Today is six days of the Omer. יסוד שבחסד, Yesod ShebeChesed, Foundation of Covenantal Love.
Rejecting the “authentic self” at work
In recent years, especially if you worked at a startup or similar “cutting edge” company, there has been a lot of talk about bringing your authentic self to work, doing what you love, and being true to who you are. Perhaps because I’m a tail-end Gen-Xer, I never found these platitudes particularly helpful. Even if I wasn’t a deeply spiritual and political person, there would always be parts of me that are not appropriate to drag along to every team meeting. I don’t need to be snarky and suspicious. I don’t need to be a perfectionist waiting for the plan with tangible, quantifiable goals before getting on board with whatever new idea (or mission statement) is thrown at me.
Just as I don’t have to bring my entire self to work, I don’t need to understand my entire self to step forward into the (metaphorical) world. My foundation, my personality and ego-self, can and should be constantly shifting. The edges should have scaffolding. (Can you see the construction at the end of this pier?)
Judaism is spiritual technology for self improvement
I am devoted to Judaism because it is the spiritual technology that allows me to become a better version of my self with each breath and each day. Every moment is a new opportunity to lean into the person I want to be. At this point, my goal is fairly banal — I’d like to make it twenty-four hours without raising my voice. I’ll let you know when it happens.
Examine your personality and ego
The week of Yesod can be the week of really examining your ego-self: your personality, your motivations, your drives, your road blocks. The aspect of Yesod within other Sephirot is the structural underpinning of that Sephira.
For Chesed this means the container that holds your belief that you are in a covenantal relationship with the Divine. Or the container that allows you to remember you love your partner and your children. Or, the container that gives you the resilience to shelter in place with a partner whom you deeply want to leave.
Be willing to break your bonds
Understanding the foundation of your covenant allows you to understand when that covenant has been so broken or abused that it is time for you to move on. This is as true of corporate bonds as it is for spiritual ones. I know how difficult it has been for me to leave, to imagine life beyond the relationships I had with my coworkers. This was especially true when I fell in love with a coworker. Breaking that tie, resting on the economic foundation provided by my fiancé, was a huge leap into the unknown. It started the process of gathering the courage to enter rabbinical school.
The Buddhist concept of holding lightly to reality, disassociating with the feelings caused by the present situation, sings in the same key as what I believe. I believe in the reality of one’s personality and ego. While I do not believe in worshipping the ego and its desires, I do see the need for a healthy ego, blalanced by connection to one’s soul and spirit.
Foundation of relationships
One’s personality shapes the foundation of one’s relationship with the Divine, with individuals, and with the world. We have a lot of time these days to be flooded by inner chatter, to numb ourselves with social media and streaming videos. Or we may be exhausted by trying to keep up with full-time work and sudden full-time childcare requirements, leaving no time for deep introspection.
Here’s what I know for sure: having a vision of the foundation of your covenants will allow you to create a roadmap for achieving your personal improvement goals. Over the last decade, I’ve leaned into my belief that the world of values exists, and it exists on a higher metaphysical plane than material reality. That means it fundamentally matters when I don’t control the tone or volume of my voice. I am breaking my connection with Goodness, I am scaring my children rather than providing a Loving Protector.
When your foundation wobbles
Don’t get me wrong — sometimes, my authoritative voice is quite helpful. I was quite surprised when I yelled at my dog and she immediately dropped the piece of chocolate bar she’d scooped up. That was an extremely appropriate use of power.
At the same time, I was properly humbled today as well. My youngest threw his brother’s iPad. He didn’t simply throw it on the ground. He threw it out of the mail slot and onto our front porch. I yelled and brought the iPad back inside. My older son reminded me that I’m learning not to yell. I’m so proud that he had the courage to say that to me in the moment. His trust in our relationship is part of the foundation of my covenantal love.
(I had previously told the eldest that just as he’s learning Mandarin, I’m learning not to yell. And that I appreciate him reminding me if and when I slip up.)
Don’t take me literally
A note about these notes: I am not an authority on the sephirot or Kabbalah. I use this spiritual technology to help myself become a better person. There is no one definition of each of these aspects of the Divine. Each of the ten sephirot represents a constellation of integrated concepts. Some systems are quite rigid in their definitions and will seem quite foreign from what I am writing about. The concert of Jewish life has multiple stages, with different artists performing on each stage. We are deeply inter-related, even if we don’t recognize one another.
Questions to contemplate
So what is the foundation of your relationship with the Ground of Being? How do you define your relationships with humans? What brings you back to center? How do you know when to let go of core aspects of your identity?