The steady path to freedom through Tikkun Middot
Today and tomorrow are Rosh Chodesh Iyar, days 1 and 2. I hope to see many of you at the Boston Mussar Conference this afternoon (12 – 5 PM, 384 Harvard Street in Brookline, MA). More information is below!
We are right in the middle of the Omer period, the 49 days connecting the sudden liberation of Passover with the covenantal moment between God and Israel at Sinai. The 49 days in between are the time to spiritually prepare ourselves to enter the covenant as free people.
Rabbi Daniel Frisch, in his book on the Omer, U’Sfartem L’chem (וספרתמ לכם), calls this a period of zeriyah – planting, drawing on the ancient agricultural rhythms of the Jewish calendar. The Omer is a period of planting that will produce the first fruits offered at the Temple on Shavuot. Symbolically, what we plant during this period is directly related to the fruits we will reap later.
On a spiritual level this period of planting is a time of restricted consciousness, or Mochin D’Katnut. Mochin D’Katnut is characterized by an inability to see the big picture, the connection between things. It is a time when meaning seems beyond grasp, just like when planting seeds, the end result and purpose of the activity is hidden beyond view. R. Frisch writes that the effort we put it during this time of restricted consciousness corresponds to the quality of expansive consciousness, Mochin D’Gadlut we will be blessed with during the time of reaping the fruits of our labor. We can only merit this sense of the connection of all things and God’s presence through the effort we put in during times of hiddenness.
This is the spiritual practice of Tikkun Middot during the Omer period. We count each day and each day has its own middot practice – for example, today is the middah of Chesed (love and kindness) as it relates to Tiferet (balance, truth, beauty).
If you are engaged in a regular Mussar practice with a group, this is a time to bring awareness to the middot you are working on as a path to prepare for entering the covenant on Shavuot. I chose to suspend my regular soul curriculum practice during the Sefirat HaOmer period and practice attending to the middah combination of each day of the Omer. I’m using Rabbi Frisch’s book to understand the qualities and practices associated with each middah. If you want to do this practice, there are many good resources. The Mussar Institute sends a daily email with instructions for each day. My friend and colleague, Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder wrote a book, The 50th Gate, with instructions for an Omer practice. And there is much more out there.
I want to draw your attention to a few of the resources in this email – The Judaism Unbound podcast featured Mussar these past two weeks as part of a Sefirat HaOmer series. I did the first interview and our chaver Greg Marcus did the second, this past week. Bend the Arc put together a powerful interfaith prayer moment as a response to White Nationalism. You can find links to these resources below.
I wish you a meaningful Omer period that produces delicious fruit.