Endurance in Humility. Humility has a certain self-sustaining quality about itself. Being humble is a lot of work but it helps you to build up endurance for the even tougher parts of life. As some of us know, human lives are very fragile. I think the responsibility is on us to remember the frailty of life and to show the resilience that we possess. We are constantly replenished and are continually empowered to make an impact. Listen closely to the words of this song.
The world is a big and scary place. When I think about it I sometimes feel a little depressed. However I think the harmony and compassion in humility is what helps me and others continue through this pain. We have learned that it isn't about always focusing on the negative in the world. Humility is about learning that negativity has it's place to balance out the good in the world. Without the negatives we would not know what the good is. Even when we are pushed to our limits we can go a little further when we give a little help to our friends.
Discipline and restraint are not the first things that come to mind when I think about humility. However the more that I thought about it, the more it began to make sense. Every person that I can think of as humble is someone who practices discipline and restraint regularly. Discipline and restraint in humility to taking everything in its stride and not rushing through it. Everything is a journey and there is beauty in it, no matter how tough it is.
I don't even know where to begin with sovereignty and leadership in endurance. One aspect of this that I want to put on your radar is how this relates to things like the tour-de-France. To be a part of this experience there is a tremendous amount of endurance required. However if you want to win there is more required, you must set for yourself a leader or rise to the challenge yourself. Endurance requires pacing yourself much like a marathon. This is extremely important in the group setting because you will loose membership if they feel you can't adjust to meet their needs. Knowing the pace of the organization is extremely important because sometimes you need to momentarily break from the culture to prioritize yourself and your goals.
What do bonding and endurance have to do with each other? More specifically how do we find bonding in endurance? It was not very obvious to me. I kept thinking about endurance in bonding. When we are bonded together we can endure almost anything, no one can dispute that. I think that we sometimes also bond over the ideas of endurance in our lives. The endurance in this case is a collection of our habits, our rituals. If you're a person who runs regularly and generally sticks to the same route, you've probably developed a connection, a bond to most of the things you see on your path. Likewise, if you frequent a coffeeshop or dog park you have likely bonded with those you have met there. If you are enduring in your commitments in life you can develop many new relationships and strengthen others. For me this is the essence of yesod b'netzach, bonding in endurance.
Humility in endurance. Because I don't want to say more than is needed on the topic I will try and stay brief. When I think about humility in endurance, I think about those among us who celebrate anniversaries. The celebrate lasting another year in a field, relationship, or even in the strength of recovery. For many of these people they don't need to make a public display of this achievement but they do mark it. They are marking the passage of time, acknowledging the holiness and wonder that is time and its passing. This is an important part of our Jewish tradition as well. How many different Jewish rituals can you name that have to do with time? It's harder for me to try and create a list of those that don't. From a baby's naming to bar/bat mitzvah and from holidays to mourning, we have Jewish rituals that tell us how that time should be spent. Endurance requires that passage of time and humility is demonstrated by the actions of a person. As we are counting the days to Shavuot, the days of the Omer, we get to think about and reflect on humility 13 times and in 13 ways. That's nearly 302.9 trillion possible combinations of how to observe humility during the Omer. Sounds like you'd need a little endurance to do what. In the words of the song below, dona nobis pacem, grant us peace.
Endurance inside of endurance. This evaded me for a long while. I believe the central concept here is that mindset of compound interest rates. At first, you're probably asking yourself, what the heck does this have to do with Judaism. The principle and correlation is pretty simple. Compound interest can work in your favor or against you. The interest accrued grows more and more rapidly as time passes. Why? Because the interest you earn is added to the principle that you are earning interest on. This is great if the interest you earn is profit, not so much if this is a loan that you have to repay. I believe this holds true in our lives for the torah that we practice. The more time and energy that we invest in developing our torah to be a light in our lives. The torah we practice in our lives can range from doing good deeds in your community to studying Torah. Certainly, if we don't practice torah in our lives we can't see the world improve. In order for the world to improve we must actively practice tikkun olam (repairing the world) and tzedek (justice). This means the responsibility is on us. When we take the first step we can then inspire others to join in and stand up for what is right. Then momentum builds and we see this compound interest take effect and we have started a movement.
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"What the world needs now is love sweet love. It's the only thing that there's just too little of." That is definitely the theme for tonight. Harmony and compassion in endurance is what the people of Baltimore need to see and experience right now. The way for a community to build endurance is to come together in harmony and show compassion to others. Our Jewish tradition teaches us the value of a life. It teaches that to save a life is to save the entire world. Although the actions of certain individual police officers across the country are deplorable we have to remember that there are also good people who are also in uniform. We must remember that institutions are the things that need to change, undergo a real change. We must remember that even our great ancestor, spiritual leader, Moses engaged in dialogue with Pharaoh to get the freedom of the Israelites. Did it happen overnight? NO! However we must remember that G-d hardens Moses heart and that G-d was the one who rained plagues down on the Egyptians. In this story the Israelites took everything that was thrown at them, knowing that someone was fighting on their behalf.
We need to remember that violence begets violence. Hate begets hate. I know some may not have thought of this in this manner and maybe there will be some disagreement over this but I will say it anyway. If we look at most of the wars in history, especially the world wars. Of course if we look at historical reasons we can find other justifications for these wars but the underlying factor for them was hate. If the world community had come together in harmony and displayed compassion to each other they would have endured the hard times and been made stronger for it. Instead the victors of these wars decided to harbor hate and avarice toward the original aggressors. This ill will of course lead to a desperate people being vulnerable and grasping for hope where they could find it. I of course am speaking on Germany between the world wars. Would treating them with respect and compassion have prevented the tragedy of the Holocaust? I don't know, but I do think it would have been a very different climate in world then and today. I am not trying to relate the plight of the black community to that of the Jewish struggle of the Holocaust but I do want to mention that they have a similar root.
The song below shows how we should be responding to these different issues across the country. We must first, before turning to social media to blast people, take a moment and think. What is my role in this? What is the privilege that I have that might cause any good intentions I might have to be perceived as insincere? Do I have the full picture and know everything that is going on? What can I do personally to be an ally to the community? We must start with ourselves. If we set examples of violence and mistrust then we of course will see that manifested in our communities. If we show displays of love, harmony, and compassion we can endure and overcome any troubling time that we may face. Do not give justification to those that ignorantly destroy and harm. We must teach them their actions have consequences and that we can accomplish so much more when we work together in harmony. You catch more flies with honey that with vinegar.
Learning Torah is something that reminds me a raising a child. Neither is something that you can spend 1 day doing and be finished. Both are things that require a lot of effort in the beginning to feel comfortable. This is chesed b'netzach in our lives. We grow so much from the labors of love that we embark upon.
Leonard Bernstein was a great composer and conductor. When I think of malchut b'tiferet I think of the conductors, CEOs, and heads of state. Sovereignty and leadership in harmony and compassion is exemplified by the people a leader surrounds themselves with. A pyramid is only as strong as the blocks used to build it. The same is true of any organization, company, orchestra, or any other group. It's not just about the team working together to accomplish a common goal. It's also about the drive to be the best, to continually challenge each other. To push each other further, always bettering themselves. You need someone to challenge you, to not settle for mediocre. To be the best means to compete against the best and be surrounded by the best. Sometimes you need a leader who is a little unorthodox to get you to that point of success. You always need a leader with a vision if you want to succeed, however, never be afraid to challenge that vision. A good leader needs to be challenged and should welcome that. If they don't then how can they really be the best?
Yesod b'Tiferet, bonding in harmony and compassion, to me is the perfect example of the Jewish experience. We as a Jewish people share a collective story and experience. We have bonded through our history of bondage and persecution. Even though we may not have personally been through this trial we feel it through the holidays and the stories we share. Out of our collective stories we make a beautiful tapestry that educates and informs our future. We strive to create a harmony that inspires and fills our soul. As a people our experiences bind us together like the fabric of cloth we wear to keep us warm. Give back to a organization in your community to help strengthen the bond you and those around you share.
Endurance in harmony and compassion. I believe this video is a pretty literal musical representation of it. I would related this idea to another concept as one. The idea of learning for the test as opposed to actually learning the material. Endurance in harmony and compassion is learning the material to truly understand the nuance of topics and materials that are crucial for their mastery. This is relevant in our Jewish lives as well. Through continued practice of ritual we understand the nuance attached that allows us practice it fluently in our lives. This understanding allows us to create harmony and meaning in our everyday Judaism that is personally uplifting and motivating. The enduring commitment to Jewish life comes from this principle. We promote harmony and compassion that is sustains and enhanced by endurance.
Harmony and compassion of harmony of compassion. I think about the Jewish prayer Mi Shebeirach, specifically I will be referring to the Debbie Friedman Reform melody. This prayer is one for healing. To me there is something super meaningful and powerful in coming together as a community and uniting for a cause. We share the names aloud or to ourselves and then join our voices together to heal our loved ones and the loved ones of our community. How beautiful is that? There is something to be said of cacophony. Although this term is used to mean sounds that conflict and aren't pleasant sounding I want to offer a different perspective. Everyone individual sounds coming together under the same need and desire creates such a beautiful melody that no one can ignore it. Sometimes we focus to much on traditional standards of beauty to appreciate the nuance of difference.
When I think about gevurah b'tiferet I think about the story of the Israelites in the desert. The Israelites were told to trust that G-d would provide for them. This required the Israelites to act in a way that required discipline and restraint in order for them to live in harmony. If any of the Israelite's doubted G-d and collected more manna or quail then they needed it would spoil for the next day. There was no need for greed in this society. I think to how they were also so concerned for water, again doubting G-d and that disrupted the harmony they felt and the compassion they showed one another. This effected everyone. The less the discipline and restraint practiced the less the harmony and compassion people experienced. Think to the Garden of Eden, a utopic society. Everything and everyone lived there in perfect harmony until someone forgot restraint. What does this have to do with today?
In our lives today we need to remember that sometimes discipline and restraint allows us to live in harmony and can be an act of compassion. By restraining from overspending we are able to save and could take exciting trips and stimulate the economy locally or globally. This spending allows someone else to have a job. However we should be display discipline and be responsible in our spending as to not promote sweat shop labor or other unfair labor practices. By doing this we promote a world that allows everyone to live a life in harmony and give the world compassion through the idea of tikkun olam (repairing the world). By practicing the discipline of meditation we work to keep our stress levels down and promote harmony in our body freeing us to be compassionate to others in our lives. The cycle goes on and on. The moral of the story is let's be good to each other and ourselves.
Instead of writing a long post today, I will leave you with a few words and a few songs.
Inspiration. Love. Harmony. Dedication. Longing. Communication. Respect. As I sit and think about these ideals, chesed (loving-kindness) and tiferet (harmony and compassion) those were the things that came to my mind.
Really listen to the words to the Backstreet Boys song. There is a lot there.
So today's blogpost is also camping inspired since I'm currently camping. The idea of malchut b'gevurah is very interesting as I ponder it in nature. For anyone to survive in the wilderness it takes a great deal of discipline and restraint. The discipline of completing all the necessary tasks to last in the wilderness, the restraint to ration your food and water. Sovereignty and leadership are also something that are extremely relevant to nature and Judaism. Often in our current culture we will send people on camping trips, either with some form of scouts or other outdoor education community program, to instill these skills of leadership and independence.
We see this in our tradition as well. Many of our great leaders go into the wilderness to find meaning or enlightenment. I think back to the different trips to Israel that I have been on or lead. The Hebrew word for desert is מדבר, midbar, very similar to the word for to speak, medaber, מדבר. This isn't a coincidence, nothing in Judaism works that clearly. In order to experience malchut b'gevurah you need to experience the voice of the desert; in order to find that idea of self, your connection to peoplehood and community.
Bonding in discipline and restraint. When I think of today I think of pottery and camping. In both of these activities you are required to practice discipline and restraint in order to create. With pottery you add water to clay/dirt to spin and mold. Without the proper discipline or restraint it will be a dud or unusuable. The same holds true for camping. Without people coming together you will not have a functioning campground. If everyone works independently and doesn't display discipline and restraint you can't bond together. When you build a campfire you allow people to connect. You allow them to bond over the discipline of silence. Sometimes you need to sing songs around the fire and restrain yourself for others to be heard as well. Sometimes you need to sit there and watch the fire and you bond over the embers burning and enjoy the silence. Silence is bonding. Silence is discipline. Silence is restraint.
Taking my own advice for this one. Humility in discipline and restraint is following through on commitments while recognizing your own limitations. In that line of thought I will include a link to a specific type of time management that you might find useful.
Endurance, discipline, and restraint combine as the recipe for a winner. Learning to withstand the elements is a part of allowing us continue surviving in the battle that we call life. In the battle we fight against the need for money, love, and passion. We remember the tortoise, it won the race not because it was the fastest but because it took the race the most seriously. We too must take our lives as a sacred journey that must take seriously. There will be bumpy roads along the way but with the endurance that we learn from discipline, restraint, and love. Continual learning and inspiration from those around is one of the ways that we replenish ourselves during this journey. That however also implies that it is on us to replenish those around us. That could be as simple as moving to a bigger table to make sure that no one eats alone or taking the effort to talk with someone who is struggling with something and helping them to realize they shouldn't quit. No matter the circumstance, persistence and determination with a smile can work literal and figurative miracles. When you do this you learn to support and uplift your community.
Learning to support one another is the greatest strength that you can have. May it keep you dancing all night long, and may you continue to invite others to dance with you.
The harmony and compassion of discipline and restraint. These topics are so related musically but do they relate so simply in Judaism? I think that the true harmony and compassion that you experience from discipline and restraint is about learning to ask questions. This might be a strange concept. After all, what does asking questions have to do with harmony, compassion, discipline, and restraint? EVERYTHING!
When you ask questions you take time to understand those around you. Creating constructive conflict allows productive relationships to be built. Taking the time to dig beyond the surface gets you so far in studying texts and subjects, why would people be different? There is also a natural order to the questions that you ask. For a long calculus problem you wouldn't jump to asking the slope of the curve of the second derivative as it rotates around the z-axis without finding the second derivative first. Same with people. You start with small questions to build a rapport because asking deeper, more personal questions that might leave someone vulnerable. With asking asking you must also learn to not ask questions. If you are always asking the questions then you never leave the opportunity for the others to do the same. You are depriving them of the same chance to grow and develop. Not only that but how do they get to know you? It's finding the balance in the concept be interested, not interesting. Knowing that you must fulfill and be fulfilled.
At first glance you would think that the discipline and restraint of discipline and restraint would lead you into a downward spiral of always worrying about "was I too hard?", "did I go too easy?". I would argue that it's meant to be more freeing than that. To me I am reminded of Rabbi Tarfon who in Pirkei Avot said, "It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but you are not free to desist from it either." We live in a world that many of us easily find fault in and have desire to try and fix it (tikkun olam), a natural feeling. It is easy to see how one might become overwhelmed and bogged down by the tremendous load that it carries. This is to remind us that we cannot give up hope on the world, but balance our hope with the realization that change doesn't happen quickly. So of these challenges that the world faces may not even be overcome in our lifetimes. Which is okay. Understanding this principle helps of to know that it takes extreme disciple and restraint to do the work that we need to help in the process of tikkun olam but takes and even greater amount of discipline and restraint to not try and do more than our part.
I do think there is more to the idea of gevurah b'gevurah. I think this is something that we don't often think too much about but might need to be a little more conscious of in our lives. That's our time and energy. In addition to exercising, mentally and physically, we need to be constantly evaluating how we spent our time and energy. To be this aspect of gevurah b'gevurah is more discernment and difficult situations. To a certain extent there will be things in our lives that we just have to learn to accept and love. A loved one that snores. A partner who is gets lost even when you write down directions for them. However there comes a time when you need to cut a person or thing out of your life. A hobby that you enjoy but always results in your injury. A person who takes advantage of you and abuses you, because they are not a loved one. Sometimes it's really challenging to do that because this person may be a partner or family member. That's why on this day it's exceptionally important to be mindful of this.
Sometimes the best decisions in life are the hardest one to follow through on. For me, picking up and moving across country was very hard. Cutting ties with certain people in my life was excruciatingly painful at first. Afterwards I saw the difference it made in my life I knew I did the right thing. Just as you must learn to accept things or people, so too must others learn to accept you.
Loving-kindness in discipline in restraint. This was a challenging thing for me to begin to write about, so naturally I took to Facebook for inspiration. I saw a post from Amichai Lau-Lavie entitled "Why I Wore My Father's Medal Today." It sparked my interest and I initially that it would just be a nice article to read in procrastination of this post. Of course, I was wrong. I will not tell you much of the article because you should check it out, however, I will share that it brought to my mind the idea of responsibility. I feel that responsibility is a part of the intersection of chesed and gevurah, an intersectionality if you will. As a part of our attempt to show chesed in our gevurah we should feel a responsibility toward others in our lives.
What does this responsibility mean though? What are we responsible for? To whom are we responsible?
The answer is this. We are responsible to each other and for each other. I think back to the beginning of the Torah, when G-d approached Cain and asks where is Abel. Cain replies, in a snarky manner I might add, how the hell should I know, I'm not responsible for him. (Please accept my poetic paraphrasing.) After this G-d cursed Cain, from that point forward Cain and all his descendants would bear the Mark of Cain. To me this is a pretty clear sign that we do share a responsibility for and to each other. Therefore it us on us to share each others stories, to care for one another. We must remember others and respect them. We all will process things differently and it may not always resonate with us. However we still have to responsibility to listen, to respect, and to share.
You know what they say, sharing is caring. It's true! It's just as much our responsibility to share as it is our responsibility to care. We should care about the fact that there are still people in the world who live in fear of their life because of who they are and who they love. There are people who suffer from the hands of oppressors because of their gender identity or gender expression. There are still people who die in this world because of their color of their skin or the G-d they worship. I don't say this just because I am a gay, Jewish person of color. I say this because I am a human and human should care about humans. With that I leave you with this song.
I will admit that I looked ahead and was trying to think a little about today's topic in advance. One I was first casually thinking about the topic I was thinking about the ideas of bravery and courage to act first as the way malchut (sovereignty and leadership) related to chesed (loving-kindness) and I will. However I also feel inspired to talk about how malchut b'chesed really is our ability to inspire and guide. I'll be brief because I feel that sometimes less it more. I think about John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change." He says
"One day our generation
Is gonna rule the population
So we keep on waiting
Waiting on the world to change"
You can already see how the tides of social norms are changing. Our generation believes that if we stand up for justice and what's right others will be inspired to do the same. Look at the marches, rallies, and petitions that we start. The social justice non-profits and start-ups that are being created every year. I've included a couple below that I find inspiring. Check them out!
Shethinx- An organization that benefits young women in Africa so they can finish their education. I saw the founder speak in NYC back in September. Thinx is committed to reimagining feminine hygiene so that menstruation doesn't become a hindrance to education.
Free Rice- I first found this organization's website in college through StumbleUpon. (Horribly timewasting) The premise of this website is that you answer trivia questions to donate food to people across the world who suffer from hunger. This organization cares about education and hunger, who doesn't support that.
UNICEF Tap Project- This project is really a great challenge for us. I actually which I posted this before the Chagim/Shabbat started. By not using your phone for 15 minutes you provide 1 day of clean water to a child in need. In a day and age where we struggle to find a balance to productivity and over-dependence on technology here is a chance to do some good with your phone. Leave it on this website for a portion of Shabbat. Disconnect from your phone and connect with someone. Better yet, invite that someone to participate in the challenge with you. That's how inspiration works.
I couldn't help myself from quoting "Grease"! Yesod means bonding. Since I work at a primarily STEM school, and I'm a bit of a nerd myself, the first thought that came to mind was chemical bonding, covalent bonds to be specific. Covalent bonds are formed when the electrons of two or more elements combine their valence electrons to have a more full outer shell. In other words, and this is a gross over exaggeration that isn't quite accurate, it allows them to be "full" with the number of electrons they can carry. It's a mutual relationship. To me this is related to the idea of yesod because of the idea of togetherness and completeness. In the Torah is says,
"ויומר יהוה אלוהים לא טוב היות האדם לבדו, אעשה לו עזר כנגדו"
"It is not good for man to be alone, I will make him a helpmate"
This means something we already know, that humans are not meant to be solitary creatures! However that isn't to say that we need to force everyone to have lots of friends. Developing bonds with people is just like covalent bonds. It has to be mutual, agreed upon. Everyone builds relationships in different ways. As Hillel professionals we should know that better than most. Our entire job is yesod b'chesed. We build relationships with students (yesod) that we hope will help them in life and on their Jewish exploration (chesed). So I'm done....Kidding!!
In order to truly experience and give yesod b'chesed you need to remember all that came before. Chesed (Loving-Kindness). Gevurah (Discipline and Restraint). Tiferet (Harmony and Compassion). Netzach (Endurance). Hod (Humility). All of these things come together to make yesod (bonding). [I'm intentionally not mentioning malchut (sovereignty and leadership).] Chesed is the foundation for humanity. Love and kindness are like the bones our bodies are built upon. Gevurah is like our minds, it is where we exercise our abilities for reason and understanding. Tiferet would be our heart because it binds our body together and keeps everything working in harmony. Netzach are the muscles in our bodies that give us the strength we need to go out and be a part of the world. Hod is the blood running through our veins. It reminds us that we are but human, we bleed and we hurt. Yesod is our skin. It keeps our entire body together. Without it we fall apart and die. Malchut is our faculty for good or evil. (More to come on that in a later post.)
I leave you with these words from Sister Sledge: "Living life is fun and we've just begun, to get our share of the world's delights."
When I think about humility I think about three things. 1) Not being afraid to apologize when you did something wrong. 2) Knowing and admitting that you don't know everything and sometimes need help. 3) One of the hardest things anyone can do is accept someone else's apology and display forgiveness. Sometimes these two things are related. You might need to apologize for screwing something without asking for help first.
Apologizing is one of the hardest things for me to do. Admitting that I am wrong can be embarrassing but I know that it helps me to grow. For me one aspect of being humble is having that maturity and sensitivity to say I am sorry, I messed up. If you think about it, that makes sense. We put so much time and energy into learning so that we can have the right answers. Why else would we fight the notion that we do not know the right answer, let alone the answer we have is wrong. Allowing ourselves to admit we don't know and taking the time to learn the answer teaches us something stronger and more powerful. Not just the idea of humility but also the ideal of patience.
Voluntourism is something that if we aren't careful we will fall victim to. Voluntourism is a disjointed system of people dropping into a community with little to no understanding of the problems that the community faces with the intention of doing good. When this happens communities are sometimes left without sustainable support to maintain or grow these programs and improvements that were started during these volunteer experiences. This isn't to say that when we go and participate in short term volunteer programs that they are all bad. It just means that we need to do a little research into whatever organizations we intend to volunteer with and see what their goals are and the outcomes they have been able to achieve. There are many organizations out there that to great work. They work with communities to identify needs that they have and work with the community to address them. I think back to my senior year of university at UNC-CH and my alternative break trip to Nicaragua with Hillel and American Jewish World Service. We learned about the community before and during the trip. We also worked along song people from this village in the Diriamba region to build a community center. To me this experience is still one of the most transformative experiences in my Jewish life because it taught me the importance of humility, dignity, and respect.
Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a tricky thing. It's an involuntary action that we like to think we have control over. True forgiveness is a really challenging thing for us to give to someone. We will always harbor the feelings and reactions from whatever wrong it was that happened. A small percentage of us are truly able to not feel that hurt after we have "forgiven" the person. By not forgiving other we carry this weight with us that detracts from the relationships that we try to foster with those around us. That isn't to say we can never have true, free relationships and interactions with others it just means that we need to take a pause. A pause to recognize that sometimes we might need to reflect on certain feelings or frustrations that we have that seem baseless and realize that there is a base for it. And make a conscious effort to open your heart and acknowledge that feeling, where it comes from, and to try work past it. Whether there was an apology or effort made to reconcile from that mistake, the responsibility is on you to address it still. Humility is making the effort and going the distance. As Hercules says: "But to look beyond the glory is the hardest part, For a hero's strength is measured by his heart."
When I think about netzach b'chesed two things come to mind. The phrase "a labor of love" and Cher singing, "Do you believe in love after love after love. I believe there's something inside me saying, I really don't think you're strong enough!" (I know the lyrics are wrong but you see my point at least.) Endurance is something that we need to live our lives. Without it we would crumble under the pressure of life. To love anyone or anything is something that takes a tremendous amount of energy. A musician must practice many long hours to perfect their craft. Writers pour themselves tirelessly in order to have a final draft. A lasting relationship takes time, energy, and trust to stand the test of time. So too does anything we have a passion for in our lives. In Judaism we are taught that we should spend our lives learning, digging deeper into our rich tradition. This of course makes sense because if Judaism truly is to be a passion, a cornerstone of our life then we must continually work to understand it. Endurance in loving-kindness is finding the strength to keep going even when things get rough. Finding strength in those around you is one way to build up your endurance in this manner. Here is my idea of a strategy that you can try to also build your endurance in acts of loving-kindness. Take this 10-day challenge.
Day 1: Smile at a stranger who looks like they need a smile.
Day 2: Say hello to someone who you happen to walk by and smile at a new stranger.
Day 3: Say hello to 3 new people today.
Day 4: Ask someone how they are doing and stay to listen to the answer.
Day 5: Ask someone how they are doing and stay to listen to the answer. Ask a follow-up question.
Day 6: Stop by a co-worker's desk and ask about something meaningful they have at their desk.
Day 7: Give a co-worker a hug and tell them you are happy to see them.
Day 8: Surprise a co-worker or friend with coffee or some little treat.
Day 9: Call a loved one and tell them you love them.
Day 10: Create a small token as a gift for someone and then give it to them.
If you are able to finish this challenge I hope that you feeling great. I hope that you'll feel more capable and empowered to perform these acts of loving-kindness. Endurance in loving-kindness is about finding ways to keep doing acts of loving-kindness. Realizing that you must constantly rejuvenate yourself is how you find endurance. After all, slow and steady wins the race, no?
Harmony and compassion. When I first thought about this topic I was going to write about my day and how nice it was. Which I will a little bit but I also have a few other things to share. I also feel that I would be remiss if I didn't make a reference to music. After all harmony is in the root of the ideals for today.
First let's look at my day. I spent today in Wisconsin at Opening Day for the Brewers. It was my first opening day and trip to Wisconsin, a lot of new things. Tailgating in WI is like nothing I have ever experienced. The people were so nice and warm it was like a scene from a movie. Aside from the fact that there were few people of color that I encountered during the experience you could see everyone cohabiting in harmony. I got to meet many new people and experience several new things and all with strangers. Their warmth and compassion was something that made me feel special and a part of their community. This compassion was shared by everyone, even when there was a fight it ended with a hug. Only in Wisconsin!
Second I wanted to talk about music. Why? Because I love it! There is a piece by Bedřich Smetana called "Vltava (Má vlast)". This piece will sound very familiar to any who listen to it. The melody for our precious "Hatikvah" comes from it. Not only that but if you listen closely to it you can hear several different aspects of our Jewish story in it. Fear. Love. Compassion. Strength. Harmony. In this song I hear the plight of the Jews as they are constantly forced from one land to another. I hear the skipping of the children as they play outside in a field. I hear the calling of a lover to their beloved and the running of said beloved toward home. The lullabies for children that offer them protection.
When we live in harmony there is compassion. When we are compassionate there is harmony. May this day be filled with love and joy, harmony and compassion. I offer you this song so that you can have some of that. It's long but well worth the length.
Today is day two of the omer, gevurah b'chesed (discipline and restraint in loving-kindness). This may seem like it contradicts my previous post but it really just expands upon it further. The lesson of restraint in loving and kindness is not about being frugal about with whom we share our love and kindness but rather that we must not abuse it. Sometimes we mistake our own good intentions with an act of chesed when it is really a perverse use of it. We often feel that we must protect those around us with a shelter of love when we should actually be pushing our loved ones, and ourselves, to be challenged and made uncomfortable. I know this may be difficult for some to digest. I am not saying that we should completely ignore the concept of safe spaces but instead learn to not stop there. Safe spaces does have a place and purpose but it does not promote the growth and development that we all need in order to be productive adults. By challenging those around you to grapple with complex and nuanced topics you have just done them a greater service. You have embarked upon the road of learning with them. The Talmud teaches that parents, explicitly fathers, are commanded to teach their children, read sons, a trade or how to support themselves. From this midrash I feel that it can easily be inferred that supporting oneself includes being fully equipped to take all that the world will throw at you. We must recognize when it is appropriate to protect those around us from things that might overtake them and when we must let them grow from the experience of struggle. I find it quite ironic that we as Jews, a people who have struggled for generations, have forgotten that our strength comes from struggling together. Since we just finished a few nights of seder we might remember how we were slaves in Egypt and if G-d had just delivered us from that it would have been enough, dayenu. However we are commanded to suffer more with matzah and a lack of our normal diet staples. Let us remember the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment we feel when we finally finish climbing whatever figurative mountain it is that we are on and dayenu. Let that be enough the next time your protective Jewish motherly instinct kicks in. Let it be enough to support them on their journey. Let it be enough to celebrate in the success they have and encourage them to keep trying when they fail.
This is dedicated to Pardes Summer 2014 Intro to Talmud with David Levin-Kraus. Thanks for pushing us to the limit we didn't know we had.
For more information on brave spaces check out this article.
On tonight the first night of the Omer, I am reflecting on what Chesed b'Chesed is. That is to say what is "loving-kindness" of "loving-kindness"? Is this the comsic karma that everyone refers to? Is it the idea of pay it forward? I think not. Loving and kindness. Two things that share some of the same emotions on occasion but are different. On today we get to reflect on both aspects from a richer perspective that we might not have otherwise. We are taught that love is something that is unconditional. Something that should be given freely. In most faith traditions you are taught to love thy neighbor as thyself. I wonder how often do we stop to love ourselves? Acts of loving kindness need to start there. This is by no means meant to read as start being selfish but rather spend the time doing things that will enrich yourself. Make sure to spend your time showing gratitude towards another person. Smile. Laugh. Dance. Sing. Doing one of these things for someone else has an effect on ourselves as well. By showing loving-kindness to someone else we are doing the same for ourselves at the same time. With that I will start first. Thank you Amanda Katherine Weiss for this challenge. I don't think I will finish all 49 days due to the traveling that I have going on, but I will be more thoughtful on these ideals between now and Shavuot. Thank you Jake Velleman and Matthew Kramer-Morning for the beginning to what has been a very special Passover observance so far. Zach Kosinski, thanks for being there and being so supportive. Cara Behneman, you are such an incredible supervisor and mentor. I look up to you everyday and learn so much about how to be an educator and role model. I could go on an on about those people in my life who have been such a strong influence like Sue Klapper, John Fratianni, Molly Tobin, Molly Matthews, Jo-Ellen Unger, Michelle Brownstein Horowitz,Amanda Gross, Sheila Katz, among many many others. But I leave you with this video. Watch it, thank someone, and pass the video on. I love you all! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg