Omer: Day 32 A Modest Estimation

Netzach shebbe Hod: Endurance within Splendor

(Otherwise rendered as endurance within humility).

Netzach has to do with the “grit” of endurance, in order to persist until victory arrives. Perhaps, victory and humility seem incongruent. One does not generally go into the battlefield, so to speak, in all humility, showing deference and respect towards his enemy. And, yet, it is written, “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, JPS).

Israel is called to show all humility and deference to G-d, in acknowledgment that He will fight our battles for us. Figuratively speaking, this may apply to the inner battles that we face everyday within ourselves, especially, in our attempts to rule over our passions.

In order to maintain humility, we should be aware of pride in all of its manifestations, such as arrogance, haughtiness, and self centeredness. By diminishing the potential for pride in ourselves, we allow for the presence of humility. Pride is an overexaggerated sense of self importance. Therefore, self esteem is an exception to pride. Self esteem is both healthy and necessary in a person’s life. Yet, there may be a fine line, between self esteem and pride that would need to be drawn by the individual.

Maintaining a modest estimation of oneself and one’s abilities is not an easy endeavor. There is the lure of human tendency to aggrandize ourselves, compete against others, and climb up the ladder of egoism towards self glory. On the other hand, humility does not require becoming a doormat, for others to wipe their feet upon.

An comprehensive understanding of our strengths and weaknesses will grant us self knowledge. To know the truth about oneself, will further guard against narcissism, and the potential to form a false persona. Ultimately, by humbling ourselves before G-d, we can allow Him to raise us up, to build and rebuild our lives, and to cast His glory [splendor] upon us.

Omer: Day 31 Kaleidoscopic Splendor

Tiferes shebbe Hod: Beauty within Splendor

(Otherwise rendered as harmony within humility).

As explained elsewhere, only through bowing down in our hearts to the splendor of the L-RD, may we also acquire splendor, by way of reflecting His Splendor. Therefore, we may find through harmonizing ourselves enough to show deference to G-d, we may bear the light bestowed upon us through our reconciliation with Him.

By way of harmonizing ourselves, I mean to bring the soul into alignment with truth, by sifting through the various inconsistencies in character, called from a psychological perspective, “cognitive dissonance.” Ideally, the result would be like viewing the shapes combined into patterns within the kaleidoscope of our soul. Imagine all of the variegated shapes being lit up by light in the background; this effect would be akin to G-d’s splendor being reflected by our souls.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. 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.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

Omer: Day 30 Stand Humble

Gevurah shebbe Hod: Power within Splendor

The splendor of the L-RD is energized by the eternal source of Life that is synonymous with His existence: He existed before the beginning and brought all into being. Therefore, any sense of strength that we might have as human beings, is ultimately only from Him. And, furthermore, we are most able to reflect His splendor through our humility, in acknowledgment of His greater splendor.

The strength (gevurah) of humility (hod), contrary to misconceptions, is not found in cowardice, nor timidity.  We should be aware of the potential for false humility, that manifests as emotional imposters in our hearts, claiming that we may not be worthy enough, courageous enough, or strong enough to stand up against evil. If we are able to face the negative aspects of our own character, then we can also make a difference by challenging wrongs found outside of us.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. 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.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

Omer: Day 29 The Kindness Bridge

Chesed shebbe Hod: Love within Splendor

Otherwise rendered as kindness within humility.

The role of chesed (kindness) within the quality of humility. How does kindness influence the potential for humility? Kindness seems like a key ingredient of humility. Yet, kindness may actually be a result of the quality of humility. To humble ourselves before G-d, and others, downplaying our plusses, and acknowledging our minuses, places us in a position to better appreciate others, by not seeing ourselves as better than them. Therefore, kindness may be a consequence of recognizing our inherent sameness with others. It is easier to be kind to those whom we feel a common connection. Recognizing our own humanity, reflected in the eyes of others, may help us to bridge the gap with personal acts of kindness.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. 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.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

motzei Shabbos: Emor 5782

parasha Emor 5782 – 7th aliyah

“He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the L-RD continually.”

– Leviticus 24:4, JPS 1917 Tanach

The menorah and the showbread table, respectively represent “spiritual growth” and “material prosperity.”  Both of these provisions rest upon the incense mizbeach (altar), so to speak, inasmuch that the smoke of the incense is symbolic of prayer; thus, through our avodah, namely, service of the heart (prayer), we may acquire both spiritual and material blessings.

Additionally, according to the Steinsaltz edition of the Chumash, the menorah represents “purity and radiance” (Steinsaltz commentary on Leviticus 24:4). This makes perfect sense, in consideration of the pure olive oil that was used for the menorah; and, the light emitting from the wicks of the menorah. Thus, an added dimension is brought to the above-mentioned insight, namely, that our spiritual growth is also dependent upon leading a pure life, focused on righteousness.

Omer: Day 28 Whose Narrative Will You Follow?

Malchut shebbe Netzach: Kingdom within Endurance

(The attribute of malchut may also be rendered as sovereignty, or autonomy):

Where within the quality of endurance, may autonomy be found? How does a sense of self, and personal motivation contribute to one’s endurance in the face of challenges? How much can we rely on our own autonomy, without seeking guidance from a Higher Authority? Reflect on these questions for yourself. Each person’s answer will be uniquely tailored to that person’s experience, belief, and values.

Scripture indicates that G-d would like us to be dependent upon Him, rather than view ourselves as completely independent. Yet, the more we depend upon Him, the less need there will be to depend upon others. Therefore, ironically, we become more self-sufficient in the eyes of others, who are not aware of the source of our strength. Additionally, it may be said, that endurance may occur not only through our own efforts, but through a concomitant focus on G-d.

My own sense of autonomy is rooted in my faith in G-d; I know that I will never stand alone, when facing the challenges of my life. Moreover, in confrontation with others, I can rest assured, that as long as I am in right relationship with G-d, He will support me, when faced with adversity. Also, trusting in His sovereignty means that I can trust in the values, inculcated by scripture.

Ideally, there should be no need for me to waver, or lured toward an alternate set of values, such as may be promoted by a secular source. This is not arrogance on my part; rather, if I humble myself to G-d’s sovereignty in my life, then I do not speak on my own behalf. Whereas society would like to claim the right to decide and claim for everyone what the narrative norm is, the truth – G-d’s expectations for mankind – has already been engraved in stone, and spoken by the mouthpieces of G-d’s spokespersons, throughout the ages, as recorded in scripture.

Omer: Day 27 Foundational Truths

Yesod shebbe Netzach: Foundation of Endurance

How well am I able to maintain an active participation in the foundational truths of my life? Do I only have an intellectual understanding of those truths? Or, am I able to ground those truths within the framework of my everyday life? Moreover, when faced with challenges, within and without, how well will that foundation prove to support the overall structure of my belief and practice? The stronger my foundation, the greater my ability to endure the storms of life. If my foundation is like a house built upon a rock, then it would be more secure than a foundation built upon sand.

A sure foundation is one that will withstand the changing seasons, because the underlying principles are founded upon timeless truths, such as those found in the Bible. Yet, a foundation built upon the shifting sands of societal norms will not last. This should be clear to anyone who reviews the values in American society, from the 1950’s until today. There has been a substantial shift away from traditional values toward liberal ones, even going beyond all that was considered decent yesterday. And, where will this trajectory of descent lead? Cancel culture continues to impact society as whole, for the most part by diminishing traditional voices.

What is considered normative in society changes over time. Especially, when there is an attempt to influence the societal norm in favor of an agenda that is secular, it seems that traditional godly values fall by the wayside. This is something to consider for both those who identify with traditional values, and those who do not. Where will the proverbial “line in the sand” be drawn? On what side of that line will we find ourselves, as individuals?

Without building blocks that will provide a sure foundation, a structure built upon empty truths, ultimately, will not be established. The measure of strength of a foundation may very well be its resistance to change; therefore, only time-tested truths will ultimately prevail. And, the establishment of any foundation that is not in accord with those truths will ultimately fail to provide the shelter that only G-d can provide, under the wings of the Shechinah.

Omer: Day 26 Resilience in Adversity

Hod shebbe Netzach: Splendor within Endurance

Hod may also be rendered as humility. The quality of humility in regard to endurance may be envisioned as a bamboo tree yielding to a strong wind in a storm, signaling that endurance in the face of life’s challenges may also require resilience. When we are able to acknowledge our limitations in the face of adversity, then we may be compelled to gather inner strength. Our limitations may compel us to renew our strength through a resilient spirit.

The splendor of hod represents the light of G-d that shines upon us when we humble ourselves in respect to Him. By recognizing our limitations, we may receive His blessing to endure with a little help from Above. Therefore, our resilience in the face of adversity may depend upon an added measure of assistance from outside of our own resources, in order to persist with any worthy endeavor. In His eyes, when we reach out to Him, we are being dependent in a good way.

note: The counting of the Omer serves as a spiritual journey. We are called upon to leave our own personal limitations behind us, as we travel on the path of freedom, away from the influence of negativity in our lives. This is a forty-nine day journey, a self improvement plan, between Passover and Shavuot. 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.

My personal reflections on each day’s combination of middot are not meant to be comprehensive; they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may my insights be characterized as authoritative, because I am a student, not a teacher. I simply hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

parasha Emor 5782 – The Moadim

weekly Torah reading: parasha Emor 5782

“The appointed seasons of the L-RD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are My appointed seasons.” – Leviticus 23:1-2, JPS 1917 Tanach

On “the fourteenth day of the first month,” the Pesach offering was made (Leviticus 23:5).  A seven-day observance begins on the fifteenth of Nissan, when we refrain from eating chometz, during “the Feast of Unleavened Bread” (Leviticus 23:6). “Ye shall bring the sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest” (Leviticus 23:10, JPS 1917 Tanach). This was brought to the kohein [priest], on the day after the first rest day of Pesach. The offering is referred to in Torah as the waving of the Omer; it was only enacted after B’nei Yisrael entered the Promised Land.

“Even unto the morrow after the seventh week shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall present a new meal-offering unto the L-RD” (Leviticus 23:16, JPS). That is, fifty days were counted from the second day of Passover, onward until on the fiftieth day, the first wheat offering of the harvest was brought “unto the L-RD.” (The offering that was made prior to this – the Omer – on the second day of Passover, was the first of the barley harvest). Today, we refer to the fiftieth day after Passover as Shavuot, in commemoration of Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah).

In Autumn, we celebrate Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Sukkot, which follows Yom Kippur, is considered a Festival, like Passover, and Shavuot; so, it is the third of the Festivals: “Ye shall dwell in booths seven days” (Leviticus 23:42, JPS). We build sukkot (booths) to commemorate the protection we received from the Clouds of Glory, while dwelling in booths, during our forty-day sojourn in the desert. On the eighth day, we celebrate Shemini Atzeret, symbolizing Olam Haba (the World-to-Come).

Omer: Day 25 One Life to Live

Netzach shebbe Netzach: Endurance within Endurance:

(The attribute of netzach may also be rendered as “victory” or “eternity”).

The attribute of Netzach carries the weight of eternity on its shoulders, in like manner that Atlas, in the Greek myth, carried the world on his shoulders. In truth, G-d carries both of these burdens for all of mankind. Yet, we may be made privy to them in a manner that is not burdensome: our place in this world, and our time in eternity is sweetened by the victory of life over death, as mentioned in the Book of Isaiah. “He will swallow up death for ever; and the L-RD G-D will wipe away tears from off all faces” (Isaiah 25:8, JPS 1917 Tanach).

The question is not often asked, what is the ultimate purpose of our lives? Nor, is the answer readily inferred from worldly knowledge; nor, deduced from general knowledge. Yet, G-d has placed eternity in our hearts, so that we might have a glimpse of eternity within us. Therefore, we are able to aspire towards that eternity, having sensed a time and place of continual existence in our heart. Otherwise, what reward will we have at the end of a life well-lived? If we endure the challenges of this life for the sake of monetary gain, pleasure, or posterity, then we are being misled by the false promises of this world.

Consider endurance of each and every day, living our lives for the sake of an eternal reward, knowing that this life is a test. “This world is like a vestibule before the world to come; prepare yourself in the vestibule, that you mayest enter into the banquet hall” (Pirkei Avos 4:21). We are to prepare ourselves, through the refinement of our character, and living a morally upright life, according to G-d’s standard, for the sake of obtaining a good place in Olam Haba (the World to Come). This begins upon our admittance into the coronation banquet of the King, at the beginning of the Messianic Era. For the soul lives on for eternity.