Finding the right balance within the framework of discipline is important. In regard to self-discipline, for example, within the regimen of an excercise routine, there should be a certain amount of time and effort spent in order to achieve an overall goal. Too much too soon might not be of benefit, and could even be detrimental to one’s own sense of well-being. The same is true in other arenas of life. Whether the social sphere, one’s vocation, or even a hobby, there should be a balance kept in mind. Overall, coordinating mind, body, and spirit endeavors is necessary as well, to stay in balance.
April 3, 2021
Day 6 Yesod shebbe Chesed (Foundation within Love)
The foundation of love rests upon our ability to bond to others. Therefore, the strength of our love towards others is empowered by how we bond. Conversely, it could be said that the intensity of our love is strengthened by our bonds to others. An everflowing pattern develops, akin, by way of analogy, to the way water circulates on the earth.
“All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again” (Ecclesiastes 1:7). Moreover, when water evaporates, the droplets ascend to rakia (sky), from where they are condensed within rainclouds; then, the water droplets fall back to the earth in a continous cycle. I hope that this analogy may benefit your understanding of my reflections on hod shebbe chesed.
[These are my personal reflections on the implications of today’s combination of middot (character traits). These reflections are not meant to be comprehensive, inasmuch that they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may these ideas be characterized as authoritative, because I profess to being a student, not a teacher. I hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul)].
17 Nissan 5781
March 30, 2021
gevurah within chesed
What follows consists of my personal reflections on the implications of today’s combination of middot (character traits). These reflections are not meant to be comprehensive, inasmuch that they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may these ideas be characterized as authoritative, because I profess to being a student, not a teacher. I hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).
The middah (character trait) of gevurah may be expressed as a measure of strictness. Therefore, one way of conceiving of gevurah within chesed could have to do with applying a measure of strictness to the quality of kindness. Placing a limit on our kindness, in response to the awareness that not every situation is best suited to respond in kindness involves a dash of wisdom. Therefore, chesed may require the use of discernment, in order to ascertain how much kindness would best benefit the recipient. Too much kindness might appear as ingratiating. Elsewise, being overly kind in order to please others could result in our resentment, when we give in to others demands. Placing a boundaried response on others requests, gives us a sense of acting from our center being, keeping our needs in mind, without overextending ourselves.
Consider how G-d’s chesed, His sense of kindness may be purposely limited at times for a specific reason, actually for the sake of the recipient. He is known to test the faith of those who have a certain level of trust in Him, by delaying a response to one’s tefillah (prayer) requests. This would be enacted on His part to test the strength of our faith. Also, He may not respond in the manner that one expects, because the specific request if answered in the way that the prayer was framed, would not best benefit that individual. In like manner, we should also be cautious, and excercise discernment in regard to how we respond to others who may seek our time, attention, or help.
Additionally, it might seem counterintuitive at the time; yet, a withholding attitude may be required at times, for the sake of another person’s personal growth. Refraining from helping someone too much may serve to encourage that person to do more for him or herself. So, often there needs to be a balance between chesed and gevurah in our responses to others; so, that the demands of the situation may be met in the most beneficial way to all concerned. An extreme version of applying a strong measure of gevurah to chesed would be the case in certain rare circumstances, to apply the notion of “tough love.” In this case, an act perceived as severe by the intended recipient might actually be more of an expression of sincere love, than giving in to another person, thereby enabling the other to perpetuate an undesirable behavior.
Utlimately, finding the right balance in any situation is not easy. Often our response depends upon our own personality; for example, whether or not we are a chesed person, naturally demonstrating loving-kindness or whether we are more of a gevurah person, who is inclined to be more reserved and circumspect in responding to others. This example may best serve as a segue towards tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul), the precise purpose of the forty-nine day spiritual journey. To take an honest look at ourselves includes evaluating our character. If we withold kindness from others when we should be kind, this may denote an imbalance in the personality. Conversely, if we routinely find that being too nice to others has negative consequences for ourselves, then there may also be an imbalance of these qualities in our personality.
The task at hand is to reflect upon ourselves, in a manner that will bring the greatest level of shalom (peace) to our souls, as well as the lives of others on this journey. Moreover, in like manner that the Children of Israel had the opportunity to prepare themselves along the way to Sinai for receiving the Torah, so may we refine ourselves for the sake of our relationship to G-d. The first five commandments have to do with our connection to G-d, while the second set of five commandments are in regard to our relationship with others. Both are necessary on the journey of life; so, to shape our personalities in accordance with G-d’s will has the potential to bring the greatest overall benefit to our self and others.
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.
tiferes shebbe tiferes
(harmony within harmony)
A completely harmonious soul, has the potential to be in harmony with others. Yet, even a balanced person, one who is “cool, calm, and collected,” will often meet with disharmonious circumstances in life. To remain compassionate in such situations, becomes a challenge. Even so, the greater harmony within a soul, the more likely that person will be able to meet the demands of challenging situations, remaining calm, for the sake of others. The inner quality of harmony is a result of integrity, soulwork, and balancing out one’s incongruous aspects into a sense of “wholeness.”
Day 15 of the counting of the Omer
chesed shebbe tiferes
(kindness within humility)
Today begins the third week of the counting of the omer. This week focuses on the quality of tiferes (harmony, beauty, balance). The word itself, literally means “glory” or “splendor” (Wikipedia). Yet, within the framework of the sefirot, it’s role as a middah (character trait), refects its interaction with other traits.
To bring harmony into actuality in one’s own life is dependent on internal as well as external factors. Predominantly, in changing ourselves, we should be able to effect a tikkun (rectification) that will influence others around us. Moreover, when we are in harmony with the laws of G-d, our soul will flourish in all that we do. The element of kindness within harmony reminds us that the maintenance of a spiritual homeostasis within ourselves is best done through kindness, mercy, and compassion, to ourselves as well as others. For how we act towards others will in turn influence our own character.