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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 nobility.

Have you ever heard the saying, “He talks big?” That’s me. I have grand lofty ideas that I’m sure will happen – but since I get easily distracted and have a bit of a compulsive streak, they don’t. It’s frustrating. Some days, I’m certain that all I need is another chance at every moment – and I only get one. So, how can I have victory, especially in a noble way? I can’t. Instead, I end up sighing. Gritting my teeth, dropping the big lofty ideas and trying again. Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s the only noble thing to do. To accept the failure, to sigh, and to try again, hoping that this time, I can achieve victory. Sometimes, it actually happens!

Today, I can win if I keep trying. That’s true nobility – to not give up.

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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.

So, I was on the internet today, reading about the tragedy happening in Gaza and Israel and read the following depressing exchange: “kids were killed – do you think it right to have snipers shoot kids?” “do you think it’s right to bring kids to a riot”, “Do you think it right to have snipers shoot kids?” “well, DO you think it right to bring kids to a riot?” “You haven’t answered my question” “You haven’t answered mine!” “You’re just a heartless self-righteous jerk who doesn’t care about kids!” “You’re just a rude, uninformed, ruthless, idiot who wants kids to die!” – this actually went on and on, and I was thinking – yup, that’s the Middle East. Somewhere, that scorpion is still stinging that tortoise, and they both still die.

(Story: scorpion asks tortoise for lift across Jordan, tortoise says no, as doesn’t want to be stung, scorpion says that would be silly as they’s both die, tortoise agres, scorpion stings tortoise midway across, when asked why answers – this is the Middle East.)

It made me sad. You see, the answers to their questions were obvious. No, it is not OK for snipers to shoot kids. No, it is not OK to bring kids to riots. Yes, there are probably other ways to deal with rioters than just by shooting them. Yes, there are probably other ways to protest injustice than through a riot where you’re told that you’re going to get shot. Yes, you should ferry the scorpion over. No, you should certainly not sting the tortoise.

The answers weren’t hard. What was hard was the khesed. When one is angry and resentful, the thing that doesn’t come easily is acceptance and trust. One starts plotting retaliation and revenge, and that leads to the other side being angry and resentful and that leads to more retaliation and revenge and it doesn’t get better. In fact, it gets worse. It gets Middle East. Even if one side wins, without kindness, that win is a hollow one, as there is more anger and more injustice and more riots and more snipers, and more dead children.

How to respond with Khesed? How to refuse anger? Now, that’s hard. But if you manage it – that’s victory.

Today, I win when I refuse resentment and revenge as a way of dealing with the world. Today I win when I chose kindness instead.

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.

Omer 32

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 two, which is four weeks and four days of the Omer. Hayom yom shloshim ve shtayim she hem arba’a shavuot ve arba’a yammim laOmer.

Today is Netzakh be Hod, victory within gratitude, conquest within humility

I am not always grateful. Then again, life is not always a bed of roses. Sometimes, life is annoying, painful, irritating, overwhelming or frustrating (sometimes, it’s a whole lot more than that, but then again, mine is pretty darn good). And it’s hard be grateful for that. But we’re Jewish and so we’ve learned to cheerfully be grateful for anything, even disasters.

Whether it’s Rabbi Akiva dancing in the temple ruins (because now that it’s fully destroyed, it’s sure to be rebuilt soon) or the kid who said thank you for the room of manure (there’s got to be a pony involved), we’re supposed to look for the positive and be grateful for it. It’s not easy but it’s our job. So, we smile at disaster and start again.

And of course, this leads to victory. Because the person who is grateful for the chance to rebuild when their house gets destroyed is far more likely to have a new house than the one complaining about their bad luck and how they would totally have succeeded if only…

Today, I am grateful at whatever life throws at me, because I know that victory lies within.

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.

Family within power, huh? You know when intimacy is possible? When each person is both strong and weak. It’s this weird balance of being strong enough to know your needs and those of your family, know how to care for them and how to make it all work and being weak enough (or maybe it’s another form of strength) to accept the care of others. If that balance Is lost – if someone doesn’t need to be cared for, if someone is unable to give the right kind of care, if someone can’t ask or ask correctly for her needs – then intimacy is lost and caring is impossible. When the balance is there – well that’s truly a victory for family and intimacy.

Today, I win when I care for others and accept their care.

Omer 26

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-six which is three weeks and five days of the Omer. Hayom yom esrim ve shesh she hem shlosha shavuot ve hamisha yammim laOmer.

Today is Hod be Netzakh, gratitude within power, humility within victory.

I am grateful for my wins. Looking at what I’ve written this week, it’s clear I’ve never won anything alone. When I teach – I win when my students do. When I write, I win when I’m writing with God’s inspiration. When I manage to learn about a course I know nothing about – that’s my family and friends making things possible for me by taking care of the stuff I don’t have time for. Anything I do, I know that the win isn’t mine alone. So to all of those who make my wins possible – I am grateful many times over. When I remember where my wins come from, I win still more – because I feel stronger and can accomplish more knowing that there are many behind me helping me more.

Today, I am grateful to all those that help me win.

Omer 25

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-five which is three weeks and four days of the Omer. Hayom yom esrim ve hamesh she hem shlosha shavuot ve arba’a yammim laOmer.

Today is Netzakh be Netzakh, power within power, victory within victory.

Power within power – that’s the power to do anything at all. I can do anything I chose, you know. It’s a matter of what I put into it. So, I teach courses with materials I’m totally unprepared for, and claim I know things I have no clue about. I dig into myself and do 20 hours of work in 10. (Of course, the next few days are ones in which I can’t do anything – but I’m cool with these little costs…)

And where is my power? My power is in God. I know that sounds cheesy, but seriously, that’s where I have power. I can do anything if I’m doing God’s work. I can stay awake, I can write the next paragraph, I can solve puzzles and teach software – because God lets me. It’s one of these places where I’m thrilled with my religion. I could not do all this without God’s help – without the knowledge and success that God gives. But when I ground myself in faith, when I say “this must be done”, I get it done. (Sometimes – maintaining a connection to God 24-7 is way beyond my capabilities; but these hours that I do get – these are the ones that I need.)

Today, I win when I do what God wants me to do and reach for the power that this gives me.

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 23

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-three which is three weeks and two days of the Omer. Hayom yom esrim ve shalosh she hem shlosha shavuot vey shtey yammim laOmer.

Today is Gevurah be Netzakh, strength within power, might within victory.

Today, I have to recognize that power is hard. Mostly, I don’t have it. Many times I don’t win. I’m not the most efficient or effective at things. I plod. It’s different. When I was younger, I wanted to be a world-famous teacher who changed all of society with my innovative teaching methods, a bit like Maria Montessori, my hero throughout adolescence. That would indeed have been a victory – and within that victory, the power to do good. Now, I don’t want to be that person. I don’t know why – I probably should – but mostly, I want to keep doing what I’m doing, even if that’s only teaching a few kids in a small school to be better math students. How is that enough? Because it feels like enough. It feels good and right and proper for me to do so, and it doesn’t feel good and right and proper for me to be trying to change the world. I think that recognizing who I am, and what I enjoy and even what I’m capable of – that’s a victory too, different though it is from the one I thought I’d have at 17. And it sets the limits I need for myself. Since another side of Gevurah is limits, then indeed I have achieved Gevurah be Netzakh, strength within victory, when I recognize my limits and feel comfortable within them.

Today, I will keep doing my best, and enjoy the knowledge that I don’t have to do anything else.

Omer 11

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 eleven which is one week and four days of the Omer. Hayom yom ahad-es’re she hem shavua ehad ve arbaa yamim laOmer.

Today is Netzakh be Gevura, conquest within strength, power within limits.

Today I think of a bible winner – and so I think of Jochebed, who actually managed to raise 2 prophets and one high priest. Now, that’s parenting skill! She had to be strong. Her kids were prophets – it’s bad enough raising super-intelligent kids who often tell you you don’t know enough to tell them anything. Can you imagine raising prophets? “Mom, God told me I didn’t have to go to bed at bedtime but could stay up for as long as I wanted!” She probably did a good job, through since her three kids turned out OK. Parenting is victory within limits to so many degrees! And with those 3 kids? I suspect Jochebed had to be a very strong, tough but very loving to her children – because her kids were a victory.

Today, I hope to raise a bunch of kids who are beautiful, ambitious, disciplined, creative, intelligent, sensible and friendly (also can fly and spin straw into gold.) Whether I succeed or not. Taking care of kids definitely requires strength.