I am very excited to be sending you this E-Newsletter.

Counting The Omer
We are now counting our way toward Sinai – the way a bride and groom count the days toward their wedding, the way expectant parents count the days to the birth. Both analogies are explored in the midrash. Sinai and revelation are seen as a covenantal marriage between God and Israel – and as a (re)birth of the Jewish people.

The tradition teaches that there are 49 possible levels of degradation. As slaves in Egypt, our people descended to the lowest level. If the Israelites had sunk to 50, we could not have rebounded. But from that 49th level of degradation, we were able to climb back up, step-by-step, each day for seven weeks. And when we reached level ground, we were ready to receive Torah at Sinai.

I am writing to you on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust memorial day. Tragically, the Jewish people has both ancient and fresh memories of degradation; yet we are climbing up.

In terms of our personal journeys, many people have recently suffered losses in finances, freedom, joy, and gratitude. Still, I see us all ascending. I hope that you will take a few moments to envision yourself that way.

In the Kabbalistic matrix, each day of the omer is assigned a unique combination of two sefirot (divine emanations). Today is hod shebegevurah: the glory of strength. Indeed, it is glorious to watch people show and grow their strength, as they climb.

May you ascend from rung to rung and from strength to strength,

- Rabbi Debra Orenstein

The Five-Minute Miracle, part 1

With this edition of the E-Newsletter I include for you something special: a brand-new document, created for RabbiDebra.com. It is the first segment of a multi-part essay entitled: The Five-Minute Miracle. This first part is called “Staying Grounded While Becoming Uplifted.”

Click here to download your copy

Ultimately, this report will be available on the website, but right now it is on a “hidden" web page available exclusively to E-Newsletter subscribers. I welcome your feedback so that I can shape this and future writings for you. Please write to me and let me know your thoughts.

-Rabbi Debra

Craig's Corner
notes from the rebbetzin

As you think of your comments on Debra’s essay, we would especially appreciate if you could give us a testimonial that we could use to tell others about the value of the essay and the other teachings available on the website. Click here to add your testimonial. Thank you!

The recent Passover holiday was very powerful for me this year. Much as in days of old, it included family, lots of travel, and, in this case, the passing of a friend. It has been a time, this year perhaps more than others, to acknowledge both joy and loss, change and continuity, and, as Debra writes about in her new essay, presence and perspective.

Just as we were packing happily to fly east to be with Debra's family for the chag, I was informed that a dear friend of mine passed away. The funeral was not yet set, and I continued our plans to be with family for the seders, which were lovely and full of participation from all around the three tables that filled my generous sister-in-law's new home.

During this time I also learned of the scheduled funeral for my friend. It would be in San Francisco just after the seders. Leaving the family chag seemed nearly impossible, and yet I knew I had to make this trip; I had to be present. As Debra told me, "In 20 years you may not remember this particular seder, but you will remember whether you went to the funeral."

My friend Vince was an outstanding human being. After my father died during my childhood, I was fortunate to get the attention of Stanford University's "Big Brother" program. Vince was my "big brother" then, and through the years he had continued to be a great friend and intimate supporter. I knew his generous spirit didn't stop with me, but I was amazed when arriving at the large church to see the building filling and filling by the hundreds. Quickly, there was no standing room anywhere. He had touched so many people so deeply and died tragically young after battling a number of medical conditions.

From that point of great sadness remembering my friend and my family far away, I understood the need to carry on, not just casually pro forma but with joy and an appreciation for life, for the freedom we enjoy, and for the gifts God offers if we make the effort to pay attention. It's not every day that the Red Sea parts or that we see a humble, good man honored by hundreds, but signs of the miracles available to us are out there. God is showing us the way in mitzvot and tikkun olam.

It is a struggle to live with misfortune. Vince battled his, and some say he may have lost the battle. Others could look around the filled church, listen to the testimony of those who knew him, and say that he actually won. These are times ripe with struggle, and yet by recognizing what is holy around us, by cultivating gratitude, and by working to stay engaged in "finding your next mitzvah," we can live a valuable and fulfilling life.

I flew from the funeral back to my family, arriving in time to help dedicate the garage of my sister-in-law's new house. Her mother and father had helped to pay for the construction, and we held a joyful and laughter-filled ceremony to mark this new structure. Friends and neighbors attended. We ate, and we all felt a little launch forward. Along with my family and the rest of those happy souls present, I had arrived in the freedom of a new space, physically and spiritually. With all these memories fresh in my mind, I am ready to go forward.

- Craig Weisz, rebbetzin and president, ShareWonder Media

P.S. To hear a three-minute audio teaching from Rabbi Debra on overcoming complacency and pursuing Your Next Mitzvah, click on the player below:

Many of you participated in my recent webinar Meaningful Jewish Ritual. I hope you enjoyed it. For those that missed the live event, a recording of the full session is still available at: www.AskRabbiDebra.com/S.

I also want to recommend another tele-webinar coming up next week, one where I will be attending as a student rather than a teacher. Joseph Telushkin and Reuven Kimmelman are co-teaching a course on Love Your Neighbor As Yourself. I have spoken at enough of the same venues with Joseph Telushkin to know that when he talks, I want to listen. I have admired and learned from his writings, as well as from Professor Kimmelman’s. I invite you to tune in and listen to the webinar. You can listen live on Monday, April 27 at 6 PM Pacific – but you don’t have to. Once you register you can also listen later on at your convenience. Please click here to learn more and find out how to register.

I look forward to seeing one another at simchas and sharing Torah together.

- Rabbi Debra Orenstein

If you enjoyed the Your Next Mitzvah audio track above and would like to hear more audio teachings like this one, convenient for bringing with you in your car or on your way via iPod, etc. wherever you happen to be traveling, please check out these teaching CD's by Rabbi Debra and spiritual luminary Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Click on the CD's below for more information. And please do stay in touch.

-Craig Weisz

Thank you for your interest and support.