Sunday, June 12, 2016

Omer 2016 Recap

Honorable Mention
How many women could I name from the Tanakh before this Omer? Not nearly 49, but I am pleased to report that in the end I had women to spare! Here are some that I just couldn't place in the Omer, but who are nonetheless fantastic and have very interesting stories:
  • Keturah, Abraham's second wife after Sarah's death (Genesis 25). Rashi suggested that Keturah was another name for Hagar, but others disagreed.
  • Timna, Esau's son's concubine (Genesis 36:12). Feminist Judaism makes a big deal about her, because she is singled out among Esau's son Eliphaz's wives as just his concubine, instead of a full wife like the others (WRJ Torah). Another midrash suggests that she wanted to convert to Judaism, but was denied.
  • Elisheba, Aaron's wife (Exodus 6:23) was mentioned only once in passing, but as the wife of the high priest, her life must have been fascinating. She also endured the tragic loss of her sons, Nadab and Abihu.
  • Moses' second wife, the Cushite woman was a source of discord between Moses and his siblings, particularly Miriam, who was very upset that he would marry an outsider.
  • Peninnah, Hannah's rival wife (1 Samuel 1) taunted Hannah for being barren.
  • Solomon's 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-5). We think of Solomon as a wise and great king, but these 700 wives and 300 concubines managed to lead him astray and in his old age he worshiped their gods.
  • The concubine from Bethlehem (Judges 19) quite possibly has the saddest story that I read in the Tanakh. She was taken as a concubine by a Levite man, but she ran away from him back to her father's house. He then went after her and took her back from her father. He showed no regard for her on their journey back to his home and when his life was threatened by an angry mob, he threw her out into the street, where the mob raped her to death.
In preparing for the Omer this year, I didn't get through the entire Tanakh (I read up to 2 Kings), so I'm sure that there are even more women who would have made great additions to the blog this year.

Below is a list of all the women of the Omer this year. I have put a * next to the ones I am most proud of.
Day 1: Naomi*
Day 2: Shifra and Puah*
Day 3: Rachel
Day 4: Hagar
Day 5: Sarah
Day 6: Rebecca
Day 7: Abigail
Day 8: Michal
Day 9: Potiphar's wife*
Day 10: Jezebel
Day 11: Yael*
Day 12: Lot's wife
Day 13: Yocheved
Day 14: Zipporah
Day 15: The women with the baby
Day 16: Hannah
Day 17: Abishag*
Day 18: Samson's first wife
Day 19: Manoah's wife
Day 20: Zilpah and Bilhah
Day 21: Vashti
Day 22: Rahab
Day 23: Leah
Day 24: Sisera's mother*
Day 25: The woman who killed Abimelech
Day 26: Miriam*
Day 27: Tamar, Judah's daughter-in-law
Day 28: The clever woman of Abel of Beth-maacah
Day 29: The widow who fed Elijah
Day 30: Zelophehad's daughters
Day 31: Deborah, Rebecca's nurse*
Day 32: Jephthah's daughter
Day 33: The clever woman of Tekoa
Day 34: Asenath
Day 35: Bathsheba
Day 36: Orpah
Day 37: Delilah
Day 38: Esau's wives
Day 39: Lot's daughters
Day 40: Eve
Day 41: The sorceress in En-dor
Day 42: Naamah
Day 43: Huldah the Prophetess
Day 44: Deborah
Day 45: Pharaoh's daughter
Day 46: Esther
Day 47: The Queen of Sheba
Day 48: Dinah and Tamar, King David's daughter*
Day 49: Ruth*

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 49: Ruth

Day 49: Malchut in Malchut, Leadership in Leadership

We made it to the end of the Omer! Tonight is Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates our receiving the Torah at Sinai after the exodus from Egypt. But before we celebrate our physical and spiritual freedom with cheesecake and late-night learning, we have to reflect on the 49th day of the Omer, leadership in leadership.

At our Passover seders 49 days ago, we all sat around our tables and read from the haggadah, "In every generation, each person must see himself or herself as if he or she personally experienced the Exodus from Egypt." Over the past 49 days, we have counted the Omer as if we were on a personal journey from slavery to freedom. It is also said that every Jewish person who had ever or would ever exist was present at Sinai when God gave us the Torah. Much of Judaism is about the collective - praying together, studying together, eating, mourning, and celebrating together - but I am reminded today that it is also an intensely personal experience. Each Jew understands Judaism in his or her own way. Each Jew embodies the seven sephirot of the Omer differently. Each of us comes with our own lens on the world which causes us to interpret the Omer differently. Even from year to year, my perspectives on the days of the Omer have changed as my experiences have changed.

Leaders must be able to balance the personal and the communal, their personal goals with the welfare of the people they lead. As the first convert, Ruth stands as the model on which conversions are based, a perfect example of leadership in leadership.

"Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people, and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16)
She is leadership in leadership, because her choice to convert shows an understanding and acceptance of this fundamental piece of Jewish life and leadership. She not only undertook a new personal identity and life, but also embraced the fact that doing so would make her part of the collective Jewish people.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 48: Dinah and Tamar

Day 48: Yesod in Malchut, Connection in Leadership

There has been a lot in the news recently about the Stanford sexual assault case, which ended with a unanimous guilty verdict for the rapist and a disappointingly short six-month prison sentence, which will be only three months with good behavior. Since last weekend, the the moving letter written by the survivor has been widely shared on social media. You can and should read it in full here if you haven't already. It ends with this:

"And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you." -Stanford survivor
Today, Vice President Joe Biden published an open letter supporting her and praising her strength and Texas Representative Ted Poe reiterated to the country that "no means no," because, for an unfathomable reason, that concept still eludes some people.

Of course, this got me thinking about Dinah and Tamar (King David's daughter, not the Tamar who was Judah's daughter-in-law), who both survived rape in the Tanakh. They are important female figures with painful stories, who I had been struggling to incorporate into the Omer this year until I read the Stanford survivor's letter.

Dinah was raped by Shechem, the son of the chief of the land (Genesis 34: 1-4). Tamar was raped by her half-brother, Amnon (2 Samuel 13:10-15). After both incidents, neither woman is heard from again. I can't help but wonder what they would have said if given the chance to speak out against their attackers and against the injustices they faced in their societies. I can't help but reflect in horror and anger on the persistence of this evil in the world. But we cannot despair, because as leaders we must be called to action. We must reach out to each other, build connections where there is isolation, and "never stop fighting" for a world free of rape and violence.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 47: The Queen of Sheba

Day 47: Hod in Malchut, Glory in Leadership
"The queen of Sheba heard of Solomon's fame, through the name of the Lord, and she came to test him with hard questions." (1 Kings 10:1)
When Solomon passed her test and she saw his wealth and success with her own eyes, the queen of Sheba presented him with glorious gifts. There are so many lessons to learn from the queen of Sheba. We should not trust rumors about people, but see who they are for ourselves before making up our minds about them and we should prize and reward intelligence in leadership.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 46: Esther

Day 46: Netzach in Malchut, Endurance in Leadership

"Mordecai had this message delivered to Esther: 'Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king's palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father's house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.'" (Esther 4:13-14)
Esther proves that leaders have a responsibility to use their positions of power to help others. As the queen, Esther was in a position to save the Jewish people from Haman's plot against them.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 45: Pharaoh's daughter

Day 45: Tiferet in Malchut, Compassion in Leadership

"The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe in the Nile. She spied the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to fetch it. When she opened it, she saw that it was a child, a boy crying. She took pity on it and said, 'This must be a Hebrew child.'" (Exodus 2:5-6)
Knowing that her father had ordered his men to kill all the Hebrew boys, Pharaoh's daughter defied him to save baby Moses and raise him as her own.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 44: Deborah

Day 44: Gevurah in Malchut, Justice in Leadership

"[Deborah] summoned Barak son of Abinoam, of Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, 'The Lord, the God of Israel, has commanded: 'Go, march up to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand menof Naphtali and Zebulun. And I will draw Sisera, Jabin's army commander, with his chariots and his troops, toward you up to the Wadi Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hands.'"

But Barak said to her, 'If you will go with me, I will go; if not, I will not go.'

'Very well, I will go with you,' she answered. 'However, there will be no glory for you in the course you are taking, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.'" (Judges 4:6-9)
Who could better represent justice in leadership than Deborah, the judge and prophet who led the Israelites back to God after they had gone astray and worshiped idols?

As we know, Yael had the pleasure of defeating Sisera, just as Deborah prophesied.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 43: Huldah the Prophetess

Day 43: Chesed in Malchut, Mercy in Leadership

King Josiah was made aware of a scroll that detailed instructions for how to act in the Temple, which generations of kings had disregarded, so he sent priests to seek the advice of Huldah the prophetess. Unfortunately, she did not have great news for them. Because they had ignored the teachings of this scroll and worshiped other gods, God planned to destroy them. However, Huldah continued with some merciful news for King Josiah:
"But say this to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord: Thus said the Lord, the God of Israel: As for the words which you have heard - because your heart was softened and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I decreed against this place and its inhabitants - that it will become a desolation and a curse - and because you rent your clothes and wept before Me, I for My part have listened - declares the Lord. Assuredly, I will gather you to your fathers and you will be laid in your tomb in peace. Your eyes shall not see all the disaster which I will bring upon this place." (2 Kings 22:18-20)
Huldah represents mercy in leadership, because, although she was tasked with relaying terrible news, she showed mercy and understanding to the king and was able to give him some measure of peace.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 42: Naamah

Day 42: Malchut in Yesod, Leadership in Foundation

"Meanwhile, Rehoboam son of Solomon had become king in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem - the city the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to establish His name there. His mother's name was Naamah the Ammonitess." (1 Kings 14:21)
Naamah was one of King Solomon's many wives and the mother of Rehoboam, his successor to the throne. According to the Talmud, she was a righteous woman and the only mother of a sitting king who was a foreigner (she was an Ammonite).

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 41: The sorceress in En-dor

Day 41: Yesod in Yesod, Connection in Foundation
King Saul was the first king of Israel, anointed by the prophet Samuel. Eventually he fell out of favor with God and his throne was threatened by David. He wanted to seek advice from Samuel, but by that time, Samuel had died, so he went to a sorceress for help.
"They came to the woman by night and he said, 'Please divine for me by a ghost. Bring up for me the one I shall name to you.' But the woman answered him, 'You know what Saul has done, how he has banned [the use of] ghosts and familiar spirits in the land. So why are you laying a trap for me, to get me killed?'" (1 Samuel 28:8-9)
Saul assured her that she would not be punished and she did as she was asked, providing him a connection into the spirit world. Unfortunately for Saul, Samuel's ghost informed him that he and his sons and all the men with him would die the next day, but for our purposes, the point of this story is that the sorceress was able to connect Saul with Samuel, who had been there at the foundation of his installation as king and fittingly pronounced its end as well.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 40: Eve

Day 40: Hod in Yesod, Glory/Humility in Foundation

"And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27)
Eve is the foundation of humanity, created in the image of God (it doesn't get any more glorious than that) and it was through her curiosity that people gained the knowledge of good and evil.