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 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 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.

Omer Count: Day 5 – Splendor of Love

Omer 5781 Day 5 – the splendor of love
(hod shebbe chesed – splendor within love)

The attribute of hod has to do with the character trait of humility. When we humble ourselves before G-d, then His splendor may shine through us. Also, hod is likened to the quality of sincerity in our lives. A certain amount of sincerity is required to be humble. For example, when we are sincere about our abilities, without exaggerating our talents, nor our accomplishments, this will pave the way towards an honest assessment of ourselves.

From a point of humility within, we may act with sincerity towards others. Only when we humble ourselves, can we truly allow G-d’s splendor to inspire us to give to others. In expressing kindness to others, we are actually reflecting the Image of G-d, whose splendor flows to all who observe His commandments. As explained in chassidus, the performance of a mitzvah (good deed) draws down His light through the presence of the Shechinah (Practical Tanya, ch. 41, section 9).

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 4 – The Endurance of Love

netzach shebbe chesed (endurance within love)
The emotional attribute of Netzach (Endurance) translates as well into perseverance, resilience, and forbearance. A commitment to the other is necessary in any relationship of a personal nature. That bond to the other needs to be sustained through forbearance of the other’s faults. A strong emotional tie is not enough unless the commitment to be loving also incorporates the tenacity to endure the challenges between two people in a relationship.

Therefore, love without a common acceptance of the necessary grit of commitment, may not in and of itself result in being enduring. For a love to endure, the endurance of both parties is tantamount to promote a lasting endeavor. Through the persistence of kindness to the other, love will endure, as well as the relationship itself. By way of strengthening one’s endurance through netzach, victory over the challenges that daily present themselves will be achieved.

In terms of a relationship with G-d, His expectations are made clear within the framework of His commandments. Therefore, our commitment to Him is not only out of love; rather, also out of a reverence towards Him that includes observing His commandments even when challenging to do so, for this reason or the other reason. Moreover, a certain measure of resilience is necessary, in order to recover from any downfalls in observance. Tenacity will prevail, even on the more challenging days of life. Therefore, we can continue to show love towards Him by fulfilling His commandments, despite the barriers that might appear, in attempting to enact a mitzvah (good deed).

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 3 – the Harmony of Kindness

Omer Day 3 tiferes within chesed (beauty within love)

The nature of tiferes, in terms of its expression as a middah (character trait), can best be designated as “harmony.” Therefore, one question for today could be construed as whether or not one’s acts of loving-kindness are performed in a way that denotes a harmonious balance to all concerned in the endeavor. Moreover, in our own personality makeup, where is the harmony within that can promote feelings of kindness to others? For, is it not so, that sincere kindness should ideally flow from a peaceful, harmonious place within our very selves?

Tiferes also represents balance; by contrast an imbalance in the personality could be rectified through tiferes. Are you able to envision your heartfelt acts of kindness bringing harmony to the lives of others? Or do you think of your kindnesses only as a small drop in the bucket? If so, consider that the ripple effect may be greater than you can imagine. Further reflect upon the realization that your answer as to how potent an act of kindness may be, reflects your own perspective on self-worth, and how efficacious you perceive your efforts to be for the sake of others.

Tiferes also has to do with “centeredness;” therefore, if one is not in harmony with him or herself, one may not feel inclined to show kindness towards others. Sometimes, moving past any hesitancy to give of ourselves to others, will help to transcend our egos, our personal limited selves, thereby surpassing any need in the moment to remain constricted. An act of kindness in and of itself may lift our hearts up in joy as the resultant feeling of performing that act. This can be understood in the adage, “change the behavior and the feelings will follow.”

Furthermore, consider the commandment to love G-d with all of our heart, soul, and might. Being commanded to love may seem like a conundrum, if we only perceive love as a natural felt feeling that we either have or do not have. However, the Hebrew word for love is “ahavah,” and has the connotation of giving. To give of ourselves to G-d, based upon the commandment of our responsibilities to do so, will increase our love towards Him over time.

The same is true in our relationships with others. To perform an act of kindness for a “loved one,” is to willingly accede to the requirement of “love,” that is to “be giving.” Although, unwillingness to give may precede an act of giving, the feelings may follow, whereas one will feel better for doing so. This may also be seen in the adage that “it is better to give than to receive,” because the giver actually does receive the positive feelings that result from giving.

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).