Omer Counter designed by KE student and paper artist Alice Turak

For the past few years we have “counted the Omer” together—a 50 day count from Passover to the holiday of Shavuot. Following the tradition in Kabbalah—the weekly and daily counts relate to the Tree of Life—the sefirot from Chesed (loving kindness) down to Malchut (expression).

 

The contribution of Kabbalah (and Chassidut) to our observance of the Passover laws–what we eat and don’t eat–is to make the experience an internal one—not simply ingestion (or indigestion as the case may be) rather it is “digestion” as in the definition, “to think over so as to understand, absorb or assimilate.” We change our eating habits to become aware of the symbolism of what we digest. In turn, we move to action based on our understanding and new awareness.

 

Each year we have applied a framework to the count and looked at it through the lens of it being a spiritual task of “leaving Egypt”—leaving the confines of the past and constrictions of the present, an aspect of self we want to shift or change. You can plan on changing a behavior(s) or committing to new ones—what I would suggest for your consideration this year is to work on an aspect of your “identity” which you commit to modify or change. As we earn in Kabbalah change is not abstract—it needs to manifest; so in the end behavior will look different (your actions change) if you work on changing an aspect of identity.

 

Identity is a term that can encompass most any characteristic—we call them in our classes “masks.” I found Andrew Solomon’s (Far from the Tree) distinction between vertical and horizontal identities useful. Vertical identities are those that we inherit (gender, ethnicity and religion are examples) and horizontal identities include those identities we choose for ourselves (sexual preference, religion). Solomon points out that when a child is born “different” than his or her family there can be a clash of identities—for example: hearing parents and their deaf child, or parents who adopt a child from a different race. Both vertical and horizontal identities may not align.

 

An example from my life: Last year around this time Rita and I decided to move. Up to that point the real estate market limited our opportunity—we could have sold but it did not seem prudent. The more important underlying issue was why we wanted to move. There were a number of factors; the house we were living in was not configured well for our present family with two toddlers and of equal importance we wanted to change our “identity.” Parental and communal influences (vertical identifications) played a role in how we viewed making a change in our living condition (where and what to purchase) and our own choices (past as well as the possibility of the present) were influenced by horizontal identifications.

 

The house we were living in was purchased by me when I was single. It did not represent fully a place that Rita and I established together from the beginning. Does living in a new house change your identity? The Sefirot system helps us identify that changing an aspect of our identity occurs by a process that moves from the abstract to the concrete—from an idea (and inspiration of the idea) to its manifestation. Preparedness then needs to translate into a change or a modification. It could have turned out that we would not have found a new house or sold the old house—but we were ready, prepared and committed to change. Almost a year later I can say that the move has changed our identity as a couple and a family.

 

Overview of the Basics:  Before the start of the counting of the Omer think of an aspect of your identity you would like to modify or change. The first reflection week (Chesed) is on self-love as a factor in changing identity. The second week (Gevurah) is about determination to change and identifying a focus of change.  In the third week (Tiferet) you create a plan for modifying or changing that identity. Week four (Netzach) entails overcoming obstacles that stand in the way of identity change and week five (Hod) surrendering to what you can’t or are not yet willing to change. The final weeks are Yesod (being truthful) and Malchut (manifesting the new identity).

 

  • 1.     We will be counting 50 days (7 weeks plus an additional day—the 50th –which is the holiday of Shavuot—the receiving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai)
  • 2.     This count is a recount and a new count. It recounts the process of the Hebrew slaves leaving Egypt and journeying 49 days in the desert—moving from slavery to freedom. It is a new count for each of us every year to expose, examine and express freedom from whatever limits or enslaves us. This year our focus is on an identity we wish to modify or change.
  • 3.     The count starts Tuesday night April 15th (the ‘day’ n the Hebrew calendar starts at nightfall and ends at nightfall). You count the day anytime from nightfall to dusk of the next day
  • 4.     If you miss a day get back into the count the next day—say you missed day 5 then the next night you count day 6. As far as the intention goes you do have to catch up (catch on to the prior intention and add it to the present intention). One says a blessing “on the counting of the Omer” (it is called the Omer count as that was the measurement of  grain brought to the Temple to start this period of counting.
  • 5.     Each week of the count has a theme. This idea is an innovation of the Kabbalists but has been widely accepted into Jewish tradition as it appears in most prayer books. The theme of each week corresponds to different aspects of the Tree of Life (the seven ‘lower’ sefirot).

 

They are in order:

 

First week: Chesed—loving kindness or expansiveness

Second week: Gevurah- awe, strength or setting limits

Third week: Tiferet-harmony, beauty or creating a plan

Fourth week: Netzach-victory, everlasting or overcoming obstacles

Fifth week: Hod-acknowledgment, acceptance or surrender

Sixth week: Yesod-foundation, integrity or telling one’s truth

Seventh week: Malchut-kingdom, manifestation or expression

 

6. Each week in turn is divided by each day corresponding to the lining up of the seven sefirot with the week’s theme. Each week there is the Sefirah and its theme—Chesed and the day of that first week is Chesed in Chesed.  Day Nine is Gevurah in Gevurah and Day 33 is Hod in Hod. The first week of Chesed has each of the remaining six sefirot associated with each day (Gevurah in Chesed—Day 2, Tiferet in Chesed-Day 3 etc.)

 

Outline for changing an aspect of your identity through the seven weeks:

 

Week one-Chesed:  Changing out of love for the self and others. Seeing all aspects and implications of the change. Who will this affect, what else needs to change in order for the change to be realized?

 

Week two-Gevurah: Focusing on the change. Strengthening your determination to change. Setting realistic and attainable goals—being specific.

 

Week three-Tiferet: Formulating the blueprint of your change.

 

Week four-Netzach: Once formulated, recognizing obstacles and planning on how to overcome them in order to change.

 

Week five-Hod: Acknowledging one’s own limitations and accepting the challenges to affect change.

 

Week six-Yesod: Speaking the truth through an unwavering commitment—integrity here implies seeing the shadow side of yourself and your unwillingness to change.
Week seven-Malchut: Manifesting the change.

 

What now?

 

This week prior to Passover is a time for reflection about what we can and want to change. In terms of the Sefirot we are in the higher realms of the Sefirot (the upper Sefirot which include Keter-Da’at, Chochmah and Binah). This is a week to open ourselves up to seeing our lives from a higher perspective—to release ourselves from the confines of who we think we are and where our capabilities can extend. In order to do so we need to “get rid” of those leavening products—the negative emotions and negative self-perceptions that keep us confined and constricted inside the exile (bondage) of slavery.  The Seder night is a night for family and friends to enjoy each other’s company, enjoy the traditional foods AND to engage in spiritual work.  It is a night(s) for rebirth—a commitment to invent ourselves anew.

 

Although we are working toward a change in identity it is best to start with the end in mind and therefore start with how the identity change will have you “look different.” So start with the different look and recognize what change in identity will translate into that difference. It is often the manifest change that helps us see clearly what identity lies behind the status quo of who we perceive ourselves to be.

 

Week 1 Chesed: Love is Growth

 

Day 1: Chesed in Chesed

 

Chesed is the love of self (and others) that is motivating the change. If I did not love then I would remain the same as it is difficult to change, to question my identity, to face who I am ultimately loyal to. Love allows us to consider expanding and growing. Perhaps understood this way, stagnation is the opposite of love. Love is my wanting you and myself to grow.

 

Day 2: Gevurah in Chesed

 

Gevurah is self-determination, self-definition.  In this week of Chesed the determination is to love ourselves (and others) enough to be fully determined to make a change. I also need to be focused, to work on a change that is doable, not unrealistic. That is part of self-love.

 

Day 3: Tiferet in Chesed

 

What are my preliminary thoughts about a change in my identity?  Is this truly emerging out of love? While the change may not feel harmonious to others, the real litmus test is how harmonious does it feel within the set of my other identities. Does one change require other changes? Comfort is not the key here, rather a sense of fit—is this growth for me!

 

Day 4: Netzach in Chesed

 

What obstacles can I imagine at this preliminary stage that may cause me to give up on the change? Can I already think of the measures or strategies necessary to insure that I could consider these changes and stick to them? Netzach is about trusting actively in your self that you can and will make the change.

 

Day 5: Hod in Chesed

 

Hod is about acknowledgment and thankfulness. Who you are now is what you are considering changing but this does not imply that there is something wrong or bad with whom you are—it is rather a place from which to grow. You can therefore be thankful and acknowledge those who have influenced you and also lovingly acknowledge that it is not easy to change.

 

Day 6: Yesod in Chesed

 

Yesod, as you will see throughout this process, is that day in the process which we reflect on the truth of our assertions—are we being authentic or are we distorting the truth we are trying to reveal? This week you must reflect on the veracity of the change you want to implement—is it in truth growth that comes from love?

 

Day 7:  Malchut in Chesed

 

Malchut is about actualizing—in this context it means to know that you have a foundation to grow. You may not have a particular focus yet on what you are changing—just love yourself enough to know that you will change.

 

Week 2 Gevurah: Determination and Focus

 

This second week of the counting of the Omer is connected to the Sefirah of Gevurah which means strength.  In Kabbalah it is taken as the strength to set limits. As Gevurah sits opposite Chesed (the Sefirah of unbounded love) Gevurah is often interpreted as love through saying, “No.”  In other words, setting limits can also be a way to express love. As we are using the counting of the Omer this year to change ourselves—our learning about Gevurah reflects the intention of this Sefirah as “determination” to change.  Next week, the Sefirah of Tiferet will present the opportunity for making a plan for change. Our preparation for change during the first week of the count focused on the love we have for ourselves. We looked at how love is an important (starting) aspect of change—love for self is requisite for change to have a lasting impact. If love is one “wing” for change then determination is the other “wing.”

 

Week Two: Gevurah

 

As this year our focus is on change—and the following week (Tiferet) will be when we set the stage for change by creating the blueprint/plan for change—this week is still preparation for the plan of change. We now move from contemplating the feelings of the love of self and others (the first week of Chesed) as a motivation for change to the determination and discipline to change. Gevurah in this way represents our ability to step back, set limits, and create space for change.  “One has to be determined to change.”

 

Day 8: Chesed in Gevurah—Is there loving kindness in determining to change?  Chesed is always about expressing love—and love takes on many forms including being focused and when appropriate, setting limits. Whatever change you may be considering keep in mind both your determination to change and that its motivation is based in love.

 

Day 9: Gevurah in Gevurah —Gevurah is about focus and determination and as we suggested last week, the challenge to that is what will others think, how will this affect others and will that cause me to lose or strengthen my determination to change?  So while I can always choose to love—I need to be firm in my commitment—a boundary that is set needs to be a consistent and determined boundary.  As we look at changes to our identity we have to contemplate the determination of boundaries and the boundaries of (our) determination to see the change through.

 

Day 10: Tiferet in Gevurah —Tiferet is the blueprint for change and how your plan for change takes into account the need for balance—both internally and with others. Keep in mind that as you reflect on your determination this week it will impact the shape (boundaries) of your plan. How far and wide will the change be? When is the change best timed for? And do you need and have support?  This week’s contemplation is not yet about the specifics of the plan but rather about examining if the plan will actualize your determination. You may need to be already thinking of some of the elements of the plan for change so you can have a ‘smell test’ of your determination.

 

Day 11: Netzach in Gevurah —Netzach is about trust in yourself that you can overcome any thoughts or emotions that are stirred up by your plan and remain determined to create change. Netzach is about trust in the self to overcome obstacles and these are often external. One of the big issues in changing one’s self is: I have tried this before (and not changed) or how can I change now because I have let this go on for so long? These attitudes are internal obstacles we have to overcome in order for us to remain determined in our resolve to change.

 

Day 12: Hod in Gevurah —Hod is about acknowledging limitations.  Perhaps there was a moment to act already upon your determination but you faltered, your resolve was not strong enough. It is ok to acknowledge that change is not easy and that you may not have had the courage or unflinching determination to change. We may also need to acknowledge that there are some obstacles to our determination that we may not be able to overcome (now).  Fear of change may hold us back from the full change we might want—some change though is better than none.  Remain determined to make some progress, if not a complete change.

 

Day 13: Yesod in Gevurah —Yesod is the foundation on which change can will be actualized. Yesod is the final filter in which the test of your sincerity is measured by the degree of integrity your change reflects—the change in me will express my truth—the truth I want to be. Ultimately, Yesod is calling us to attend to ourselves and be willing to express the whole truth and, “nothing but the truth.”

 

Day 14: Malchut in Gevurah — This final day of the second week sets the stage for the week of Tiferet when the contemplations on both love for the self and determination as key prerequisites for change  collectively shape the plan for change.  Malchut always refers to manifestation, so, for today, it is simply manifesting your determination—expressing it to others, rehearsing it to enhance your determination about the plan for change.

 

You have a number of weeks until the count of the Omer reaches the week of Malchut itself (if you are ready to change already don’t let the count deter you!).

 


 

Week Three Tiferet: A Harmonious Blueprint

 

A blueprint or plan harmonizes all input—takes into account all aspects and if it serves the manifestation of change—then it is harmonious and beautiful. The first two weeks of our count have been preparation for this week of Tiferet (they were significant in themselves as creating the possibility of the plan for change that will now take shape). We have taught that Tiferet represents the blueprint for the manifestation of anything into physical reality. In creating your blueprint/plan for change—this week is still a preparation for change.

 

Day 15: Chesed in Tiferet—The first day of the week of Tiferet is a check in on how the change (or shift) you are planning is based in love. If you have not specified what change you will want to create now is the time to select something and measure it against the criteria of loving kindness (to yourself and others).

 

Day 16: Gevurah in Tiferet —Gevurah is about focus and determination and again you need to check in whether you now feel that this change is doable and that you have the determination to fulfill it. You can still modify the plan—limit it further or even add to it as long as you feel your determination will match your desire for change.

 

Day 17: Tiferet in Tiferet —Tiferet is the blueprint for change and how your plan for change takes into account the need for balance—both internally and with others. Now it is time to outline the plan in more detail. Be specific. The timeline is set for the seventh week of the count. That is the week where the change manifests, so be realistic. Do you want to test some of the plan by taking some steps toward change or you can wait to implement the change? The three weeks that follow are continuing to look at the commitment you have made to change.

 

Day 18: Netzach in Tiferet —Netzach is about trust in yourself that you can overcome any thoughts or emotions that are stirred up by your plan and remain determined to create change. Can I identify obstacles already as I set up the plan? Love and determination remain important allies to insure that obstacles can be overcome but this day reflect on what obstacles you anticipate (next week you will engage with the obstacles—not just reflect on what you imagine them to be).

 

Day 19: Hod in Tiferet —Hod is about acknowledging limitations. Is your plan realistic or is a set up to fail! There is no shame in admitting that you can set too high expectations and lose your determination and wind up with a sense of an inadequacy. So be realistic and acknowledge limitations.

 

Day 20: Yesod in Tiferet —Yesod is the foundation on which change can will be actualized. Yesod is the final filter which tests your sincerity. Is this the person I aspire to be—and what will emerge if I am this new person? As I went through the process of Netzach and Hod am I overreaching or not setting the bar high enough?

 

Day 21: Malchut in Tiferet —This final day of the third week of Tiferet is the ‘manifestation’ of the plan. A plan is not manifesting the change itself but it serves as the blueprint of change. The plan needs to be in writing.

 

Week 4 Netzach: Overcoming Obstacles

 

Your blueprint is set down on paper and you have “signed off.”  A blueprint or plan though is just a map, an outline for growth. You may have started down a path and begin to see the obstacles that you encounter or create.  Choices abound and there are many potential course corrections.

 

Questions that often arise when looking at change are: Am I really ready?  Am I capable of sticking to the change or will I revert back to old patterns? What will others think about my blueprint for change? Netzach is usually translated as victory—a sense of personal efficacy in one’s capacities to overcome any and every obstacle.  Your task each day for this week of Netzach is to reflect on the obstacles (both internal and external) that will derail your plan for change and how to overcome them. Loyalty plays a major role in both holding us back (loyalty to the status quo or who I have been) and helping us move forward (loyalty to who I am capable of being) on change.

 

Day 22: Chesed in Netzach

 

On the day of Chesed we return to the feeling of self-love and the love of others. An interesting way of looking at loyalty is to not only look at it from a perspective of loyalty to someone or something outside of you but rather to yourself. Then loyalty to self will contain the aspect of self-love. An obstacle to change is loyalty—to old patterns (outside and inside you), to people or a community who are not ready to ‘release’ you.  Loyalty is a very powerful emotion, an obstacle to overcome if it holds you back from moving forward

 

Day 23: Gevurah in Netzach

Gevurah is self-determination and therefore we set aside loyalty to others and commit to ‘loyalty to self.’  The obstacle to overcome today is the sense of isolation-loneliness and the sense of selfishness.  Change as self-expression may feel disloyal and threaten your sense of connectedness to others and to yourself.

 

Day 24: Tiferet in Netzach

 

Today take out the blueprint to look at it in light of the obstacles you anticipate or are already dealing with. How do you transform your relationship to obstacles and see them now as part of a reformulation of your blueprint.  In a general sense the obstacles are there to help crystallize a plan that will work. Tomorrow you can look more specifically at the actual obstacles and see how they will help you realize your goals.

 

Day 25: Netzach in Netzach

 

Overcoming the obstacle to overcoming obstacles!  This paradox is simply resolved in seeing that obstacles are really there to help you in your plan for growth.  “The greater the obstacle, the greater the reward.”

 

Day 26: Hod in Netzach

 

What are your limits in overcoming obstacles?  The best approach at times is not to meet the force head on, just move to the side. This requires not only humility but also determination to seek a way around obstacle

 

Day 27: Yesod in Netzach

 

Yesod is the filter through which you measure your integrity. Obstacles are the greatest challenge and the greatest surety to measuring your integrity. On that basis you create a foundation for change. The changes you commit to remain important and will be a measure of your integrity to the process of change.

 

Day 28: Malchut in Netzach

 

This week is still not action but contemplating those obstacles that need to be released or removed.  It is now a day to rest assured in your own capacity to move forward, to overcome obstacles.  The vision of freedom has been strengthened by the need to confront impediments to growth, recognize the stumbling blocks and move past them.

 

 Week 5 Hod: Giving Way

 

Your blueprint is designed (though it may have been altered during the week of Netzach). Netzach is active trust—trust in one’s own capacities and in working with others to overcome any and every obstacle.  Hod literally means to acknowledge and in the context of this year’s scheme on changing identity it means acknowledging your limitations in overcoming obstacles. It is therefore referred to it as surrender.

 

So what is meant by surrender? Surrender is not giving up or giving in—it is giving way.  Each of us has a plan for our path to growth/change. Yet, the path is never without some accommodation.

 

Obstacles when not overcome, need to be accepted—surrendered to. When you accept reality as it is and know that (at least for the moment) you are not overcoming an obstacle–you surrender.  A business or relationship may not ‘succeed’ or turn out the way you planned—but that outcome comes and can go in a different direction. With its going we may need to mourn while acknowledging that we are not in control. This spiritual realization is the essence of Hod—to realize our human limits and give way to our soul and God.

 

Day 29: Chesed in Hod

 

Still keeping Chesed-love (of myself and others) at the forefront of the motivation for change.   I am not aiming for perfection—aiming though for overall consistency. Hod is a reminder that I might surrender for the moment due to recognizing my own limitations.

 

Day 30: Gevurah in Hod

 

Gevurah is self-determination. Today it is time to limit your acceptance, to say—I am limited but I am determined.  With full awareness I can say—“this is what I am capable of now.”  If I am accepting some limits I do so with the awareness that I have not given up yet.

 

Day 31: Tiferet in Hod

 

Take out the blueprint and look at it in light of accepting the limitations you have reflected on for the past two days.  Can you acknowledge that it is a challenge to let go of some aspects of the blueprint?  Today I must come to peace with altering the plan, the blueprint needs tweaking and I need to be cognizant of what I can and cannot change—for nowDay 32: Netzach in Hod

 

Can I overcome the need for overcoming?  Just surrender.  Netzach here is subordinate to Hod. Sometimes our plans and the vision of our blueprint depend on knowing that we can act, that we can and will overcome. If you now realize that your blueprint has changed you need to overcome your desire to not surrender—and embrace the surrender.  This is your new path.

 

Day 33: Hod in Hod

 

Today is called Lag B’Omer—the 33rd day of the Omer. It is the day that according to tradition Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai, the great mystic of the first century died.  His students wanted him to hold on—to not surrender to death. On his deathbed he revealed secrets he had not expressed to them yet. His ascension (as it is referred to) though was a complete surrender and that is why we celebrate the day of his death as a freedom.  When death is accepted fully it is true freedom. That is the great secret Rabbi Shimeon shared.  Accepting our limitations is the release we experience today.

 

Day 34: Yesod in Hod

 

For each week’s Sefirah you can ask yourself on this day of Yesod, have I done the inner work needed to acknowledge my limits and to implement my (evolving) blueprint for change?  Yesod as foundation is to be in integrity with the challenges of wanting greater or faster change and admitting limits and accepting the change that is possible now.   I may surrender to the precise goals of change set but I can see that change brings more change with it. The foundation then of change is to change.

 

Day 35: Malchut in Hod

 

Following our theme: what is being emphasized is that our plans are not just our own. When we surrender we may find a doubling of what we expected.  We acknowledge both what we can see overcoming and what we need to surrender.

 

Week 6 Yesod: Truth or Distortion

 

Over the past two weeks we have moved from looking at obstacles that need to be overcome (Netzach) to surrendering or at least suspending our notions of what the outcome of our plans need to be (Hod).  Some of you have mentioned that it seems at times this past 2 weeks that it is a ‘holding of opposites’—overcoming and surrendering go hand in hand.

 

The definition of Yesod is foundation.  The question is how to define, what foundation means in the context of the using the Sefirot system to look at commitment to change?  Yesod is also defined as “truth” or “integrity” and in this context it challenges us to take one long hard look at what we are committing to and whether we really are going to act with full integrity.  There is a relationship between integrity and self-doubt. We can doubt in ourselves—can I really follow through or is what I am changing really significant?  I want to encourage you that even a small change is very important as any change is significant in realizing that change is possible.

 

Without doubt we might not know how significant the change is and without a doubt any change is significant.

 

Day 36: Chesed in Yesod

 

Chesed is the love of self (and others) that is motivating the change. We have to remind ourselves of the original reason for picking the change we committed to (and you can still expand, contact or change what you are committing to change) and see now how love can aid us in remaining with integrity about our plan for change.

 

Day 37: Gevurah in Yesod

 

Gevurah is self-determination, self-definition.  There will be doubt and that is the nature of things—to doubt.  Strength is not eliminating doubt; rather it is living with it and still moving forward. We are now ready to face the doubt and even use the feelings generated by the doubt to re-enforce our determination.

 

Day 38: Tiferet in Yesod

 

Take out the blueprint and look at it in light of the doubt you have experienced over the last two days. Now is not the time to evaluate the plan as much as it is to evaluate your determination in light of doubt.  This is your final edition of your plan.  You are all in!

 

Day 39: Netzach in Yesod

 

The determination of Yesod is bolstered by the energy of Netzach to overcome any and all obstacles. Self-doubt is removed through the awareness that all can be accomplished even though the obstacles may now be clearer as seen through the filter of doubt. Be truthful about the obstacles—don’t let them serve as a final deterrent to your plan for change.

 

Day 40: Hod in Yesod

 

Hod tempers the determination so doubt can yet again have a foothold as one faces obstacles or outcomes that seem intractable to change.  We need to remember that surrendering is part of the process of finding our truth.

 

Day 41: Yesod in Yesod

 

Up to this point we have focused on Yesod as an internal process—but truth be told we are never alone in our growing and others can help. If we share with others they can help us to insure that we remain in integrity. On this day of Yesod in Yesod we look at our relationship with others—are we in consonance with them or struggling with them? In the battle for determination over doubt we need the support of others and today is the day to reach out and ask for that support and encouragement and the truth.

 

Day 42: Malchut in Yesod

 

It is now time to manifest the hard fought truth or to let go completely (perhaps the plan is now seen in a different light). Are you ready to manifest the change?  Today is declaring I am ready. I leave any vestige of doubt behind.

 

 Week 7 Malchut: Realizing Change

 

The definition of Malchut is sovereignty. It reflects the culmination as in manifestation or
expression. It is the stage of coming into physical reality.  Our way of looking at the Sefirot flow has been the creation of a plan for change. Malchut then is actualizing our change. The past week of Yesod was a shedding of doubt. In addition to meaning manifestation or expression, Malchut also implies taking full responsibility.

 

Day 43: Chesed in Malchut

 

As you embark on the change(s) keep mindful of the love you have for yourself and for others. This is what motivates the change and is confirmation that not only is change possible, it can be sustained by love. Today you experience the feeling of love as you experience change.

 

Day 44: Gevurah in Malchut

 

Determination will keep change moving forward. The question to ask: What do I want to get done
today? A strategy of Gevurah is to start with something—a smaller accomplishment of the larger
goal helps keep the focus on the big picture of change and gets one moving. So start with an aspect of the change you are implementing—not something tangential or even preparatory to change, something that is a piece of the change. I will take action today in the fashion I expect to maintain as my goal.

 

Day 45: Tiferet in Malchut

 

Now it is time to finalize the blueprint—for the last two days you tried on the change (for size—fit—feeling) and though last week you believed with full integrity that you were committed to the plan you finalize it today. The plan is now engraved.

 

Day 46: Netzach in Malchut

 

How will the change be everlasting? By removing any final obstacles to change—so look inside
and outside. Not just for now but anticipate what might loom ahead or spring up as you make the change concrete.

 

Day 47: Hod in Malchut

 

Even though doubt has been removed and we have looked carefully at the obstacles present or that may present later, we can tire, our determination can flag. And so we pause to gather strength so that we can push on. Taking a breather means to breathe in the change, to surrender to a higher calling and ready ourselves for the full actualization of our change.

Day 48: Yesod in Malchut

 

For each week’s Sefirah you can ask yourself on this day of Yesod, have I done the inner work
needed…to do the outer work? Have I laid the proper foundation—dug deep enough into myself to construct a new reality—a new me? Keep in mind that even a small change is difficult and reflects the possibility of taking on any and every change. You can fool others and you can even fool yourself. Therefore change has to be real and consistent with your blueprint.

 

Day 49: Malchut in Malchut

 

We now stand in our change—this is revelation having accepted the Divine call. Engrave it upon your heart, upon your whole being. You are working hard and that is your task—to grow and fulfill your potential. Be humble and be proud. Be present and await the next call in the still small voice that will rumble in at the foot of the mountain

 

 

Unpacking Ritual

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. The rhythm of spring is about new beginnings—actualizing potential.  The preparation for Passover, the festival of the spring, includes creating the space for new growth. In contrast to the new beginning of Rosh Hashanah—the New Year in the fall, Passover is not about reflection and repentance, it is about opportunity. Passover’s character is symbolized by the question: What difference will this night bring from all other nights? 

 

There is a famous quote attributed to Margaret Mead that suggests that change occurs because of the thoughtfulness and commitment of the group. I would suggest orienting her statement to include the courage of the group (or individual) to be committed to questioning. Five questions we begin to contemplate this season are:

 

1. What are the stories I am living in?
2. What about those stories work or do not work for me?
3. How do I change my story?
4. What new story will I adopt?
5. What are the stories I am now living in?

 

Taking time to reflect on these questions is what Passover is about and the Passover Seder provides that opportunity. So how does a thoughtful and committed group have an intense reflection “on the stories we live in?” Be creative! And as the Haggadah text suggests know your audience (which child you are addressing).

 

I have found these words of David Kaetz inspiring:

 

“A boat is a vehicle for crossing the sea. You don’t get to choose the furniture in your cabin, and the captain wears a funny hat. A good boat can get you from New York to Liverpool better than swimming. If you throw yourself into the water in the Hudson River, as it flows by Manhattan Island, some part of you might make it to England, but probably not all of you.

 

A tradition is a vehicle for carrying something through time. If wisdom is embedded in a tradition, it has a better chance of traveling safely through the centuries. For this to work the wisdom must be packed in things that do not degrade with time, things that can be unpacked at every station—things like symbols, myths, stories. These are things that no matter how often you unpack them will travel onward for another generation to unpack, and unpack differently. Sometimes the wisdom may emerge brilliant and obvious, sometime obscure and esoteric, and sometimes people will find nothing there at all. But if the tradition continues, the wisdom will keep traveling, in the hope that, at another port in the flow of time, another generation will find it and embody it once more.”

 

Consider the port of call the spring season, and if you are celebrating the holiday, the pier location is the Passover Seder. From there we set sail to a new story.

 

P.S. Please join us for the 8th night of Passover Kabbalistic Seder with Judaism Your Way on Monday night April 21st for a creative unpacking of the Seder rituals. The next blog will be on the counting of the omer to support those who would like to count the 50 days from Passover to the holiday of Shavuot.

 

Dekalb Emergency 911

Dekalb Emergency 911, what is the address of the emergency?

I will get the paramedics started.

Are you with him now?

And is he awake?

Yes he is.

I am sending the paramedics now.

Stay on the line and I will tell you exactly what to do next. 

 

The above 911 transcript occurs a thousand times a day across America. This one though, and it is an exact transcript, was a conversation between Crystal Morrow and her aunt. Crystal was on her first shift as a 911 operator outside of Atlanta, Georgia. This was her 4th call of the morning. “I heard her voice,” Crystal reported, and “her name popped up on the screen.” Her aunt had dialed 911 after Crystal’s father had gone into diabetic shock. The story is making headlines because Crystal remained calm and professional—she followed the script she was trained to follow that her aunt did not know that her niece was on the line helping to save the man in life threatening distress—her own father.

 

In contrast, but as meaningful a story that comes from an opposite direction is told in an award winning short form documentary entitled Slomo. It is a story about not following the script—pun intended as this is a story about a physician who changes his script.

 

Dr. John Kitchin changed his life, transplanting himself from North Carolina to San Diego—and an even more radical departure from his medical practice as a neurologist and a life filled with material accumulation and traded it in for a pair of rollerblades and a small condo. He has taken on a new identity—emblazoned on his T-shirt: Slomo. He rollerblades in slow-motion. Here is what Kitchin has to say about himself:

 

“I became the typical, institutionalized, educated Western man. Frankly, I intended to work myself into oblivion and get old and die. … But now, I experience myself like a tip of a great iceberg of consciousness.”

 

For the full documentary http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/04/02/4812267/nc-native-getting-buzz-in-amazing.html#.Uz2F3OlOVYc

 

For those of you who watch this film (16 minutes) I would want you to consider the question: What is the rest of the iceberg for John Kitchin? For all of us we can consider the question about the script we are following—when will it save our life (or the life of others) and when it is taking us into oblivion?

 

Time Rules

“Time rules over us without mercy. Not caring if we’re healthy or ill. Hungry or drunk. Russian, American, beings from Mars. It’s like a fire, it could either destroy us or it could keep us warm. That’s why every FedEx office has a clock, because we live or we die by the clock. We never turn our back on it and we never ever allow ourselves the sin of losing track of time.”

 

Standing in Moscow’s Red Square, Chuck Noland, the lead of the film Cast Away, played by Tom Hank, admonishes his new group of Fed Ex employees to recognize the enemy: Time.

 

The film is a long one. Two hours and 23 minutes. It also took a long time to film. The director and crew took a year off to allow time for Mr. Hanks to grow a full beard and lose 50 pounds. The film though is a meditation on making friends with time. Time also heals.

 

My oldest son, Ben, on spring break from college visited the Kabbalah class on Time this week. In his one comment, he reminded the class of the healing properties of time. On our way out the building he offered an unnecessary but welcomed apology to me for some of his behavior during his teen years. His simple words were: Sorry for giving you such a hard time. He is now as tall as me. We look at each other eye to eye. It is a good time.

 

For our world times are hard and I fear only going to get harder because we don’t have enough time to heal from the constant news of deaths by mudslide or airplane crash or violence; murder and suicide and disease. The Sabbath has become more and more a time of refuge—a time to heal form the week’s news. There are of course heartwarming stories that balance out to a degree the tragic and there is finding humor that helps keep one afloat.

 

I am not sure you will share my delight in learning that Crimea will be changing its clocks to Russian time. The clocks hands will be moving forward. Time on the other hand will be moving backward.

 

Random Acts of Synchronicity

Legend has it that in 1982 Anne Herbert scrawled the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat in a California restaurant and from there it randomly spread. About 10 years later Chuck Wall, a professor at Bakersfield College, recalls hearing about “random senseless acts of violence” and was inspired to assign his students the task of committing “one random act of senseless kindness” as homework. About 10 years later Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book Pay It Forward took a well-known concept (perhaps first introduced by Benjamin Franklin who in forgiving a loan suggested that the borrower discharge his debt by lending the amount to another) and a movement was born. Hyde’s book became a film by the same name in which there was a formula: If you are the recipient of a (random) kindness pay it forward x3.

 

I was intrigued by the words random and senseless lined up with actions of kindness, both which left me a bit bewildered. Senseless is defined as either unconscious or wasteful. Random is defined as chance, with no direction or having no definite purpose (random can also mean a person of no consequence). I am assuming that what Anne Herbert and Chuck Wall meant by their catchy phrase of “random acts” connects with “paying it forward’ in that there is no sense of obligation or reciprocity—no contract between the parties involved. If I am the giver or the receiver of an act of random-senseless kindness there is no ledger that has been created. The Rabbis in Ethics of the Fathers called this “the reward of the mitzvah is the mitzvah—and “one mitzvah leads to another.”

 

Kabbalah wisdom insists that randomness is senseless. Nothing is random. This is my personal experience but I know better than to adopt a rigid position that does not allow for the possibility of its opposite.

 

I want to suggest though a new phrase that makes more sense to me: Synchronistic Acts of Kindness.

 

The following story as reported in the L.A. Times from this week serves to illustrate:

 

The couple who saved a 3-year-old boy just as he tumbled out of a third-story window in Burbank, California described the harrowing split-second actions that cushioned his fall.

 

Konrad Lightner and his wife, Jennifer, were carrying their box spring mattress out Sunday when they saw a toddler throw his leg over the window sill, his toys tossed to the ground below. After the boy got out, he clung to a telephone wire outside the window, spurring a split-second decision by the Lightners to position their box spring mattress below.

 

“He started crying, and I knew he couldn’t make it back to the window, so I just started getting ready for him to let go,” Konrad Lightner said.

 

A few seconds later the boy let go of the wire and fell about 30 feet into the arms of Lightner, who used the mattress as a sort of landing pad. The toddler was taken to a hospital for evaluation, but did not suffer any major injuries — a lucky break given that the Lightners weren’t supposed to be in the alleyway when he fell. The only reason they happened to be there was because they had been delayed by a stuck elevator during the move, the couple said.

 

Jennifer Lightner’s closing reflection was that they were, “at the right place at the right time.” Perhaps you will find yourself as well at the right place and time to extend a hand or some money to a person in need. That will be your synchronicity. The smile or hand or money may be just as needed as a mattress to break a boy’s fall.