Ask any one of my students, past or present: discipline has never been my strong suit. I tend to laugh more than yell, compliment more than critique, and, to my embarrassment, give many more As than Bs.
So today, the 9th day of the Omer, is a spiritually challenging day. The second week of the Omer mystically focuses on gevurah (limits or discipline), and the second day of the second week asks us to turn our attention to gevurah shebe’gevurah— limits within limits. No easy task! I want to bring chesed (love) to the study of Torah, and I hate the idea of turning someone off from Jewish learning with an overzealous disciplinary approach. And yet, studies show that children and teens need limits– and fewer compliments– to build esteem. So maybe this is a useful quality to consider.
Today, I read Abaye’s comment in the Talmud as if it is addressed to me:
If a scholar is loved by the townspeople, their love is not due to her superiority but to the fact that she does not rebuke them for neglecting spiritual matters. (Ketubot 105b)
For me to be an effective educator, I need to remember that my goal is not to be loved, but to help my students arrive at their own spiritual goals, even with occasionally difficult conversations. Tomorrow the tradition asks us to focus on the beauty inherent in these very boundaries and limits, and throughout the week, I’ll be reflecting on how we might use gevurah in our teaching, our parenting, and in our lives, in general. Join the conversation: post your thoughts below. How will you be working with gevurah this week?