Monthly Archives: May 2016

Omer – Day 37

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom shloshim ve sheva laOmer, shehem hamisha shavuot ve shtei yammim laOmer.

Today is day thirty seven of the Omer, which is five weeks and two days of the Omer.

gevura be yesod – strength within intimacy; greatness within relationship

You know what makes relationships great? Cabbages, rabbits and foxes. There is this math riddle – a man has to get a cabbage, a rabbit and a fox (some versions have goats and wolves – we always end up with rabbits) to the other side of a river but has a very small boat which will only fit one of the items and the rabbit and fox are not in cages, but can eat things and the cabbage is unwrapped. What? Unreal? So are some of the situations families get into! If you have ever tried to coordinate a bunch of people in a family who all have different activities, you know there’s always a “and if you take her to the birthday party, I’ll drive him to the office, and she can take her to swim class, and then he can swing back and make dinner, and then she will make it to the airport on time and who is picking her up from the birthday party anyway, and whose job was it to pack the swim-suit?” discussion.

And the fact that there’s a family means people throw suggestions at each other until finally, someone says, “and that means the cabbage makes it safely!” and you realize you’ve solved the logic puzzle of getting everyone everywhere once again. It means that if I don’t have time, someone else pitches in for me and makes sure miracles happen and on the other hand, it means I take the time to put in what I can when I’m around to make things better. It makes for strength. Oh, maybe with fewer people, there’d be less rabbits – but more importantly, there’d be less boats. There’s no way, I for one would make it.

Today, I see the strength of having enough boats and I put my oar in with a will.

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Omer – Day 36

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom shloshim ve shesh laOmer, shehem hamisha shavuot ve yom ehad laOmer.

Today is day thirty six of the Omer, which is five weeks and one day of the Omer.

khesed be yesod – kindness within intimacy; love within lust

We saw “Hair” yesterday. There was this song. (OK, so my belief system is part-Jewish, part-novel, part-musical…) “How can people be so heartless? How can people be so cruel? Easy to be hard. Easy to be cold. How can peole have no feelings? How can they ignore their friends? Easy to be proud. Easy to say no.” Yeah! How can they? Not me! I’d never. Until someone points out that I was – that I treated casually or carelessly something that was important to them and they can only assume that people who do that hate them so clearly… And that hadn’t occured to me! I was thinking of the time that someone said this thing which was really hurtful and I got super-upset and only people who really hate someone else (or are generally nasty) would do that so clearly…And that person was thinking about the one who was too busy to hang out and spend good time together and this was obviously because they weren’t actually friends and hated each other, no other reason so clearly…

Nothing is clear in the yesod week. Yesod means intimate. It also means private or secret. (And yes, someone made the joke about ‘privates’ already, you don’t have to.) In relationships, when I try to be the most loving me I can possibly be, I am still often so very wrong. I still hurt people and act like the nasty friends in the song. Here, kindness comes with a great deal of thinking – of trying to figure out what the other person wants or will need. Sometimes it’s trivial. Sometimes – hard to the point of impossible. It’s a worthwhile task, though for us to keep trying to approximate actual caring and love until we are no longer casually stepping on everyone’s toes in steel-tipped construction boots.

Today, I will try to give those I love what they want, rather than what I do.

Omer – Day 35

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom shloshim ve hamesh laOmer, shehem hamisha shavuot laOmer.

Today is day thirty  five of the Omer, which is five weeks of the Omer.

malkhut be hod – majesty within gratitude; nobility within appreciation

So, occasionally, I get stuck with images. The traits on this day always end up making me think of the queen doing a little wave to her admiring audience, and this year, I am seeing Elvis saying “thank you, thank you very much…”. It’s dreadful. Gratitude can be a terrible thing. It can be full of resentment (thanks for taking care of that – now, you probably think I owe you, and besides, I could have done it myself,) disappointment (aw, I wanted to succeed at this on my own, and now I have to thank you,) and entitlement (yes, of course you’ll take care of that for me – I deserve it because I’m special.) Sometimes, gratitude is just not pretty.

So, it is up to me to make sure the “thank you”s I give come from the heart, and include some mental thought prior, to let go of my wanting the world to be a certain way. Once I relinquish any expectations or disappointments, once I realize that I don’t owe anyone anything when I say thank-you, and they probably don’t owe me, then I can offer real gratitude, and that kind of gratitude is what nobility and majesty should really be about.

Today, I’ll strive to make my thank-you’s real ones.

Omer – Day 34

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom shloshim ve arba laOmer, shehem arba’a shavuot ve shisha yammim laOmer.

Today is day thirty  four of the Omer, which is four weeks and six days of the Omer.

yesod be hod – intimacy within gratitude; relationship within appreciation

I’ve been married a long time, actually. This period is not only the period between Passover and Shavuot, but the 12 days between my wedding anniversary and my wife’s birthday. The thing I’ve found about relationships is it really helps if each day, I can say to myself, “wow, am I ever lucky! how did I end up with this beautiful, amazing, wonderful, intelligent and creative person?” Because gratitude is intimate – it immediately builds a bridge and forms bonds. The more grateful I am to my partner for what she does and to God for sending her to me, the more easy it is for us to close to each other.

Today, I take the time to appreciate the amazing people God puts into my life.

Omer – Day 33

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom shloshim ve shalosh laOmer, Lag BaOmer, shehem arba’a shavuot ve hamisha yammim laOmer.

Today is day thirty  three of the Omer, Lag BaOmer, which is four weeks and five days of the Omer.

netzakh be hod – victory within gratitude; power within humility.

The thing is, I’m not perfect. I get easily confused. For example, not only am I two days behind (again! how does this happen?) I wrote the Gratitude within Gratitude post for day 32, when it was supposed to be written for day 33. I don’t do things in the best way possible. If there’s a choice between working for a long-term goal or enjoying myself right now, far too often, I’ll not chose the long-term goal. I have many challenges and those are only two of them.

My recognizing that – accepting it, heck, even being grateful for it – is the first thing I have to do to make any changes to who I am. First, I have to say that I have this challenge, and separate out the parts that are positives. I’m easily confused? Well, that gives me access to a whole lot of creativity that I might not have had otherwise. I like my Gratitude within gratitude post, even if it was on the wrong day. I focus on short-term goals too much? If I turn that into living in the present, it can be a very good thing.

Only then can I start to slowly work towards change, towards doing things the way I want to do them.

Once I recognize where I am and appreciate those aspects that are good, I get enormous power – the power to become a better and happier person.

Omer – Day 32

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom shloshim ve shtayim laOmer shehem arba’a shavuot ve arba’a yammim laOmer.

Today is day thirty  two of the Omer, which is four weeks and four days of the Omer.

hod be hod – gratitude within gratitude; appreciation within appreciation; humility within humility.

Religion – religion is good. It reminds me who I am – I’m just one of thousands singing this blessing to God. On the other hand, I’m someone who can sing to God! It lets me see the me wihin myself, as it reminds me to look through the trapping of the everyday and into the trappings of the thousands of years. By framing it with ritual and tradition, religion makes that look inside slightly less scary.

Religion is a lot of fun, too. There’s not much else that could get wildly different people to sing, tell stories, wave palm fronds, make and light candles, wave incense, try weird fruits, discuss death, drink wine, tell jokes, dress up, blow horns, invite ghosts to visit, dance with books, dance with chairs, burn bread, break bread, break glasses, eat ice-cream, gamble, make noise, play hide-and-seek, paint or draw, write, read, learn new languages and of course count together. Religion does all that and more! Build houses? Ask questions? There are times for that! (If anyone asks me about one, I’ll be happy to name the holiday and ritual that the activity involves.) How cool is that?

Today, within the gratitude I feel towards others, I encounter the gratitude I feel to God. Thanks, God, for letting me be Jewish – and for making Judaism so much fun!

Omer – Day 31

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom shloshim ve ehad laOmer shehem arba’a shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is day thirty  one of the Omer, which is four weeks and three days of the Omer.

tiferet be hod – beauty within gratitude; grace within humility.

Words are my high on my list of amazing things, because not only do I like counting, but I like writing too. And words are really wonderful and beautiful. You can say so many things! Words can connect people, can describe a far-away place, can convey information, can share humour, can bring about joy. Words are fun, exciting, dramatic, creative – they’re what makes life more than just a game of survivor which everyone loses.

And thank you’s can be very beautiful. There’s something inherently lovely about “I really appreciate that, you’ve made my life easier.” Or “I’m glad you were here, I couldn’t have done this without you!” There are prayers and psalm written just to offer praise. I think it’s incredible, what one can do with words. However, as with any other materials for making beauty, one can use them badly, spill the paint, throw the clay, hit all the piano keys at once to make noise, and use your words to hurt and offend, to trick and destroy, to make ugliness.

It seems like such a waste. Wouldn’t it be better to make music? Today, I’ll use words to add beauty to the world. I’ll remember that gratitude is beautiful.

Omer – Day 30

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom shloshim laOmer shehem arba’a shavuot ve shtei yammim laOmer.

Today is day thirty  of the Omer, which is four weeks and two days of the Omer.

gevura be hod – strength within gratitude; might within thankfulness.

Because there are days when I feel like I’m not succeeding – like I haven’t done what I’m supposed to, and all my efforts have, like the Queen said in Alice In Wonderland, kept me from falling further and further behind. So, I need to stop focusing so much on those big earth-shattering changes that didn’t happen. I didn’t finish everything. I didn’t solve the world’s problems. I haven’t even met the deadlines I had to meet. I focus instead on what I did accomplish. Maybe I spent 5 good minutes talking to someone? A few moments studying? I played a game? I kept up with a good habit?

I can appreciate the things I do. I can be grateful – both to myself and to God who gives me strength and courage when I ask and put in the time to connect to God – for the little things I did get done. There’s a lot of strength in that. Instead of saying ‘it’s useless and I can’t get anything done so why bother?’ I’m saying, “thanks for letting me get that tiny bit done. That was good. Now for a little bit more…Maybe today is the day I’ll actually meet that deadline!”

Today, I find strength in expressing gratitude, to myself and to God, for the little things I do accomplish.

Omer – Day 29

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom esrim ve tesha laOmer shehem arba’a shavuot ve yom ehad laOmer.

Today is day twenty nine  of the Omer, which is four weeks and one day of the Omer.

khesed be hod – kindness within gratitude; love within thankfulness.

Ah, the gratitude week. This is the week of abundance, of realizing that we have more than enough. Maybe because Jews are natural grumblers (at least many of the Jews I know) that God has specifically told us to be grateful about what we have. Stories like “bring a goat in the house” and “the kvetcher’s itch”, songs like “to life” – they all suggest being grateful for stuff. Me – I’m as much of a complainer as the next person. I whine like you wouldn’t believe! Gratitude comes harder for me – I’ve lost important people in my life who felt that I was not at all grateful for what they did. I had it on my daily checklist for years – have I thanked three people for something today? (My daily checklist is a bizarre little place, I realize.)

The thing is, I love gratitude. Getting thanks and compliments feels terrific. I like it when people thank me and tell me I’m doing something right. I like that A LOT. It is a kindness to pay a compliment or express gratitude – a kindness within gratitude. Not just being generically thankful (yes, God is good despite her nasty sense of humour,) but expressing it to others. That’s worth doing.

Today, I say thank you to those who make my world a bit better. I compliment others. I am kind within gratitude.

 

Omer – Day 28

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom esrim ve shmone laOmer shehem arba’a shavuot aOmer.

Today is day twenty eight  of the Omer, which is four weeks of the Omer.

malkut be netzakh – nobility within victory; rule within conquest.

Sometimes, I wonder why I bother with the Omer count. Mostly, no-one reads it. I look at the stats and some days I have 2 – yes, that’s it – 2 readers. That’s with a family of 9 readers! I am lucky to get a couple of daily likes. Possibly, if I was someone who actually ruled something – a celebrity, a politician, a writer of renown, someone for whom this day was made, what I said would be significant. Or possibly, if I simply wrote better, more interesting posts…

But then I realize, I am exactly who I am. That’s my nobility and my victory!  This is the way I write, and I don’t do the omer count for other readers, I do it because the inner self-reflection helps me make the omer a time of personal growth, and I share it, because I don’t mind and maybe someone will get something from it. I share it because it’s who I am – someone who, for better or for worse, likes to share her thoughts.

The famous Jewish story of Rav Zusia crying comes to mind. When his students asked him what was wrong, he said he was worried about appearing before the heavenly court for judgement. ‘But you have nothing to worry about!’ They answered. ‘You are as wise as Solomon! You are as kind as Isaac! You are as…’. Zusia answered them by saying, “thank you for your compliments, but really…I am nowhere near that wise or kind or … However, I am not worried about that. I don’t need to be as wise as Solomon. If I am asked by the heavenly court why I was not like Solomon, I can simply answer that I am not Solomon. But the heavenly court will not ask me why I was not like Solomon, they will ask me why I was  not more like Zusia. And to that, I have no good answer.”

So, I will write again, because it is the best Anna I can be. I want to be the best Anna possible, and writing the Omer is me. As for whether I can write better, well practice makes better and there are 49 days of the Omer for me to practice in. The only one I can rule or conquer is me.

Today, I will try to be the best Anna possible and not worry about other people’s reactions.