This is the fourth week in our counting of the Omer, on our way to the revelation at Sinai, and receiving the Torah. With gratitude, I’m happy to share this deeply personal and moving teaching from Mira Shore, one of our teachers in the Beit Midrash program, Bnai mitzvah tutor, and friend. – Hazzan Harold
by Mira Shore
Since I was young, I have always cared about social justice, equality, and human dignity. Growing up with activist parents, politics and liberal values were part of our regular conversation at the dinner table. I was surrounded by both American and Israeli political and social issues, even when I didn’t think I cared for politics so much.
Just shy of my 12thbirthday, in May of 2000, I attended my first rally with my Mom and other female family friends in Washington DC for the Million Mom March for safer gun control. My memories of that day aren’t crystal clear, but I do remember feeling overwhelmed both by the horror of those who have suffered tragedies due to gun violence and empowered by being part of such a large group of protestors, mostly women.
I have considered myself a Feminist and an activist since before I can remember. I’ve always felt like my reason for being on this earth was to help people in whatever way I could. After personally experiencing the healing power of therapy, I gradually began to realize that that was my calling. My mom will tell you that she’s known from the time that I was a little girl that I would become a therapist, but it took me a little bit more time to fully comprehend.
Once I realized that my activism, my care for others, and my purpose for life could intersect at my career aspirations to become a psychologist, I was determined to do just that. While it felt like a perfectly fit glove, becoming a psychologist is not an easy path. I knew this when I started my pursuits 10 years ago, but I wasn’t prepared for the long, draining, challenging road ahead.
Three years ago I began counting the Omer as a new mindfulness practice. Three years ago was the first year of my PsyD program, doctorate in clinical psychology, which is a 5-year program… following my 2 year masters program. Getting into a PsyD program has been my dream for years and it finally happened, but all I could think about was the burnout I was beginning to feel. My mindfulness practices, including Judaism, became vital aspects of my life and self-care.
In my introduction to the Omer, I was struck by the usual sefirah, attribute, that I have always loved, chesed, lovingkindess. I thought it would be my favorite one, because, it felt obvious to me. However, in my first year counting every day, including saying the prayer, counting, reading quotes and articles, journaling, and drawing, I was struck by another sefirah, attribute, that I had never thought about before.
Netzach. Like most attributes, it can be translated a number of ways including endurance, perseverance, persistence, eternity, and victory. Meditating on this attribute felt like making a new best friend, someone who had been with me all my life but I didn’t even notice.
According to the Kabbalists, Netzach is the 7themotive attributes of G!d, or within Creation, or within ourselves. The 10 sefirot, 10 attributes, have a particular layout which is indicative of what each attribute represents. Neztach appears on the right side of the picture and is directly underneath chesed.
“Netzach is associated in the soul with the power to overcome those obstacles which stand in the way of realizing one’s chesed (lovingkindess) aspiration to bestow goodness upon Creation.” –http://www.inner.org/sefirot/sefnetz.htm
This is to say that in order for us to be able to achieve our chesed, our lovingkindness, our passions, such as our work and social justice pursuits, we require the attribute of netzach, eternity, perseverance, a strong-willed commitment. Chesed without netzach would not have any follow-through.
There were many times along my academic journey where I could have quit. There are many times in our lives when we could quit, when we don’t get that job, or into that program, when we don’t get to marry that partner, or land that deal. Those bumps in the road are where netzach, perseverance, helps us make it through so we can continue on our righteous mission.
Netzach is how the People of Israel got through the desert;
Netzach is how Jews survived oppression and atrocities beyond imagination;
Netzach is how we finally got the State of Israel.
Netzach is the root of social justice movements:
Netzach gets us up to those marches, protests,
Netzach keeps us marching and protesting for generations for equality and justice
Netzach is what gets me through my finals, dissertation,
Through my challenges at work,
Through my burnout,
Through this long and difficult journey towards my ultimate career goals.
Neztach is what gets us up in the morning even when it seems like there’s no point.
Netzach is what keeps us forging forward when it would be easier to quit.
Nevertheless She Persisted.
May we all find that inner strength, endurance, perseverance, and commitment that keeps us going even through the challenges.