Balanced Caring

The third day of the week focuses on the idea of tiferet - the harmony that comes when all things are balanced. Harmony in the area of loving-kindness - an important and occasionally subtle idea.

Devoting ourselves to caring for one another can drain our resources for self-care. When we work in a caring field - and probably every job today has an aspect of caring for one another - we can over-extend at the expense of other areas as well.

To find harmony as we care and devote ourselves to kindness is to understand that there is such a thing as too much. Giving until it hurts is not a solution.

Give, take stock, and take care, so that we can continue to be kind and loving another day.

Counting and Caring

Today is the First Day of the Omer, a Jewish period of counting and reflecting that connects the liberation of Passover to the receiving of the Covenant at Mount Sinai on Shavuot.

Each of the days of the seven weeks of the Counting have been given a theme by Jewish mystics. The first week and first day are both devoted to the idea of chesed in Hebrew, or loving-kindness, in English.

Just what is loving-kindness?

In the culture of the Jewish Bible, a colleague of mine, Rabbi Amy Scheinerman, pointed out that "love" can be better understood to be devotional loyalty - as in "You must love God" and describing that love by talking about upholding the Covenant between the Universe and the Jewish People.

So we can talk about chesed as noticing what the world and the people around us need most, and offering it with care and devotion, and with no expectation of compensation.

Let us all find a moment to realize the great caring accomplished for our souls, our friends and family, and our larger communities, when we give out of compassion and devotion.

Rosh HaShanah this week, thinking all the time.

27 Elul

Daily we should take account and ask: what have I done today to alleviate the anguish, to mitigate the evil, to prevent humiliation? Let there be a grain of profit in every human being! Our concern must be expressed not symbolically, but literally; not only publicly, but privately; not only occasionally, but regularly. What we need is the involvement of every one of us as individuals. What we need is restlessness, a constant awareness of the monstrosity of injustice.

Written by Abraham Joshua Heschel,
included in Rosh Hashanah Readings edited by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins
Posted today by Rabbi Karyn Kedar

Day 43 of the Omer - kind actions

Chesed in Malchut - kindness and mercy in the dwelling presence of the universe.

We want to act, to make a difference. Let us find compassion for our acting - when we act not as well as we would like we can opt to forgive. When we do not act at all let us avoid blame and doubt.

Be kind and then do with kindness.

The last week of the Omer has begun!

Day 39 of the Omer - aim for the future

Netzach in Yesod - the persistent victory of the self in a balanced foundation.

Eternity gets crafted out of well thought out actions that form a solid base.

As we get ready to act, to put our thoughts into reality, we keep in mind the long term even as we focus on forming something simple, balanced, and basic.

In every part of the foundation we place our hopes and plans for the distant future.

Let us build for the long term - why waste the effort on anything else?

The counting is nearing its conclusion!

Day 37 of the Omer - Rigor towards balance

Gevurah in Yesod - rigor and strength in solid balanced foundations.

While a foundation stands as a symbol of strength the idea of Gevurah as the application of discipline may inform us when we aim for creating foundations the fulfill their purposes.

To use rigor to help create balance requires care.

Still catching up - this applied to the Omer for Wednesday through Thursday.

Day 36 of the Omer - See kindly then build

Chesed in Yesod - loving kindness in foundation.

Before undertaking something from the bottom up, building solidly, we must see it through compassionate eyes.

A foundation stands well when started with the needs of others and the world in mind.

This is from Tuesday-Wednesday's Omer Count, catching up!

Day 30 of the Omer - Discipline and humility

Gevurah in Hod - power and rigor in humility and smallness.

These seem tough to combine at first. Humility, even losing our selves in our powerlessness, may be a crutch. We need to exercise restraint.

Gevurah represents powerful restraint - a mindfulness of enough being enough since we aim to be mindful of moderation in all things, even in those we identify as virtues.

An excess of smallness may increase our sense of personal virtue, and may limit our abilities to take action.

Even our counting should be moderate!

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Day 27 of the Omer - Feel towards the future

Yesod in Netzach - a firm and balanced foundation in the persistent perpetuity of the self.

Finding a path into the future for ourselves requires more than a sense of values and a good plan, we must also feel out stable footholds on firm pathways.

We aim to integrate our different senses and easily swayed emotions into stable foundations. I often find this kind of stability through thoughtful pauses that allow me to identify an emotional response and think through how best to react once I've taken a moment to breathe and reflect.

May all our projects include peaceful moments to think and feel our way ahead.

Blessings as we close out the week of Netzach tomorrow.

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Day 26 of the Omer - Dependence in Importance

Hod in Netzach - quantum smallness and awe in eternal perpetuation of the self.

These ends of the spectrum - humility and ego - depend on each other. All sound thinking, feeling, and acting, relies on balanced and appropriate use of self, sometimes less, sometimes more, and fine tuning that adjustment and its other dimensions takes attention.

To find the smallness necessary for a long term projection of our selves recognizes our interdependence, even as we assert our selves.

We are dependent AND we are important. Recognizing these as co-existing enables us to do better.

Counting continues tonight - blessings to all!

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Day 23 of the Omer - strength for the long haul

Gevurah in Netzach - rigorous strength in the long-term self.

Only by applying ourselves strategically can that strength last far into the future.

Starting with the long view we may also take into account how much discipline we might need, and work on apportioning it appropriately.

Looking far down the road let's keep in mind the strength it takes to go the distance.

Wishing you good counting on Day 23!

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Day 21 of the Omer - Counting is different today

Malchut in Tiferet - the active presence of meaning realized in balanced beauty.

On this day, conceiving of balanced beauty escapes me.

I am stuck in the world of action and tragedy. Tonight, this ex-pat recovering New Yorker is a Bostonian. My heart is broken and all of its pieces are at the finish line.

May all of have lost loved ones be comforted among the mourners of Zion.

May there be healing for all those harmed, and may it come soon.

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Day 20 of the Omer - Foundation in Balance

Yesod in Tiferet - solid foundation in balanced beauty.

A day focused on the centers of balance - Tiferet a harmonization of higher thoughts and emotions, and Yesod a balance between more concrete actions and feelings - these are two foci in the Kabbalistic tree.

To find that concrete foundation within abstract balance requires great inspiration, great patience, or both!

On this 20th day of the Omer let us notice these fine points of intersection when we witness them, or when we participate in their creation. So noticing, we might be able to incorporate their harmonies ourselves, or even use them as a model for our own projects and practices.

A balanced Monday to all!

Day 19 of the Omer - Awe leads to balance

Hod in Tiferet - the grace of smallness in balanced beauty.

Humility and grace remind us of the importance of every detail in anything balanced. A beautiful image may be as much about composition, the broad strokes, as it is about every pixel being smoothed to perfection - small details make a big difference.

In a world filled with seekers of credit, we can find great satisfaction in making a contribution that gets taught by others. We can stand in awe and gratitude for merely being present to witness a beautiful moment.

Our own awe leads us to find more balance.

May every day of the Omer allow us to count small moments of harmony.

Day 17 of the Omer - balance and beauty

Tiferet in Tiferet - balanced beauty and harmonized resolution in itself.

Starting out on a project means from the very beginning holding the balanced whole in mind.

We often begin with fanciful notions and attachments to the flights of fancy of our dreams. These inspirations can be embraced and encouraged even as we ground ourselves with other values.

Dream big, aim for beauty, and see the beauty as emerging from many sources woven together. Even an individual project embodies different important influences brought together to create a balanced whole.

Breathe inspiration in, think of beauty, and pursue it with balance.

Beautiful counting everyone!

Day 15 of the Omer - See Beauty

Chesed in Tiferet - loving kindness and mercy in the perfection of beauty and balance.

Perfection and balance are seldom seen as the outcomes of kindness - discipline and rigor definitely, mercy comes less to mind.

So let us find the forgiveness and ease in ourselves that allows us to see beauty. Perfection results from perception as well as devotion.

In our aim to achieve beauty, let us also open ourselves to finding it.

Find beauty in the Counting!

Day 4 of the Omer

Netzach in Chesed - victory of the self in compassion and kindness.

Netzach is often associated with a powerful sense of self, even to the exclusion of others so perhaps a challenging fit into to world of compassion and loving kindness.

Kindness towards others begins with understanding that we have something worth giving. We need to believe in or own self-worth in order to offer kindness, even to our selves.

So on this day let us remember to care for our selves as a start to offering each other compassion.

Shabbat Shalom, Happy Counting, and Happy Passover!

Spirituality starts with reasonable theology

At the core of my spiritual journey is a theology that is open enough to allow exploration and admit mystery, and reasonable enough to allow my brain to include it.

I am not too sure about the existence of the divine much less the nature of the infinite.

I am confident that there is mystery in the universe and that existence is a miraculous gift. I like to think they're connected and that may be my leap of faith.

The most amazing miracle around is the evolution of life and its diversity. That's worthy of crafting practices of appreciation.

Thanks to Rabbi Arthur Green for his theologies, especially Radical Judaism: