The days of Sefira give us an amazing opportunity to fine tune our relationships. To make sure that we improve our own character and conduct. To be blessed with true happiness, joy of marriage and healthy children and family.
In this series, we share some insights, reflections and practical tips inspired each of the 7 sefiros of Sefirat HaOmer. Click on the tap to see some excerpts. Download for the complete challenge.
Literal Definition Kindness. (Loving Kindness).
In other words Nurturing. Giving. Warmth. Providing someone’s needs. Loving.
Expressions of ChesedChesed is loving kindness, doing and giving to others – your time, talents, possessions, anything and everything that another person might need or ask from you – from a true place of love. True soul-love allows us to reach above and beyond ourselves, to care and experience another person and to allow that person to experience us. Loving kindness is about giving freely, graciously and unconditionally – with a generous heart. In a way that leaves the other with their dignity and self-esteem. Giving to them on their terms – not our terms.
Chesed [kindness] is rooted in Ahavah [love]. Ahavah [love] is rooted in Ta’nug [pleasure/ delight]. When you bring pleasure to another person, you generate their love which fires up their kindness. And you know how wonderful that will be for you and your family.
Reflections about chesed in your marriage
- Unconditionally. Do you give to your spouse – unconditionally … just to make them feel good … on their terms … without expecting anything in return? Do you express appreciation and give compliments – often and freely? The kind that they appreciate, not only the type that you feel comfortable giving?
- Fully. Do you dedicate time and energy just for your spouse? Do you give the gift of listening? Of your smile? Every day? What do you do every day to make your spouse feel special?
- Sincerely. Does your spouse sense sincerity in your giving? Does your way of giving uplift your spouse’s dignity (or at least leaves them with their dignity)?
- Consistently. Do you give and love only when you are in the mood? Or do you give simply because you care and you made a soul commitment to your spouse?
- Freely. Do you give happily – with full soul-love? Even when things are not quite so ‘perfect’? Or is it somewhat begrudgingly?
- What will you do to enhance your love and kindness in your marriage and family life?
Talk about it
- Ask your spouse: “What types of giving makes you feel loved?”. “What words are meaningful? What expressions of love really resonate with you (‘love language’)? What types of gifts do you appreciate?” “What are some things that I gave you – tiny and bigger – that you would like more of?”
- Be brave, ask for insight: “What was a time that I gave a gift or did something that didn’t resonate with you, that you didn’t appreciate? What could I do differently in the future?”
Literal Definition Strength.
In other words Restraint. Channeling. Focus. Discernment. Respect for boundaries. Discipline. Measured. Balanced.
Expressions of GevurahGevurah is about setting up boundaries and standards so that the kindness, love, giving and all activities in our lives have focus and direction; this is what yields success. Through gevurah, we give the correct healthy amount; we restrain and withhold as appropriate for the circumstance. Beyond discipline in interpersonal relationships, gevurah should also be expressed in our own lives: self-discipline, refining our own character, calculating our own time, resources and efforts. These will help us maximize our achievements and success.
Gevurah is also a positive mode. For example: using gevurah and strength to continue giving kindness even when it’s not easy. Giving with extra strength, with extra fervor, excitement and passion. Doing for your marriage and family above and beyond your basic duty. Forcing yourself to give and do even when you are not in the mood.
Reflections about gevurah in your marriage
- Boundaries. What are the healthy boundaries in your marriage? In what ways do you respect your spouse’s space, boundary and privacy – morally, psychologically or emotionally? Are you consistent?
- Commitment. Do you use gevurah and strength to continue giving kindness even when it is not easy or convenient? Do you do beyond your first inclination to stop? Do you do what is needed even when you are not in the mood?
- Appropriateness. Is your amount of gevurah appropriate for a married person? Are you overbearing? Is your demeanor too strong and silencing your spouse? Do you act in controlling ways? Do you speak with harsh words of insult, blame, demands?
- Expression. How do you express your disagreements to your spouse? Do you choose your words wisely with sensitivity; do you show respect and concern for your spouse’s dignity?
- Sacrifice. In what ways do you have personal restraint and sacrifice for the sake of your marriage and your spouse’s happiness and dignity? In what ways do you filter out other interests in order to focus on your spouse?
- What will you do to use strength and restraint to enhance your marriage and family life?
Talk about it
- Ask your spouse: “What types of boundaries or limits help you feel protected?” “How might I express a ‘no’ so that it feels acceptable?” “What are some boundaries that we ought to incorporate for our family?”
- Be brave, ask for insight: “What was a time when I expressed something with too much gevurah? What could I do differently in the future? ” “What is an area where you think I could demonstrate more restraint? “
Literal Definition Beauty.
In other words Rachmonus (merciful compassion). Empathy. Truth. Harmony. Balance of Chesed & Gevurah.
Expressions of TiferesBeauty is typically produced through the juxtaposition, contrast and balance of colors and textures. Similarly, the emotion of Tiferes is a balance of the two opposing qualities – Chesed and Gevurah, which results in a new quality – empathy, merciful compassion. Tiferes is a harmony of Kindness and Discipline, expressed with compassion, empathy and mercy. Empathy is about withholding our judgments and attentively tuning in to what is happening for the other, listening to their perspective and how they perceive the situation. Merciful compassion is about withholding judgment that the other may not really deserve it but giving anyway with full heart of love and kindness.
In Tanya chapter 32, the Alter Rebbe says: וְהָרַחֲמָנוּת מְבַטֶּלֶת הַשִּׂנְאָה וּמְעוֹרֶרֶת הָאַהֲבָה Rachmonus (merciful compassion) cancels the hatred and arouses the love. Sometimes, you just may not be feeling all that loving. Try to look at the situation from a place of merciful compassion, and act from there. The love will usually follow.
Reflections about tiferes in your marriage
- Balance. Do you generally act with Tiferes – giving beautifully, the perfect balance of Chesed and Gevurah? Are there certain circumstances in which you do express yourself with Tiferes, empathy, and others you do not; why is that?
- Giving. How compassionate is your giving, even when you feel that your giving is not ‘deserved’? How might your spouse describe your giving? Why is that? What can you do differently?
- Appropriateness. Do you generally act with the right balance for the situation? What are some examples of that?
- Feedback. How do you express negative feedback such as disappointment? How do you react to negative feedback from your spouse? Are those conversations respectful so that each feels heard and even empowered? Would your spouse agree; how do you know?
- Empathy. Do you look at situations with empathy, withholding your judgment and attentively tuning in to what is happening for the other person? Do you listen to their perspectives and how they perceive the situation? Do you ask for their perspective and point of view?
- What will you do to enhance the empathy and compassion in your marriage and family life?
Talk about it
- Ask your spouse: “What is your ‘empathy language’; how do you prefer I show empathy – what words or actions work best for you; what doesn’t work?” “When was a time that you felt that I really ‘got you’; what did I do to make you feel that way?”
- Be brave, ask for insight: “What was a time when I missed the mark and didn’t empathize or act with the compassion you needed? What could I do differently in the future?”
Literal Definition Victory.
In other words Endurance. Fortitude. Consistency. Determination. Tenacity. Reliability. Commitment. Dedication. Persistence. Willpower. Being resolute.
Expressions of NetzachNetzach means victory. It is about doing whatever – anything and everything – to attain that victory, including going beyond our comfort zone, not being stuck in our bias perspective, overcoming obstacles, using setbacks as a springboard to propel ourselves further. No matter what it takes. In other words, fortitude, persistence, determination, enthusiastic commitment to the goal and focusing on the prize. Not being sidetracked by naysayers and pettiness. Marching triumphantly to the goal, with courage, ambition and even guts.
Endurance needs commitment which comes from loving and caring for the cause. On the flip, sometimes we can be persistent and stubborn for the wrong causes. It is always important to reflect on our intent and what is driving us.
Reflections about netzach in your marriage
- Commitment. In what ways do you demonstrate your unwavering commitment to make your marriage a success? Does your spouse feel that from you? What else can you do to further act on this commitment to the success of your marriage?
- Determination. How does your determination to be successful in other parts of your life (work, etc.) impact your family? Does it strengthen your marriage? Do your personal desires come at the expense of your marriage and family?
- Adaptability. Are you stubborn or determined in areas that are not to the best benefit of your marriage and family? Are you digging in your heels and resisting being flexible and adaptable?
- Graciousness. Are you gracious in your victory? Do you give credit where it is due? Do you gloat when someone is proven to be incorrect? Do you say things like “I told you so”?
- Growth. Do you seek support and guidance in your pursuit of successful marriage and family? Do you take the time to reflect about the progress and small accomplishments along the journey?
- What will you do to enhance the health and eternity of your marriage?
Talk about it
- Ask your spouse: “What is something that I am doing that contributes to the success of our marriage; how can I build on that?”
- Be brave, ask for insight:“I am looking for feedback about how I am doing as a husband/wife; what is one area that you would like me to work on?”
Literal Definition Majesty. Thanksgiving.
In other words Humility. Acknowledgement. Gratitude. Admitting. Modesty. Comprising. Appreciative. Consulting. Flexibility. Open mindedness.
Expressions of HodWith humility, we can make space for others. We can listen to and appreciate the opinion and perspective of others. We can all learn something from anyone and everyone. It is about asking for advice, guidance and input. Humility is about not being arrogant or stubborn. Hod is expressing gratitude, including thanking Hashem for what you do have. With humility, we are able to acknowledge others. To apologize when we are wrong. To accept responsibility for our mistakes. Not to be selfish, self-centered and narcissistic. To give others the benefit of the doubt.
Hod is about recognizing how small you are. This allows you to realize how large you can become. Hod is about acknowledging your potential and being humble enough to work toward it. Hod is also majesty, the sovereign power of dignity. It’s all about the majestic power to ensure the dignity of your spouse. It’s the commitment to stand strong and guard and protect your loved one from all types of negative forces that might pain or harm your spouse (including yourself).
Reflections about hod in your marriage
- Deference. How is your humility expressed in your marriage? Are you open to influence from your spouse? Are you genuinely open to your spouse’s opinion? Do you make space for your spouse or are you dominating?
- Ego. Are there circumstances in which your ego determines your action and words; why is that?
- Humility. Is your humility perceived by your spouse as authentic? Is it condescending? Do you sufficiently acknowledge and compliment your spouse? Do you thank and express gratitude to your spouse?
- Apologizing. What are examples where you acted with humility and apologized? Does your spouse see it in the same way?
- Interdependence. Do you acknowledge that you need your spouse? Does your spouse see it in the same way?
- What will you do to enhance your deference and humility in your marriage and family life?
Talk about it
- Ask your spouse: “What is an area that I have accepted influence from you? How does that impact our relationship? What is another area that I should be more open to learning from you?”
- Be brave, ask for insight: “What is one thing in our relationship or family that I should be more accepting of and surrender to what is the reality?”
Literal Definition Foundation.
In other words Bonding. Connecting. Communicating. Influencing.
Expressions of Yesod
Yesod is bonding and giving of yourself, thus it is the foundation of life.
Yesod is about emotional intimacy – truly connecting with another in a deep and authentic way. Being attached, with total devotion and dedication. It is about sharing what is really going on for you – in a way that the recipient can fully absorb and connect. And creating a situation where the other feels comfortable to share with you.
Bonding means not just emotionally feeling for another, but also translating all those feelings into practical communication and connection – fully connected with total focus and dedication, avoiding anything that interferes with the bond. Each grows and flourishes in this bonding relationship.
In this strong connection, the receiver feels a sense of belonging and deep connection. A sense that “I matter; I am valued”; it builds confidence and trust.
Yesod is translated as “foundation,” It is about the importance of having a firm, inner foundation in relationships with others.
Just like the sefira of Tiferes harmonizes, balances and implements Chesed and Gevurah, so too, Yesod harmonizes, balances and implements Netzach and Hod. Without Yesod, it’s like uploading all the data but not pressing ‘enter’. Failing to communicate. Yesod in a sense is the actual transmission of all the previous emotions.
Reflections about yesod in your marriage
- Communicator style. Are you a good communicator? Do you sincerely share your inner self? Are you at all self-serving in your relationship or genuinely invested and connected exclusively with your spouse? Do you keep anything bottled up inside?
- Connection. Do you know if your spouse feels connected in your marriage? Respected? Loved? Valued? Smothered? Taken for granted? Does your spouse feel connected to you or do they feel lonely and isolated?
- Expression. Are you consistently expressing yourself with love and concern, or sometimes with hurtful insults and putdowns?
- Bonding. What is holding you back from complete bonding? Are you too critical? Perfectionist? Uncomfortable with vulnerability? Has your trust been abused?
- Valued. What are you doing to help your spouse feel valued and that they matter to you and to the world?
- What will you do to enhance your deference and humility in your marriage and family life?
Talk about it
- Ask your spouse: “What is one way that we bond and feel connected? What else can we do in that area to enhance that?”
- Be brave, ask for insight:“What is one area of communication that I can improve? Can you please share some examples of how you would like me to communicate in that scenario?”