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Day 26 of the Omer


DAY 26: FOR THE BONES


For the bones we carry along the way,
   the stories our grandparents told us, impressed
      like a seal on the wax of our hearts: give thanks.
For the taste of haroset which lingers for weeks.
   The rhythm of footsteps, the pull to move forward
      though the sea licks our ankles. The waters will part.

When we dance, when we notice the stars overhead
   and draw new constellations: the leader, the timbrel
      then our ancestors' struggles were worth it.
The path from constriction to covenant calls

-- keep on walking.

 


 

Today is the 26th day of the Omer, making three weeks and five days of the Omer. This is the 26th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, liberation to revelation.

Today's poem was inspired by a prompt from last year's NaPoWriMo, the one for the 26th day of the month (since this is the 26th day of the Omer) -- to write a curtal sonnet.

 


Day 25 of the Omer


DAY 25: EVEN IF


Even if this is the path you're meant to walk
no one promised pedicures and crumpets.
Don't you think the children of Israel struggled
under the weight of not-knowing what lay ahead?
Resting when the cloud of glory paused,
and marching when it lifted, no questions asked?
No door worth opening, no journey worth taking
can be wholly mapped in advance. No one knows
(except for God) what's on the other side.

 


 

This is the 25th day of the Omer, making three weeks and four days of the Omer. This is the 25th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, liberation to revelation.

In the kabbalistic paradigm this is the day of netzach she'b'netzach, the day of endurance within the week of endurance. This poem is an acrostic; if you read vertically down the first letter of each line, you'll see its theme.


Day 24 of the Omer


DAY 24: STONE WORK


            The only rule I know:
two stones on one,             one stone on two.
                Fit them snug
so they won't topple             after the first cycle
                of freeze and thaw.
If I could fly                 over New England
                low enough to look
through leafless trees             I'd see the earth
                seamed like a baseball,
old walls the stitches             holding her together.
                Some have slumped
over centuries,              granite and gneiss
                sliding gracefully
to the side, but             even in ruin
                the walls endure.
What will I build             in my lifetime
                to last as long?


 


 

Today is the 24th day of the Omer, making three weeks and three days of the Omer. This is the 24th day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

Today's poem was inspired by one of last year's NaPoWriMo prompts -- the invitation to write a poem about stone walls or arches.

The shape of today's poem is inspired by the "two stones on one" rule, and by the calligraphy of the Song at the Sea.


Day 23 of the Omer


DAY 23: EVENING PRAYER


Afternoon's flat hot white
gives way to the electric green
of minarets against evening's blur.

Old city divides: here
crosses, there metal crescents.
Judaism's in the paving stones.

I press against the wall
to let the Land Rover pass,
the bike, the men with sidecurls.

I wish these dusty Coke bottles
were inscribed in two languages.
Harmony's a long way off.

Taste and see:
our story crackles
like pastry drenched with honey.

Torah is a fresh fig
ready to be parted and savored.
There's enough to share.

Long after every border blows away
like chalk dust on the wind
her waters will endure.

 


 

Today is the 23rd day of the Omer, making three weeks and two days of the Omer. This is the 23rd day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

Today's poem was sparked by one of Luisa A. Igloria's prompts from last year - the one from April 22, which suggested stanzas, moving through space, synonyms for light, the words "metal," "electric," and "blur," the present tense, references to two sweets, and a reference to a commercial from my childhood. (Can you find the reference to the commercial?)

In the kabbalistic paradigm, today is the day of gevurah she'b'netzach, the day of boundaries or borders or strength within the week of endurance. As I worked with Luisa's prompt, I found myself thinking about Jerusalem, and borders, and what endures.


Day 22 of the Omer


22: ENDURANCE


They steamed south until pack ice closed in.
Faith in the journey kept spirits high.
Always knew they'd reach the promised land.
They'd trek across the expanse of white.

Faith in the journey kept spirits high.
The continent was a blank page before them.
They'd trek across the expanse of white
scribing holy writ with sledges and skis.

The continent was a blank page before them.
The ship groaned, then buckled.
Scribing holy writ with sledges and skis
they decamped to the ice, watched her go down.

The ship groaned, then buckled.
Any sane man knew they were lost.
They decamped to the ice, watched her go down.
Hauled their lifeboats over mountains of ice.

Any sane man knew they were lost.
But Shackleton wouldn't let them lose hope.
They hauled lifeboats over mountains of ice
and rowed 800 miles in the world's worst seas.

Shackleton wouldn't let them lose hope.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield!
They rowed 800 miles in the world's worst seas
and he brought every man home alive.

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield!
They'd steamed south until pack ice closed in.
He brought every man home alive.
Always knew they'd reach the promised land.

 


 

Today is the 22nd day of the Omer, making three weeks and one day of the Omer. This is the 22nd day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, between liberation and revelation.

In the kabbalistic paradigm, today begins the week of netzach, endurance. As I've written before, I can't hear the word "endurance" without thinking of Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-17. That's what inspired today's poem.


Day 21 of the Omer


21: GOOD HEART


Five roads diverged. Eliezer chose the path
of vision. Yehoshua chased friendship.
Yossi wanted to be a good neighbor.
Shimon sought to think ahead. But Elazar
craved a good heart, and their teacher said
I prefer the words of Elazar
because his choice includes all of yours.

A good heart. In gematria, good plus heart
-- seventeen plus thirty-two -- equals 49,
the days of the Omer. Three weeks in:
press a metaphysical stethoscope to your ribs
and listen to the lub-dub of your lev.
Tap with your fingers: is its tough exterior
softening like pliable red wax in the sun?

Can you carve grooves of gratitude, trace
the map of this meditation labyrinth
and leave an imprint? Make runnels in the clay
and see what flows through you. Instilling
a new habit takes a month of practice.
Four weeks remain before it's time to harvest.
What grows inside your four chambers?

 


 

Today is the 21st day of the Omer, making three weeks of the Omer. Today is the 21st day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, between liberation and revelation.

Gematria is Jewish number-math. In Hebrew, letters double as numbers, which means that every word also has a numerical meaning.

Lev is the Hebrew word for "heart."

In one Mussar model, today is the day to meditate on the quality of לב טוב, a good heart. That phrase reminded me of a Hasidic teaching about the importance of having a good heart, which I blogged some years ago on Lag b'Omer: The bonfire of the expansive heart.


Becoming Real: Tazria-Metzorah and Being Velveteen

Once there was a stuffed rabbit who yearned to be Real. His Boy loved him so dearly that he became Real in the eyes of the Boy -- but when living bunnies caught sight of him, they laughed, because they knew he was only a toy, unable to run and play with the real rabbits.

Some of you are smiling. You recognize this story, by Margery Williams. Let me continue.

One day the Boy became sick, and the stuffed rabbit stayed with him throughout his illness. It was uncomfortable and hot but the rabbit did not budge, because he knew his Boy needed him.

When the fever broke, the doctor instructed the family to burn everything which had been in contact with the boy -- his sheets, his clothes, anything which might carry the germs of scarlet fever. Of course, this meant the bunny, too.

So the bunny was taken to a place outside the house along with everything else which might be contagious, and set aside for the burning. But before the gardener arrived with the matches and kerosene, the bunny wept a real tear, and from that tear arose a fairy, and the fairy told the bunny that he was truly Real now: not only in the eyes of the Boy who had loved him so dearly, but real now in the eyes of everyone.

Why am I telling you this story today? Because of our Torah portion. Tazria-Metzora is full of blood, childbirth, leprosy, eruptive afflictions, and questions of purity. This week's Torah portion takes us on a deep dive into the binary of tahor and tamei -- usually translated as pure and impure, though I don't like that rendering. I resonate with Rabbi Rachel Adler's interpretation that being tamei means being charged-up, electrified, with a kind of uncanny life-and-death energy.

Have you ever been sick, and felt both physically and spiritually different from the "well" people around you? Have you ever done the holy work of the chevra kadisha, lovingly preparing a body for burial, and come away feeling that the world is in strangely sharp focus for a time? Have you ever given birth, or witnessed a birth, and felt as though you were touching the Infinite? Have you ever visited a hospital ward, and come away feeling that the hospital is a holy place -- and also a place which gives you the shivers, with its reminders of mortality? That's tum'ah: a temporary state of wakefulness to the Mystery of life and death.

This Torah portion speaks frequently of tzara'at -- usually translated as leprosy or as an "eruptive plague." Tzara'at is something with which a human being can be afflicted, and it is also something with which a house can be afflicted. In either case, the priest comes to examine, and there is a quarantine period, and if the house cannot be cleansed, it is torn down and taken to a place of tum'ah outside the city.

Although our Torah text comes from a time many centuries before germ theory, it speaks of contagion, and of whether and how it is possible to shed tum'ah and become tahor again.

Reading this Torah portion this year, I found myself thinking of the Velveteen Rabbit. His Boy contracted scarlet fever, and afterwards the rabbit was deemed contagious and was cast away. He became, in the language of Torah, tamei.

But it was through his encounter with sickness that he was able to become truly Real: not only Real in the eyes of his Boy, but Real in the eyes of the world. It was through the experience of being tamei that he was able to emerge into a state of taharah and to become truly alive.

And the same is true for us. Every life contains encounters with illness, contagion, and death. But when we take the risk of loving one another even though we know that life contains loss -- when we oscillate with one another between sickness and health -- that's how we become Real.

Becoming Real, as the Skin Horse in the nursery reminded the Velveteen Rabbit, is not always comfortable. Usually it involves being loved until one becomes shabby and threadbare. Becoming Real comes at a price, and that price is willingness to be in the world, to age, to have one's sharp edges rubbed off or one's plush fur become tattered.

But once you are Real, you know that your fur growing shabby isn't the most important thing. Once you are Real, says the Skin Horse, you can never be ugly.

Or, phrased a different way: once we are Real, we know deep in our hearts that in the eyes of the One Who made us, we are beautiful; we are perfect; we are loved; just the way we are.

 


Day 20 of the Omer


DAY 20: WINDOWS ON THE WORLD


Imagine a house
where every window
shows a different world.

This one reveals
the root system
of an ancient tree.

This one, a mother
rocking her infant
back down to sleep.

A young man balances
a pallet of green coconuts
on his head.

A child offers
boxes of Chiclets
to stopped cars.

Here, a field
where corn sprouts
emerge, chartreuse.

A violinist busks
in a tiled subway station
and strangers applaud.

A man squeezes
pomegranates by hand,
sells their frothy juice.

Gnarled olive trees
overlook a pitted wall
built by giants...

The house is God's
and we are its windows.
Wash away dirt.

Become transparent.
Look! Such beauty
shines through you.

 


 

Today is the 20th day of the Omer, making two weeks and six days of the Omer. This is the 20th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, from liberation to revelation.

Today's poem was inspired by an image from the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, of a house in which the windows looked out on another world, and also by teachings I first heard in 2003 (I think from Rabbi Moshe Aharon / Rabbi Miles Krassen) about how we are windows and teshuvah  (repentance or re/turn) is a process of clearing away grime.


Getting excited about Getting It Together

GettingItTogether

Last summer it occurred to some of us in the Jewish Renewal world that this year, 2015, would mark the 25th anniversary of the trip to Dharamsala chronicled in Rodger Kamenetz's The Jew in the Lotus. Wouldn't it be neat, we thought, if we could bring together people from that trip for a celebratory weekend which could enliven us spiritually and would galvanize us in the holy work of being in community with each other across Jewish denominations and across religious traditions?

From that spark, Getting It...Together was born.

July 3, 2015, will be the anniversary (on the secular / Gregorian calendar) of the date when Reb Zalman z"l (may his memory be a blessing) left this life. I remember last year feeling alone in my sadness because many of my friends and colleagues were together in Oregon when he died and were able to pray and mourn and celebrate him together right then and there, and I was not with them. This year, at the one-year anniversary, I will remember him together with my extended Jewish Renewal community (and with many others) at what promises to be an extraordinary weekend:

The Fourth of July weekend this summer will be a weekend of learning, worship, music and ritual offered by followers of all faiths, culminating in a summit of faith leaders and artists promoting the vision of deep ecumenism through various expressions.

Reb Zalman was fond of saying “The only way to get it together... is together.” An innovator of ecumenical dialogue with practitioners of a wide variety of spiritual paths, Reb Zalman leaves us a legacy of Deep Ecumenism. His deeply personal approach to dialogue led to significant friendships with many of the world’s great philosophers and spiritual teachers.

This summer, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the remarkable journey of Reb Zalman and a small and varied group of Jewish leaders to Dharamsala, India, at the request of the Dalai Lama, to help Tibetan Buddhist leaders learn how a People survives (and thrives) “in a diaspora.”

Special guest presenters include: Rabbi Yitz and Blu Greenberg, Rabbi Moshe Waldoks, Rodger Kamenetz (author of The Jew in the Lotus, which chronicles the 1990 journey), Rabbi Leah Novick and spiritual leaders from many faith communities.

There's special resonance for me in being able to gather with my Jewish Renewal community and also with a multi-faith community as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Jew In The Lotus -- since, as I recently wrote (How I Found Jewish Renewal, And Why I Stayed) there's a direct link between that book and my rabbinate.

The Getting It...Together weekend will run from Friday July 3 through Sunday July 5. We'll begin with some pre-Shabbat activities, including an opportunity for mikveh (ritual immersion) before Shabbat as well as some learning and contemplative practice. Shabbat services will be lively, musical, and intentionally inclusive (especially so, given that this will be a multifaith gathering) and will be facilitated by some of Jewish Renewal's leading lights. I think one of the best ways to experience Jewish Renewal is to daven (pray) with us, and this promises to be fantastic davenen!

Over the course of the weekend, our special guests and others will offer teachings honoring Reb Zalman's vision and contribution to the renewal of Judaism and to the ongoing work of deep ecumenism. Plans call for a concert of Middle Eastern music after havdalah, the ritual which brings Shabbat to a close. Sunday will be a day of art, music and dance performances, and stories from the trip to Dharamsala, culminating in a closing summit which will feature our Jew In The Lotus guests as well as some next-generation visionaries.

It's going to be an amazing weekend, and participants of all faiths are welcome. (And the weekend is followed by a week-long retreat called Ruach Ha-Aretz which I'm not able to attend but which I know will be wonderful, and which will continue the learning about deep ecumenism in some lovely ways.)

Register for Getting It...Together today.


Day 19 of the Omer


DAY 19: SEASIDE


In a town by the sea, where the air is sweet with
dune-growing roses and licked lips taste like
salt, where the wind whips your prayer shawl into
the air like wings with a mind of their own, where
at dawn machines groom the abandoned beach,
readying the canvas of the day for whatever holy
inscriptions will be written by childrens' feet,
where the luminous sky cycles through periwinkle
and gold and the blue of hand-tied tzitzit, if you
can balance on one foot without wobbling and teach
Torah to everyone who asks, you might glimpse
the humble splendor of this nineteenth day tucked
inside the empty paper cup which once held pale
frozen lemonade, rattling across the expanse of sand.

 


 

Today is the 19th day of the Omer, making two weeks and five days of the Omer. This is the 19th day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

Today's poem was inspired by one of Luisa A. Igloria's prompts from last spring, the one in memory of Gabriel Marcia Marquez.


A Shabbat in Westchester; a Sunday in Williamstown

CelebratingThis coming Shabbat I'll be the keynote speaker at the fifth annual Westchester Reform Temple women's retreat. The theme for the retreat is "Celebrating Ourselves: Bringing Wellness and Wisdom into Everyday Life," and I'll be offering a talk titled Revealing the Heart's Song.

I'm looking forward to davening with everyone during the contemplative service on Shabbat morning (led by Rabbi Sara Abrams and Cantor Jill Abramson), to sharing some thoughts about the intersection of creative life and spiritual life, and to teaching an afternoon writing workshop ("Writing your own song of the heart.") I'm also looking forward to taking one of the afternoon's other workshops, too -- maybe "Soul Collage" or "Care from the Cupboard."

I'll have copies of 70 faces and Waiting to Unfold available for anyone who wants them. (And if you don't carry/spend money on Shabbat, you're welcome to take a copy home and mail me a check afterwards.) This promises to be a lovely day, and I'm honored to be able to be a part of it. If you're one of the women of Westchester Reform Temple signed up for this daylong retreat, I look forward to meeting you this Shabbat!

StjohnsOn Sunday I'll be speaking again, this time alongside my dear friend Reverend Rick Spalding, at St. John's Episcopal Church in Williamstown. After their 10am morning service there is an 11:15am coffee hour, and at 11:30, Reverend Rick and I will take turns speaking about our religious traditions' relationships to "creation care," which is to say, the religious imperative to care for our planet.

A Q-and-A session will follow our formal remarks, and I will probably have copies of my books there as well if anyone's interested in buying one. All are welcome -- not only members of that church, but the general public as well.


How I Found Jewish Renewal - new in FOLD

One of the neat things about Ethan running the Center for Civic Media at MIT is that sometimes I get the opportunity to play with cool new technology before it's released to the public.

Today's the official launch day for FOLD, a really neat platform for contextualized storytelling. The platform launched with a handful of stories already on it, and one of them is mine -- How I Found Jewish Renewal, And Why I Stayed.

Fold

a glimpse of a tiny piece of my story, with context alongside

I've told parts of this story before, in a variety of places, but had never told the whole thing in quite this way. Here's what's cool about FOLD (for me): the narrative part of the story appears in a column, not entirely unlike the way it would appear on a blog like this one. But if you click on any of the hyperlinked words, a card appears beside the story offering context. The cards can contain text, video, you name it.

I love the way this platform encouraged me to think about my storytelling. I'm a writer by trade, so I tend to focus on words... and I know that even when I link to things in blog posts, most people don't click on those links. But FOLD makes it easy for me to show context right alongside the story itself, and that in turn allowed me to tell this story in a beautiful new way.

If you're interested in learning more about FOLD, here's Ethan's post about it -- it was created by his masters' students -- and, of course, you can sign up and give it a whirl yourself.

And I hope you'll click over and read my piece there. There's a lovely synchronicity for me in the timing of this launch. Yesterday David and I officially became co-chairs of ALEPH, and today FOLD launched with my story about how David helped me to find Jewish Renewal, and what I've found here, and why Jewish Renewal matters so much to me.

Go and read: How I Found Jewish Renewal, And Why I Stayed. If you wind up signing up for FOLD and writing something there, drop me a link! I'm looking forward to seeing how others use this unique platform for storytelling and context curation.

 


Day 18 of the Omer


DAY 18: SECRET PRAYERS


Eighteen days now
we've broken in our walking shoes.

The world is scribed
with secret prayers.

Tucked in today's pockets:
slips of paper which read to life!

This eighteenth day
is a shiny pewter spigot, waiting.

The waters above yearn
to join the living waters below

new life cascading
into our hands.



 


 

Today is the eighteenth day of the Omer, making two weeks and four days of the Omer. This is the 18th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, from liberation to revelation.

Hebrew letters double as numbers. The Hebrew word for "life" -- חי –– is numerically equivalent to 18. That's what sparked this poem.


Day 17 of the Omer

 

DAY 17: TASTE AND SEE


Remember the first slice of bread
after seven days of matzah --
how the sawtoothed knife cut through
the airy crumb against the drag
of crust, steam rising
from the newly-baked loaf:
manna after a week of hardtack.
What will Torah taste like
after seven weeks of counting?

 


 

Today is the seventeenth day of the Omer, making two weeks and three days of the Omer. This is the 17th day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

In the kabbalistic framework, today is the day of tiferet she'b'tiferet, balance and harmony within balance and harmony (it's the day of tiferet within the week of tiferet.) Today's poem didn't arise out of that fact, but I think there's something special about today being the day of balance and harmony squared, so I figured I'd mention it.

(Of course, I mean "today" in the Jewish sense -- the day which began on Monday evening at sundown and ends Tuesday evening at sundown -- so those of you who receive these blog posts by email as East Coast evening approaches will be reading this poem as the day of tiferet squared approaches its end.)


Day 16 of the Omer


DAY 16 - SHOE SEEKER


How much of your life will you spend seeking shoes?
Hunting the keys you're certain you left in a pocket,
sunglasses resting unnoticed on top of your head?
Meanwhile the Holy One hides in plain sight.

Practice moderation even in your boot rack. Let habit
guide you to glide through routine, scuff on your sandals
while ice rattles in your glass. With the minutes you glean
say thanks for the big bang still unfolding.

Pedestrians carry bright umbrellas like nodding tulips.
Thread a path between puddles. Balance kindness
and determination: everything else is commentary.
If you can't find your shoes, then go barefoot.

Push your cart through the cluttered aisles.
Don't forget the intangibles: how will you nourish
the part of you that thrives not on bread but on song?
The sages say: what you're seeking is already here.

 


 

Today is the sixteenth day of the Omer, which makes two weeks and two days of the Omer. This is the 16th day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

In the Mussar tradition, today is a day for focusing on the quality of "Apply business acumen to living." While I don't resonate with everything in this essay by R' Noah Weinberg, one line from the essay sparked this poem: "How much of your life will you spend being a shoe seeker?"


Day 15 of the Omer


DAY 15: FIFTEEN


A hidden name of God.
    Steps ascending to the Temple,
        each with its own psalm.

Words in the blessing
    which places God's Name
        on the people, opening channels.

Morning thank-yous, each
    hinting at the Exodus:
        once, a plague of darkness --

now we see clearly. Once
    slaves forbidden to stand tall --
        now our spines are straight.

Gates we opened two weeks ago
    passing through each adorned arch
        moving from degradation to joy.

 


 

Today is the fifteenth day of the Omer, making two weeks and one day of the Omer. This is the 15th day of our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, liberation to revelation.

In Hebrew, letters also double as numbers. The simplest way to write the number fifteen spells Yah, a holy name of God. (For this reason we often write 9 and 6 instead of 10 and 5, so as not to be using that holy name in vain.) Fifteen is a number with deep significance in Jewish tradition.


From trauma to healing: Shemini

Here's the d'var Torah I offered at my shul yesterday morning.

 

Every year I struggle with the story of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron who brought forth "strange fire" and who were immediately consumed by a fire which came from God. On its surface, this is a story in which deviation from the established way of approaching the divine results in death.

This story does not sit well with me. But our sages taught us that entering into Torah can be an experience of entering into pardes. The word means "orchard" (and is the origin of the English word "paradise") but is also an acronym for four layers or levels of entering into the text. Let's go deeper, from pshat (surface meaning) to remez (what's alluded-to or hinted-at.)

When I look at the story's allusions, I see a story about the power our ancestors ascribed to the sacred. God is so powerful that an unmediated encounter has the capacity to be dangerous, to fry out our circuits, as it were.  It is as though God were a power plant, and Nadav and Avihu plugged in a device which wasn't correctly calibrated. The power tore right through them and burned them up.

Many religions have regarded the sacred as dangerous. Intellectually I can place this story in that context. But when I place myself in Aaron's shoes -- and even more when I place myself in the shoes of his wife Elisheva -- I am horrified. So too was Aaron. Torah tells us: וידם אהרן –– "And Aaron was silent." The word used for "silent" connotes not only lack of speech, but a kind of existential silence.

Sometimes in the face of tragedy there are no words. Aaron's silence hints at his grief: this is an explanation on the level of drash, telling an interpretive story around the scaffolding of the text. Torah doesn't tell us that he felt sorrow, but we can read that between the lines; it is in the white fire around the black fire of the words, in the human context we bring to the bare outlines of the story on the page.

Later in this week's portion we read that if a small dead animal, a mouse or a lizard, falls into an earthen pot, that pot becomes tamei -- which is usually translated as "ritually impure," though I understand it as meaning "electrified." We vibrate at a different frequency for a while as a result of contact with blood or with the body of a creature which has died, contact with tangible life or death.

The way to make the pot pure again is to break it and glue its pieces back together. Here's what I take away from that: contact with death can change us, but through our brokenness we can find a new kind of wholeness. In fact, in order to stay tahor, to stay pure, we need to break sometimes and then be repaired. Everybody breaks. This is the path to wholeness: not despite breaking, but through it.

The death of a child is an almost unthinkable horror. I pray that the trauma in each of our lives will be less than that. But there is no life without some sorrow. Maybe the answer is to try not to fight the brokenness, but to allow it to happen, and to cultivate trust that when we are put back together again we will be able to access the purity of heart and soul which our liturgy teaches belongs to each of us.

I don't mean to suggest that our breaking is "good," or that tragedy and trauma are "worth it" because we grow thereby. I couldn't say that to Aaron and Elisheva, and I can't say it to you. But I do think that breaking and healing are quintessential human experiences -- and I pray that for every shattering, there can be tikkun, there can be healing. For me, that is the sod (the secret meaning) of the juxtaposition of these two texts: one shows us trauma, and another shows us a path toward repair.

Our tradition holds that a person who has made mistakes and then made teshuvah -- has repented and re/turned themselves in the right direction again -- is closer to God than one who has never sinned. Maybe a person who has experienced some brokenness and then been mended is more whole than one who has never been broken. This is the journey of being human. We grieve, and then we heal.

In the Japanese art of kintsugi, "golden joinery," pottery is broken and then glued back together with powdered gold. The seams aren't disguised; they're magnified, made to sparkle. The beauty is found not despite the patched places, but in them.What would it feel like to stop trying to hide our brokenness, and instead to illuminate our beauty -- not despite our scars, but in them; not despite our sorrows, but through them; not despite our seams, but celebrating our own patchwork hearts?

 

 

 


Day 14 of the Omer


DAY 14: FORTNIGHT


Two weeks out of Egypt, were our ancestors
footsore? First, the jubilation of skipping town
without even a sourdough starter --
then sandal-blisters, manna, and fear.
We don't know where this invisible God
will take us. We don't know how long
the walk will be, how safe the passage.
We don't know who we're becoming.
Then again, neither does God -- options
are infinite. Can we trust our guides
to find us water in the desert, wisdom
from the living well? The pillar of cloud lifts.
Strike camp. Take heart. Trust the unseen.
You're already different from when you began.

 


Today is the fourteenth day of the Omer, making two weeks of the Omer. We have traveled 14 days in our 49-day journey from Pesach to Shavuot, liberation to revelation.

When I thought of the number fourteen, I immediately thought of the sonnet, that classic 14-line form. This is an untraditional sonnet; it has neither rhyme nor meter, though I hope that some of the internal assonance will make up for that.

My favorite translation of the name God gives to Moshe -- Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh -- is "I am becoming Who I am becoming." God is always-becoming, and so are we.


Day 13 of the Omer


DAY 13: GENERATION


Of all the outbuildings
the loneliest is the workshop.

The round stone barn remains
sweet with hay, the meetinghouse

patiently awaits the next meeting
but the woodworking tools

miss the touch of weathered hands.
They're still bound in concert,

leather straps and belts, but
no one lifts the floodgate

to send meltwater churning through.
Sometimes I envy a life

of constant trembling before God.
That's not a non sequitur:

hands to work and hearts to God
was the intention

with which they shaped oval baskets
from gently bent wood,

gathered eggs, milked the cows
painted their buildings bright.

They believed redemption was at hand.
When we walk daily through the Sea of Reeds

when we love each other wholly
do we glimpse their rapture

feel echoes of their trembling
in our own pounding hearts?

 


 

Today is the thirteenth day of the Omer, making one week and five days of the Omer. This is the 13th day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, liberation and revelation.

In the kabbalistic paradigm, today is the day of yesod she'b'gevurah, foundation or generation within boundaried strength. I found myself thinking about generations, and about generation of power, and that reminded me of the laundry/machine shop at Hancock Shaker Village.

The penultimate verse hints at a Shaker hymn which I learned from Rabbi David Ingber of Romemu and which I sometimes use at my shul. It's called More Love.


Day 12 of the Omer



DAY 12: MEDITATE ON THEM


Run your fingers along red leather spines
embossed in gold. Read their titles like Braille.

Cradle the mantled scroll in your arms
like a sleeping child, more precious

than gold. Weigh the silver breastplate
in your hands, engraved pomegranates rattling.

The cherry-wood reading pointer fits
in your palm like a custom-made wand.

Even the words are beautiful, curve
and slash of calligraphy adorned with crowns.

Now remember all of this treasure pales
beside the real Torah: not the scroll, not

even the rounded runcibles of Rashi script
but the broadcast which flows from the source.

Deliberately tune your dials to God's station.
Delight in that. Taste the parchment's honey.

Read the Torah of the geese overhead.
Waltz with the Torah in every step.

 


 

Today is the 12th day of the Omer, which makes one week and five days of the Omer. Today is the 12th day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, between liberation and revelation.

According to one Mussar teaching which maps the days of the Omer to the qualities named in Pirkei Avot, today is the day for focusing on Deliberation, which they name in Hebrew as yishuv hamikra. That webpage links this day with Psalm 1 verse 2, אִם בְּתוֹרַת יְיָ, חֶפְצוֹ;    וּבְתוֹרָתוֹ יֶהְגֶּה, יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה -- "That one's delight is in the Torah of Adonai, and that person meditates on it day and night."

"Torah," of course, can mean much more than just the Five Books of Moses. That's the idea which gave rise to this poem.