haYom shiv’a u’sh’loshim yom, sh’heim chamisha shavuot u’shnei yomim, laOmer: gevurah she b’yesod

“tell your brother Aharon that he shan’t enter the Holy of Holies at just any time”

we learn this (Leviticus 16:2) shortly after we learn of the death of Aharon’s sons Nadav and Avihu for bringing a strange fire into the Mishkan (‘temple in the desert’) on their own accord, without being commanded.  many of us might have been hard pressed not to snap back, “ya think?”

but few of us are as mighty as was Aharon, master of joy and peace in the most difficult of circumstances. as it turns out, Aharon would ultimately enter into the most Holy area behind the curtain once a year….on Yom Kippur. this is a pretty strict rule, but one from which we can learn a lesson of gevurah (restriction) in yesod (foundation, connection, bonding), for Aharon was a very special communicator with the People, he was the leader of the bringing of the Cohanic Blessing to the People (Numbers 6:24ff):

“may G’d bless you and keep you!

may G’d shine his face upon you and favor you!

may G’d lift up G’d’s face toward you and grant you shalom!”

and this is how G’d chose to put G’d’s name on the People and to bless them. that is a rather significant communication indeed. yet if offered just willy nilly, it would not be right. and we have a tendency to do that these days….this blessing is offered by just about anybody and just about anytime these days. a lack of gevurah in yesod.

think about the importance of taking the helm in building a relationship and then maintaining it. yesod comes to teach about establishing the way you will walk in them. too much gevurah and the contact points between people, no matter how deeply in love they may once have been, will atrophy like a muscle unused. but too little, constant communication of the wrong sort, or ill-timed insistence on, say, talking about the relationship, and all you end up with is meta-ralationship…..all talk smothering the individual walk. or perhaps the third errant way: all texting….constant not-quite-contact of all communication, virtually.

it holds between humankind and G’d as well….else the shechechiyanu (‘blessing for the particular special moment’) would have no more moment to bless. and none can look upon the face of G’d and live.

the good that comes of restricting communications, governing contact is that each person in a relationship gets to simply be in the relationship….with no more than the small gesture or look….or just a glimpse. perhaps exactly what gets one going in the first place….

mussar for gevurah she b’yesod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro   rabbeinu Gershom, the same rabbi that put the 1000-year ban on polygamy into effect in the year 1000 ce, also ruled that it was against the way of Torah to read another person’s mail. privacy continues to be a valid concern in Torah, regardless of the current-day cassandras of the death of privacy. take care to keep your nose out of other folks’ business.

with oneself….bein adam l’atzmo    we all know peer pressure in how we act in the world, especially in regard to our community.  but it is incumbent on each of us to make our own understandings and not simply follow blindly. when we see something that is against the walk with G’d, we should not make it foundational for ourselves. truth is the watchword of G’d…..and it works for people too.

kabbalah for gevurah she b’yesod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    in the morning prayer we bless G’d “who makes my steps firm”, ie, makes my walk with G’d confident.  but how often do we stop an assess what contacts and communications we might undertake to strengthen the foundations of the community we walk in?  consider this…then act.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    kony 2012 is now famous…indeed, the words are spray painted on many surfaces of buildings downtown.  now what? well, for the building owners, it means time and expense to clean up. the campaign is a good example of non-foundational effort….all text and you tube without reeal effects in the world. more than anything, it represents a missed opportunity to do some real good. consider how you can capture the fire of a compaign to do good in the world and then direct it into actually doing the good, for it is the DOING THE GOOD that is tikkun olam (‘repairing the world’), not just the desire to do it.

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    privacy is important, but it can sometimes lead to concealment of possibility. we are not always being active judges of our own potential. spend some time evaluating the hints of possibility in yourself…what can you bring to getting justice done? to spread loving-kindness? do you have what to offer in a new way?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    the loftier the building/effort/understanding/holy-making (add your own word), the deeper, broader, more strategically anchored must be the foundation. meditate on whether your spiritual foundations are worthy of supporting your loftiest aspirations.

kinyan 37 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Nosei b’Ol Chaveiro….Bearing/Sharing the Burden of Another.  loving your neighbor as yourself is a mitzvah that has a complex of associated/related mitzvot, each of which defines a part of the way in the doing of the central mitzvah. honoring your parents, accompanying a bride to huppah, burying the dead, visiting the sick, and comforting the mourner, among others, are all mitzvot supportive of “loving your neighbor”.  and all of the kinyanei Torah are spirit traits that support the great mitzvah as well…for they all support  walking humbly with Your G’d.

haYom sh’naim u’sh’loshim yom, sh’heim arba’a shavuot v’arba’a yomim, laOmer: netzach she b’hod

“and i, with stubborn boldness, have promised that i will increase tenderness in this world”

r’ Nachman of Breslov was always very direct in his prayers, especially when he was uncertain about his success. this prayer reveals the energy of netzach in a hod promise.  it is a good combination, but have you, any of you, ever labored at “increasing tenderness” in the world?

we all try with our children. and often succeed. but inevitably some sterner justice/discipline will have to be meted out, no matter how carefully and tenderly, and something of a “spell” is broken, yes? but we are immediately flooded with netzach to push ahead again with the tenderness we want all people to grow up with that it may spread far and wide and help to redeem the world.

well, sometimes it is guilt first and then netzach. but the same hod that brings reserve and tenderness also judges your feelings and actions more guardedly thereafter. this is good in that severity is shunted, but bad in that you are not so naturally tender for a while. compassionate, yes, but probably netzach in tiferet pushing a little to the right-side extreme, overcompensating due to the pain brought by the discipline. but it is not so gentle as knowing hod tenderness.

netzach in hod is probably the dominant jewish combination…it is no wonder that they give their names to the pillars at either side of the opening to the Holy in the Bet haMidash. most of spiritual practice is based on fine differentiation, organizational clarity and record keeping in time and space, and prompts to continuously focus our energies. a painfully good example is sefirat haOmer….calling upon you to do a small thing that requires attention to detail–counting not only days but also complete weeks and also weeks and days–each day for a period of time. but all leading up the a closer, purer, stronger cleaving to G’d by the holy day of Shavuot. persistent, enduring expenditure of thought energy in rectifying your spirit traits of character each day, sharing in the splendor of each day’s unique count.

the Omer practice is itself something of a rectification for those who find their days passing each like the next, just like the previous. hod comes to teach that each day has it’s own number, and counting up elimiates the idea of genuine end. we don’t count down to a change of state….subtrait building into better overall traits accumulates. we grow richer in time, not poorer.

netzach in hod is also a good time to assess where you are in your count. what have you gained? know it, and press ahead.

mussar for netzach she b’hod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    are you ever puzzled that so many people answer their home phone with a question, “hello?” people seem to do it today even though we know who is on the other side of the line as often as not….why is that? try changing your phone greeting. make it more beautiful, more engaging….have it suggest from the start that you care about the person on the other end of the line.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo   apply the same principle to yourself. what do you know, or do people suggest to you, is your greatest beauty of spirit? once you’ve parsed that out, build it further…..for yourself (though beauty is bound to spill over onto others).

kabbalah for netzach she b’hod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion     hod is about recognizing splendor in the world and also becoming splendor in the world. look about you at the things you take for granted. where is the splendor in them? the beauty? the beautiful utility?  think about how to share that splendor with someone else….then do so with persistence til they get it!

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    preparation requires a combination of looking ahead and looking at where you are.  but we are taught to live fully in the moment. meditate on this. does the disparity cause your stress? if you adjusted a little more toward the moment, would it help?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    sometimes when we map out something, we see the end and the way there with immediate clarity. other times we will tread down a wrong path and have to make a change midcourse.  consider such times when you had to adjust…perhaps drastically.  what in you made you ready for the change and what made you able to push home a change? do you see other ways to approach similar situations today?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    communication is built on the focusing of energy in transmission and in receipt. this too is a netzach in hod relationship. contemplate your communications with G’d, through, prayer, through practice, through learning, whatever, and consider which is more difficult for you: sending your message to G’d? or hearing G’d’s message to you?

kinyan 32 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Ohev et haMesharim o haTzadakot.   so why do we come back to this one, just flipping the order from yesterday?  well, each of them can either mean the way of uprighteousness or righteous persons. yesterday we treated brevity in the way of righteousness. today we will urge the love of righteous persons. they are guides on the path and can set one straight always. and a maggid mesharim (‘a righteous preacher’) can teach Torah outside of the box. and since that is where the use of Torah will prove most difficult and pressing in life, baruch haShem for the maggid mesharim.