self renewal

B”H

Today’s middot are malchut shebbe malchut (sovereignty within sovereignty). This may be compared to the goal of self-actualization as found within a psychological framework. Finding a meaningful path to pursue in life will lead to ultimate personal fulfillment. The soul’s mission in life may also be compared to the goal of self actualization. Under G-d’s directive, whether we realize it or not, through His hasgacha peratis (divine guidance) that is placed upon us all, we are guided to what will steer us in the right direction.

On Shavuot (the fiftieth day), the culmination of the forty-nine day journey through self renewal, by way of examining our character, reaches its goal. As H’Shem said to Moses, “when thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve G-d upon this mountain” (Exodus 3:12, JPS 1917 Tanach). We receive the Torah anew, in the very present moment of our lives. H’Shem willing, the refinement of our soul over the past seven weeks has brought us closer to the fulfillment of peace and wholeness in our lives.

“The path of the righteous is as the light of dawn, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

– Proverbs 4 :118, JPS 1917 Tanach

Omer Day 49

Steadfastness

B”H

yesod shebbe malchus

(foundation within sovereignty)

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

A strong foundational belief system is necessary in order to maintain a sense of autonomy. Without reference points, in regard to one’s identity, it would be too easy to be swayed by this, that or the other opinion, trend, or viewpoints of others. A tenacious adherence to a set of values, beliefs, or overall conception of oneself will be a fence around an individual’s autonomy.

Otherwise, we would be subject to drown in a sea of nihilism, where values do not matter, and life has no directive towards an ultimate purpose. G-d forbid. Therefore, to cling to the truth through deveykus is paramount not only to connect to G-d, but to also remain steadfast on the derech (path) of life.

Omer Day 48

Humble Mountain

B”H

hod shebbe malchus

(humility within sovereignty)

Humility is a necessary ingredient of character, inasmuch that any attempt to raise oneself above a modest estimation of one’s abilities should be placed in check by a fair analysis of oneself. Lowliness of spirit is a deterrent against pride. Showing deference to others helps to foster a sense of humility.

Ultimate deference must be shown to G-d through obeisance of His commandments, and an acknowledgment of His greater wisdom (Isaiah 55:8-9). The middah (character trait) of Hod is also reckoned as “splendor.” This type of splendor is the resultant state of humbling ourselves before G-d. “Before honor goeth humility” (Proverbs 15:33). When we bow to G-d in our heart, He will bestow his shefa (divine flow) upon us. 

B’nei Yisrael received the Torah at Sinai. Why was Mt. Sinai chosen from all of the other mountains? Because Sinai was not the highest of mountains; this teaches us the importance of humility. Only when we humble ourselves before G-d in full acknowledgment of our limitations, may we receive the Torah anew within the quietude of our hearts.

“The reward of humility is fear of the L-RD” (Proverbs 22:4, JPS 1917 Tanach). When we humble ourselves, we can begin to appreciate our relationship to H’Shem, acknowledging Him with awe, reverence and respect. His sovereignty over our lives becomes easier to accept, when we recognize that we are limited beings, without all of the answers in life.

Omer Day 47

Good Deeds

B”H

netzach shebbe malchus

(victory within sovereignty)

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

Netzach, most commonly associated with “victory” may also be reckoned as success and accomplishment. In combination with malchus (sovereignty, autonomy, self-worth), one topic that might be relevant is the relation of success to autonomy. For example, what is the effect of success on the autonomy of an individual? Success in any endeavor would strengthen one’s sense of autonomy. Accomplishments are akin to gemstones in the crown of a king, each one sparkling in its place. Another metaphor, a crown of laurels, received by those who are honored. Yet, there is a saying, that it is not wise to rest on one’s laurels.

Another way to symbolize accomplishments is like fruit on a tree. According to scripture, man is likened to a tree. In like manner that a tree is able to bear fruit, man, through his mitzvot (good deeds) may also bear fruit. Continuing the metaphor, fruits on a tree may be partaken of by all who enter the orchard. Therefore, following the metaphor, accomplishments that benefit others are more like fruits on a tree. The yield of fruit is seasonal, and may be continually renewed year after year.

I prefer not to speak about “success” as an abstract attainment, as if it is a level that one reaches, or a pinnacle that one stands upon. I am more inclined to speak about success in terms of individual accomplishments. A substantial amount of good deeds done for the sake of others will bear fruit in the lives of the recipients. The value of these mitzvot will accrue over time, gaining interest as they continue to influence others in a positive way. In this sense, any measure of overall success would be dependent upon how much good we have done in this world.

Omer Day 46

Reaching Out

B”H

tiferes shebbe malchus
(harmony within sovereignty)

Tiferes represents harmony, beauty, and compassion. The polar opposites of chesed (kindness) and gevurah (severity) are balanced within tiferes. In relation to malchus (sovereignty), tiferes may be explored as the amount of felt compassion towards others, necessary, when honoring other’s autonomy, dignity, and self-worth. A healthy respect for the autonomy of others includes, an appreciation of who they are as a unique individual.

In order to appreciate the other, it may be necessary, to step out of the “egoic shell.” A preoccupation with self will not allow an individual to see the beauty in the lives of others. To be sovereign over oneself, to the extent that the door is closed to others, leaves an emptiness, devoid of the vicissitudes of life – the ever changing moments. In other words, self autonomy should not preclude vulnerability; no man is island.

Omer Day 45

The Kind Judge

B”H

gevurah shebbe malchus

(strength within sovereignty)

Gevurah represents discipline, severity, and judgment; incidentally, gevurah is the opposite of chesed (kindness). Malchut (sovereignty) is often denoted as autonomy, for the sake of this series that explores the sefirot as middot (character traits), during the seven week counting of the Omer.

G-d’s sovereignty is made known through His commandments; his gevurah (strength, justice, severity) through his judgments. On the otherhand, His attribute of chesed (mercy) is exhibited through His kindness. These two attributes work in tandem.

If He did not let His judgments be known through His interactions within the affairs of the world, He would appear to be tolerant of mankind’s shortcomings to the extent of a permissiveness that would convey a lax attitude on His part, as if any behavior on our part is acceptable. Yet, when we turn our hearts towards Him, He will bestow kindnesses upon us.

Moreover, He will help us improve ourselves, so that we will not fall under judgment. Because His expectations of us are clear, as represented by His commandments, His judgment is valid. Yet, often His judgment is in the form of chastisement, designed to compel us to return from our errant ways. As is written, “For whom the L-RD loveth He correcteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. (Proverbs 3:12).

Day 44

Reflect Kindness

B”H

Day 43

28 Iyar 5780 (May 22, 2020)

chesed shebbe malchus

(kindness within sovereignty)

Today begins a seven day focus on malchus (sovereignty), in combination with the other six emotional attributes. The first of these to be explored in relationship to malchus is chesed (kindness, mercy, love). Malchus (sovereignty) may be said to represent autonomy. Human beings are created in G-d’s image, so we are obligated by our godly nature, at least to make an attempt to reflect His attributes. We were also given free will; therefore, to varying degrees, we may seek an autonomous stance in life; yet, to see ourselves as independent of G-d would only be self-deception.

In our quest to seek autonomy in life, to define ourselves as an individual, with a unique personality, we should add a measure of kindness. It is not necessary to shout, “this is who I am;” rather, simply to assert ourselves in regard to our personal viewpoints. Be kind to others; allow them to express their own viewpoints; give warm regard for shared thoughts about life, the universe, and G-d. Healthy respect for the autonomy of others includes allowing enough space for others to share; spiritual growth thrives when given room to grow. Sometimes this requires silence on our part, for the sake of listening.

Day 43

Look Above

B”H

Malchus shebbe yesod

(sovereignty within foundation)

Despite whatever circumstances we may encounter in life, if we have a strong foundation we will be able to meet these challenges with dignity, a sense of self autonomy and a calm reserve, knowing that ultimately we are not in control of external events in any sphere of our lives, personal, communal, or global. Although this sounds counterintuitive, we may feel reassured that when we place our trust in G-d, acknowledging His sovereignty, we do not have to stand alone in the face of adversity.

Therefore, when we falter, because we fail to acknowledge that our own sovereignty is limited, we can rest in the knowledge that everything H’Shem (the L-RD) does is for the good. We can not control externals, however we may choose how to respond. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: From whence shall my help come? My help cometh from the L-RD, Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Groundedness

B”H

yesod shebbe yesod

(foundation within foundation)

Below the surface of the earth, rests the foundation of a building, the support of an infrastructure. In the same manner, man is like a tree, whose roots provide a reinforcement against the storms of life. “And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season, and whose leaf doth not wither; and in whatsoever he doeth he shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3, JPS 1917 Tanach).

The sefirah (attribute) of yesod may be understood as portraying foundational beliefs and attitudes, corresponding to what is most important in our lives. Within the context of a daily existence, some people are more intentional, with regard to living in accord with clear beliefs that generate proper conduct, based upon a specific set of truths. Others, upon examining themselves, may find that their beliefs, attitudes, and behavior are derived from various sources; whereupon, these sources may be disparate, not constituting a consistent worldview.

We should ask ourselves upon examination (heshbon hanefesh – an accounting of the soul), whether our underlying assumptions are able to withstand the harsh realities of life that may pour down upon us. Will our prevailing attitudes about life enable us to weather the various storms that we may encounter along the road of life? If not, then we should consider adding a little more support to our foundation.

Omer – 41 Days

Practical Goals

B”H

Hod shebbe yesod

(humility within foundation)

Humility facilitates the building of a foundation in life, by keeping our ambition in check; any goal in life needs to be practical, that is within the bounds of our abilities. We are finite beings, only capable of what G-d intends for us, through His bestowal of any natural gifts we may claim as part of our character. While it is good to reach beyond our current level of understanding, as well as our talents, we should be circumspect in order to make a modest estimation of our capabilities. Yet, at the same time, building a foundation also requires a healthy acknowledgment and appreciation of our talents, so that we may succeed at achieving our realized dreams. Additionally, we need to acknowledge G-d’s role as the Master Architect, whose blueprint for our lives compels us to keep Him in mind at all times, while we make plans for ourselves. 

Omer