Omer: Day 27 – Foundational Truths

Yesod shebbe Netzach: Foundation of Victory

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 will be more secure than a foundation built upon sand.

A solid foundation is one that will withstand the changing seasons, because the underlying principles are founded upon timeless truths. 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 the radical pseudo-values, currently being implemented in all of America’s institutions. And, where will this trajectory of descent lead? The radical Leftist ideology behind the proponents of cancel culture continues to impact society as a whole, by diminishing traditional voices, and persuading those that are “sitting on the fence” in regard to classical Western morality. Those without a firm foundation will sink into this quagmire of confusion.

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. The establishment of any foundation that is not in accord with those truths will ultimately fail to provide the shelter that only can only be provided through what is Heaven sent. May the Shechinah (the Divine presence) be bestowed upon you. Shalom.

Omer: Day 26 – Resilience in Adversity

Hod shebbe Netzach: Splendor (Humility) within Victory (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, signifying, 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. In other words, 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. (We mirror his light). By recognizing our limitations, we may receive His blessing to endure, with a little help from Above. 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 G-d’s 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).

Omer: Day 17 – Back to the Garden

Tiferes shebbe Tiferes: Harmony within Harmony

The epitome of harmony and balance within all of creation was present in the beginning within Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden). That harmony was disrupted, when Adam and Chava (Eve) partook of forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Up until that moment, the progenitors of humankind lived in a nondual world of blissful connection to G-d.

Their relationship to Him was whole, and immersed in complete Oneness. They were at one with each other, and all of creation as well. Although, subsequent to their disobedience, the world became an admixture of good and evil.

Throughout history, these two forces often appeared in sharp outlines, discernible even to the casual eye, as well as the more carefully honed conscience. Today, the blur between good and evil that seems to have proliferated during the last several decades is increasing to the point of concern, whereas the boundaries are no longer clearly marked in society.

The prophet’s words apply, “woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that change darkness into light, and light into darkness; that change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter” (Isaiah 5:20, JPS 1917 Tanach).

The words of singer songwriter, Joni Mitchell, during the tumultuous 60’s still ring true, “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.” How so? Through bringing compassion towards a disharmonious world, beginning with ourselves. For G-d primarily expects His crowning achievement (humankind) to live lives that reflect His image. Mankind has fallen far since the days of yore; yet, recovery for the soul is still possible.

With a sincere effort, a response will be elicited from Above. In other words, if we make an effort to improve ourselves, G-d will help us along the way.

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 own personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul).

Omer: Day 9 Gevurah: 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). 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, ourselves, 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.

Furthermore, the critical nature of the human heart, has the potential to fuel cancel culture, and further the categorization of classes of people in society into the oppressed and the oppressors, increasingly demonizing through generalizations. This is the result of permitting tyranny to rule the heart (G-d forbid).

Omer: Day 8 (Chesed of Gevurah)

loving-kindness within discipline – the Love aspect of Discipline

The aspect of chesed, having to do with love, denotes the gentle persuasion of discipline towards those whom we love; hence, correction from a place of love does not appear to be stern; yet, firm enough to make the point clear. If we truly love another person, then we are cautious in any attempt to rebuke – only for the sake of that person’s benefit to increase in understanding of the path that H’Shem desires us to walk upon. Therefore, the end result is from a place of love, not only from the one who institutes the admonition; rather, also from the One Who would only like the best for us.

Sovereignty of Loving-Kindness

Omer Day 7
Malchus shebbe Chesed: (Kingdom within Love)

The corresponding emotional attributes, sovereignty (autonomy, dignity, etc.) within loving-kindness are key qualities in healthy relationships. To be “there for the other person,” in essence, requires a strong sense of inner fortitude, knowing who you are, in order to relate to others from a centered awareness of one’s own identity. Maintaining healthy boundaries, by recognizing the other’s autonomy is also integral to being able to express love in an appropriate manner. Acts of kindness, done in a way that respects the other person’s dignity is important.

Our own inner worth, the value we place upon ourselves in regard to personal dignity, reflects the One whose sovereignty rules over our hearts, if we permit Him to do so. Yet, if we see ourselves as separate from G-d, then we risk narcissistic pride, that creates an illusion of ourselves as being more important than our abilities and accomplishments would indicate. The expression of love to another person from a place of self-aggrandizement may only result in posturing ourselves above the other.

Yet, in not overstepping the boundaries of the other, by accepting the other as a unique individual (sovereign, autonomous), two people in relationship to each other can coexist. This holds true for our interactions with all human beings, inasmuch that we endeavor to respect and appreciate others for whom they are. Recognizing the inherent value of our fellow human beings, can be done without diminishing ourselves; nor, on the other hand, by thinking that we are better than the other. We should not judge others; because, G-d, Who is sovereign over all is the Ultimate Judge.

This is especially true today in regard to the judging, blaming, and pointing the finger at others, as a result of the prolific influence of Woke doctrine. As soon as we start labeling people, we will be tempted to judge them. Wokism provides its own categories, based upon the Marxist view of the world as a continual interplay of power dynamics, between the oppressed and the oppressors.

Yet, as in Communism, and fostered by the cultural Marxist tenets of Wokism, eventually the oppressed become the oppressors. It is a never-ending cycle that the ideologues actually think will lead to a synthesis of opposites, culminating in a utopia. History proves that this ideology has always led to a dystopia. People who value compassion, tolerance, and respect toward others need to steer clear of these dangerous ideas.

[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)].

The Wisdom of Proverbs

“He that acquires wisdom loves his own soul; he that retains understanding will find good.”- Proverbs 19:8

Acquiring wisdom may seem like an arduous task, akin to mining for gold. And, retaining understanding involves not simply letting the words of wisdom go in one ear and out the other, nor dispersed like seedlings in the wind. Rather, these words should be planted within our hearts. The Book of Proverbs has the potential to benefit our daily lives, through its instruction. It is included within the category of mussar, ethics to live by, standards to guide our lives. Its teachings are often very practical insights into human nature.

Find Time for Introspection

“Therefore, they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Ramses.” – Exodus 1:11, JPS 1917 Tanach

The midrash explains that the location where the slave labor was being done, was upon marshy land. So that the structures being built would continuously sink into the mire to no avail. According to this rendering, the effort being made was of no feasible purpose. The work assigned was for the sole purpose of keeping Bnei Yisrael occupied with useless activity, because Pharaoh thought that this would keep them from any schemes of rebellion.

It is interesting to note that in Rome, the gladiator games and other events at the Colosseum were meant to keep the people’s minds off of politics. Today, in modern society, the same premises may be at play, inasmuch that entertainment is a distraction, busy work lives can wear down a person, leaving little time for anything of lasting value to focus upon outside of one’s job, career or vocation. Yet, the time and the effort must be made. Forasmuch that we let ourselves be robbed of the precious time that we have, we lose out on what can truly benefit the soul.

The Ramchal, in Mesillas Yesharim denotes how the yetzer hara compels one to be preoccupied with burdens, to the extent that no time can be found to contemplate one’s path in life, namely, by examining one’s behavior through introspection. He compares this to the plight of Israel, subjugated to the harsh work that Pharaoh imposed upon them, especially, when he decided to increase their burdens, to prevent them from even thinking about redemption. G-d forbid, that we should fall prey to the same machinations of our yetzer hara (evil inclination).

Furthermore, it is regrettable for those who do not even realize that the Adversary attempts to keep us blinded to our own condition and “enslaved to sin.” The Ramchal advocates deliberately setting aside time for what is called heshbon hanefesh, literally “an accounting of the soul,” so that we may become aware of the quality of our lives from a moral perspective, if only we would take the time every day to subject ourselves to introspection upon our own initiative. Change can only take place through awareness of our faults, and where we need to make improvement in our lives.

Blessing of Preservation

1st Aliyah parasha Vayechi

5783 – blessing of preservation

Both Manasseh and Ephraim both grew up in the royal household of Egypt. Yaakov, their grandfather, who is partially blind, asks who they are, when Jospeh brings them to him. On a deeper leve, his question may be construed as an inquiry into their character. Are their moral concomitant with the legacy of Abraham? Have they remained in their integrity as the sons of the righteous Joseph, who surely instructed them properly. Despite the surrounding idolatrous environment, are there adherents to the belief in the G-d of Israel? The answer to all of the above is yes, inasmuch that Yaakov’s blessing was for the sake of preservation, that they continue on the derech.

This blessing is performed every Friday evening when parents bless their sons. Implicitly, this blessing is meant to be a safeguard against undue influence from the less than ideal mores of society that are opposed to living a righteous life. Something we all face, in terms of this type of influence, the moreso, depending upon how much interaction we have with outside influences.

Peer pressure, while growing up, especially for those of us who have grown up in the secular world; and, other types of pressure today as adults at work, in social spheres, and at the hands of the misguided social justice warriors who use intimidation and condemnation as their means to compel or cancel others, who do not follow the narrative norm. Yet, Israel is a nation set apart from the nations.

Soul Renewal: Changes Along the Journey of Life

“Some people will remain with us on our journey when we change; others will not.” – Tzvi Fievel Schnee

As I change, from time to time, over certain periods of my life, the adage that was made known to me, personally, by the founders of PD Seminars, at The Haven in British Columbia has become realized: I was told that some people would draw closer to me, and others would move further away from me. It is as if I can add this statement to my “facts of life” list, if indeed I had a facts of life list to begin with, written down somewhere in my personal journal. Yet, I never even though about beginning a list like that until now. The reason that I have even brought up this issue, is based upon my noticing that every once in a while, my Instagram account loses a follower: it is as if to say, that it is a fact of life for those who post on Instagram and other social media platforms; of course, this could apply to any other social media platform. Although I cannot be sure, I make the generalization with some certainty, despite any statistics; therefore, I hope that what I have mentioned in this specific post of mine, may be of some consolation to others.