Day 11, April 26: The Netzach in Gevurah

Sometimes, I will be talking to the parent of a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah student who is struggling to maintain his or her spirits over the long haul of learning all of the Hebrew necessary to lead the service and read from the Torah and Haftarah on the Shabbat morning of their celebration. blogEntryTopper
Sometimes I will find myself saying something like this: “Part of the process of working to become a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah is putting in a sustained effort over a long period of time. For most of these adolescent kids, this'll be the first time in their life that they have ever taken on such a big, long-term project, including the need to sustain continual effort over a period of many months. But it won't be the last time in life that they have to do this. If life is a kind of race, then sometimes you find yourself looking at a sprint, and other times, at a marathon! And sticking with something over a long period of time means getting through those inevitable moments when you are discouraged, or disgusted, or questioning why you ever wanted to do this to begin with… and then, getting to the other side of it anyway.”

This, I think, is the essential spirit of today's combination of Sefirot, the Netzach in Gevurah. “Netzach” can be taken as persistence or endurance, and Gevurah as discipline, or discernment. So today's combination suggests that we pay attention to judgment and discipline as sustained through time.

We are constantly making choices, constantly trying to act with wisdom, although it's commonplace for someone who has made a bad choice to speak about “a lapse in judgment.” That's when the "Netzach" fails us, or we fail it.

This is one of the things that meditation can help us with. If you've ever tried to sit and meditate on your breath, then you know that something that sounds so simple is actually extremely challenging. Trying to rest your attention on “just this breath” is difficult, because inevitably, your mind wanders, and you find yourself following some thought off into who knows where! That's when you gently, compassionately, try to bring yourself back to your breath again. You learn not only not to judge yourself harshly (and, hopefully, in the long run, not to judge others harshly) but you also learn to accept and stick with the process that is occurring, over and over again, or, my teacher Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg likes to say, “even a thousand, thousand times.”

To me, also, the Netzach in Gevurah also speaks to something that they used to talk to us about on our retreats: “continuity of practice.” It means that when you are done with your meditation or yoga or prayer or whatever, you try to carry that state of mind with you, even when the activity itself is over. You try to sustain the discipline into the rest of your life.

This, too, sometimes isn't easy.

One example: when I meditate, I usually listen to one of the tracks from one of Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg's Jewish meditation CDs, which I have “ripped” to my iPhone.

I'd be embarrassed to tell you (although, perhaps I shouldn't be) how many times I have finished a meditation, feeling calm and centered and really, really glad that I took the time to meditate… and then, right after hitting “stop” on my iPhone, I immediately tap the icon to check my e-mail! That is NOT continuity of practice, if you get my drift… Happy

Since the Netzach in Gevurah conveniently falls out on Shabbat this time around, it might be a great time to set some Shabbat intention for the day, and then see what it is like to try to sustain it, throughout the day, or even for part of the day. Can you refrain from checking your e-mail? Can you set an intention to pay particular attention to a loved one throughout the day, and then see what it's like to put the “Netzach” into it and sustain it all throughout Shabbat?

Have a beautiful and restful Shabbat,

Rabbi Steve Folberg
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