Struggling with Discipline: A week of gevurah

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?


3 thoughts on “Struggling with Discipline: A week of gevurah

  1. I find understanding Gevurah sh’bGevurah a complex notion. I think there is a big difference between self discipline and disciplining others. Through living our lives with control and self discipline I think we have a good chance of imbuing that way of life to our children, students, peers and colleagues. Of course living as an example to others is only half of all that we can do to bring discipline, justice, restraint,awe (and the other 6 emotional attributes) to all aspects of our lives. We must remember that not everyone is capable of ‘do as I do’ and may need some guidance and may need to ‘do as I say.’ This is where I believe a little discipline imposed upon others for the sake of learning a valuable skill the can use upon themselves and to increase the efficiency of their work, learning, etc…is extremely important and beneficial to all. After all, if this way of self discipline and teaching discipline is done successfully our children become parents and our students become teachers and they cycle can continue. Obviously with all of these attributes there is a fine line between just enough and too much, and in order for the cycle to continue in a balanced fashion we must master the skull of discipline of discipline.


  2. Students need focus for excellence, a disciplined mind and body for growth, practice and concentration for creativity……They need more than just to want to be “good” at something. They need to work to get there. Laziness and distraction…..sociability and technology…..all can get in the way.
    Keep them working Abby. Keep challenging them and pushing them. The real world awaits them…..and they can be great!
    Faith Oland


  3. I always told my children that I was happy to be “the meanest mother in the world”; no meant no and bedtime was bedtime.


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