hazzan Diana Brewer was ordained through the aleph ordination program. she leads prayer services regularly at the jewish community of amherst, and is on the staff of the davvenen leadership training institute.

Omer Day 9 גבורה שבגבורה Gevurah SheBiG’vurah

Strength within Judgement within Might within Boundaries within Discipline within Strength within Discernment within Boundaries within Might within Discipline within Structure within Judgement within Boundaries within... 

Today, for the second time in 6 months, I faced sitting with groups of children - brilliant, awe-filled children - to teach prayer the day after a synagogue shooting. It was our last meeting of the year. How to culminate a year’s worth of learning in a half-hour? How to do that on a day like today? That’s what I get with each group. With my two younger groups, we explored three big questions we had been visiting over the course of the year. For What Are You Grateful? What Causes You to Say “HELP!”? Why Bother? 

With my youngest group, who have LOTS to say, and love to tell me about it, we grew a garden of gratitude. We talked about our fears and rough spots. We considered the notion that maybe there is a benevolent energy Source in the universe that can lend comfort when we feel afraid in the night, that can help us do things we don’t have the Strength to do on our own steam, if we just ask. 

With my 4/5 graders, who have LOTS to say, and DON’T want to talk about it, we looked at the drawings and writings they submitted anonymously. Once again, mostly a garden of gratitude. Some fears and doubts mixed in (Help!).

With my oldest kids, we looked it straight in the face. What is Power? We studied the second blessing of the Amidah - Gevurot, Divine Might. Sustaining life with loving acts. Restoring life to the dead through great compassion. Supporting the fallen. Healing the sick. Freeing the captive.

Nothing in there about preying on people when they are most vulnerable. Nothing in there about hashing out our fears through violence. 

Strength within Strength is what brings us back to our sacred spaces the day after these horrendous acts, so disturbingly frequent these days. Discernment within Strength guides how I talk with kids about why we bother doing what we do. Boundaries within Discernment govern how much I reveal about myself in these discussions, and how much I simply hold the space for these remarkable, brilliant, courageous kids to explore and speak their minds and hearts.

Today I’ve been contemplating the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s observation that “... the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Does it, I wondered? I had to conclude that it does. As prevalent as war is, it is becoming increasingly non-normative, an act of last resort . The world is working for peace. The pugilistic attitudes of some of our current leaders is not admired on the world stage. Where hate is clearly fighting for its life, instincts don’t usually act out and go haywire unless they feel threatened. Hatred knows it is increasingly unwelcome. The arc is unfathomably long, indeed. Because I am as stiff-necked as my desert-wandering ancestors, I have to believe that Dr. King was right. That is the Boundary I will hold with all my Might. I will feel my sadness, and my anger, my frustration, my disappointment, and I will continue to bother to pray, and to practice gratitude, the daily Discipline I have held for so long.

I leave you with a quote from Rabbi Yael Levy’s Omer daily, her beautiful introduction to the week of Gevurah: 

Cultivate the capacity to hold paradox, Gevurah teaches.                                                                        Don’t let pain obscure joy.                                                                                                                         Don’t let loss deny love.                                                                                                                             And don’t allow the desire for certainty to dismiss the Mysterious.


Omer Day 10 תפארת שבגבורה Tiferet SheBiG’vurah

Omer Day 8 חסד שבגבורה Chesed SheBiG’vurah