A Bissel Torah – 05/12/2020

Today is Lag Baomer. Lag BaOmer is the 33rd day of the counting of the omer. On this day the strictures of the omer period are traditionally lifted, and people enjoy games, fun, and the outdoors. It also happens that Lag BaOmer, according to the mystical view of the counting (which pairs different energies of God), is the day when we find the influence of Hod in Hod.Hod is understood as glory, majesty, and splendor. Today, and in every Lag BaOmer, is this unique time of glory/majesty/splendor squared. In my imagination,  Hod in Hod signifies openness to the majesty of creation, to the splendor of our world, to the glory of living.

This year, there will be no bonfires and gatherings for Lag BaOmer. We are consumed by the strictures of the COVID19 pandemic, and many of the things I would otherwise do on this day will not happen. Yet this semi-holiday is here, and the energy that we find coming from the kabalah’s understanding of this period are begging us to enjoy this day. I am reminded of a Yidische expression, “farginnen”. There is no exact translation for this expression. It can mean “to open space in your heart for the other”, or “to share pleasure”. Today demands that we find farginnen. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could enjoy all the glory, all the gifts that we receive in our world, opening space in our hearts to enjoy for enjoyment’s sake, to celebrate other people and the good things that are happening for them, to share the pleasure of lives well lived?Hod in Hod invites us to celebrate ours and others abilities and possibilities, to farginnen. It can be difficult to farginnen, to celebrate other people’s accomplishments, to be positive, to find glory, majesty, and splendor in others, and during this pandemic. To farginnen can be a hard exercise. It is a characteristic I believe most of us must train in order to accomplish it. There is nothing wrong in trying to educate ourselves to be this way. There are many things that don’t come naturally to us, but our tradition insists in inculcating in us. We have to learn to farginnen in the same way we learn other social attitudes, such as not stealing, or not doing wanton destruction. All these regulations are inculcated in us by our tradition. Here are a few suggestions to start recognizing opportunities to farginnen. When someone we know buys a new home, open up the space in your heart to enjoy that happiness with them. When someone shares with you a great moment, celebrate with them. When someone acquires a new skill, uses their creativity, figures out a new way to do something, we have to find that spark of enjoyment within us, and rejoice with the other. It may be difficult in the beginning, but as we exercise the farginnen muscle, and we get better at it, we actually get rid of the burdens that we might carry in our hearts. We open space for happiness, and begin to share in every feeling of happiness that is felt in the world. As we live our lives with joy in our hearts, we can’t help but feel great. We truly embody the saying of the sage Ben Zoma in the Pirkei Avot: “Who is rich? The one who is happy with what he/she has.” Since the world’s happiness is part of us, we can feel truly rich.

This Lag BaOmer, this day filled with glory, I hope we can have the experience of farginnen. May we use this day to open up the space in our hearts for farginnen, and may we soon enjoy the happiness that may come from this exercise.
Rabbi Lia Bass