haYom tish’a yomim, sh’heim shavua echad ushnei yomim, laOmer: gevurah she b’gevurah

chevrei: this one is for reb baruch. those who have the blessing on knowing him will understand.

“take time, be exact, unclutter the mind”

so taught the Alter of Kelm, r’ Simcha Zissel Ziv. this is probably the very best way to look at a double helping of constraint, don’t you think? generally, the trait of order is a middle way discussion, for gevurah she b’tiferet, perhaps, but the IRS granted all taxpayers an extension til 17 april to file, so what should have been g’vurah in gevurah on the night of filing your taxes by midnight, must change. you can see why it would have been just too much justice, yes? or just too much regulation…which itself is essence of gevurah. but look also what a little tiferet can do!  what a difference 2 extra days to file can make. oy.

but order is a practice born of restraint. a focusing of energy in order to keep on top of things. perhaps the surprise for some of you will be that the idea of order is a spiritual practice. but consider it only a little bit and you will see how shot through judaism is with order in practice. where would jewish prayer be without siddur (‘order’ of prayer).  what would all of us have done only 1 week ago had it not been for a seder (‘order’ of teaching/prayer for chag pesach day 1). who would want to go without the weekly sedra (‘order’ of readings).

but the simple gematria of samech-dalet-resh teaches us more, for it is equivalent to “miderech” (‘from the way’)of the phrase “miderech hatov l’heitiv” or the the way of the the good is to be meitiv…that is to “do good’ for others. the Ramchal (r’Moshe Chaim Luzatto) teaches that none other than G’d lives by this rule. so, if we want to make like G”d, we should partake of orderly practices and ordering practices. (by the way, moms out there may want to hold close to their hearts that the simple gematria is also the same as the hebrew word for ‘after them’, as a way of remembering that where order is not maintained you will find yourselves “cleaning up after them”….)

this is as earthy as it gets, chevrei.  keeping order is a good spiritual practice and not just a way to be ready for preparing your taxes….or keeping your desk functional, or your closet inviting.

a traditional part of the reasoning behind this, beside the obvious functional reasons for set times and set words and set calendar, etc, is that each of us is to be a ‘servant’ of G’d.  servants, as most of us middle class americans have long forgotten, are the folk who dwell in your midst to keep your vast and drafty manor house and grounds working well for entertaining the guests, making the meals and keeping down the dust and such.

being a servant to G’d is a little different. consider the way suggested by the kabbalists: that we are only here at all in order to effect tikkun olam, repair of the world. our servitude is in fixing what’s broken in this world and raising up the divine sparks in everything we encounter….sweeping up the lifeless husks that remain after a job well done.

gevurah in gevurah is a double helping of order….it is the way of the engineer in service of G’d. but it also teaches another thing we should be mindful of. what is the reason that we fall into ways of disorder?  too often we say “i don’t have time to do little ordering thing x because…….”   you can fill in the blank many ways, i suspect…i know i can. but look at this sad state of affairs….it is all ultimately about the “i” deciding that “i” want to do something else for “me.”  i’d much rather watch “Out of the Past” for the 10th time than to label a folder “2012 charitable contributions.” never mind that the latter will scarcely hold up the former….it’s just that i’m convinced that Robert Mitchum never filed a folder in his life….then again, the one i serve “orders the stars in the heavens according to G’d’s will.”  now how cool is that?

mussar for gevurah she b’gevurah

gevurah-gevurah with another….bein adam l’chaveiro  there are very important reasons to practice a lot of gevurah-gevurah in speech. it is the only way to avoid lashon hara (‘evil speech’), which is something many of us need to work on.  be very careful with your words today.  make sure that what you speak is useful, not hateful, not ill begotten, and preferably tinged with Torah.  mind your tongue.

gevurah-gevurah with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo   gevurah is also perseverance. it takes a good deal of it to do mussar and kabbalah every single day of the counting!  remember that you can continue to count even if you miss a day, but get your gevurah in gear and give a diligent count another go.

kabbalah for gevurah she b’gevurah

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion   some of you no doubt include breathing as part of your meditative practice. here is a simple one: know gevurah in breathing by focusing on filling your lungs with a deep breath. there is a very real limit as to how much volume we can inhale!  now ask yourself how your restraint and judgment influences your neshamah, the breathing soul, for the good. do you make strength in your limits? or do you need to expand your spiritual rib cage a bit?

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation   you judge people daily. what do you find yourself judging them on? and against what standard?  contemplate what you should be focusing on in judging another, using informed discernment (instead of the feelings/impressions you may now be focusing on).

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation   build on the meditation in yetzirah….how do you celebrate the uniqueness, good and  wisdom you find in another?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition   notice the simple act of ordering that ‘binds’ this prayer of reb Nachman to order….and to Omer. pray these words today with regard for gevurah:

“master of the universe/ unify my divided heart/ to love and revere Your Name./ for this is the purpose of my existence/ to bind together all the worlds/ both spiritual and physical/ and combine all divine names in 1 absolute unity./ in this way, Your Oneness will be revealed/ and shine forth. “

kinyan 9 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Shimush Chachamim….Hang with the Wise.  just being in the presence of the truly wise of the world is a better education in Torah.  a good rabbi/chacham will teach more in the simple modeling of behavior, practice, and spiritual traits than any other.  when you study from a book, it is human and page.  when you study with a wise teacher, the same information on the page will run out in mighty tributaries like rivers out of Eden.  consider how it is put in Pirkei Avot:

“one who studies alone is no match for one who studies with a master”

go find yourself a master and spend some time. you will learn as you have never imagined.

so, what do you think?

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