Day 6, April 21: The Yesod in Hesed

Yesod is the "lowest" of the Sefirot, that is to say, the most earthly and closest to us. Arthur Green understands it as "the foundation, including sexual energy." Rabbi Simon Jacobson (Lubavitch) understands it to mean "bonding."
Because Yesod can be translated as “foundation,” I got to thinking about the importance of having a firm, inner foundation in relationships with others.
If Hesed is the behavior we manifest when we reach out in loving concern to others, then perhaps Yesod is the inner place, the solid ground from which we reach out.
Can I take care of others if I am not taking care of myself? Can I pull someone else out of the quicksand if I am not, myself, on standing on solid ground? I may think that I am most loving when I am depleted, exhausted, acutely aware that I am sacrificing my wellbeing for another, but even if that is true in the short term, it is not sustainable in the long term.
We all know the verse from Leviticus 19 (part of this week’s Torah portion),
ואהבת לרעך כמוך

“Love your neighbor as yourself!” Not “Love your neighbor more than yourself,” but “as yourself.”
The more love I have in my heart for myself, the more room I will have in my heart for true love and concern for others. As Rabbi Jerome Malino, of blessed memory, an important teacher of mine in my seminary days used to say, “When an empty cup is passed around, no one’s thirst is slaked.”

A colleague of mine once told me of a conversation she had with a younger rabbi. This young rabbi was full of passion, energy, commitment and ambition. And yet, he was driven by insecurity, loneliness (being a classic workaholic with little social life) and anxiety. He would often work late into the night, dreading going home to an empty apartment.My colleague sat her younger associate down and said, “Your effectiveness as a rabbi is not determined by how many brilliant classes and programs you crank out, nor by how many people attend those programs. Your effectiveness as a rabbi flows from your own stability and wellbeing. The more you are grounded within yourself, the more wisdom and genuine love you will have to offer.”

In this way, then, the Yesod/Foundation/Vital Energy of Hesed also speaks to balance in committed relationships, to an awareness that both parties need to tend to their own psychic and physical wellbeing for the relationship to endure.
Practice for April 21: Take extra good care of yourself today and see what effect it has on your committed relationships.

And keep on posting!

Rabbi Steve Folberg
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