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Count the Omer. 49 transformative steps

Counting the Omer with Shelley Karrell

Day 29 — Being Beloved


By Julie Hirschfeld, New York, NY

Shelley Karrell, Vancouver, BC, Canada, Dedicated to the Mussar Va'ad, Vancouver, BC
Dedicated to The Mussar Institute by Shelley Karrell  and the Mussar va'ad of Vancouver,  BC, Canada

“Three things make humankind beloved to all creatures: an open hand, a set table, and light conversation” (Avot de Rabbi Nathan, Schechter B, p. 68).

Am I enough? Am I good enough? We all feel inadequate sometimes, and, requiring social connection for survival, humans are hard-wired for worry if we fall short in ahuv, being lovable. The spiritual point of ahuv is to serve G-d through welcoming connection with others.  But if we don’t feel lovable, our sense of self-worth – and ability to serve—can be jeopardized.  

For introverts, it’s not easy to know what level of ahuv is “good enough.” Imagine Moses as a self-conscious, tongue-tied child, shuttled between two homes and cultures, enviously watching his big brother Aaron’s confident interaction.  It must have seemed impossible for Moses to compete.  Of course, Aaron had hit the social skills jackpot, a second child, a full member of his community, and benefiting from Miriam’s consistent presence (having sisters enhances boys’ sensitivity and communication). Aaron exemplified the “open hand” and “set table,” approachable and ready to offer people what they needed.  

With such a childhood, it’s no wonder that, when called by G-d at the Burning Bush, Moses doubted his ability to serve.  If “light” conversation is essential to ahuv, Moses’s “heavy,” awkward speech must have seemed like an insurmountable obstacle.

Yet Torah tells us that baby Moses was tov (good) just as G-d created him. Moses was in fact loved by everyone close to him—the family that saved and cared for him; Pharaoh’s daughter; Joshua; and his wife Zipporah’s family. Practicing teamwork with his siblings and interacting with more people, Moses developed ahuv appropriate to his adult role. We observe Moses in action with his father-in-law Jethro displaying physical affection, respect, interest, openness, and eagerness for connection, in swift, rhythmic interpersonal exchange.
Was Aaron loved more widely than Moses? Yes. Torah emphasizes that “all” the people of Israel wept at Aaron’s death, but not quite so for Moses.  But Aaron’s priestly role (performing medical diagnosis, marital counseling, and sacrifices relating to personal issues) required and developed individual relationships, while Moses, as law-giver and judge, couldn’t do his job as everyone’s best friend.  And his emotional energy was stretched in his relationship with G-d; he was only human. Dayenu!

Introverts or extroverts, we seek the right measure of ahuv for our souls and roles.  But no single individual can be “enough” for our tasks as a people-- we require social connection and collaboration for survival, now more than ever.  As we journey through our lives, during the Omer and beyond, let us be mindful of our roles in sustaining the Jewish people through loving connection with each other and our neighbors.

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