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Omer: Day 31 Kaleidoscopic Splendor

Omer: Day 31 Tiferes shebbe Hod

Tiferes shebbe Hod: Beauty within Splendor

(Otherwise rendered as harmony within humility).

As explained elsewhere, only through bowing down in our hearts to the splendor of the L-RD, may we also acquire splendor, by way of reflecting His Splendor. Therefore, we may find through harmonizing ourselves enough to show deference to G-d, we may bear the light bestowed upon us through our reconciliation with Him. By way of harmonizing ourselves, I mean to bring the soul into alignment with truth, by sifting through the various inconsistencies in character, called from a psychological perspective, “cognitive dissonance.” Ideally, the result would be like viewing the shapes combined into patterns within the kaleidoscope of our soul. Imagine all of the variegated shapes being lit up by light in the background; this effect would be akin to G-d’s splendor being reflected by our souls.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. Each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the seven middos (character traits) that we will have the opportunity to improve upon in our lives.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

shiur: parashas Emor 5781

“I will be sanctified among the children of Israel.”

– Leviticus 22:32, JPS 1917 Tanach

Selfless behavior could be defined as being in tandem with the theme of mesiras nefesh – self-sacrifice. By way of explanation, mesiras nefesh may be viewed as an ongoing act, in the sense of subduing the yetzer hara (evil inclination), for the sake of sanctifying H’Shem’s name. The resultant reward is that we ourselves become sanctified, every time that we do not give in to our own character weaknesses. This is a challenge that appears in many circumstances on a daily basis; therefore, it is best to be on guard against temptation, by strengthening ourselves through constant vigilance.

To be selfless, in respect to mesiras nefesh on the level of morality, is to actively engage in diminishing our own will in favor of the ratzon (will) of the L-RD. When we negate ourselves, we renew ourselves for the sake of H’Shem who sanctifies us. This is a two way street of reciprocity; in other words, like two sides of the same coin. Whereof we are sanctified by H’Shem, through our own efforts to become holy; when we separate ourselves from unholiness, we are blessed with an equal measure of kedushah from the L-RD. By serving H’Shem, we bring kavod (glory) to Him.

“You are my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

– Isaiah 49:3

dvar: parashas Emor 5781

“You shall not profane My holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people – I the L-RD who sanctify you.”

– Leviticus 22:32, sefaria.org

In struggling against the yetzer harah (evil inclination) we confront the part of ourselves that is inclined towards what Freud would call our instinctual drives. His theory, in regard to the id, ego, and superego, explains that without putting a reign on the Id, man would be subject to these drives, to the extent of not being able to function within the limits of societal norms.

Man, himself, is composed of two natures, the godly soul and the animal soul. Freud’s Id represents, to some degree, the instincts of the animal soul; moreover, the ego’s role, from his point of view, is to place the Id in check, according to what he called the Reality Principle. This is done by applying the standards of the superego, an amalgamation of moral values instilled in us through family upbringing and collective societal norms.

Inasmuch that Judaism teaches the significance of following the inclinations of the godly soul, as opposed to that of the animal soul, the standards are raised – Torah calls us to a higher standard. Especially, consider that the values of Austrian society that dominated Freud’s time and place at the time of his psychoanalytic practice (Vienna, from1886 to 1938) are not held in esteem by the majority of the world today. Rather, modernity is influenced, to a lesser or greater degree by norms that would be considered substandard, when compared to those that Freud was familiar with. This decline epitomizes the lack of a substantial claim to consistent values, over the years, within society.  

Yet, the L-RD’s ways, given to us through the Torah do not change. “His ways are higher than our ways; His thoughts are higher than our thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8). We are expected to be righteous to the extent of subduing the inclinations of the “yetzer hara,” akin to the “animal soul,” by way of self-denial. In doing so, we make ourselves an offering, by denying ourselves for the sake of following a higher path, than the one that our animal soul would follow, were we to let it lead (G-d forbid). Shall a donkey lead the rider? Nay, a donkey (chomer) represents the body, which must be guided by the soul. In this manner shall the L-RD’s name be sanctified amongst us: “That I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people – I the L-RD who sanctify you” (Leviticus 22:32, sefaria.org). Through H’Shem’s help, we will be sanctified.

Omer: Day 30 Stand Humble

Omer: Day 30 Gevurah shebbe Hod

Gevurah shebbe Hod: Power within Splendor

The splendor of the L-RD is energized by the eternal source of Life that is synonymous with His existence: He existed before the beginning and brought all into being. Therefore, any sense of strength that we might have as human beings, is ultimately only from Him. And, furthermore, we are most able to reflect His splendor through our humility, in acknowledgment of His greater splendor.

The strength of humility, contrary to misconceptions, is not found in cowardice, nor timidity.  We should be aware of the potential for false humility, that manifests as emotional imposters in our hearts, claiming that we may not be worthy enough, courageous enough, or strong enough to stand up against evil. If we are able to face the negative aspects of our own character, then we can also make a difference by challenging wrongs found outside of us.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. Each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the seven middos (character traits) that we will have the opportunity to improve upon in our lives.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

Omer: Day 29 The kindness Bridge

Chesed shebbe Hod: Love within Splendor

Otherwise rendered as kindness within humility.

The role of chesed (kindness) within the quality of humility. How does kindness influence the potential for humility? Kindness seems like a key ingredient of humility. Yet, kindness may actually be a result of the quality of humility. To humble ourselves before G-d, and others, downplaying our plusses, and acknowledging our minuses, places us in a position to better appreciate others, by not seeing ourselves as better than them. Therefore, kindness may be a consequence of recognizing our inherent sameness with others. It is easier to be kind to those whom we feel a common connection. Recognizing our own humanity, reflected in the eyes of others, may help us to bridge the gap with personal acts of kindness.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. Each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the seven middos (character traits) that we will have the opportunity to improve upon in our lives.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

Pesach Sheini 5781

Pesach Sheini – the second Passover, for those who were impure, according to the definition of Torah, or were on a distant journey. Pesach Sheini connotes the idea of second chances. The Israelites who were not able to observe Pesach were given a second chance, one month later, on Nissan 14, in order to do so. Today, the concept may be applicable to the personal instances of our lives, when we were given a second chance of some nature. Traditionally, matzoh is eaten on Pesach Sheini. Apropos of the theme, let us all consider the second chance to re-evaluate our lives in the face of the challenges ahead.

Omer: Day 28 Whose Narrative Will You Follow?

Malchut shebbe Netzach: Kingdom within Endurance

The attribute of malchut may also be rendered as sovereignty, or autonomy.

Where within the quality of endurance, may autonomy be found? How does a sense of self, and personal motivation contribute to one’s endurance in the face of challenges? How much can we rely on our own autonomy, without seeking guidance from a Higher Authority? Reflect on these questions for yourself. Each person’s answer will be uniquely tailored to that person’s experience, belief, and values.

Scripture indicates that G-d would like us to be dependent upon Him, rather than see ourselves as completely independent. Yet, the more we depend upon Him, the less need there will be to depend upon others. Therefore, ironically, we become more self-sufficient in the eyes of others, who are not aware of the source of our strength. Therefore, it may be said that endurance may occur not only through our own efforts, but through a concomitant focus on G-d.

My own sense of autonomy is rooted in G-d’s authority; then, I will never stand alone, when facing the challenges of my life. Moreover, in confrontation with others, I can rest assured, that as long as I am in right relationship with G-d, He will support me, when faced with adversity. Trusting in His sovereignty means that I can trust in the values, inculcated by scripture.

Ideally, there should be no need for me to waver, in favor of an alternate set of values being promoted by anyone who claims to know better. This is not arrogance on my part. Rather, if I humble myself to G-d’s sovereignty in my life, then I do not speak on my own behalf. Whereas society would like to claim the right to decide on the narrative norm, it has already been engraved in stone, and spoken by the mouthpieces of G-d’s spokespersons, as recorded in scripture.

Omer: Day 27 Foundational Truths

Yesod shebbe Netzach: Foundation of Endurance

How well am I able to maintain an active participation in the foundational truths of my life? Do I only have an intellectual understanding of those truths? Or, am I able to ground those truths within the framework of my everyday life? Moreover, when faced with challenges, within and without, how well will that foundation prove to support the overall structure of my belief and practice? The stronger my foundation, the greater my ability to endure the storms of life. If my foundation is like a house built upon a rock, then it would be more secure than a foundation built upon sand.

A sure foundation is one that will withstand the changing seasons, because the underlying principles are founded upon timeless truths, such as those found in the Bible. Yet, a foundation built upon the shifting sands of societal norms will not last. This should be clear to anyone who reviews the values in American society, from the 1950’s until today. There has been a substantial shift away from traditional values to liberal ones, even going beyond all that was considered decent yesterday. And, where will this trajectory of descent lead?

Yet, I do not intend to moralize here, except to point out that what is considered normative in society changes over time. Especially, when there is an attempt to influence the societal norm in favor of an agenda that is secular, it seems that traditional godly values fall by the wayside. This is something to consider for both those who identify with traditional values, and those who do not. Where will the proverbial “line in the sand” be drawn?

Without building blocks that will provide a sure foundation, a structure built upon empty truths will not be established. The measure of strength of a foundation may very well be its resistance to change; therefore, only time tested truths will ultimately prevail. And, the establishment of any foundation that is not in accord with those truths will ultimately fail to provide the shelter that only G-d can provide, under the wings of the Shechinah.

Omer: Day 26 Resilience in Adversity

Hod shebbe Netzach: Splendor within Endurance

Hod may also be rendered as humility. The quality of humility in regard to endurance may be envisioned as a bamboo tree yielding to a strong wind in a storm, signaling that endurance in the face of life’s challenges may also require resilience. When we are able to acknowledge our limitations in the face of adversity, then we may be compelled to gather inner strength. Our limitations may compel us to renew our strength through a resilient spirit.

The splendor of hod represents the light of G-d that shines upon us when we humble ourselves in respect to Him. By recognizing our limitations, we may receive His blessing to endure with a little help from Above. Therefore, our resilience in the face of adversity may depend upon an added measure of assistance from outside of our own resources, in order to persist with any worthy endeavor. In His eyes, when we reach out to Him, we are being dependent in a good way.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. Each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the seven middos (character traits) that we will have the opportunity to improve upon in our lives.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

weekly Torah: parashas Acharei-Kedoshim 5781

At the beginning of parashas Acharei, the Torah briefly mentions the deaths of two of Aaron’s sons, Adav and Navihu, whose lives were taken by the L-RD, when they approached near to Him (Leviticus 16:1).  Immediately afterwards, the H’Shem commands, in regard to Aaron, “that he not come at all times into the the holy place within the veil, before the ark-cover which is upon the ark; that he die not; for I appear in the cloud upon the ark-cover” (Leviticus 16:2, JPS 1917 Tanach).

The juxtaposition of this admonition along side the mentioning of the deaths of Nadav and Avihu hints to one reason why they were consumed by fire: H’Shem’s warning to Aaron, not to enter at all times, implies that Nadav and Avihu made an unbidden entry into the Holy of Holies, for which their lives were taken. For, “The L-RD thy G-d is a devouring fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Next, the Torah begins to relate the various details of the Yom Kippur service: “Aaron shall come into the holy place” (Leviticus 16:3).  Only the Kohein Gadol could enter the Kadosh Kadoshim (Holy of Holies), and only on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement. The Sages ask, why are the deaths of Nadav and Avihu are juxtaposed with the Yom Kippur service: In like manner that the Yom Kippur brings atonement, so does the death of the righteous also bring atonement” (Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1). Even though Nadav and Avihu were consumed, the Torah credits them as righteous (Leviticus 10:3), because of their intentions to draw close to H’Shem. So, the juxtaposition of their deaths with the Yom Kippur service points toward the understanding that the death of the righteous atones for sin.

The nature of atonement may be better understood in light of the following commentary: “For the life [nefesh, soul] of the flesh [basar, body] is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life” (Leviticus 17:11, JPS 1917 Tanach). Rashi comments on ci nefesh habasar, “for the life of the flesh” of every creature, “not only of animals brought as sacrifices, is dependent on its blood (badam hiy), and it is for this reason that I have placed it [on the altar] to make expiation for the life of man: Let life come and expiate for life” (Rashi, commentary on Leviticus 17:11, sefaria.org).