Blog Archives

Omer 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 there’s a story about a small Shul. It’s broken down, old, no one goes any more. There are 6 elderly Jews left, and whether it’s Pinchas complaining about how much work there is or Sura chirping about her grandchildren, none of them are all that focused on faith any more. Finally, Rabbi Shmuel knows there’s a problem so he goes to see a wise Rebbe in a distant place. When he finally reaches there, the Rebbe is no help. “I really don’t know what to tell you,” says the Rebbe. “But you know what – I’ll let you know what my deep spiritual insight has discovered. One of you is the Messiah. You don’t even know it yourselves yet, but there it is”

Well, Rabbi Shmuel hurries home and tells this to his congregation. Everyone is confused. Who could it be? Not Devorah who was frankly, too old and thin and ill all the time, surely? Not Moyshe who was much more focused on his back than on his prayers? Not Rachel! She was hardly ever there! But what if it was? It could be!  Rabbi Shmuel? Sure he was forgetful and scattered, but he did know a lot about Torah…

Moyshe was just about to complain to Pinchas about his back when he thought “the Moshiach wouldn’t complain about backs!”. Pinchas was almost ready to tell Surah to talk about anything other than her grandkids when he thought, “what if She’s the Moshiach – those are the Moshiach’s grandchildren. They’d be pretty important.” He listened attentively. “Hmm,” thought Surah, “he listens so well. Maybe he’s the Messiah. He has a lot to do for a Messiah. Maybe I could help”. She set up some chairs and that Shabbat, brough a kugel to kiddush. Devorah settled in with a nice cosy smile. Delicious. And Rachel, who was there on one of her random visits was so impressed that she came the next week!

Gradually, as the six treated each other nicer, prayed with more kavanah and were more thoughtful in their own behaviours, more people came to shul. It started with Rachel, and then Surah actually brought her grandchildren, and then Pinchas brought his, and they had such a good time that their parents came the next week.  There were more people all the time, and the Shul grew and brightened. Thoughtfully, Moyshe hung a plaque that said “the Moshiach’s Shul” and this became the new title and attracted more people yet.

One day the Rebbe heard ot this Shul and decided to see it. “Well,” he said to Rabbi Shmuel, “did you figure out which one of you is the Moshiach?” “The Moshiach??” Said Rabbi Shmuel. “Who has time for that? Our Deborah sisterhood is starting up, our shool needs a new teacher, I hve a lunch planned for Sunday and Wednesday and our Torah sudy is booked for at least three months ahead. I’m not going to worry about the Moshiach! But really, Rebbe, is one of us the Moshiach?” “Well,” said the Rabbi, “the six of you saved something! You saved a Shul. And if saving a Jewish soul is like saving a world – then saving this shul is saving the universe.”

What would I be like if I was the Moshiach? Would I be more careful about that stain on my shirt? Would I avoid sarcasm more and worry less and work just a tiny bit harder? What if my friend was the Moshiach? Would I be more likely to call him up or to do that small favour for him? If I saw everyone as noble – as a Moshiach, a leader of leaders, would I be kinder? Because if I was – that would be beautiful. That would be majesty inside of harmony and nobility – nobility in the everyday.

Today, I recognize beauty and harmony when I see it – in evry face I see, including the one in the mirror. After all, any of us could be the messiah.

Advertisements

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, connection within beauty, intimacy within grace.

How can I connect to those around me? One way is through loveliness. Now, I am not always lovely – but the more I see myself as beautiful, the more I work to look and sound and feel full of grace and beauty, the more likely it is that I’ll be someone desireable for others to connect to. Today, I focus on ways I can embody the beauty of this world, whether that is through my appearance, or through my actions and words, and the kindness and closeness I embody and the harmony and grace I exhibit. When I do so, connections and intimacy simply happen, as is their nature.

Today, I project the beauty in my world and I embody it to build connection.

Omer 19

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 nineteen which is two weeks and five days of the Omer. Hayom yom tisha-es’re she hem shtey shavuot ve hamisha yammim laOmer.

Today is Hod be Tiferet, gratitude within beauty, humility within grace.

I am grateful for the beauty I have been offered, in this lovely world. I find the beauty in everything I see and touch today. How can I best express my gratitude? I can spend my time trying to add to the beauty. Whether through planting or singing, praying or playing piano, caring for my friends or caring for the someone in the community, I can try to make the world more beautiful. When I do, others respond with gratitude – and with attempts to create beauty. Just through gratitude for what there clearly is, we can add to the loveliness of our beautiful world. That’s pretty fantastic.

Today, I am grateful for the beauty that surrounds me. I express my gratitude by helping the world to be even more beautiful..

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 ve hamesh she hem shisha shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

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

Today I enjoy the beauty of things being as they should be. Today is a day for beauty, not only because the flowers in my garden keep being stunning, but also because it’s the 1st of Sivan and there’s a chance we might sing Hallel. I enjoy those psalms – like the cornerstone made out of the rock that the builders abandoned, like God answering with more breath, more width – opening. Today, I am wide open to the possibilities offered by God’s wonderful dominion. Today, I have the easy comfortable beauty of a queen, when I recognize the amazingness of the world and of the noble gifts I have been given.

Today, I am a queen graciously accepting God’s gifts of beauty, offered through flowers and song.

 

Omer 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, truth within intimacy

It’s nice when the little things work out. When you are thinking something and suddenly, your friend says that very thing. When you start a sentence and your friend finishes it. When you want something – and your partner brings it. It’s wonderful to have that connection that goes beyond words and into love. It’s nice and it’s real and it’s beautiful. It takes years of hanging out, of just doing thte next thing, of thinking of each other and truly listening to what the other person says to have it happen. It’s rare – and sometimes huge periods of time happen where it isn’t there or at least I don’t notice it – but it’s totally worth while.

Today, I notice the beauty in the the comfort and fit one can have with true family.

Omer 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 egad she hem arba’a shavuot ve shlosha yammim laOmer.

Today is Tiferet be Hod, beauty within gratitude, grace within thankfulness.

Manners are completely useless. At least so said the twelve -year-old me as I proceeded to dismiss the need for manners. They don’t convey any new information – my request for the butter is just as accurate with the please as without, and free from irritating extra verbiage. The same held true for thank you’s. There was no purpose to them – they conveyed no net-new information that I could see, and weren’t always that genuine (I mean, how grateful can one be about butter).

It was only years later that I realized manners had an entirely different purpose. They aren’t for conveying information – that can be done, well and efficiently inmany other ways. They are for beauty.

In much the same way, a dance isn’t for getting from one place to another. Running and even walking is a way more efficient way of getting from one point to another. Dancing is beautiful, though, and a great way to express emotion and connect to others.

Today, I can use gratitude and other polite words and phrases to turn my conversations into dances of words that do that very thing – express emotion and connect to others.  It’s not that I’m conveying more information about the butter. I’m conveying emotions about the other person, I’m conveying a sense that the table is a shared place that we want to keep civil, I’m conveying the dance.

Today, I say ‘thank you’ and remember that good manners can be beautiful.

Omer 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.

Sometimes, one just doesn’t feel beautiful. One has come in from a long day of doing something and one feels like yuck and one just doesn’t care how one looks but suspects it’s probably not very pretty. And oddly – it makes one feel less capable, less powerful.

Then, there are other days, when one looks in the mirror and says, “I am beautiful”, and even if one looks exactly the same on both days, one suddenly feels beautiful, attractive, and so more powerful. Those words, applied to a person can make a huge difference. They turn around what beauty is and allow the beauty that people think or feel they have to shine through.

It isn’t easy to project looking good over the course of a day – people use makeup or special hairstyles, stylish outfits and nice shoes to do so. But the underlying secret remains to know that one is beautiful and let that beauty be in charge.

Today, I acknowledge that I too can be beautiful and access that power.

Omer 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.

Today, I think of home. Sometimes, the most beautiful thing imaginable is home. And home is different for different people. For some people, it’s the decorative possibilities – a home can be made truly beautiful, full of nice things that have been put exactly where I like them to be. That is a home that can be really beautiful. For others, home is a balancing act of compromise and relationship – knowing that they have put the spoon away exactly where their partner needs it to go. The decorations are more eclectic and may include a bird’s nest in the fancy china cabinet, but they are lovely. For some, it’s clutter and cosiness, and the fact that someone loved is usually nearby or at least will be soon. For others, it’s the space and privacy that they crave, a place where they can truly be alone. For everyone, it’s a place of rightness and it’s a feeling of safety and security, knowing that there is an anchor to one’s life. That rightness, that feeling? That’s beautiful.

Today, I appreciate the beauty of home.

Omer 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.

Today I hand in exam marks for students, and that is a great deal of power. It’s a matter of their whole entire future for them, who they can be and who they can become. They tell me about how that 1% will make the difference between getting into university and becoming a respected lawyer or being a homeless bum with no education. It feels like I have all the power. But I’m just the marker. I really can’t make them learn something they don’t want to learn. I can do a lot but I can’t make a person do their homework, study for a test, know more than they do. I can’t undo years of poor study or actual intellectual difficulties. There is a limit. At some point, I concede that I’ve done my part.

For many students, that’s that. I push, cajole, pray, suggest, advice, persuade, threaten, bribe, tease and otherwise try to get them to learn. They choose what they want to learn. I put in their marks. I have power, but it’s not very pretty. In some cases, though – magic happens. God intervenes. A student who couldn’t add suddenly puts in the extra work, askss the additional questions, approaches the test with a new look and suddenly – succeeds beyond either their expectations or mine.

Now, that’s a victory. That’s real power. That’s my changing an “I’m stupid” kid to one who can think, who can work, who can learn. It’s never my victory – like I said, mostly, it has little to do with me. It might be their parents, might be themselves – but when it happens, that feels like victory for all concerned. I know I’ve played a part in that success that I’ve helped to make this difference. I continue to do all I can, and I live for these victories. I feel that then, there’s beauty in victory – the beauty of helping someone else win.

Today, I win when I help others achieve victory and that’s beautiful.

Omer 16

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 sixteen which is two weeks and two days of the Omer. Hayom yom shesh-es’re she hem shtey shavuot ve shtey yammim laOmer.

Today is Gevura be Tiferet, strength within beauty, might within grace.

The thing with the Omer is it makes one think in weird ways. Beautiful things are rarely strong – the model is lithe and graceful, but she definitely does not body-build. The body builder is not supposed to be beautiful. (I mean, she’s gorgeous – but not everyone will agree with that). So today, I was thinking of strength within beauty and of course, being a math teacher, I thought of webs, lattices, crystals – all these things where patern makes beauty – but within that beauty is the strength of a patern. Spider webs, especially with the rain glistening on them, can be very beautiful (when they’re not being terrifying.), and given that they’re made out of spider silk – they’re pretty strong too. The pattern of a crystal is the lattice that holds it together. Judaism has that also – the pattern of tradition, of doing the next thing – that creates an inherent strength. Tradition’s beauty gets us engage with it, traditions’s strength is what gives us strength.

Today, I will appreciate the beauty of the traditions I have, and will draw strength from their repetition.