May 2019

Of the Book

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Soul Optimization

By Rabbi Daniel Bortz

As the great Reb Zusha once remarked: “When I pass on to the next world, I’m not worried I’ll be asked: ‘Why weren’t you like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ I’m worried I’ll be asked: ‘Why weren’t you Zusha?’ Forget comparing myself to anyone else. Was I the best me I could’ve been based on my standards and potential?”

“Come let us make the human in our image and likeness…” At the very beginning of the Torah, we learn how we came to be. G-d looks to the highest Divine realms to form Adam’s soul, and then from the lowest realm of dirt on earth to form Adam’s body. Both would mirror the expression of Divine light known as the ten Sefirot – ten character traits that make up our soul, psyche, and body: Three intellectual and seven emotional.

The three intellectual soul traits are: Wisdom – Insight (right brain), Understanding (left brain), and Intimate Knowledge – Recognition (center brain). The seven emotional soul traits are: Kindness – Love (Right arm), Strength – Restraint/Discipline (Left arm), Beauty – Compassion/Harmony (torso), Victory – Ambition/Endurance (Right lower body), Splendor – Humility/Devotion (Left lower body), Foundation – Connection (reproductive organ), and Royalty – Receptivity/Expression (mouth). Each of these traits contains all the others on a certain level.

These seven emotional paradigms are found throughout reality. They are the seven energies that characterize the seven days of the week, the seven colors of the rainbow, the seven musical notes in the western musical scale, and so much more.

The seven-week period we are in the midst of, between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot [Exodus from Egypt and receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai] commemorates the 49-day journey of our ancestors in the Egyptian desert. To transition from the depravity of Egypt to the incomparable experience of hearing directly from G-d at Sinai, The Jews had to utilize these seven weeks to focus on intense self-reflection and refinement of each aspect of their seven soul traits.

Everything that occurred in the Times of the Torah’s events is etched in the energy of time forever more. In this time we are in leading up to Shavuot on June 8-10, 2019, we too have a special opportunity to refine our emotional soul traits. Really, our entire life is about continual positive growth, refining our characters as we look to become the best version of ourselves.

Endless pages of wisdom from our Sages discuss how to optimize our soul traits and perfect our character (I will be co-offering a course on this subject every Wednesday evening of this month), but in this tiny space I will highlight one fundamental element for success in this arena: Balance. Love, giving, partaking, and outer expression are lovely attributes. But holding back at times, listening, having discipline and creating healthy boundaries are important too.

A child needs unconditional live just as much as he or she craves order and some form of structure and moral responsibility. Love is wonderful, but so is respect. Hustle, perseverance, and ambition to accomplish are admirable. But we also need to have humility, teamwork, and the openness to learn. The right side — our outer impact on the world, and the left side — creating space for others and being open to learn, are the two general sides of our beings that must be harmonized through the middle path — the path of truth.

Let’s take advantage of this very special time period to leap exponentially higher, preparing ourselves to connect on Shavuot with the One who breathed into our bodies this incredible soul of life.

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