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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

This one makes me mad. Yesod shouldn’t be about winning or losing. Yesod is intimacy, the little hidden secret within each of us that slowly blossoms like the beautiful unfolding of a flower. Yesod shouldn’t be pried open or torn open. There shouldn’t be conquest involved. And yet, so many people play cruel games as part of a relationship. They say things they don’t mean, change their minds for no or little reason, use distance as a fighting tactic, refusing to engage, use well-timed and planned sarcasm as an axe or otherwise ‘fight dirty’. So manybe they win. But today, I just want to say that this kind of win is a loose.

Today, I win in relationships when I realize they’re cooperative games.

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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, sexuality within strength, intimacy within might.

It is actually easier to build a relationship on weakness than on strength, in my opinion. When one is weak, one can ask for and accept help – and that builds bonds. When one is strong, one doesn’t need the other person. Sure, it’s fun to hang together, but really, so what? There’s a lot to do. Who has time just to hang together – to have fun?  So, we don’t give relationships their due when we’re strong. The day’s task – to use our strengths to build relationships – reminds us that our priorities are skewed when we don’t. We are supposed to find intimacy within that strength we have, to make that time, and to build that connection, even it it means being weak sometimes.

Today, I build my relationships with all of me, strengths as well as weaknesses.

Omer 48

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 eight, which is six weeks and six days of the Omer. Hayom yom arbaim v’shmone she hem shisha shavuot ve shisha yamim laOmer.

Today is Yesod be Malkhut, relationship within majesty, sexuality within nobility

The thing about working at a high school is how much information you get. So and so went out with that guy who only likes her for her body, and the things he said to her! Meanwhile such and such is no longer talking to this other person because of what she said to him before he told that girl that…Now, these two are not dating and they’ve been not dating for 2 years and they’ll probably not date for the rest of high school. These other two on the other hand are dating but one of them is clear that he’s only with the other one because she helps with homework.

I tell them, “people, are you sure you want everyone knowing all this stuff? Really?” Sometimes, those old fashioned rules are useful. When to say, “hi” and to whom. Go out for coffee 3 times and then go to the restaurant. And above all, do NOT let your teachers and every kid in your 50-student high school know all the details of your romantic lives.

It seems formal and stilted and Victorian to talk about rules as far as relationships go. Is there room for actual emotion in all that show? I think there not only is, but that it’s stronger and better if those rules are respected and followed. So much that we do depends on custom and tradition, ritual and rules. And it brings a bit of a respectability to what is otherwise a messy and random situation.

Good rules can create stronger relationships – and good relationships create nobility. It is beautiful to see a true romance, and it can elevate a person to being a queen or a king. We’ve heard that someone is a queen in her partner’s eyes or the sovereign of the home – and it makes sense.

My bigger kids are coming to visit today – and it will be wonderful. I will feel richer than any billionaire and more honoured than any ruler. Within my family, I love my role.

Today, we use rules to strengthen our relationships and relationships to highlight our roles.

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 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 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 – Day 48

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom arbaim ve shmone laOmer, shehem shisha shavuot ve shisha yammim laOmer.

Today is day forty eight of the Omer, which is six weeks and six days of the Omer.

yesod be malkhut: intimacy within majesty; relationship within dominion

More importantly, it’s Friday! Thank God it’s Friday! I am so tired today, that I legitimately put my lunch on the photo copier and stared at it waiting for it to heat up. It didn’t but the other teachers gave me some weird looks. There’s a day of rest coming up. Now, mind, I don’t take the day of rest to the extent some people do – occasionally I have to work on Saturdays. But still – Friday night is special and I tread it as such – no work, ever, and family time and singing and love and quiet and all the things that recharge and re-energise and set one up to do it all again.

God gave the Jewish people such a gift when we got the Sabbath. It’s like a wedding gift – many places in the bible there is talk about an intimate relationship between people and God. On Shabbat, that intimate relationship is felt and celebrated. When we talk about the Sabbath queen, we acknowledge the glory and majesty of Shabbat. When we pray “satisfy us with your goodness and bring us joy in your redemption and purify our hearts to serve you…”, we acknowledge the relationship. Shabbat is good.

Today, I sing in the joy that is Shabbat!

Omer – Day 41

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom arbaim ve ehad laOmer, shehem hamisha shavuot ve shisha yammim laOmer.

Today is day forty one of the Omer, which is five weeks and six days of the Omer.

yesod be yesod – intimacy within intimacy; love within love; relationship within relationship

You just can’t write “do not commit adultery” in a set of commandments meant to be understood for kids. And it’s a fun commandment to explore in a time when some marriages are more open than others, and where some people have definitions of adultery that may not match those in the dictionary. However, it’s easy to understand “keeping promises”. Kids know what that’s about – but sometimes, as adults, we forget.

We don’t always even realize we’ve made promises – and in a casual relationship, maybe we haven’t. In intimate relationships, though, casual words have an effect. “I find you attractive” is far from a promise. When said to a cute acquaintance,  it can be easily forgotten later. When said to a friend, in a relationship, however – it changes things. Expectations arise, for better or for worse, and the relationship is never the same. A promise has been effectively made. Of course, the attraction may not work out. It will feel like a commitment is broken, however. It will cause a rift in intimacy that will take time to heal.

“Maybe later,” we say to a child, casually, thinking nothing of it but wanting to avoid the screaming fit that a no might lead to.  For the child who loves her parent very very much that casual remark was a promise and when it doesn’t happen, a promise that leads to heartbreak.

When we recognise that in intimate relationships, the words we say are promises of action, when we keep our promises, even though we didn’t entirely mean them when we said them, when we let people know that we are safe to trust and depend upon, then we build intimacy within intimacy and make our relationships stronger – and more holy.

Omer – Day 39

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom shloshim ve tesha laOmer, shehem hamisha shavuot ve arba’a yammim laOmer.

Today is day thirty nine of the Omer, which is five weeks and four days of the Omer.

netzakh be yesod – victory within intimacy; power within romantic love

OK, so it’s probably not the best idea to be writing this after having a serious conversation with someone about rape. It just brings up all the wrong images. Power plays within loving relationships shouldn’t happen. Oh, of course there are everyday imbalances – one of the old Jewish jokes I remember was “I decide all the important things – who runs our country, how much to pay my workers, … -and my partner decides little things – what we wear, what we eat, what we do for fun…” It was a tongue-in-cheek way of saying that even power imbalances only work in a relationship when they’re balanced out.

So what kind of victory is there in intimacy? The desire – no, the need – for intimacy  can lead to ugly feelings when thwarted. Jealousy, anger, resentment, shame – these are all the dark side of intimacy, and as with the dark side of the force, quite powerful. I win when I don’t give in to those feelings – when I say, “I will just love. Without jealousy, without any negativity for them or myself, I will love this person as hard as I can.” It is a struggle and a battle. I rarely succeed as well as I would like. However, when I manage to let go of jealousy and shame and anger and resentment and just hold love – that is a victory.

Today, I win at relationships when I realize the only one I have any power over is myself.

Omer – Day 38

Barukh ata Adonay, Eloheynu Melekh ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’zivanu al s’firat haOmer.

Blessed be the Eternal God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy through Mitzvot and has commanded us to count the Omer.

Hayom yom shloshim ve shmone laOmer, shehem hamisha shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is day thirty eight of the Omer, which is five weeks and three days of the Omer.

tiferet be yesod – beauty within intimacy; grace within romantic love

And it happens to be my wife’s birthday! How cool is that? My wife is very beautiful, so it’s fitting, really. There is an incredible amount of beauty in relationships – it’s where we see each other as the most real people available, as the true us that we don’t show otherwise. In our romantic relationships, not only do our masks come down so that we show each other reality, but also, we can see past the minor flaws and imperfections – be it of age or of anything else – and see the person we fell in love with. When we let down masks and see past other people’s flaws, that’s when magic happens and there is true beauty in the people we look at. Today, I will see the beauty, especially in those I love.