Dynamic Balancing: Notes from our Omer Count

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Post by Rabbi Lee Moore

Shavuot is just around the corner. Meaning ‘weeks’ in Hebrew, this under-observed holiday among many North American Jews celebrates the offering of first fruits in Temple times and, according to Rabbinic teaching, the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai following the Exodus from Egypt. The period between Pesach and Shavuot is marked by seven weeks of “counting the Omer” each day. As the tradition of Omer counting developed, each week and day came to be associated with its own unique set of reflections, based on the Kabbalistic concept of the Sephirot – emanations that channel the Divine creative force into the manifest world.

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This year, we at Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah invited a group of colleagues to offer their reflections on the various Sephirot and the implications they have for our lives today. Continue reading

Gevurah

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Guest post by Rabbi Zac Kamenetz, Senior Jewish Educator at the JCCSF

 

Once, a young man went beyond the walls of his city, with nothing but his pocketknife, and journeyed out to the tree line toward the horizon, until he came upon a wild jungle. He immediately delighted in the jungle’s overwhelming fructuousness. Stepping on and over mounds of plants vying for more space, the young man marveled at the vivid swirling colors—deep vertical browns, bursts of yellow and purple splashed on soft green, glossy orange and red specks dotting off-white, light sandy wisps poking out of loamy grey.

While moving deeper into the jungle, the faint rustling of leaves gave way to a low humming, and as he looked, he saw that every shoot, leaf, and flower was slowly but audibly swelling and growing and pulsating. To the young man, the once-vivid beauty of the wilderness began to look grotesquely chaotic. Continue reading

Chesed

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Thoughts from Rabbi Lee Moore

Chesed is often translated as loving-kindness, but I prefer the term Grace. Chesed denotes a kind of expansiveness that we often do associate with love. Where there is a willingness to open, a willingness to accept, a willingness to allow what was previously wrong be OK – Chesed breaks through.

This kind of breakthrough feels like love in the sense that Chesed provides a truly unconditional milieu where connections are forged and closeness happens beyond what one might have thought was possible. We see Chesed at work when we reach the edge of what is possible, and then realize that we can actually go farther, expand our horizons, generate new ideas, forge new connections, embrace new ways of being, and discover new places to be. Continue reading

Why Count the Omer?

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Life speeds past us so quickly.

Jewish practice offers multiple techniques to slow down and appreciate the passing of time, the change of the seasons, the preciousness of the days that we have. Without a reminder, a gimmick of sorts, it’s hard to remember to do this kind of inhale and exhale that can help us get a handle on our lives as they otherwise speed past.

Counting the Omer begins the second night of Passover to offer such an opportunity — both to stop and appreciate the next 49 evenings, and to continue the same kind of self-reflective work that many of us begin at the Seder when we ask ourselves: where am I stuck? How can I help myself and others become free? Continue reading

A different perspective on compassion

Having shared with you Shai Held’s thoughts on chesed and compassion, we’d like to draw your attention to Brené Brown’s TEDxHouston talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” from December 2010.  In it, she talks about the need for compassion to start within by embracing vulnerability and our own imperfection and nonetheless affirming that we are worthy of love and connection.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the two talks as companion pieces. Continue reading

Call and Response – The Jewish Wisdom behind Compassion

“Cultivating compassion and empathy is at the very heart of Judaism’s vision of a spiritual life. To take Judaism seriously is to commit to growing kinder, to showing up, and being present with people during moments of pain and suffering.”

The world is and has always been a place of great beauty and painful, dark, troubling events. Looking back at this past year, in particular, the flow of suffering seems to be a rising tide. We see and feel deeply the magnitude of crisis and tragedy and pain, both global and intensely personal – the thousands dead of Ebola, the protests of Ferguson and beyond, the victims of Har Nof. And now Paris.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed, to protect yourself from deep fear by distancing yourself, to go numb. Continue reading