haYom chamisha v’esrim yom, sh’heim sh’losha shavuot v’arba’a yomim, laOmer: netzach she b’netzach

“i will multiply, multiply your pain in pregnancy; in painstaking-labor shall you bear children”

likewise Adam would get food from the ground only through painstaking-labor (Genesis 3:16).  the same hebrew root is used in both cases…what i’ve translated as ‘painstaking-labor’ is also just ‘pain’, ‘suffering’, ‘travail’ (labor/pain as one word!), or ‘anguish’. the point is that endurance and persistent effort will be required….not just physical pain but psychic pain….and only with great effort will the necessary and the good be brought forth.  whenever you need sustenance…whenever you seek to reproduce….no gain without pain.

but in each case, there is reward, yes? children and, well, food. for the People, who would know repeated and sustained exile from their Land, the pain of exile, first in slavery, then in persecution, and finally in genocide would have to be endured to attain the ambition of return. child-bearing yields stronger women; slavery, persecution and genocide ultimately yielded a stronger People.

“exile contains redemption within itself, as seed contains the fruit. right work and abiding diligence wil bring forth the hidden reward.”

none other than the Gerer rebbe so taught. netzach in netzach is abiding diligence, enduring effort, with confidence (“bitachon”) that you are able, through your abiding diligence, to effect the ultimate reward, of course with G’d’s help, no matter how hidden. this actually is a great summation of the cosmos in kabbalistic terms, for the work of tikkun olam (‘repair of the world’…’rectification of time and space’), the very reason for human existence,  is touched with eternity and unending effort and intensity. but so is the redemption.

it is very important to remember that reward is explicit in the banishment from Eden, painstaking-labor, yes, but IN IT you shall bear children and bring forth your living. it is not endurance, perseverence, abiding for its own sake! consider the words of the insight of r’ Henoch of Alexander:

“the real exile of Israel in Egypt was that they had learned to endure it”

there is no sense of endurance for it’s own sake in netzach. no sense of purgative suffering, rather it is a tool of spiritual ambition, “ratzon” (‘desire’ or ‘will’) directed toward getting at a better end. walking longer each day and more humbly with your G’d requires bitachon and netzach: confidence and abiding diligence. again with the Heschel, who points out that “our task is…to change, not only to accept; to augment, not only to discover the glory of G’d.”

“i believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshiach, and even though (s)he may tarry, i anticipate every day that (s)he will come”

the jude abides, man

which will also bring us to bitachon redux in hod she b’netzach tomorrow…. 

mussar for netzach she b’netzach

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    are there some people you can barely stand to listen to? some you regularly brush off? resolve today the change that relationship and tolerate, even with painstaking-labor your interactions until such time as you see what it is they bring in G’d’s world. it will be something you never imagined.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo     bring bitachon (‘confidence’) in the coming of Moshiach to your practice today. bring it to your prayers. bring it to bear in the kavannah you bring to all your doings of good and your avoidance of evils. just bring it.

kabbalah for netzach she b’netzach

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    the traditional ideal is to make your life a continuous kiddush haShem (‘sanctification of G’d’s Name’), not through martyrdom, but through endurance, strength and persistance for you ambition to cleave to G’d. step one, however, is ceasing to do chillul haShem (‘desecration of G’d’s Name’) in your habits…many of which are as hidden to you as is the Presence of G’d, no doubt. contemplate on the many desecrations you do regularly, ferret them out with deep contemplation of your actions, and imagine how you would go about curbing and then abolishing them.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation   kabbalah teaches that each of us has a soul ‘root’ that extends back into and through Adam and Chava and up into the realm of G’d. dwell on how this root draws you into the time of Eden….and what can you draw back from the experience into your life today?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    the rabbis ethan and joel coen didn’t just pull “the dude abides” out of thin air, you know. consider Psalm 102:26ff), which describes how the earth and the heavens are  G’d’s handiwork….”even all this will perish, but you will endure”.  haDude abides. meditate on what this means for how you divide your intellectual time….are overinvested in that which will perish?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition   soul and body are interincluded and utterly real. each matters, each supports the efforts of the other in growing near to G’d. but spirit abides in “l’olam” (‘forever’), whereas body abides in “ba’olam” (‘the world’), and G’d is G’dself abiding in olam as “helem” (‘hidden’).  meditate on how your walk with G’d partakes now of l’olam, now of ba’olam, and even now and then of olam/helem.

kinyan 25 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Samei’ach b’Chelko….Being Happy with One’s Lot.   the very well know story goes like this: the Chofetz Chaim (renowned author of Chafetz Chaim on the halachah of evil speech, Mishna Berura  commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, and Ahavat Chesed on the commandment of lending mondy to the needy, among many other texts) wanted to change the world when he was a boy. at some point he saw that that ambition might be a bit too bid, so he resolved to change just the people in his town….likewise with limited success. sho he decided instead to change his own family.  even that proved elusive, so the Chofetz Chaim finally decided to focus on changing jut himself…and THAT was the ticket to changing the world of traditional jewish practice through his saintly example in living his own life and  his voluminous but accessible teaching.

“ben Zoma said: ‘who is rich? those who are happy with their portion’

(Shabbat 32a)


6 thoughts on “haYom chamisha v’esrim yom, sh’heim sh’losha shavuot v’arba’a yomim, laOmer: netzach she b’netzach

  1. “no gain without pain” and “genocide ultimately yielded a stronger People” this is akin to survival of the species. Seems as if G_d is more concerned with the species than with the individual. I think Darwin would agree. Given this, I bear my pain and meet genocide in a truly altruistic fashion – no earthly reward for me…but I March on bearing my cross…is it because I believe in the coming of Moshiach? Is this not less noble than if i believe that there is no reward in eternity?

    • oy. well, let’s start with unpacking the difference between history and evolution. darwin might agree that G’d is more concerned with the species than the individual….nu, are the jews a species now, reb yesif? i’ve always thought of us more as a family and largely without a kingdom, and not a lot of order (plenty of genius, though, now and then…ok phyle that under bad puns), but there is no nobility involved in evolution at all. altruism is itself an anthropomorphism in the face of accumulated randomness, right? it matters not a lick to natural selection how you carry your cross, reb yesif. no nobility therein at all.

      but let’s take your cross and nobility and remove their crusader patina of honor (ha!) by going to a deeper root meaning of nobility in likely derivation of the latin from the proto-indo-european “gno” meaning ‘know’. still look similar there. know has to do with learned, and what made for a stronger People after slavery, persecution and genocide (let’s keep the whole context) was learning, and resolving to alter “jewish” character traits in the face of the need. sometimes you need more Moshe in your veins, as we have since the Shoah, but most of the time we choose/chose more Aharon…for reasons that we’ll touch on in in the discussion of hod she b’netzach.

      but here are a few ‘crucial’ considerations (since you inserted crosses….). what is the timing of reward from G’d? what is the duration? and when is the application? it is probably an error to assume a simple 1 to 1 attachment of reward to act in space-time. why do you assume it? why exactly, in your view, for instance, can one not experience reward for mitzvot before you do the particular mitzvah? what does Torah suggest? G’d visits the good for a thousand generations….why can a reward not be simultaneous with the decision and as simple as your next breath? what? ain’t that good enough for you? well, why not? and what if, as in some of the traditional thinking on the subject, reward is dished out in the world to come?

      remember that we are dealing in the sefirat haOmer with personal spiritual trait refinement. it is work that you do that will achieve a better end. where is G’d’s reward for you in that work? maybe just in the work itself. maybe more down the road…maybe yet more in the accumulated teaching of the People that leads to better character as a mainstream teaching.

      but redemption in judaism is a collective thing. world peace is a collective thing. individual improvement is more individual…we have to do the work. we help in fixing particular brokenness in the world, but fixing the whole ball of wax is a pay grade beyond. we do the good work whether we are in times of evil or times of good (largely depends on the actions of those other species (your suggestion, right?), like atheists, agnostics, christians, muslims, etc.

      we are told that some of the big stuff will happen in painstaking-labor: birth, producing food….there is no nobility in giving birth knowing that…but there is “knowing” that, which is the point. and we have opportunity to remedy other sufferings by use of painstaking-labor of a different sort in rectifying our spirit traits. it is an opportunity, and it will produce results. you also want you should get a medal? (as it were)

      are you asking for a reward for your faith, reb yesif? really? this goes back to my contention that there is no hard line separating rational from spiritual. knowing that a child emerges through painstaking-labor is a matter not just of faith, but also of knowledge. and Torah tells us that there will be redemption of the olam just like it tells us that there is a child to be born and food to be produced in a certain way. you can take it on faith, if you like, or you can know it. or you can be jewish rad and do both.

      • from the get-go humanity has always operated on a reward basis. if i do this, what will i get…if i don’t…what bad will happen. this generates a bias in our psyche that creates and maintains a firmament between us and HaShem. If we do acts of loving kindness just for the “glory” of the act, knowing that there is no reward in this life or in eternity, then our role in the act becomes purer and a bit of the firmament is dissolved. It is the “act” that is significant…that stands on its own…we are just the means.

      • i understand that we are not to do good deeds for the reward (but we may nonetheless know that there is one, even if it is not our motivation) but we do do mitzvot as commandments. are they not “pure”? do they not bring us to the closer walk with G’d?

        unfortunately for your argument as well, doing good creates good regardless of intention. if you add fervor to the mitzvah, you spread more ripples (and ripples are good), but the good doing is itself effective of good in the cosmos. if you add generous spirit to the doing of tzedakah, then you do the mitzvah of generosity in loving your neighbor as well as the “baseline” mitzvah of giving to those in need. but your intention in the giving does not change the good being done.

        i am not, in saying that, suggesting that you do anything in a mechanical fashion. but the kabbalist will tell you that there is a universal intention that one should bring to every doing, ie, contributing to the reunification of Shechinah with the King. so there is THAT reward effect for the mitzvah regardless of any reward directly to you….and that touches on the nature of collective reward in redemption. do you see?

        last, even the most tradition-minded rabbis will insist that you can’t fully know what the reward for your action is, hence, you can’t “know” that any good action of yours is not rewarded. you can know that there is one without having a clue as to what it might be…which should be pure enough in itself, don’t you think?

so, what do you think?

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