Today is two days of the Omer, 5779. גבורה שבחסד, Gevurah ShebeChesed, Discipline / Discernment in Love.
I am not sure I ever thought it was possible to love someone completely without any doubt or restraint. I have never found that kind of selflessness to be healthy. When I was younger, I would lose myself in relationships and overwhelm the person I was trying to unite with. In my desperation, my overflowing emotion inevitably led to heart break.
The essence of the Discernment of Kindness, the Gevurah of Chesed, is being completely in love with yourself and your journey. Taking the time to reflect on where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going allows you to choose the course of your life. Existential anxiety may be a natural part of the human condition; but, it does not have to be the final word. Seeking deeper wisdom and a coherent answer to the question “what is the meaning of life?” is incumbent upon us all.
I used to fall back on the easy trope of discernment in love being the basis of the parent – child relationship. It is certainly true that healthy relationships contain boundaries. But it helps no one to create boundaries so thick we can’t see through them, or so high that a loved one cannot reach over them. True discipline is making time to uncover the ego’s desires and the soul’s journey. What are you passionate about? What makes your eyes light up?
It took me six years from hearing the call to attend rabbinical school to becoming a full-time student. It will take me six years to complete my studies because there is a hard cap on how much federal financial aid a person can take out each academic year. Some days, my doubt overwhelms me. My desire to be of service to my family, to contribute financially to our well-being, to be able to attend Sunday birthday parties — so many ways in which my Chesed wants to flow forth have been contained by the Discipline of attending rabbinical school. And the truth I am trying to lean into is this: my soul is on the journey it has chosen. Your soul deserves to live its own journey.
I am not saying you should also quit a job with amazing benefits to go back to school full-time. I am saying that no matter how enjoyable it is to passively engage in entertainment consumption, part of each day should be a gift to your soul — to learn to hear what your soul is saying to you, where it wants to go, what it’s dream are. And then to pursue those dreams with every ounce of passion you have.
This is what I mean by having a clear vision of yourself. Know who you want to be, and how the Love of the Universe has gifted you with the innate talent and unique drive to achieve those things. Grace is pulsating with every breath we take. Once we know what we hope to accomplish with our breaths, we are able to engage the world with true, higher-level Chesed. Allow your soul, and your ego, to take up the space they need. Fine tune along the way. A daily practice can help ensure the stories you tell yourself about your life align with your highest vision of your life.
In my theology, every living thing is born with a core wound and part of their life purpose is to heal that wound. I have come to believe that an aspect of that wound is always related to love. Some of us do not grow up with good role models of self-love, familial love, or communal love. As we differentiate ourselves from our parents and peers, we can lose ourself in the ego’s pursuit of identity. Ego is not the enemy — denying one’s soul, and denying the unique journey the soul strives for, is the true enemy. It is this tension, of holding space both for the ego and the soul, that permeates my life. Whether as a parent, wife, or wisdom colleague, all of the roles accrued by my ego have led me to one simple truth: Love is the essence of the perceivable universe. Love / Kindness thrive as Gevurah balances the system. May we honor the boundaries needed by our egos and souls as we share the journey with other people.