Kabbalah of Character
The class examined all the different sefirot: keter, da'at, chochmah, binah, chesed, gevurah, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod, and malchut. After weeks of exploring intellectual and emotional sefirot, we looked at malchut as an example of action in the last class. After exploring chracteristics like chesed (lovingkindness) in ourselves, it was time to shift the focus to practical applications. And in that last class (billed as "Think Globally, Act Locally: Translate your vision for the world into personal action"), everything really seemed to come together. All our questions of "What is my role in the world?" and "In what way can I best serve my purpose by helping the world?" seemed to lead to an obvious but important conclusion: by taking action.
What kind of action? Well, that depends on who we are, what we’ve said is important to us in our private journal exercises, and the ways we’re best suited to make a difference. We read a Maimonides quote that said, "A person must view the world as if it were a scale equally balanced. If he chooses to do a negative act, there will be negative repercussions; if he will choose to do a positive act at this particular time, the scale will tilt towards redemption and salvation." The instructor pointed out that performing mitzvot and being kind to others are good ways to "tip the scale" ever so slightly toward the positive side.
But are there ways to tip the scale more than slightly? Shouldn't we aim for more? Of course, I don't mean to imply that Maimonides or the instructor would say "No" to these questions. But I think they are important questions to ask. I'm reminded of a quote from Quaker leader Stephen Grellet that I frequently come across: "I expect to pass through the world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness I can show to any creature, let me do it now." I suppose we aren’t required to try to tip the scale a massive amount, but in the face of horrible conditions for animals (or any other worthwhile cause, for that matter), shouldn’t we aspire to tip the scale as much as we can? It’s food for thought, and there’s no one right answer.
The final quote in the final chapter of our textbook—also from Maimonides—struck me:
Just as the wisdom of a wise person is recognizable in his intellectual pursuits ... so too should it be recognizable in his actions, the way he eats, and so forth ...."The way he eats"? Maimonides is almost certainly referring to kashrut, but I still read into it in my own way.