May 02 2019 Dvar Torah

Rabbi Thomas A. Louchheim

In the middle of this month, I will be spending I will be spending five hours on a Sunday morning in a local evangelical church. I have been invited, along with a Muslim friend, to share with these Christians what it means to be an American Jew and an American Muslim. We met earlier this week to discuss the format of our discussions. One of the elements of our presentations will be to demonstrate some of what we share in common. Both Christianity and Islam share our Jewish Scripture in common, and there are Jewish values that are embodied in verses in the Gospels and the Koran. I mentioned one other idea that we share in common. In our religious calendars are found a significant period set aside for discipline and abstinence. For Christians, it is the Lenten season, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday before Easter Sunday. For Muslims it is the 30-day period of fasting during Ramadan, which begins on May 5. For us it is the Counting of the Omer which began on the second day of Passover and continues to the eve of the holiday of Shavuot, when we, according to tradition, receive the Torah again.

The S’firat haOmer, “counting of the Omer” is a period of spiritual elevation. Each of the seven weeks is to be dedicated to examining and refining your emotional attributes. If you are dedicated to working on each attribute during these 49 days, then perhaps you will be ready to fully receive God’s gifts from above. Allow me to share a teaching from week 5 of the Omer - Humility.

Humility is not an extreme. It is actually finding your rightful place in perfect balance. At one extreme is arrogance, and at the other self-deprecation. Humility is not the latter, as some would have you believe. When someone provides you with news or a problem, do you rush in with your take or your solution to the problem? The soul-trait of humility is leaving enough space in your life for others. Alan Morinis, in his book, Everyday Holiness, advises, Occupy a rightful space, neither too much nor too little. Focus neither on your own virtues nor the faults of others.

Do you want to learn more about how you can refine your emotional attributes before Shavuot? Go ask your rabbi.