A reminder: As many have asked—we count each day of the Omer starting at nightfall. So, the first day of the week of Gevurah will start this Saturday night (and the entire next day until nightfall on Sunday is Day 8). If you forget to count one (entire) day you continue to count—each day is a day unto itself (though the tradition is that if you miss a day you don’t count with a blessing but just count the day—this could be seen as a consequence for not being mindful—you missed an opportunity so remember that you missed an opportunity—so count, but without a blessing).
This week is the week of Gevurah. Last year we focused on Gevurah as loss of love, or how one can be self-reliant and determined and not fear independence. As this year our focus is on change—and the following week (Tiferet) will be when we set the stage for change by creating the blueprint/plan for change—this week is still preparation for the plan of change.
We now move from contemplating the feelings of the love of self and others (the first week of Chesed) as a motivation for change to the determination and discipline to change. Gevurah in this way represents our ability to step back, set limits, and create space for change.
Counting of the Omer Week Two: Gevurah = Strength and focus.
“One has to be determined to change.”
I will use an example this week of an adult married woman who grew up with a verbally abusive parent, a parent who continues this pattern of verbal abuse with her grandchildren. Mom has shielded her children to the best of her ability but has been afraid to confront her mother directly—she fears both escalation and retribution. She has also asked her husband to not confront her mother though he is prepared and eager to support ending the abusive communication.
To be clear: Gevurah as “determination” equally applies to any and all change, including change whose aim might be to seek love or intimacy (in contrast to ending an abuse).
Day 8: Chesed in Gevurah—Is there loving kindness in determining to change? Chesed is always about expressing love—and love takes on many forms including being focused and when appropriate, setting limits. Normally this refers to a parent’s role with a child—but in the case above it applies from the ‘child’ to the parent. If this mother takes a stand for herself and for her children she will be acting out of love. Her determination toward setting a limit with her parent could be out of anger or a vindication (standing up for her children she will be standing up for herself). It can also be an expression of love even in relation to her parent—to take a stand for your parent to change and be more mature and loving, especially if it now affects yet another generation.
Whatever change you may be considering keep in mind both your determination to change and that its motivation is based in love.
Day 9 Gevurah in Gevurah —Gevurah is about focus and determination and as we suggested last week, the challenge to that is what will others think, how will this affect others and will that cause me to lose or strengthen my determination to change? So while I can always choose to love—I need to be firm in my commitment—a boundary that is set needs to be a consistent and determined boundary. If this mother determines that abusive language is no longer acceptable than there is no tolerance and whatever she has determined to be a consequence, than there is no room for vacillation.
As we look at changes that are more relevant to our own behavior (though the change for the mother in this example is about her behavior in response to her mother’s verbal abuse) we have to contemplate the determination of boundaries and the boundaries of (our) determination to see the change through.
Day 10: Tiferet in Gevurah —Tiferet is the blueprint for change and how your plan for change takes into account the need for balance—both internally and with others. Keep in mind that as you reflect on your determination this week it will impact the shape (boundaries) of your plan. How far and wide will the change be? When is the change best timed for? And do you need and have support? For the mother in our example, what will be her determination on when and how to tell her mother she will no longer tolerate verbal abuse (at least from grandmother to grandchildren). Is it best for her to enlist her husband’s support and present this as a united front? How will this affect the children and is including them in the discussion part of the plan?
This week’s contemplation is not yet about the specifics of the plan (as above) but rather about examining if the plan will actualize your determination. You may need to be already thinking of some of the elements of the plan for change so you can have a ‘smell test’ of your determination.
Day 11: Netzach in Gevurah —Netzach is about trust in yourself that you can overcome any thoughts or emotions that are stirred up by your plan and remain determined to create change. Typically, Netzach is about trust in the self to overcome obstacles—for this mother it would include trusting herself that she can go through with her plan and talk to her mother and hold her mother (and herself) accountable.
One of the big issues in changing one’s self is: I have tried this before (and not changed) or how can I change now because I have let this go on for so long? These attitudes are internal obstacles we have to overcome in order for us to remain determined in our resolve to change.
Day 12: Hod in Gevurah —Hod is about acknowledging limitations. Perhaps there was a moment to act already upon your determination but you faltered, your resolve was not strong enough. It is ok to acknowledge that change is not easy and that you may not have had the courage or unflinching determination to change. We may also need to acknowledge that there are some obstacles to our determination that we may not be able to overcome (now). Fear of change (or fear, in the example of abuse) may hold us back from the full change we might want—some change though is better than none. Remain determined to make some progress, if not a complete change.
Day 13: Yesod in Gevurah —Yesod is the foundation on which change can will be actualized. Yesod is the final filter in which the test of your sincerity is measured by the degree of integrity your change reflects—the change in me will express my truth—the truth I want to be (the Hebrew word for truth= Emet, constructed of the letters Alef, Mem and Tav all of which have bases—“legs” that allows them to stand firmly on their own).
For the mother in our example, if she is ready to stand up for her children, then that is a stand for her truth, even if it may not be the “whole truth”. Ultimately, Yesod is calling us to attend to ourselves and be willing to express the whole truth and, “nothing but the truth.”
Day 14: Malchut in Gevurah — This final day of the second week sets the stage for the week of Tiferet when the contemplations on both love for the self and determination as key prerequisites for change collectively shape the plan for change. Malchut always refers to manifestation, so, for today, it is simply manifesting your determination—expressing it to others, rehearsing it to enhance your determination about the plan for change.
You have a number of weeks until the count of the Omer reaches the week of Malchut itself (if you are ready to change already don’t let the count deter you!).
Next Friday I will include my plan for the changes I am working on—my Tiferet/blueprints. That will be the task for each of us when we enter the third week of the counting of the Omer—to outline our plan.