Who are we to take time for ourselves, to tend to our own needs, when our communities are under attack?
Tiferet is commonly translated as “beauty,” but also as “compassion” or “balance.” We are living in tremendously difficult times. Many of us are feeling spiritually depleted, stretched too thin. Perhaps the thought has crossed your mind—I know it has mine—that spiritual care and self-care are luxuries when people’s lives are quite literally on the line. Who are we to take time for ourselves, to tend to our own needs, when our communities are under attack, experiencing increasing marginalization?
Tiferet sh’be’Tiferet—compassion within compassion or balance within compassion—teaches us that though compassion must by its very nature have limits and boundaries, we cannot be truly in the work holistically unless we are able to show up for ourselves and our own communities. Our sefirah calls us to hold the often difficult tension of showing up as our whole selves for ourselves and our communities while also always remaining in solidarity with our neighbors. This may feel selfish, self-centered, or perhaps even perpetuating the systematic injustices that have been in our world for far too long and which it is upon us to work to eradicate, though we may not complete that work. Self-compassion and balanced compassion feel radical in these times of tremendous fear, uncertainty, and even terror. And yet I want to challenge us, as we move through this sefirah and toward ShabbatShabbat is the Sabbath day, the Day of Rest, and is observed from Friday night through Saturday night. Is set aside from the rest of the week both in honor of the fact that God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. On Shabbat, many Jews observe prohibitions from various activities designated as work. Shabbat is traditionally observed with festive meals, wine, challah, prayers, the reading and studying of Torah, conjugal relations, family time, and time with friends., to be open to living in that liminal place. If we are not able to tend to ourselves and our communities, and only look outward, we are unable to bring our whole selves to our work. And yet, if we only tend to our own communities and cannot or will not extend that care outward, we cannot lay claim to being committed to the work of tikkun olamLit. Repair of the world According to Jewish mysticism, the world is in a broken state. Humanity's job is to join God, as God's partners, in its repair. and collective liberation, which I believe Judaism calls us to do.
As we move through this sefirah and toward Shabbat, I bless us all that we find grounding in those practices that nourish and sustain us, be that prayer, TorahThe Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general. study, chanting, or whatever calls to you. I bless us that we allow ourselves to take time to nourish ourselves and our souls, and once we feel rooted and grounded, I bless us that we are able to go out into the mundane world once again, bringing our whole selves to all of our endeavors, whatever they may be. I bless us with the wisdom and strength to know that without compassion for ourselves, we cannot have genuine compassion for others. I bless those of us who find this work tremendously difficult with openness and expansiveness to begin to care for ourselves the way we care for others.
Lauren Tuchman is a rabbinical student, passionate about Judaism and social justice, grassroots community-building, text study, and ritual creation. She is dedicated to creating Jewish communities in which individuals can bring their whole selves and believes wholeheartedly that we all have important Torah to teach.