Torah Scroll Love

I miss each and every Torah scroll I had the pleasure of Leyning Rolling Teaching from Carrying to each congregant to Touch Kiss Touch and kiss Over the course of a month Each month For years. My heart moves my eyes to Tear As I ponder the Torah scrolls Missing Its Humans Who Leyn Roll Teach from Carry them to congregants to Touch Kiss Touch and kiss Over the course of a month Each month For years. (c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2020

How to Properly Count Jews

There is much superstition about counting Jews, largely due to the Torah and the general beliefs of ancient peoples: that census taking was a dangerous proposition. In addition to being the lead to tax adjustments, it could also be a prelude to military conscription for a war. These negative consequences needed to be mitigated with a ransom or other donation to one’s deity. That is why in Sh’mot/Exodus 30:13-16 the Eternal instructs Moshe to collect “expiation money from the Israelites and assign it to the Tent of Meeting.” Everyone 20 years and older is to make a half shekel offering, rich and poor alike. B’mid’bar/Numbers is all about counting and who counts. The book is rife with strife and rebellion from the jealous husband who cannot make himself believe his faithful wife (5.11-31) to the righteous claim of the daughters of Tzelofekhad (26.1-27.11, 36.1-12) with violence in between. Any discussion of counting Jews is bound to be a fraught discussion, especially a counting that seeks to make a distinction without a difference and goes against Jewish teachings. Throughout the Torah and the Talmud there are lots of numbers. One of the most famous numbers is 600,000. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of studying with Rabbi Dena Weiss, Hadar’s Rosh Beit Midrash, and she introduced me to commentaries by Rabbi Me’or Einayim on Parashiyot Vayeitzei and Shelach. In the former, R. Einayim seeks to have us understand contradictions in Genesis 28. In verse 11, it says (Ya’akov) took from the stones of the place, while verse 17 says he took the stone. This is the Genesis narrative in which Ya’akov is running away and he comes a [certain] place and decides to sleep there. The rabbis imagine that Ya’akov took (12) the stones and placed them around his head and laid down to sleep. Rashi explains that the stones started arguing with one another to be the one upon which Ya’akov would rest his head. They ceased competing and decided to become one so that the “Tzaddik” (Ya’akov) will rest on all of them. R. Einayim says, "For, in truth, since Wisdom is drawn down from above, from the supernal source, the world of unity, and is extended to the world of separation from which emerge the roots of the souls of Israel… this is why there were twelve stones, because Wisdom is apportioned (separated out) to each tribe according to its root, as it is known that our Rabbis said that there were twelve stones corresponding to the tribes of Israel. But at their root they are one stone, as has been explained, and each one is drawn to the wisdom from the world of division." R. Einayim uses Rashi’s midrash to create a collective place in Judaism for all of us. In his commentary on Shelach, Rabbi explains that there are 600,000 letters in the Torah (yes, that’s almost double the actual number) and that these 600,000 letters correspond with the same number of Jewish soul-roots now split among the roughly 15 million Jews currently on the planet. He goes on to say that: “…every person of Israel has a letter in the Torah. And the Torah and the Holy Blessed One are one. And that part of God that is inside a person is literally that letter from which comes the root of (one’s) soul… if one letter from the Sefer Torah is missing it is not complete…” R. Einayim reminds us that this concept of unity caused the rabbis to say that anyone who destroys one soul from Israel is like one who destroys an entire world. The opposite is also true. One who sustains one soul from Israel, it is as if they have sustained an entire world. (Both of these concepts have been expanded to speak about all human life.) R. Einayim deepens this connection by referencing the morning liturgy in which we say toward the beginning of the service, “I hereby accept upon myself the positive mitzvah of ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself [Leviticus 19.18].’” He concludes, “Because everything is one complete Unity just as the Torah is only called the Torah when all of the letters are joined together,” so Judaism is incomplete if one of us is missing. I’m sure many of you recognize that 600,000 is the same number used to describe the eiruv rav – the mixed multitude of “men” who left Egypt. Some biblical commentators blame the “eiruv rav” for the complaining and disobedience that occur throughout the Torah. In other words, they categorize some percentage as not being Israelites and never fully becoming part of the kahal, the community. Though several commentators go down fascinating routes to make their point, there is no textual support for that interpretation. The Torah makes it quite clear that we were all at Sinai. Regardless of what or who we were before revelation, after revelation we were all the Eternal’s people. I deeply appreciate R. Einayim’s teaching that each and every one of us Jews is needed to have a vibrant Judaism. It’s not a matter of age. It’s not a matter of gender. It’s not about the color of one’s skin. It’s not about disability. It’s not about how learned we are. Others may want to place stumbling blocks in our paths or erect other barriers to contain Judaism. Yet, Judaism by its nature is not limited because the Eternal is infinite. By seeking to block, diminish, contain, or constrain another’s Torah, one is blocking, diminishing, containing, and constraining a part of themselves and the sparks of the Eternal. I was fascinated by Ira M. Sheskin and Arnold Dashersky’s excerpt from their chapter for the upcoming American Jewish Yearbook 2019, which they also edited. While it is not unusual to read an essay or an article in which the writers are completely blind to their biases, I could not believe that they were defending the very data that prompted the report, “Counting the Inconsistencies: An Analysis of American Jewish Population Studies with a Focus on Jews of Color” which stated that “at least 12-15%” of American Jews are Jews of Color and critiqued previous population studies for data collection that kept the JOC population at 6%. Sheskin and Dashersky claim that the data in the above report is faulty and creates an overcount. They conclude: "[T]he percentage of Jews of Color is almost certainly closer to 6% nationally than to ‘at least 12%–15%;’ and this percentage has not increased significantly since 1990, although it is likely to do so in the future. Thus, responsible planning by the American Jewish community demands recognition that not all Jews are of Eastern Europe and Ashkenazi origin; and future research on American Jews needs to be sensitive to discerning Jews of Color." Ari Y. Kelman’s critique of Sheskin and Dashersky explains why the data they reassert is not useful: "[I]nconsistencies are only the half of it; we could only find inconsistencies where there were questions about race and ethnicity. Further analysis revealed that only 41% of Jewish community studies (36 of 89) conducted since the year 2000 even included any questions about race and ethnicity in the first place (all of the studies, reports, survey instruments, and data are available on the Berman Jewish DataBank)." I cannot read into the hearts of Sheskin and Dashersky and why they felt the need to assert the dominance of Ashkenazim in American Judaism by means of numerically containing and minimizing Jews of Indigenous, African American, Chinese American, Ethiopian, Puerto Rican, Arab, Indian, Caribbean, Peruvian, African, Yemenite, Mizrahi, Sephardi, Persian, and Mixed Heritage. Some of us are Jews by Choice. Many of us have a long, unbroken lineage. We are the neighbors to be loved as you love yourself. (To learn about the origin of the term Jews of Color, click here.) We are not a newly invented inconvenience, for we have always been part of the Jewish people and there is no Judaism without us. We know who we are and that we belong. Furthermore, those who contest our belonging say much more about themselves than about our spiritual right to be safely welcomed into Jewish spaces, without hassle or harassment. This is especially important, now, as our Asian sisters and brothers are experiencing harassment by White America, because of our president’s insistence on calling COVID19 the “China Virus.” Our Black and African American brothers and sisters are in deep pain as more and more Black women and men are harassed and murdered by police. Latinx and Indigenous Jews receive the same unwanted police suspicion. Any one of us who “looks Muslim” can be harassed, if not murdered, for that resemblance. People of Color and all Jews are not safe by any measure in a White Supremacist system. Jews of Color especially need our spiritual communities to be a refuge from the madness of White Supremacy, including reviewing curricula for diversity of Jewish experiences and Jewish thought. As easily as anti-Semitism in the Jewish culture is discussed, so ought racism and White Supremacy be discussed, as well as the pain it causes all parts of our communities. There is no eliminating anti-Semitism without erasing all manifestations racism. White-skinned and White-identified Jews also need to examine their relationship to White Supremacy in particular and Whiteness broadly, including White privilege with a focus on how to use it to dismantle White Supremacy. It is good for all of us to understand the push by our White-skinned Jewish American ancestors for Jews to be seen as White. I invite you into this conversation realizing that it may be difficult. You do not have to do it alone. There are many reasons to know how many of us there are. So, if we want to count us Jews, we must do it with integrity to make sure we are counting each and every one of us as we are: a diverse and highly varied people who have many gifts for each other and the world. © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 49:

Malkhut shebeMalkhut Foundation, Establishment, Essential; the Cosmological and Mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the universe within Foundation, Establishment, Essential; the Cosmological and Mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the universe. Quality: Living and Leading with Radical Oneness As I conclude this year’s Omer Journey, I know I’m in deeper relation with my personal Torah and its intersection with the Torah that glues us together as a people. Both continue to grow in relevance within me and strengthen my sense of connectedness to Life. Both continue to reveal to me the means of being with Life on Life's terms. The dance of the seven sephirot Khesed, G’vurah, Tiferet, Netzakh, Hod, Y’sod, and Malkhut that focus us during the Counting of the Omer are around us all the time every day, many times of day. This is the dance I willing dance wherever Life finds me. These radical qualities are everywhere, including inside brokenness, suffering, pain, loss, death… As I see it, this is the essence of living and leading with Radical Oneness. The Divine One is without beginning and without end and the circle runs through me and around me to each and every one, and each and every thing! Tonight, begins the last day of Omer and we are finishing our preparations to receive Torah. How are you relating to your sense of self? How are you relating to your personal Torah? Whether you read one or all of these postings, what has your experience opened? Closed? Drawn closer? Pushed away? What is the Torah you anticipate; seek to open within you and in the world? Rest well! See you on the The Holy One's Mountain - Sinai! Khorev! Prepare your senses! Prepare your senses! Blessings,

Counting Omer 5780, Day 48

Y’sod ShebeMalkhut Foundation, establishment, setting the foundation, fundamental; foundation upon with The Divine One created the universe within Foundation, Establishment, Essential; the Cosmological and Mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the universe. Quality: Living and leading with expanding mindfulness and comfort with unknowing There are three primary domains of personal knowledge: what we know, what we know we don’t know, and what we don’t know that we don’t know. The last one includes all the knowledge that is known and we do not know. As each of the first two domains grow, so does the third. The more we know, the more we know we do not know, and the more we realize (paraphrasing a song sung by Louis Armstrong) there is more to learn than we can ever know. The universe of unknowing is beyond our grasp – much like the Blessed One, Blessed be the One! Yet, true knowledge is not about information. True knowledge, foundational knowledge, is based on our human experiences; the ones we personally have experienced and the ones we have witnessed or heard first-hand, and the stories, the meaning we make of these experiences. The meaning we create of these experiences is the knowledge that opens or closes our hearts, our minds, our hands, and our motivations. This is the Torah that lives and grows within us. It is our internal guidance system. As we gain more knowledge of the world, we gain insights that may counter our meanings, potentially expand or write-over our meanings. How do you value your Torah? Yes, YOUR Torah! Rabbi Dena Weiss, Beit Rosh of Hadar, teaches in the name of Rabbi Me’or Einayim that each of us has a piece of the Eternal within us that is represented by a letter in the Torah. Since the Torah and the Eternal are One, we are also one with both. As with a Torah scroll if any one letter is missing, the Torah is incomplete. And so it is with us and Judaism. If anyone of us is turned away from Judaism, then Judaism is incomplete. I, again, ask: How do you value your Torah? How do you mind it and mine it? What deciphering are you ready to live; share with others? Are you prepared for the next leg of your journey; to expand and deepen your Torah? To experience Life with eyes open, heart open, mindfulness, and ready to engage in a relationship of unknowing? Here’s the secret: we cannot be prepared AND we can only be ready. True security arises when we know that it can all be gone in an unexpected instant and live as if the next moment and the next day and the year plus matter, because it all does. When we live into the security of insecurity (Radical Freedom), we create room for the unexpected whether good and or less than pleasant. We know it is all part of Life. We trust the journey of living and leading with expanding mindfulness and comfort with unknowing. The consummation is two days away: how are you feeling about the transformation that will unfold? Excited? Terrified? Bored? Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 47

Hod ShebeMalkhut Exquisite Beauty, Splendor, Glory, Vigor, Magnificence, and Pomp within Foundation, Establishment, Essential; the Cosmological and Mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the universe. Quality: Living and Leading with Appreciation Take no one and no thing (intentional separation) for granted. Voice appreciation. It takes no extra time to say “thank you” to every one for every thing that is done to aid you on your way. If you know them, let them know they are appreciated every day. If they are an essential worker at your coffee or lunch or after workspace, notice them. Say hello by name and thank them. When appropriate, tip them well. If you are on the phone or at an establishment note the name of the person serving you. Treat them like a valued contribution to your life because they are. Thank them by name as they help you check out, check in, determine the status of an order, help you return a package, or they deliver packages to upi; hand you groceries, coffee or snacks, or copies; or solve or guide you to solving one or more problems… Take NO ONE for granted. Taking someone for granted depletes the giver and kills joy, incentive, and/or love. It also diminishes you. Do you notice what your beloved does for you on a regular basis? Do you still say thank you with deep appreciation every time? Meaning, as if your life depends on it? Because it does! What are you noticing about what it takes to run your household? What are you negotiating with your partner so that you can both be successful? If you are in a double unemployed household, how are you being present to each other and your own fears or anxieties? What are you doing to take care of each of you and the two of you? How are you handling your dissatisfaction these days? How are you handling your satisfaction these days? Are you sharing the burdens or demanding to be the center? Are you celebrating small victories and gratitude and blessing? How are handling your vulnerabilities? Are you hiding your stress, depression, anxieties behind a little more drinking, eating, exercising, sleeping… Kindnesses, such as thank yous, picking up or ordering favorite items, giving unsolicited compliments, notes of affection left where they will be found, and so much more are what fuel relationships. Additionally, giving makes us more available to the people for whom we care and ourselves – unless we are giving because we believe it’s our only values. Spoiler alert: it’s not your only value. Hint: It's not!! All of this is about being willing to be our true selves and continue to grow as we gain more life experience and knowledge. Living and leading with appreciation will transform your transactions with people near and far and it will transform you. So, what will it take for you to be the thoughtful caring being you seek to be?! That you are called to be? Tonight, we camp in the plateau at the base of the mountain. How are you readying yourself for revelation? Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 46

Netzakh ShebeMalkhut Eternity, Forever, Splendor, Perpetuity, Endurance, Long-Lasting, and Spiritual Victory within Shekhinah, Majesty, Sovereignty, Exaltedness, Humility; Union of Opposites; Holding Paradox. Quality: Living and Leading with Dignity and Esteem I have permission to share this story: A few years ago, a friend dated a man with whom she had a lot in common, including that they genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. It was a quick friendship that promised to develop into more, and she went with it. She was excited and happy. They had only been dating for a couple of months when he unexpectedly displayed a level of cruelty that stunned her. She had taken a break from their day to work on a few items, then spontaneously decided to take herself out for dinner and invite him to join her. He showed up later than expected. Still, she was happy to see him. Within minutes after he arrived, he got annoyed about something she did not understand and called her outside her name. When she repeated what he said to her, he tried to defend it. She told him to stop and ordered him to leave. As he left, he turned back and repeated the insult. A few days later, he apologized, and she accepted his apology. She was also clear that, for the sake of the people they had in common, she would be genuinely polite and civil, but he ought not to expect more from her. He also asked her forgiveness and she said no. Him: It’s Yom Kippur, you have to forgive! She: No, I do not. I hold no malice toward. However, you refuse to understand or take any responsibility for the impact of your behavior. So, I don’t forgive you. Several weeks later, he was surprised when she refused to have a casual meal with him. To his credit, he asked that she explain. She explained that his surprise confirms that he still had not been listening or taking her seriously. There was no reason for her to be more than polite until he was ready to listen. So, he listened without interruption – which was hard for him. It was hard for him to hear the full emotional impact of his cruelty. He confessed that he ‘had no idea’ the impact his actions had on her – despite her previous attempts to communicate the devastation. When I asked my friend, what allowed her not to get stuck in the trauma of what happened between them, she laughed. “After the incident, I was still in shock when a young girl (who was celebrating her birthday) at the next table asked me if I was okay. Instantly, I realized I was and laughed. I said yes, I was okay. My waiter showed up and said there were six people who wanted to buy me drinks; seven if I included him. Of course, I wanted to know why. He said he couldn’t speak for the others, but it was the first time he saw a woman standing up to a jerk; sending him away instead of leaving. ‘You were here, having a good time until he came and started calling you names. He’s an idiot!’ I was blown away. “All of that made it easy to remember my commitment to who I am, now; not the abused child or the abused bride or abused girlfriend of long ago. Not the neglected life partner or anything other than me, now. I cannot be committed to the story and its emotional horror; that perpetuates the old traumas. In focusing on what I needed in the moment I demanded that he leave instead of me leaving, because it was my dinner with me to which he was an ungrateful invited guest who, intentionally or not, tried to strip me of my dignity. My residual insecurities could have led me to believe what he said, but that didn’t occur to me. It didn’t even occur to me! I knew it was all about him, and my healing was about me. The next day, I mourned. In between contact with him, I was fine. Amazingly fine.” Once we realize that our insecurities are the lies we tell ourselves to keep us from being the person we want to be, we can live with them because we know they are not true. They are old insecurities speaking. We can put our hand on our heart and pat ourselves because we are now okay. The stronger our sense of connectedness to The Divine One, ourselves, our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers – Life, the stronger our antidote to those who want to take us down intentionally or unintentionally. In this way, we are owning our holiness. We are living and leading with dignity and esteem. We are overwhelmed and pulled by the Mountain. We move forward as a community. Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 43:

The Seventh Week of Counting Omer we examine our relationship to the nature of Malkhut (מלכות), the 10th Sephirah on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life; the one that sits with us and within us. Like some of the other Sephirah, Malkhut is an opportunity to hold the paradox Exaltedness AND Humility. Unlike other definitions of humility, Malkhut requires us to hold our sovereignty and the sovereignty of others. When we treat one another as the Priest, Priestess, and Kohanimot, we are being. We change ourselves and the world. Other meanings include: Shekhinah, majesty, sovereignty; union of opposites. Malkhut is also a state of being that is both constant and everchanging – the ultimate paradox, and the Source of our humanity. Khesed ShebeMalkhut Lovingkindness, Grace, Compassion, Benevolence, and Loyalty within Shekhinah, Majesty, Sovereignty, Exaltedness, Humility; Union of Opposites; Holding Paradox. Quality: Leading and living with lovingkindness and compassion How would your life transform if you practiced leading from any chair (no title or specific role required) and did so for the sake of something larger than yourself? How would that transform your relationships with your families? Communities? Partnerships? Board member participation (regardless of entity)? Civic, religious, or public participation? How would your life be transformed if you treated you with the love, lovingkindness, compassion, and patience you keeping waiting for others to give you?! Leading and living with lovingkindness and compassion Go ahead! Feel - as in acknowledge – the fear, anxiety, joy, wonder… that may be swirling around you as you read. We are not empty cups, though we may of moments of feeling depleted. That often happens when we give more than we ought to for the wrong reasons, or are so busy giving, we don’t take what is offered. Feel the grace, peace, gratitude, and holiness that being in relationship to you and what is important to you brings. Feel the anticipation of moving closer to the Holy Mountain and its promise of transformation! The Holy Mountain is on the horizon!! If you can put your hand out, you can pretend to touch it!! Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 42

Malkhut ShebeYesod Shekhinah, Majesty, Sovereignty, Exaltedness, Humility; Union of Opposites; Paradox within Foundation, Establishment, Elemental; the cosmological and mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One Created the Universe. Quality: The Holy Spark within you The Divine One, blessed be The One, is Holy and brought us out of Mitzrayim/Egypt to be our God and for us to be the Eternal’s holy people; Priests, Priestesses, and Kohanimot. The Holy One, blessed is The One, established God's Mish'kan/Santuary within us because the Eternal sought to see God's reflection within us so that God's soul would not reject us. Each of us is holy. The Divine expectation is that we are to: • Take care of ourselves so that we can tend to another, others, and creation. • Love ourselves compassionately so that we can love and be compassionate with our families of blood and choice, our neighbors, our co-workers, our communities, the circles of people who make our lives possible… with the generous and open heart with which we love ourselves. • Respect the holiness within us and cultivate our spiritual life so that we can tend to the holiness all around us and grow into the person the Eternal needs us to be in this world in this moment. We are not expected to be perfect because no one is perfect. Yet, we are expected to perform Tikkun Olam (Repair of the World). We can strive to be the best we can, especially in tough situations. We can nurture the holy spark within ourselves and another. We can extend courtesies without the expectation of reward. We can delight in, and express gratitude for, another’s courtesies toward us. We can appreciate the mirror another presents of a part of ourselves with which we are uncomfortable. This is an opportunity to heal. We can be with the varied ways that Life shows and use all we know to heal ourselves. When we cherish and honor the holy spark within us, we are illuminating hidden sparks and calling them into this world to aid healing, to bring wholeness. We are ordinary and extraordinary. We are the children of the Holy Blessed One, blessed be The One. We have now counted Six Weeks of Omer. Can you feel the mountain calling you? Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 41:

Yesod ShebeYesod Foundation, Establishment, Elemental; the cosmological and mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the Universe within Foundation, Establishment, Elemental; the cosmological and mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the Universe. Quality: Healing secrets Where within your foundation have you buried your deepest secrets? You’re shame(s)? What is the secret of another you hold and wish you didn't? Some of us must hold secrets for ethical reasons. Still, we can find ourselves tortured by what we know and whom we believe also needs to know. Yet, to violate the ethics of our profession hurts us and our profession. That being so, how can it help the person or persons "we believe" need to know?! There is no general answer to this conundrum. We must truly weigh all factors before choosing to act in accordance to the ethics we agreed to uphold. Regardless of your role within your secret, if you cannot forgive yourself, it may be difficult to raise it and to lay it on the Altar of Love of the Divine One for healing. You may need help to bring the secret into your view, your light; allowing your soul to own it so that you may experience grace and healing. Heal your secrets and heal families. Be assured, there are plenty of responsible people willing to accompany you on your journey. When you are ready and willing to look beyond the abyss of shame to see your true self in the mirror of Life, you’ll become more available to yourself and to all that matters to you. Most importantly, you will strengthen your foundation. You will experience new growth. You will cease feeling alienated from yourself, what truly matters to you, and Oneness. Heal your secrets and heal families. Heal yourself and heal worlds. Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 39:

Netzakh ShebeYesod
Eternity, Forever, Splendor, Perpetuity, Endurance, Long-Lasting, and Spiritual Victory within Foundation, Establishment, Essential; the Cosmological and Mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the universe. Quality: Radical Freedom A Bedtime Sh’ma for Modern Times Sovereign of all that is known and unknown, Holder and Keeper of my heart and soul, I thank You for the day that has passed. I especially thank You for the way in which You provided emissaries in human form and from the natural world that provided me with beauty, kindness, mindfulness, and blessing. I thank You for the moments that caught my breath: The unexpected smells and aromas that gave momentary pleasure. How light, color and shadow presented a moment of exquisite beauty. For smiling eyes and courtesies that created warmth. Being of unexpected service to another. The sweetness experienced in person and afar with someone who loves me, and so much more. Your blessings are boundless, and I am grateful for each that fell my way today. Sovereign of all that is known and unknown, Holder and Keeper of my heart and soul, I ask Your forgiveness as I know I was far from perfect today. I lost patience. I forgot courtesies. I was thoughtless in my remarks to another. I gossiped. I lied; it does not matter that it was for a good cause. I let my ego get in the way of doing what was correct. I let my ego prevent me from being gracious. It does not matter which of these acts were intentional. It does not matter which of these acts were unintentional. It does not matter if the person or persons involved were aware of and or hurt my actions. It does not matter that there were no consequences – today – for any of these actions. It only matters that I was not the light in the world You need and want me to be. Let no harm come to those I wronged; and please be merciful toward me. Sovereign of all that is known and unknown, Holder and Keeper of my heart and soul, Thank You for creating me to be a vessel through which Your Light and Presence may be
known. I ask You to forgive those who harmed me today, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Due to unexamined attitudes and assumptions, they may not be aware that their good intentions landed as insults; some very hurtful, all disappointing. They may not be aware of the root of their feelings that caused their actions. Do not allow their jealousy or fear of me to bring them harm. Please, let no one suffer consequences on my behalf or for my benefit. Please, guide them with Your mercy to the path of strength and right action as You guide
me. Sovereign of all that is known and unknown, Holder and Keeper of my heart and soul, I ask that You provide guardians for my windows and doors so that no harm will come to me through this night. I ask that Your angels guide my soul to You and that it be Your will, my Eternal Friend, that they guide me safely home to see Your morning light on this beautiful planet one more time. True and Enduring are You, my Creator. There is none other like You, El Shaddai. You are Boundless, and I am so specific as to be only one of Your uncountable creations. Still, I humbly announce Your Greatness and Steadfastness, for You trust me despite my misdeeds and missteps and missed marks. Holy Sovereign, known by many names, I stand as a witness to Your Glory and the brilliance through which it manifests, daily. I proclaim You and praise You with every breath and declare: שְׁמַע ׀ יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְיָ ׀ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ, יְיָ ׀ אֶחָד! בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד. Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai ekhad! Barukh Shem kvod malkhuto l’olam va-ed. Listen, wrestler with the Divine! The One is our One, The One, Is One! Blessed be The Name’s Glorious Sovereignty forever and ever. שׁמע ׀ ישראל, יהוה אלהינו, שכינה אחת! Sh’ma Israel, Adonai eloheinu, Sh’khinah ehat! Listen Israel, The Eternal One is our God, The Sh’khinah is One! Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 38:

Tiferet ShebeYesod Elevated Beauty, Balance, Integration, the Unexpected, Miracles, and Order, intersecting Khesed and Gevurah within Foundation, Establishment, Essential; the Cosmological and Mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the universe. Quality: Embracing struggle and ease as natural occurrences לִמְנוֹת יָמֵינוּ כֵּן הוֹדַע וְנָבִא לְבַב חָכְמָה Teach us to number our days, such that we acquire a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90.12 I live with grief. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of my Mom, my Dad, Linda, Steven, Stan, Elijah, Cokie, John, Jennie, Juanita, Robert… I live with these aches gladly because each causes me to be with what is missing and be present to beauty, sweetness, kindness, compassion, hugs, smiles, pats on the back, waves… all kinds of amazing nature… even on the coldest, dreariest of winter days and the harshest moments of summer and everything in between. Even in this pandemic, life is full. Spending so much time alone, I am cuddling with the difficult and the sweet. Things happen. Hard things happen. Amazing things happen. It’s all part of being alive. Embracing what is so, moves me into relationship with the not-so-good and the great and the blessed ordinary in between. What I know to be true now is that I am doing what I can to make my days count and worrying less about counting my days. I am happy not to have all the answers and it’s fun to still be making it up as I go. I’m living struggle and ease as natural occurrences. Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 37

Gevurah ShebeYesod Limitations; Spiritual, Physical, Emotional Strength, and Boundaries corresponding with Awe within Foundation, Establishment, Essential; the Cosmological and Mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the universe. Quality: I am not responsible for you and your emotions About a week ago, an organization that shall remain nameless circulated an add on Facebook about communication during these tough and stressful times with partners. I was not impressed. So, I rewrote it: "If you experience me as doing or saying something wrong, please let me know. If you feel hurt by something I’ve said or done, please – make me aware of it. If I didn’t listen well enough, tell me again – including what you believe I missed, and I will try to understand. If you experience me as being insensitive to your needs, to your desires, or to your thoughts, tell me so that I may consider them. "Lastly, if I experience you as holding an attitude because you believe I'm not listening, being insensitive, or thoughtless, I will do my best to hear your pain. I will do my best not to take, personally, any judgment you speak or criticism you direct towards. Again, I will do my best to hear your pain. I will ask if we can try again. After all, like you, I'm only human." Knowing where one begins and another ends, is important. Each of us is capable of saying or doing something that delights or inspires, hurts or angers. Most often, none of it is done with intent. And, there's no enlightenment in making one party wrong and the other right. Yet, it is important to take responsibility for how our words and actions are received. This reflection is not in isolation. It corresponds to the quality discussed for Day 36: I am responsible for me and my emotions in response. Any mess that is created requires the involvement of both (all) parties. If you’re willing to see it through, a lot of missing sparks will be returned to the universe! Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 36

Week Six of Counting Omer we examined the nature of Y’sod (יסוד), the 9th Sephirah of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Foundation, Establishment, Essential; Torah – the cosmological and mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the universe. Its basic nature is the four elements: Wind/Breath, Fire/Compassion, Water/Reflection, and Earth/Body. Within Y’sod is sod (סוד), which translates as secret, counsel, deliberation, and consultation. The primary quality is the experience of reflective maturity as the road to wisdom. Khesed ShebeY’sod Lovingkindness, Grace, Compassion, Benevolence, and Loyalty within Foundation, Establishment, Essential; the Cosmological and Mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the universe. Quality: I am responsible for me and my emotions in response; Y'sod grace There is this idea in some parts of our broader culture that “you” can cause or make another feel bad: mad, sad, angry, guilty, or otherwise upset. This concept hinders honest communication because it shifts to blame and fault, and the point or lack of a point of the flammable comment gets lost. One is responsible for the impact of one’s words. A conversation centered on the impact (racist, sexist, heterosexist, degrading, disrespectful, out of sync…) is different from a conversation that says, “You made me (fill in the blank).” What I've often witnessed is people getting stuck in the second half, derailing attempts to address the first half. Sometimes, indignation or fragility or defensiveness come across as blaming the victimize. It’s also a great tactic to avoid responsibility for the impact of one’s behavior or words. We are responsible for my reactions and our responses. The difference? I am reacting when one of my buttons get pushed and my words are mean. When I’m being responsive, I ask more questions. I state how the previous words landed. I may even show how emotional I am – AND – I do not “blame” others for me being emotional. In my best moments, I can smile and treat the incident as a fascinating opportunity. A few years ago, I met a “used to be Orthodox” man at the end of a service I had led. We were chit-chatting with a lot of enthusiasm when he asked the common compound question, “Were you raised Jewish or did you convert?” Me: Laughing, “You know you are not supposed to ask that.” He: “Yes, but I’m curious.” Me: Well, if you want to know the answer, get to know me. One of my congregants was about to say something, when I said, “It’s okay. It’s handled.” I turned back to our guest, and said, “Right?” He: “Beautifully. You have a nice way of telling people off.” Me: Not always. But, I am always in a good mood after I lead services. We both laughed. He: I’m going to enjoy getting to know you. There is nothing fun about being challenged regarding one’s identities. Yet, rare is the “new” Jewish space or “new” to me Jewish person with whom it does not happen. The regularity with which it happens caused me to change my attitude toward it. While I still find it annoying, my approach is not to allow its occurrence to spoil or ruin my Shabbat or other Jewish experience. I know I am not a curiosity and refuse to be treated like one. I own my place in the Jewish world. From this intersection, I choose what I share and with whom. I do not defend my right to belong because I belong. I no longer take the intrusion personally because it says much more about them than about me. So, I choose to be momentarily disappointed instead of royally irritated for a much longer amount of time. The former interrupts my time. The latter ruins my time. Being responsible for my feelings frees me to feel. No need to carry a shield because the best one is knowing before Whom I stand. Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 35

Malkhut ShebeHod Shekhinah, Majesty, Sovereignty, Exaltedness, Humility; Union of Opposites; Paradox and Limitation within Exquisite Beauty, Splendor, Glory, Vigor, Magnificence, and Pomp. Quality: Dancing Shabbat! If I could, I would dance into and throughout Shabbat! Moving dramatically and imperceptibly To the inner and outer rhythms of the preparations rituals foods people Divine Guests Pausing now and then to note mood of the Great Presence So I could bend, sway, bow, twirl or stir a limb In such a way as to please The Name of All Names Though I am not a toe dancer, I would find a way to climb to the tips of my feet To meet the Presence without and within To feel what is up and bring it down To greet what is low and bring it up To create the balance In such a way as to thank The Giver of All For all that I have received For all that we have received If I could, I would dance into and throughout Shabbat! We have now counted five weeks of Omer. Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 34

Yesod ShebeHod Foundation, Establishment, Setting The Foundation, Fundamental; Foundation upon which the Divine One Created the Universe within Exquisite Beauty, Splendor, Glory, Vigor, Magnificence, and Pomp. Quality: Rooted in the Compassionate and Gracious Source of Life When life becomes unexpectedly uncertain, I fall. Figuratively to the ground. Spiritually, it’s a spiral whose spinning is determined by how much I struggle against, argue with, what is occurring. ...memories of being in Aunt Edna’s kitchen, standing on a foot stool and stirring something that I know will be delicious… It is only in recent years that I have learned that the Source of Life Graciously and Compassionately catches me as I fall, as I weep, as I moan, and as I cry incessantly. I no longer fear the fall as the floor of what I knew disappears beneath me. I let the shock move through me so that I can feel sadness, anger, pain, gratitude, numbness – not necessarily in that order; and it does repeat. Through it all is the blanket, the robe, the deep hug of the Compassionate and Gracious Source of Life. It does not demand that I do something with my hair, put on some lipstick, or – more importantly – that I “get over it.” It squeezes me such that I know that I’m still part of life. It seeds stories into my dreams of Zusiyah, Solomon’s Ring, Ruth and Naomi, D’vorah… memories of being in Aunt Edna’s kitchen, standing on a foot stool and stirring something that I know will be delicious… bathing with my sister, Sandra, in her oh so big kitchen sink with adult laughter as background as we splash and sing. The counsel of Mothers appear with physical and spiritual medicines. The counsel of Fathers appear with physical and spiritual medicines. Each counsel gives appreciation for the journey and assurance that I’ll be okay. Soon, colors reappear in my dreams and smiles from family, friends, neighbors, strangers… All of the above is the Compassionate and Gracious Source of Life holding me to life and through life as I gain new strengths and a deepened appreciation as to what it takes to be with Life, no matter what! Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 33

Hod ShebeHod Exquisite Beauty, Splendor, Glory, Vigor, Magnificence, and Pomp within Exquisite Beauty, Splendor, Glory, Vigor, Magnificence, and Pomp. Quality: Joy and Celebration – Lag BaOmer Today is Lag BaOmer, a welcome break from the month of mourning. Counting the Omer marks the 49 days between the second night of Pesakh (Passover) and the 50th day, Shavuot, the days we honor the receiving of Torah. During Omer, there are no weddings or other festive celebrations, except Pesakh Sh’eni, the Second Passover and Lag BaOmer. Many Jewish men do not cut their hair and some also do not shave or trim their beards. Lag BaOmer is a day for weddings, picnics, haircuts, and bonfires. In Israel, many families will take their three-year-old sons to Meron, for their first haircut – If you read to the end, you'll know why. Counting Omer began as a celebration of the day we left Mitzrayim (Egypt) and our travels to God’s Mountain, Mount Sinai. In that realm, Lag BaOmer is said to be the day we received Manna to aid us on our journey. From the mystical viewpoint, Manna is seen as the spiritual food we needed to be ready for being with God and receiving Torah at Sinai. The Talmud tells us that Omer is a time of semi-mourning because it was during this season that thousands of students of the great sage Rabbi Akiva died from a plague; a plague caused by the disrespectful ways in which they treated one another. Of course, this statement needs to be unpacked at another time. Rabbi Akiva was an ardent supporter of Rabbi Simeon bar Koseva (or Kosiba). Simeon, a very charismatic figure, was given the nickname Bar Kokhba, “Son of a Star.” The name is based on a verse in Numbers 24.17 from the mouth of Balak: …there shall step forth a star out of Ya’akov… a scepter shall rise out of Yisrael… Bar Kokhba spent over a decade planning rebellion and his actions divided our rabbis. Those supporting him believed he was the M’shiakh. The Bar KoKhba rebellion is easy to research, so I am not going to share much more, except that in the end the Roman's regained control. Thousands of Y’hudaim, including most of Rabbi Akiva’s students, died. However, the rabbis could not directly reference the rebellion as they were still under Roman rule – thus, the reference to a plague. As you may be able to imagine, the mystics and kabbalists embraced Simeon’s story. Another reference speaks of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, a student of Akiva who survived. He is said to have continued to speak against Roman rule and had to leave or be killed. Legend tells us that he and his son, Eleazer, hid in a cave for 12 years where they were sustained by a miraculous pond and a carob tree. During that time, the two prayed and studied Torah, and Simeon’s self-discipline became quite strong – too strong, some would say. When Simeon emerged, he was completely dismayed by ordinary work, and every where he looked and saw such things, his gaze would start fires. God was not happy with this behavior and placed them back in the cave for another year. As you may be able to imagine, the mystics and kabbalists embraced Simeon’s story. He is said to have died on Lag BaOmer and his tomb is in Meron, a small city in the northern part of Israel near S’afed. Many Askenazi Israelis take their three-year-old sons to Meron for their upsheren, a public ritual of a son’s first haircut (The Sephardic community observe the haircut custom on the 34th Day of Omer). Bonfires are also lit on Lag BaOmer throughout of Israel. Whatever your customs, today is a day of Joy and Celebration within Joy and Celebration! Blessings,

Counting Omer 5780, Day 32

Netzakh ShebeHod Eternity, Forever, Splendor, Perpetuity, Endurance, Long-Lasting, and Spiritual Victory within Exquisite Beauty, Splendor, Glory, Vigor, Magnificence, and Pomp. Quality: Living we are connected Rebbe Nachman of Breslov created a midrash (between the word/lines story) that describes Noakh (Genesis 6.9-11.32) as someone who was ridiculed from childhood as the person who would “save humanity.” Noakh did advance several technologies that made people’s lives easier and still he suffered abuse from the larger community. When he started to build the ark, the ridicule worsened. After the flood, Noakh, finally makes it to shore and he is stunned. He has emerged to an empty world. Noakh prays: Compassionate One! Where is Your Compassion? The Eternal responds: Foolish shepherd! Now you pray to me to have compassion! Where was your compassion when I told you my plans?! Sometimes, we can feel so battered by life that we go numb, sinking into depression. Most people looking at us would not know we are depressed because we continue the routine of getting up and showing up. We appear well put together. All the while, we are crumbling inside, aching for something to move us out of exile, yearning for anything to return us to Life. We may respond to a calling that seems to answer, soothe our ache. The Rebbe, who danced with his depression, seems to be telling us not to be seduced by that call. Let it wake us enough, if not fully, to Life to be curious and to inquire. The call may appear to be for action – doing when Life is actually calling us to: Awaken. Notice. Be present. That includes being in relationship with our depression, anxiety, fears, anger – everything that is covering our deep pain so that we can be with our deep pain. When we surrender to our grief, trauma, deep pain we come into our selves. We wail, moan, sob; failing into the source of our resistance – our suffering. In that moment we are rocked back to life. Yes, we are still sad. Yes, we are still grieving. Yes, we are still in the aftermath of trauma. The difference is that being present to what brought us to numbness, depression ceases our suffering and returns us to being connected to the Source of Life, which moves us to being connected to the humans and nature that constantly remind us we’re not alone. From this moment, color and coloring return such that we are deeply held by our relationship to Love, Gratitude, joy, Beauty… Life is not either or. It is both and all. When we embrace this paradox, we reduce our suffering because we no longer feel picked on or singled out for misfortune. We cease dipping into survivor guilt and feeling undeserving of good fortune. We understand that Life is not yet done with us. “Why me?” is our ego – all self-consciousness that leads to suffering is ego because we are focusing on us in a way that keeps us out of the flow of Life. When we pause and say “yes” to this moment, we are returned to Life to be with Life with its amazing disappointments, sweetness, bitterness, love, compassion, and so much more! When depression causes us to forget we are connected, like Noakh, we may succeed in saving ourselves and participate in the destruction of humanity. Life requires being with our brokenness and our wholeness. They are not separate. They both live in our body, hearts, and minds; the threads of our experiences weave the still unfolding tapestry of our Life connected to the tapestries of all Life and Living. Remember, with each breath, each of us is connected to All that Was, Is, and Will Be. Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 31

Tiferet ShebeHod Elevated Beauty, Balance, Integration, the Unexpected, Miracles, and Order, intersecting Khesed and Gevurah within Exquisite Beauty, Splendor, Glory, Vigor, Magnificence, and Pomp. Quality: Humility and healthy selflessness I used to find it difficult to comprehend humility. Most of the examples I saw or experienced involved someone with power making it clear to another and or to me that we not only had no power, we were less than. I now know that spiritual humility is deeply trusting that one is connected to something greater than oneself. We release ourselves from our narrow place (ego) and who we think we are, enabling us to be on the path to becoming, being. My journey over the last few years created amazing opportunities to experience humility as releasing myself from superficial constraints that prevent me from being fully present, doing what I know is right action, raising my voice when one or more makes it clear I need to shut-up (Okay, those of you who know me can stop laughing). When I submit to the pressures of the physical world that demand compliance, I am valuing only myself. Worse, I am devaluing my contribution. When I release myself from the self-created prison of anxiety, fears, and being a “good girl”, I willingly enter the unknown because I know Who is with me. In that moment, I am present: no judgement, no complaint, no opinion. Endless grace, endless empathy arises. Whether reviled or appreciated I know it is not about me. I know this angry person, sad person, happy, or joyful person is related to me. This experience of humility moves me and keeps me present. This experience of humility is the means by which I am enough, even if all I am doing is bearing witness. Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 30

Gevurah ShebeHod Limitations; Spiritual, Physical, Emotional Strength, and Boundaries corresponding with Awe within Exquisite Beauty, Splendor, Glory, Vigor, Magnificence, and Pomp. Quality: Saying Yes to saying No Consider this: no is just a word. Really, it is a simple two letter word. The weight and meaning we give it as the speaker or the receiver is what gives it its power. No is a particularly important word and it can be a very difficult word for many of us to say, especially women. From a very young child, we are taught that we are most loved when we are helpful, pleasing to the eye, and pleasant in nature. Said differently, we are trained to crave feeling needed and accepted. When our contribution is genuinely appreciated, we feel loved and blessed. We have family and friends that work with us at every level - from the chores of tending to home to being thought partners to working alongside us in some of our endeavors. When we need others to contribute to us, they are there. When our contribution is taken for granted we feel used, depleted. We may sink into negative self-talk, adding to our feeling depleted. Feeling depleted can reinforce negative self-talk, causing us to self-medicate. We decide to do better, which really means doing more. When the results are the same, the cycle repeats. Learning to say yes to ourselves can be one of the most important practices we can develop. Saying yes to saying no is an important tool and skill of self-care. It causes us to question the social notion that we are responsible for the feelings and well-being of others – we are not. We teach our children – and sometimes our partners, what it takes to produce the items they love to receive from us. We learn that there is a difference between helping, rescuing, and assisting, guiding, coaching, and working with someone. We realize we are enough. Certainly, there are situations when we may need to pick-up the mantel and take the lead. However, it’s important to recognize that doesn’t mean we have to take over. Saying yes to saying no causes us to recognize that we do not have to do it alone. It is not our place to rescue folks – no matter how much we love them – and we can coach, teach, support another to success. We can organize our team, family, friends – strangers – to resource and work with us toward goals, changes, transformations that serve all involved. This transforms how we approach another’s need, especially another adult. We are able to respects a person’s, a group’s humanity. We begin from a place of partnering. No rescuing. No seeking to be the hero – Do you realize how much work it is rescue? To be a hero? If you find yourself anxiety ridden at the possibility of saying no, delay reacting or responding and talk to your anxiety and the underlying fears. You may discover that the true motivator to saying yes, especially when you genuinely want to say no, is a deep cavernous longing to belong or to be needed. Tapping into that longing may feel overwhelming and terrifying, so I’m letting you know, now – it's just a feeling. It can seem like an eternity. Yet, if you ride the wave – remembering that anxiety lies, doesn’t trust the present, is suspicious of the future, and cherry picks the past – in a few moments you could arrive at the no you seek or negotiate a yes feels mutually beneficial. Saying yes to saying no will decrease your stress which will strengthen your immune system and increase your overall well-being. Saying yes to saying no causes us to prioritize our ongoing commitments and to value the relationships and practices that feed us, sustain us. Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020

Counting Omer 5780, Day 29:

Week Five of Counting Omer we examined the nature of Hod (הוד), the 8th Sephirah of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Exquisite Beauty, Splendor, Glory, Vigor, Magnificence, and Pomp. The primary quality is selflessness connected to the true self through mindfulness. Khesed ShebeHod Lovingkindness, Grace, Compassion, Benevolence, and Loyalty within Exquisite Beauty, Splendor, Glory, Vigor, Magnificence, and Pomp. Quality: Healthy Selflessness Healthy selflessness is the recognition that we do not exist as separate beings. We are connected to one another and to the Source of Creation. This selflessness seeks to reveal one’s true self. The true self is open and aware, conscious and yielding, and understands the collection of labels, experiences, and desires we amass over our lifetime aid to tell our story and they do not define us. Healthy selflessness is rooted in mindfulness and self-awareness, learning to yield and bend without sacrificing the true self. Healthy selflessness values selfcare as the “how” it meets Life on Life’s terms. Healthy selflessness is thoughtful when it comes to commitments. Healthy Selflessness seeks to honor, care, and nourish others, recognizing there is no purpose in doing so at the expense of selfcare. Notice your responses to this definition and concept of healthy selflessness. If it might serve you, choose one or two items to aid you in exploring how you relate to selflessness as healthy. Blessings! Sabrina © Sabrina Sojourner 2020


© 2020 by Sabrina Sojourner Proudly created with

  • w-facebook
  • Twitter Clean
  • w-flickr