Foundation within Foundation
Or, perhaps, Foundation UPON Foundation. Some of you, my readers, know that I used to teach Architecture and Planning. In those fields, it was essential to know, in details, how each component of a building’s foundation functioned. Forces were carefully calculated, materials specified and details designed for stability, strength and appropriate flexibility for the soil conditions, building use, weather, etc. Today, we focus on the spiritual equivalent. Our inner structures are also made up on individual parts which we develop and nurture over the course of our lives. Under all, above all, and throughout all of these elements is the Element of the Divine, the ultimate support and design. Our individual spirits are the building blocks out of which G-d is fashioning the world each moment.
Splendor within Foundation
In Biblical tradition, forty days signifies a sufficient amount of time for major transition to occur (40 days of the Great Flood, Moses on the mountain receiving instruction etc.). As we mark 40 days of Counting the Omer, we recognize that paying attention daily to where we are in the journey of our lives is an important spiritual practice. Each element of our awareness is essential, but when those elements interact, the miraculous is possible. Each day we build the connective tissue of the world we are creating, the varied parts holding each other up.
Today we celebrate the tiny parts of the integrated whole we are co-creating with the Holy One. Each of us plays a part, recognizing we are part of a Great Oneness. After these five weeks and five days of counting, we see glimpses of the possible; we are getting very close to whatever will be revealed to us at Shavuot. It is not just the ancient communal Revelation that is important, though it is, but the personal revelations that appear to each of us, as we are prepared to receive them. May the splendor we recognize today help build the kind of foundation upon which we can stand strongly as we get ready for the great encounter at Shavuot.
Endurance within Foundation
The old song “inch by inch, row by row, we’re gonna make this garden grow’ seems appropriate for the theme of this day of Counting the Omer. Effort, diligence, determination are the necessary building blocks for any strong structure, whether that is a physical one like a house, or a spiritual practice like daily expressions of gratitude. Today, Shabbat, we recognize that small acts that add up are not necessarily the kinds of work we avoid on Shabbat, but can be smiles, offers of assistance, harmonizing with someone else’s Shabbos melody, shaking hands with a newcomer at services or opening a book we’ve been meaning to read for a long time. Goals that require slow, steady effort may seem beyond attaining, but, throughout Jewish history, it has been those that have endured. Jewish history is an unbroken story of endurance, leaving a legacy of a strong foundation for us to build upon today.
Harmony within Foundation
Harmony is a function of more than one factor interacting in a way that enhances the whole. When the factors that influence our lives are in balance, we are more focused, stronger and stand on more stable footing. When our equilibrium is disturbed through challenging life events we could not control, we can find ourselves out of balance. The structures we have carefully constructed from the elements of our lives can become wobbly and unstable. Today we focus on developing and maintaining balance to stabilize our inner structures. Like a highrise building with special foundations characterized by the ability to respond to earthquakes with flexibility, our lives stand on more stable foundations when influenced by balance and harmony.
Discernment within Foundation
Discernment of proper actions is necessary in building anything that will last. The difference between a long lasting rock wall and a pile of rubble is in the accurate selection and placement of stones and meticulous application of mortar. This is also true in our lives: using careful discernment we can build the foundation for a long-lasting relationship, a robust congregation or a sturdy organization.
When we go through long periods of training, we are aiming for excellence. We examine what needs to improve, set goals, gather our determination and take aim. This process, whether sports or professional skills, music or accounting, is very similar. Discernment, applied well, leads to developing a strong foundation upon which a solid future can stand!
Lovingkindness within Foundation
Jewish tradition maintains that at all times there are 36 especially righteous people in the world, and that were it not for them, the world would come to an end. Of course, since we don’t know who these people are, it is a good practice to consider each person you meet as one of them. Perhaps the grumpy check-out person at the supermarket is really holding up the world. It may be that your child’s baseball coach, or the librarian, or the teenager hanging out on the corner is one of those special thirty six. It might be your rabbi, your grandchild, or even you. If we treated each person we encountered that way, we could transform the world.
Endless lovingkindness is holding up the foundation of the world today. Celebrate that fact by adding your own unique dose of demonstrating compassion and caring today.
Indwelling Presence within Splendor
Malchut is related to the word Melech, King, and is sometimes translated as ’sovereignty’. I think of sovereignty as a quality of a wise, guiding leader, not of an autocratic demagogue. Would that all Kings and Queens guided their people that way!!!
Today, we recognize that Divine Guidance is an essential part of all the splendor in the Universe. Consider the latest discoveries in astronomy — dark matter, beautifully colored rotating galaxies, ancient light reaching us. The Psalms are full of these kind of images….read a few today!
Foundation within Splendor
The foundations of our lives are built on our cumulative experience and the knowledge we have gathered along the way. We are all several ’selves’– our most private self of inner thoughts and responses, our ‘family self’, our ‘friend self’, the self we display at work, in the neighborhood or at public events. Each is a response to a different set of expectations, yet each is also based on a foundational self–the one that is our ‘bottom line’ of ethical behavior, of automatic caring and of our deepest loves. Today we remember that underpinning of all of our selves…the yesod that holds us up, in all of our splendor.
Splendor within Splendor
Shavua tov! Today is Lag b’Omer, the special holiday that is celebrated on the 33rd day of the counting toward revelation. We can find many explanations for the holiday, but I want to focus on how it is marked today – with picnics and outdoor events. We celebrate the diversity of nature as evidence of the splendor in our world. Appreciation implies responsibility. Today, this means responsibility for preserving the diversity of nature so that future generations will be able to appreciate it. Climate change is real. In Israel, Lag b’Omer picnics are usually accompanied by campfires– but this year wildfires are raging. In other locations, lovely picnic groves have become surrounded by dying vegetation. We can, appropriately, look at Lag b’Omer as a call to environmental action.
Rav Kook says: The whole is constituted of numberless particulars, particular individuals and particular communities The whole cannot achieve its highest fulfillment except through the perfection of its particular individuals, and the particular communities, whether large of small, of which it is constituted.” Communities of plants, insects, mammals, trees and humans all count as part of the splendor we celebrate today.
Endurance within Splendor
It’s almost Shabbat. We’ve all endured a long and challenging week, each with our own individual challenges. Shabbat comes as a reward…we can enjoy the Splendor of Shabbat.