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How loving are we, really? By Rabbi Carl Perkins

03/29/2021 08:26:41 PM


Dear Friends,

I hope that your sedarim (seders) were joyful, informed and inspiring, and that you’re well into the Passover holiday spirit. (Macaroons, anyone?)

We are now in the first week of the Omer. Even before Passover ends, we begin counting the forty-nine days, the seven full weeks, until the next holiday, Shavuot, which commemorates the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

Why do we do this? One answer, provided by the Jewish mystical tradition, is that we need this time to refine our characters, in order to receive the Torah on Shavuot with full intentionality. We should take a little time each day to explore ways we can and should behave better.

Our sages invite us to do this by focusing, during each of these seven weeks, on a different character trait. On each day of the week, we focus on a different way to develop that trait. I would like to share with you the approach of Rabbi Simon Jacobson in his book, The Spiritual Guide to The Counting of the Omer.

The character trait associated with the first week of the Omer is Hesed, or Lovingkindness.

As this week continues, let’s ask ourselves seven questions:

First, how loving are we, really? Do we display lovingkindness only to those to whom we relate and who relate to us? Do we have the capacity to love a stranger? To lend a hand to someone we don’t know?

Second, how disciplined are we in our lovingkindness? Do we respect the ones whom we love or do we love them with a selfish love? Are we sensitive to the feelings and attitudes of others?

Third, how harmonious is our lovingkindness? Do we appropriately blend both discipline and compassion in our expression of hesed?

Fourth, how enduring is our lovingkindness? Does it withstand challenges and setbacks? Do we offer it constantly, or does it vary depending on our moods or the ups and downs of our lives?

Fifth, how humble are we in our lovingkindness? Do we realize that, through love, we receive more than we give? Do we appreciate others for this -- and express that appreciation?

Sixth, does our lovingkindness lead to bonding with others? Or does it leave ourselves -- and others -- untouched?

Seventh, and finally, how noble is our expression of lovingkindness? Lovingkindness should not be perfunctory. Does it help us realize our special place and contribution to this world?

Those are seven challenging questions! I wish everyone well taking this first week to explore how we might improve the way in which we express our loving instincts.

Moadim l’simcha! I wish you and your families well as the holiday of Passover continues.

I look forward to seeing you in shul this coming Shabbat (i.e., the seventh day of Passover) as we commemorate the crossing of the Sea of Reeds by reading the Song of the Sea from the Torah. And we will celebrate the onset of spring on that day by reading chapters from Song of Songs.

On Sunday, we’ll observe the eighth and final day of Passover. As is traditional, we’ll recite Yizkor prayers that day. As I’m sure we are all aware, many more of us have suffered losses this past year than in previous years. Whether or not these losses were directly related to COVID-19, the manner in which we were able to say goodbye to our loved ones, and the manner in which we were able to grieve those losses were both very much impacted by the pandemic. And so we will pay particular attention to those losses during our Yizkor service.

I look forward to seeing you as our holiday continues. May it bring support, comfort and joy to all of us.

Hag Sameach,


Rabbi Carl M. Perkins

Saturday, July 31 2021 22 Av 5781