Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 in Review

At this time last year, I was in Israel for the first time and getting ready to celebrate the beginning of 2013 in Tel Aviv. As 2013 draws to a close, I cannot help looking back on it as one of the most eventful years of my life so far. In this year, I have been to Israel twice, celebrated my 25th birthday, successfully counted all of the Omer, and (most recently) moved to Birmingham, Alabama. Not all of my memories are positive; this is also the year that I lost my grandfather and experienced anti-Semitism first-hand for the first time in my life. I can only hope that, in 2014, I will build up more good memories and not so many bad ones.

Let's take a quick look back at my most popular blog posts of 2013:

5. (95 pageviews) Taglit Mayanot Day 3 This was the day we met the IDF soldiers who would accompany us on our trip.
4. (98 pageviews) Taglit Mayanot Day 1 On our first full day in Israel, we went hiking and I had schwarma for the first time!
3. (99 pageviews) Taglit Mayanot Arrival On the night of December 27, 2012, my feet touched the land of Israel for the first time!
2. (104 pageviews) Mourning Online I found out about my grandfather's death on facebook, prompting me to rethink what we post and how we interact online.
1. (172 pageviews) Response to Rabbi Cosgrove's Conservative Conversion Proposal Out of the 117 posts I have written, this is the one I am most proud of. As a convert to Judaism, I was disheartened by the turn that Rabbi Cosgrove and some Conservative rabbis took in their stance toward the conversion process. Rabbi Cosgrove proposed relaxing the USCJ's conversion regulations to make it easier for interfaith families. As the USCJ continues to debate interfaith marriage and conversion, I hope that at least some of these 172 pageviews were people in a position to effect change within Conservative Judaism.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What is a dreidel?

On our first official day in Birmingham, Marc and I picked up our keys, bought some cleaning supplies, and cleaned our new apartment. Late the same afternoon, the moving truck arrived with 54 boxes and our furniture. After a couple hours unloading the truck and another few hours unpacking, Marc and I went out for a much deserved drink.

As it happens, we moved in on the day of the Iron Bowl (University of Alabama vs. Auburn), which ended this year in a 109-yard missed field goal return for Auburn to win the game. Though the game had been over for hours, a few unhappy Alabama fans had stayed at the bar to drown their sorrows. One of these fans was a young woman who, when we sat down, informed us that her grandfather is Jewish and then proceeded to ask me, "So what is a dreidel?"

The question seemed innocent enough at first. I wear a Mogen David necklace, so I am asked about Judaism from time to time and I'm happy to talk about it! Marc and I explained the extreme basics of how to play dreidel, which is essentially a gambling game. At that, she made a few jokes about Jews and money, which she assured us and the other man at the bar that she could do, because her grandfather is Jewish. At the time, I wasn't sure how to take her questions and comments and now I'm still not sure what to make of her. On one hand, she seemed genuinely curious about Judaism and even said that she had tried to ask her 92-year-old grandfather about his religion, but he refused to discuss it. On the other hand, her casual Jewish stereotyping, to say the least, and made me uncomfortable.

Is this anti-Semitism? Ignorance? A mix of both?

Ignorance is no excuse for prejudice. Despite Brad Paisley's assertions, I do not believe that one can be an "accidental racist." In fact, this conversation is not the first I have had in the south about Judaism. Southerners seem much more open to talking about religion than Northerners. In the north, it is rude to ask someone about their religious beliefs, but in the south, it is a fairly common topic of conversation. It is perfectly reasonable in the south to be asked to what denomination you adhere or where you go to church. When I lived in Nashville a few years ago, I had some great comparative religion discussions with co-workers and friends who were curious about my Jewish beliefs and practices and seemed excited just to share a belief in God, even though our religions differed. Those conversations never made me uncomfortable the way the dreidel question did.

In the past, I have always taken pride in leaving people with a better understanding of Judaism after being asked about some aspect or other. I seek out opportunities to educate others or invite questions about Judaism (wearing my Mogen David is one of those ways). I remain uneasy about the dreidel conversation not only because of the young woman's casual anti-Semitism, but because I don't feel that I succeeded in expanding her understanding of Jewish people at all. In the moment, I uneasily laughed off her remarks and turned my attention elsewhere. I felt, perhaps rightly, that her question and inebriated state did not really invite education. I hope that in the future, maybe when she is not drunk and lamenting a huge football upset, she will ask someone about Judaism again and actually listen to what they have to say. The south already has the open dialogue in place to support this informal education between acquaintances if only we can use it when opportunities arise.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Happy Thanksgivukkah everyone! This Thanksgiving/Hanukkah, I am thankful to finally have a place to call home, so this is really a triple celebration for me.

Eating some kosher turkey. Lighting a menorah. Moving to Birmingham.

Thank you to all the friends and family who supported me and Marc over the past 5 months. You made living out of a suitcase much easier and I am so appreciative!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Future of Conversion to Judaism in the Conservative Movement

Yesterday, at the USCJ's Centennial conference in Baltimore, they discussed (among other things) the future of conversion within the Conservative movement.

A panel of four rabbis led "How Open A Tent? A Dialogue About Conversion" to answer: "What should the Conservative Movement's stance on Conversion look like in the years to come? How do we define our communal boundaries, differentiate our stance from our brothers and sisters to the left and to the right of us - and be responsive to the Jewish community we serve? This session will be an open discussion with four rabbis in the field, with a robust give and take on their recommendations for the future." The panel featured Rabbis Elliot Cosgrove, Ed Feinstein, Michael Siegel, and Deborah Wechsler.

At the same time, Rabbi Adam Greenwald discussed "Conversion as Courtship: Helping Newcomers Fall in Love with Judaism." The description of his talk is: "The journey to becoming Jewish is like falling in love, encompassing flirtation, desire, heartbreak, and transformation. Join the director of the largest conversion program in the nation for a discussion about practical strategies for welcoming new Jews with warmth, integrity, and love."

I wish that I could have attended the conference this weekend, especially these two sessions. This conference is Conservative Judaism's "conversation of the century" and its "reset button" as the movement attempts to change with the times. It is especially obvious in light of the Pew survey on Judaism in America that something needs to change if the USCJ wants to stop losing members. Other topics at the conference included engagement, technology, and theology - all vital conversations to the USCJ's future. According to the Pew survey, 2% of the American Jewish population are converts (Jews who were not raised Jewish and had no Jewish parent). That 2% is split up among all the Jewish streams (the survey did not break them down into movements), so with such a minute population and so many other issues to address, you might ask why the USCJ devoted five rabbis in two sessions at its five day conference to the issue of conversion? It could be related to the rising rates of intermarriage that the Pew study also reported. It could be a signal that the USCJ is considering a more active approach to conversion, like the Reform movement did in the early 2000s. Whatever the reason, I am glad they included it in their overall conversation about the future.

Individuals in the Conservative movement have already gotten the ball rolling on conversion policy discussions! In March, Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove suggested (much to my dismay) converting potential Jews first and teaching them about Judaism after. Rabbi Harold Schulweis, one of Rabbi Ed Feinstein's co-Rabbis at Valley Beth Shalom, is among the growing number of rabbis in the Conservative movement who advocate more actively reaching out to potential converts. Rabbi Michael Knopf writes beautifully about the passion that Jews by Choice find in Judaism and how that can translate to Jews by Birth. These discussions are important, because they highlight a growing understanding among Conservative Jewish leaders that attracting potential converts is all in how they are addressed. There are a million reasons why a non-Jew might consider conversion - theological agreement, cultural affinity, introduction through a Jewish friend or significant other - and acknowledging them where they are and providing support as they ask the many Jewish questions they will have, is important in convincing them to turn their interest in Judaism into a fully Jewish life. I am excited to see these discussions becoming part of a movement-wide conversation of change.

It is fitting that the USCJ should start to rebuild its new identity this weekend, during Parsha Lech Lecha. This past Shabbat, as the USCJ Centennial began, we read Lech Lecha, in which Abram was told to go, to leave his home and to become the first of a great people. Lech Lecha is the reason that converts to Judaism take a Hebrew name ending in "ben/bat Avraham v' Sarah" symbolizing that step away from where they were raised toward a new spiritual identity. Jews by choice know a thing or two about building a Jewish identity from scratch, so maybe we can help the Conservative movement.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Quote of the Week: Problem-Solving

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." -Albert Einstein
Welcome to week two of the government shutdown. Our congressmen continue to be terrible at doing their jobs, digging their heels in on the policies and views that have gotten us into this mess in the first place. As the markets dive and the larger debt ceiling debate looms, I hope our elected officials will heed Einstein's advice and let go of their old thinking to find a solution and move us forward.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In God's Image

"And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Genesis 1:27
The story of Adam and Eve is one of the most difficult in the Torah. In the first two chapters of Genesis, we witness the creation of a beautiful world, full of new and wonderful things, watched over by a caring God. However, by chapter 3 paradise is already slipping out of our grasp. When I was young, Genesis filled me with a profound sense of loss. Mankind had disobeyed God, lost its innocence, and been expelled from the Garden of Eden in such a short amount of time. "How stupid," I thought, "to risk paradise for an apple."

Over time, my reading of Genesis has changed. My opinion of Adam and Eve significantly improved upon my conversion to Judaism. Jewish theology does not have the baffling idea of original sin that I was raised to associate with Genesis and, as a result, we don't have to lament the "fall of man" that consumes Christian interpretations. I can read Bereishit with a positive spin and there is plenty of positive material to work with when given the opportunity.

This year, instead of thinking "How stupid!" I thought, "How brave to risk so much for knowledge." Mankind was motivated by a desire to be more like God. We are, after all, made in God's image. The story of Bereishit introduces our innate curiosity, our hunger for understanding, and our striving to be closer to God. Throughout the Torah, God will address our desires by teaching us how to approach God appropriately through mitzvot.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Speak Up

John Mayer's song Waiting on the World to Change came out at just the right time to really speak to me. It was 2006, I had just graduated high school, and I was looking forward to becoming an adult with real power over my life, which seemed woefully out of my control.

I had been politically frustrated since 2001, when 9/11 had shocked me into paying attention to the the political world around me. I was old enough to start to understand the effects of political decisions on my life, but too young to have a say, and by 2006, I was frustrated with an American political landscape in which we fought two seemingly endless wars against the idea of terrorism and domestically failed to come together, even in the face of Hurricane Katrina.

I had been spiritually adrift for years and my frustration with the world at large only made me more skeptical of God.

My universe literally changed when scientists announced that Pluto was not a planet after all. My beloved Cubs could not change their terrible luck and ended the 2006 season in last place in the National League.

In August, when Waiting on the World to Change was released, I was saying my last goodbyes to my high school friends and packing for college. As an 18-year-old college-bound woman, I stood on the edge of adulthood. I looked into a future that was set on a political trajectory that I did not like, but that was, nonetheless, full of promise, because, as John Mayer pointed out, it would soon be our generation's turn to try our hand at running things. College and adulthood would bring with it a chance to have some real power in my own life. All I had to do was wait a little while longer for the world to change.

It's been seven years and many things have changed. Personally, I have graduated college, held two full-time jobs, lived in three different cities, converted to Judaism, and gotten married. When I actually take the time to reflect on them, my personal accomplishments bring me real joy and fulfillment. From time to time, I feel like a real adult who has intelligent things to say and relevant life experiences.

The world around me has changed too. Some of those changes give me real hope that I live in a good and reasonable world. My first presidential election saw young voter turnout increase in numbers that surprised analysts and I thought that maybe my generation wouldn't have to wait that long to start making a difference. Encouragingly, the Affordable Care Act was passed to make strides toward real needed health care reform, Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed, and support has swelled for gay rights, and during the last GOP primary, candidate Jon Huntsman warned Republicans against becoming the "anti-science party." I am also heartened by the possibility of Hillary running for president again in 2016 and becoming the first female president.

Despite all this, the world is not changing fast enough. The last seven years has also given rise to the Tea Party and a dangerously antagonistic Congress that seems intent not on moving forward as a nation but on stopping anything constructive from actually getting done. As I write this, Senator Ted Cruz is going into his 10th hour of continuous railing against the Affordable Care Act. It is the second time that the Tea Party has tried to use the nation's budget as a negotiating tool to change laws that they do not have the power to change in the way they were meant to. We have seen more mass shootings than I care to count anymore. After each successive Tuscon, Aurora, Sandy Hook, and Navy Yard, we are left less and less time to mourn before the screaming matches and blame games begin, all of which lead us nowhere. These things and so much more frustrate me and I am tired of waiting on the world to change. I have run out of patience for the unreasonable people on all sides. If we continue to wait for our turn, I'm afraid we will inherit a world so completely screwed up that we won't be able to fix it at all.

At the same time, underneath my frustration, I try to remind myself that loudness does not equal political support. If there really is a silent majority out there of sane people, please, for the love of God, speak up now. At this point, I don't even care what you have to say as long as it is logical and you can argue it without resorting to the negativity that pervades current discourse. I will work on finding my voice and gaining the confidence to speak my mind and I can only hope that others will do the same.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Heschel in Short: Man Is Not Alone

Man Is Not Alone by Abraham Joshua Heschel
Heschel's point: God is ineffable, indescribable, incomprehensible, and un-prove-able, but I can feel that God is here, there, and everywhere. I will spend this whole book trying to describe the feeling of God's presence to you. I'm sure you've felt it too. It is brief, like a dream you can't quite remember upon waking, but it leaves you with a feeling of certainty that you are not alone in the universe. Hold onto that feeling when the modern everyday doubt and skepticism start to set in. Believing in God is not logical by scientific standards, but when you look at the wonders of the world, it is illogical to think that there is not some power out there at work.

Select Quotes from Man Is Not Alone
"When in doubt, we raise questions; when in wonder, we do not even know how to ask a question."

"There are more songs in our souls than the tongue is able to utter."

"While the ineffable is a term of negation indicating a limitation of expression, its content is intensely affirmative, denoting an allusiveness to something meaningful, for which we possess no means of expression."

"The ineffable is there before we form an idea of it."

"Science extends rather than limits the scope of the ineffable, and our radical amazement is enhanced rather than reduced by the advancement of knowledge."

"With information we are alone; in appreciation we are with all things."

"There is so much more meaning in reality than my soul can take in!" 
I like this so much, it has already been one of my Quotes of the Week!

"Faith is not a product of our will. It occurs without intention, without will."

"Thus, awareness of God does not come by degrees: from timidity to intellectual temerity; from guesswork, reluctance, to certainty; it is not a decision reached at the crossroads of doubt. It comes when, drifting in the wilderness, having gone astray, we suddenly behold the immutable polar star." 
Here, Heschel captures perfectly (and much better-said) my long path to Judaism.

"But there is no man who is not shaken for an instant by the eternal."

"In trying to prove or disprove the existence of God, we are like dancing puppets which, incapable of knowing for what end and how they are capable of dancing, presuming to judge about whether or not anyone is pulling the strings."

"In sensing the spiritual dimension of all being, we become aware of the absolute reality of the divine."

"Faith is the fruit of a seed planted in the depth of a lifetime."

"The greatest obstacle to faith is the inclination to be content with half-truths and half-realities."

"God is not an explanation of the world's enigmas or a guarantee for our salvation. He is an eternal challenge, an urgent demand. He is not a problem to be solved but a question addressed to us as individuals, as nations, as mankind."

" have faith is to abide rationally outside, while spiritually within, the mystery."

"It is extremely easy to be cynical."

"God begins where words end." 
If you couldn't tell so far from these excerpts, Heschel often seems to struggle with words to express his complex thoughts about God. His struggle to find language that can capture the uncapturable creates beautifully poetic literature.

"We were never told: 'Hear, O Israel, God is perfect!' It is an attribution which is strikingly absent in both the biblical and rabbinic literature."

"It is suspiciously easier to feel one with nature than to feel one with every man: with the savage, with the leper, with the slave."

"For the cardinal question is not what is the law that would explain the interaction of phenomena in the universe, but why is there a law, a universe at all."

"Divine is a message that discloses unity where we see diversity, that discloses peace when we are involved in discord. God is He who holds our fitful lives together"

"God means: No one is ever alone; the essence of the temporal is the eternal; the moment is an image of eternity in an infinite mosaic."

"To worldly ethics one human being is less than two human beings, to the religious mind if a man has caused a single soul to perish, it is as though he had caused a whole world to perish, and if he has saved a single soul, it is as though he had saved a whole world."

"...unity is that which the uninterrupted advance of knowledge and experience leads us to, whether or not we are consciously striving for it."

"Monotheism in teaching that God is the Creator, that nature and man are both fellow-creatures of God, redeemed man from exclusive allegiance to nature. The earth is our sister, not our mother."

"Our trust in God is God (Deuteronomy Rabba 1, 10)."

"A man entirely unconcerned with his self is dead; a man exclusively concerned with his self is a beast."

"The shift from the animal to the human dimension takes place when, as a result of various events, such as observing other people's suffering, falling in love or by being morally educated, he begins to acknowledge the other selves as ends, to respond to their needs even regardless of personal expediency."

"Man reaches a new vertical dimension, the dimension of the holy, when he grows beyond his self-interests, when that which is of interest to others becomes vital to him"

"The self, the fellow-man and the dimension of the holy are the three dimensions of a mature human concern."

"If life is holy, as we believe it is, then self-regard is that which maintains the holy. Regard for the self becomes only a vice by association: when associated with complete or partial disregard for other selves. Thus the moral task is not how to disregard one's own self but how to discover and be attentive to another self."

"The statement: 'Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself,' concludes with the words: 'I am the Lord.' It is this conclusion that contains the ultimate reason for that solemn command. True and timeless is that command; but if God were not God, there would be no truth, no timelessness and no such command."

"Zeus is passionately interested in pretty female deities and becomes inflamed with rage against those who incite his jealousy. The God of Israel is passionately interested in widows and orphans." 
This made me laugh out loud on the train when I read it.

"God is everywhere save in arrogance."

"We are attached to two centers: to the focus of our self and to the focus of God. Driven by two forces, we have both the impulse to acquire, to enjoy, to possess and the urge to respond, to yield, to give."

"His concern is wrapt in the independence of the universe which is so well arranged that we are often led to believe that there is no need for occasional repairs. Our perception, therefore, is like listening to a foreign tongue: we perceive the sounds, but miss the meanings."

"The mark of Cain on the face of man has come to overshadow the likeness of God. There has never been so much distress, agony and terror."

"To have no faith is callousness, to have undiscerning faith is superstition."

"evaluating faith in terms of reason is like trying to understand love as a syllogism and beauty as an algebraic equation."

"Faith without reason is mute; reason without faith is deaf."

"To have faith means to justify God's faith in man."

"As we have seen, religion is not a feeling for something that is, but an answer to Him who is asking us to live in a certain way. It is in its very origin a consciousness of duty, of being committed to higher ends; a realization that life is not only man's but also God's sphere of interest."

"Judaism insists upon establishing a unity of faith and creed, of piety and Halacha, of devotion and deed. Faith is but a seed, while the deed is its growth or decay." The idea that faith is not enough, that action is required in addition to faith in almost all cases, is one of my favorite things about Judaism.

"Yet, reason is a lonely stranger in the soul, while the irrational forces feel at home and are always in the majority."

"Animals are content when their needs are satisfied; man insists not only on being satisfied but also on being able to satisfy, on being a need not only on having needs. Personal needs come and go, but one anxiety remains: Am I needed?"

"...the essence of man is not in what he is, but in what he is able to be."

"Our existence seesaws between animality and divinity, between that which is more and that which is less than humanity"

"Man is 'a little lower than the angels' (Psalm 8:5) and a little higher than beasts. Like a pendulum he swings to and fro under the combined action of gravity and momentum, of the gravitation of selfishness and the momentum of the divine"

"There is only one way to define Jewish religion. It is the awareness of God's interest in man, the awareness of a covenant, of a responsibility that lies on Him as well as on us."

"Some Greeks said: 'Passion is a god, Eros'; Buddhists say: 'Desire is evil.' To the Jewish mind, being neither enticed nor horrified by the powers of passion, desires are neither benign nor pernicious but, like fire, they do not agree with straw. They should be neither quenched nor supplied with fuel. Rather than worship fire and be consumed by it, we should let a light come out of the flames. Needs are spiritual opportunities."

"Eternity is not perpetual future but perpetual presence. He has planted in us the seed of eternal life. The world to come is not only a hereafter but also a herenow."

"This is the meaning of existence: To reconcile liberty with service, the passing with the lasting, to weave the threads of temporality into the fabric of eternity."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Quote of the Week: Faith

"Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase." -Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Quote of the Week: Whatever you are...

"Whatever you are, be a good one." -Abraham Lincoln
Here's to new beginnings. L'Shanah Tovah!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Quote of the Week: Religion is...

"When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion." -Abraham Lincoln
How do you define religion?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Maccabiah Highlights

I have spent the past two years of my professional life preparing to send 1150 athletes and staff and over 300 supporters to Israel for the 19th World Maccabiah Games with Maccabi USA. It may be the hardest I have every worked in my life. I certainly never would have guessed two years ago that a job with the title "Administrative Assistant" would require 20 hour days halfway around the world helping to "Build Jewish Pride through Sports." But our small office staff of eight people and our amazing volunteer staff did manage to make a positive impact on our athletes. I heard stories from athletes and parents about the impact of the Wall, singing Hatikva at the Opening Ceremony with 9000 Jews from around the world, or their gold medal games. Everyone walks away from the Maccabiah with a story. I even managed to carve out time (on Shabbat, within official work functions, or in the dead of the night) for a personal life of sorts, for my own development. Here are some of my highlights.

I was there for five days in the middle of my trip. I barely slept or ate in the days leading up to the Maccabiah Opening Ceremony and I forgot my phone one night when I went out (a friend went back to get it for me). Still, Jerusalem feels like home. It is instantly familiar, even though I was only there for a few days on Birthright in January. Somehow, despite being completely directionally challenged everywhere (even places I have known my whole life), I always know where I am and how to get home in Jerusalem. I didn't even pay attention to how we got anywhere, but I could always find my way back. It must have been a miracle.

The Western Wall
I think that I could go to the Western Wall a million times and have a million different experiences. My first time at the Wall was on Shabbat with Birthright. My second time was the following Sunday afternoon. This time, just six months later, with the Maccabiah was entirely different. This time, I visited the Wall with a large group of athlete's parents and supporters on our Mission program. We went on Friday afternoon before Shabbat began, held our own service, got through the small early crowd to touch the Wall, and walked back against the flood of foot traffic. I was struck this time, as I was last time, by the enormity of the Wall. It is huge. Each individual brick is massive. Standing at its base, I was simultaneously tiny and a part of something strong and powerful.

Home Hospitality Shabbat
Our Mission program offers a Friday night Shabbat dinner with an Israeli host family. The dinner required advanced sign up, so that each American family could be paired with an Israeli family in Karme Yosef, a town between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, who would take them into their home for dinner. The night began in embarrassment as half of our families dropped out at the last minute or just didn't show up for the bus, leaving their Israeli host families with no guests and more food than they needed. A woman named Michal took me home with her in place of one of my no-show families. Her son was home from the army for Shabbat and her mother and four-year-old niece were home finishing up dinner when we arrived. Not long after, Michal's husband, younger son, and nephews came home. He announced that they had not gotten to synagogue on time, so they would welcome Shabbat in the living room, where Michal and I were sitting. I expected to join them in their Kabbalat Shabbat, but the women moved to the dining room while the men sang Lecha Dodi and prayed. Michal's sisters and their children arrived and joined us in the dining room. I was suddenly concerned that I was in a home that excluded women from the prayers that I have come to know and love, but I was worried over nothing. We came together ten minutes later to bless the wine and challah and then we ate too much food. The conversation around me was an excited mix of Hebrew and a bit of English as people talked over each other. Every few minutes, Michal said, "Inglit" to remind her family to include me, but I was happy to try to catch familiar Hebrew words out of their conversations.

After dinner, the women left the table, but I was deep in conversation with Michal's husband and one of her nephews about Judaism in the US. They wanted to know how Israel was portrayed in the news and about the different branches of Judaism that we have and how they function as Jewish communities. I think I had the most fun answering the question, "How do you marry a Jew when you have so many other options in America?" I actively decided not to try explaining that I had converted and instead spoke from what I know of my husband's upbringing and the importance that I will someday stress to my children about dating or marrying someone Jewish. I have through before about the Diaspora and Jewish continuity, about interfaith dating, love and marriage, but it had never occurred to me that it might be a novel or even alien concept in Israel. How do we instill the importance of Jewish family in children? I have friends who are mostly secular, but who still would never think of dating someone who wasn't Jewish. That is something you have to actively decide and work for in Diaspora, but not something they really deal with in Israel. It was a really great conversation and a fantastic way to start my last Shabbat of the Maccabiah.

Late Night Theology
Toward the end of my trip, I gave up on sleep so that I might have a semi-social life. One night, a volunteer manager and our Team acupuncturist came to visit our hotel in Tel Aviv and the three of us talked about religion, life, and the universe until 3:00 AM. It was exactly the kind of conversation I always want to have, but have trouble finding someone willing to openly discuss their beliefs. We talked about Judaism, Christianity, conversion, the meaning of religion for each of us personally, and our souls/selves in relation to our physical bodies. It was a great discussion to have on very little sleep while in Israel overlooking the Mediterranean.

19th Maccabiah Closing Celebration 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Quote of the Week: Love Your Neighbor

ואהבת לרעך כמוך זה כלל גדול בתורה 
Ve'ahavta le'ray-ech camocha ze clal gadol ba'Torah

Love your neighbor as yourself is the whole Torah

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Quote of the Week: Meaning

"There is so much more meaning in reality than my soul can take in!" -Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man Is Not Alone

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mourning Online

Over the past few years, almost every time that my grandparents were in the hospital, I found out through Facebook. It was almost a miracle eight months ago that my mom got a hold of me by phone when my grandma died before I saw it online. I was not so lucky last week when I woke up to the news on Facebook that my grandpa had passed away. My immediate reaction was grief, followed swiftly by the angry thought, Who posts this news on Facebook at 5:30 AM? It is terrible to see your grandfather's death mixed in with a George Takei joke and a cat video. My parents would have had to call me in the middle of the night in order to catch me before I saw it on Facebook, not that they could have gotten a hold of me with my phone on silent for the night anyway.

News travels fast these days, but I don't think I'm the only one who still prefers to learn some news the old fashioned way. I think this article, Grief in the Age of Facebook, sums up how we handle death on Facebook very well. Mourning online is new and strange and I'm not sure that I like it. I can see some of the benefits. My grandpa's funeral is tomorrow and I live at least 750 miles away from anyone who knew him. My family members have posted their own eulogies of him online with dozens of sympathetic comments in response. It seems to be a good way to express grief and to be comforted by friends and family near and far. It's like a virtual shiva, without the food.

And yet, I have not participated in these Facebook status memorials, nor have I changed my profile picture to include him. I did when my grandma died, but the sympathy, no matter how sincere, felt hollow to me. Facebook is where I post interesting articles and weekend photos. It's where I "like" a friend's bad puns and argue politics with family. No matter how close a relationship we have in real life, a Facebook comment can't convey the crack in my voice and a "like" is not a hug.

Despite all this, I felt compelled to write this blog post, which is not so different from a Facebook status. Mourning is hard and everyone handles it differently. Eight months ago when my grandma died, I didn't know how to mourn, and I still don't know what I'm doing now. While this virtual world can't replace old fashioned mourning, I will share this story of my grandpa with you anyway in hopes that it will help.

The last time I spoke with him was last month, on what would have been his 57th anniversary. After telling me about how much he missed my grandma, we started talking about the last time we saw each other - at my wedding almost one year ago. It was a nice ceremony, he said.

"How do you like being Jewish?" he asked.

"I love it," I responded. I am very open about my conversion, but none of my extended family members have really asked me about it, so I haven't talked about it much with them.

"You know, the Jews don't believe the Messiah has come yet."

"No, we don't."

"The Catholics think he came already." My grandpa was a devout Catholic and I got nervous that this would turn into a conversation about my eternal soul, but it went in completely the other direction. He said, "But, you know, I think there are plenty of ways to get to heaven or whatever you believe in. I think your grandma is in heaven." My grandma was not a devout Catholic. "As long as you're a good person, you'll get there; it doesn't matter what religion you practice."

I agreed.

Then he asked, "Do you do all the blessings? You know, wash your hands before you eat and bless the wine and bread?"

"Yes! We have a new wash cup that we got in Jerusalem this winter on Birthright."

"See," he said, "I know things about Judaism."

And that's how I spent the last conversation with my grandpa talking about religion, practice, and the afterlife. z"l Grandpa Earl, I love you.

My grandparents at my wedding, June 2012
Photo by David Loeb, Edward Fox Photography 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Shavuot and Ruth

When I was little, I loved the stories from the Old Testament. My favorites were Daniel and Joseph, but I could recount the basic stories of others too. Noah and the flood, Sarah's barren woes, Moses leading people to freedom. But I couldn't tell you anything about Ruth. I learned most of my Biblical knowledge as a child from a book called My Little Bible, which told Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments in 10 sentences or less. The stories were meant to summarize complex Biblical people and events into lessons for toddlers. As you can imagine, summarizing the Bible in language for little kids can be hit or miss, but I think most of the stories did a decent job of getting to the general point. For example, here is the story of Esther:
Brave Queen Esther
Haman hated God's people, the Jews. He tricked King Xerxes into making a law to kill all the Jews. Esther was the queen, and King Xerxes loved her. But Esther was a Jew. She bravely told the king about Haman's trick. The king became angry and had Haman killed. Brave Esther had saved God's people.
Point to Esther's crown.
This story, and most of the others, explains who the main characters are, how they are related, and the motives for their actions. Haman is hateful and somehow connected to the king. Esther is Jewish and brave. Knowing these facts is essential to understanding what happens in the rest of the story. This, on the other hand, is the book's summary of Ruth:
Ruth and Naomi
Ruth married Naomi's son. But the son died. Then Ruth and Naomi moved to a country called Judah. Naomi's cousin Boaz lived there. He had a big wheat field. Boaz let Ruth pick up grain from his field to feed Naomi. Boaz soon married Ruth. And they had a son named Obed. Naomi took care of Obed.Do you know any babies?
I read these nine sentences over and over, but the story just didn't make sense to me. I wanted to know why Ruth lived with her mother-in-law instead of her own family and why they moved to Judah. I didn't understand why Naomi took care of Obed instead of Ruth and Boaz. Besides all that, I couldn't find a point to the story and every other Biblical story I knew seemed to have some kind of lesson. So I gave up on Ruth. I didn't come across her again until years later when I was planning to convert to Judaism and then suddenly Ruth had a point. The story of Ruth is a conversion story.
"For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God." Ruth 1:16
Today is Shavuot, when we read the story of Ruth (the whole story of Ruth), and thus it is a time to talk about Jews by Choice. Over the past week or two, your local Jewish paper likely featured an interview with a convert or an opinion peace about welcoming the "other" into our communities. You will probably also find a story entitled "Shavuot: The Neglected Holiday" or "What is Shavuot?"

Shavuot is a learning holiday. It is an all-night Torah fest. You come together with others to pray, read and discuss texts, eat cheesecake, and then learn some more. These are all things that I love. I also love Shavuot because it allows me to connect to the Jewish people in a way that is often difficult. Much of Jewish life is generational, but Shavuot highlights the idea that there is a Jewish soul within every Jew, whether they were born Jewish or chose Judaism, and that we were all at Sinai. It is also the favorite holiday of many converts to Judaism, because of its connection to Ruth. Since my conversion, I have come to understand and appreciate Ruth in a way that I never would have otherwise. So this Shavuot, I celebrate the Torah and Ruth.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Count the Omer: Days 47, 48 & 49

Day 47: Hod sheb'Malchut, Humility within Kingdom
The closer I get to God and spirituality, the harder it is to find the words to explain what I'm feeling. I think that's why so much of religious thought is expressed through analogies and metaphors. In that spirit, let's talk about stairs.
Around this time last year, I was on Mackinac Island in Michigan, hiking with my husband. Mackinac is a small, beautiful island, with plenty of hiking trails. Near dusk, we came to a winding staircase that disappeared up into the trees. We were tired from hiking all day, but decided to see where that staircase went anyway. We took it one step at a time, wondering where the stairs would lead and what kind of views we would have at the top. With the end in sight, we turned around to see how far we had come and it looked further and more twisted than it had seemed as we climbed.

As I reflect on Counting the Omer this year, I am amazed at how quickly and easily these seven weeks have gone by. It does not seem that long ago that we were celebrating Passover and counting day 1 of the Omer, taking that first step on the staircase toward spiritual improvement and Shavuot. I am humbled today by time and by our nearness to the top.

Day 48: Yesod sheb'Malchut, Foundation/Connection within Kingdom
We talked about the reverse of this combination last week. While malchut sheb'yesod is about the kingdom that you can build with a strong foundation and connections, yesod sheb'malchut falls in a week with the emphasis on kingdom. God was already there long before Abraham and Sarah first started wandering, before we received the Torah, before we created the traditions we hold dear today. The foundations of Judaism and our connections to each other have grown out of our relationship with God.

Day 49: Malchut sheb'Malchut, Kingdom within Kingdom
Well, here we are at the end. I am amazed by the difference that just one week can make. By taking the time each week to think deeply about my connection with God and how I can make better use of each of these seven attributes in my life, I think I have really found a way to be a better person and a better Jew. I'm sure that I will let some of these new-found ideas fall by the wayside in the coming year, but I always have next year to think about the in a new light and make them stick. So here's to continually reaching out to God and hoping that God reaches back.

Omer Recap

  1. Chesed - loving-kindness
  2. Gevurah - strength, power, justice, restraint
  3. Tiferet - beauty, harmony, balance, compassion
  4. Netzach - endurance, ambition
  5. Hod - gratitude, humility, majesty
  6. Yesod - foundation, connection
  7. Malchut - kingdom, leadership

Friday, May 10, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 46

Netzach sheb'Malchut, Endurance/Ambition within Kingdom
In God, I have found enduring love and community. In Judaism, I have found an encouragement to consistently learn and grow. In counting the Omer, I have found a path to self reflection and improvement, which ultimately brings me closer to God. It's a circle, a beautiful circle.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 45

Tiferet sheb'Malchut, Harmony within Leadership
As a leader, how can you create harmony among those around you?

Count the Omer: Day 44

Gevurah sheb'Malchut, Strength within Leadership
Have you ever surprised yourself? Have you ever charged headlong into something, gotten halfway there and thought, "I'm in over my head," only to succeed in the end? Have you ever been thrust into a leadership role you weren't sure you were ready for, but then found a strength you were unaware of until given the opportunity to use it?

Today is about getting a chance. It's about that untapped potential and erasing self-doubt. When you get a chance to do something a little above and beyond what you think you're ready for, you might be surprised by what you can do. So apply for the job with slightly higher qualifications than you think you have. Put your hat in the ring for president when you were planning to run for secretary. And when you get the opportunity, don't second guess yourself. You can rise to the occasion.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 43

Chesed sheb'Malchut, Lovingkindness within Kingdom
We are in the home stretch of counting the Omer, with only one week to go until Shavuot! Naturally, we start the week of malchut - kingdom and leadership - with love. How can you extend your domain, your kingdom, your reach, to include new people? How can you reach out to those who may need a little kindness?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 42

Malchut sheb'Yesod, Kingdom/Leadership within Foundation
Judaism is founded on our relationship with God and the laws of the Torah. Building your home and personal life with these ideals at the core is hard enough, let alone trying to build a nation and being a leader on the international stage. I think Israel does a pretty good job of it, even as they continue to work on finding the right balance between religion and state. I am interested to see how the Chief Rabbinate decision turns out.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 41

Yesod sheb'Yesod, Connection within Connection
Together in the Desert
We are so close to Shavuot. The Israelites and "mixed multitudes" who left Egypt 41 days ago have won a war together against Amalek and begun to create a societal structure by appointing judges to help Moses. In connecting with each other, they bring themselves closer to their spiritual connection to God. In turn, receiving the Torah at Sinai will make them a "people," the people of the Book, God's chosen nation.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Count the Omer: Days 39 & 40

Day 39: Netzach sheb'Yesod, Endurance within Connection

"'Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.' And He added, 'So shall your offspring be.' And because he put his trust in the Lord, He reckoned it to his merit." Genesis 15:5-6
This promise exemplifies endurance within connection. Through Abraham's connection with God, he gave birth to a nation as numerous as the stars, a nation that has endured the tests of time. Nowhere, however, does God promise that those offspring will remain Jewish. Two years ago, Rabbi Eric Yanoff in the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia, gave a d'var about passing on Judaism.

"Every generation," he said, "fears that it will be the last generation of Judaism." Not through some horrific event, like the Holocaust, but through a failure to connect with the next generation. Every generation fears that they will somehow fail to pass on their Jewish values, to engage the incoming generation in Jewish life in a meaningful and long-lasting way.

We are quickly approaching Shavout, a holiday that is all about connection. Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Torah at Sinai, the establishment of a lasting relationship between God and the Jewish people. Each year, as we celebrate by eating cheesecake and staying up all night to learn and study, we create that connection with God all over again.

Day 40: Hod sheb'Yesod, Majesty within Connection
The Torah is a guide for our lives. It details relationships between individuals, between tribes, and between Israel and God. In just ten days we will celebrate the day that God gave us the Torah, thus providing us with a manual for how to connect with God and with others, and how to incorporate Judaism into our daily lives.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Count the Omer: Days 37 & 38

Day 37: Gevurah sheb'Yesod, Power within Connection
Attaining power and influence is all about who you know and who you can connect with. Day 37 of the Omer should be a day to think about how you can improve your networking skills. Check out these tips to get you started!

Day 38: Tiferet sheb'Yesod, Harmony within Connection
There has been a lot in the news lately about combating stereotypes.

Two weeks ago the music world was a-buzz about "Accidental Racist" by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J. There are a lot of problems with this song and I will quote a few of the worst parts, but I don't want to dwell on it here.

  • "I hope you understand when I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I'm a Skynyrd fan." Paisley's opening line, referring to the Confederate flag t-shirts you see throughout the South. Using the Confederate flag is not ok, even if it is supposed to symbolize something else. The fact is that it will forever be associated with slavery, oppression, and the deadliest war in American history. If it represented "Southern pride" before that or musical taste after that, it is completely overwritten by the Civil War. Besides that, plenty of people still use it today for racist reasons, so it is still a terrible symbol. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people try to defend this flag. 
  • Pretty much everything LL Cool J says in this song is terrible. 
  • "RIP Robert E. Lee, but I've gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me." LL Cool J's last line of the song. Seriously? You don't have to justify loving Abe Lincoln and you certainly don't have to mourn Robert E. Lee. 
But really, what did you expect from a guy whose biggest hit two summers ago was "Water," a four and a half minute song about how great water is? All that said, I am a Paisley fan and in the hundreds of interviews Paisley and LL Cool J have done since the song hit the fan, they have stressed that all they meant to do was start a conversation.

In other news, the German Jewish Museum has an exhibit dubbed "Jew in a Box," part of an exhibit called "The Whole Truth." This part of the exhibit is just a Jewish person sitting on a stool answering your questions about Judaism.

Both of these things are controversial, but in the spirit of conversation-making, let's have a conversation about racism and stereotypes. We're all guilty of stereotyping others and I think/hope that most of us would agree that that is bad. "Accidental Racist" and the "Jew in a Box" exhibit are attempting (though their success is debatable) to connect two cultures that have had their issues and that continue to be ignorant of each other. The message? The hope? The goal? To create understanding and eventually harmony by connecting people and breaking down stereotypes.

"Water" by Brad Paisley

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 36

Chesed sheb'Yesod, Lovingkindness within Connection
Because I know you missed my amazing depictions of the Omer, I have another one for you. 

Loving-kindness within Connection
This picture, in case you can't tell, is a chain made out of hearts. Tonight we begin the week of connection and foundation. Connections are made stronger through love and each act of kindness could add a new link in your chain - a new friend, closer ties with your family, etc.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 35

Day 35: Malchut sheb'Hod, Leadership within Humility

Malchut sheb'Hod is about having the humility as a leader to recognize that there is no "I" in "team". Think of today like being the captain of your baseball team. You are a leader, but also part of a team. Your inspiring speech in the bottom of the 9th may push your teammates to hit harder and run faster, but in the end your leadership alone will not decide the game. You will win or lose as a team.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 34

Day 34: Yesod sheb'Hod, Foundation within Gratitude
Have you ever thought about where you are and how you got there? I often think about the actions I have taken, but rarely the characteristics and principles underlying my success. What is at the foundation of who you are? Take the time to thank your family for helping to mold you into the person you are.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Count the Omer: Days 32 & 33

Day 32: Netzach sheb'Hod, Ambition within Humility and Gratitude
You've heard the phrase "keep your eyes on the prize." Ambition can sometimes lead to a singular focus or tunnel vision. It is important to be determined and committed to achieving something, but today's combination of ambition with humility reminds us to take a look around every once in a while. Don't get so wrapped up in your part of a project that you lose sight of the bigger picture. Who else is helping you achieve your goal? Take a moment to recognize their effort and thank them.

Day 33: Hod sheb'Hod, Humility within Majesty or Majesty within Majesty

Lag B'Omer
Hod is about being humble while still recognizing the majestic qualities within yourself. The difficulty of hod sheb'hod is balancing modesty with respect.

The 33rd day of the Omer is Lag B'Omer, a day to celebrate! There are a number of traditional historical reasons given for celebrating Lag B'Omer, which you can read about here. In addition to these reasons, today's combination of hod sheb'hod can also be translated as majesty within majesty. Today is a day to celebrate the majesty within ourselves and in the world around us.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 31

Tiferet sheb'Hod, Beauty within Majesty
When I think about "majesty," I picture mountains, rivers and wild horses - things of natural beauty with added awe. To me, today is about recognizing that beauty is part of a larger majestic, awe-inspiring, God-given world and we should be moved to preserve that beauty.
Smoky Mountains

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 30

Day 30: Gevurah sheb'Hod, Justice and Restraint within Humility
"He has told you, O man, what is good,
And what the Lord requires of you:
Only to do justice
to love goodness,
And to walk humbly with your God" 
-Micah 6:8

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 29

Day 29: Chesed sheb'Hod, Lovingkindness within Majesty/Gratitude
Tonight, we begin the week of hod, which is gratitude, humility, and majesty. It is a week for figuring out how to be humble and majestic and for learning how to express thanks. The concept of Hod is related to prayer. Tonight, I will say the blessing for counting the Omer, and then the Bedtime Sh'ma. Thanks to Jeff Seidel's student information center in Jerusalem, I received a copy of the Women's siddur on my Birthright trip this winter and started reciting the morning and (not quite as often) the bedtime prayers. The Bedtime Sh'ma is particularly helpful to me after a tough day.

It begins: "Master of the Universe, I hereby forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me or who sinned against me."
Expressing my frustrations to God and forgiving others at the end of the day serves two purposes for me:
  1. It allows me to let go of that negativity and start fresh in the morning. 
  2. It reminds me that God is there to help. 
I am grateful for the ability to vent to God every day. This venting allows me to get up the next day without holding a grudge, and be kind to someone who may have bothered me yesterday.

That, to me, is chesed sheb'hod. Good night!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 28

Day 28: Malchut sheb'Netzach, Leadership within Endurance
"Heroism is endurance for one moment more." -George Kennan
It has been one week since the Boston Marathon bombing. I find it amazing that anyone can have the endurance to run a marathon in the first place, let alone turn around afterwards and fight exhaustion to help others in the wake of a bombing. How can you push your limits to be a leader and a hero?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Count the Omer: Days 26 & 27

Day 26: Hod sheb'Netzach, Gratitude within Ambition
If someone has given you a leg up toward you goals, don't forget to thank them and return the favor.

Day 27: Yesod sheb'Netzach, Foundation within Ambition
How do you define yourself? What is the foundation upon which you build your ambitions? I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, a Jew, a Cubs fan, and a Lincoln enthusiast, among other things. I am passionate about religious engagement, public memory (museums), and education. These things are my foundation and the way that I connect with the world and those around me. These are the things that have defined who I am and they will inform my decisions as I begin to build a family and a career.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 25

Day 25: Netzach sheb'Netzach, Ambition within Endurance
"When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there." -Jim Henson
What lasting impression do you hope to leave on the world?

Please pray for Boston this weekend as the police and FBI continue the manhunt for the suspected Boston Marathon bomber.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 24

Day 24: Tiferet sheb'Netzach, Compassion within Endurance
"Every calamity is to be overcome by endurance." -Virgil

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 23

Day 23: Gevurah sheb'Netzach, Strength within Endurance
Growing up, I gave up easily on activities and moved onto the next thing. Since then, I have learned the value of sticking with a project to the end - the accomplishment, the satisfaction. I often look back and think, "If I got all that done, then I can do anything!" This feeling is strength through endurance.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 22

Day 22: Chesed sheb'Netzach, Loving-kindness within Ambition/Endurance
Tonight we enter the fourth week of the Omer, the week of netzach. We should take this week to think about our ambitions and long term goals. What are you striving for? How are you going to get there? We start, as we do every week, with loving-kindness. You never know who might be able to help you achieve your goals, so be nice.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 21

Day 21: Malchut sheb'Tiferet, Leadership within Compassion
Today, we pray for Boston. In tragic times, when I am at a loss for words, I find it easier to quote others, so here are some quotes I found helpful today:

"A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance in despair." -Abraham Joshua Heschel

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'" -Mr. Rogers
Thank God for the helpers, those people whose "greatest passion is compassion" and who step into leadership roles in the wake of a tragedy. Today, of all days, we need leadership within compassion.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Count the Omer: Days 18, 19 & 20

Shabbat and weekend life have delayed my blogging by a few days, so let's play catch up. This week we have talked about tiferet as balance, beauty, and harmony, but there is another translation: compassion.

Day 18: Netzach sheb'Tiferet, Endurance within Compassion

Everyone needs some sympathy sometimes. A little compassion can go a long way in getting someone through a tough time.

Day 19: Hod sheb'Tiferet, Gratitude within Compassion
We talk a lot about putting ourselves in someone else's shoes, but do we ever think about how someone may have put themselves in our shoes? Maybe you snapped at a friend when you were having a bad day and they let it slide. Maybe you said something insensitive without realizing it and the person rolled with it rather than getting offended. Take the time to thank someone for their understanding today.

Day 20: Yesod sheb'Tiferet, Connection within Compassion
Today would have been my grandparents' 57th anniversary. It is also seven months since my grandmother died. My grandpa spent their first anniversary since her death alone watching golf. I almost didn't call him today out of fear that I would bring up painful memories for him on this hard day, but it turned out that he needed someone to talk to. Compassion is an important part of any relationship, but it only means something if you reach out and express it. Is there someone you are close to who needs your compassion today?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 17

Tiferet sheb'Tiferet, Harmony within Harmony
When I am surrounded by other stressed out people, it stresses me out, and when I am surrounded by calm people, it calms me down. Since there seems to be a lack of calm people to surround myself with right now, I have to start with me and hope that I can be a harmonious influence in someone else's life. I am working hard to develop some more tiferet in my life and I am already seeing results! Even though my work load hasn't changed (it may have even increased slightly this week), I feel more in control now that I have built in a balance of work time vs. me time. When I am calm and collected, I can look at things more positively and see solutions where before I only saw problems. Now, instead of radiating stress, I exude calmness and harmony (or try to).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 16

Day 16: Gevurah sheb'Tiferet, Power within Beauty
This is my favorite time of year! Just when I'm feeling rundown by the cold, short days of winter, spring comes with its beautiful budding flowers and sunshine and I'm reinvigorated and empowered.