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Omer 49

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 nine, which is seven weeks of the Omer. Hayom yom arbaim v’teysha she hem shiv’a shavuot laOmer. It’s the last day. I hope you enjoyed being part of my counting

Today is Malkhut be Malkhut, presence within majesty, majesty within presence

It was an awesome Shavuot! Truly amazing! Can you believe that three young adults aged 19, 21, and 21 shlepped from Montreal and Toronto just to stay up all night and study? And a bunch of people from the community? We went into depths with Ruth (some of that stuff is weird) and we read bits of Narnia and we discussed the nature of God and we sang Hallel and we ate tasty foods and it was perfect in every way. That was what I want for Shavuot – study and joy, love and connection. This is what true majesty is – was I a queen? I sure felt like one! The people in my life felt loyal, the surroundings felt opulent, the food was certainly fit for a queen. I felt like “what did I do to deserve this? Nothing! I’ve just been there.” And that is Malkhut be Malkhut – the majesty of presense, the nobility of just being there.

On Shavuot, I recognize that sometimes, just being there is enough.


Omer 46

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

Today is Netzakh be Malkhut, victory within majesty, conquest within presense.

There are kings and queens whose vicotries we read about in history books. There’s the conquest of country x by ruler y, and sometimes that’s a good thing and the ruler becomes a great emperor and helps the countries run be stronger and sometimes it’s a disaster and the ruler beomes known through history as a ravager and a despot and we talk for thousands of years about what a baddie that one was. There are also kings and queens we remember for hanging around a very long time. For example, we just celebrated Victoria Day, named after Queen Victoria who hung around a very, very long time. It’s a victory of majesty too – a quieter one, but just as remembered and maybe, in some ways, more important.

There is a teacher I know who has been teaching so long that her worksheets were first made by hand and copied with carbon paper. They have taught children of their former students and have the respect of every member of their community. Now, that – that is a victory.

But it’s not just hanging around a long time that shows victory. Any time persistence is involved, there is a win. Sometimes, the ruler just has to keep governing, even when the country seems in to be in shambles and every one else is yelling and everything seems to be going wrong. Sometimes, the student has to just keep studying, the doctor has to just keep working on the dying patient, the teacher has to just keep teaching, the rabbi has to just keep explaining, the musician playing through the bad notes, the painter painting even though none of them look quite right.

There is a nobility to persistence, and occasionally, despite the predictions of others and the risk factors involved, sometimes, there is a victory.

Today, I keep doing the tasks that I know are important. My victory will come from continuing to try with these tasks. Even if I don’t succeed immediately, the continued attempt is noble.

Omer 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 v’hamesh she hem shisha shavuot ve shlosha yamim laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Malkhut, beauty within majesty, harmony within presence

Today, I’m here. I may not look all that gorgeous in my onesy and my “majesty” may be limited to changing the kitty-litter and doing the dishes, but I am here. Sometime malkhut is just presense – God’s presense in the world, my presense in the family – presense. By being present, I can share in the laughter and the good times – but also in the awkward momenta and the silences. The presence of God adds a great deal to every moment, and so makes each moment more beautiful. The presense of another person in one’s life does the same. In some ways, people mimic. One serene, joyful, loving person makes a room more serene, joyful and loving. One angry resentful hating person makes a room of people more angry, resentful and hating.

Today, simply by being there and by being my best, most loving, most serene self, I can inspire others and make the world more beautiful.

Elul 20

#BlogElul – Fulfill

Fulfill – satisfy, be complete, keep a promise.

There are times when life seems to make a promise. Especially as a kid, but at all times, one has this sense that very soon, something exciting and amazing and wonderful is about to happen. When I grow up, I’ll be a movie star and a ballerina and a teacher and a fire fighter and a doctor! And I’ll live in a perfect house with perfect family and we’ll wear long beautiful gowns and eat little fancy pastries.

Or whatever. They’re not even dreams, really! They’re just that sense that ‘it’s going to be good’, that there’s joy behind the curtain, and that everything is possible and can be enjoyable. Most of the time, one’s adult life isn’t like that. The fancy meals become stacks of dishes, the perfect family becomes diapers and morning conflicts, the wonderful career becomes piles of paperwork, and the beautiful long gowns are a pain to clean. So, mostly, life – God – just doesn’t cut it. The promise stays unfulfilled and we are, on some under-the-surface level, really, really disappointed.

However, there are exceptions! Today, life fulfills its promise. Today, I sing with family and friends. Today, my kid (the one who has a reading disability) sneaks off to read a book. Today, both my daughter and my mother repost my blog. Today, a parent tells me that a child has said, “my kid just used words I never thought she’d say, that she likes going to math class.” Today, we have a fancy meal, and friends to help with dishes. Today, I get to wear a dress with puffed sleeves – and be proud of myself for putting away my clean laundry. Today, the weather is actually not too hot or too cold, not rainy or dreary – it’s nice (and in Canada, that is not a frequent occurrence.)

I find myself actually satisfied with God’s goodness, feeling full and fulfilled. It’s not a place I can (or even one I would wish to) stay in, but it’s great to go there some days! It’s a good day to say, “Thank you”.  Moments like this are the Sheheheyanu moments.

It’s a beautiful prayer. Barukh ata Adonai, Eloheynu, Melekh Ha-Olam Sheheheyanu, VeKiemanu, Vehigianu lazman haze.

And if you follow the blog, some of these terms are familiar to you even if you don’t know any other Hebrew, because Hebrew prayers repeat.

Barukh – bless. It’s funny – we don’t praise or thank God, we bless God, who being perfect, should need no blessing. The word ‘bless’ here is a recognition that we are a part of God, that maybe from one side, God is perfect but there are other sides, sides that include us, that have aspects that need blessing. So, we wish for good things for ourselves and each other, and in so doing, for God.

Ata – You. We talk to God one-on-one, accentuating the personal relationship we have with God. There is no intermediary here. This is a private chat, and we are saying thanks, the way we would if a person was involved. It’s a powerful way of relating, that only jibes with our understanding of God as part of ourselves when we realize that a) talking to ourselves is OK, and b) there’s a lot about God we’re unlikely to understand.

Adonai – For instance, this “our lord” term which is a replacement for the unpronounceable name of God, and which has plural and singular forms kind of mixed in (it’s one of those things we call exceptions of language – or maybe it’s an exception of reality?) We don’t know what God is. Calling God a Master or Commander, is one way to handle that. Hopefully, we can find others.

Eloheynu – Here we affirm that whatever this God is, God is ours. There’s a relationship there that includes possession. Not the possession of ownership that robs the other of individuality and power, but the possession of relationship, the one that says our to a family member who is loved. God is part of us and we are part of God.

Melekh HaOlam – God is not made any smaller by us, though. God still runs and manages the universe, the now and forever of it. We acknowledge that this is not a relationship of equals. We allow ourselves to imagine a consciousness for the universe, and imagine how powerful and beyond comprehension it would be. We reaffirm once again, distasteful as that thought might be, that we are not God.

Sheheheyanu – who kept us alive. Life’s promise – the big one – is that we are alive and can experience things. It’s good to start our gratitude prayer with an understanding of the main miracle of life – that it exists, that it exists for us. I am alive, and that is a powerful reason to celebrate. Here I acknowledge that my life is not something I earned, but a gift.

VeKiemanu – and sustained us. Kept us going. Well, obviously! If we’re alive, we’ve kept going! But have we really? We could have just settled. If I had settled, I wouldn’t have the singing, the teaching job, the kids who can do the things I showed them. I’d have none of that. Here, we see that with God’s help, we’ve kept doing the do things.

VeHigianu – and got us. Sometimes, kicking and screaming, mind you. It hasn’t always been easy for life to corral me into doing the things I need to do to be fulfilled and occasionally happy. It’s been painfully difficult, in fact. Here, I thank God (and other people, who are a part of God) for that ‘gentle’ encouragement. I’ve grown from it.

LaZman HaZe. – to this time; to this season; to this moment. It’s about the now. Bad things have happened and will happen again. The cat will pee on my sandals and I will be behind on my paperwork, a kid will scream at me that I’m unfair or tell me that they’ve decided not to focus so much on their studies. Life will remain challenging. But, here, right now, in this very moment, life (God/the universe/my best self) fulfils its promise.

Counting the Omer – Day 49

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 nine, which is seven weeks of the Omer. Hayom yom arbaim ve tesha she hem shiva shavuot laOmer.

Today is Malkhut be Malkhut, majesty within majesty, presence within presence.

It’s been a long Omer, and I have to thank you for counting it with me. Sometimes, I’ve been late – but we continued to count together. I don’t know that I learned much – maybe a little here and there, maybe not. I do know that I am not at all like God. I can’t make big things happen, fix things for anyone, change the course of time and space. As a substitute teacher who often works at a special needs school, I know how often I can affect change – almost never. So, as I come to Malkhut be Malkhut, where I strive to be as close to God as possible, I wonder where I can go with that.

I realize that God doesn’t have to do much to be God. For me, to affect change, God just has to be present – to listen, to accept, to be. That is something I can do. I can witness the crazy. I can listen to the people, I can accept them as they are, I can be actively, fully present. If it’s enough for God, maybe it’s enough for me too.

Many things are changing in my life. No matter how much I prefer to hold on to what is, to have things be true or false, things don’t chose to be that way. Instead they continue to change all out of countenance, becoming different from anything I could have ever thought or imagined. So, how can I handle this? Screaming, hiding under the bed, or running around in circles, which is what comes to my mind are probably not the best approaches. I fall back on presence. I can be there throughout the change, ready to learn and grow, do the next thing, and in and of myself, change as necessary.

Whether to affect change in the world, or cope with changes that are happening, my job is to be most fully present and to accept that this may be all I can do. If I can use the Omer count as a way of teaching me to be more present, maybe I’ve learned enough for this year.

Today, we are fully present in our day.