Omer 44

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day forty four, which is six weeks and two days of the Omer. Hayom yom arbaim ve arba she hem shisha shavuot ve shtey yammim laOmer.

Today is Gevura be Malkhut, strength within majesty, might within leadership.

Today is the discipline day. One can’t lead a group or teach a class or even play a board game without rules. Rules are an essential part of life because they add structure and meaning to the nonsense that would otherwise emerge. Sure, there is a place for nonsense, but only after we follow the rules and know which ones can be broken. Unless we want to have those million monkeys on a million typewriters typing for a million years, rules are probably a better way most of the time to write, to draw, to dance, to play with others, to cook, and to teach. So they need to be enforced. Of course, the hardest form of discipline is saying “no” to oneself. That’s what we have to do to get many of our things done – follow the rules we had set for ourselves.

Rules – discipline – requirements are stressful. They make us anxious. They make us want to hide. The hardest rule for me to follow is the basic one that “if you don’t get up and go, you won’t get there, and if you don’t start a job you won’t finish it.” My mind plays tricks on me – it says, “if you don’t get up now, you can always start a little later…” or “if you don’t go, then you won’t do the job badly but if you try…” or “you’ve done so much on so many things, you can take a break now before starting that one…” or “you still have time…” These are all lies. The truth is that I have no time, I deserve success more than I deserve a break and I will do worst of all if I don’t start.

Today, I start something I’ve been putting off. Self-discipline is a big part of leadership.

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Omer 43

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day forty three, which is six weeks and one day of the Omer. Hayom yom arbaim ve shalosh she hem shisha shavuot ve yom ehad laOmer.

Today is Khesed be Malkhut, kindness within majesty, grace within leadership.

Whoa, last week! That has gone fast! We are almost done (I mean, I still have a bunch to catch up on, but almost done here!)  And today is a teacher’s day. It’s the Malkhut week – and a ruler, at least in Jewish tradition, is a guide, a leader and a teacher. At least, God is when God acts from “Malkhut”, and all other rulers strive to be more god-like.  A teacher has to be a leader, has to show that she is in charge, capable, successful. She has to lead by example, by discipline, by enticement, by those quiet, secret ways that good leaders encourage others to do the right thing without anyone noticing. To do so, a true teacher is kind. She thinks daily how she can give her students all they need, and correct them and guide them in a kind manner. All of us have moments when we need to be kind leaders, and Malkhut gives us that opportunity.

Today, I will continue to lead. I will do so with kindness.

Omer 42

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

 

Today is day forty two, which is six weeks of the Omer. Hayom yom arbaim ve shtayim she hem shisha shavuot laOmer.

Today is Malkhut be Yesod, majesty within community, nobility within intimacy.

Today, we remind ourselves and each other that we are unique. The Yesod connection with each other and with God that we form is supposed to be our way of being most ourselves, a way to reveal the truths of who we really are in safety. But often, due to politeness, due to fear of losing what we have, due to simple laziness, we let ourselves get overwhelmed and our own individual needs, desires, and strengths get overwhelmed by the community we are in. This might be fine with Yesod (at least in the short term,) but it destroys the Malkhut that Yesod is supposed to bring. We are meant to exhibit majesty, to be holy, to pour forth God’s light. To do that we need to know who we are and be who we are, even if that offends someone.

Today, I remember that relationships are meant to strengthen individual traits not drown them out. I work hard to make sure I am neither overwhelmed nor overwhelming in my relationships.

Omer 41

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day forty one, which is five weeks and six days of the Omer. Hayom yom arbaim ve ehad she hem hamisha shavuot ve shisha yammim  laOmer.

Today is Yesod be Yesod, sexuality within sexuality, intimacy within intimacy.

What lies within intimacy? Knowledge. Understanding. Meaning. That’s why the Torah keeps saying “And he knew her and she had a child”. Sex is synonymous to knowledge in the Torah. If we know someone else – know what they like or dislike, know what makes them happy or sad, know what they’re likely to say or think about a particular situation – then they are a person of our family. If we don’t know somewone, then they’re not even if sex is involved – they’re just bedroom buddies and that’s lovely, but it isn’t intimacy. That connection does go both ways. Touching another – deeply and closely – that’s intimacy. It builds knowledge and understanding. So, the best scenario is when both are involved – Both knowledge and intimacy need to play a part in making family. This day is a chance to examine relationships and see if they are intimate on both levels and if they offer the opportunity to increase intimacy.

Today, I think about the people close to me. Do I know them well? Can I know them better? Can we build intimacy?

Omer 37

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day thirty seven, which is five weeks and two days of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim ve sheva she hem hamisha shavuot ve shtey yammim laOmer.

Today is Gevura be Yesod, strength within family, might within community

You know, it’s a cliché that the pen is mightier than the sword. But unpacking that cliché one might find that one is comparing the ability of communication to achieve. One might realize that connections – a family working together, a community that knows each other – those are powerful. They allow for successes that weren’t there before and for answers to difficult situations. They allow us to access help when needed and to discover the strengths that we can offer. Communication – written with a pen or typed or what have you – is more powerful because it builds connection than a sword, which can only destroy people, trust, relationships – the connection so built.

Today, we use our strength to build connection, not destroy it. Communication is mightier.

Omer 40

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day forty, which is five weeks and five days of the Omer. Hayom yom arbaim she hem hamisha shavuot ve hamisha yammim  laOmer.

Today is Hod be Yesod, gratitude within sexuality, thankfulness within intimacy

Oh, I don’t think so! When the parents are controlling, the kids are disrespectful and the partner is doing things in exactly the way that I don’t like, the last thing I want to do is be grateful. It’s going to have to be some very, very special persuasion that causes me to say thank you – or, hey, anything good – on days like those. I don’t feel like expressing gratitude and so, I don’t. This negative mood and attitude totally shows – and is totally ugly. People respond in kind, and it leads to more controlling parents, disrespectful kids and contrary partner.  This is a feedback look – and those aren’t good things, sometimes leading to disasterin a situation like that.

How can I break this loop? The day has insight. Today, I’m going to have to put my irritation aside. I’m going to need to say “good thing I have kids that complain because some peope are childless and super about it”.  “I’m glad I have controlling, parents because many of the parents of my peers are passing away”, and I’m glad my partner is acting in that irritating manner because it is good to have a partner who cares enough to say something.

Gratitude helps. It helps me refocus on the positive aspects of the situation, helps me to see others in a more positive way, and helps me to act in a more positive manner. This causes others to respond more positively and suddenly I have more reason yet to think of positive thngs they do that Iead to gratitude. Hmmm…that feedback loop seems way more useful!

Today, I remember to be grateful for family. I know it will lead to greater intimacy.

Omer 34

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day thirty four, which is four weeks and six days of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim ve arba she hem arba’a shavuot ve shisha yammim laOmer.

Today is Yesod be Hod, intimacy within gratitude, community within thankfulness

There’s a story about a man who never gave charity. Never. No matter what anyone said or did, no matter that he was quite well off, and others were somewhat poor, no matter that the kindest, greatest most important rabbis would come and ask for large sums to help the poorest of men, he would still say no. One day, the town desperately needed tzedaka, and a great holy Rabbi was visiting. He took with him two other rabbis and they went to see the miser. Of course the miser didn’t give anything, but the Rabbi was extremely gracious, thanking him for his time and his kind words. As they were leaving, the rich man offered to help out – with a penny! The Rabbi was even more kind in his praise and expressions of gratitude. Again, as the Rabbi was leaving the rich man offered a bigger sum. This was repeated three more times, until the Rabbi left with exactly the sum so desperately required. The Rabbi’s friends wondered how he had accomplished this. He pointed out that the man had never felt the joy of giving because no one had ever accepted his gifts. That joy opened his heart and the rich man wanted to feel it more and so gave more.

So, giving. And gratitude. Today two interesting things happened. First, I saw an article in the paper, presenting the perfidy of men and their inability to think of what needs to be done, and thus, to do it. “He might clear the table,” the article said, “but he’d never think to wipe it, never mind also loading the dishwasher and running it!” Also, I got a call from a friend complaining about her husband. “I had to remind him to do the laundry!” she said. “He’d never think of it on his own, he’d just let the dirty laundry pile up. And tonight he’s making dinner, and he probably hasn’t planned anything or bought any groceries.” They sounded awfully similar. And they shocked me a bit.

“Let me get this straight.” I asked my friend. “Your husband is doing the laundry, after a reminder. He’s making dinner tonight. What else has he done today?”

“Well, he drove me to a doctor’s appointment – I hate driving. Then he did his paperwork while I did mine. He took a nap. In the evening, after dinner, we’re going to a friend’s house.”

So, this man cheerfully spent the day doing useful and necessary and kind things. He did the laundry, he did something kind – drive his wife, he’ll be making dinner, he is keeping up with his financial responsibilities by doing his paperwork, he’s managing social obligations, and he’s even taking care of his physical well being. The only thanks he’s going to get is that he should have taken less time napping, should have remembered the laundry himself, should have planned better for dinner, should have … Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m sue he could have remembered the laundry and pre-planned dinner. It would have been better yet. Still, shoulds don’t get one very far.

They don’t get the table wiped, they don’t get the laundry hung, they don’t solve the town’s tzedakah problem. Thanks – thanks are magic. Not that they’ll make the husband remember any better, or work any faster or be better able to take care of the details his wife really want him to. But they’ll ensure that next week, when she asks him to do the laundry, he’ll cheerfully do it again, and not snarl at her from in front of his favourite ball game.

What, you say? That’s not your job? not your priority? You’d, in fact, rather spend the extra 30 minutes doing it yourself than reminding him? At least then you know you’ll have done it right! No problem – but then, you could probably expect that he, like the miser in the story will give absolutely nothing. And then – you will see no reason to be together if you give each other nothing. That can get somewhat lonely.

Oh, I’m not saying put up with anything a person does and be grateful it doesn’t involve hitting you! I’m just saying that sometimes, thanks can build. They can build up a person. They can build relationships. They can lay the foundation for finding a joy in giving.

Today, I try to thank those I want to have close to me for what they do, even if I could have done it way better way faster myself. I build relationship through gratitude.

Omer 35

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day thirty five, which is five weeks of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim ve hamesh she hem hamisha shavuot laOmer.

Today is Malkhut be Hod, nobility within gratitude, majesty within humility

So, do you casually slap people in the face? I’m just asking. It’s an easy thing to do. People are clumsy and put their foot in their mouths. They say things like “honey, don’t you think you ought to put away that laundry” when you’re clearly in the middle of another task or “what are you guys talking about?” when it’s a conversation that doesn’t involve them at all or “wow that’s taking you a long time” when they, themselves, are super-slow. These innocent statements are not harmfully meant but they can be pretty odd behaviour in some situations. And so of course you’re annoyed. You don’t have time to take care of others – especially not grown-ups who are big enough to wipe their own backsides, and who should know better. So, you answer with appropriate sarcasm. You say, “Why, are you going to suddenly start doing the laundry?” or “It’s not connected to you” or “You would know…”. Your responses are perfectly appropriate and even, on some level, clever and maybe funny.

To the person you just said them to, however, they’re a slap. They say “you don’t have the right to an opinion or interest in this matter. You shouldn’t talk. You aren’t good enough to participate, and you make more work than you’re worth. It would be best if you went away. Far away.” Now, that might be exactly what you’re trying to say – in which case the slap was intentional and you’re just the kind of person that doesn’t mind slapping people. In that case, I have nothing to say to you. Really. Nothing. Or you might just be trying to say, “hey, I’m tired and I’ve got a lot to deal with and I don’t have room for one more person.” In that case, your slap is unintentional, and that’s OK. We all shove people out of the way when we’re in a rush, especially if we’re tired and overwhelmed and they’re being clumsy and annoying. In that case, the slap is unintentional – and probably worth a quick sorry if you notice it.

So, what does any of this have to do with gratitude? It has to do with what I think when someone is stupid or clumsy around me.  I can think of myself – or I can take the noble and coincidentally, humble, approach of perspective taking. I can quietly say in my mind, “I’m glad I’m not clumsy and awkward enough to have just stuck my foot in my mouth. I am grateful for skills I have – and I’m grateful for this person and their participation in my life however awkward it might be.” With this attitude, I can respond better. I can say “putting away the laundry next after this” or “what do you think” or “yup, this is taking me a long time, isn’t it”.

Suddenly, a situation in which sometimes there would be a casual slap has become one where there is a connection built, a gratitude for the world expressed, a recognition of my place and that of others made. That’s what true nobility would look like, in my mind.

Today, I am noble when I refuse to slap and express gratitude for my abilities and for others as well.

Omer 38

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day thirty eight, which is five weeks and three days of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim ve shmone she hem hamisha shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Yesod, beauty within family, truth within intimacy

It’s nice when the little things work out. When you are thinking something and suddenly, your friend says that very thing. When you start a sentence and your friend finishes it. When you want something – and your partner brings it. It’s wonderful to have that connection that goes beyond words and into love. It’s nice and it’s real and it’s beautiful. It takes years of hanging out, of just doing thte next thing, of thinking of each other and truly listening to what the other person says to have it happen. It’s rare – and sometimes huge periods of time happen where it isn’t there or at least I don’t notice it – but it’s totally worth while.

Today, I notice the beauty in the the comfort and fit one can have with true family.

Omer 39

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonay our God, ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is day thirty nine, which is five weeks and four days of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim ve tesha she hem hamisha shavuot ve arba’a yammim laOmer.

Today is Netzakh be Yesod, victory within sexuality, conquest within intimacy

This one makes me mad. Yesod shouldn’t be about winning or losing. Yesod is intimacy, the little hidden secret within each of us that slowly blossoms like the beautiful unfolding of a flower. Yesod shouldn’t be pried open or torn open. There shouldn’t be conquest involved. And yet, so many people play cruel games as part of a relationship. They say things they don’t mean, change their minds for no or little reason, use distance as a fighting tactic, refusing to engage, use well-timed and planned sarcasm as an axe or otherwise ‘fight dirty’. So manybe they win. But today, I just want to say that this kind of win is a loose.

Today, I win in relationships when I realize they’re cooperative games.