The paired opposites find their truest meaning when they are forced together. Freedom needs obligation to be meaningful. Obligation needs freedom to be accepted joyfully.
In the Jewish mystical tradition, this period of transition is compared to walking through forty-nine gates, one for each day of the counting. The gate for each day is formed by pairing two of the seven lower sefirot, the divine "emanations" by which God's qualities are revealed. (You can download the above chart of the sefirot from the "Resources" page).
The first week of the counting is the week of chesed ("love"). Today, the first day of the week, I am trying to find myself walking through the gate of chesed within chesed — love within love — and I am asking myself how I show my love to other people. Am I loving, gracious and giving in the way I love? Or, does my love come with a price? Do the people I love feel loved? Or, do I love people in a way that makes it difficult to receive? I ask myself, what can I do to deepen my loving relationships?
These gates are high and wide, yet they are difficult to walk through.
As the week continues, I hope to walk tomorrow (Thursday) through the gate of gevurah (discipline) within chesed — a day to consider how I demonstrate appropriate discipline and restraint in my loving relationships. Friday is tiferet (balance) within chesed — how do I maintain equanimity in my loving relationships? Shabbat is netzach (endurance) within chesed — how do I form relationships that are built to last? Sunday is hod (humility) within chesed — how do I set appropriate boundaries of modesty around the way I show love? Monday is yesod (foundation) within chesed — how do I place my loving relationship at the foundation of my life? The week of chesed ends next Tuesday as I will walk through the gate of malchut (nobility) within chesed — how does my love raise me up to my highest aspirations?
I invite you, too, to use this week as a time to examine the role of love in your life. Discover the ways in which love has become tired, unbalanced, blocked or unfocused. Then think about what you'd like to do to make it right. In this way, you and I can deepen our love, make it more fulfilling, and live more of the joyful life we were meant to live.