More Thoughts on Middot

                    וְכָל מַעֲשֵׂהוּ בֶּאֱמוּנָה      And all of His acts are with Emunah (faith/faithfulness)             (Shabbat/Festival morning liturgy)

                 קְדשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי      Be holy because I am holy….                                                   (ויקרא יט:ב/Vayikra 19:2)

Jewish tradition refers to מדות, Middot, frequently.  It’s simplest meaning is a measurement or a quality. It’s also used to refer to character traits and often identified with the Sefirot, the system that arranges and describes, as much as possible, the path that transcendental/Divine energy enters our material world.  In the field of Mussar, a systematic approach to refining our deepest selves, they also refer to character traits, although not necessarily identical to those reflecting the Sefirot.  One of the most important of these is אמונה, Emunah, usually inadequately translated as belief or faith. (For a more detailed discussion of Emunah itself,  please refer to my prior lesson on it).

Closeness in the realm of spirituality is defined by similarity rather than by geometry.  In our goals to approach and eventually join as fully as we’re capable with The Creator, we move towards Him by imitating his actions as they are revealed to us in this world.  The Torah hints at this with the above citation,  קְדשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי, Kodesh Ti’hyu Ki Kodesh Ani, Be holy because I am holy….(ויקרא יט:ב/Vayikra 19:2).  Beyond whatever social or personal benefits there may be to our conducting ourselves in as holy (קודש, Kodesh, is a very difficult word to simply define.  It’s used not only to mean holy, but also separate and even to refer to a prostitute!) a manner as possible, we’re explicitly instructed to be holy in order to be and act similarly to God!

Emunah is another quality we want to incorporate into our lives and we’re also told, וְכָל מַעֲשֵׂהוּ בֶּאֱמוּנָה, V’Chol Ma’aseihu Be’Emunah, and all of His acts are with Emunah, that emunah is yet another quality of The Creator.  Here we’re presented with an additional dimension in which to approach and join God.

The daily morning liturgy includes a section of the thirteen hermeneutical principles with which to decode and examine the Written Torah.  They are actually labelled as מדות, Middot, as well.  Our tradition tells us that these thirteen middot are identical, but in the intellectual plane, with the thirteen principles, again middot, of Divine Mercy!

All of this points to the concept that the middot are not arbitrary nor are they merely attractive personality traits.  Each of them can be said to be a distinct channel with which to carry on our dialogue with God.  They are non-mutually-exclusive paths which can, and should, be employed simultaneously in our journey towards דבקות, Devekut, attachment to and merging with the Infinite God.

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