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Elul 24 – Hope

Oh dear. So today is Erev Rosh HaShanah and I don’t think I’ve ever been this unprepared for the High Holidays. I still have a lot of anger in my heart to some of the people in my life – my attempts to forgive have been met with imperfect success. I still have anger towards myself. I still haven’t apologized to anyone for anything big this High Holiday season, and not all of my small apologies have been sufficiently sincere. I haven’t said goodbye and let go of last year’s things. I haven’t made big plans for how next year will be different. I haven’t even finished the darned Blog (maybe during the Yomim Noraim…) None of that has been done. So, what am I supposed to do?

Rosh HaShanah insists on coming. It’s not going to wait for me to figure it out. It’s going to be there before I say “boo”. My only hope is to what? Fake it? Hope that my reluctant heart does Teshuvah now, right now? Figure that Rosh HaShanah itself will take care of the missing bits? Get a bit harder and more cynical and decide it’s a day like any other day and I should just get on with living it? I don’t have answers.

But each time I ask, maybe I get closer. This, this asking, this yearning for better without being able to know what it is, without ever reaching it – this is my preparation. I prepare by giving up and realizing I can’t and by realizing that I must and by never giving up on hope and the future. I prepare by embracing paradox as a valuable part of my faith and by doing just a bit more today of something (anything) than I did yesterday. I prepare by lo listening to my heart long enough to at least hope for the new year. I may not be brave enough to plan, but I can at least hope.

I hope that I finish this blog this year. I hope that I catch up at work. I hope that I can love my kids with all my heart. (I always wonder if the VeAhavta is talking about the way we love God through loving people.) I hope that I can be kind. There. Right there. That’s my top hope for the year – I hope I can be kind. I hope for the kindness that Hillel preached, when he told the entire Torah on one foot

God, this Rosh HaShanah, let me be kind enough to forgive those that harm me. Let me be kind enough to forgive myself and hope for good things for myself. Let me be kind enough to apologize with ease because the regret comes from the heart and not my thinking. Let me be kind in my writing and my planning. I hope for kindness, God. This year, I have learned to be hard. I have learned to set boundaries so firm that joy and loving and warmth are left out in the cold. So, let those boundaries break this Rosh HaShanah. Let my heart break, even if it hurts, so I have no choice but to feel the kindness that I have buried inside.

I am unlikely to suddenly become successful, efficient, popular, or graceful. I can hope for those traits. I can tell stories with those traits in them and I can work to become more like the person in the stories. But it will take time. However, I have been kind. I know what that feels like and I know I can do so. So, that’s what I need to return to. This will be my hope – that I can be a kind person, one who loves truly and cares for other people.

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Omer 43

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

Today is Khesed be Malkhut, kindness within majesty, grace within nobility

This is the last week of the Omer and today, we might as well look at what Malkhut is trying to tell us because Malkhut in modern day times doesn’t seem to be well understood or appreciated. Most people think of the ruling, bossy, yelly aspect of kings – the telling you what to do, ignoring your needs, never listening, able to impose random punishment kings. The inheritors and perpetuators of the white supremist patriarchy, in fact. It’s how some kids see parents or teachers, too.

So what the heck, ending 49 days of self-analysis and hopefully, self improvement with Malkhut? Shouldn’t it be something useful, like Service, or Kindness, or Joy, or whatever? Why majesty? Because that’s not what is meant by majesty. Here, the ruler in question is God. God has no need to yell, God always pays attention, God isn’t white or male. So, what kind of majesty is this? This is the parent or teacher or leader of any kind that we aspire to. This is the one who inspires rather than bosses, who people follow because that person does things so well that following them makes sense. This is the ruler about whom people would say “I would follow them anywhere.” This is a true leader.

When we listen to a teacher who inspires us to learn more of a subject by his sheer love of it, when we finish a project just so as not to disappoint the manager who has herself put endless hours into it, when we ride into battle following a leader who has always fought on the side of goodness and peace – we are looking at the divinity within a person. When we ourselves are that manager, leader, parent or teacher, we are emulating God. We are practicing Malkhut.

True majesty must, by its very nature, be founded in grace and kindness. Without a deep inner understanding of the other and love of our fellows, we have no chance of leading the way we want to. So, today, we take the extra step, we do the work, we lead with kindness and through inspiration, and we embody Malkhut.

Today, may I inspire others by the kind ways in which I lead.

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 29

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 nine, which is four weeks and one day of the Omer. Hayom yom esrim v’teysha she hem arbaa shavuot ve yom ehad laOmer

Today is Khesed be Hod, kindness within gratitude, compassion within acceptance.

Today, this day, today is the day I stop complaining. And let me tell you, it isn’t easy. Complaining is a basic Jewish character trait! It’s our God-given right and how we get through every day. But aside from the fact that complaining is fun sometimes, it isn’t pretty. It can ruin other people’s moods, it can turn a really positive event into a negative one, and it can really hurt someone. One thinks of Dudley Dursley from Harry Potter saying “Thirty six gifts??? But last year it was 37!” This was not a kind response to his parents. If I take the time to remember that everyone around me does so much for me, so many little things that make me happy – then I can start being kind to other people, by being grateful instead of whining about the 37th gift.

Today, I express gratitude to other people for all they do for me. That’s kinder than complaining.

Omer 22

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-two which is three weeks and one day of the Omer. Hayom yom esrim ve shtayim she hem shlosha shavuot vey om ehad laOmer.

Today is Khesed be Netzakh, kindness within power, love within victory.

Power isn’t kind. Power imbalances in particular. Some people have skills and abilities that give them power over others – they are smarter or more capable in n area. These imbalances are what can destroy a relationship – or build a broken, abusive one. So, how can one have kindness in power, or love within victory? It’s tricky – because it’s not a matter of doing things for someone else. That can feel like taking over – it can feel very cruel. But we manage to put love into our power when we cook with the kids, letting them mess up the kitchen with their random attempts. When we play cards with our friend who always loses, and I show them how or find a way to not have the game be about winning or losing or play a game I always lose as well, and I manage to do it with enough grace that my friend feels supported rather than dominated, then that’s kindness as well.

Today, I temper my victories by trying to be gracefully supportive, especially in areas where I have strength.

Omer 15

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 fifteen which is two weeks and one day of the Omer. Hayom yom hamesh-es’re she hem shtey shavuot ve yom ehad laOmer.

Today is Khesed be Tiferet, compassion within loveliness, kindness within beauty.

There are those of you who are naturally beautiful. Those who are graceful from birth. Those that seem to simply float through the earth on magnificent earlobes and perfect eyelashes. There are those of you who find beauty easy. Please remember to be kind. I, likewise, will try to remember to be kind if you are not bright. I know I can be pretty obnoxious to people who don’t have my intelligence – but I will try if you will. Remember, it doesn’t always come automatically for all of us. Sometimes we don’t notice something we should or succeed at something we’ve attempted. It stinks! But for me, it stinks less if you can be kind when I mess things up. You are beautiful – and that means you need to be responsible for the feeling that you engender with your words and actions.

Today, I will be kind in areas where I am strong.

Omer 8

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 eight which is one week and one day of the Omer. Hayom yom shmone she hem shavua ehad vey om ehad laOmer.

Today is Khesed be Gevurah, kindness within strength, generosity within might.

It’s easier to be strong when one is kind, actually. I am stronger when I give a gift, when I put my own needs and desires to one side to care for others. This isn’t a mealy-mouthed, weak pathetic sort of “I’ll do what you ask because I know it’ll make you happy” kindness. This is a mighty “I have so much that I have extra and I can share that extra with you” kindness. This feels good. And sometimes, I just have to see things a different way and I have enough. I, in fact, have too much. I have so much that I can be kind, share. I guess it’s easier to be kind when one is strong too. Looks like strength and kindness play well together, so long as it’s the right kind of kindness and the right kind of strength, those based in each other and extending outward from that foundation.

Today, I laugh because it feels so good to have so much, that I have more to give away. I am joyfully kind, from strength.

Omer 7

 

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 seven which is one week of the Omer. Hayom yom shev’I she hem shavua ehad laOmer.

Today is Malkhut be Khesed, majesty within love, dignity within kindness

Oh, I’m tired today. And sad and lonely. Some days, I just can’t. But I have to. I have to be polite to people and do the next thing and make the world a better place. I have dependents and responsibilities. It’s hard to be kind – to not snap, to not come up with that amazing mega-sarcastic comeback, to not lash out. My mind plays the blame game a lot. It’s hard not to succumb to self-pity, and proclaim that the world stinks and there’s nothing I can do about it. But if I succumb, that’s selfish, and countless spiritual people have helped me to see that I shouldn’t indulge selfishness. That would be true majesty – to be kind and loving despite feeling like crap.

Today, I pray that my kindness comes from within, no matter what I am feeling.

Omer 6

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 six of the Omer. Hayom yom shishi laOmer.

Today is Yesod be Khesed, sexuality within kindness, foundation within generosity.

It keeps being cool that what underlies the other traits is sexuality. Relationship – building bridges between ourselves and others – that is the foundation of what we do, the spur to give more. Today, I reconnect with passion as a translation between dreams and reality, as something which I can use at the back of my head to drive the next action. I take the passion I feel about something and turn it into acts of grace towards others. Today, I turn my kindness on, illuminating it with the light of passion and desire, thus making it stronger and fiercer and more real.

Today, may we be passionate in our loving.

 

Omer 5

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 five of the Omer. Hayom yom hamishi laOmer.

Today is Hod be Khesed, gratitude within love, acceptance within kindness.

Sometimes, like the pharaoh, I find my heart hard. Sometimes, I feel stubborn, resentful, angry – and I can’t find room for gratitude. I have always wondered what it meant that God hardened pharaoh’s heart, and on certain days, I wonder why God would harden mine. Gratitude for kindness given – I cannot do it sometimes. I still don’t know why – is it to give me independence? Is it because (I am reading Heidi to my kid) if you abandon God, God lets you go your own way? Is it because God is malicious and nasty? (Possible. Have you seen this world?) Or simply thinks this is funny? (A lot of the world can be explained by God actually being a three-year-old with a wicked sense of humour.) And I don’t know how to soften Pharaoh’s heart. Even Moses didn’t manage that! All I know is how to soften mine – I find that if I say the words “thank you,” even with teeth gritted and the smile on my face so fake it resembles Ontario bagels in quality, it still works, eventually. If I ask God for help, and I express gratitude – my heart softens and I can perceive the world as kind instead of harmful again.

 Today, I say “thank you” for kindness. I commit to noticing kindness and thanking those who give it, even when I am hurting inside.