Counting the Omer with Michele and Richard Jackman
Day 25 — Knowing One’s Place
HaMakir et Mekomo • המכיר את מקומו
By Avi Fertig, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel
Certain experiences in life share a universal vowing among survivors that they will never willingly go through the experience again. I’m referring, of course, to home renovations.
It’s been two years since I doubled the size of my apartment here in Beit Shemesh, where my family and I are blessed to live. The process, which took the better part of 18 months, forced me to spend countless hours surfing “Houzz” and similar websites of interior design. There was engineering and architecture, and the painstaking construction to live through. I agonized over thousands of decisions, from tiles to light fixtures, from couches to the color of each wall. Now, as the painful memories of those challenging months have faded, I am left with the sheer pleasure of dwelling in an environment that I chose, that I created.
Why is it so important to “know your place?” Why is knowing one’s place necessary to acquire Torah and to grow in one’s inner life?
The ba’alei HaMussar teach that middot are activated by our situation and our environment. Each situation awakens specific middot. Put most sharply, if we assess which middah could likely surface in a certain situation - know that the middah will definitely surface even if we are unaware of it. Without concentrated effort, our actions in the situation are sure to be influenced by that middah.
Enter an expensive hotel. The rich décor, the shiny marble, the gluttonous cuisine - how does it make you feel? Which middot are aroused? The calm of the ocean, the sound of the waves, the beauty of a sunset - if we don’t fight it, our middah of menucha (serenity or calmness) will be naturally awakened.
Being aware of our environment allows us to be sensitive to the middot that are automatically awakened. “Knowing our place” is therefore an essential tool for us to act the way we want to and not have our actions determined by the context of our situation. Never underestimate the power that your environment exerts on you.
So yes, choose your couches carefully. Create the environment that awakens the middot most precious to you and to everyone who graces your home. And if you need someone to support you through the challenges of the process, give me a call.
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