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.

Splendor of Beauty refracted through COVID-19 death: 19 days of Omer 5780, Hod ShebeTiferet

Today was nineteen days, which was two weeks and five days of the Omer in the year 5780. הוד שבתפארת, Hod ShebeTiferet, Splendor of Beauty.

Meditating into Beauty While People Die

An incredibly beautiful soul gave up her fight with COVID-19 today. Rana Zoe Mungin, 30, was ignored twice before finally being admitted to a hospital. So it took three attempts to receive medical care for this brilliant Black woman to be seen. And then it took the full force of the Wellesley alumnae network to get her experimental treatment to have any sort of chance at survival. But it was too late. The racism she encountered in her fight against this virus took her life. 

Read Rana Zoe Mungin’s description of her life on the Wellesley Underground, an alternative Wellesley alumnae blog. Her sister, Mia Mungin, tweeted Rana Zoe’s fight for her life. Mimi Maciel, her best friend, posted a tribute to Zoe.

Nothing tells you more about my privilege in this pandemic than the fact that I can share this story with you, take several deep breaths, and talk about anything else.

Hod: creating a place to meet the Divine

In my imagination, the Divine Mother is not waiting for immaculate living rooms and sparkling bathrooms. She is praying for us to use our eyes to truly see the souls who surround us. The people whom we do not treat as fully human. The animals whom we treat as if they solely exist for our benefit. The earth we are shattering to gather more oil, not even stopping when we cause earthquakes far from the edges of tectonic plates. 

Splendor of Beauty: Deep Resilience Honoring the Spark of the Divine within Everything

True art sparkles with the spark of the Divine.
Deep love nourishes our recognition of the Divine.
The truth of being truly seen showers us with Divine energy.
Eternity reminds us that She exists beyond and within all that exists.
Discipline gives us the eyes to see the patterns of the Divine flowing through all. 

May we honor El Shaddai, embrace the Shekhinah, and always remember the importance and worthiness of each living being.
Rest in power, Rana Zoe Mungin. 

Other thoughts on Hod ShebeTiferet

5779 / 2019: The splendor of beautiful prayer envelops me.

5778 / 2018: Awakening to the temple of my body.

5777 / 2017: The holy splendor of leaning Torah.

Touching Eternal Beauty at a Safe Social Distance: Day 18 of the Omer 5780, Netzach ShebeTiferet

Today is eighteen days, which was two weeks and four days of the Omer, in the year 5780. נצח שבתפארת, Netzach ShebeTiferet, Eternity of Beauty, Enduring Truth.

Reality in Week 7 of Social Distancing

We are in our seventh week of social distancing. My family has been particularly circumspect in our movements. Our eldest son did not want to watch the CNN Sesame Street Coronavirus town hall, but he was sure it was too dangerous to get in the minivan today to go to a farm. Eventually, I was able to convince him and he went along with his brother and father on an adventure to pick up produce and sundries at Tanaka Farms. This might be our new family adventure — finding other farms that are relatively close for curbside pick up seems to be a good way to keep our car batteries from dying. 

I am so proud of how strong my young children have been throughout this. They have not regressed much. Occasionally, I even get to sleep in. Usually, I’m woken up by the youngest climbing into bed and playing with my hair. Today was an incredible day and I had the extreme luxury of sleeping until 8:45 a.m.

Making Time for Eternity

Tonight begins another day (according to Jewish time). Eternity exists and sits patiently, waiting for me to breathe deeply and allow her the space to enter me. I can sit on this precipice and wail my anxiety. Or I can stand and hold a child, re-enacting Lion King. 

Enduring Truths of My Life

I can remember that the enduring truths of my life: My call to be attuned to my spiritual journey and the journey of the souls around me. Sacred duties: parent and spouse. The honor to be in a loving family and embracing communities. 

My prayer for today

I pray that we each have time today, for a moment, to reflect on the enduring truths that guide our lives.

May we have compassion with ourselves and each other.

Let us experience moments of deep joy and fleeting laughter.

Praying for complete healing of body and soul for all those who are experiencing illness.

May there be an easy passing from this world to the next for all those who have left this mortal coil. 

Book

I deeply aspire to creating conscious communities. Yet, in the four years since I first read this book, I realize how aspirational this rubric is. I still think every one should read this book. I just want to be compassionate with myself for not living up to the ideals espoused within it.

In other words…

5779 / 2019: Exploring the meaning of enduring truth.

5778 / 2018: Create beautiful order to make space for grace.

5777 / 2017: Praying for enduring compassion.

Explore the Depths and Limits of Truth: 17 Days of Omer 5780, Emet of Emet

Today was seventeen days, which was two weeks and three days of the Omer 5780. תפארת שבתפארת. Beauty of Beauty. אמת שבאמת, Emet ShebeEmet Truth of Truth.

The harmonious, complete integration of covenantal love and judgment: clear-eyed truth, existential beauty. 

Truth Exists, Narrative Moves

Existential truth exists. Facts exist. There are many levels to truth and they are all extremely real. We often think if we provide enough facts, the truth of our perspective will be clarified and people will act the way we want them to act. Yet, that is never the case.

Facts do not move people. Stories move people.

Engage someone in a narrative that appeals to their values and they may change their mind. People may accept change when they feel valued.

Paradigms are as substantial as Truth

Throughout my life, I have been searching for nonviolent paradigm shifts. (This is why my Twitter handle is Social Upheaval.)

Paradigm shifts are inflection points that change the world from what it was to what it could be. It is deeply difficult to imagine the paradigms in which people used to live. Blood letting hastened many deaths. Yet, the extremely rational, scientific method for healing people for centuries required blood letting.

The inner logic of conspiracy theories is as solid as the inner logic of spiritual reflection. People are not crazy for believing stories that bring order to their lives. 

For the people living within a paradigm, they are as substantial as any factual, scientific truth. This is the reality of the human experience we must accept.

Refractions of the Divine Create Cracks in Our Stories

A dozen years ago, I was new to learning Kabbalah. I had a pediatric understanding of Judaism, and was virtually illiterate in the tradition. Wide gaps remain in my knowledge. 

The truths I allowed to sink into my soul:

  1. My past does not have to determine my future.
  2. I can choose how much I lean into the personality I built to defend myself from a chaotic world. 
  3. Inner joy and contentment is a choice. 
  4. If I am bitter, resentful, or angry with my circumstances I have two choices: learn to live with it or find a way to quit. 

Rabbi Finley teaches these core truths at Ohr HaTorah. Every day I relearn them.

When surrounded by whining, resentful children, I can lean into my anxiety at being forced to stay with them 24/7. Alternatively, I can take a break, take a breath, and lean into my empathy for how small their world has become. 

By remembering the spiritual truths I have learned on my journey, every day gets a little easier. Physical pain and mental discomfort become easier when I remember that love, justice, truth, and beauty envelop me. Divine love unfolds with every new word my son learns, every new day I am able to refrain (a little bit) from raising my voice, or from saying things I will regret.

Beautiful Harmonious Truth is Bloody Hard

Unfortunately, retreating from the real world to find the goddess within will not transform daily life for long. This is the cold, harsh reality of life meeting the gentle, overflowing nectar of the Divine. I have faith in this path leading me and the world towards wholeness. 

Wholeness requires shattering paradigms, revealing truth currently unseen. I pray the world integrates, supporting one another more completely, valuing one another dearly, embracing one another with respect and honor for the dignity and value of each human life. 

Previous Incarnations of This Day

5779 / 2019: Perfect synthesis of grace and judgment; loving kindness and discipline.

5778 / 2018: Sinking into Pure Beauty and Beautiful Truth.

5777 / 2017: Struggling towards pure compassion.

Discipline Frees the Soul to Sing: 16 Days of Omer 5780, Gevurah ShebeTiferet

Today is sixteen days, which is two weeks and two days of the Omer, in the year 5780. גבורה שבתפארת. Gevurah ShebeTiferet. Discipline of Beauty. 

Boundaries Focus Art

Penetrating the world through art requires clear boundaries. Rules are the fertilizer for great art. Cherry blossom trees cannot thrive if jumbled one on top of each other. Clear lines creates space for the roots to grow and the trees to thrive. Similarly, limits allow artists to thrive within the structure provided. 

I choose to write in the morning and evening because it gives structure to my day. An outlet for my spiraling mind, it clarifies my reason for moving forward in this day. A deep part of me would rather let go and sink into passive consumption of art. If I give into my Yetzer HaRa, my inclination towards destructiveness, I will not be satisfied. The gnawing guilt of all I “should” be doing would not allow me to enjoy the extra hours created by ceasing my own creative output.

Discipline Frees the Soul to Sing

Televised cooking competitions have introduced many of us to the concept of “mise en place,” the set up required to cook with flow. The discipline of a well-ordered work space can lead to a more well-ordered mind and a more productive day. 

There’s a reason so many delightful poems are haikus. And Shakespeare wrote sonnets.

This Shabbat We Enter Iyar, Ziv: Radiance and Budding

We begin to heal and transform from darkness to light. Flowers are blooming. The earth is regenerating. Hopefully, moments within this mind-altering isolation provide the opportunity for healing and growth. 

If you are overwhelmed with responsibilities, I see you. My words are not meant to imply that if you have not had a transformative experience, you’re surviving a pandemic wrong. Only that it is possible to take this time out of time and refract it for our own self-healing and self-growth. This is why I am reading the Book of Psalms and counting the Omer. Helping myself turn towards my vision of my life, and push away from the shouting, angry, overwhelmed person within me.

Praying for Moments of Depth and Deep Meaning

Flow within the strength of beauty, the discipline of truth. 
Recognize that I am enough, we are enough, just as we are. 
God with Breasts, El Shaddai, may the honey from the crag you offer flow freely in our house.
May we enter your holy embrace with compassion and grace.
Heavenly Queen, wrap us in the awesome flow of your brilliance. 
Remind us that material reality is only one aspect of life. 
Brilliant refractions of Divine Harmony, hold us firmly in your loving embrace. 

Previous or maybe future incarnations of this day…

5779 / 2019: Art as a meditation on Divine truth.

5778 / 2018: Setting boundaries on compassion helps everyone.

5777 / 2017: Nurture your boundaries and honor your own needs.

Book

Something about the energy of this day reminds me of this book. The book let me know this coworker might be The One. I invited my coworker / boyfriend to a lecture at the Skirball, nervous that maybe he would think I was too Jewish for inviting him to a lecture on the Jewish origins of super heroes. His reply? Oh, hey, that’s a high school buddy of mine giving the lecture.

Covenantal Love of Beauty and Truth: 15 Days of the Omer 5780

Today is fifteen days, which is two weeks and one day of the Omer 5780. חסד שבתפארת, Chesed ShebeTiferet, Covenantal Love of Beauty. חסד שבאמת, Chesed ShebeEmet, Covenantal Love of Truth.

The week of Beauty and Truth Begins

The sephira most deeply associated with twin words, Tiferet Emet, Beauty / Truth. Here’s the truth about why I can meditate into the Omer for four years in a row and never say the same thing: the names are place-holders for a constellation of connected ideas. Human words cannot contain Divine reality. The ebb and flow between the left side, the right side, the integration of those sides in the middle column — it’s all a metaphor for the give and take of life. 

Embrace Paradox

We are pulled in multiple directions every minute of the day. Whether we are sheltering in place or rushing to work. Choosing a single paradigm and living in alignment with that paradigm brings serenity. This is the draw of fundamentalism. 

Appreciate Specificity

The transdenominational understanding of Judaism in which I swim honors the reality coursing through all ways of being Jewish. I have chosen a path that works for me. Not because it was sanctioned by a movement, but because it was sanctioned by the transformation of my soul. This is the beauty and truth I honor today: the life-changing, life-affirming experiencing of living in alignment with the Divine. The values beyond me that inspire me to be the best version of me I can be. 

Enjoy Art, Relish Beauty, and You’ll Find Truth.

Covenantal Love of Beauty: the beautiful inspiration I find in gorgeously produced landscape photography. How my soul sings when I watch a well-crafted and well-acted play. Or how my imagination soars in community when I gather with strangers to watch the most recent installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

My husband thinks I need to cut that last line. I want to be perfectly clear: pop culture is as beautiful as “high art.” I experience beauty giving birth and placing well-pigmented shadow on my eye lids. We contain multitudes and we should never limit ourselves to the boxes other people have designed.

Eternal Flames of Truth and Beauty

I pledge a covenant with the eternal flames of Truth and Beauty. See something beautiful: touch truth beyond words. Experience beautiful art: understand the truth of the human condition beyond statistics. Truth exists on many planes.

It is painful to accept how some worldviews deny basic factual truth and cling to paradigms unhelpful in a pandemic. The truth that radiates love grounds me in acceptance. People are imperfect mortals; truth is beautiful and eternal.

This day goes round, round…

5779 / 2019: Choose concrete steps towards a better you.

5778 / 2018: Poetic prose on graceful truth.

5777 / 2017: Thirty day social media cleanse.

Indwelling of Strength, 14 Days of Omer 5780: Shekhinah ShebeGevurah

Tonight, we will welcome the fourteenth day, which is two weeks, of the Omer 5780. שכינה שבגבורה, Shekhinah ShebeGevurah, Indwelling of Strength.

Strength even when Discipline is beyond my grasp

I am struggling daily to finish my own homework. It isn’t the primary parent duties that keep me from completing my work. I simply lack the discipline to stay focused on graduate-level reading for a sustained period of time. There is still much to appreciate about the strength that surrounds me and is within me. 

My family’s love is fierce.

We are a tight knit crew of four. My kids can go for minutes, almost an hour at a time, amusing themselves without adult supervision. Sure, sometimes that means they’ve opened and created a mess out of five individual servings of pretzels, but for the most part, this is an incredible gift. I have no idea what to feed them half the time, but I know they will never be starved for human interaction. 

My Yetzer HaRa is also strong.

I keep thinking about and hoping to sleep more. Yet, my inclination towards destructiveness, my Yetzer HaRa has incredible strength. She takes over the moment my children are in bed and barely loosens her grip at midnight. I am in awe of her resilience. I hope to talk with her, perhaps reason with her, rather than continuing to pretend she doesn’t exist, or worse, that she is not me. 

The call of Jewish wisdom is the Indwelling of Strength in my life.

My High Holiday liturgy class is reading the Koren Sacks Machzor. I learned a new name for my people on Monday:

Yeshurun. An alternative biblical name for Israel, signifying yashar, “upright” (Ibn Ezra, Deut. 32:15).

From the Koren Sacks Yom Kippur Machzor, p 104. 

What does it mean to be upright? For me, it means acknowledging my inner strength and being grateful for my blessings. It means that when I stray from who I want to be, I remember my vows and return to the path I have discerned for myself.

Being upright means having grace towards myself when I yell at my kids; but never becoming complacent and sinking into the yelling. 

Reminding myself that my lifetime of poor posture does not need to be my future and choosing to honor the strength of my core.

Moving past my fear and wearing my mask and walking my dog. 

Trusting that what I am doing is enough. That I am enough. That the Indwelling Presence of the Divine will gird me with strength to move through this pandemic. 

May we be the Yeshurun we are meant to be. 

Other iterations of this day…

5779 / 2019: Don’t abandon your toys in the search for truth.

5778 / 2018: Hold space for others while asserting your own presence.

5777 / 2017: Transform your understanding of the past; break free of limiting narratives.

Books!

                         

Foundation of Strength, Day 13 of the Omer 5780, Yesod ShebeGevurah

Today is thirteen days, which is one week and six days of the Omer, 5780. יסוד שבגבורה, Yesod of Gevurah, Foundation of Strength.

Fascinated when people cannot define themselves. Spending so much time thinking that I couldn’t imagine not having an answer to the question. And yet, the truth is, it is easy to allow the foundation of our existence to rest on the vagaries of culture, employment, and family of origin. 

Human connections: the foundation of human strength

I actually talked about this last year, so I won’t repeat myself. 

As the day of Remembering the Jewish Catastrophe recedes, ensuring the Jewish future comes into focus. I made a decision early in this shelter-in-place existence that my family is more important than my rabbinical studies. Though I am far from a perfect parent, I know for sure that my daily tickles and encouragement is more important than my assigned readings. 

I think a lot about single people, especially people who live alone. My four year-old hugs family members via FaceTime — by putting his arms around the tablet. That gesture seared in my memory as the most heart-breaking aspect of social distancing that I have personally experienced.

And all the people who have to grieve alone. Communities unable to comfort their mourners; unable to grieve as our tradition impels us to grieve. My heart breaks. 

Staying distanced will help us survive.

Our strength lies in our ability to pivot. To accept a new reality we never imagined in order to save our own lives and the lives of the people around us. The economy is not more important than a single human life. Normalcy is not more important than a single human life. 

Also, buy a pulse oximeter. It might save your life.

The core of my discernment is the vision I have for myself.

Essentially, Yesod ShebeGevurah, Foundation of Strength, the Core of my Discernment is the clear-eyed understanding of who I want to be. 

Choosing not to live in fear. Nurturing my ability for deep thinking and consuming written content continuously and thoroughly. I want to be fully present to the people around me and help create a future full of love, light, and soul connections. 

Living towards the future. And so, I will continue to be the Tickle Monster, praying for more children to bring light into this world. 

May the future continue to burn brightly in front of us, and may we have the fortitude to take the steps needed for all of us to live the tomorrow where we can embrace each other enthusiastically without fear. 

This day reverberates….

5779 / 2019: The bedrock of my strength is my family.

5778 / 2018: Building a firm foundation of strength that incorporates humans and ideas.

5777 / 2017: Reverence as the bedrock of strength.

The Catastrophe on the day of Splendor of Power: 12 Days of the Omer 5780, Yom HaShoah, Hod ShebeGevurah

Today is twelve days, which is one week and five days of the Omer. הוד שבגבורה, Hod ShebeGevurah, Splendor of Power; prophetic judgment. Today is also Yom HaShoah, the Jewish day to remember The Catastrophe, when one-third of our people were slaughtered by their neighbors.

Yom HaShoah

It is the Catastrophe. It is not an offering to HaShem completely consumed by fire, therefore it is not Holocaust. Shoah means Catastrophe. Holocaust is the Greek translation of one of the types of sacrifices my ancestors burnt at the Temple. I choose Shoah because there is no ultimate meaning or goodness from murdering babies, children, young people, parents, and grandparents for being Jewish. God does not want martyrs. God does not want humans to sacrifice their lives. HaShem is the Living God. She wants us to live. Neither lies about science claiming Jews aren’t people nor lies about human survival, claiming the economy is more important than human life are reasons to sacrifice humans. 

Stripped naked and tormented through the streets. Raping mothers in front of their children. Bashing babies against the sides of building. Sending children to gas chambers, then to crematoria. Entire societies were complicit in murdering my people. Not just Nazis. Citizens of occupied countries tormented their Jewish neighbors. A small match lights the fire, turning Jew hatred into Jew murder. 

Jew hatred and Judeophobia

A pseudo-scientific sheen on Jew hatred: Antisemitism, a fake word created by a Jew hater. I choose plain words that plainly convey their meaning. A Jew hater is a person who hates Jewish people. Judeophobia is the fear / hatred of Judaism. Christianity was created and propagated through Judeophobia. The Catholic Church encouraged Jew hatred in the years preceding the Shoah. 

These statements should not make you think I hate Christians or Christianity or the Catholic Church. I have deep respect for the depth of meaning people find in their religious traditions. The intellectual histories of our peoples are deeply intertwined. The plain historical facts remains: Christian churches and Christian political leaders throughout history have stoked the flames of Jew hatred to consolidate their power.

Choosing a living Jewish tradition

See, we Jews do not have any complete sets of Talmud from before the Middle Ages because Christian rulers were so thorough in burning our books. Our Talmud is vilified because it is the proof text that Jewish life continued and evolves beyond the plain meaning of the Hebrew Bible. Further, our understanding of our Bible has always been different and distinct from a Christian interpretation of that text. 

The Jewish imperative: Choose life.

It is quite simple: choose life. Choose human life above all else. Choose life before restarting an economy. Humans are not sacrifices to elite wealth. Humans need to transform the social contracts within which we live while we battle the Coronavirus. Choose life.

This is the most important Jewish wisdom I wish to impart: choose life. One must set aside every single aspect of living as a Jew in order to save a life. It is possible to step into the pools of meaning within a single human being and recognize the face of HaShem shining back towards you through the other’s soul. Choose life.

Am Yisrael Chai

The People Israel Live. Our oldest collective name is Hebrews. Then came Israel, the one who wrestles with the Divine. Collectively, separate from our political affiliations, all Jews are Israel.

Specifically, the modern nation-state fulfills one aspect of our collective identity — we have always been a people. The state of Israel does not speak for all of us. Not all Jews are Zionists.

Nevertheless, Zionism is the collective will of the majority of Jewish people. Our nation exists to support our continued existence. To be clear: I am not Israeli. I am an American Jew. 

On Zionism and Israel

Zionism is not a dirty word, just as Jew is not a dirty word. To use those labels in the pejorative is to be racists against Jews. The hatred of Jews is not rational. It is not solely based on theological differences. Throughout time, Jew hatred is about having an Other to blame things on. It is about distinguishing Us from Them. And it is about placing blame for all bad things on Them, the Jews. 

Our collective response to two thousand years of oppression was organizing a collective social and political identity, i.e. Zionism. It is one important facet of Jewish identity for the vast majority of Jewish people. Not all Jews are Zionists. Yet, Zionism is intrinsically related to most Jews’ identity as Jews. When I was younger, I actively participated in anti-Zionist “peace” activities. I did not root my activism in a deep knowledge of history. My activism grew from a surface level understanding of human rights. I had to break free of internalized self-hatred before I could actually davenn Birkat HaShachar, the morning blessings. I had to get over the internalized hatred of the word “Israel,” and realize it was ultimately the collective name for me and all of my family by birth. 

Remember the Dead, Honor the Survivors

Remember the people murdered in the Catastrophe. Singled out systematically like no other people murdered by the Nazi regime. Understand the Final Solution was about murdering Jews, not every undesirable person in the world.

And we must remember them as individual Jews. Anne Frank is important not because her diary is universally appealing (note that her Dad removed the sexual ruminations from the original publication). Anne Frank is important because she was a human being. More than recognition as an author, Anne Frank desperately wanted to live.

Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira was a brilliant spiritual leader. He is important not because it is easier to remember him as the Warsaw Rebbe or because he was murdered by the Nazis. Not because he chose to stay with his people in the Warsaw ghetto rather than allowing himself to be rescued. His writing has had a profound impact on me. He has articulated exactly the level of rigor and intensity, compassion and commitment that I seek in creating a conscious community. Even if he had done none of these things, he too should be remembered. Because he was a human being. And his neighbors slaughtered him for being Jewish.

9.5 million Jews lived in Europe before World War II. Thus, 3.5 million European Jews survived attempted murdered by their neighbors. More than just the famous ones. More than just the ones who published memoirs. Take some time to learn their stories at Yad VaShem, the world Shoah remembrance center. Or explore some of the survivor interviews from the Shoah Foundation.

The Jewish experience in WWII was unique.

Stop reminding your Jewish acquaintance of how many other people were murdered by the Nazis. We know they were murdered. We also know that no other group was systematically singled out, required in every occupied territory to register, wear badges, and be deported. 

World War II was not the first time we were forced to wear yellow Stars of David. That honor goes to England, who persecuted us, stole our property and our money, pushed us off the island, then refused to let us leave, starving us along the way to eliminating Judaism from their midst.  

The Splendor of Power I honor today is Jewish Wisdom and Jewish Resilience.

I always have trouble consolidating my thoughts on the Shoah. The Shoah is not at the core of my Judaism, nor is any aspect of the history of Jew hatred. I love the living tradition. It brings me so much joy and inner fortitude. Yet, I know that our resilience rests on generations of persecution.

The trauma of the Shoah both brought about the global conditions for recognition of the state of Israel and guided the actions of the leaders of Israel over the course of its history. And that is why Israel chose to place Yom HaShoah between the celebration of our political freedom from bondage, Passover, and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Isreal’s Independence Day. 

This day exists in many ways

5779 / 2019: Stepping into the person I want to be on Yom HaShoah.

5778 / 2018: Give yourself permission to share your truth.

5777 / 2017: Hod as humility, combining it with strength.

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