Forty-five days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty-five days, which is six weeks and three days of the Omer. תפארת / אמת שבמלכות, שבשכינה. Tiferet Emet Shebe Malchut, Shebe Shechinah. Beauty / Truth of Sovereignty, of Presence.

Honor the holiness that perpetually pulses beyond time and space. Make space for the beauty and truth that surrounds you.

Think before speaking. If you begin to speak or act waywardly, stop yourself. Remove yourself from the situation until you become calm.

My homiletics teacher, Rabbi Dr Schochet suggests replacing “you” with “we.” To explicitly include myself in needing the advice. Let me be clear: I am learning these lessons, I am trying to embody these lessons, everyday. I fail every day. And I keep trying.

May we all have the will to keep trying. And whatever stands in our way — a toddler who refuses to sleep through the night or a intractable boss — may we have the truthful presence to silently endure.

Forty-four days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty-four days, which is six weeks and two days of the Omer. גבורה שבשכינה,גבורה שבמלכות, Gevurah ShebeSchechinah, Gevurah ShebeMalchut, Strength of Feminine Presence, Discipline of Sovereignty.

Ideally, our mothers help us learn how to be better people. How to act graciously, keep negative comments to ourselves, and treat each person we encounter with deep respect. If your inner dialog makes it difficult to live up to this standard, it’s time to discipline your mind to focus on the higher path and not get caught up in a web of decaying, destructive thoughts.

May the Presence within you lovingly challenge you before you speak negatively, with anger, or with resentment today. May you be connected to all that is good in the world and may you be a vessel radiating goodness.

Forty-three days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty-three days, which is six weeks and one day of the Omer. חסד שבמלכות / חסד שבשכינה, Chesed ShebeMalchut, Chesed Shebe Shechinah. Grace of Sovereignty, Gracious Love of Indwelling Presence.

Can you smell the spiritual freedom in the air? Today, as we honor birth mothers, mothers by choice, chosen matriarchs, and those who choose to mother themselves, we relish the gracious love of the Divine Feminine.

Ultimately, God is beyond gender definitions, in part because God is beyond all definitions. The Divine is without limits; time, space, and words cannot contain The One. And yet, it is intriguing, as a tradition heavy on male metaphors, to consider that one of the earliest Jewish names for God may be “God with Breasts” or “Nurturing God,” El Shaddai.

This week’s emanation of the Divine is closest to us. It is connected to the immanence of God’s presence in our lives and in our souls. The still, small voice inside you is connected to the Shechinah, the Indwelling. When you sink into prayer and feel the love of the universe surrounding you, you are experiencing The Presence.

Allow yourself to take a brief moment beyond skepticism, beyond philosophical doubts rooted in the fundamental question, ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ Instead, focus on the pulsing heart of the universe yearning to be with you.

And how can you be with the Divine? By walking the path of virtue. You define the path. Religion can provide guideposts along the way, but ultimately it is your journey.

Your life’s journey can either be a lonely walk to death or an open-hearted dialog. God’s sovereignty is a poetic way of saying: there are virtues and values that are more important to me than the vague urges of my ego. I am determined to attach all of my being, all of my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions to my higher self. El Shaddai will protect me. And I will relish Her loving embrace. May you have a soul-nourishing day.

Forty-two days of the Omer 5778

Today is forty-two days, which is six weeks of the Omer. מלכות שביסוד, שכינה שביסוד, Malchut ShebeYesod, Shechinah ShebeYesod, Sovereignty or Indwelling / Presence of Bonding / Foundation.

Do you allow your bonds to be sovereign in your life? At times of stress, do you put the needs of others before yourself? How do you hold your bonding sovereign in your life?

Do you allow those bonds to be eternally present? When you get depressed, do you allow your people, your community to lift you up or do you hide in shame? Are you present when others are in crisis?

Today, I realized my presence in my family is a thousand times more important and life-nourishing than focusing solely on my studies. May life remind you how important your presence is to your community and to the Divine.

Forty-one days of the Omer 5778

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

Today is a day to contemplate the ways in which you bond with others. Are you close to people? What actions do you take to enact your bond? Are you committed to a group of people, an organization, or a company? What do you do that solidifies those bonds?

Are you wary of forming bonds? Interrogate your skepticism. Have you been hurt? Do you think you’re protecting yourself by holding people at arms length? As Les Miserables teaches us, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Try to open yourself to bonding. Physically reach out to someone and do something to create or solidify a bond.

And you can also think about the values that form the foundation of your journey. What do you do to bring those values alive? What is at the root of your being? What brings you meaning? What reminds you of the meaning of your life?

May your journey to the roots of your bonding, to the rock of your foundation nourish you. May your actions contribute to human flourishing, to eudaimonia. And may you know that your presence and your bonding is vital and life-giving to the people around you.

Forty days of the Omer 5778

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

When your beloved takes a bite of food and relishes it. When your child hugs you tightly and refuses to let go. When you are in the flow and your workday flies by as you swim in the meaning you were meant to bring to the world. When you share a meal with friends and realize how deeply you care for one another. When you sink into the present moment and feel the Divine by your side.

These are all examples of the Splendor of Bonding.

May you have the opportunity to be fully present to someone today. May your body flow with the understanding that you are where you were meant to be. May you honor the Splendor of you, along with the relationships you’re building.

Thirty-nine days of the Omer 5778

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

How do you reflect the depth of your bonds with those you are close with? Do you consider individual relationships forever? Do you have an eternal community?

What keeps you focused on the person you want to be in those relationships? What triggers you, pushing you away from your intended reactions? Do you strain your relationships with the people closest to you when you are stressed?

If you don’t have a community that feels eternal, why? What would characterize a community you would be willing to commit to for the long haul?

May we all have the strength to overcome the person we become in stress. May we have deep, healthy relationships worthy of eternal bonding. And may we reach out to something beyond ourselves worthy of eternal attachment.

This counting was difficult for me to write. I have not been the person I hope to be today. I’ve had a difficult day of ants and final stress, and I felt I had no right to advise anyone on anything. May we all have the courage to metabolize our stress and be a blessing to those around us.

Thirty-eight days of the Omer 5778

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

Today I had the honor of witnessing the AJU Ziegler Rabbinical School ordination. Ten Rabbis were welcomed into the Jewish community. Their neshamot, their souls, shine bright and they are each a blessing and a light unto the world. Truly, it is an amazing thing to witness people embarking on their journeys, after five or six years of graduate school, into the work they have always meant to do.

What is the truth that binds you to living with meaning? How can you share the beauty of your path with all whom you meet along the way?

The most difficult and important insight I’ve gained from this Omer cycle is my obligation to enter spaces whole-heartedly and reflect the highest version of myself. I am committed to changing my habits, transforming my speech from being rooted in criticism and angst to recognizing the overflowing blessings of my life. 
If you missed today’s ceremony, you can join me on Memorial Day at 2 pm at Stephen S Wise Temple for the ordination and graduation of my colleagues from the Academy for Jewish Religion, California; Rabbis, Cantors, chaplain, and Jewish Studies graduates.

Thirty-seven days of the Omer 5778

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

Building community, and developing relationships are sacred tasks. You must hold space for yourself while committing to others. Similarly, you need to allow others space for themselves.

This tension can be particularly difficult for parents to manage. One spouse might need time to decompress from work. The other may feel they are relied on for too much of the familial duties. Or perhaps you share the duties, but are exhausted that you’ve lost a sense of self separate from parent and worker.

Discipline can also mean holding yourself accountable for your thoughts and actions. In times of stress, do you yell? Or do you become passive aggressive? Neither reaction is healthy bonding. Often, we need to be mindful and work diligently to overcome patterns of response we unconsciously developed during childhood.

May you have the strength to reflect on the discipline of your bonding. And may you have the space you need to relax and to grow into yourself.

Thirty-six days of the Omer 5778

Today is thirty-six days, which is five weeks and one day of the Omer. חסד שביסוד, Chesed ShebeYesed, Grace / Love in Bonding.

Today I had the honor of experiencing Shabbat services led by (soon to be) Rabbi Aviva Shira Funke. Her leadership, presence, and knowledge are gifts to all who know her. I look forward to learning more as she continues to expand people’s access to halachically-rooted, soul-nourishing, life-altering prayer.

I also had the honor of seeing my extended family and marvel at the quicker than expected recovery of my cousin from an almost fatal bicycle / car crash. Jason Brooks has been an inspiration of open-hearted living since we were kids and I’m so grateful we are able to continue this journey together.

In different ways, Aviva and Jason have taught me to embrace full-throated love. They have modeled staying rooted to what you hold most dear: evolving tradition, family, and love. May we all take the time to stop and appreciate the gifts of those around us. May we remember that grace is forever available to guide us towards the person we want to be. And may we commit to bonding our actions with our ideals; our thoughts and feelings with our highest selves.