Day 3, April 18: The Tiferet in Hesed

How do you know when to push? How do you know when to "let go and let God," as the 12-Step Traditions teach?blogEntryTopper
Rabbi Art Green understands the Sefirah of Tiferet to represent "glory, pride, but also inner balance," and it's this "balance" aspect that we focus on during the third day of the Omer, which begins tonight, the evening of April 17th. In this case, we're examining the balance between "Chesed in Chesed" and "Gevurah in Chesed."

On retreat with IJS some months ago, we got into a discussion of the difference between "effort" and "striving." Striving is what I like to call "the good kid" impulse: "I can be such a good girl/boy that I'll make mommy and daddy (and everybody else) happy all the time." Striving is what a psychotherapist friend of mine likes to call "the impulse to grandiosity." It's the belief that I can "fix" somebody or something, and that I can/must do so all by myself. It is Gevurah run amok, and it manifests itself in resentment, burnout, fatigue, depression, loneliness, rage and despair. And it has little room for God.

Effort is different than striving. Effort is acting on the kavvanah (intention) to do good, while recognizing that we don't control the ultimate outcome of our efforts, and that (most important) we don't act alone: we are part of a chain of causality that includes the efforts of others, the forces of nature, and God. Effort grows out of Chesed; it springs from compassion, love, kindness, concern. Even in the midst of concern and the desire to take action, it admits a kind of softness.

Also on retreat, we spoke of the balance in life - the pulsing back and forth - between effort and surrender. Sometimes we push, and sometimes we rest into the moment and let God carry us. Sometimes I pedal hard, and sometimes I coast downhill.

Rabbi Shefa Gold expresses this balance with a beautiful chant to a verse from the Song Of The Sea (Exodus 15): Ozi v'zimrat Yah / Va-y'hi li l'yeshuah;" "God is my strength and my song, [God] has become my salvation." Ozi is my effort; zimrat Yah is God's song." We pulse back and forth between them.

Some questions for the Omer, Day 3:

How do you know when to push? How do you know when to "let go and let God," as the 12-Step Traditions teach?

How do you know when you are striving rather than exerting effort? Where do you feel it in your body? What thoughts and feelings bubble up? How do you behave? How do you relate to others?

Rabbi Tarfon in Pirkei Avot (part of the Mishnah) famously said, "You are not required to complete the work, but neither are you free to abstain from it." What does this mean to you?

Your thoughts?...

Rabbi Folberg
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