Today was twenty days, which was two weeks and six days of the Omer. יסד שבתפארת. Yesod ShebeTiferet. Bonding of Beauty. Foundation of Truth.
Beauty is essential to life. Beauty intensifies our connections, to our core values, to the world, and to each other.
When we align ourselves with deep beauty, we align ourselves with the Divine emanating into material reality. True beauty is intrinsically connected to the Source of Creation. Beauty uncovers depth, creates the opportunity to pierce the veils and discover deep truth.
This is why I am so attracted to nusach, traditional ways of chanting Jewish prayer. The beauty of flowing together with generations of seekers, moving towards the same goals of expanding love, deeper knowledge, and pure connection.
It is why the theatre pulls me in — the revelation of experiencing art being created live, beautifully articulating the deep truth of humanity. (And it is why bad theatre tears at my soul.)
May you find the beauty that provides a foundation for your experience of truth.
Today was nineteen days, which was two weeks and five days of the Omer. הוד שבתפארת, Hod ShebeTiferet, Splendor of Beauty.
Ephemeral moments define us. The pull of prayer, the calm embrace of eternity. I reached heights as a teenager without understanding what was happening. Because I had no words for the spiritual and mystical pull of Jewish prayer, my cynical brain infantilized the experience, declaring me duped.
The Splendor of Beauty within Judaism pulled me back into living within my full self. It reminded me that I am not at the center of my story. My purpose is deeper and bigger than the breaths of my life.
I honor those who came before me, bearing witness to eternal truth. I am humbled to be walking in their footsteps. And I pray that my voice brings a fraction of the splendor of beauty within Judaism to a wider audience.
Today was eighteen days, which was two weeks and four days of the Omer. נצח שבתפארת, Netzach ShebeTiferet, Eternity of Beauty, Enduring Truth.
Counting the Omer adds meaning to my life because making space for thinking about the ideas that form the matrix of meaning in my life is soul nourishing. Every year, my count is different. And so, even though I did not meditate on the eighteenth day in order (due to illness), I am making time for the reflection.
Enduring Truth. The revelation of Judaism’s daily relevance pierced my soul. It took several years to chip away at my cold exterior, to reignite my passion for deep wisdom. Growing up, I did not have access to complicated ideas, to the wisdom behind the myths. I only knew The Law and the ways we navigate between What is Right and What We Do.
Enduring Truth is not historical accuracy. It is not the police blotter report, “just the facts,ma’am” version of events. It is the meaning underneath the events that creates experience.
Enduring Truth are the core values that animate a fully present existence. It is knowing that no matter how deeply you feel, or how passionately you know, your perspective is not the ultimate perspective.
Enduring Truth is the pulsing love that connects everything to everything. It is the Divine manifesting reality.
May we each experience Enduring Truth and may we rise to the challenge of living within its shadow.
Today was seventeen days, which was two weeks and three days of the Omer. תפארת שבתפארת. Beauty of Beauty. אמת שבאמת, Emet ShebeEmet Truth of Truth.
The perfect synthesis of grace and judgment, loving kindness and discipline. Beauty so perfect, it reveals deep truth. Have you experienced the awe of a great work of art? A play so perfect, revealing something utterly essential about the human condition?
At an interview before our wedding, my partner and I were asked if we had season theatre tickets because “we’re supposed to.” I found it such a strange question. I mean, I guess there are people who do cultural things to keep up with others. We go to the theatre because it nourishes our souls. (And sometimes it provides comedic relief when bad.)
A baby’s first smile. A toddler’s giggles. A child’s wonder. These are beautiful things that reveal such profound truth.
The following three books are so beautiful and such a triumph of human ingenuity. I believe the truths they reveal are important for all people.
I wrote the above post on the seventeenth day of the Omer and did not post it because I was becoming sick and decided to sleep instead of posting. The Omer is counted for forty-nine consecutive days. I have been doing the count consistently this year, but I missed four days of blog posts due to illness. I am not publishing about those days of the Omer because I feel it is useful to have a record of my connection to this practice as it unfolds within me every year.
The same concept applies to my pursuit of meaning: there are natural limitations on my quest for depth. I have responsibilities to complete my course work, attend classes, take care of my family. I do not have the breadth of time available to an ascetic pursuer of deep truth. And yet, the truth I am able to carve out is more meaningful because it is built in relation to a community of seekers who came before me and a family that grows around me.
This is the truth of life: there is just one life. In my life, all of my pop culture fandom and holy reverence play side by side.
Understanding God consciousness
My Hebrew teacher, Rabbi Avraham Greenstein explained Pirkei Avot 2.1 today. This sentence describes what it mean to be God conscious: “Keep your eye on three things so that you will not sin: Know what is above you; an Eye that sees, and an Ear that hears, and all your deeds are written in a book.” This is a metaphoric statement, not a literal one. All that you do, all that you say, matters. What you do matters eternally. The way you spend your time has permanence.
May I sink into eternal truth. May I have reverence for the beauty that surrounds me, both made by human creativity and within the natural world. And may I recognize the healthy limits of every pursuit.
 Metaphor based on the Infinity Gauntlet as described
in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; the ultimate McGuffin, which requires six
“soul gems” to be complete and rule the universe. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinity_Gems and “Guardians of the Galaxy” (movie).
Today is fifteen days, which is two weeks and one day of the Omer. חסד שבתפארת, Chesed ShebeTiferet, Graceful Beauty. חסד שבאמת, Chesed ShebeEmet, Empathetic Truth.
Choose concrete steps towards a better you
None of this matters if your daily life doesn’t change. The purpose of counting the Omer is identical to any spiritual practice: reflect on deep wisdom, analyze yourself, create a vision of who you want to be, take the steps to get yourself there. Thinking about how the human desires for meaning and connection can be manipulated has made me more hesitant. I don’t have answers – I will forever be a seeker of wisdom. I have many material reality abilities for which I feel confident in my skillset. The more I learn about inner depths and deep truth, the less confident I am in my ability to transmit the knowledge.
I can say that letting go and being present have been the greatest gifts for myself and for my family. I love that my son argues for more books before bed, regardless of the time (or how sleepy his older brother is). I know my duty and try hard to reserve my judgment when my husband sleeps through every single thing that wakes me up (the dog’s nails hitting the hardwood floor, the kid claiming to be hungry before 7 a.m.). This is the empathetic truth I have woken up to through counting the Omer. It doesn’t mean I always read stories before bedtime. Or that I’m perfectly calm in the morning. But I am more deeply accepting the grace that surrounds me and not shielding myself from what I once thought was its inevitable destruction.
Sink into the beauty that surrounds you
My yard is a mess. The grass and avocado trees are struggling. Yet, the roses still bloom. And the African daisies fill my front yard with gorgeous color. I am determined to sink into the beauty and allow it to propel me to support the rest of my menagerie better.
Create a Vision, Begin a Daily Practice
Omer counting is fleeting. No matter how long it seems, it is finite. I am determined to allow this time of refection to jump start the daily practice I have been yearning to achieve. May we each embrace the graceful beauty that surrounds us and allow ourselves to give birth to empathetic truth.
Tonight, as we usher in Shabbat, we will welcome the fourteenth day, which is two weeks, of the Omer. שכינה שבגבורה, Shechinah ShebeGevurah, Indwelling of Strength.
Children are the strongest force in the universe
When I was young, before my Shadow grew and my Protective Shells hardened, I was the strongest force in the universe. When you slow down and experience a child, you begin to sense that strength. The inner fortitude, the clarity of their reason, their stranglehold on fairness.
Part of the work of adulthood is making space for the purity of childhood to shine through. Allow yourself to be completely and authentically you. Recognize the power within you that comes directly from God. Know that your strength is meant for you and that you have the opportunity to turn your strength to the service of Goodness and Holiness.
Don’t abandon your toys in the search for truth
People often see me carrying around Tokidoki bags and think I’ve borrowed them from my child. Actually, when I speak I tend to come across as intensely focused on Adult Concerns. I carry pop culture ephemera with me to remind myself that (a) I should never take myself too seriously and (b) having fun / enjoying life is part of the journey. I owe it to myself not to abandon the child within. And that’s why I’m determined not to abandon my toys, my playmates, or my swimming pools in my search for meaning.
My toys: my silly t-shirts, my kawaii bags. My playmates: my sisters from Wellesley, past activism, and past jobs. My swimming pools: social media, TV shows, superhero movies. Swimming was my favorite activity as a kid. I’ve never lived in a house with a pool, but I always love to dive into the deep end of whatever I’m doing. Immersing myself in experiences, and learning to let go of the guilt that my time isn’t solely focused on Worthwhile Activities.
Revel in the Discipline and Power within
Too often, my meditations on Gevurah lean into all that I’m not yet doing. These forty-nine days are about returning towards the path you want to be on, and starting to repair the damage you’ve created in each aspect of the emanations. On the other hand, submerging in guilt over all you haven’t accomplished will never motivate you to make a change and turn toward that vision of yourself.
I find it more useful to revel in the breadth of discipline and power innate within me. Though I may be having trouble fully embracing discipline, I know that I am on the right path to achieve it. And I have faith that all of the tools I need to live a happy and healthy life exist within my control.
May you have the fortitude to revel in your own strength.
Today is thirteen days, which is one week and six days of the Omer. יסוד שבגבורה, Yesod of Gevurah, Foundation of Strength.
I have been waffling for over an hour about this meditation and post. I was inspired by a Pixabay image of a father and son. I thought – yes, exactly. The true foundation of a person’s strength is the strength of their bonds with other people. This is such a core value in Judaism. I should use a picture of my family to illustrate this.
And then I thought – should I really do that to my kids? And this conundrum sat in my head for over an hour. An hour that I should be sleeping. Try as I might to meditate on discipline, I have yet to find a way to go to sleep at a reasonable hour.
All accomplishments rely on human connections
Human connections as the foundation of strength. You don’t have to be a parent to feel this. It’s why Facebook and the rest of the social media platforms have such a hold over us. I’ve been listening to The Dream podcast. First, it emphasizes the human need for social interaction and the deep ways that we trust other humans more than we trust institutions.
Yet, it also has me thinking about all the ways that foundational values can be twisted. From prosperity theology to the casual erasure of the Jewish origins of Proverbs 31, it is an interesting podcast to consume while attempting to sink into Jewish wisdom.
As the podcast reminds me, the need for relationships is so fundamental to human existence: to be seen, to be accepted, to be wanted. When relationships are healthy, they are the foundation of strength.
The bedrock of my strength is my family
I am deeply blessed that as flawed as I am, my primary adult desire–to find a partner and build a family–has been fulfilled. While perhaps the least “feminist” aspect of my personality, the desire for belonging is entirely normal. Again, I fully respect that not everyone wants to be a parent — and not everyone who wants to be a parent is able to. I also know that there is nothing greater than watching my kids’ minds grow, learn, and transform.
There are many other things I have wanted to do professionally — build a peace culture, transform the international and national political paradigm, market products people need when they need them, and help people connect with like-minded people to achieve collectively what is nearly impossible to achieve individually. All of those career goals were focused on my individual contribution to the world. At the back of my mind, while working and while surviving thyroid cancer, it was the yearning for a partner on the journey that left the deepest hole in my heart.
And so, perhaps the thing I need to do today is step back from ruminating on discipline. I need to recognize that my strength comes from my family. And relish that reality while I prepare to welcome in the Sabbath Queen.
What is the deepest source of your strength? When everything material is stripped away, how do you stay connected to your vision?
Today is twelve days, which is one week and five days of the Omer. הוד שבגבורה, Hod ShebeGevurah, Splendor of Power; prophetic judgment.
As I observe the ways in which my Yetzer HaRa foils my plans for discipline, I also daydream about the splendor just beyond my grasp. Last night, I painted a beautiful picture in my mind about the person I want to be. Today, I have the opportunity to bring it a step closer to reality.
Netzach and Hod: the pillars upholding the Temple
The Pillars of the Temple were full of splendor. The pillars of Judaism give us strength as we face anti-Jewish violence.
Tonight, Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day begins. There still aren’t as many Jews alive now as there were on the eve of World War II. May we all light a candle, either physically or virtually, for a particular victim. May their names and their memories never be forgotten.
I cannot choose fear or the path of blending into the dominant culture. Judaism nourishes my soul and is the bedrock of my life. Hod Shebe Gevurah, splendor of strength, reminds me that no matter the danger: the deep wisdom of Judaism is more powerful than all the hatred in the world.
Am Yisrael Chai
This is what we mean by Am Yisrael Chai, the people Israel live. We are buoyed by the splendor of our tradition. HaShem radiates strength and discipline into this world and we are vessels for that strength.
May we never forget those murdered in World War II. May my particular focus on the Jewish victims not be mistaken for disregarding the horror faced by other groups then and throughout time. May we have the strength to speak truthfully, allowing ourselves to be vessels for Divine light.
May our light shine forth and transform the darkness.
Tonight begins eleven days, which is one week and four days of the Omer, נצח שבגבורה, Netzach ShebeGevurah, Endurance of Strength.
The synthesis of all that came before it and all that will come after it. Today is a day to imagine your way into a new life. Use all of the creativity you possess to define the person you want to be. Take a simple step towards achieving that vision.
Your soul yearns to move towards your mission
Forget every day that preceded this moment. No matter what narrative you have been telling yourself about your life: it is a lie. Every narrative has aspects of bondage within it. Whatever description you give to yourself binds you to the person you have been. Free yourself to be the person you want to become.
You think you’ll never be an artist. You don’t have to be Picasso to allow your creativity free reign. Dream big. Have a clear eyed vision of your goals. Then, step back and choose one small step to start moving toward that goal.
Meditating three years on Facebook’s stranglehold
I don’t have answers. I used to think I was the embodiment of Gevurah because I am my family’s protective shield and my partner is our loving heart. While it is true that we bring different strengths into our family, none of us can claim to fully embody a Divine emanation.
And the reality is that even when meditating on discipline, it can be hard to embody it. It is true being a full-time student, I spend far too much time deepening my online social media relationships. I thrive on human interaction, particularly discussing big ideas with other adults. I am not trying to quit Facebook or any other platform. Rather, I want to contain my impulses and ensure that each day, I accomplish the small steps I need to complete my longer term goals.
As an ongoing project, I am working on one action to help me achieve enduring discipline: getting to sleep earlier. Because endurance is only possible when you’re awake enough to embody it. And discipline is impossible if you don’t have the mental energy to focus.