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Friday, April 10, 2015

Of Jack Black, Shavuot, and a Jewish Grandmother
April 10, 2015

Below you will find a very long URL leading to a conversation between musician/actor Jack Black and talk show host Conan O'Brien. The snippet was gleaned from a broadcast earlier this week.
Although he professes to be an atheist, Jack Black and his wife were recently looking to enroll their 5-year-old in a Hebrew school for Kindergarten (yes, they are Jewish). In attempting to make a good impression during the interview, he played up their commitment to Jewish practice in the home, speaking of using his grandfather's Haggadah for their seder, and singing a snippet of Chad Gadya.  Mr. Black spoke of feeling the judging eyes of other parents waiting to enroll their children in the Hebrew school. Mr. Black is a highly talented comedian, and the incident is presented in an amusing manner, yet it certainly might be offensive to some. I suggest suspending judgment.
In reflecting on the story, I see the possibility of spiritual transformation for Mr. Black and his family, as well as for all of us who fall into the habit not living our Judaism from the heart.
Next month comes the holiday of Shavuot when we read the well-known line from Exodus 24:7, "na'aseh v'nishma", "We will do and we will learn". The traditional interpretation suggests that doing comes first, followed by an understanding of the value and meaning of the practice, followed by a spiritual integration.
I was recently told a moving story by a Jewish grandmother who had not practiced Judaism in her adult life nor passed the practice on the her children. Her 12-year-old granddaughter had become interested in Judaism during an out-of-state cousin's bat mitzah. The granddaughter, on her own, found a synagogue and asked her mother and grandmother to attend with her as she studied for her own bat mitzvah. They did, for her sake, but in the process found themselves being spiritually moved and opened by their attendance at services. The granddaughter had her bat mitzvah, the mother has learned to read Torah, and the grandmother is involved in a women's spirituality group.
Watch out Mr. Black! You, too, may be transformed.;_ylt=A0LEVvq6zidV8H0ATzonnIlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTB0b2ZrZmU3BHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkA1lIUzAwMl8x?p=jack+black+conan&tnr=21&vid=C189348918DCCF9CC5EFC189348918DCCF9CC5EF&l=156&

Monday, April 6, 2015

Counting the Omer - Week 1 - Compassion

Welcome to a new blog posting! The blog will focus on spiritual health and well-being through a variety of teachings and practices. While my personal spiritual path centers on Judaism, I also integrate wisdom from a variety of other traditions, so you are warmly welcomed, whatever your perspective.
"Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12.
After sunset this past Saturday, April 4, began the 49 days of counting the omer, a practice with a long history in Judaism. In one sense, it refers to counting the days until the barley harvest, omer being the traditional measure used for the grain. The 49 days comprise the time period between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot. This practice is referenced in the Torah at Leviticus 23:15-16, with regard to the timing of sacrifices.
Now, I don't have even a single stalk of barley growing in my little backyard veggie garden. While I enjoy eating barley, harvesting barley is of no significance in my life, and most likely not in yours. And offering sacrifices of grain and animals has long been eliminated as a practice within Judaism.
So why count the omer? Because it can provide a deep and meaningful opportunity for spiritual growth and reflection. Here's how . . .
Below you will find a chart of what is known to Jewish mystics (Kabbalists) as the Sefirot. These are attributes of God, as well a pattern for our lives. Energy flows amongst the Sefirot, in pattern reminiscent of the Chakras, as taught within Hinduism. 
The top three Sefirot - Keter, Hokhmah, and Binah represent a reality inaccessible to us living in this world. Therefore, we focus on the bottom seven sefirot, one for each of the seven weeks of the omer. Week 1 focuses on Chesed, or lovingkindness.
This brings to mind the verse from Psalm 90 quoted above. "Teach us to number our days." During this first week of the omer, I will be focusing on walking in full awareness of all the opportunities for love and compassion which come my way. I plan to make every day count!
If you would like to join me in counting the omer, here's the blessing to recite each day:
Baruch atah Adnonai, elohaynu melech ha'olam, asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav, v'tzivanu al sefirat ha'omer.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, ruler of the universe, You make us holy through Your commandments, commanding us to count the omer.
Then the day is stated: "Today is the first day of the omer." After the first six days, the day and week are both stated: "Today is the ___day of omer, which is ____ week(s) and ____day(s)."
I like to count the omer at bedtime, light a candle and spending a few moments in contemplation on the day past, expressing gratitude for all that God has brought my way.

Your comments are welcomed. More to come . . .