From Where I Sit….

OK, Pesah has passed and Shavuot is a few weeks away.  The 49 days in between are called the Omer and it is an ancient Jewish custom to count the Omer, the days until Shavuot.  Originally it was an agricultural activity.  Later it became a time of mystic wonder.

Even within the deepest mystic moment there are simple yet deep lessons to be learned and shared and passed on.  Each day of the 49 has stories and lessons to share.  You have lessons and stories to share.

Here is an example of the process.  It is fun and fulfilling.  So, here is a hope that you will be counted among the counters who count with their encounters the deep counting of the Omer.

In our counting of the Omer we climb within the seven lower Sefirot, counting all of the seven within each of the seven Sefirot.  I know this sounds confusing.  It might become more clear if I share an example as we look at the first week of the Omer, that began on the second night of Pesah.

This week comes under the heading of Hesed.   For me Hesed means unconditional love, compassion. Therefore every counting for the week must be enveloped in love.

For each day of this week of Hesed we match one of the Seven Sefirot with Hesed.

  • The first day is Hesed of Hesed
  • The second is Gevurah of Hesed
  • Third is Tiferet of Hesed
  • Fourth is Netzah of Hesed
  • Fifth is Hod of Hesed
  • Sixth is Yesod  of Hesed
  • Seventh is Malchut of Hesed

I was sitting with Joan, a friend of mine, and we were playing with the Sefirot for this first week and I began telling stories.  Joan reacted and remarked on the stories and slowly they began to become signal markers for the combo-Sefirot of each day. I want to thank her for her encouragement and good cheer in putting up with my process.

I start with the memory of my grandparents. Their very being describes the first day, Hesed of  Hesed.  Their door and their hearts were always open to any in need.  They embodied Hesed of Hesed in their total devotion to others.  Their quiet love in which tempers never flared and compassion was the quiet byword is the essence of Hesed of Hesed.

And so for Hesed of Hesed I offer my sweet memories of my grandparents.

The second day of counting is Gevurah of Hesed.  Gevurah is all about judgment, power, discipline.  How does that gibe with Hesed.  Well, I’ll tell you.  When my son was younger and living with us, he had chores to do.  Now, I love my son very much.  I love him unconditionally and that is Hesed.  But there was a time when he forgot to take out the garbage.  He forgot several weeks in a row.  He was in need of some Gevurah. He was in need of some Gevurah loving.  So one day when he forgot to take the garbage cans to the curb, I went down and took the garbage cans and put them in his room.  We all had a good laugh but it was a good memory peg for him and the garbage got taken out.

For Gevurah of Hesed I give you garbage pails.

The third night is a night of balance, Tiferet of Hesed.  Tiferet is the balance between Gevurah and Hesed.  But if we look at the scales as perfectly balanced in Tiferet, then putting that inside of Hesed will tip the scales a little in the direction of compassion and unconditional love.  This is the spirit work that is done by my belovedest.  She works with people who have physical and spiritual challenges and longings.  I watch her lovingly guide old friends and new to open channels of love and spiritual awareness.  Her guidance comes from the balanced space of Tiferet with a distinct leaning toward Hesed.

For Tiferet of Hesed I look to my belovedest.

Netzah of Hesed is the fourth night.  Traditionally Netzah is translated as ‘Victory.’  But, for me has to do with action, loving action.  I think back to my grandparents again.  During the depression, when some homeless traveled the rails, they were called Hobos.  When a hobo would come to a city and ask for Tzedakah he would mark a house that fulfilled that Mitzvah.  He would put a little unnoticed symbol on the doorpost of the house or gate.  Whenever they came to my grandparents home, my grandparents were generous.  But when they would leave, my grandmother would find and erase the mark.  Then, when she was not looking, my grandfather would sneak out and put it back on the doorpost of his house.

For Netzah of Hesed I offer you my grandfather’s replaced easy mark.

On the fifth night we speak of Hod of Hesed.  Traditionally translated as ‘Glory,’ I am more comfortable with Hod referring to ‘being’ as opposed to ‘doing.’  What comes to mind is a simple moment that means much to me.  I call it a ‘Cuggle.’  It is sort of a mixture of a hug and a cuddle.  It is a hugging cuddle or a cuddling hug.  As I grow older, this simple gesture means a great deal to me.  I am not a hugger by nature.  I prefer shaking hands, tipping my hat, or even a formal bow.  Yet with my wife and children a ‘Cuggle’ means so much to me.  It reminds me of ‘cuggles’ long missed from my father (zt’l).  When I have a chance to visit my mom I look forward to her cuggles.  Even though there is some action involved, for me, the cuggle symbolizes the ‘being’ of love.

And so for Hod of Hesed, I proffer to you the ‘cuggle.’

Next, on the sixth night is Yesod of Hesed.  Yesod is that balance between doing and being.  Yesod of Hesed is a perfect balance between doing and being in love.  Think about it, doing the being in love.  Sometimes my belovedest goes on a trip to see our grandson or to help where and when she is called.  I take her to the airport and watch her head into the terminal.  There is that one last moment before she disappears from sight.  In that moment she turns her head and we smile and I feel a melancholy moment.  What she is doing is what she is meant to do, but I will miss her for those few days and we smile in silence.

And in that moment I feel the Yesod of Hesed

On the seventh day we count Malchut of Hesed.  Malchut is the entryway to the real world of Assiyah, the world of our daily active lives.  Bringing Hesed into our daily life is something very powerful in this world looking for love in all the wrong places.  My best friend, my mentor, my Rebbe and I spend time together every week.  Sometimes we take road trips, sometimes we study together and sometimes we just chat.  One time when we were in Denver we saw a couple who had clearly fallen on hard times.  They had dirty back packs overflowing with all the treasures of their world and they walked and limped along the sidewalk and we were driving near them.  My Rebbe turned the wheel and we came to a halt a few feet in front of them.  He gave me some money and nodded in their direction.  I surreptitiously added a little of my own money and handed it to them.  They had not been asking for Tzedakah and they never knew the great man from whom the Tzedakah stemmed but it came from him and it came to them and it came through the realm of Malchut  B’ Hesed.

For the last day of the first week of the counting of the Omer I commend to you the unrequested Tzedakah of my Rebbe.

That is the first week and those are my stories.  They are mine and I share them with you in Hesed.  You have your own stories.  Stories are very important and need to be told and retold.  Maybe for the counting of the Omer we should all activate our stories.

Tuesday night begins the cycle again, this time with Gevurah.  It begins with  Hesed of Gevurah, then Gevurah of Gevurah etc.

What are your stories?