Thursday, April 4, 2013

Count the Omer: Day 10

Day 10: Tiferet sheb'Gevurah, Harmony within Restraint
In April 2011, I converted to Judaism and started counting the Omer. The following is a conversation I had on facebook with a friend.
April 29, 2011
So, it's day 10 of the Omer. I really meant to keep up with the count this year, and to pay attention to the sefirot associated with each day. Never too late to start, I guess, so: Tiferet sheb'G'vurah. Chabad describes it as "Harmony in Restraint." Thoughts?


Friend I'll quote from here, to bring everybody up to speed:

'The teachings of Kabbalah explain that there are seven "Divine Attributes" -- Sefirot -- that G-d assumes through which to relate to our existence: Chessed, Gevurah, Tifferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut ("Love", "Strength", "Beauty", "Victory", "Splendor", "Foundation" and "Sovereignty"). In the human being, created in the "image of G-d," the seven sefirot are mirrored in the seven "emotional attributes" of the human soul: Kindness, Restraint, Harmony, Ambition, Humility, Connection and Receptiveness. Each of the seven attributes contain elements of all seven--i.e., "Kindness in Kindness", "Restraint in Kindness", "Harmony in Kindness", etc.--making for a total of forty-nine traits. The 49-day Omer Count is thus a 49-step process of self-refinement, with each day devoted to the "rectification" and perfection of one the forty-nine "sefirot."'

Friend I'm tempted to think of Tiferet sheb'G'vurah as Harmony (Balance) in *Justice* (or Judgment), just working with the basic meanings of the divine attributes. The attributes of the human soul may mirror the divine a little more closely than in Chabad's explanation.

Erin If you want to stick with Chabad's translations, you could look at it through the lens of this week's Torah portion/the mitzvot.

In order to have harmony in the world, there must be a certain amount of restraint, hence the mitzvot. Following the mitzvot sometimes means putting boundaries on ourselves (restraining ourselves in the face of desire, idol worship, jealousy, etc), but by doing so, we are better able to live in peace with our neighbors and in harmony with God.

Friend True. But doesn't that also entail establishing a system of justice to help us learn restraint? On an individual level, we may be capable of setting limits for ourselves, in order to pursue an inner harmony. But on the societal level, justice entails balancing the wills and self-imposed limits of diverse individuals, in order to create a larger harmony.

Erin Yeah - you can put all the restraints on yourself you want, but if the guy next to you doesn't keep to them too then what do you do? On the other hand, a justice system has to have restraint too. You can't make death the punishment for every crime. To use your other translation, we have to balance judgment with compassion. We see God trying to find that balance throughout the Torah as well (compare Noah and the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jonah and Nineveh, etc)...which brings us back to your point about humanity mirroring the divine, which I really like.

Friend Hmm... Yeah, emulation of the divine is an implicit commandment in the revelation that we are created b'Tzelem Elohim. And so perhaps, like God, we sometimes go too far. We can also, like God, be persuaded not to go through with a vow to execute harsh justice (as in Jonah, or Ex. 32).
(I also think we'll get back to the idea of balanced justice next week, with G'vurah shebiT'feret.)

Erin Nice how they all flip like that so you can have a similar discussion later on.