Week Six of Counting Omer we examined the nature of Y’sod (יסוד), the 9th Sephirah of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Foundation, Establishment, Essential; Torah – the cosmological and mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the universe. Its basic nature is the four elements: Wind/Breath, Fire/Compassion, Water/Reflection, and Earth/Body. Within Y’sod is sod (סוד), which translates as secret, counsel, deliberation, and consultation. The primary quality is the experience of reflective maturity as the road to wisdom.
Lovingkindness, Grace, Compassion, Benevolence, and Loyalty within Foundation, Establishment, Essential; the Cosmological and Mystical Foundation upon which the Divine One created the universe.
Quality: I am responsible for me and my emotions in response; Y'sod grace
There is this idea in some parts of our broader culture that “you” can cause or make another feel bad: mad, sad, angry, guilty, or otherwise upset. This concept hinders honest communication because it shifts to blame and fault, and the point or lack of a point of the flammable comment gets lost.
One is responsible for the impact of one’s words. A conversation centered on the impact (racist, sexist, heterosexist, degrading, disrespectful, out of sync…) is different from a conversation that says, “You made me (fill in the blank).” What I've often witnessed is people getting stuck in the second half, derailing attempts to address the first half. Sometimes, indignation or fragility or defensiveness come across as blaming the victimize. It’s also a great tactic to avoid responsibility for the impact of one’s behavior or words.
We are responsible for my reactions and our responses. The difference? I am reacting when one of my buttons get pushed and my words are mean. When I’m being responsive, I ask more questions. I state how the previous words landed. I may even show how emotional I am – AND – I do not “blame” others for me being emotional. In my best moments, I can smile and treat the incident as a fascinating opportunity.
A few years ago, I met a “used to be Orthodox” man at the end of a service I had led. We were chit-chatting with a lot of enthusiasm when he asked the common compound question, “Were you raised Jewish or did you convert?”
Me: Laughing, “You know you are not supposed to ask that.”
He: “Yes, but I’m curious.”
Me: Well, if you want to know the answer, get to know me.
One of my congregants was about to say something, when I said, “It’s okay. It’s handled.” I turned back to our guest, and said, “Right?”
He: “Beautifully. You have a nice way of telling people off.”
Me: Not always. But, I am always in a good mood after I lead services.
We both laughed.
He: I’m going to enjoy getting to know you.
There is nothing fun about being challenged regarding one’s identities. Yet, rare is the “new” Jewish space or “new” to me Jewish person with whom it does not happen. The regularity with which it happens caused me to change my attitude toward it. While I still find it annoying, my approach is not to allow its occurrence to spoil or ruin my Shabbat or other Jewish experience.
I know I am not a curiosity and refuse to be treated like one. I own my place in the Jewish world. From this intersection, I choose what I share and with whom. I do not defend my right to belong because I belong. I no longer take the intrusion personally because it says much more about them than about me.
So, I choose to be momentarily disappointed instead of royally irritated for a much longer amount of time. The former interrupts my time. The latter ruins my time.
Being responsible for my feelings frees me to feel. No need to carry a shield because the best one is knowing before Whom I stand.
© Sabrina Sojourner 2020