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

The victory we need when it comes to sex is victory against society’s lies. Society tells us bodies are ugly. The only bodies allowed to be seen in public are unrealistic ones that have had certain attributes exaggerated for the sake of sales. Society tells us that our bodies are trying to bring us down because they are fat, or ungainly, or whatever it is that’s wrong with us. Society tells us that the smells our bodies produce are disgusting, and that we need to rid ourselves of them. Most of these messages aren’t said out loud. They’re just there. So, our victory is to recognize them, to fight them, to reject them and to affirm: our bodies are good, beautiful, important and exciting.

Today, I remember that my body is good, beautiful, important and exciting. Appreciating my body is a victory against society’s dictates.

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 sexuality, loveliness within intimacy

You know, there are two ways to look at everything. From one side, sex and everything about it is disgusting. It often smells funny, and it is associated with private parts and some of it is in the same area as we eliminate, and it’s not something we do in public or even talk about. It’s gross and that’s all there is to it. On the other hand, it is a way to bridge the gap between person to person, to have our bodies participate in acts of sharing and creation which bond our minds and hearts together. It is a beautiful way to relate to each other and to build connection. When done right, we call it making love, because that is what we are making or building. But it’s entirely in how one chooses to look at it.

Today, I choose to see intimacy as beautiful, not ugly.

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, endurance within intimacy

I was thinking of a lullaby today, and I was thinking of how long I’ve been singing it. I sang it in Russian before I knew English and I still sing it in Russian, so most of the people I sing it to don’t know what I’m saying. Here are the words, roughly translated by yours truly:

“Fields of moonlight shining, night is bright as day.
Sleep my child, my darling, sleep as I once lay,
In your pillow’s corner, tuck your little nose
Stars, the sky’s performers, like freckles look below.

Gutters out the candle, fading ray by ray
Sleep my heart, my handle, sleep as I once lay
In your pillow’s corner, tuck your little nose
Stars, the sky’s performers, like freckles look below.

Gutters out the candle, fading ray by ray
Sleep my heart, my handle, sleep as I once lay
Like all lullabies, it is fairly meaningless, and evokes emotions more than a story or coherent thoughts. The words, however poorly I may have translated them, take one from one time to another. With this lullaby, that’s particularly appropriate. I’ve been singing it for almost 40 years. One of the people I sang it to is 38 now, and another is 8, and many are between those ages, with their own interests and lives, loves and lullabies. Because it was always in Russian, I don’t know if any of them remember or know this one – it was not my main one for most of them, it was the “Gosh, I’m so tired, won’t you please go to sleep so I can stop singing” one. But it was often there, somewhere, and today, it’s the one I think of.

What does it mean, “as I once lay?” I myself had poor sleeping nights, and nightmares. There were nights I’d really rather not have, never mind wishing them on a child. I was certainly not the innocent sleeping child of postcard pictures. Yet, this day, it struck me – this lullaby builds. It builds connection and relationship, it builds intimacy, it builds and as it builds it strengthens.

Maybe that’s exactly what I want for those children that I sing to – that strength of having lived through all those different nights, that intimacy of built relationships one lullaby at a time, that vision of the stars as little freckles on God’s tousle-haired face, looking down on me, on the kids I’ve sang to, on the kids I’ve yet to sing to – pulling us all together in a deep intimacy against the darkness of the night.

Today, I think of all the little ways I’ve used to build intimacy, and all the people I’ve built that intimacy with. They are my strength.

Omer 36

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 six, which is five weeks and one day of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim ve sesh she hem hamisha shavuot ve yom ehad laOmer.

Today is Khesed be Yesod, kindness within sexuality, grace within intimacy

Oh, never liked this week! All secrets and intimate stuff and stuff we shouldn’t really be talking about but here it is the sexuality week. This week is dangerous! It’s so easy to hurt someone that is family, that one is intimate with. Who knows what will destroy that relationship? Calling too often and being labelled as annoying? Showing too many emotions to the point that you’re scary? Being reserved and private, and people think you’re disconnected? Not coming over often enough so that you’re just plain neglectful? People’s opinions of us are made much too easily and are much too hard to change in this area. People get easily offended and quickly turned off. We can think of Yesod a bit like a minefield – if we aren’t careful, there could be an explosion. So, we must walk through this minefield with caution. What’s one of the best ways to be cautious in the area of intimacy? I think it’s to act with Khesed, with kindness. If I make an effort to think of the other person, to think of her needs, to think of her areas of offence, and act with as much kindness and grace as I can muster, I am less likely to cause an explosion that destroys the sexual relationship. I am more likely to succeed in creating intimacy and closeness.

Today, I am kind in my relationships – it helps to build intimacy.

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

A humble king – one of the oddest but in some ways, most beautiful images and an excellent description of the Jewish “chosen people” concept sometimes. Yes, one can be special and humble. One can remember that majesty doesn’t have to mean robes or crowns, jewels or cups, or anything else of that ilk. It can mean service and responsibility, a need to bring light unto the people, and a desire to represent others rightly, to ensure that one sets the best example. It can be a life of giving and caring for others, quietly and serenely lived. To achieve that humble nobility, we begin with gratitude. We express gratitude for the world we’ve been given and the mantle we’ve been asked to wear. Then, we go on to do the next necessary task.

Today, we are quietly, gratefully, humbly doing our best to be holy.

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

Today we remember the friend. You know, the one who has been faithful for years. Maybe he’s awkward and socially inept and sometimes you laugh at him in your head. Maybe she’s loud and pushy and time consuming and exhausting and you half dread the time she’ll be coming over. But he was there when you celebrated your birthday for the last umpteen years and she held you the last time you cried bitterly because life was unfair. They haven’t commented (at least not too obnoxiously) about how awkward, socially inept, loud, pushy and time consuming you are. And probably, they could have. But they didn’t. So it’s time you (or maybe, I) express some gratitude for that loyal friend that you dismiss. They’ve made your life more wonderful and they’re part of what makes you, you.

Today, I express gratitude for friends who remain faithful despite my occasional disdain or neglect.

Omer 33 – Lag BaOmer

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 three, which is four weeks and five days of the Omer. Today is Lag BaOmer! Hayom yom shloshim ve shalosh she hem arba’a shavuot ve hamisha yammim laOmer. Hayom Lag BaOmer!

Today is Hod be Hod, gratitude within gratitude, thankfulness within thankfulness

Today I express gratitude for spring. I notice the flowers and the veggies and the birds that are everywhere. I even notice the pesky bunnies and squirrels who eat the flowers and veggies. I express gratitude for stories. Today, we talk about a story where people pretended to go on a picnic, just so they could go to school. I have to tell my students that there were people out there who skipped picnics for school, rather than the other way around. Today, I celebrate my family. It is Mother’s Day, and I have a wonderful mom who I will go out with later on in the day. I express gratitude for my parents and especially my cool, interesting, and loving mother. She has always been my support, my inspiration, and my friend.

Today, I am also grateful for memories of a parent that I lost. One year and ten days ago, I lost Peg Lilliman, a woman who was a second mother to me in my life. Although she was connected to no one in our family by blood, the connections we made through love and caring are ones that sustained me and supported me for many years. While I cannot be grateful for her loss (I miss her,) today, and every Mother’s Day, I remember Peg Lilliman and I will remember her with gratitude for the incredible life she lived and love she gave.

Today, we are grateful for the world we live in, for birth and life cycles, for special memories and for the mothers who make it all possible.

Omer 32

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 two, which is four weeks and four days of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim ve shtayim she hem arba’a shavuot ve arba’a yammim laOmer.

Today is Netzakh be Hod, power within gratitude, victory within humility

When I express gratitude, I access power. I talked about this in the Netzakh week, but it bears saying again. And to be grateful, to access this power, I need to know where I am. I need to know that I am not superior to another person, and so I don’t have the right to sneer at their gifts. They might have difficulty in an area or two, but they might be fantastic in others. I need to know that I am not inferior to another person either, and so don’t have the right to expect their gifts. They have their own challenges and frustrations. When I know where I am – on par with others, but with my own strengths and challenges, then I have the power to be grateful, and to appreciate others and to grow. That can be a true victory.

Today, I accept where I am in the world and I’m grateful for gifts given to me.

Omer 31

 

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 one which is four weeks and three days of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim ve ehad she hem arba’a shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Hod, beauty within gratitude, grace within thanksgiving.

Oh, gratitude. In one of my favourite books, a character says

“The Japanese have five different ways to say ‘thank you’—and every one of them translates literally as resentment, in various degrees. Would that English had the same built-in honesty on this point! Instead, English is capable of defining sentiments that the human nervous system is quite incapable of experiencing. ‘Gratitude,’ for example.”

This comes from Stranger in a Strange Land, a dated, misogynistic, homophobic book, which nevertheless in its day, was sufficiently insightful to change people’s lives. The bit about Japanese is highly inaccurate too, I believe (although I don’t know any Japanese, and am simply quoting the interwebs.)

So, there’s a really ugly part to gratitude. Giving something should create gratitude, but sometimes, it seems to do the exact opposite. It creates debt. “He did me a favour so now I have to do him this one.” It can be a put down. “Oh, you poor thing. You have a disability! Of course I’ll help you with this! Whether you want help or not.” It can be a criticism. “Thanks for taking care of the dishes!” “Well SOMEBODY had to!” It can show complete non-understanding of another. “Oh, I got you this lovely porcelain pink cactus statue – I know you’ll love it!” (For clarification, I DO NOT want a porcelain pink cactus statue.) It can display a lack of caring. “Oh, you put three beads onto a string and gave them to me, and you’re 18, not 3? Wow. Um…I don’t know what to say!”

And any of those can lead to resentment rather than gratitude. So, how do I put beauty into gratitude? How do I let the resentment go, how do feel truly grateful for that pink porcelain cactus, those beads on a string, those done dishes? Mostly, I remember God. If I remember that God puts up with my random attempts at worship, my coming late and forgetting to pray and praying while doing housework and all the other ways in which my offerings aren’t as good as they could be, and yet God accepts me and offers nothing but love and gratitude, if I remember that I do my best to be like God and show care, if I remember that there’s a divinity in the gift giver, however small, that prompted the gift in the first place, then I can say a clean, heartfelt thank you despite anything Heinlein has to say on the issue.

Today, I thank people for gifts given. I let go of resentment, and let my gratitude be clean and beautiful.

Omer 30

 

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, which is four weeks and two days of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim she hem arbaa shavuot ve shtei yammim laOmer

Today is Gevura be Hod, strength within gratitude, might within humility.

Today, I am grateful for smiles and forget-me-nots, for unexpected cake and presents, for success in meeting goals and communication. Today, I access the strength that is mine, when I simply feel grateful for the many small, insignificant aspects of my day that usually, I don’t even think about. As I appreciate the many little gifts of the day, I see the world as beautiful and my own place in it as a good one. I see each person in my life differently too. Because the people in our lives – well, you know what they’re like! Loud, demanding, selfish and uncaring or silent, unhelpful, self-centered and uncaring, all of them! There’s not a single one who just acts the way I want them to act all the time. But with a small-items gratitude list, they’re better people – I remember that that selfish and uncaring person may the one who did the dishes, invited me for a walk, gave me ride, or made me dinner. Of course, having nicer people in my life makes me stronger. So, I can use gratitude – to strengthen relationships and improve attitude, to give myself might but only when I acknowledge that our imperfections make us who we are.

Today, we are stronger both as individuals and in relationship when we are grateful for the little things around us.