier of Jewish chaplaincy and creating sacred space; the voices to inspire us to reach into our depths; and the clarion call of truth and meaning.

Purpose of this counting

At the end of the day, the seven weeks of counting the Omer provides an opportunity to engage our depths in a formal way. It is a structured path to understanding what is important to you and how you are embodying those values. Now is the time to articulate your core mission statement. And to make a plan to more fully manifest that vision in your every day life.

Embracing my life’s purpose

While I want to remain humble, I also want to stop being afraid of the future I am creating. As much as I love all of the secular work I did, I am going to work deeply to allow myself to create a future where I am able to serve spiritual seekers and spread Jewish wisdom full time. I recognize that Southern California is blessed with an abundance of rabbinic supervision.

I pray to find my place in this matrix. I will pursue the truth that continuously transforms my life: Jewish ethical mysticism is the salve for my troubled soul. Instead of pretending my brokenness doesn’t exist, it allows me to honor my cracks and work towards healing. It reminds me that everything matters. Every thought, feeling, and action has consequences. May I embody the holy teachings I am learning. May I hold space for the souls around me. And may I allow space for my own transformation to continue.

How will you honor the truth of the foundation of your life?

Previously on this day in the Omer

38 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: The truth that is the foundation of my Jewish journey.

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

Thirty-seven days of the Omer: Boundaries in Bonding

Image by Birgit Böllinger from Pixabay

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

Counting the Omer can bring clarity to your own vision of Lovingkindness, Grace, Boundaries, Discipline, Beauty, Truth, Endurance, Eternity, Splendor, Prayer, Bonding, Foundation, Sovereignty, and Indwelling.

This is a chance to meditate into your own road map. What values are most important to you? How do you want to manifest them in your life? Do your daily interactions align with your highest values? How can your thoughts, feelings, and actions reflect your values?

You need a clear vision of what is important to you before you can grow healthy boundaries. This isn’t about being selfish or aloof. This is about healthy bonding based on deep clarity.

Sometimes, we are afraid to assert our boundaries, thinking that this will hurt the people we are building bonds with. Or we are so separated from our true selves that we don’t understand what a healthy boundary is.

Politically, boundaries are manipulated and weaponized. Boundaries are disparaged by people claiming to speak for the less powerful. The breakdown of boundaries between poeples has led to the rise of far right political parties across the world.

Yet, deep health relies on clear boundaries. I need space for my own journey. My children need space to grow into themselves. My community needs space to feel secure and coalesce around shared values.

May you discern the boundaries you need to thrive and develop healthy bonds.

Previously on this day in the Omer

37 days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Hold space for yourself while building community.

37 days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Discipline in interpersonal relationships.

Thirty-six days of the Omer: Lovingkindness in Bonding

Today is thirty-six days, which is five weeks and one day of the Omer. חסד שביסוד, Chesed ShebeYesod, Lovingkindness in Bonding.

My picture choice is not only a reflection of the awe-inspiring process of nurturing souls to independence. It’s true, I need to meditate on the spiritual aspects of parenting and remind myself that my journey is not the only one occurring. In fact, nothing I’m doing is as important as what I can do for the people around me, starting with my partner and my children.

The child within clings to you

Right, but that’s not the main point of this picture. Look again and think about the child within yourself. Think about all the parts of you that you’ve tucked away to create a more “adult” you. Or a more professional you. Or a more educated you. Think about all the parts of you that are buried in the shadows of you, yearning for a chance to be guided into the light.

The hand clasping your’s is the hand of infinite possibility. A person builds barriers around herself, holding inner desires and other people at a distance. These barriers are natural and help us survive growing up. But they need to be released to find real transformation.

Breaking the wheel of unhealthy habits

I’ve been chipping away at my armor for fifteen years. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I woke up to how asleep I was in my own life. It’s been a slow process — and no, I do not credit cancer with this transformation. But I do mark cancer as the turning point in my life. I realized I needed to take responsibility for creating the life I want to live. And I painfully felt the lack of spiritual guidance in my life. It took a year for me to go from that insight to joining my uncle for Shabbat services at his shul. And it took many years before I fully internalized that being of service to others, deep lovingkindness, is the foundation of bonding.

We cannot stay rooted to our ideals living in a bubble. At the end of the day, the foundation of life is our relationships. More than any words I write or read, how I act around other people is the true test of my merit.

Practically, for me, this means placing firmer boundaries on my use of social media. It means taking a moment to detox from screens and refocus on the humans in front of me. Our families deserve our full attention. Our time together is so precious, and so fleeting.

May you find the action that will manifest the Lovingkindness of Bonding in your life. And may you be deeply bonded to the child within.

Previously on this day in the Omer

36 Days of the Omer 5778 / 2018: Embrace full-throated love.

36 Days of the Omer 5777 / 2017: Selfless love connects covenantal communities.