Loving Starts Within

On the Fourth Day of the Omer, as we think about netzach - the self at the center of things - in chesed - loving-kindness, I remember that I cannot give what I do not have.

Without caring about and for myself, I cannot offer caring to others.

Without loving something about myself, I cannot love others.

We begin with the self, and we must move on to love and care others from a foundation within.

Day Twenty-Eight of the Omer

Malchut in Netzach - ruling and being effective in eternity.

Long term effectiveness - how to put something in place that stands the test of time - I often worry so much I don't dip a toe into the water.

And shouldn't we worry? Someone once thought that eating fat made us fat, so eating low fat would make us skinny. And a person who sold sugar thought that was a great idea. Forty years later look at the experiment that has resulted in the American diet and our health.

We must be careful when we act with eternity in mind, and perhaps we should always act with eternity in mind. The long term effect of this action, and acting with a sense of the long term, these frameworks may be better starting points in any moment of decision and planning.

Act, be bold, and be thoughtful too!

Day Twenty-Seven of the Omer

Yesod in Netzach - a solid balanced foundation in the long view persistent.

Building something to last needs a solid beginning. We have been building to the moments that turn into lifetimes in this country when we make marriage possible for everyone.

I am so proud and honored to be part of multiple communities who put compassion and family first, and support and advocate for LGBT inclusion and same-sex marriage.

I am thrilled when I see an openly gay football player kiss his boyfriend in joy and celebration at being drafted into the NFL.

Take the time and effort to build something from the ground up so that it will become lasting. Aim for eternity, and start on the ground.

Day Twenty-Six of the Omer (Yesterday)

Hod in Netzach - the grace of the minute in eternal victory.

[A delayed reflection on Mother's Day]

Attention to details matters. Small things make a difference in the biggest of pictures.

Yesterday, according to Ginny, the mother of our children, I did pretty well at providing her a good Mother's Day. Everything was about the small things: providing tasty and celebratory food for the family throughout the day, and cleaning up the kitchen too. Giving Ginny time and space to enjoy the day, start and complete an art project, now hanging in our living room, and attending to the little things that Ginny thought would be good for us all.

Providing a good day works when it reflects our attempts to provide good days all the time. The little details count so much more when we work on them regularly.

Day Twenty-Five of the Omer

Netzach in Netzach - the everlasting in the long view.

On this day when I was so honored to celebrate Shabbat with the Teen Vocal Ensemble and the Teen Band of Temple Beth El, I am deeply touched by how easily our actions can ripple forward and backward in time.

One of the first students I met here, Caleb Seidler, gave a D'var Torah, a teaching of Torah, about the importance of caring for the earth. As I have been honored to be his teacher, so he as one of our youth assistant teachers has been an influential teacher of my son Jude.

Our actions, our stories, our attempts at wisdom, they strike the fabric of time and weave a tapestry so quickly beyond our own individual threads.

I am in awe of it all.

Day Twenty-Four of the Omer

Tiferet in Netzach - balanced harmony in eternity.

As the harmonization between rigor and compassion, I fully embrace the challenge of attempting to be a parent for the long term, and how much that beautiful balance must be a part of it.

To set a standard, enforce it, and then when broken, be compassionate to our children so that they can learn and grow from the experience. So that they will still turn to us and not fear us too much. So that they can engage with the world and its rules as adventurers and not be oppressed by the weight of it all.

This is a challenge!

Day Twenty-Three of the Omer

Gevurah in Netzach - power and rigor in the creation of the long term.

We can easily imagine how creating something that lasts will require strength. The question is how to best apply that strength?

Strength in the long view needs to be consistent and flexible - when we plan past the five-year plan we need to tap into a different understanding of rigor, since we must be able to sustain it.

Find the strength that feels like a sequoia when thinking about eternity.

Day Twenty-Two of the Omer

[Applies to yesterday, from Tuesday night through Wednesday, May 6 - 7 - sorry for the delay!]

Chesed in Netzach - kindness and compassion in the ego everlasting.

My spiritual path often leads me into pendulum swings between devotion to self-care and selflessness. This week of the Omer asks us to explore Netzach, the sense of the eternal as personal, the notion that, with a little bit of ego, we can see the world as created entirely for ourselves.

With that message in one pocket, Jewish sages also remind us to keep the idea that we are nothing but dust and ashes in the other.

So I want to approach my self with compassion. If the things I care about are going to last, I need to treat them - ideas, emotions, people, my very self internally and externally - with kindness. Being kind to ourselves does not mean being selfish, it means that we need to see the bigger picture of our needs, both immediate and in the long term.

Day Eighteen of the Omer

Netzach in Tiferet - eternity and victory, even ego, in balanced harmony.

I usually default to selflessness when thinking about achieving balance. Call it a corrective to the notion that I have been less caring about others in the past.

Still, self-care, self-protection, and even an appropriate degree of self-interest help balance any evaluation, when we want our part to be successful too.

Include reasonable self-concern when aiming for long term success.

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 32 of the Omer - In Every Atom the Universe

Netzach in Hod - eternal self-centered victory in the awe-inspiring perspective from the minuscule.

In the tiniest pixelated particles, the humblest of building blocks of the universe, lay the fundamentals to the mystery behind all existence.

The connections between the ends of the spectrum - ego and humility, grandeur and infinitesimal - run through every aspect of the universe and our innermost selves.

In every moment we may find the everlasting, and the grandest perspectives include an infinity of minutia.

Keeping it all in proportion is one goal of consciousness.

Catching up on reflections - enjoy!

Day 28 of the Omer - Knowing Now Planning Better

Malchut in Netzach - sovereignty, the rule of the present, in the persistent eternal victory.

Taking a "now" view when we plan long term - we work to appropriately assess the situation as it is, before we think strategically.

How many of our plans start with a ideas less than realistically connected to our current situation?

Taking moments or minutes, depending upon the scope of our hopes and projections, to reflect on where we are before deciding where we will go, connects our visions of the future to the present where we start.

Wishing everyone insight into the present so that we can count towards a better future.

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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 25 of the Omer - Shabbat at last

Netzach in Netzach - the long view from the self focused perspective in itself.

The simplest way to perpetuate life is through self-preservation. As this Shabbat evening continues the Boston crisis concludes with more life preserved, with great appreciation.

In these moments of relief may we focus on celebrating life and the miraculous ways by which it finds a way.

Wishing all meaningful days of counting to come and a Sabbath of true rest, peace, and even joy.

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Day 24 of the Omer - self in communal balance

Tiferet in Netzach - balanced harmony in the enduring single self.

Thinking of our single self at the close of a week when we confront again and again our communal needs to come together - not so easy.

To find the balance between our own needs and those of our community requires a sense of the ideal harmony we aim and strive for.

As this week closes we take a breath and try to find our own place in the balance between all things, all while working to raise our eyes to the image of a better future.

Breathing, counting, coping - all the best everyone.

Wounded witness becomes key in finding bombers.

Wounded witness becomes key in finding bombers.

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 22 of the Omer - Self through compassion

Chesed in Netzach - compassionate kindness in eternity of the self.

We can try to see the universe as centered on ourselves, we could be the pivot of all existence - this is the essence of Netzach, eternal victory.

Today, this week, it takes only a little sympathy and compassion to overwhelm all other sentiments as we grapple with tragedy in Boston.

So, Netzach will have to wait a little longer as we focus on coping and kindness. Or, we can see the greatest impact of our selves right now in the extension of care and support to those most in need at a trying time.

I contribute some of my self to Boston today.

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Day 18 of the Omer - Making Beauty Last

Netzach in Tiferet - the eternal self in balanced beauty.

Contributing something of our selves that lasts to a beautiful idea may only require us to make a small and careful effort.

Beautiful moments that endure, articulations that resonate, art that influences far beyond the artist - these require us to very carefully, and humbly, participate.

Have faith in the endurance of something well-thought out, and let our good efforts make their impact on their own. When we see ourselves as contributing to something larger, we can allow ourselves the satisfaction in taking part.

May each of our counted Omer contribute to our better wholes.

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!