Blog Archives

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 v’shtayim she hem shisha shavuot laOmer.

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

Nobility? Eh, it’s not very noble, sex is. It’s sweaty and people have fat rolls and sometimes they make gross noises and as far as I know, it’s about as un-noble as it gets. As for the ‘purer’ love between a kid and a parent, somewhere between changing the diapers and putting up with the temper tantrums, paying for the lost bus pass (again) and explaining that going to the dentist and doing taxes are things that you have to do without reminders from mommy, that love seems less noble and more just tiring too. And yet – yet it is. It is beautiful, because the simple act of loving makes everything shine and look better and sound better and feel easier. That loving can be the rose coloured glasses through which one sees the world and which make everything look better.

Today, I realize that the nobility of love is that it can make even very unappealing moments seem majestic.

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 v’ehad she hem hamisha shavuot ve shisha yamim laOmer.

Today is Yesod be Yesod, intimacy within intimacy, foundation within community.

Today, I think about building friendships. Sometimes, it’s so easy – the other person says something funny, I laugh, and presto, a connection is made – a friendship is built. Sometimes, it’s a boatload of work – of getting poison thoughts out of my head, of maintaining limits and boundaries even when it feels artificial to ensure there is no power imbalance, of calling even when they’re boring or overemotional or both, of doing favours – and accepting gifts, of little things that make others smile, not laugh. It’s a lot work which I don’t always want to do. But that is where the intimacy within intimacy comes from – doing that work, finding those answers and building those connections.

Today, I build the foundation within the foundation of my relationships – I do the work even when I don’t want to.

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 yamim laOmer.

Today is Hod be Yesod, gratitude within foundation, humility within intimacy.

Today, I am grateful for love. It transforms everything. Really, it is shining bright rainbow colours added to an otherwise bland palette. And the thing about love is that there is no way whatsoever that I can do it by myself. By its nature, Yesod – whether defined as sexuality or intimacy or connection – requires two. So, I have someone else who needs to play in order for Yesod to be successful, someone who I may as well be grateful to. In its meaning of foundation, Yesod confirms that basically, love underlies everything. And today is an excellent day to express gratitude about that foundation, to test it, to see that it remains firm and to enjoy a life built on love.

Today, I am grateful for love. I express that gratitude to those who love me.

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 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 27

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-seven which is three weeks and six days of the Omer. Hayom yom esrim ve sheva she hem shlosha shavuot ve shisha yammim laOmer.

Today is Yesod be Netzakh, family within power, intimacy within victory.

Our strength comes from each other, and being with each other is a victory. We forget that sometimes. There are papers to fill, and notes to type, phone calls to make, and invoices to pay and so much more. I am busy every day, and tired and don’t care and don’t have time. And so when it’s time to watch a family movie or just sit around drinking coffee or otherwise “waste my time” hanging around with people, I sometimes say that I don’t have time for that. I forget that I am creating strength and power for myself. It is the most important way I can spend time, more crucial than any other.

Today, I win when I take time to be with family. It is the most important way I can spend my time.

Omer 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, sexuality within beauty, intimacy within loveliness.

It’s pretty, spring is. To see two birds flying together, or two lovers walking hand in hand – it’s really nice to see and it brings out an answering yearning in our hearts. It is wonderful to observe and participate, and there is nothing as lovely as being in love. It has its commensurate ugliness though. The problem with Yesod is all your secrets are involved. That secret heartache? That old issue? That time, when you…those are all things that emerge in relationships, like old bits of junk that were buried under the snow when winter came. (Oh that old thing? I was wondering where it had gone…wow it’s a mess, all rusted and broken and ugly.) It’s good, because it allows for clean-up, but it isn’t pretty.

This is where there is a choice. One can cover up that nastiness, pretending it was never there. “Mess, what mess? There was never any mess. I just prefer that tarp in that particular spot.” That does make it look prettier right away but basically, it’s a denial of Yesod. If I want intimacy, I need to be willing to see the ugliness, acknowledge it, deal with it and clean it up.

Today, I will be willing to look at the messy parts of my heart. I know that it will enhance intimacy – and thus the beauty of my relationships.

Omer 13

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 thirteen which is one week and six days of the Omer. Hayom yom shlosh-es’re she hem shavua ehad ve shisha yamim laOmer.

Today is Yesod be Gevura, privacy within strength, intimacy within might.

Today, I respect those for whom privacy is the aspect of Yesod (sod means secret) that matters, but I acknowledge for me, intimacy is the side that I turn to. The two are very connected, of course – we are private about our most intimate moments, but it’s a question of where we draw our strength. I get my strength from close times spent together with people I love. That’s my Yesod be Gevura. It can be one person or 20, so long as they are people that I’m interacting with in a positive and sharing manner. I know there are those for whom their strength is privacy – separation from others, possibly all others. That’s a solid alternative. Most of us probably like a bit of both. So, we acknowledge that we have strength that comes from Yesod, however we chose to experience it.

Today, may both intimate and private moments contribute to making you feel strong.

Elul 21

#BlogElul – Love

Hey, you know what? This blog needs more spice. Let’s talk about sex!

So, what’s the big deal about sex? It isn’t love, it’s just physical exercise, right? I can love someone without wanting to go to the gym with them! And certainly, sex and religion don’t mix. Sex can’t really be part of Elul.

Well, actually, Judaism does have opinions on sex. Judaism thinks sex is important and in fact, when it comes to relationships between a married couple, essential. It is one of the reasons why either a woman or a man may demand a divorce, and this is in the most Orthodox, patriarchal, and backwards of versions of the Jewish law. A Jew who is independently wealthy is expected to have sex daily, one who works a day job, twice a week, and shift workers or people who travel, every 15 days, 30 days, or 6 months, depending on the nature of their job. Yes, it really does specify. So, come on, people. Get on with it! Are you meeting your quota?

This meets with more than the usual dismay from people. Surely, sex should be when one wants to! Surely it shouldn’t be mechanical, or forced. Yet if it was just ‘going to the gym’, it shouldn’t be a big deal! Just like going to the gym, one would do it regularly to stay fit, (picture it for a moment: one, two, three, four, and again – just one more time people – yes, I know, you have that image stuck in your head now – your welcome) whether one wanted to or not. The thing is, the Torah does recognize that sex isn’t a basic ordinary part exercise. It is an expression of love, one of the deepest we have.

When we allow physical intimacy with another person, we are trusting that person to take care of us. We allow a deep level of vulnerability to exist between us. This is an area where abuse is so easy, that rape has a whole category all to itself. So, sex is about trust.

It is about sharing. We give and receive pleasure and sharing pleasure is powerful. The act builds and reinforces affection – it’s not for nothing that it’s called “making love”.

So, how can something that vital be dictated? It’s bad enough to dictate ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, to dictate caring for children and honouring parents, to dictate ritual and daily practice, to dictate the food we eat and the clothing we wear. Now, this religion is coming into our bedrooms? Ridiculous!

Or is it? Is it a high standard, difficult to attain, set to us as a goal? Is it a question? “Have I done all I can to make sure I do meet those requirements?” Am I taking care of myself, trying my best in my relationship, making the most of every opportunity? Or am I simply allowing daily fuss to take over, to become more important? Am I taking sex for granted? Am I ignoring my responsibilities in this area? This month, as I review everything else, I had better review sex too. Yes, the work is hard. But the rewards are pretty awesome.