The Balance of Power and Strength

Two weeks and Two days-that is how long we have been counting.  For 16 days we have been working on spiritual repair and correction.  First within ourselves and then carrying that tikkun into the world.  This period of reflection between Pesach and Shavuot are marked with spiritual preparation and purification in order that when we stand at Mt. Sinai we are ready to receive the revelation in its fullness. It will mean that we can see and understand and know the glory of God that revels the truth of Torah and history to us.

Today we reflect on Gevurah sheb’Tiferet  Might and strength within Balance and Compassion.  Today is a reminder that our strength and absolute power must be mitigated by compassion.  Today is a reminder that absolute power and strength can be destructive and so we must use this day to learn the balance of our power and authority.  This can make change in a more authentic and spiritual way.  All this week each of the sephirot are located in the sephira of Tiferet.  Tiferet connects all the sephirot and is at the core of the Tree of Knowledge.  This beautiful and balanced ideal helps bring out the various sephirot in a safe and beautiful way.  Tiferet balance Compassion and Strength.  Try that today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What bikkurim do you have to offer?

Parshat Ki Tavo

Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8

This week our Torah portion gives us very specific instructions about certain responsibilities of the Israelite nation once they cross over the Jordan River and settle in the Promised Land.   This first mitzvah described takes place only after the Children of Israel will settle in the land and plant crops and then harvest them.  This won’t happen right away.  It will take a number of years for the Israelites to control the land and completely settle it and then begin planting and harvesting.  But following the first successful harvest the first fruits of that harvest, called the bikkurim, will be offered to a priest before the altar of God. The Torah and Moses imagine a future time, a time of bounty fulfilling the covenantal promise.

 

And then the individual farmer must recite very special words.  These words recount the collective history of the Israelite people.  The years of conquest and taming of the land may take years. Yet this ceremony is designed to help the individual Israelite farmer see himself in the line of descendants from Abraham, a part of the covenant now fulfilled through him!

 

We don’t know enough about the actual archaeological evidence of the conquest of the Land of Canaan. The Bible mentions the conquest of Jericho and Ai but these cities only existed later in history.  So we can’t be sure of exactly the time frame of capturing the land.  But once the Israelites established their nation on this land the offerings of their harvest must be in part dedicated to God.   The words in this week’s portion that begin:

 

“My father was a wandering Aramean, and with just a few people he went down to Egypt and sojourned there.  And there he became a great nation, mighty and numerous.  The Egyptians dealt harshly with us and oppressed us; and they imposed hard labor upon us.  We cried out to Adonai, the God of our ancestors; and Adonai heard our plea and saw our affliction, our misery and our oppression.  Then Adonai took us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with awesome power, with signs and with wonders.  He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, O Adonai, have given me.”

 

These are words that we still recite today but now not at the first harvest (Shavuot) but in connection with our Passover Seder.  Our tradition has preserved an early memory for all of us to partake in.  It preserved it to keep us connected to the land of our ancestors, to their customs and to covenantal promise made to Abraham.  This same passage that we read in this week’s portion is the central section of the Haggadah.

 

As my teacher Professor Noam Zion writes in his “The Family Participation Haggadah” by Noam Zion and David Dishon, (p. 81)

 

“Why does the Pesach Haggadah’s central midrash focus on the story of the first fruits, which is associated with Shavuot?  Perhaps the point is that Pesach is not only about the move from slavery to freedom, but from economic dependence to productivity, from the vulnerability of the alien to the security of the citizen.”

 

 

In Parshat Ki Tavo are instructions for when the Israelites become citizens of the land.  We preserve this memory to connect us to that land and to the idea of transformation of the individual from foreigner to resident citizen.  The offerings of the first harvest to God help us affirm that we have put down roots and transformed ourselves and the Land.

 

At this time of year we are thinking about our own transformations and the process of Teshuvah. What might we harvest and offer as a gift to God as we enter a New Year?

 

Sounds of Torah

Shavuot/Parshat Behaalotecha

Numbers 8:1 -12:16

 

This week we celebrate Shavuot-the Feast of Weeks. For the last seven weeks since Pesach we have journeyed through the wilderness to arrive now at the foot of Mt. Sinai and we once again receive the miracle of Torah.  I call this the miracle of Torah because each year we gather again to hear the words of the Ten Commandments and to reaffirm that which our ancestors did; we make the covenant our own.  Shavuot is an opportunity to place ourselves in holy relationship with God and Torah and the Jewish people –the three pillars of Jewish faith. It is a miracle that we get to be present there. It is a miracle that Torah is renewed annually.  It is a miracle and gift that is eternal.  And we get to participate in this wondrous and amazing moment in our People’s life.

 

Take a moment to reflect on your pride as a Jewish person. The accomplishments and contributions of our people to the world are many.  The Torah and our emphasis on learning and study and education has been the Jewish people’s guiding force for centuries.  This holiday of Shavuot is one in which we celebrate all of those ideals.

 

So as you celebrate Shavuot, imagine you are at that moment when God calls out “I am Adonai Your God who led you out of Egypt to be Your God.”  Imagine that you are receiving the revelation as did our ancestors.  How will you hear this revelation and how will it guide you? This revelation in the book of Exodus was heralded with the sound of thunder and lightning, smoke and the sound of Shofar blasts.  There is a cacophony of sound to help us pay attention to the importance of the moment.   God’s voice is like music accompanied by the blasts of the Shofar!

 

In our Torah portion this week, Behaalotecha, Moses is told to make two silver trumpets.  “Make for yourself two silver trumpets- make them hammered out, and they shall be yours for the summoning of the assembly and to cause the camps to journey. “ (Num. 10:1-2). The sound of trumpets is to help us pay attention to the community gatherings. The blasts are signals for action and movement.

 

The sounds of Torah are in the blasts of the trumpet and the Shofar and in the chanting of the verses. The sounds of the Torah the words read and studied aloud.  You have the power to keep the sounds of Torah vibrant and alive not only for our generation but future generations but first you have to imagine yourself there at that moment of revelation, at Sinai. And then you have to let those words ring in your ears and flow from your own mouth and move through your body to action.  Live them! Live Torah and Be Torah in all you do.

 

Chag Sameach.

Some thoughts on Shavuot

Tonight we observe the holy day of Shavuot. The Feast of Weeks. For seven weeks we have counted the omer, marking off with anticipation and excitement our journey from Passover and freedom to this moment at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  We are here! Soon God will reveal the Torah to us.  One tradition says all Jews were at Sinai.  Even us. Even those who are alive in 2011! Sinai is an eternal moment not just a moment in time.  The Torah is being revealed to us continuously.  Over and over again with ancient thoughts and contemporary ideas.  This is an amazing thought that we are still discovering new ideas, new revelations from a God who seeks a deeper understanding and relationship with each one of us.

As we counted the omer we explored the deep,mystical map of God.  Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malchut, 7 of the sephirot of the Mystical tree.  These aspects of God are also part of the revelation and it is up to each one of us to incorporate these into the world. After all we were created in the Divine Image.

So light candles tonight, lift a kiddish cup in praise and thanksgiving for life, and for the Torah.  Open your heart and come celebrate the revelation that you are an ongoing part of!

See you at 7 pm for our Shavuot celebration. Chag Sameach.

Jewish Roots of Christianity

If you haven’t made plans yet for the festival of Shavuot evening-come study Torah with us at Kol Ami.  This year our Scholar in Residence for our Tikkyn Leyl Shavuot- is Dr. Rabbi Joshua Garroway. Dr. Garroway is an assistant Professor at our Reform Seminary, Hebrew Union College. His specialty is early Christianity and the Second Commenwealth. This is the time often referred to as the Intertestimental Period, when the Temple still stood and Christianity was just beginning.

He completed his rabbinic studies at HUC-JIR and is doctorate at Yale.

Shavuot is the Festival that commemorates the giving of Torah on Mt. Sinai and it is customary to spend the evening in study! We will learn with Dr. Garroway  His topic will be “Torah Tours and Detours: The Torah according to Paul.” This will be a fascinating evening to see how early Christianity took Jewish teachings as their own.  For anyone living in the world today it is important to understand where Judaism and Christianity share common themes.

I hope you can be with us at 7 pm on Tuesday June 7 at Kol Ami!  See you then and Happy Shavuot.

Tweeting Torah to the Top

As many of you know I hope I am an avid Tweeter. I love the short form of Twitter messages and tweet daily.  You can follow me @deniseeger or @egerdl.  Yes I love it so much that I have two accounts!  Even the temple tweets @kolamila!  Sign up to follow all of these.

Last year for Shavuot I participated in a Jewish Twitter project of Tweeting Torah to the Top.  This was an effort to get the #torah tag in the trending topics of Twitter.  Each hour Rabbis and lay people would tweet a torah message with the hashtag #torah.  I will be participating again.  Shavuot is on June 7.   But we really want lots of people to participate.  Tweet your favorite verse of Torah. Or your favorite Jewish quote.   But let’s tweet Torah to the top.

For those late night hours–when I am studying Torah all night long–I pre-schedule my Torah tweets–with one of the many social media schedulers like HootSuite.

But this way I participate.  How about you?

This is a message about it from Rabbi Mark Hurvitz—who is @rebmark and has great Tweets!

 Two years ago Reconstructionist rabbi Shai Gluskin organized an attempt to bring Torah to as many people as possible on the evening of Shavuot, using Twitter. As he expressed it then (on Twitter):

Are you in? A 49th day of omer prep for Shavuot #Torah fest. Goal: get many tweeting Torah and see #Torah trend in top 10 the whole day.

Some people wonder why we might do this. Did not Hillel say that among our primary tasks is (Avot 1:12) loving mankind (all of humanity), and bringing them (all) close to Torah. אוהב את הברייות ומקרבן לתורה?

That year (5769) we were able to Tweet #Torah to the mid-30s among trending topics. I do not know how “high” we reached in 5770. I propose we give it our best again this year.

The “day” of June 7, 2011 is “erev” Erev Shavuot. I suggest that we prepare as many 133 character Torah lessons as we can to “release” on that day. If you have been sharing #Torah Tweets through the year… Torah does not go bad or stale. You should feel free to “recycle” those thoughts. I would like to begin tweeting at sundown Jerusalem time on the 7th. Does anyone know how to calculate that?

I think this is a great way to encourage awareness of Torah. I’m sure we each have many simple “Torah thoughts” that can be expressed in 133 characters. (Don’t forget to leave room for the final space and #Torah, that’s 7 more characters.) If you think that 133 characters is not enough for a profound thought from Torah, consider that this sentence is only 102 characters (also from “Hillel the Tweeter”):

If I am not for myself, who will be for me. if I am for myself alone, what am I. And if not now, when?

I suggest we each prepare a number of “tweets” in advance. Set up a text file and then simply copy, and paste them into our preferred Twitter tool about once or so an hour (depending on your “capabilities” (schedule, etc.)). For those who use Twitter with your congregations, your congregants, too, can join in… either with their own thoughts, or questions about #Torah, or re-tweeting yours. Let’s get everyone involved in thinking Torah as a lead-in to Shavuot.

If you expect to be busy on June 7, you can use any of a variety of *free* tools that have been developed that enable you to prepare your tweets in advance:

http://hootsuite.com/
http://twuffer.com/
http://futuretweets.com/

You can learn about more similar tools here (they may, or may not, still be functioning):

http://www.twitip.com/11-websites-to-schedule-your-tweets-online-for-free/

He continues:
Anyone can tweet a thought about: what it means to be commanded; what “revelation” means in a world of information overload.

E. Last year David Levy of Succasunna prepared a tweet for each of the Parshiot. I know that some of us write haiku, others write limericks. These short forms often fit quite well as tweets.

F. If you have sermons that are online, shorten the URL using a service such as <is.gd> and add that short URL to a phrase that describes the sermon’s theme.

You get the idea….

`//rite On!
,\\ark Hurvitz
http://www.davka.org/

So I encourage you to start your research. Sign up for a Twitter account if you don’t have one.  www.twitter.com. 

And start thinking and preparing to Trend Torah to the Top for Shavuot!!!!!
Happy Tweeting.

Are You Down for the Count?

Happy Passover one and all.  I hope your Seder was joyful and yummy too.

Tonight many will celebrate a second seder but what makes tonight so different is the counting of the omer.  It begins on the second night of Passover and culminates 50 days later in our next festival of Shavuot.  Each night (or the next day) we count off marking the passing of time in anticipation of the gift of Torah at Mt. Sinai.  We are waiting for the Divine Revelation.

This spiritual practice of counting the Omer (an omer is a measure of barley) is commanded in the Torah.

You shall count for yourselves — from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving — seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days… You shall convoke on this very day — there shall be a holy convocation for yourselves — you shall do no laborious work; it is an eternal decree in your dwelling places for your generations. -Leviticus 21:15-16, 21

For seven weeks we count each day.  The mystics help us count by invoking aspects of the Divine each day and each week.

The seven aspects of God are

Chesed=lovingkindness

Gevurah=Justice and Discipline

Tiferet=Harmony and Beauty

Netzach=Endurance or Eternal

Hod=Humility, Glory

Yesod=Foundation, bonding

Malchut=Sovereignty, leadership

Each of the seven weeks are dedicated to these in this order and each day of the week is dedicated to these in order.  So tonight the first night is Chesed in Chesed.  It is a night of loving kindness in lovingkindness.  Tonight focus your heart, your soul, your essence on the totality of love. Love of self, love of family and friends, love of life, love of God.  Love in the face of hate or hurt. Receive it and give it freely.

Tomorrow night will be Gevurah in Chesed.  Justice  or Discipline in love.  Think about how we express love and the boundaries it requires.  It takes practice to love and takes patience to love.

Thursday night will be Tiferet in Chesed or beauty in Lovingkindness.  Beauty is not just the superficial beauty but beauty of the soul.  How will you express this idea of beauty in lovingkindness-through gentleness? Through consistancy? Beauty in lovingkindness in the poignant opprotunity to help someone achieve their goals.  Help some one out today from a place of selfless love.

So you can see how this unfolds.  The next day is Netzach in Chesed and then Hod in Chesed, then Sunday is Yesod in Chesed and Monday night is Malchut in Chesed.  Then we will have completed the first week and on to the next week’s counting which will be defined by Gevurah!

And onward toward the fiftieth day and Shavuot.

So are you ready to count?  Ready to practice a different kind of spiritual discipline and ready to give and receive at a deep soul level?  Get counting!