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Counting Up – Shemini

Free, free at last and yet, not done. Erich Fromm, the great psychologist, stated that freedom is composed of two elements: freedom from (bondage) and freedom to (define ourselves). We define ourselves, he emphasized, by our commitments. We count the days from the second night of Passover for seven weeks (Leviticus 23:15-16). The count down is to Shavuot, day fifty, when we will celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.  In response to God’s offer of an enduring relationship, the Israelites responded with the words, na’aseh v’neshmah– we will fulfill [the covenant] and listen (Exodus 24:7). Doing so fulfills God’s words as spoken repeatedly by Moses to Pharaoh, “Let my people go that they will serve Me” (Exodus 7:16; 8:1; 9:1).

Jewish mystics linked the seven weeks to the seven facets of the Divine: kindness, discipline, compassion, ambition, humility, creativity, and dignity. These sacred manifestation, sefirot, are also components of our inner life and are the building blocks of refined character. This is week two, the week of gevurah, restraint. In the words of our sage Ben Zoma (Pirkei Avot 4:1), Who is mighty? The person who overcomes impulse, as it is written, ‘One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty and one who rules over one’s spirit, than one who conquers a city’” (Proverbs 16:32).

Each day this week we are prompted to examine facets of self-control. For an excellent, free app, consider downloading My Omer, authored by Simon Jacobson. For today, day ten, the focus is on the aspect of Compassion in Discipline and the reflection reads as follows: “Compassion is unconditional love. It is love just for the sake of love, not considering the other’s position. Tiferet is a result of total selflessness in the eyes of G-d. You for love for no reason; you love because you are a reflection of of God. Does my discipline have this  element of compassion. Exercise for the day: Be compassionate to someone you have reproached.”

Free, free at last, we are on a collective journey to receive Torah. We prepare ourselves by self-reflection on facets of our character. May these weeks enable you greater wholeness and goodness and may it lead to affirming the gift of Jewish belonging and spiritual quest.