First and foremost, I'm feeling a whole lot of Chesed coming from the Internet these days. I had no idea that so many people would be interested in #BlogBOmer as a concept, but I'm thrilled that it's been shared so much. If everyone who says they're "going" to the event does even one day, that means that over 100 people have made the Omer that much more meaningful to them. Pretty cool and another example of how Judaism can be made accessible, relevant, and resonant to anyone who's interested.
Second and second-most, I dedicate this post to Sharon R. who is my Eugene mentor, mother-lawyer and friend--thank you for the advice given when I was not in the best place to receive it. The message has certainly been received now.
Chesed (loving kindness) is the first day's theme of each week of the Omer. I think that the Kabbalists wanted us to start off positive--because it's also the first week's theme (there are seven in total). Many of you may know that from September 2014 until present, I've been sick. With some infection or another, I worked my way up to full-blown double pneumonia (both lungs infected) in mid-January, returned to work in February on and off, and relapsed the beginning of March. During this time, I had lunch (and many text-messages, phone calls, and emails) with Sharon as a mentorship visit. I had expected to use the time professionally and ask questions relating to growth, development, and moving forward as a woman in the Jewish professional field. Instead, the time was taken to discuss my struggles with my sickness, my frustration, my anger, my guilt. Sharon explained that this moment was a lesson for me to learn in patience (I agree, a virtue, but rarely one of mine) and in asking for help. That by feeling badly or guilty about others helping me through a difficult time, I was taking away from their good deed. Without meaning to, she inspired my understanding of this first theme of the Omer-chesed can be an act of loving-kindness from someone else (an offer of help), but chesed can also be an act of accepting that offer of help with grace and gratitude.
Most recently, I've experienced both acts of chesed during Passover Seders. On the first night of Passover (April 3), I was responsible for managing and coordinating a Seder experience for 130 people on campus. I reached out to students beforehand, but before the event I asked for help from students and coworkers (hopefully also gracefully and with gratitude). When Sharon arrived on the scene she asked me what she could do to help; after recovering from sensory overload I came up with a task I had forgotten--immediately upon finishing that she offered to help greet, to be friendly, to help in any way. The offer was an incredibly appreciated act of chesed, but in accepting it (and appreciating it!) I in turn offered my own brand of chesed. On April 4, I cooked and hosted a dinner at Oregon State University where I was helped in every aspect of the night: cooking, setting up, leading the seder, serving, and cleaning. I couldn't have felt luckier if I tried.
Chesed b'chesed. Offering acts of kindness and accepting them in turn. #BlogBOmer indeed!