Monthly Archives: April 2012

Day 24 of the Omer

24
Tiferet b’netzach
Balance / Harmony / Compassion within Endurance

Tonight (Monday night) at sundown begins the day of balance, of harmony, and of compassion within the week of endurance.

This is the week to ask ourselves: when I think of the work of my hands and heart, what do I hope will endure? What endures in me? Do I have the endurance to take a task from fruition to completion — and how can I do so in a balanced and compassionate way?

This is the week to ask ourselves: how can I overcome the obstacles I perceive in my path? (Is there a way around them? If I reframe the path, do the obstacles disappear — or do I need to just climb over them and keep going?) Am I persistent enough when it comes to the things which matter — and do I approach those things in a spirit of harmony?

And — the shadow side of netzach — where am I too obstinate, too willing to sacrifice things which matter on the altar of my persistence? Where might endurance turn to stubornness in a way which doesn’t serve me and doesn’t serve God? How can I make my endurance more harmonious with the world around me?

This is the 24th step toward revelation, toward Shavuot, toward Sinai.


As I count the Omer, let my counting create a tikkun, a healing, between transcendence and immanence, God far above and God deep within.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הַעולָם, אָשֶר קִדשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ אַל סְפִירַת הַעמֶר.

Baruch atah, Adonai, eloheinu ruach ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, breath of life, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

This is twenty-four days, which are three weeks and three days, of the Omer!

Day 23 of the Omer

23
Gevurah b’netzach
Boundaried strength within Endurance

Tonight (Sunday night) at sundown begins the day of gevurah, boundaried strength, within netzah, endurance.

Netzach is also sometimes translated as victory, sometimes as eternity, sometimes as fortitude. The power to overcome obstacles — especially obstacles which stand in the way of one’s desire to bestow goodness on the world — is netzach. Netzach is the long slog of the marathon; it is persistence and focus. And today is the day for the strength, the determination, and the good boundaries which enable us to pursue things with endurance.

Today we ask: how do I bring my strength, my fortitude, and my good boundaries to the work of building things which will endure when I am gone? What am I building in my life which I hope will endure, and how can I build those things — institutions, relationships, art, love — in a way which is strong?

This is the 23rd step toward Shavuot, toward Sinai, toward revelation.


As I count the Omer, let my counting create a tikkun, a healing, between transcendence and immanence, God far above and God deep within.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הַעולָם, אָשֶר קִדשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ אַל סְפִירַת הַעמֶר.

Baruch atah, Adonai, eloheinu ruach ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, breath of life, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is twenty-three days, which are three weeks and three days of the Omer.

Announcing the upcoming Rumi Shabbat service at Congregation Beth Israel

On Saturday, May 5, at 9:30am, Congregation Beth Israel will celebrate Shabbat with a unique service in which each of the poems of the traditional liturgy is paired with a poem by Sufi mystic poet Rumi.

“For many of us today,” says Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, “the poetry of our Hebrew liturgy may be inaccessible or obscure. The poetry of Rumi, especially in Coleman Barks’ beautiful translations, is wildly popular in America today. This is a chance to see our prayers in a new light, through the lenses of Rumi poems which speak to the same themes as our classical prayers.”

The service will run from 9:30-11am, as usual; at 11am the community will enjoy a kiddush (the blessing of wine/juice and bread, and a bit of snacking and conversation time) followed by text study.

“This week,” Rabbi Barenblat says, “we’ll probably spend our text study time discussing the service we will have just experienced. People may want to talk about the Rumi poems, or about the poetry of the Hebrew liturgy, or both.”

For this Rumi Shabbat service, the community will pray using a booklet of prayers collected by Rabbi Barenblat, inspired by her colleague Rabbi Ed Stafman of Bozeman, Montana, a fellow musmach (ordinand) of ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal. “Rabbi Ed led a Rumi morning service this winter at Ohalah, the annual conference of Jewish Renewal clergy,” explains Rabbi Barenblat. “As soon as I experienced that, I knew I wanted to bring it home to CBI.”

Congregation Beth Israel, Northern Berkshire county’s only synagogue, was founded in 1893 and today is affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism. 53 Lois Street, North Adams 01247.

Day 22 of the Omer

22
Chesed b’netzach
Lovingkindness within Endurance

Week four of the Omer is the week of Netzach, endurance. Maybe it’s no coincidence that this week comes in the middle of the seven-week journey. If this spiritual trek were a sprint, we’d be finished by now. But moving mindfully from freedom to covenant, from Pesach to Shavuot, requires endurance.

Tonight (Saturday night) at sundown begins the day of chesed, lovingkindness, within the week of endurance.

On this day you might ask yourself: how can I bring lovingkindness to the hard work of trying to “keep on keeping on”? How can I ensure that when I work toward the things I want to last forever, I do so with kindness and love?


As I count the Omer, let my counting create a tikkun, a healing, between transcendence and immanence, God far above and God deep within.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הַעולָם, אָשֶר קִדשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ אַל סְפִירַת הַעמֶר.

Baruch atah, Adonai, eloheinu ruach ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, breath of life, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is twenty-two days, which are three weeks and one day, of the Omer!

Day 21 of the Omer

21
Malkhut b’Tiferet
Sovereignty within Harmony / Balance / Compassion

Tonight at sundown begins the day of sovereignty within harmony and compassion.

Malkhut can also be translated as “nobility.” How do you strive to be noble and regal in your compassion for others and for yourself?

The sefirah of malkhut is connected with Shekhinah, the immanent, indwelling Presence of God Who is manifest in creation. How can we make God manifest in creation through our harmony with one another, through our compassion for one another?


As I count the Omer, let my counting create a tikkun, a healing, between transcendence and immanence, God far above and God deep within.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הַעולָם, אָשֶר קִדשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ אַל סְפִירַת הַעמֶר.

Baruch atah, Adonai, eloheinu ruach ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, breath of life, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is twenty-one days, which are three weeks of the Omer!

How to help R’ Weiner and his family after the fire

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

As you may have read in this morning’s Berkshire Eagle, there was a devastating fire last evening at the family home of Rabbi David Weiner, who serves Knesset Israel in Pittsfield. Thankfully the Weiner family is okay; they are currently staying with a KI congregant.

KI is in the process of setting up an emergency fund for donations to help the Weiner family replace the many necessary items they need while they put their life back together.

Anyone who wishes may make a donation by going to knessetisrael.org or by sending a check to Congregation Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Road, Pittsfield, MA 01201 (please write “Emergency Fund” on the envelope and in the check memo.)

You can also check the KI website beginning next week for a list of donated items to replace items lost in the fire.

I’m grateful that Rabbi Weiner, his wife Judith, and their three children are okay — but my heart aches for them as they prepare to rebuild their home and their life, having lost so many items to fire, smoke, and water damage. If you are able to make a donation, either of money or of physical objects (especially once their list of needed items is online next week), I know it would be much appreciated.

Our sages teach that there is extra merit in giving tzedakah before Shabbat. Both because in the traditional paradigm one doesn’t carry money on Shabbat (and so one can’t give money on the day itself), and because giving a free offering of our hearts is a way of opening ourselves to receive the influx of blessing which Shabbat can provide. Please keep the Weiners in mind this Shabbat, and in days to come.

Take care and Shabbat shalom,

Reb Rachel

Day 20 of the Omer

20
Yesod b’Tiferet
Foundation within Compassion / Balance / Harmony

Tonight at sundown begins the day of yesod, foundation, within the week of tiferet, harmony and balance.

Today you might ask yourself: what are the foundations of my compassion? How do I keep my compassionate self rooted and strong? How can I make sure that whatever I build on my spiritual and emotional foundations is balanced and harmonious?

Rabbi Min Kantrowitz, in her guide to Counting the Omer, notes that

We sometimes use the expression “to be centered” as a way to express feeling positive, clear, and calm. The goal for today is to concentrate on that internal stability. Yesod she’b’Tiferet reminds us of the force of gravity, so perfectly adjusted that it keeps us connected to the surface of the planet, and yet allows us to skip, jump, and leap…Yesod she’b’Tiferet implies the kind of foundation strength required for balance.


As I count the Omer, let my counting create a tikkun, a healing, between transcendence and immanence, God far above and God deep within.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הַעולָם, אָשֶר קִדשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ אַל סְפִירַת הַעמֶר.

Baruch atah, Adonai, eloheinu ruach ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sfirat ha-omer.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, breath of life, who makes us holy with mitzvot and gives us this opportunity to count the Omer.

Today is twenty days, which are two weeks and six days, of the Omer!