Strengthening the Foundations of our Lives: Gevurah and Yesod

Today is the 37th day of the Omer: This daily practice is meant to help us in our healing journey, as we seek to integrate the spiritual Wisdom of our ancestors with our emotions and actions, so that we can feel centered in our faith and integrated in the ways that we live out our faith.

We are taught that we were created in the Divine Image. But we may not always feel like this is true- neither when we think of ourselves, nor when we think of others. There are so many reasons why this is true: trauma, life challenges, relationship worries, work stressors, financial issues and social injustices are just a few of the many influences that may cause us to behave in ways that are out of sync with our beliefs.

A lot of us may feel disconnected from organized religion because it has been weaponized. Many of us look at history and see that what is being preached (love) is very different than what often happens in its name. This can cause most of us to become disenchanted and suspicious- for good reason.

The great Rabbi Yeshayahu Leibowitz wrote about the ways that an unexamined faith consisting of empty rituals and performative gestures can become hypocritical, and indeed, a form of idolatry, when it is used as a way of building walls between people. Modern psychology explains that we hurt others when we are hurt. We project onto others our own unacknowledged or unaddressed issues, and then react to those, rather than facing what we are repressing and working on healing ourselves.

The rabbis instituted the practice of the counting of the Omer to help us in this journey, by inviting us to consider the unique ways in which we integrate different Divine qualities within ourselves. We are supposed to do this every year, after Passover, to prepare for Shavuot. Leaving Ancient Egyptian bondage looks different for each of us, at different stages of our life. It is important to work on healing whatever the sources of our own challenges (the narrowness of our soul is the literal translation of Mitzrayim, which is generally understood to refer to Egypt). Only then, will we be free to hear G!d’s Call to us and learn how to answer it.

The practice of integration that comes with the Omer counting serves as a kind of internal integration and healing process. How can our own searching moral inventory help us to align our espoused beliefs with our operational theology? We can assert our beliefs, but the truest measure of what we believe is seen in our actions. As the popular saying goes; show me your calendar and your checkbook, and I will tell you what you believe.

This Shabbat, the rabbis invite us to work to integrate the ways that the Divine emanations flow through us in the following ways: Gevurah (strength, discipline and boundaries) with Yesod (Love, intimacy and bonding).  The Heavens are aligning to facilitate the healing that is possible in this particular area… with the understanding that if we are able to understand and heal this part of ourselves, the healing will radiate out into the world.

This is an invitation to think about the role that discipline plays in our capacity to love… What role do boundaries play? How do discipline, limitation and boundaries help us to focus and operationalize Love, intimacy and bonding?

We think of Love as limitless, but so long as we exist in human form, boundaries help protect us from burnout and compassion fatigue. Shabbat is one such boundary, that protects the soul and heals us.  This is the loving foundation that allows us to rest in G!d’s Love and recharge.

Gevurah is also strength… our strength grows each time we practice setting boundaries to care for ourselves…. Others… our world… If we do not set boundaries for ourselves, our strength may falter and we may fail to act in loving ways. If we do not pay attention to our inner core- the foundations that support us- then we will struggle to live in such a way that our beliefs will be manifest in our actions.

When we are burnt out, we often cut corners and lose motivation. Our capacity to be hopeful and compassionate is limited and we may become critical and judgmental. These kinds of behaviors are often signs that our inner self is struggling to connect with the Self in Whose Image we are all created.

May this Shabbat’s discipline of rest and focus inspire us and center us. May we work to stay grounded and to operationalize our stated beliefs so that we can practice what we preach. When we live authentically, we will find ourselves nourished by our encounters with others, as Spirit flows through us and between us. May this enliven us and help us to strengthen the foundations of our lives and our relationships with one another, with ourselves and with the Source of Love in Whose Image we were created.