Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community

Counting the Omer – Week 3

Counting the Omer
for Spiritual Development
and Racial and Social Justice 

WEEK THREE (April 11- 17)
Beauty, Compassion, Balance 

Day One, Week Three (Day 15): Sunday eve, April 11, and Monday
Chesed she’b’Tiferet – Lovingkindness in Beauty and Compassion 

“The best way of breaking down barriers between people or communities is through simple,  unforced acts of kindness. One act can undo years of estrangement.” “Acts of kindness never  die. They linger in the memory, giving life to other acts in return.” (Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks) 

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the  aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in  your life you will have been all of these.” (George Washington Carver) 

Two possible exercises for the day, choose one or both: Watch a young boy lovingly help an  elderly woman up stairs (see https://youtu.be/GzlIzALMb9o). AND/OR Consider the ways in which you express sympathy or compassion. Ask yourself: Is my compassion warm, tender, and loving, or might it come across as pity? Is my sympathy ever condescending or patronizing?  Even if my intention is otherwise, might others perceive it as such? 

Day Two, Week Three (Day 16): Monday eve, April 12, and Tuesday
G’vurah she’b’Tiferet – Strength in Beauty and Compassion 

“Greatness, even for God, certainly for us, is not to be above people but to be with them,  hearing their silent cry, sharing their distress, bringing comfort to the distressed and dignity to  the deprived. The message of the Hebrew Bible is that civilizations survive not by strength but  by how they respond to the weak; not by wealth but by how they care for the poor; not by  power but by their concern for the powerless. What renders a culture invulnerable is the  compassion it shows to the vulnerable.” (Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks) 

“In compassion lies the world’s true strength.” (Gautama Buddha) 

“A heart full of love and compassion is the main source of inner strength, willpower, happiness,  and mental tranquility.” (Dalai Lama XIV)

Two possible exercises for the day, choose one or both: Read Maya Angelou’s powerful poem  “Continue” (see https://sacompassion.net/continue-a-poem-by-maya-angelou/). In which  areas lie your strengths? In which areas would you like to be stronger?

AND/OR Watch “Lost  in Motion” by Canadian dancer/choreographer Guillaume Côté (see https://youtu.be/E-lfoMk12x4 ). What tremendous strength is needed to create such a work of beauty! And how  incredibly beautiful is the strength demonstrated in this work of art! 

Day Three, Week Three (Day 17): Tuesday eve, April 13, and Wednesday
Tiferet she’b’Tiferet – Beauty and Compassion in Beauty and Compassion 

As you read these reflections, listen to the beautiful music best-known as the “Meditation  from Thaïs” (see https://youtu.be/NLhvMgucWns): 

“The spiral of compassion has no beginning or end. Begin where you are. Use breath to bring  softness into yourself and release it into the world. Empathy in each moment, for each  moment.” (Claudia Hill, from Omer 2019: Week 3 by Ritualwell) 

“Living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means  living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift.” (Oprah Winfrey) 

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” (Sylvia Plath, from The Bell Jar

Two possible exercises for the day, choose one or both: Read Joy Harjo’s beautiful poem  “Remember” (see https://emergencemagazine.org/poem/remember/).

AND/OR Sit  comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Focus on your breath for 9 minutes – roughly the amount of time that police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s  neck, preventing him from breathing properly. As a step toward increasing your awareness of  the need to eliminate racial injustice in policing, allow your breathing to become more shallow  – with full recognition that you may go back to breathing more deeply at any time that you feel  at all uncomfortable! 

Day Four, Week Three (Day 18): Wednesday eve, April 14, and Thursday
Netzach she’b’Tiferet – Endurance and Perseverance in Beauty and Compassion 

“The natural inclination of the heart is to seek balance and truth, to be in harmony, to delight in  beauty. And it is so easy to go astray, to lose our balance as confusion clouds our perceptions.  It takes practice to return again and again to beauty and love.” (Rabbi Yael Levy)

“Expressing compassion requires presence of mind, body and soul. Sustaining compassion  takes balance, courage and strength. May we nurture these qualities to allow compassion to  endure.” (Rabbi Roni Handler) 

“I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he  alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable  of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” (William Faulkner) 

Exercise for the Day: Look at the beautiful photographs of 20 persevering trees at  https://www.trueactivist.com/10-resilient-trees-that-refuse-to-die-no-matter-what/

Day Five, Week Three (Day 19): Thursday eve, April 15, and Friday
Hod she’b’Tiferet – Sincerity and Splendor in Beauty and Compassion 

“Philanthropy is commendable but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the  circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” (Martin Luther  King, Jr. ) 

“One should not allow the fact that one is able to give money to others to allow one to feel  superior. The Talmud teaches that nothing stays the same; the one who is rich today may  be poor tomorrow and the one who is poor today may be rich tomorrow. If God has been  generous to you, being compassionate and giving to others is simply doing what you were  put here to do. Haughtiness in giving is unseemly.” (Rabbi Barry Leff, The Neshamah Center) 

Exercise for the day: Examine Rambam’s ladder (see https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ eight-levels-of-charitable-giving). What level are you on? What level would you like to be on? 

Day Six, Week Three (Day 20): Friday eve, April 16, and Saturday
Yesod she’b’Tiferet – Building a Foundation in Beauty and Compassion 

While receiving AEI’s highest honor, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks distinguished between two  rival views of society derived from his exegesis of I Samuel 8. A social contract creates a  government, while a covenant creates a society: 

“In a contract, you make an exchange, which is to the benefit of the self-interest of  each. … A covenant isn’t like that. It’s more like a marriage than an exchange. In a  covenant, two or more parties each respecting the dignity and integrity of the other  come together in a bond of loyalty and trust to do together what neither can do  alone. A covenant isn’t about me; it’s about us. A covenant isn’t about interests;  it’s about identity. A covenant isn’t about me, the voter, or me, the consumer, but about all of us together. Or in that lovely key phrase of American politics, it’s about  ‘We, the people.’” 

Radical empathy, on the other hand, means putting in the work to educate oneself and to  listen with a humble heart to understand another’s experience from their perspective, not as  we imagine we would feel. Radical empathy is not about you and what you think you would  do in a situation you have never been in and perhaps never will. It is the kindred connection  from a place of deep knowing that opens your spirit to the pain of another as they perceive it.”  (Isabel Wilkerson, from Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Exercise for the day: Make a connection to do something outside your comfort zone. 

Day Seven, Week Three (Day 21): Saturday eve, April 17, and Sunday
Malchut she’b’T Tiferet – Majesty and Humility in Beauty and Compassion 

“There are rare but powerful instances when we awaken to the beauty of each part of our lives  and the complex but meaningful whole of all of these experiences put together. This coherence  of vision is the essence of Malchut of Tiferet.” (Devon Apier, from Omer Day 21: Majesty of  Beauty by Ritualwell) 

“’Enough’ is a feast.” (Buddhist proverb) 

Two possible exercises for the day, choose one or both: Listen to “Ode to Dirt” by Sharon Olds  (see https://youtu.be/gW_sSwsX-Ug).
AND/OR Make a gratitude list.

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