calamity's child

your transmission and your live wire

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the things

1. i live in philly now, in a home firmly ensconced in trees. enough so that it is like living in a treehouse. i haven’t unpacked anything really – only the kitchen and my cookbooks and i put up my bed. that gives you a pretty firm sense of my priorities.

2. i started rabbinical school. technically only ulpan, an intensive immersion program in modern hebrew, to prepare me for the mekhinah (preparation) year at reconstructionist rabbinical college. mekhinah is like rabbinical kindergarten. which makes ulpan like rabbinical pre-school. i’m enjoying it very much.

3. the trajectory: i worked for four years in a fairly intense job as a case manager at a clinic in new york, working only with trans* folks. i didn’t have a break between that job and moving to philly and starting ulpan, and so this weekend i’m taking the best approximation of a vacation i can: staying in bed and watching All Of The Television.

4. suddenly, everything has changed.

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Kicked Out, a cross-post

I reviewed the Kicked Out anthology, edited by Sassafras Lowrey, this week, over at State of Formation where I am a sometimes-blogger. It’s a great blog, and awesome to get to review a book that has so much import in my personal and current professional life (as a case manager, as opposed to the professional life that is starting in three weeks as a rabbinic student) for a blog of religious leaders. Here it is, in two parts:

Kicked Out, A Review: Part One

Kicked Out, A Review: Part Two

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read this, immediately

I grew up with her music, with Mary telling it like it is–but gently, at nice, uncomplicated dinner parties, the kind with pasta and unintentionally mismatched placemats. I’m going to go ahead and argue that everything that went wrong in our lives can be traced back to that foolish moment where we decided we were too cool for adult contemporary country music.

Therefore, I submit: there is no moment in your life so painful that it cannot be made more bearable by a Mary Chapin Carpenter song.

A Woman For All Seasons: Mary Chapin Carpenter



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Counting the Omer with Locally Grown: A Cross Post

[crossposted from Young Jewish Brooklyn]

Tuesday starts the last week of our Omer counting. Are you ready? I’m not.  Not in the least.

The truth is, every year I start out with good intentions. Much like New Years wishes, my good intentions slowly dissolve, explained away by excuses: I am too tired, I forgot last night and this morning, it is too late at night, what number are we on again? and on and on. I’m not terribly good at this practice.

Start on the red space at the top right of the chart and wind your way down to the purple, and the colors going from right to left diagonally across the chart are the 7 colors of the rainbow. Everything else is a blend.

I’m not good at it, but I love it. I love the counting of the days, I love naming them. I love my friends’ made-up ways of counting. I love the Kabbalistic system for counting these days through the sefirot: Chesed (loving-kindness), Gevurah (strength), Tiferet (beauty), Netzach (endurance), Hod (humility), Yesod (foundation, bonding), and Malchut (divine presence). I love the calendars people come up with to mark these days, especially this beautiful spectrumed calendar. And mostly, I love that my most basic question from Pesach is given some shape: What do we do after the Exodus from Egypt? We wander, we count, we wait, and we work – we harvest: this sojourn leads us to Sinai, where, finally, we receive Torah. Wandering leads to wandering, leads to labor and harvesting, leads to diligence, leads – slowly – to Malchut, divine presence, revelation.

Divine presence (whatever that might mean to each of us individually, maybe the spirit of that which is larger than ourselves), is also the most concretely physical of these sefirot. Presence implies place and form: here with us, and not just idea or spirit but also, somehow, matter. What this presence is or means, I do not know. Most expansively, we are reflecting on what it means to be alive in this world, made holy, in the image of the divine; most concretely, we are reflecting on what it means to have been given words of wisdom in the Torah, to guide us on our way through this world. It’s not small, the ask.

Lately, my therapist has been having me explore what it might be like to feel just a drop of the love shown to me in my daily life really get through to me, under my skin and defenses and fear, to just-me. It’s a useful image for considering Malchut and being in the midst of the divine presence. What would it mean to take in just a drop of the idea of the divine presence, just enough so that questions and doubt don’t overpower us, and just sit there, with a sense of divine presence with, or within, us. What would it mean to take in just a drop everyday from now until Shavuot, so that at the time of receiving Torah, we are able to take it in a little deeper, a little more. What new things could be revealed to us about the world we live in, about the texts that guide us through it? What new things could we reveal to ourselves, about who we are in this world, and how, and why?

Malchut helps us to meditate on these questions. and to see through to the biggest picture of the Omer practice. It’s from this point that we can see what we’re moving towards more clearly. This week, try to take some time to check in with yourself and see  – what would it be like to take in this drop of a sense of something larger than yourself, or something divine, in? Reflect on the world through that drop of divine presence. See yourself, the people around you, your work, your innermost being, the struggles and joy of the world we live in, through that drop. And as you move on towards Sinai and revelation, see what it might feel like to do so with just the smallest drop of what is in store in your heart.

The counting, for these last nine nights of the Omer, we move from Yesod (foundation) to Malchut:

  • May 5 – Day 41: Hayom e-chad v’arbaim yom, shehaym chami-sha shavuot v’shi-sha yamim ba-omer
  • May 6 – Day 42: Ha-yom sh’nayim v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot ba-omer
  • May 7 – Day 43: Ha-yom sh’losha v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot v’yom e-chad ba-omer
  • May 8 – Day 44: Ha-yom arba-a v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot ushnay yamim ba-omer
  • May 9 – Day 45: Ha-yom chami-sha v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot u’shelosha yamim ba-omer
  • May 10 – Day 46: Ha-yom shi-sha v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot v’arba-a yamim ba-omer
  • May 11 – Day 47: Ha-yom shiva v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot va’chami-sha yamim ba-omer
  • May 12 – Day 48: Ha-yom shemonah v’arbaim yom, shehaym shi-sha shavuot v’shi-sha yamim ba-omer
  • May 13 – Day 49: Ha-yom tisha v’arbaim yom, shehaym shiv-a shavuot ba-omer

Looking for Shavuot plans still? Come to Shavuot Across Brooklyn, a huge community Shavuot hosted by Congregation Beth Elohim and sponsored by Altshul, Brooklyn Jews, Congregation Beth Elohim, Congregation Mount Sinai, Flatbush Jewish Center, Hannah Senesh Community Day School, Israelis in Brooklyn, Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn, Kolot Chayeinu, LABA, Locally Grown Shabbat, Mishkan Minyan, Moishe House, Park Slope Jewish Center, Prospect Heights Shul, Shir HaMaalot, and Union Temple.

[see previous weeks' reflections at Young Jewish Brooklyn]

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count that omer

Omer Calendar by The Annamatrix based on the original chart at If you begin counting in the upper right corner on the first day, you begin with the “bright red of rebellion” and end forty-nine days later at the “brilliant violet of royalty” ready to receive Torah. Each day we focus on that color (and its qualities) as it appears in our world.

I’ve been trying to have an omer counting practice for the first time this year. It’s not going that great, ’cause I’ve been generally forgetful. But when I do remember, it is lovely. (If omer-counting is new to you, you can see my post about it on Young Jewish Brooklyn’s Rituals & Prayers blog.) At Locally Grown (the shabbat programming I help to organize for young Jews at my synagogue), we’re doing a new thing where we’re having a different young Jewish leader from around Brooklyn write a reflection for each week of the omer-counting period (the 49 days between the second day of Pesach and erev Shavuot). The second post went up last Sunday, and it’s all so beautiful. A good way to get insight into the practice, and to hear the voices of younger Jewish communal leaders. You should totally check it out.

Week 1: Counting the Omer with Locally Grown, by Rachel Brook

Week 2: Counting the Omer with Locally Grown, by Rabbi Marc Katz

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Questions 26-30 – We Meet the End

26. Have you ever regretted a particular reading, either for yourself or another?
I used to do readings in the midst of anxiety about relationships a lot. That’s a bad idea in case you didn’t already know. Your feelings cloud the reading too much and it’s hard to distinguish the messages of your head and heart from the messages of the universe. I regret doing it always after I escape from the fog of my anxiety, or the heartache of the relationship, or whatever else is happening. Oftentimes the regret is mixed “I regret not listening to my cards” and “I regret not being able to ask honest questions about the real situation and not about my dreamworld vision of what should be happening.”

see that daled there?

27. Do you have a special time and/or place that you use your Tarot?
Not at all. I try not to use my bed, though. That place should only have my energy in it.

28. Does anyone you know not agree with your Tarot practices?
I mean. I’m Jewish. I’m sure there are many people who would have some sort of perspective that my divination practices are not in line with Judaism. But divination practices are a huge part of Biblical text, and in my mind and heart, divination practices serve to bring us closer to the divine, and are not in contradiction with monotheistic religious traditions in the least. Plus there are many many many Jewish influences in many Tarot decks.

29. Do you have a Tarot mentor?
No, but I would really love to have friends more friends who read to learn from.

30. Do you practice any other forms of divination? If so, what is it, and do you use them alongside the Tarot as to gain more insight or as something separate entirely?
I have a pendulum that I use occasionally. I love it. I use it when I need to not have more images in my head, and need to me more physically anchored to the information I’m divining.

[see all 30 questions here]

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Questions 21-25

21. How do you feel when you do readings?
What a strange question. There is always the feelings that I’m feeling – sometimes which impell me to do the reading, sometimes which cloud my reading, sometimes which are obscure and come out through the reading. I guess I think that readings are about feelings. They’re about the feelings that roll on the surface, under the surface, in the unknown. They’re about tapping into the infinite, which brings up feelings maybe we didn’t know we had, or bring insight to situations and introduce new feelings into the mix.

russian tarot, from kris austen radcliffe

But if the question is, how do I feel when I’m sitting here, cards in hand . . . I guess I would say I feel at home, in a way. I try to read when I’m clear-headed, not desperate to find out answers or for reassurance. I try to read when I’m in my body, and open to the wisdom of the universe. So, at home, because when I’m choosing to read, I’m often in my best self. When I read and I’m not in my best self, it still feels at home, but a little clouded, like I’m looking through the window or something.

22. Do you charge money (or other ways of compensation) for your readings/services?
No not at all. I’m not a professional, and don’t want to be. If I do readings for other people, it’s in the context of friendship only. I used to schedule doing readings for friends, but don’t do that anymore. If I read for someone else at all, it’s spontaneous and an act of care. I make my money in other ways, and thankfully don’t need to figure out how to use this skill for financial gain. I

don’t think I’d like the dynamic of reading for someone. I already am a big empath and work as a case manager, and am going to be a rabbi, god willing, and there are enough of other people’s feelings in the mix.

23. What question do you most often ask the deck (or, ask on behalf of another)?
What does the universe want me to know right now?
What am I supposed to be doing/Am I on the right path?

24. How accurate do you believe your readings are (or, do they accurately convey messages from spirits/deity)?
I have experienced them to be accurate enough to nudge me down the right path, to warn me when something isn’t quite right, and to be a little bit “I told you so” when I ignore them. As an aside, I am more likely to talk about a “clear” reading than an “accurate” reading. The point of the cards for me is not predictive but instead to help draw out intuition into something understandable.

25. What was the most dramatic/meaningful reading you ever did? (Not necessarily the most accurate).
Oh, my readings are pretty low-drama, truth be told. I have stopped doing readings in the heat of the moment because it became clear that my feelings were influencing my readings, and I’d much rather have a clearer reading than a reading influenced by my own @#_P)($_#()$@#_).

[see all 30 questions here]


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