Omer: Day 33 Essential Humility

hod shebbe hod: splendor within splendor

(Otherwise rendered as humility within humility)

What is the essence of humility? At the depths of our humility, the soul is encompassed by splendor. Because hod is sometimes rendered as humility, and other times as splendor, there must be a connection between these two aspects of the middah (character trait). One explanation, in a nutshell, is that by humbling ourselves, we are able to reflect the splendor of G-d.

In the eyes of others, those who are sincerely humble, are often overlooked; yet, their splendor radiates in unseen realms. On the other hand, those who aggrandize themselves, do so to be seen; yet, they may only be great in their own eyes. The splendor that lasts is conferred by G-d, and G-d alone. His glory outshines ours; yet, He may bestow some of His glory upon us, when we humble ourselves before Him.

“For thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” – Isaiah 59:7, JPS Tanach

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 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).

Omer: Day 21 – Balanced Autonomy

Iyar 6, 5782

malchus shebbe tiferes: kingdom within beauty

(Otherwise rendered as sovereignty within harmony). The sovereignty of G-d over His creation is tantamount to keeping order in the world, according to His frame of reference, a perspective that transcends our limited viewpoint. In our own lives, we are granted a certain amount of autonomy over ourselves, that should not be taken for granted. Therefore, we need to be responsible decision makers, while also recognizing that we can not control all the circumstances of our life; even so, we can still choose how to respond in any given situation.

Yet, our sense of autonomy is best taken into consideration with respect towards the greater context of our relationship with G-d, as well as our fellow human beings. With that in mind, reflect upon how important these relationships are to our own sense of well being. No man is an island; we all need some amount of social interaction, to a greater or lesser degree, depending upon the individual. Additionally, as limited beings, we may benefit from turning towards G-d for comfort, guidance, and inspiration, especially through prayer, as well as reading kitvei kodesh (holy scripture).

Lifting ourselves up above our station in life, trying to make ourselves out to be more than who we really are, would be presumptuous. In recognition of our dependency on G-d, we realize that we have limitations, and do not rule the world. Acknowledging the value of others in our lives, helps us to comprehend, that an overall sense of harmony, is promoted by accepting the contributions that other people make to our well being. Moreover, by respecting the autonomy and boundaries of others, we may be interdependent; yet, without treading on another’s toes.

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 13 Yesod of Gevurah

foundation within strength

The foundation of strength, from an integral standpoint, has to do with “moral constraint.” Gevurah is also associated with judgment; therefore, judging ourselves within the context of our foundational beliefs may compel us to see if we “measure up” to the standards that we would like to uphold in our lives. A proper assessment of our foundational strengths is necessary to test the integrity of the overall “structure” – the beliefs and presuppositions that our lives are based upon.

Omer Day 12 – Something Greater

hod shebbe gevurah (humility within strength)

The humility of discipline, requires an acknowledgment of something greater than ourselves, so that we do not misuse our sense of power. There is only one authority in the world that is not of this world: the authority from Above. All other authorities must submit to Him. The more that we may try to act as an independent entity, without keeping G-d in mind, the less efficacy we will have in our endeavors. Even if G-d permits us to go our own way, the result will not be sanctioned by him, unless we realize through our misguided efforts, that something is amiss. By leaving G-d out of the equation in our lives, nothing will add up; only through His splendor can we act in all humility, in recognition of His greater glory.

Omer: Day 11 Endure the Challenges

Netzach of Gevurah endurance of strength

The combination of attributes, netzach within gevurah represents the endurance of strength through maintaining discipline over oneself, and unruly emotions as noted in Proverbs. Scripture, especially the insights found in Proverbs, may serve as a reflection on human behavior, as well as a prescription for right conduct. Thus to paraphrase Solomon, he who rules over his passions is greater than he who is able to conquer a city (Proverbs 16:32). For “he that ruleth his spirit,” through subduing negative emotions may succeed in understanding (Proverbs 16:32, 14:29). Otherwise, one might become like “a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).

Keeping this in mind, it is interesting to note that netzach is also characterized as “victory.” Sometimes it is better to focus on our inner battles, than to seek to be victorious over external circumstances that are beyond our control. I can work on changing myself for the better; hopefully, as a result, I will be in a position to positively affect others in a limited sphere of influence. Beyond that amount of impact, I recognize that I have very little sway over what occurs in the world at large. Netzach, further associated with the idea of “conducting” or “orchestrating” helps to keep me focused on my own sense of place, in relationship to the bigger picture, while recognizing that only G-d has the omnipotence to be all powerful.

Omer: Day 10 Tiferes of Gevurah – Balance of Strength

Finding the right balance within the framework of discipline is important. In regard to self-discipline, for example, within the regimen of an excercise routine, there should be a certain amount of time and effort spent in order to achieve an overall goal. Too much too soon might not be of benefit, and could even be detrimental to one’s own sense of well-being. The same is true in other arenas of life. Whether the social sphere, one’s vocation, or even a hobby, there should be a balance kept in mind. Overall, coordinating mind, body, and spirit endeavors is necessary as well, to stay in balance.

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: 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.