Week Two of Counting Omer: We examine the nature of Gevurah (גבורה) the 5th Sephirah of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. In modern Hebrew, G’vurah is defined as Heroism, Valor, Courage, and Gallantry. The older, and still relevant, meanings are Limitations; Spiritual, Physical, Emotional Strength; and Boundaries. In Kabbalah Gevurah is considered the “essence of din (judgment)”.
Khesed shebeGevurah Lovingkindness, Grace, Compassion, Benevolence, and Loyalty within Limitations; Spiritual, Physical, Emotional Strength; Boundaries
Quality: The discipline tending to self, first.
If you have flown in an airplane, you know the instructions a flight attendant gives in case there is a loss of cabin pressure: "A mask will fall from a place above your head. Place your own mask on first, before helping another with theirs."
The above instruction includes our young children, elders who may be panicked, a person we may not know who is struggling with the situation. In other words this instruction is also important when looking at our own lives and how we interact and respond to the needs of others, especially the needs of our families however we define that. For the moment, I’m excluding children 18 years old and younger as well as aging/ailing parents.
It is amazingly easy to get involved in the lives of others. We seek others to need us because we have a need, an ache, a need, hole, a pain, a longing we seek to ignore. So, we quasi satisfy the unspecified disturbance by taking care of the needs of others. In our unexamined desire to be needed, belong, be accepted… we seek to make ourselves indispensable to others through establishing the habit of stepping in and tending to one or more others. The person or people we rescue from having to do for themselves assume we do it because we love to do it and begin to take our assistance for granted.
When we realize our presence is taken for granted, we cease feeling needed and begin to feel used, causing us to feel resentment. The resentment scratches the original ache, need, hole, pain, or longing we sought to ignore. Yet, we blame the person or persons who are taking us for granted for the pain we feel. In truth, we have fallen prey to the trap we set for ourselves; that we will set, again and again, until we recognize that our need to be needed or to take care of another’s life is because we do not want to face our own needs or tend to our own life.
These “needs” run us from situation to situation to situation – much like an addict – in an attempt to find the fix we need not to feel whatever it is we do not want to feel. For me, it was that I was not enough and I had to be perfect.
These perceptions produced an anxiety that – until I named and entertained it, ran my life. Now, I recognize the anxious voice that doesn’t trust the present, is suspicious of the future, and cherry picks the past. In divorcing myself from my attachment to the addiction of being needed, I gained the freedom to feel pain and sadness; joy and appreciation; to experience time and discern peace. I can hear the message “I need” directly and indirectly expressed and employ the discipline of setting limits. Setting limits is as much for me as it is for another person. I am not capable of saving a person who wants to be rescued. I am not a savior.
In Judaism, we pray as if everything depends on The Divine One and act as if everything depends on us. However, there is a second part to the latter, we cannot rescue another until we have made sure our oxygen mask is securely in place. Once that is done, we can wisely and compassionately choose how we approach assisting another in need.
© Sabrina Sojourner 2020