26 April 2010

Omer 27: Pain of Growth

Omer Day Twenty-Seven

Do not underestimate the gravity of an act that hurts no one else but you. Do not say, "I have not sinned, or even overindulged in an innocent pleasure," because the truth is much graver than that. You have sinned against yourself, your very essence, against the holy soul with which you were born. And as toward an obvious sin that you would always regret, you should repent for having wronged yourself. This is the meaning of King David's words, "My sin is always before me" (Psalm 51.5) Even if my sin is only before me, it will always be a sin for me.

These are the words of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of Pisetzna, outside Warsaw, during the Shoah.

His piety, in the midst of calamity, is one of the great spiritual records of Jewish history and his words are always worth consideration--if you dare.

Part of the march from Egypt to Sinai is about spiritual daring, about having the courage amidst the regenerative springtime to assess and re-assess who you are and what you stand for. It's counter-intuitive--precisely as we escape from the prison of winter, we want nothing more than indulgence and celebration. But the counting is there--as an actual accounting--for who we will be in this regeneration, in this rebirth.

Here Kalonymus Kalman challenges us to remember that the mistakes we make are not against a distant maker but against ourselves--which, in the classical language of Judaism, are vessels for our Divinely given souls.

This is a difficult message. Knowing my own faults, I feel like a hypocrite writing these words. But that's the point, perhaps. Even in the midst of spring to allow ourselves the pain of growth.

1 comment:

DP Greenberg said...

Two observations. First, it's really hard to take anyone named "Kalonymus Kalman" seriously. Do you have any advice? Second, if I'm getting his point correctly, I'm confused because I thought it was only the Catholics who made a big deal out of that?