Day 8, April 23: The Hesed in Gevurah

Today we reach a milestone in our counting of the Omer. For one thing, we shift from moving through the inner qualities of Hesed, to moving through the inner qualities of Gevurah.

This is also the day when the formula for reciting/declaring the day of the Omer changes a bit, because we're now past the 7 day mark. From now on, it goes like this (using Day 8, April 23, as an example):

"Today is eight days, which are one week and one day of the Omer."

But I digress... Winking

Today I want to draw upon Rabbi Min Kantrowitz's marvelous book, Counting The Omer: A Kabbalistic Meditation Guide. (See the sidebar on the Omer Intro page for more information this and other Omer books.)

What does it mean to embark on the second week of meditative counting? Rabbi Kantrowitz offers this enlightening and thoughtful explanation:

"In this second week of counting the Omer, we encounter each pair of sephirot for the second time. This time, instead of focusing on how each sephira influences Chesed (lovingkindness), the focus is on how each has an impact upon Gevurah (strength of discernment, constraint). The concepts encountered for the first time last week now reappear, in new configurations, just as in life we encounter similar situations numerous times, and respond slightly differently each time, responding to the unique circumstances of the situation. We are reminded in traditional Jewish morning prayers that we are renewed each day, giving us the opportunity to encounter each situation with a refreshed spirit, ready to meet life's challenges with new strength."

Rabbi Kantrowitz understands Gevurah to mean "discernment, focus, restraint and strength." It is not harsh judgment, not severe criticism. Rather, she teaches, it is

"the type of strength that assesses a situation and then responds appropriately... Gevurah discerns right action, rather than blindly condemning or acting judgmental... [like] a set of sieves or filters, each slightly more selective than the one before, screening out the irrelevant, the distracting or the harmful, allowing what is helpful and good."

The Gevurah in Hesed can thus be understood as the way in which deliberate, conscious choosing shapes how we apply our lovingkindness, our Hesed, our best intentions.

In the realm of action: consider a time when you channeled your lovingkindness through a deliberate decision making process. What was the result? How might you do it differently, knowing what you know now?

In the realm of emotion: Rabbi Kantrowitz likens applying Gevurah to our emotional life to the process of psychotherapy, as we examine our inner lives with the help of a skilled Other and learn to choose more helpful emotional paths and responses. Why is this such hard work? How does it lead to constructive change?

Rabbi Steve Folberg
blog comments powered by Disqus