November 18, 2018

Sex & Death Before Breakfast

“I can’t understand these chaps who go round American universities explaining how they write poems: It’s like going round explaining how you sleep with your wife.” ― Philip Larkin

There is an art to healthy giving & well-intentioned sharing. The Kabbalah teaches about how the attribute of Love (“Hesed”) must be balanced with Discipline (“Gevurah”) to create the balanced element of Compassion or Justice (“Tiferet”). These energies are represented respectively by Abraham, Isaac & Jacob.

Giving is not automatically good. Our giving can be unbalanced. We might give too much, give too little, give with an intention to receive something or giving a bribe. Sometimes we can share the right thing at the wrong time, or not be pure-hearted in the way we are giving of ourselves. For example, a gentleman who meets a lady in a cocktail bar & offers her a drink may not always be doing so from a place of pure altruism, and giving for the sake of giving…

Kabbalistic wisdom teaches how Abraham’s story is the refining of giving, the “rectification” of the attribute of Hesed. He is in pain after circumcising himself – surely the ultimate act of manliness – yet three visitors arrive and he makes the effort to make them feel comfortable. I’m not sure I could do the same – the first or second part. Later on he is aware of when not to give, and when confronted with the potentially wife-stealing King Avimelech, Abraham pretends that his wife Sarah is his sister so that he does not have to give away his wife or his life. Nobody is given to anybody.

This contrasts with his nephew Lot, who offers to give his daughters to the sexual predators knocking on his front door in Sodom. The city is then destroyed at dawn, his wife dies, the girls mistakenly think they are the last people on earth and in order to continue to the human race they give their virginity to their father and give him sons – Moav (“from the father”) & Ammon (“from my kindred”). The girls’ hubris is overbearing as is their sons’ ironic nomenclature.

These stories teach principles that we can apply directly. This week I am reflecting on how I give, to whom I give, and where I need to balance my giving. When does my body need to eat, when does it need more exercise, less exercise, when do I need to give more to my work, give more to my parents, give less to my family, give more to my clients, give more to my creativity, give less time to certain projects, give a lot less time to reading FB & Buzzfeed, give more to my spiritual development? ‘Tis a fine line and one we must all determine for ourselves.