Blog Archives

Omer Count – Day 3

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 three of the Omer. Hayom yom shlishi laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Khesed, beauty within kindness, grace within love.

I need to be kind to myself. I pushed myself pretty hard to complete these Omer posts – and this is the last of 49 mini-essays, ranging from a paragraph to a page, that I have written in the last 49 days. I am sleepy and my room is a mess and I’m a bit behind on the marking. (Only a bit – I’m not that bad at putting kids first.) I am grateful to God, to myself, and to all the people who put up with me being less than all there while I did these counts. Sometimes, I don’t know why I write them. It just seems like the right thing to do.

And it’s beautiful. It’s amazingly beautiful. I know this seems self-serving and prideful, but I don’t care. Given how busy I was, given that I hadn’t done it for a bunch of days – the fact that I caught up and did them all? That’s lovely.

But now I need to place that beauty into a context of kindness. I need to work to repay all the kindness shown to me while I’ve been writing these, and I need to be kind to myself – to once again take on my exercise routine and to catch up on sleep and the dishes.

Beauty within kindness – where I accomplish the goals I have in the context of maintaining myself and my health – that’s my goal for the next two months. (At which point I try to complete the Elul blog and it all goes to hell in a handbasket once again.

Today, I celebrate the beauty of 49 Omer posts nicely written. I remember to be kind to myself when I do this in the future.

Omer Count – Day 24

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 twenty-four which is three weeks and three days of the Omer. Hayom yom esrim ve arba she hem shlosha shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Netzakh, beauty within power, grace within victory.

Actually, power, war, fighting – it’s ugly. I forget that sometimes. I use everything I can to push myself and my students into doing what I need done. I break rules, I push boundaries – whatever it takes. And sometimes it works, and that’s a victory and that’s beautiful. And sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes, you realize that you’ve pushed too hard and broken one rule too many. What do you do then? How do you win while maintaining beauty. I don’t know. Maybe, sometimes, you lose. Maybe you at least retreat, regroup and try again within the rules. Because it’s not enough to win. If you win but everything about you is a ruined disastrous mess, then you haven’t won. You’ve lost. So, I need to win beautifully – and that means winning with respect and care of boundaries.

Today, I take a step back and remember that “all’s fair in love and war” but not all is beautiful. Today, I make the choices that let me win with grace.

Omer Count – Day 28

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 twenty-eight which is four weeks of the Omer. Hayom yom esrim ve shmone she hem arba’a shavuot laOmer.

Today is Malkhut be Netzakh, majesty within power, nobility within victory

Today my power is the power to listen. I don’t need to tell someone all about my life or give wonderful, expert advise. Sometimes all I need to do is to listen, give someone else a chance to unwind and show support without saying anything at all. Other times, some input is necessary, but even then, the more friendly and non-judgemental the response is, the more likely it is to be listened to and followed. It’s not easy – my brain keeps bringing up judgements – but with practice,  one can just listen. In that way, the victory is over ones own distractability and judgementalism, and those who are noble will succeed in just listening.

Today, I remind myslf to listen more than I talk. In that way, I can show nobility and vicory over myself. That would definitely be a victory.

Omer Count – Day 45

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 five, which is six weeks and three days of the Omer. Hayom yom arbaim ve hamesh she hem shisha shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Malkhut, beauty within majesty, loveliness within nobility.

You know what’s beautiful and majestic? My egg collection. I’ve been collecting eggs for 30 years now. I look for unique interesting ones, some of stone and some of glass, some of china and some of metal, some of wood and some are plastic. Of course some are real also. Today, a bunch of my eggs fell and broke – they had been carefully placed on a sturdy hanging shelf, which broke off the wall. I was very sad. Some of those eggs were given to me by people I loved – and some were broken irretrievably. I was also irritated. Fixing this situation was going to be a great deal of time – which I didn’t have.

But you know what else is lovely and noble? Not giving up is. I will try to fix or replace some of my eggs. I will find another unique egg that I care about. My collection may have had a minor set-back, but it will live and thrive. I just have to keep working towards the beauty I know is there.

Never giving up is the key to nobility, in my opinion. A noble person is someone who persists. Whether that’s persistence in a war, or a year with crop failures, or a careful, well-written law, or an egg collection maintained – not giving up results in beauty within nobility.

Today, I won/t give up no matter what challenges are there. That way, I can reach for beauty and nobility no matter what.

Omer Count – Day 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, grace within community

I am celebrating a month of having my adult son around. I have worked hard to find time to spend with him and it has totally paid off. There have been boggle games and sudokus, long philosophical conversations and hikes, singing and prayer. It has felt very strong and connected. This is where beauty lies. In slogging through wet fields together on a hike, in learning side by side, in trying to beat a timer or solve a puzzle or understand the universe just a bit better. I know that no matter what tasks are in my to-do list, and no matter how tired I am, there can be no better way of spending my time than with others.

Today, I prioritise family and cherish positive moments.

Omer Count – Day 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.

Today I appreciate the beauty of a weekend full of family. From climbing trees to doing puzzles, from learning math to learning Talmud, from silly shows to serious conversations, from going on walks to having a barbeque, sometimes it’s good to spend time with loved ones.  By appreciating the weekend, I make it more beautiful. Acknowledging the connections I’ve enjoyed and participated in highlights them in my mind and brings them into sharper relief. It’s easy to have a good time and then forget all about it – or even to remember only the negative details – the time one slipped and fell or the time someone said something in an aggressive way. Then, the times spent together seem mostly negative and ugly. The alternative to that is gratitude and it makes the day more beautiful.

Today, I am grateful for the positive times I spend with family, because family time is beautiful.

Omer Count – Day 21

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 twenty-one which is three weeks of the Omer. Hayom yom esrim ve ehad she hem shlosha shavuot laOmer.

Today is Malkhut be Tiferet, dignity within beauty, nobility within harmony.

So I was thinking about the fact that I don’t cook very well. Or dance really well. Or sing really well. Or clean well. I write, I learn, I teach and I can occasionally do a computer thing all right. But that’s not really enough to function in society. I mean I can do the basics – do my laundry and wash a dish and take the bus, but those extra things that tke the world from OK to wonderful? That’s harder. If I try to manage entirely on my own, that’s not a lot of dignity.

Luckily, I don’t have to be a hermit. I can live in a world, where, for better or for worse, someone will sing with me (and I sing better), someone will cook for me and someone will clean for me. They may be people I can help with a computer thing or some tutoring. Sometimes, when they are strangers or acquaintances, I have to negotiatiate. I ask for help, and offer services and sometimes that works out very well. It’s not always very dignified though. “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up…” never really looks good, is never all that comfortable.

In a loving relationship, it’s different. Yes, I have to do my part, but we know each other. The beauty of that is I don’t have to negotiate or ask for help most of the time, which is also hard for me to do. Within loving relationships, the negotiation is pre done. I will be the best and most helpful me I can be, offering the skills I’ve got to make a difference in our relationship, and so will my friend or family member. Our longterm knowledge fills in the negotiation, helping to turn our lives into a beautiful dance, where every member knows her part and dances with dignity. (I still don’t dance all that well, but better than not!)

Love helps to fill in the gaps and allows me to have dignity and nobility despite my lacks. That’s beautiful

Today, I try to ensure I’m filling my role in the relationships I’m a part of. I may not be able to do all the important things, but those I can do, I try to do beautifully and with dignity.

Omer Count – Day 20

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 twenty which is two weeks and six days of the Omer. Hayom yom esrim she hem shtey shavuot ve shisha yammim laOmer.

Today is Yesod be Tiferet, connection within beauty, intimacy within grace.

Today is the day my big kids come to visit from Montreal. There will be careful listening to my ideas, jokes, discussions, maybe board games, comfy hugs, warm dinners, fun puns, and more. I will see them and they will be beautiful. I know that the end of my week will be a time of celebration and of love, and I will also connect to God – we will bless candles and bless children and everything will take on a Sabbath glow. The older I get, the more I understand and appreciate waiting for and anticipating and preparing for Shabbat and then enjoying the rest. Shabat is an amazing time and I’m happy to have it.

Shabbat and family weekends – connection to God and connection to family – they are the reason. They are the reason behind the week of work, they are the reason behind the little silly facebook or snapchat notes. They are why I write and count the Omer. As the water carrier in the ancient tale (who was considered one of the secret holy ones because he would bring water to people to honour Shabbat – after all wouldn’t some of it at least be used to clean, cook, do laundry or something that might go to honour Shabbat?), I find myself not so much doing more as thinking harder and planning more for Shabbat.

Now, it’s almost Shabbat. Soon, I’ll be setting the table. My son will be here. May your Shabbat too be beautiful.

Today, I soak in the joy of Shabbat and family. It is truly glorious.

Omer Count – Day 18

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 eighteen which is two weeks and four days of the Omer. Hayom yom shmona-es’re she hem shtey shavuot ve arba’a yammim laOmer.

Today is Netzakh be Tiferet, power within beauty, conquest within grace.

An outfit is a way to express oneself, to indicate, “look at me, I’m a beautiful person.” (Or, more likely, to say “don’t look at me, I haven’t had time for sleep or ironing in 23 years, since my eldest was born.) It’s also a way to indicate limits, boundaries, and constraints. Appearance sends a message and because of that, it is powerful. The same is true for manners. Mostly manners are an unnecessary way to pretty up a conversation. “Would you please” doesn’t add content – it’s just the curliques on the calligraphy letter. But manners also set up boundaries – and those boundaries are important. They may be as big as gossamer wings on a butterfly or the silk of a spider’s web, but butterfly wings and spider’s webs have power that far outweighs their small size.

Break one of those boundaries, and you change your world, sometimes for the better, sometimes less so. Was that need to stay on this side of the velvet rope keeping you from important information about your bank account or was it protecting an ancient priceless artifact? Say you’re thinking about hosting someone. Not inviting them over because you’re tired could limit your interactions – remove the chance of you getting help. On the other hand, you’re more likely to say unthinking hurtful things when tired. There are thousands of situations where whether we are polite or not has power, for better or for worse.

Being aware of the power of the external helps us to know to take care of the little things – the appearance, the manners, the curliques on our letters – because they have power.

Today, I will take care to recognize the power inherent in the accessories, the buttons, and the please-and-thank-you’s and I will use them with care.

Omer Count – Day 17

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 seventeen which is two weeks and three days of the Omer. Hayom yom sheva-es’re she hem shtey shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Tiferet, beauty within beauty, grace within grace.

I just got a set of prom photos from my students and you know what? They are beautiful. They’re wearing lovely dresses or suits, they have done their hair and they look amazing. It’s easy to see them as beautiful then. But a lot of teachers know what’s wrong with them and can see the unattractiveness just under the dress. This one skipped days of school (including today to be at the prom.) That one never hands in assignments on time and lies about it. These ones got into a ridiculous fight in school that dragged everyone in school down with them (and that’s why it’s called proma – a mix of prom and drama). No, the pretty prom dresses are just a shell and underneath is still the true ugliness – the messy, slouchy, grumpy teenager that was there just a few hours before.

But what’s underneath that? Did she miss days? Maybe she’s got too much anxiety to show. Maybe he lies about his assignments because he has no other means of expressing how difficult and overwhelming he finds school and life. Maybe that fight was her first reaching out for friendship in years. Maybe he swears because he always feels in pain. Or maybe they’re just jerks – always possible. Still, the Torah says no. It says that each of us has a beauriful, God filled core and we should try to see that. We should look for the time he handed in that assignment on time, or the time she participated in volleyball despite her 3-inch-long fake nails.  If you’re patient (and sometimes, it’s like a cat stalking a bird patient) you can catch their fleeting smiles, cause their happy giggles or even promote a sense of pride and success and cause them to go that extra step they didn’t think they had to go.

Under that ugly level of teenager is another awkward, shy, brash, rude, confused but thoroughly present beauty. It’s that beauty that reflects the truth behind the prom dress or suit.

Isn’t that also the case for the rest of us, though? We too have hidden ugliness that our day time work clothes don’t show. We too miss deadlines, get into stupid fights, and put off our work for just a little while. And underneath – we too have a god-given centre to our character. It’s that god-given centre that’s beautiful. That is – in fact – the beauty within.

Today, I look past the clothes, past the outer behaviours, and search for the beauty within