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Counting the Omer
From the second night of Pesach (leaving Mitzrayim/the Narrow Place) for 49 days until Shavuot the 50th day (When we reach Sinai and receive Torah anew) we count the days, examining and refining our hearts on the journey reciting a blessing each evening. This practice is known as Sefirat Ha’Omer. This year I have decided to deepen my counting practice by writing something each day, whatever arises in alignment with the traditional Kabbilistic practice of connecting each day to two sefirot.
Each week takes on the theme of a particular sefirah paired with another sefirah in a particular order, following the branches of the etz hachayyim, tree of life.
Blessing for Counting the Omer:
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha'Olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al sefirat ha'omer.
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Holy One of Blessing, who makes us holy with sacred obligations and commands us to count the Omer.
Counting: Today is the ____ day of the Omer : Hayom yom ____ la'omer.
We begin the first of this seven-week journey counting the Omer with an offering of Chesed, developing the spiritual qualities of love, lovingkindness, generosity.
Chesed she’bChesed, blessed at birth, graced by abundant love, beloved and loving; this is who you are. Through the years one circumstance led to the next until the collection of days, moments, ways of forgetting formed a dense cloud of confusion, doubt, despair. The rush of air upon your face, mine, went unnoticed in the cacophonous wind tunnel of doing, doing, going, going, running, running away, blind until we stumbled, crumbled into a heap upon the hard, cold reality of early April earth. No longer standing our own bodies begin to yield, fold, soften, recognizing we are here, chest resting upon holy ground. Listening deeply we hear the longing, the desire for return, a seed protected and sleeping within the soil of our hearts all this time stirs. A bird calls and we hear our own voice echo in response, “I remember, I remember now.” Blessed at birth, graced by abundant love, beloved and loving, this is who I am, Chesed sheb’Chesed.
G’vurah sheb’Chesed, the boundaries of love flow with breath, in and out as they must. Expanding when growth requires space, drawing near in a tender hug when we’ve traveled too far and need to feel Mother’s heart beating against our own. There is strength and love in both the release and the welcomed return, G’vurah sheb’Chesed.
Tiferet sheb’Chesed, balancing the love we open our hearts to give with the love we allow our hearts to receive is not always easy. Most of us want to give more, yet the well must be replenished in order to sustain one another. Giving and receiving, spring rains spill the remaining dried seeds from the husks where they’ve been drying since last autumn onto the ground, sewing and watering them with love, harmony is revived, Tiferet sheb’Chesed.
Netzach sheb’Chesed, enduring kindness listens for the whisper of endless love on a morning walk in a body moving gingerly after sustaining its own recent injuries, through tangled broken boughs, violently severed from mother tree by winter storms, kol d’mamah dakah, the still small voice within guides us to recognize ever-present potential. Gathered with tenderness, the bud-laden branches suspended between life and death are placed in water on a sunny windowsill, to bloom for one last spring, Netzach sheb’Chesed.
Hod Sheb’Chesed humility within love, accepting what is, the kindness of rain melting away ice and snow, a fresh layer that fell last night and what remains from a difficult winter, grateful for loving tears tending the earth and my heart as I listen and bow to this moment, Hod Sheb’Chesed.
A chant and meditation for today listening to the rain...
Hebrew liturgy, Modah Ani. Music Laura Hegfield. © 2013
Yesod Sheb’Chesed, over the foundation of rain soaked ground as the last islands of snow slowly dissolve, birds out of sight sit on high branches singing love songs, encouraging bulbs and seeds still tenderly cradled in dark earth to awaken. Yod, the spark of Divinity mysteriously hidden, sod, is sewn within the softening soil. Ahavah Rabah, expansive love envelops our hearts supporting us too, as we bond to the Holy One of Blessing, to each other and all that is, Yesod Sheb’Chesed.
Malchut Sheb’Chesed, Divine Presence within love guides us to recognize the good in even the most challenging circumstances, because this is kind, this is compassionate, this is wise, and Shekhinah, God’s indwelling Presence will always direct us on the noble path from love toward love, Malchut Sheb’Chesed.
This second week of counting the Omer, our offering is Gevurah, cultivating the spiritual qualities of strength, boundaries, discipline, discernment.
Chesed Sheb’Gevurah love within strength, following weeks of physical pain I’ve been reminded daily that rest is a devotional practice to restore vitality. This morning with delight, I was able to walk slowly, mindfully, gratefully through the forest (for-rest), camera in hand, dog exploring the emerging scents of spring waking, companionably within the loving perimeter of my voice, Chesed Sheb’Gevurah.
Gevurah Sheb’Gevurah strength within strength, discernment within discernment, I ask myself what is within the within, the essence that supports and encourages strength, teaches discernment? Vulnerability, opening to faith when the walls on either side ask too much; as the pressure to do the “absolute right thing” shivers in a tight uncertain bud. Mayayin yavo ezri, from where does my help come, my strength within strength? Ezri mayayin Hashem, my help, my strength comes from the ONE-- Oseh shamayim va’aretz, Creator of heaven and earth. It is the voice of vulnerability that says “this is who I am, see me just so, in this moment,” and like a kitten rolled onto her back, surrendering to trust and a gentle hand, I spread my petals wide, expose my face, penimiut, my innerness, what is within the within toward the sun, closing them again as night falls, faith but not foolishness, discernment within discernment, Gevurah Sheb’Gevurah.
*Mayayin yavo ezri? Ezri mayayin Hashem-- Oseh shamayim va’aretz. Psalm 121 1:2
Tiferet Sheb’Gevurah “less is more,” these are the words that arose in my heart as I sat in meditation this morning, listening to rain drizzling softly outside my slightly lifted window, a small gap, an opening. Breathing in, breathing out, aware of the tiny space between each inhalation and exhalation, my thoughts wandered to a conversation with a wise chevruta yesterday; tzimtzum, contracting, drawing back, this is the Holy Blessed One’s loving response allowing for Creation’s expansion, development, discovery, for us to figure out who and what we are becoming. Trying and making mistakes, trying over and over as we veer in one direction or another before temporarily finding a middle path with secure footing along the way. As parents this is not only how we encourage our children to recognize and grow into their gifts, it is also how we ourselves learn repeatedly to balance our own anxiety on this (speaking as a mother) seemingly harrowing journey of letting go, witnessing young adult children as they venture forth, lechi lach. With faith that sometimes wavers, because I am human, because protecting them has been my role, my vocation for so long, I know the time has truly come to step back, tzimtzum, this is the most loving offering for all of us at this juncture. Still my ears, eyes, arms are watching and waiting, just in case they still have questions, seek guidance, want a hug. This is difficult for me, perhaps the greatest challenge of my life so far, as I fail, fall, flail, attempt to hold my tongue, sit on my hands yet again. I wonder how much more difficult this must be for HaRachmanah, The Compassionate Womb of all Being? Tiferet is the balancing point between Chesed and Gevurah, so with gentle rain as today’s soundtrack, I seek to dwell with harmony in discernment, Tiferet Sheb’Gevurah.
Netzach Sheb’Gevurah enduring strength, although my back is hurting and my muscles are seizing up throughout my body again, I stepped out of bed with my right foot first as my mother taught me to do and her mother taught her and likely her mother before her and so on. Whether our earliest ancestral mothers knew the origin of this wisdom, certainly they sensed the mystical significance. I have learned recently that netzach refers to the right leg in the sefirotic tree. When I mentioned this to my Mom this morning she was fascinated, it made perfect sense to her. Netzach also means victory, triumph; my mother has shown me by example to live a life of joy within the boundaries of physical challenges. Last summer, hiking down a mountain experiencing terrible muscle spasms, with each agonizing movement I said to myself in my mind, “I am Sally’s daughter, I can do this!” Thank you Mom. Today I am not well enough to go to shul and teach, but I will make my way downstairs, walk out into the backyard, breathe in the fresh spring air, a few steps from the house and enjoy the sunshine, Netzach Sheb’Gevurah.
Hod Sheb’Gevurah and Yom HaShoah humility within discernment is a quiet dignity, listening to our hearts knowing when to step forward, when to step back, this is a great strength. Forward and back, forward and back, caring for our beloveds, our neighbors, strangers, ourselves for we are all in this, this life together, no matter how ordinary or dire the circumstances. To share a morsel of bread, a sip of water, the last tattered blanket you have, to hide in the dark or be hidden by courageous, loving people, maintaining humanity in a world gone mad. Today we remember the Six Million who perished in the Holocaust. As I sat in meditation this morning, flame colored tallit (prayer shawl) wrapped around my shoulders, aware of the privilege and blessing it is to be adorned in this sacred garment and those whose thin shoulders were draped in rags before they were forced to walk naked, shivering, bodies crammed together into gas chambers, stepping forward for the last time with true humility, with all the dignity and strength their tortured bodies possessed. Breathing in as a free person, I imagined their last exhalations as gasping prayers, their radiant souls, bright as my tallit, rising through that unholy fire. My teacher this morning, Rabbi Marc Margolius taught that the chiyyut, the life force released from their physical bodies is eternal, so too with everyone who dies, the essence, the energy is never really gone. So we step forward each day, or back with discernment, living our lives with kindness and compassion, as fully as we are able, honoring their dreams unfulfilled, creating a world worthy of their sacrifice and with the strength of our own shining souls; Hod Sheb’Gevurah.
Yesod Sheb’Gevurah connection within strength, a cradle woven of spider’s silk, deceptively strong, fine shimmering threads, entwined in a web of inter-Being, connecting soul to soul. Yesod a conduit for LOVE, generative power for all that will be. And if you or I am not feeling strong on our own today, trust this foundation of support as we hold each other and haRachmanah shel ha’aretz, the Compassionate Womb of the earth rocks us gently with the song of morning rain, waking to Yesod Sheb’Gevurah.
Malchut Sheb’Gevurah presence within boundaries, how I long to go outdoors and enjoy the sun on my face, the gentle breeze, walk across the soft forest floor in muck boots, but for now I must pay attention to Creation’s majesty through the rectangular openings of windows. I am disappointed and still so grateful. What a view! Shekhinah abides on both sides of the divide; her Presence within everything gives me strength, Malchut Sheb’Gevurah.
This third week of counting the Omer our offering is Tiferet teaching us to temper our lives with the spiritual qualities of harmony, balance, compassion, beauty.
Chesed Sheb’Tiferet love within harmony, oh the music of Creation balancing frustration with joy, two black-capped chickadees calling out to one another, “Modah”... “Thank you.” I smile with my heart, kindness within beauty, I too am grateful, Chesed Sheb’Tiferet.
Gevurah Sheb’Tiferet strength within beauty, a woodpecker with all its might hammers into a distant tree seeking sustenance, what could be more beautiful than this small bird perpendicular to the trunk perfectly balanced taking care of itself and perhaps babies in a nest not far away. I pulled out the drawer beneath the bed, my own sacred nest for self-care. Not satisfied to sit on the edge of a pillow in bed today, I chose to take a seat on my zafu stored there, lengthening my spine, my trunk, despite some discomfort to practicing the loving discipline of mindfulness meditation. I listened to the mellifluous songbird choir, my dog’s sighing inhalations and exhalations as she slept nearby, breathed into the areas of pain in my body with tenderness and determination, strong and centered, Gevurah Sheb’Tiferet.
Tiferet Sheb’Tiferet beauty within beauty, I stepped outside, close to the house a beautiful thing on its own after so many days unable to walk even this far, and then I saw a glimpse of the forest balanced within a rain-jewel poised just so dripping from an exquisite bud, Tiferet Sheb’Tiferet.
Netzach Sheb’Tiferet triumphant radiance within beauty, truth and compassion, all supported me as I stepped outside this morning, continuing beyond the garden and into the woods. Bitachon, the confidence that grows from deep trust in the Holy One of Blessing, a quality entwined with netzach, guided me forward after many days of bed rest, into the heart of the small wilderness area behind our home. Downy buds, despite the hardships of winter, with or without conscious awareness, possess innate faith in becoming, reaching their full exquisite potential in spring, Netzach Sheb’Tiferet.
Hod Sheb’Tiferet humility within compassion, gratitude within beauty; this morning my beloved teacher Rabbi Nancy Flam spoke of Hod Sheb’Tiferet as a form of acceptance within balance. She said “today is a 24 hour reflection of acceptance, surrender, acknowledgement, gratitude for balance when [we remember that] things are not in our control, while sitting in meditation or in our lives, being grateful for moments of balance, harmony, enjoying it when its there and a willingness to sit with what is left in the middle of tiferet. And now it’s like this. And now it’s like THIS... acknowledging [accepting] the illusiveness of balance to strengthen our selves moment after moment, now it’s like this.” I sat and noticed the light changing beyond my closed lids and decided to open my eyes. I witnessed the clouds moving rapidly across the sky, the change in light. I closed my eyes again, with a thought that after meditation I would photograph the continuously changing skies, how perfect that would be as an illustration of this teaching, with the compassion of tiferet returned to my breath, observing the light, the sounds of birds, my breath and more thoughts passing like clouds. But the fullness of the teaching came to fruition later in the day. I did photograph the shifting skies. I started to upload them and an error message popped up stating my external disc where I store my photos is too full, a surprising twist. Now it’s like this! I have spent hours and hours today going through photos and with humility and self-compassion, deleted hundreds of pictures. In so doing, each image lifted a memory of this day and that day, I surrendered, let go, accepted this call to release what was creating disharmony, in order to discover “illusive” balance for a little while. It has taken me nearly the full 24 hours, and now it’s like this, Hod Sheb’Tiferet.
Yesod Sheb’Tiferet unification within beauty, the divine spark “yod” is hidden “sod” within everyone, everything and I’d add experiences as well. In a fleeting moment we become absorbed, no I, no you, no it, expansive and completely present in perfect harmony, one with the Oneness of Being. As I sat in meditation this afternoon with a dear friend, a chant arose from the quietude, Ayn od milvado, havayah Eloheinu, there is nothing but God/Beingness, all of existence is God/Beingness. I felt my body swaying heard the wind, opened my eyes and saw the trees moving, the same direction and rhythmic timing, one beautiful dance, Yesod Sheb’Tiferet.
Malchut Sheb’Tiferet presence within beauty, a small journey through the woods this morning, wide awake with each careful step over this fallen bough home to new growth and into that muddy pool equally filled with life and decay. I sat on a mossy stump, poured out my heart to the ONE who hears our voice and listens to our prayers, Shekhinah dwelling within every graceful leaf unfurling, offering a quiet prayer of its own, Malchut Sheb’Tiferet.
In this forth week as we count the Omer our offering is Netzach giving voice to the spiritual qualities of endurance, eternity, fortitude.
Chesed Sheb’Netzach love within endurance, I cannot fully fathom the suffering of the people near the epicenter of the earthquake in Nepal nor those dwelling in surrounding areas who have been affected. I do not know the misery of those who live in war torn nations, in refugee camps, hungry and thirsty without shelter across the globe and in my own town, the anguish of people who have survived tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, shipwrecks or a thousand permutations of suffering, only what I’ve heard. It is not the same. Yet, I am no stranger to loss, to sorrow, to pain, to little earthquakes that rumble through my family and circle of friends, shaking the inner landscape of our lives. It is not the same, still as humans it is lovingkindness person to person that gives all of us the strength to bear the catastrophes we should not, cannot face alone. I do not know firsthand the thousands of permutations of suffering of others but I listen, I feel the aftershocks in my heart, wave after wave of prayers, Chesed Sheb’Netzach.
Gevurah Sheb’Netzach discernment within endurance, these “aha” moments that return over and again, reminding me I don’t have to react exactly the same way forever. I see the pattern, I’m not locked in; it is possible to change, to soften, to open, to trust. Yes, fretting is part of my natural make up, likely encoded in my DNA, but this does not preclude t’shuvah, recalibrating my intention to be with what is happening, no matter how confusing or frightening, tempered by compassionate awareness; the potential for potent albeit small victories are endless. Through the grace of the Holy Blessed One, we continuously grow into who we are becoming, Gevurah Sheb’Netzach.
Tiferet Sheb’Netzach compassion within endurance, balance within eternity, Creation was born from an act of compassion as the Holy Blessed one contacted allowing space for all that is to grow, evolve, change, become and this love is essential, eternal. Contraction in this case is not simply a withdrawal it is also an obligation, a promise, a contract. On a recent walk my dog chomped down on a thin branch as canines are inclined to do. I rescued the damaged twig, snipped the end with a clean cut, and placed it in a vase of water on the windowsill with plenty of light. Each morning I’ve watched to see how the yellow protective shells have slowly released their hold and now tiny white flowers are opening, I am fairly certain they are blueberry blossoms. In the wild the berries would form completely, (I’m not sure that will happen in this situation), yet the mother plants in the forest will feed birds and animals with their fruit, that is their obligation, their promise, their contract, the undigested seeds will be released by the creatures, settle into the soil and start their journey becoming new plants. On and on, holding, letting go, holding letting go. As parents it is the same, holding, letting go, holding, letting go, contracting, allowing space for our children to grow, evolve, change, become adults; love is not the challenge, in all honesty for me, as our youngest daughter, a high school senior close to graduation pushes away (and pushes my buttons so to speak), compassion in this particular form of truly letting go, of trusting the process, is often frightening and painful, yet I know it is essential, a promise, a contract, an obligation that like my parents and their parents and parents throughout time, wild blueberries and all living things, balances the world eternally, Tiferet Sheb’Netzach.
Netzach Sheb’Netzach eternity within eternity, a flower laden with seeds, fallen from a tree of great height, rests on leaves moldering, softening, transforming into new soil, while floating on water fed by an underground spring and reflecting clouds passing in the sky above; I pray with my whole heart that we humans will act together, tend the earth with the same love and compassion the Holy Blessed One invested in creating this world, because I want to believe that what I witnessed this morning is glimpse of eternity within eternity, Netzach Sheb’Netzach.
Hod Sheb’Netzach humility, surrender, within endurance and eternity, these words, these feelings reverberated through my muscles, bones, etzem, essence as I lay in an MRI tube last night for the twenty-third time in six years, twenty-ninth all totaled since 1999, and then this morning too, receiving cranio-sacral therapy and myofascial release on a table from a gentle physical therapist. Breathing into what is, offering metta, blessings of lovingkindness to all of these kind practitioners, to myself, to my family and friends, this is what I “do,” laying still, letting go. For all of us live life as fully as possible in fragile human bodies.
Arriving home, the view of me, my, mine dissipated as deeper, fuller, truer humility expanded beyond an individual in a tube, on a table; heart sinking with the weight of compassion upon hearing news that someone I’ve known for years, will be entering hospice today. A lovely woman who has endured a life filled with love and great suffering, tending two daughters and her husband whose lives were also taken by cancer. I pray that she will be comforted, experience peace at last in these final days and that her one remaining devoted daughter will be sustained by the grace, courage and fortitude she, like her mother has cultivated through every loss and every joy; head bowed, hand on heart, humility, surrender, within endurance, eternity, Hod Sheb’Netzach.
Yesod Sheb’Netzach bonding within endurance, when the landscape of our lives is shaky, we may stumble at first, yet it is not long before the bonds, the connections we share with the people in our love network rises up to meet our feet in a foundation of support as we navigate each uncertain step together, unified in enduring care and compassion. Never alone, hearts and souls bound to the Ground of Being moment-by-moment, breath-by-breath, step by gentle step, within eternity, Yesod Sheb’Netzach.
Malchut Sheb’Netzach nobility within eternity, step back, stand still when mysteriously guided through the forest to a crown, radiant in the morning light, present to Presence, time outside of time, inside a moment of grace, Malchut Sheb’Netzach.
In this fifth week as we count the Omer our offering is Hod, an opportunity to cultivate the spiritual qualities of humility, acceptance, surrender, splendor, gratitude.
Chesed Sheb’Hod love within humility and gratitude, each spring I eagerly await the first furry fern fiddles pushing their way up from the darkness in the gully where still water, a vernal pool born of melted snow begins to slowly evaporate, leaving nutrient rich mud behind. In my anthropomorphic imagination, I notice how close they grow together, huddling in small “family” groups. Low to the ground, heads bowed, often leaning against each other as they rise in what appears to be, loving support. Over the next week or so the tiny leaves will journey from tightly swaddled spirals, emerging from their protective womblike webbing, unfurling into elegant fans, dappled with sun filtered through the forest canopy as it too continues to expand, leaf by leaf. Bearing witness to this process year after year, I most certainly feel a surge of love for our delicate planet well up in my heart within humility and gratitude as I marvel at these ancient plants, descendants of a species that first grew on earth more than 350 million years ago, Chesed Sheb’Hod.
Gevurah Sheb’Hod discernment within humility and gratitude, I did not sleep well last night. Just before twilight I saw Poppa cardinal take off into the forest as a hawk landed on a high branch not far from his place of entry. I’ve been watching this lovely pair of cardinals since the end of winter, through their courtship and nest building in a bush just outside my bedroom window. Momma bird was quiet all night; sometimes she chirps and wakes me, even after dark. In the morning they are usually the first birds chattering, today this was not the case. I waited, stone still in my bed, worrying for this little family. And then I heard her “cheep, cheeping” joyfully, looked out the window and saw him swoop into their little hideaway. Of course they were quiet, they knew what to do to stay safe, but my mind ran away with a story that did not end so well. These birds had discernment that I was lacking; with deepest humility and gratitude I bow to their innate wisdom, and pray for the strength to take their example to heart, whenever I notice my thoughts spinning into an imagined future of dread, may I have the humility to step back, see what is true in the present moment, grateful for what is, rather than fearing the unknown, Gevurah Sheb’Hod.
Tiferet Sheb’Hod balance within humility, gracefully balanced on a thin stem, head bowed, taking up just as much space as is required to shine forth in the world; Torah of ferns unfurling, Tiferet Sheb’Hod.
Netzach Sheb’Hod eternity within gratitude, this morning I woke to joyful music. The cardinal chicks have started darting about on their maiden voyages beyond the nest! Poppa cardinal, ever vigilant follows nearby on the ground or in a tree watching them. It is an extraordinary thing, to have witnessed the courtship through winter, nest building, momma sitting on the eggs and then both parents flying back and forth with food. And now so far I've counted three, there may be a fourth little youngster; they are very fast making it is difficult to count. As a new generation of birds begins their life journey, my heart is a flutter with gratitude, Netzach Sheb’Hod.
Hod Sheb’Hod humility within humilty, splendor within splendor, gratitude within gratitude, this week of hod the ferns have pushed their way out of the fetid mud of decaying leaves to begin life anew with their heads bowed. Each one forms a perfect spiral curling toward its own heart center, sheltered by a soft translucent, womblike covering, allowing light to pass through. To photograph them, I too must get down low, kneel or sit on the damp soil with them, careful not to break a fragile stem, my own head bent toward my heart looking to see the splendor within splendor.
Today is Lag B’Omer, the thirty-third day of our counting journey. The ferns inspire me to turn the letters too, lamed gimel, lag, 33 around to gimel lamed, gal, and then double them since this is a day of doubling, hod sheb'hod, 33. Galgal, the Hebrew word, meaning “wheel” is revealed, mirroring the shape of the ferns. I sit to meditate, spine long like a stem, head slightly bowed toward my heart, cocooned in a relatively silent embrace, turning my attention inward, light filtering through my closed lids. Thoughts spin, a wheel turning and turning until with awareness, tenderness, kindness I re-turn to my breath, yet another circle, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out gratitude within gratitude, Hod Sheb’Hod.
Yesod Sheb’Hod presence within humility, Shekhinah’s splendor is hidden within even the most humble of flowers, Yesod Sheb’Hod.
Malchut Sheb’Hod dignity within humility, when your adolescent tells you off for an assumption you voiced, lines so fine and all to easily crossed, and you respond to her flaming anger from the same place of love the initial misstep occurred with a calm, sincere apology, Malchut Sheb’Hod.
In this sixth week as we count the Omer our offering is Yesod, an opportunity to cultivate the spiritual qualities of bonding, connection, foundation, groundedness.
Chesed Sheb’Yesod love within presence, I’d like to believe that our most profound motivator is love, not fear. Sometimes they become entangled, we love someone so deeply that protectiveness (fear) arises, and causes an unintended separation despite the bond we feel. Love within grounded presence frees our hearts to connect on a deeper level; I suspect this is a life long learning practice; sometimes we get it right, other times we have to try again, Chesed Sheb’Yesod.
Day 37 Gevurah Sheb’Yesod discernment within presence, these are the choices we make. Reclining in bed, with a heating pad, I started writing not knowing exactly what I wanted to say yet. Our sweet, nearly 12 year old standard poodle climbed onto the bed and poked her head around my laptop, big brown eyes looking into mine, panting, clearly longing for some loving attention. I could have said to her “go lay down,” and written about any number of things to illustrate today’s spiritual qualities. I didn’t. I petted her for quite some time, under her chin, around her ears, her chest, her belly, held her paw; she enjoys holding “hands”. I put aside what I initially wanted to do, because life is about connection, bonding, discerning what or who is most important and being present with our whole hearts. When satisfied she meandered over to my feet and took a nap. I watched her belly rising and falling for a while; then knew exactly what to write, Gevurah Sheb’Yesod.
Tiferet Sheb’Yesod balance within presence, illusive, both. I am aware enough to recognize how easy it is to teeter, to totter this way or that. And yet somehow I have been in harmony with friends we were blessed to visit over the weekend and my daughters too the past few days, hence my disappearance from counting “out loud.” Perhaps I will go back and fill in the missing days, or continue forward, I’ll trust the wisdom of my heart it seems to know the way when I pause to listen, balance within presence, Tiferet Sheb’Yesod.
Day 39 Netzach Sheb’Yesod eternity within presence, small as the head of a straight pin, multi-faceted reflections in a single drop of life giving water, pausing to notice, Netzach Sheb’Yesod.
Hod Sheb’Yesod humility within bonding listening to fledgling cardinals outside my bedroom window since 5am attempting to imitate the ever-important sound of warning; “cheep.” Mama is out there patiently teaching, completely present to the young birds as they repeat with their still new voices, what to a human ear seems such a simple vocalization compared to the other complicated songs they are learning, clearly it is not, the little ones still don’t quite have it yet. With each passing hour they are closer and closer to achieving the pitch and length of the note. With humility, I bow to the steady persistence of these creatures to teach and to learn; this one sound is truly a matter of survival, a sacred bond that holds the family together. The juveniles will share this sound with their partners, when they mature to protect each other and their own broods. I think about the guidance my husband and I have passed on to our daughters, and our parents passed on to us, all of us doing our best to teach our progeny how to be safe in this great big world, knowing full well that we can’t protect them forever, never could, feeling those familial connections of love, humility within bonding to Hod Sheb’Yesod.
Yesod Sheb’Yesod foundation within foundation, presence within presence, sitting on my zafu, femurs planted firmly, knees bent forming a stable triangular base, supporting lengthened spine, muscles still aching, it is what it is, one hand on belly, one on heart, breathing in, breathing out, rising and sinking, “modah ani,” “I thank You” spontaneously chanted until the words and vibrations fill body, soul, the air in the room, drifting out and out toward the woods and all that is growing and dying, for everything is permeable, the Ground of all Being dwells in hidden spaces between, both hands released float to thighs, return to breath, calm, timer chimes, twenty minutes have passed, present to Presence, Yesod Sheb’Yesod.
Malchut Sheb’Yesod divine presence within foundation, listening to bird song, the chatter of chipmunks and scolding squirrels, the aware of the hint of breeze and the fragrant lilies of the valley just starting to bloom, I sat on the ground, steeped in that moment supporting all of existence Malchut Sheb’Yesod.
In this seventh week as we count the Omer ever closer matan Torah, the taste of Torah we are prepared receive to on Shavuot, our offering is Malchut, an opportunity to perceive Nobility, Sovereignty, Divine Presence, Shekhinah dwelling within and among us.
Chesed Sheb’Malchut love within Divine Presence, a single flower, petals not yet unfolded, each time I come upon a heart shape in nature, my own heart races feeling the love of Shekhinah near, Chesed Sheb’Malchut.
Gevurah Sheb’Malchut discernment within sovereignty, the last little chick I observed, was not a cardinal after all, more likely a brown-headed cowbird baby whose egg was dropped into the nest too late. The cardinal parents had to move on, their own fledglings were gone; they had an instinctual decision to follow through. A great hawk swooped into the bush as evening’s curtain was falling last night, I suspect it took the baby bird to feed it’s own family. I feel sad, yet it is not for me to judge life and death, Gevurah Sheb’Malchut.
Tiferet Sheb’Malchut balance within Divine Presence, watching a breeze carry dandelion fluff, I paused to notice beauty suspended and poised for an instant on a single blade of grass. Squatting down, finding my own balance, awed by these sacred ordinary seeds soon to embed in earth’s embrace, infused with the life force, noble in their pure potential, Tiferet Sheb’Malchut.
Netzach Sheb’Malchut eternity within Divine Presence, in and in and in, enduring love dwells at the heart center of all that is, was, will be, bubbling up and out and out and out, mekor chayyim, fountain of all life, birthing each moment anew, Netzach Sheb’Malchut.
Hod Sheb’Malchut humility within Divine Presence, graceful bleeding heart blossoms hang low, just above the ground, listening, waiting, three days before the revelation at Sinai. Each heart hollow, a silent hallowed space prepared to receive what it is ready to take in, no more, no less; empty and full of mystery, Shekhinah’s Presence, Hod Sheb’Malchut.
Yesod Sheb’Malchut bonding within Divine Presence, no matter how far we fly, we are connected to source, each of us a reflection of the seed-spark that planted us, resides among and within us, Yesod Sheb’Malchut.
Malchut Sheb’Malchut Presence within Presence, ever since this part of our journey started on the second night of Pesach, we began to taste freedom on the tips of our tongues. Even so, when Shabbat ends and Shavuot begins we will stand together at the foot of the metaphoric mountain, the thunder, fire and dense smoke of our endlessly busy lives, the deafening noise that surrounds us in this electronic age, the anxieties that take up head space, the disappointments, judgments and struggles that tighten our hearts, causing amnesia, confusion, too often forgetting the power of a single breath noticed, where we are, who we are, what is most important, the reasons we packed up our few belongings and left Mitzrayim, the narrow place for the vast unknown, ended up in our dusty travel worn rucksacks. We are human; it is difficult to completely escape the constricting psychological shackles that bind our steps as we stumble, sleepwalking through most of our lives.
And then, for perhaps the briefest of moments, this wilderness wandering, this cacophony and graceless motion will cease. In stillness, as if the entire world is suspended in a nearly imperceptible drop of morning dew, a spark of insight will allow us to perceive release and unification all at once, present to Presence within Presence. We are now as prepared, as we can be to gather at Sinai, just one more day, Malchut sheb’Malchut.
Shavuot we stand together broken, whole, holy, knowing where we are, who we are, what is most important. L’shmoa; the deepest, fullest listening, seeing, receiving, will temporarily shake off the dream, we’ll shiver like newborns inhaling our first breath, waking, each in our own way to taste the sweetness of our portion of Torah, a letter, a word filling our mouths. I’ll meet you at the foot of the mountain.
*Pay attention, wonder, awe, glimpses of revelation are possible every day, still it is good to gather together, to feel the pulsing energy of kehillah kedoshah throughout time and space.
Chag Shavuot Sameach!
Thank you for being companions on this journey of the soul.