When I first moved to Olympia, I had a bit of a rude awakening. In fact, the rude awakening came before I even moved to town. As my family and I were packing up in Philadelphia, I got a call from a contractor in Olympia to tell me that a backhoe had hit my house.
I’ve shared this story in the past with my congregation, in a pre-blog High Holiday sermon, but the short version is that a backhoe belonging to a contractor working for the City of Olympia installing sidewalks on my street somehow began rolling down towards my house, ramming into the side. We had come out a few months earlier and purchased the house, and we were just a few weeks away from moving when we got the call. I jumped on a plane, effectively moving myself two weeks early.
The first few days were assessing the situation and making arrangements both for repairs and a temporary place to stay. I was dealing with contractors, insurance companies, rental agents, etc. The rest of my family moved a few weeks later, and after a month’s displacement we were able to move into our house, newly repaired and even with some improvements.
During that time I learned a few things about construction and engineering. And one of the things I learned about my house is that as an older construction (it was built in the 1920s), the frame was not attached to the foundation. The backhoe was able to shift the frame of the house several inches off the foundation (in addition to poking a hole through the side), but only because it wasn’t bolted down. The repairs took care of that.
We turn our attention to foundations this week as we make our way through the journey of the Omer, the seven-week period between Passover and Shavuot. This temporal journey links the themes of liberation and covenant, central to these two respective holidays. But the journey itself is notable as a time to reflect on what it means to be liberated, and what it means to be prepared to enter into covenant.
The mystical tools our tradition provides us is the assignment of a sefira, or divine quality or emanation, to each of the seven weeks. This quality then becomes the kavannah, or intention, for that week, and we can take the steps on our spiritual journey by reflecting on this quality. This week we are given the quality of yesod, or foundation.
We are familiar with what a foundation is. A foundation is the part of a structure that forms the support for the whole. It is the base on which things are built. I learned first hand about house foundations when we were fixing our house.
But we humans also have foundations. We all have the bases that support us in our lives. Our individual foundations are that which make us uniquely us. We each come to this moment in time with a history of experience, ideas, values and stories that make us who we are. These foundations form the basis for what comes next, they are what we build our lives upon.
This week of yesod, ask yourself what makes your foundation. What values do you hold? What experiences shaped you the most? What other person or people form your network of support? What traditions do you find valuable? This is your foundation.
We like to think of our foundations as being stable and secure, and they do need to be. But while stable, foundations are not necessarily static. Our foundations are dynamic, we are always adding to them. They are continually being reinforced. Each experience, each encounter, each learning opportunity is a new chance for growth, and the opportunity to add something to our foundation. Allow yourself to be open to continually reinforce that aspect of yourself upon which you will build your future.
And like a house, we are anchored to our foundation in order to be supported.