Day 9, April 24: The Gevurah in Gevurah

First, I want to sincerely thank all of you who have been participating in omerblog up to this point. This project has turned out to be much more of a gift to me, personally, than I ever would have imagined. It's especially provided an opportunity for me to learn so much more about the practices that we have been discussing here. Also, my apologies for this post being a bit late!
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Today, I want to take another look at some of the contributions and teachings of Rabbi Min Kantrowitz in her fabulous, little book, Counting the Omer: A Kabbalistic Meditation Guide.

The other rabbinic teachers whose counting of the Omer commentaries we've been considering up until now have tended to create one or two daily practices or responses to the various combinations of Sefirot for each individual day. Some of them have focused upon things having to do with emotions and relationships, like Rabbi Jacobson. And Rabbi Haber divides his daily Omer exercises along the lines of the traditional distinction between “mitzvot between you and other people,” and “mitzvot between you and God,” providing one practice or exercise for each of these two areas of Jewish practice.

Rabbi Kantrowitz, however, takes things a step further. She discusses the fact that in the Kabbalistic tradition, there is talk of “Four Worlds.” This refers to four different, layered and interrelated aspects of reality at any given moment, layers or worlds that “coexist in space/time, influencing each other, and reflecting and revealing the many aspects of creation.” The Four Worlds are:

Physical existence, known in Hebrew as Assiya, the reality that we can touch, the physical aspect of our lives.

The world of emotional reality, known as Yetzirah, which encompasses feelings, creativity, emotional expression.

The world of intellect, where knowing, reason and intuition reside, known in Hebrew as B'riyah.

And the world of Atzilut, spiritual knowing, that sense of deepest connection with an ultimate reality that sometimes comes to us in prayer, meditation, while out in the natural world, or at other times.

Rabbi Kantrowitz provides four thoughts or practices for each day of the counting of the Omer, each practice or intention corresponding to each of the Four Worlds.

This brings us to her take on today’s combination, the Gevurah in Gevurah.

She understands the Gevurah within Gevurah to represent “discernment within discernment,” or “restraint within restraint.” It is “not the strength of armies, weapons or anger, but an inner strength that sustains.” It is the kind of Gevurah that we sense “in well grounded, modest role models," those everyday heroes, both famous and anonymous, who quietly go about the work of tikkun olam, mending what is broken in the world.

Here are Rabbi Kantrowitz’s suggested Four World intentions and exercises for this 9th day of the Omer, the Gevurah in Gevurah:

Assiyah, the World of Action: “Remember some times in your life when you used self-restraint and became stronger as a result.”

Yetzirah, the World of Feeling: “Take a very deep breath and try to feel your lungs fill completely. Feel your strength enclosed within the boundaries of your lungs. Several times today, take three deep breaths and remember your strength.”

B’riyah, the World of Wisdom: In a society like ours that often celebrates external achievement, “celebrate the [inner] wisdom of another person today. Notice how selective discernment contributes to his/her uniqueness.”

Atzilut, the World of Spirit: In the kabbalistic system of Rabbi Isaac Luria, God engages in tzimtzum, self limitation or contraction, to make room for the created cosmos at the beginning of time. “Meditate today on the Gevurah of God, the careful selection [and self-limitation] necessary to [as the prayer book puts it] create the world anew each day.”

Your thoughts?

Rabbi Steve Folberg
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