Omer: Day 9 The Restraint of Might

gevurah shebbe gevurah- restraint of might

The strength of gevurah relies on the ability to restrain oneself. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32). Yet, restraint of ourselves is key, not only for the benefit of our soul, also for the sake of being in a position to offer diplomatic relations to those who enter into conflict with us. Another effective saying to keep in mind is that “he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife” (Proverbs 15:18). We would do well to learn from the wise words of King Solomon, for our hearts are heavy with the burdens we face; yet, too often, we are tempted to respond to others in a reactive way, rather in a manner of restraint.

If I may further explain, by way of a concrete example too rampant today. We might have fallen prey to the divisiveness that permeates society, dividing people into subgroups of us and them; the bitterness that festers as a result of demonizing the other, will only further the perpetuation of the lack of harmony in our lives, especially when our thoughts and rhetoric approaches the vitriolic. Being critical of others, through an excessive expression of gevurah, has the potential to devolve into the creation of newly marginalized classes of people in society, that may be increasingly demonized through generalizations. In this manner, tyranny rules the heart (G-d forbid).

Omer Count: Day 2 – the Boundary of Kindness

gevurah within chesed

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.

note: 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).

Omer Count: Day One – Introduction and Synopsis

Road to Spiritual Improvement


overview, weekly synopsis, day one

The Omer Count – counting of the Omer – may serve as a spiritual journey from Egypt to Sinai. We are called upon to leave our own personal mitzraim (Egypt; from metzeir, meaning “limitations”) behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of the yetzer hara (evil inclination). This is a forty-nine day journey, aka self improvement plan, that begins on the eve of the second day of Passover. Each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the seven middos (character traits) that we will have the opportunity to improve upon in our lives. And, each day of the week focuses on one aspect of that quality.

The first week is devoted to the middah of Chesed: primarily love, expressed as kindness, mercy, and compassion. The expansiveness of chesed is opposite the constrictive quality of gevurah. Chesed has to do with an openness of personality, as well as a friendly attitude towards others. From a psychological perspective, chesed would be akin to a high rating on the the Big Five personality traits to agreeableness. When we give from the heart to others, we are giving with chesed.

Day 1 – chesed within chesed

The amount of kindness that we show to others, despite other traits that might be less conducive to friendliness, is dependent on how we view and treat ourselves. Genuine kindness is from a place of empathic consideration for the other. The mercy that we show to others, in times of weakness, when we might otherwise respond in a harsh manner, is a way of transcending the egotistical drives that fashion us as human beings, instincts that are mostly focused on ourselves. Yet, being truly human means to go beyond our comfort zone, by not giving in to our lesser inclinations and selfishness.

note: 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 their own exploration of personality characteristics, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

Dawn Arrives Serene

"Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast." 
- Isaiah 26:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

The final dawn arrives to bring

a hopeful message tinged with joy,

compels the soul to lift on high

the weary eyes above the sky.

Until that day, I’ll hide away,

and bide my time, making rhyme,

behind the screen of inner space,

where no one sees my hidden face.

I’ll greet the dawn with praise and song,

without the slightest sound of alarm,

resting in my safest haven,

and in anticipation sing.

The veil will part in sky and heart,

revealing all to glorify the One,

Who in Heaven’s Highest Abode,

sends blessings from His treasure trove.

Hope Surfaces

Hope, is the mainstay of my life

and the fruition of my thoughts.

Hope, will outweigh the strife

that weighs heavily upon my heart.

Hope, the champion of the future,

a prelude to ultimate victory.

Hope, is enough to suture

the wounds inflicted by misery.

Hope, will mend the broken fragments

of a life unduly shattered.

Hope, will diminish the lament

of those whose clothes are tattered.

Hope, designed to stich each patch

and sew together the unraveled strands.

Hope, will help to gather all who are lost,

like collecting so many grains of sand.

Hope, will meld with faith,

bridging the gap in between.

Hope obtained, will never fade,

always realizing the dream.

Purim Shpiel 5782

Walking a Tightrope

To get from one place to another, walking a fine line along the way, is not only a task enacted by a tightrope walker. In fact, I imagine that I will not be the only one attempting a “balancing act” this Purim: balancing joy & sorrow, past & present, and religion & life. Perhaps, there is no need for me to explain, and you, dear reader, are already beginning to get an inkling of what I am about to say. Purim is quickly approaching; yet, my thoughts are preoccupied with a modern-day Purim story, wherein the archvillain is intent on destruction, despite the opposition.

Abraham Heschel advocated for a Judaism that is not wrapped up in its past glory, in spite of the prevailing circumstances of life. How can I celebrate Purim in a joyous manner, knowing that a real-life situation demands my attention, prayer, and support? To go along with Purim-as-usual would create a great disconnect between what is meant to be a living faith in touch with the challenges of life and the actual challenges that present themselves, despite the timing.

The war in Ukraine will not be put on hold for the celebration of Purim. This is the stark reality that many of the Jewish refugees who have managed to cross the border know. And the unfortunate ones, who for whatever reasons are still in Ukraine, sheltering in basements, or fighting to defend their country also know this all too well. The rejoicing in Shushan and the lands of Ahasuerus did not occur until after victory was procured for the Jewish people, who were previously threatened by the evil designs of Haman.

Today, rejoicing over this past victory will in all likelihood be diminished in light of the present reality. Whatever lessons we are able to glean from Purim, I would encourage that these be applied to our response to the events of today. Otherwise, as Heschel wrote, we risk ignoring “the crisis of today,” “because of the splendor of the past” (Heschel, G-d in Search of Man, ch.1).

Wake Up Call

I woke up this morning, as the remnant of a dream lingered in my soul. All was foretold long ago; and, yet we seem to get so little of a glimpse on occasion into this hope for redemption. My academic background is in psychology; needless to say, I began to analyze my dream: Rockets turned into butterflies, and missiles turned into doves; the sky became bright blue, as light descended from above. As if in an overnight occurrence, the Third Temple appeared in Jerusalem; and, the king entered through the Eastern Gate.

Yet, before he could reach the throne, the processions stopped. The King exclaimed, “I can go no further.” Everyone looked astonished and turned one to another in wonder. Then, I woke up with the following words spoken quietly in my mind: the redemption will not occur until you correct your spelling mistake. So, I laughed and smirked, and went back to sleep, thinking, oh, what a silly dream. Later, I wrote in my journal that this dream was a wish-fulfillment tinged with anxiety because of my lack of self-esteem. Then, I turned the page in my journal, and continued to write…

What if the dream was a divine portent? I know that mysticism bears some light upon this dream, if I think about the nature of words and their power to move mountains. I recall hearing about a misspelling in a mezuzah scroll that brought ill fortune upon the people who lived at that residence, where the mezuzah was placed on the doorway. When the mistake was found, and the correction made, all turned out well for the family and their descendants. Now, I know there is a principle, isn’t there? “As above so below.” So, our efforts, thoughts and speech in this world have an influence upon the spiritual realm. Hmm.

Then, I realized, that I had recently written a poem about the Geulah. As usual, I placed the appropriate tags on the post for ease of accessibility and viewership; however, I wonder if I misspelled the word, redemption. So, I decided to check, half-heartedly remaining skeptical. Lo and behold, I had misspelled the word, redemption, spelling the word without the second “e” – redmption. I added the letter “e,” and quietly made my usual cup of green tea in the morning. I had a glimmer of hope in my heart, wondering if I had actually in some small way contributed to the hastening of the Geulah. After all, isn’t there a saying about how one mitzvah can change the entire world? Hmm.

I sat back down at my desk in front of the computer screen. I sat silently in deep thought. I decided to check the likes for that poem. There were the usual likes from people who read my posts; there were also some likes from some bloggers unknown to me. I checked the comments; many of the comments were from the usual crowd; there were a few from others not previously known. I continued with my day, not letting my dreams hold sway over reality. An hour later, I checked the post again; the likes were climbing higher than usual; the comments kept pouring in one after the other. Hmm. I must have struck a chord in the heartstrings of like-minded folk. I decided to place the poem on some other platforms. Then, I continued to work on some other writing tasks until dusk; studied Torah and called it a day.

The next day there was a bright light in my room, and it was not even daylight yet. I thought that I was still dreaming. Perhaps, I was still sleeping, I thought to myself; so, I decided to make a cup of tea. There was music emanating from my computer; yet, the pc was still closed for I always close up my laptop overnight. Normally, the music app only works when the laptop is open. I did not even recognize the song. Then, I began listening to the lyrics, “Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, working wonders?” I realized that these are the words of Az Yashir, giving praise to H’Shem, for having led us out of Egypt and split the Sea of Reeds.

Where was the music coming from? The online morning service that I attend had not even begun, so this couldn’t have been from the liturgy. The choir singing the song sounded as if composed of thousands of voices. Then, I remembered the commentary on this verse: the sages point out that the verb tense is in the future; in other words, not “Then Moses sang;” rather, “Then Moses [and the people] will sing.” When? According to chazal, after the Tehillas haMeisim (Resurrection of the Dead) at the beginning of the Messianic Age.

I couldn’t believe what I was thinking. Could this really be? Or was I still dreaming? I went into the restroom to splash some water upon my face. Then, when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I looked as if I was twenty years old again. Wait. Didn’t my friend once tell me that when Moshiach appears, those who are alive at the time will be transformed? And, that they will have a resurrection body like that of a twenty-year old? Could this really be happening?

I decided to check the news. All of the Israeli papers, including Arutz Sheva, the Jerusalem Post, and Ha’aretz had live coverage at the Western Wall. Is the Redemption at hand? Is the Geulah being broadcast around the world? Will all eyes behold him? As is written, “And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives” (Zechariah 14:4, JPSN). “I would behold G-d while still in my flesh, I myself, not another, would behold Him; would see with my own eyes” (Job 19:26-27, JPSN). Amein and amein.

The Light of Truth

When light is diminished in this world,

we seek the scroll of Esther unfurled,

to bring to light what remains hidden,

drawing close to G-d, even when not bidden.

When darkness seems to prevail,

we find hope in Mordechai’s tale,

of triumph, in the battle of us and them,

the tides were turned in our favor by H’Shem.

The light of truth shone bright,

when Haman’s plan was revealed in full site,

to King Ahasuerus at Esther’s feast,

when all the coincidences came into place.

Today, we celebrate yesterday’s victory,

steadfast in prayer in the morning early,

awaiting the light that appears at dawn,

when the L-RD will right all that is wrong.

Like colors in a mystical kaleidoscope,

blue and yellow blend with hope,

when all of the colors melt into one,

in expectation of the rising sun.