“first a person should put his house together, then his town, then the world”
r’ salanter, father of modern mussar offers this advice, and it suggests the introduction of gevurah (‘judgment’) into the chesed (loving-kindness) in which we dwell every night of the count this week. we should see that there is no suggestion of cutting off chesed herein, but rather an ordering of it, an admission of judgment in it (of this, more next week when we practice interinclusions in gevurah all week).
instead of all love to all at all times, most of us are better adept as recognizing where and when and what is a better way for us to do tzedakah, to love chesed…in a way that is actually more efficient for us. now we aren’t looking at cost-effectiveness per se, though all of us have limits to our monetary ability to give, but rather at a spirit-effectiveness. some of us are gifted ourselves with bringing cheer to those in need, others are better at organizing charitable giving, still others are best giving time to teach, etc.
judgment in love is something adele probably should sing more of….else her songs are destined to be always sad.
but the real kernel that emerges out of gevurah she b’chesed is the character trait of achrayut, or ‘responsibility,’ which operates even in love…none of us, save the Holy One, has unlimited capacity for everlasting love. but we build spriritual responsibility only by practicing very careful judgment on how much limitation, how much restriction, how much reigning in we do. might have to come off cruise control, but there is no need to hit the brakes! gevurah brings shape to our chesed, so that we are like better behaved puppies…we are still always happy and full of love, but have learned that maybe jumping up on folks all the time isn’t best.
mussar for gevurah she b’chesed
gevurah-chesed with another….bein adam l’chavero remember that we are still in the sefirah of chesed…so how would you apply chesed to one for whom you just don’t care much for? someone who aggravates you, someone you just don’t get along with? too much gevurah and you just don’t deal with them…and that is not ok. parents: consider how you can better love your children with caring discipline. and all of us can follow the practice of reaching out to help one who troubles us…better yet, reach out to do something that an enemy needs.
gevurah-chesed with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo assess what you are good at. what are your best traits of action? what sorts of doing do you naturally vibrate with? find a way to accept the responsibility that you should be exercising your strengths in a responsible fashion for yourself…..but then ask yourself what am i if i only use my strengths for myself?
kabbalah for gevurah she b’chesed
in assiyah….the world of doing/completion many of us know people who are engaged in caring for elderly parents. it can be profoundly exhausting, and can easily drain energy away from caring for spouses, children, friends…and others outside the family circle entirely. particularly in the case of an elderly person suffering from dementia, doing chesed can sometimes simply be a chore. some time today meditating on how one carves time, sets up reasonable but necessary boundaries, shares caregiving responsibility. chart a better course of governing your love (either up or down). oh, and if you were gardening on day 1, feel free to weed a little on day 2.
in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation parents especially need to consider how to bring structure to their childrens’ activities. how often do we encounter children who become whole and independent completely without some boundaries being set? but lovers can be the same way, so carried off with joy that responsibility is lost….how much more so in a marriage, wherein we may feel that the revery of love is washed away by the responsibility. practice governing today, racheting up love that is lean or lost, and stepping down the urge to throw restraint to the wind. what is the test token (remember the film inception?) that lets you know when you are dreaming in love and when you must ‘come back to earth?’
in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation gevurah can express itself not only in restraint, but also in simple discernment. sometimes i think that there is no more important spirit world and sefirah than a little gevurah in our beloved chesed in the places where we think and create. perhaps the sort of work that was so very right for us at 25 is less so–or not so–at 57. certainly your practice of judaism should have taken different paths over time. the spirit way of age 13 was not intended to last a lifetime (though the skills are!). ….meditate on your way in G’d now. what jewish ways, which practices, which emphases continue to stoke the love of G’d but recognize how far you have come in your creative thought about the holy?
in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition among G’d’s great attributes is erech apayim, ‘being slow to anger.’ it is not that anger is absent for those created in the image of G’d, but that it is very well tempered. i often teach the way of the Koretzer rebbe who taught that he had mastered his anger, placing it in his pocket. when he had need of it, he could simply take it out. how many of us have the presence of mind to live with anger but to control it so very well? meditate on ‘being slow to anger’ until you see the chesed in it.
kinyan 2 of 48 ways to acquire Torah
Shmiat haOzen…Listening we wear tzitzit in order not to be distracted and led astray by our eyes. we are yet tempted by the bright, the fancy, the bigger…the badder….as hannibal lector famously points out “we begin by coveting that which we see everyday.” but the sparkly and brilliant often skips across the intellect without leaving much of a mark. interestingly, we have no such restraint on our hearing (at least not before the advent of the iPod) . indeed, crucial mitzvot like shofar, and hearing the reading of Torah rely on an unimpeded ear….one is called upon to remove the foreskin of the ear in order that we may listen clearly. the ‘central faith statement of the Jewish People’, the shema itself urges that we hear…..all the way into our hearts. G’d set the exodus in motion when he heard the cries of the People…not when he saw their work. so it is in the acquisition of Torah. reading it silently in the fashion of modern scholarship will never penetrate to the heart, but hearing it, listening to the words as well as engaging the mind to come to understand the meaning thereof is the way of grabbing the ‘good taking’ that G’d has revealed to us.