Start in the main living area, light the candles, and remember the very first time you saw this room. Have a bite to eat and something to drink as you reminisce some important times or events that happened in this room. Light the incense and circle the room. Gassho (hands pressed together in front of the chest)to the room and wish it the freedom to serve future dwellers.
Carry the lite candles, food and drink to the next room and repeat this process. Continue in this manner for every room. Take your time. Take in the memories and the feelings. As you leave each room, turn to thank it for all that it gave you.
When you have been through the whole house, leave by the front door with a final gassho of thanks and respect.
Today, being day 2 of the counting of the omer, the emphasis is gevorah, strength, within chesed, lovingkindness. Yesterday, the first day, was pretty easy, chesed in chesed, transcendence through our capacity and practice to give and receive love, allows me to wash myself in overflowing loving kindness: I’ll do what I want, as I want, as much as I want, allowing for as much love as possible to myself and others.
As the week progresses, we are obliged to add in the other divine aspects making it a little more complicated. Gevorah, infusing the kindness with strength, reminds me of the phrase tough love. For gevorah in chesed, love establishes boundaries that protect, show responsibility, and safeguard well-being. It is compassion without the enabling. It is limiting the lovingkindness to limit overwhelming and enable something constructive.
P.S. It is now one day later. Today we count Tiferet in Chesed. Tiferest is harmony, balance, acceptance and on this day, applied to chesed, allowing our love to be just as it is in this very moment.
From Leviticus 23:1516: And you shall count for yourselves from the morrow of the Shabbat, from the day that you bring the Omer (offering) that is raised, seven complete weeks there shall be until the morrow of the seventh week you shall count fifty days. The Omer is counted from the second night of Passover through the night before Shavuot. Keep the count along with me this year!!!
Week One: Chesed: Transcendence through Love, our capacity and practice to give and receive love
Day One: Chesed of Chesed
Day Two: Gevurah of Chesed
Day Three: Tiferet of Chesed
Day Four: Netzach of Chesed
Day Five: Hod of Chesed
Day Six: Yesod of Chesed
Day Seven: Malchut of Chesed
Week two: Gevurah:Strength/Judgment/Discernment, discipline with a measure of respect and awe
Day 8: Day One of Week 2: Chesed of Gevurah
Day 9: Day Two of Week 2: Gevurah of Gevurah
Day 10: Day Three of Week 2: Tiferet of Gevurah
Day 11: Day Four of Week 2: Netzach of Gevurah
Day 12: Day Five of Week 2: Hod of Gevurah
Day 13: Day Six of Week 2: Yesod of Gevurah
Day 14: Day Seven of Week 2: Malchut of Gevurah
Week three: Tiferet: Radiance/Balance/Harmony/Truth, notice the subtle and vibrant palates in nature, your waves of emotions, the beauty and brokenness all together in truth
Day 15: Day One of Week 3: Chesed of Tiferet
Day 16: Day Two of Week 3: Gevurah of Tiferet
Day 17: Day Three of Week 3: Tiferet of Tiferet
Day 18: Day Four of Week 3: Netzach of Tiferet
Day 19: Day Five of Week 3: Hod of Tiferet
Day 20: Day Six of Week 3: Yesod of Tiferet
Day 21: Day Seven of Week 3: Malchut of Tiferet
Week four: Netzach: Eternity/Vision/Endurance, Eternity in Each Moment Connection to All that Was, All that Is, All that Will Be, a transformation today that affects generations to come
Day 22: Day One of Week 4: Chesed of Netzach
Day 23: Day Two of Week 4: Gevurah of Netzach
Day 24: Day Three of Week 4: Tiferet of Netzach
Day 25: Day Four of Week 4: Netzach of Netzach
Day 26: Day Five of Week 4: Hod of Netzach
Day 27: Day Six of Week 4: Yesod of Netzach
Day 28: Day Seven of Week 4: Malchut of Netzach
Week five: Hod: Presence/Gratitude/Humility,Being in the Presence and open to the glory of the moment
Day 29: Day One of Week 5: Chesed of Hod
Day 30: Day Two of Week 5: Gevurah of Hod
Day 31: Day Three of Week 5: Tiferet of Hod
Day 32: Day Four of Week 5: Netzach of Hod
Day 33: Day Five of Week 5: Hod of Hod, Lag Ba Omer
Day 34: Day Six of Week 5: Yesod of Hod
Day 35: Day Seven of Week 5: Malchut of Hod
Week six: Yesod: Foundation/Connection, The rock that supports, sustains and brings forth our lives rising from deep within the Mystery
Day 36: Day One of Week 6: Chesed of Yesod
Day 37: Day Two of Week 6: Gevurah of Yesod
Day 38: Day Three of Week 6: Tiferet of Yesod
Day 39: Day Four of Week 6: Netzach of Yesod
Day 40: Day Five of Week 6: Hod of Yesod
Day 41: Day Six of Week 6: Yesod of Yesod
Day 42: Day Seven of Week 6: Malchut of Yesod
Week seven: Malchut/Shechina: Majesty/Divine Presence, The Flow Of The Most High The Indwelling Of Divine Presence as a state of being and a sense of belonging
Only partially vaccinated and still quite scattered, we will once again, hold our Seder via zoom. It was interesting to review last year’s Haggadah for needed changes. Last Passover, we were in quarantine and it was hard to grocery shop so here is the alternative list that allowed lots of options and little requirement, in the attempt to reach underneath the reason each item is included on the plate:
beitzah(egg)- represents new life and springtime- traditionally a roasted egg, but consider any form of egg, or any kind of seed or nut, an avocado or avocado pit, or even a flower
karpas(fresh vegetable dipped in salt water)– also spring, renewal, along with the tears of slavery- traditionally parsley- consider anything leafy or celery or avocado, or even a onion
charoset(brick mortar)- the hardship of slavery- traditionally a mix of nuts, apples, and wine- try a mix of some kind of fruit and nuts like peanut butter and jelly or granola
lamb shank, beets- bloodshed required to induce freedom- consider any slice of meat or beets or a yam, anything colorful
orange(equality)- for all genders and races- this is for something you don’t normally see on a seder plate- so use your imagination.
olives (peace)- What represents peace to you?
carrots(sustainability)- a simple, practical, nutritious food
potatoes(sustenance)- another basic practical, nutritious food
fish(merit)- something a little extravagant
chocolate(fair trade)- something that represents the rights of workers
Referencing the plagues set upon the Egyptians, we inserted this list letting us acknowledge the vulnerable members of our society still being passed over through:
a justice system that instills fear and divides communities. Just as the first plague of blood recalls violence and turmoil, we must take action to reform our criminal justice system to overcomes its brokenness.
a basic lack of shelter and affordable housing. Just as the plague of frogs transformed the Egyptians’ homes into unlivable conditions, affordable housing can transform lives at the most basic level.
a dysfunctional health care system where millions of Americans still do not have insurance. The plague of lice reminds us that affordable, quality healthcare is important to have when we are healthy and especially when unforeseen circumstances arise. We must advocate to ensure that all Americans can receive the treatments that they need.
the plague of gun violence in America that kills 32,000 Americans each year. Gun violence runs rampant in our communities, as did the wild animals in the fourth plague. We are commanded to take necessary measures to ensure the sanctity of human life and safety of our communities.
hungry kids that exist in every community. Our tradition is explicit in commanding that we feed the hungry, and we must work to make that a reality. The plague of cattle disease reminds us how important it is to ensure that all people have the resources and support needed to live healthily.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is wreaking havoc across the globe, and those most vulnerable are being hardest hit. With thousands falling ill, vast sectors of our economy are shut down, and many workers continuing to labor under dangerous circumstances. This crisis has major implications for economic justice, underscoring the need for universal health care, workers’ rights and more. Just as COVID-19 plagues our society in this moment, so did boils plague the Egyptians when this sudden health crisis impaired their lives and livelihood. This year, we add an empty chair at our table to honor the lives of those lost during this last year and a one-minute silence of respect and acknowledgement.
the effects of climate change that most significantly impacts low-income communities and people of color. The climate disruption of the plague of hail is a reminder that the onus is on each of us to take action to prevent climate disruption in communities where such events would have a devastating impact.
valuing workers’ essential dignity. Just as the locusts disrupted work and resources for the Egyptians, so does the lack of paid sick days disrupt the lives of families and workplaces across the United States. Without a national minimum standard, workers face agonizing choices between health and subsistence.
education as the key to opportunity and prosperity. The plague of darkness reminds us to pursue a bright future for all our children through robust public education.
There are many structural policy changes that we can make to ameliorate economic inequality. The drama and pain of the plague of the death of the firstborn does not remind of us of any one social justice issue, but it does remind us of the importance of taking action before crises become truly dire. Enacting new legislation, particularly voting rights, underscores the previous nine plagues making sure that we are a country of, by and for the people. On Passover, as we celebrate our redemption from the land of Egypt during this transitional time of the pandemic, we commit to structural change as our opportunity to leave Mitzrayimmore united, less isolated and more committed to hope and awakening for all.
And just in case you never added the Cup of Miriam to your seder, here is the info:
The Fourth Cup: Kos Arba: A cup of wine for Eliyahu ha-Navi, Prophet Elijah and a cup of water for the Prophet Miriam, Miryam, kos mayim Chayim: Blessed is the mystery that flows through time and space bringing us clean healthy water.
Traditionally, Elijah the Prophet visits each home on Seder night as a foreshadowing of his future arrival when he announces the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Jewish feminists place a Cup of Miriam filled with water beside the Cup of Elijah.
Midrash teaches us that Miriam, the prophetess, was the keeper of a miraculous well accompaning the Hebrews throughout their journey in the desert. Both Miriam and her well were spiritual oases in the desert, sources of sustenance and healing.
The Cup of Miriam is living waters, the fresh beginning; The Cup of Elijah is wine, awareness that our world is imperfect and still in need of repair. Miriam is present; Elijah is future. Miriam is place; Elijah is time. Miriam is the sea; Elijah is the mountain. The water of Miriam rises from the earth; the fire of Elijah descends from the sky. Together they are the circle of sunlight and rain needed for growth. Together they give us the consciousness to be free. These cups are our determination for a time of true redemption when all people will live:
free from bigotry and oppression.
with equality for all races to never again shunned by prejudice and hatred.
in respect for the aspirations and humanity of women and girls.
with sustenance for communities living in hunger.
in peace, particularly in those societies torn by savage war.
with safe harbor for refugees and survivors of violence.with the promise of dignity and human rights for all.
During the pandemic, it has been my responsibility to keep us stocked and fulfill the orders, so when an order came for one of these potholders this past weekend, I had to replenish the stock and make some.
The construction is actually pretty challenging, finding the right pocket and cutting it so as not to sew over hardware or heavy seams. Add onto that, 5 layers of remnant tee-shirts for the lining and a backing, all attached with a 3″ binding, doubled.
It’s actually impossible sewing for any normal machine, even my working horse of an industrial brother. However, through the fluke of friends and the closing of a factory, I happen to have the key to the potholder’s completion: this most industrial special walking foot sewing machine shown here:
Is’t she a beauty? I can tell you, without a doubt, that we could not make these potholders without this machine. Its nature allows for all of the thickness in a way that makes me eternally grateful. Quite something, right???
One year after quarantine began, I have achieved the unimaginable: the immunization protection from this deadly disease. Going out into the public, still masked, with my immunization card in hand, brought out the following dichotomies and then some:
I feel safer from, yet less trusting of anyone without a mask.
I feel happy that life is finally starting to get back to normal, but sad that we lost an entire year.
I am tired of being sedentary but find it hard to muster the energy to re-activate.
Be disgusted by the continued divide of politics vs. rights.
Measuring my faith vs. my feelings of doubt.
My conflicted feelings of action and inaction.
Accepting the mystery of all vs. the needs to problem solve and provide answers in the moment.
I read an article in the Times about disenfranchised grief, the kind we feel everyday: that if we did not die or lose a loved one, we have no legitimate complaints. This is a ridiculous unrealistic notion. Everyone of us has reason to grieve. Each has suffered hardships and losses and all are valid.
Here are some suggestions to help acknowledge and validate the grief: seek support from others with shared experiences; create a ritual to bring forward the deeper meanings of the experience; reaching out to help others that have greater needs and losses; and work to discover and acknowledge the small moments of joy that came through the grief.
Getting ready for Passover this year, I will add an empty chair to our seder table- representing both the unforgivable magnitude of lives lost and unforgettable feelings of individual grief.
When our granddaughters had their B’Not Mitzvah this past September, I was introduced to the Torah that was very likely used when my father had his Bar Mitzvah. What better honor for me than to collaborate with my cousin, Keshira HaLev to give the Torah a new mantle!
Cousin Sandy’s tuxedo, shirts, hankies, and ties
Uncle Jason’s Greek hats and Tallit bag
Maya and Naomi’s B’not Mitzvah logo
Keshira’s Wedding dress
Sacred garment silks
Tim’s Bar Mitzvah kepah
Cousins’ photo transfers, needlepoint, and embroideries
I know very little about my grandfather, Sam. There was only one picture of him that used to sit at the table near my Nana’s chair in our home.
He was the first of his family to come to Pittsburgh. He opened a bar in Harwick, Pennsylvania. He sponsored his younger brother, Jake, a sister and a half-sister. One sister died tragically in Pittsburgh, the other went back to Europe and died in the Holocaust. Jake took over the bar when Samuel died. He was married to Frances and had three girls. The oldest one, lives in the same building as my oldest daughter.
Sam died of some kind of cancer. Someone told me once it was colon cancer. He was lucky to have a wife with a big family home on Portland Street in the East End of Pittsburgh. It appears from the obituary he went there for treatment and subsequently died there. I wish I knew more.
When there’s much shifting through me, it helps to look to outside sources to help me make sense of myself.
One such viewpoint came by way of a podcast by Tara Brach on gratitude. What an apt view for this holiday season- suggestions on how to awaken our natural capacities for gratitude and generosity though pathways of honest presence and purposeful cultivation. Tara Brach is a gem!
The next influence came by way of a new book of short stories by Nicole Krauss. Each one is more fabulous than the next. The NYTimes explains her writing this way: In each of these moving stories, we feel the weight not only of family, but of history and faith and leaving a legacy, pressing down on every one of her characters.Birth and death, joy and mourning, love and heartbreak — these too animate the collection. But as a writer Krauss is less interested in describing life’s grand explosions than she is in showing how people make sense of the rubble. My, my, my, another gem: Nicole Krauss.
Finally, though this might be a little harder to understand, was the documentary series on Netflix about Ivan The Terrible called The Devil Next Door. The story itself is difficult to watch, scary and horrific with interesting twists and turns until the very last scene when the foreman of the Ford plant explains that most of the men on the assembly line were just like Demjanjuk, undercover, silent, make no waves so as to blend into America’s melting pot, acting as if, proving that the true horror of hidden prejudices and behaviors are right there to been understood and conquered by all who choose to shine the light and look closely.