This is the week of Netzach on our Omer-counting path to Shavuot. We associate Netzach with our ability to discern and pursue our mission, to formulate our values and principles. Throughout the week, we get to look at Netzach through different prisms, as if lifting pieces of colored glass up to our eyes to discern the new shapes and outlines that may reveal themselves within the concept of Netzach.
Today’s prism is one of Tiferet, understood as holiness, beauty and equilibrium. And so today is an opportunity to consider how holiness fits in within our missions and values. Another way to look at it is to ask: How holy are our missions?
From the spiritual perspective, there is an understanding that our mission is given us by God. Here is, for example, what Rabbi Luria wrote (thanks to Simcha Raphael for providing this beautiful passage on his website):
Before anything else, a person needs to meditate well and dig deeply into the knowledge of what his/her special task is in the world· We are given signs by which to discern it, and sometimes we know it because it is the most difficult thing we could ever undertake· But when we have clarity about our “special mission to earth”, through which we fulfill ourselves, we no longer get confused about the great work or equivocate about the amount of energy we must invest in it. Nor do we lose hope in life, because we know that our soul’s purpose is fulfilled by means of it and no sacrifice is too precious if we can carry it out.
There is a clear reference to the notion of holiness of one’s true mission here. We discern our mission through our interaction with God, and once we have understood it, we act with greater energy and integrity, bringing more wholeness – and holiness – into everything that we do.
And yet, how complex this notion is when put into the ordinary human context. My own story, which I shared recently, is a prime example. I went about happily pursuing my mission, but it was my parents who later bore the brunt of my financial missteps. It was my friend who gave up part of her living space in order for me to stay at her place when things went south.
And so one question one might ask is, to what extent are we responsible toward others in our lives as we pursue what we consider to be our sacred missions? This question may face a parent who dedicates his life to his life’s work while finding little time for his kids. An artist who gives all her time to her art while leaving little time for her friends and family may face the same question. And what if our mission doesn’t enable us to provide for ourselves? What if it leads us to distance ourselves from our communities, which depend on our participation? The outcome of the work may be beautiful. But is it truly infused with holiness and beauty if it takes away from those other areas of our lives?
So as we contemplate holiness within our missions, we may refer ourselves to what seems to be a fundamental Kabbalistic notion that the Universe at large is built on the notion of balance and must over time remain in balance. It’s a concept that is expressed so well in the very image of the Kabbalistic tree When we understand this, we will also understand that when we do move out of balance, we can take steps to correct that.