Up All Night Tonight: Rumi, Maya Angelou, Rav Kook & More. Download now.. Joyful Weeks.

I’m excited to stay up all night tonight – bringing on the dawn of revelation with a lot of friends in Downtown NYC. Can’t join us tonight in NYC for INTO THE NIGHT?


check out and download my three study session sheets– linking the upcoming Shmita Year to Shavuot and our sacred cycle of sevens – from the Sabbath to the End of Time.. 


Texts include Torah, Talmud, Rav Kook, poetry by Maya Angelou, Rumi, and Yehuda Amichai, and lesser known Chasidic commentary. 

 

May the heavens open to new truth. Joyful Weeks!

 

Sacred Seven One shavuot 5774

Shavuot Sacred Seven TWO

Sacred Seven Poems for Shavuot 5775

 

shavuot graphic 4

3:15PM Why Counting Omer on Holocaust Memorial Day is My Small Act of Defiance

At 3:15 pm on the 11th of April 1945, the American Army’s 9th Armored Infantry Battalion stormed through the barbed wire gates of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany, freeing, at least in body, some 21,000 prisoners. Among them my father Naphtali, age 19 and his 7 years old brother, Israel. Steven Fenves, a young man from Hungary, was liberated there as well. 69 years later his granddaughter Molly would come to work with me at Lab/Shul – a shared legacy uniting us across the generations.

 

Twenty years ago I interviewed my  father and uncle about the day of liberation, which for our family had become an official celebration, a day of re-birth. ‘How did you hold on? ‘ I asked them. “With no known end date in sight – how did you not lose hope?’

 

‘Jam’, my uncle responded. ‘Every once in  a while one of the Russian prisoners would take pity on my and give me a bit of jam to lick. I waited for those moments all the time.’ My father pointed at his brother: “I had to make sure the kid survives. Every day was another victory. I survived for him.”

 

This Sunday, April 26, is Yom Ha’Shoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed in Israel and in many Jewish communities around world. Today’s date – the 27th of Nissan, was chosen by Israeli law makers for its proximity to the launch of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but also to Passover and to the Israeli Days of Remembrance and Independence, just a week ahead. The choice places the memory of those who fought, perished or survived during the Holocaust on a continuum of historical Jewish destruction and renewal.

 

But there’s also another connection to the calendar that comes up each year as we who bear witness and perpetuate the memory light another candle and pause to honor a

nd reflect. This memorial day always happens during the Counting of the Omer, this 50 day period on the Jewish calendar that reminds us to make each day count, to count our blessings, and to look forward to the revelation that awaits at the summit  – the end of this intentional journey – each year again. 

My father and his relatives and friends did not have a date in mind when they counted each night and were counted each morning, mere numbers on some German chart. They had no tangible release date to hold on to, no end in sight, just like their ancestors, those Hebrew slaves in Egypt for whom liberation came suddenly on the night of the Exodus.

So tonight, the 13th day since we left Egypt,  almost the end of the second week of the Omer, I count with the intention of appreciation for making each night matter, and honoring every second of the privilege of being here – free in so many ways, not to be taken for granted.

I count today, as I light a memorial candle, honoring the memory, and looking ahead to reaching Shavuot again, the summit of Sinai, for the renewal of my vows with all that’s sacred and all that can help me be a better person, more aware, more helpful, a co

Shavuot Prayer in Buchenwald 1945

-creator of a better world. Is that not, at the of the day, what the Torah is about? Why we got it? What God wants of us?

37 days to go until we stand again at Sinai – looking God eye to eye and renewing our vows to be partners in creation. What will that look like this year? How will we walk this talk?

This year’s counting of the Omer is for me a kick-off for a year full of focus on release from old patterns and an attempt to reboot our system towards a healthier, more sustainable and just world. Next year’s Shmita year is the sacred seventh, offering us a chance to seriously step up our commitment to a world more free of excess, greed, and attachment. Those are not, perhaps, the main ingredients in what makes genocide and war happen – but they are not minor elements either. I pray that with this year’s intentional counting of the Omer and next year’s dedication to a year of more release and intention, we who take these actions seriously can take a collective step together towards a world less cruel and more kind.

On Shavuot 1945, a moving prayer service was held at the former SS mess hall in Buchenwald, led by the recently deceased American Chaplain Rabbi Herschel Schecther. My father and uncle were there – recognizable them in the famous photo, tiny, skinny faces in a sea of survivors who made it from Egypt’s slave camps to the Sinai summit, a bittersweet celebration of continuity and reconnection.

The clock above the gate at Buchenwald stays frozen at 3:15 – the moment of freedom. But for us the mythic clock keeps ticking, another night of counting, another day of memories, another year, another shmita – an  eternal cycle, full of powerful reminders to always remember that we were once enslaved in Egypt and that we must do what we can to not let that happen to anybody again. Our clock’s not frozen in history – it never stands sill –  it may not be: This is the defiance or this disciplined daily count: here and now – AND – looking forward to the future. We pause today to count our dead and count our blessings and continue on our journey to make this world a little better, one honest step at a time.

 

May the memory be  a blessing.

Sacred Seven Cycle/Week One: Done!

The Art of Counting/Amichai Lau-Lavie

April 23 2014

YESTERDAY was Earth Day, the Eighth Day of Passover, my 45th Birthday, and the end of the first week of seven in the sacred count. Clearly, some days matter more. But what matters most is the art of counting.

TODAY we begin counting the second week of seven. This is Omer Time. More details below if you never heard of it, and new insights  if you have —  all connected to the bigger story of the cycle of sacred sevens – and what awaits us next year.

DID YOU KNOW: The time unit known as ‘week’ does not appear in nature. It is a human-made invention (including, most famously, the bit in Genesis about Creator getting it all done in six days and then resting for the first of Sabbaths.)

Attributed to the ancient Babylonians, loosely connected to the cycle of the moon, then adopted by the Jews and making it to global prime time, the notion of a sacred seven cycle is now integral to the way our world works. The cycle of seven is the way to not just do – but to be, and to be better, in every way.

Omer Counter by Tobi Kahn

On the Jewish calendar, we are right now in the middle of the annual countdown of sevens – seven weeks from the midnight of the Passover redemption to the midnight of the Shavuot revelation on Mount Sinai. Shavuot  literally  means ‘weeks’. Developed over centuries, this period known officially as “Counting of the Omer:  has evolved from an biblically mandated agricultural tool to a more loosely interpreted mystical application. Omer is Hebrew for ‘a sheath of wheat’: What was once about a way to plan a better harvest of grain has become a way of focusing on what matters most in our inner lives, what counts each day. It is an exercise in daily discipline, a way to  chart our humble attempt at progress from the narrow places within us to the highest summits of our aspirations. Like a game of shoots and ladders, we go at it, every year, for seven weeks, again and again.

 

I like the Omer countdown because life is chaos and this habit helps me ground and take a time out for this focused daily task. The fact that I am not doing it alone supports the journey. In recent years I blogged each day  online with my friend the great artist Jacqueline Nicholls, (she’s doing it again this year – sign up!)  — but this year I decided to try and count each night quietly to myself, and only pause publicly at the end of each week to post a thought about the very meaning of the Seven Cycle, about the art of counting – and the act of letting go.  This is post 1 of 7. 

Why letting go? This year’s seven week countdown is the ‘coming attractions’ to another cycle of the sacred seven. The Sabbatical Year, known in Hebrew as Shmita is upon us this coming September, as Rosh Hashana ushers 5775.  SHMITA  means ‘release’, a complex biblical concept intended as a way to hit restart on the systems of life – equalizing land use, financial debts and employment contracts. Similar to the weekly Sabbath, the Shmita cycle gives society a chance to take a break and refresh the system. Unlike the Sabbath, the Shmita in its original context only applied to the Land of Israel, creating a complex set of rules and regulations for agricultural use that give modern Israeli farmers, rabbis and consumers a seven year glitch and a major headache. What may have a been a doable task in the days of local biblical economy proves to be an almost challenge in today’s global reality.

Just like we need the weekly Sabbath to unplug and reconnect – we could really use a re-imagined sabbatical year – a time to release and rebuild.

Omer Counting - Jaq Nicholls and Amichai Lau-Lavie, 2012

The concept of the Shmita – in the meta-legal sense that transcends the literal understanding of this concept – is about a year of releasing all that holds us back from being all that we can be. A year of letting go does not necessarily mean dropping it all and going on a Sabbatical from life on some tropical island – not that I’d mind… On more realistic fronts – the seventh year, reconfigured, can offer us a year of contemplation and action, taking baby steps, alone and together, in figuring out what we can rid of in our lives and what we can release to gain a better lease on a life of greater flourishing, less nonsense and addiction, more being present in the here and now.

It only happens every seven years and I’m excited to take this coming cycle seriously – inviting friends and co-creators of the Lab/Shul journey to join me for a year of exploration and release. For the Lab/Shul community – just starting out, this can serve as a powerful way to chart our growth and mark our milestones – planning seven years ahead, working out a sustainable,  sacred and solid grid.

The Omer’s seven week count presents the perfect set up, introducing us, week by week, to the inner cycle of sevens, as a sort of warm up, psychic prep, a practice in the art of counting and the act of letting go.

So let it count. And let it go!

Join us on May 10th May 10  –  our next Shabbat AM with focus on a deeper exploration of the original Biblical recipe for the Shmita year. Then on Shavuot,  June 3  – the 49th night of this year’s Omer countdown stay up with me and many great teachers at the 14th Y for an all nigher immersion in the sacred art of revelation, release and renewal.

Splendid Spring and Sacred Sevens.