Struggling with Discipline: A Week of Gevurah
Reprinted with thanks to Abby’s blog “Shameless Judaism/Adventures in Spiritual Refinement.”
Ask any one of my students, past or present: discipline has never been my strong suit. I tend to laugh more than yell, compliment more than critique and, to my embarrassment, give many more A’s than B’s.
So today, the 9th day of the Omer, is a spiritually challenging day. The second week of the Omer mystically focuses on gevurah (limits or discipline), and the second day of the second week asks us to turn our attention to gevurah shebe’gevurah — limits within limits. No easy task! I want to bring chesed (love) to the study of Torah, and I hate the idea of turning someone off from Jewish learning with an overzealous disciplinary approach. And yet, studies show that children and teens need limits – and fewer compliments – to build esteem. So maybe this is a useful quality to consider.
Today, I read Abaye’s comment in the Talmud as if it is addressed to me:
If a scholar is loved by the townspeople, their love is not due to her superiority but to the fact that she does not rebuke them for neglecting spiritual matters. (Ketubot 105b)
For me to be an effective educator, I need to remember that my goal is not to be loved, but to help my students arrive at their own spiritual goals, even with occasionally difficult conversations. Tomorrow the tradition asks us to focus on the beauty inherent in these very boundaries and limits, and throughout the week, I’ll be reflecting on how we might use gevurah in our teaching, our parenting and in our lives in general. Join the conversation: post your thoughts below. How will you be working with gevurah this week?
Rabbi Abby Sosland, a Wexner Graduate Fellowship alum (Class 6), is the Morah Ruchanit (Spiritual Advisor) of Schechter Westchester, where she teaches Bible, Talmud, prayer and philosophy. Her writing has been published widely, including the chapter on “Crime and Punishment” in The Observant Life: The Wisdom of Conservative Judaism for Contemporary Jews. She started the first free High Holiday service for downtown New Yorkers at Town and Village Synagogue, featured in New York Magazine and The New York Times. She is also a regular contributor to Daily Daf Differently, a Talmud podcast on www.jcastnetwork.org. Check out her blog: Shameless Judaism. Abby can be reached at email@example.com