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.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 15

Day 15: Chesed sheb'Tiferet, Loving-kindness within Balance
Today is the first day of the third week of the Omer, the week of tiferet. This week we focus on beauty, harmony, balance, and compassion. This reminder to find balance in my life could not have come at a better time - my life has been heavily skewed to the work side of things right now as our eight person office prepares to send 1,200 people to Israel for the Maccabiah Games. The balancing act of life - juggling work tasks, home responsibilities, and personal relationships - is getting away from me and I have been working extra hard to keep the tension from affecting my friendships. But today, spring arrived with temperatures around 80 degrees and I took my first real lunch break since last fall to just walk around outside. That 45 minutes away from my desk did wonders. With more balance in my life, I have a spring in my step and I'm ready to spread the love.

My advice for today: Go outside. Stretch. Smile.

Good advice from Baz Luhrmann

Monday, April 8, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 14

Day 14: Malchut sheb'Gevurah, Leadership within Power
My fifth grade teacher's favorite quote was "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." If you were given power, would you abuse it, or rise to the occasion as a strong and effective leader? How can you use the power you have to make a positive difference in your community?
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." -Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 13

An IDF soldier at Mt. Herzl Cemetery

Day 13: Yesod sheb'Gevurah, Foundation within Strength
Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Israel, they sound sirens throughout the country and everyone stops to remember those we lost. The State of Israel rose out of the ashes of the Holocaust and is a symbol of the continued strength of the Jewish people.

The men and women of the IDF provided a strong foundation for Israel and continue to defend it bravely.

Count the Omer: Day 12

Day 12: Hod sheb'Gevurah, Humility within Strength or Gratitude within Justice
Tomorrow is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. As we remember the countless lives lost and destroyed by the Holocaust, we should feel hod: humility, gratitude, and majesty. I am humbled by the strength and resilience of the Jewish people and grateful to those who pursued justice in an unjust time. Today we thrive, both in Diaspora and in Israel, and it is majestic. If I were creating a language, I would not have thought up a word that encompasses humility, gratitude, and majesty, but without hod I would be at a loss to express myself on Yom HaShoah.
Memorial at Yad Vashem in Israel, commemorating the children killed in the Holocaust

Friday, April 5, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 11

Day 11: Netzach sheb'Gevurah, Endurance within Strength
This Monday, HBO will air a documentary called 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus, which tells the story of an American couple who saved 50 Jewish children from Nazi Germany. Jewish strength in the face of persecution has kept us alive in countless instances throughout history. The Kraus' story is only one of many examples of the strength and bravery that has sustained the Jewish people in perilous times. Through strength, we endure.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 10

Day 10: Tiferet sheb'Gevurah, Harmony within Restraint
In April 2011, I converted to Judaism and started counting the Omer. The following is a conversation I had on facebook with a friend.
April 29, 2011
So, it's day 10 of the Omer. I really meant to keep up with the count this year, and to pay attention to the sefirot associated with each day. Never too late to start, I guess, so: Tiferet sheb'G'vurah. Chabad describes it as "Harmony in Restraint." Thoughts?

Erin http://homercalendar.net/Welcome.html

Friend I'll quote from chabad.org here, to bring everybody up to speed:

'The teachings of Kabbalah explain that there are seven "Divine Attributes" -- Sefirot -- that G-d assumes through which to relate to our existence: Chessed, Gevurah, Tifferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut ("Love", "Strength", "Beauty", "Victory", "Splendor", "Foundation" and "Sovereignty"). In the human being, created in the "image of G-d," the seven sefirot are mirrored in the seven "emotional attributes" of the human soul: Kindness, Restraint, Harmony, Ambition, Humility, Connection and Receptiveness. Each of the seven attributes contain elements of all seven--i.e., "Kindness in Kindness", "Restraint in Kindness", "Harmony in Kindness", etc.--making for a total of forty-nine traits. The 49-day Omer Count is thus a 49-step process of self-refinement, with each day devoted to the "rectification" and perfection of one the forty-nine "sefirot."'

Friend I'm tempted to think of Tiferet sheb'G'vurah as Harmony (Balance) in *Justice* (or Judgment), just working with the basic meanings of the divine attributes. The attributes of the human soul may mirror the divine a little more closely than in Chabad's explanation.

Erin If you want to stick with Chabad's translations, you could look at it through the lens of this week's Torah portion/the mitzvot.

In order to have harmony in the world, there must be a certain amount of restraint, hence the mitzvot. Following the mitzvot sometimes means putting boundaries on ourselves (restraining ourselves in the face of desire, idol worship, jealousy, etc), but by doing so, we are better able to live in peace with our neighbors and in harmony with God.

Friend True. But doesn't that also entail establishing a system of justice to help us learn restraint? On an individual level, we may be capable of setting limits for ourselves, in order to pursue an inner harmony. But on the societal level, justice entails balancing the wills and self-imposed limits of diverse individuals, in order to create a larger harmony.

Erin Yeah - you can put all the restraints on yourself you want, but if the guy next to you doesn't keep to them too then what do you do? On the other hand, a justice system has to have restraint too. You can't make death the punishment for every crime. To use your other translation, we have to balance judgment with compassion. We see God trying to find that balance throughout the Torah as well (compare Noah and the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jonah and Nineveh, etc)...which brings us back to your point about humanity mirroring the divine, which I really like.

Friend Hmm... Yeah, emulation of the divine is an implicit commandment in the revelation that we are created b'Tzelem Elohim. And so perhaps, like God, we sometimes go too far. We can also, like God, be persuaded not to go through with a vow to execute harsh justice (as in Jonah, or Ex. 32).
(I also think we'll get back to the idea of balanced justice next week, with G'vurah shebiT'feret.)

Erin Nice how they all flip like that so you can have a similar discussion later on.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 9

Day 9: Gevurah sheb'Gevurah, Strength within Restraint
According to Jewish teaching, every person has within them a good inclination (yetzer hatov) and a bad inclination (yetzer hara). My rabbi in Nashville used to say that the mitzvot are like a dumbbell that we use to exercise our good inclination. Some of the mitzvot are positive ("do this") and some are negative ("don't do that"). Not only do we strengthen ourselves by doing the positive commandments, like reciting the morning prayers or wearing a yarmulke, but also by following the negative commandments, like limiting our diets by observing kashrut.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 8

Day 8: Chesed sheb'Gevurah, Loving-kindness within Justice

Support for gay marriage is on the rise, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll and with the issue facing judgement from the Supreme Court, what an excellent time to talk about loving-kindness within Justice!

There are issues that we can look back on in history and think:
"What took them so long?"
"Would I have been on the right side of history if I had lived in that time?"
"Could I have made a difference?"

It is easy to look back with the benefit of hindsight and think that we would have stood up for the right thing, but we will never know how we would have acted if we had lived in a different time and faced a different set of issues. We only have the issues before us today. This week is about justice and strength, so take the time to stand up for something you believe in.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 7

Day 7: Malchut sheb'Chesed, Kingdom/Leadership within Loving-kindness

"In malchut, God does not act merely by Himself, but rather God acts through us." Aish

This is the first instance of malchut as we count the Omer and the first way in which God acts through us is with loving-kindness. How can you let God's loving-kindness shine through today?