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Count the Omer. 49 transformative steps

Counting the Omer with

Day 18 — Limiting Levity

Miyut Schok  •  מיעוט שחוק

By Rabbi Chaim Safren, Calgary, AB, Canada

Rabbi Judy Shanks, Oakland, CA
Rabbi Judy Shanks, Oakland, CA

It is not too hard to understand why we are being directed to limit our levity. Mesilat Yesharim / Path of the Just, lists levity as one of the impediments to Zehirut, vigilance. He informs us something that we all know from experience, that when someone comes along and makes a joke out of something serious, it lightens the whole thing in our eyes. Where we may have been very careful about not treading on certain territory, once someone treats it lightly, in a joking way, suddenly the whole matter becomes less important in our eyes and we are more likely to treat it without the proper gravity.

On the other hand, to be serious all the time and never joke around seems to go against our grain. Furthermore, we know that many Torah lectures are sprinkled with a significant amount of humor, so it must be okay. A key to understanding this lies in the words one of the commentaries, which explains that we are exhorted to limit our levity, not eliminate it.  A little bit of joking around is important. It gives us happiness, brings some joie de vivre and creates a positive mental state.

What emerges is a clear resolution. Joking around, being light-hearted at times, is an important part of life. It creates a healthy disposition. But on the other hand when something needs to be dealt with in a serious way, joking around is totally inappropriate. Like so many things in this world, levity has its place. It's incumbent upon us to use it at the right time. If we do, it enhances. If we don't, it is counterproductive.

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