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Count the Omer. 49 transformative steps

Counting the Omer with The 12-Step Mussar Va’ad

Day 34 — Distancing from Honor

Mitrachek min haKavod מתרחק מן הכבוד

By Lisa Goodman, Lexington, MA

Bonni and Steve Kraus honoring the Omer birthday of their two grandchildren. Melrose Park, PA
Sponsored by The 12-Step Mussar Va’ad

Today’s middah is “distancing from honor.”  Even if you have studied and practiced Kavod/Honor, you may not have focused on this “distancing” aspect which raises complicated and fascinating questions.  To explore those questions, we must begin with a core definition of Kavod/Honor.

Torah teaches that we are each created b’tzelem Elokim—in the Creator’s image.  We have a holy essence, an inner divine spark.  Our daily prayers remind us: “My God, the soul you have placed in me is pure.”  In Mussar, we honor ourselves and others because we are created in the Creator’s image, with a holy essence. 

If Honor is recognizing the purity of the soul within, then what is the Honor from which we distance ourselves?  Certainly not from our own inner holiness.  Nor is the mishnah asking us to stop seeing the unique and Godly spark within each person we encounter.

We do need to see and be seen for the beauty inside us and not what is on the outside.  Today, we are being directed to cultivate the ability to distance ourselves from the impulse to ask for external honor, and from the impulse to heap this type of honor on others. 

Distancing from Honor does not mean that we fail to express gratitude, that we ignore the good others have done, or that we blind ourselves to the challenge one of our children has met.  Distancing from Honor might mean that we restrain ourselves from seeking public recognition for donations, acts of kindness, success in our jobs, our looks, clothes or wealth.

For those (like me) who tend to shun honor to an extreme, there are two key pathways.  First, focus on the core of Honor to see the divine within.  A simple practice for this is to say the line “My God, the soul you have placed in me is pure” as a daily focus phrase.  Second, we can practice accepting small gifts of honor from others — graciously receive a compliment, avoid dismissing our own efforts — while knowing that what truly matters is the holy spark within.

Take a moment as you finish reading to pull out your journal or your phone and make a few notes:  Where are you in or out of balance with respect to Honor for yourself?  For others?  Where might there be an immediate opportunity for growth?  Where are you on the spectrum of Distancing from (external) Honor?  What is one small step you could take towards balance in this middah?

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