Every year after Passover I feel an anticlimax. It's as if I were somewhere high up, full of lights preparing and hoping. Then I went through a tunnel of huge light and landed with a thud wondering; all this preparation, and it's over so fast? And where is everything? I look for some light that will give me strength, but find myself in the days of the Omer which are so tiring and demanding.
Whether you like it or not, you're climbing a mountain that requires uncompromising work on my character traits and self-correction. For this is the climb to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, and the more correct and ready the better! So how do you do this really? How do you work on your character traits? I discover pride, jealousy, hatred, competition, anger all inside me. I really want to change, and I ask G-d for strength to climb this mountain of the Omer Count, to gain as much as I can.
If you identify with me, let's do this together.
First, Passover is not over. It began on Seder night and lasts for seven weeks, and until Shavuot comes we're in the midst of one long, intermediate holiday. This year I'm leaving the beautiful tablecloth in honor of Seder on the table until Shavuot, and it reminds me every moment that I'm in the middle of the intermediate days and that gives me some strength.
As for the work on my character traits, I want to share with you a wonderful “Netivot Shalom”. The Netivot Shalom says we count forty-nine days in the Omer, 32 days until Lag B'Omer, which spells 'lev', the heart. From Lag B'Omer till Shavuot we have 17 days which is the numerical value of 'tov' good. Lev Tov, a good heart. That's what's hidden in these days. And that's our secret. How do you work on your character? With a good heart.
A good heart is above all, the heart is the motivator of all our deeds, the source of all our actions. Each action has a specific organ which executes it, but without the heart, nothing happens. The heart is the will. A good heart is a shortcut, when you fill your heart with goodness you change. It's not at all simple to remove and correct character traits, but you can do it backwards, listen to what I mean:
Joseph's brothers threw him in the pit. The Torah says: “And the pit was empty, there is no water in it …” And Rashi says: “There is no water in it, but it had snakes and scorpions in it … Why were there snakes and scorpions in it; because there was no water in it. To exterminate these snakes and scorpions won't help; it's only a temporary solution. Taking them out also won't help. As long as the pit is empty with no water, they'll return. The solution is simple. Don't deal with snakes and scorpions at all; just fill the hole with water! Once the hole is filled with water, there's no room for snakes and scorpions.
That's what the good heart does. The heart is the root of all character traits. In order to remove those bad traits, you don't need great effort or engage in exhausting wars. Just fill your heart with goodness, love, encouragement, kindness, compassion and faith. Once the heart is filled with all these, and the snakes and scorpions, which are the evil character traits, will disappear. Jealousy doesn't get along with sympathy, and anger doesn't stay with faith. Hatred and love are like fire and water, which don't go together.
During these days G-d says to you: “Give me your heart, and that's enough.
It is written in Chapters of the Fathers: “What is the good way that man should adhere to? Rabbi Eliezer says – a good eye; Rabbi Yehoshua says – a good friend; Rabbi Yosi says – a good neighbor; Rabbi Shimon says – who sees the future; And Rabbi Elazar ben Arach says – (Lev Tov) a good heart Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai said that Rabbi Elazar ben Arach was right; a good heart surpasses everything. And why; “For your words are included in his,” says Rabbi Yochanan to the other sages.
Because someone who has a good heart will have a good eye, and a good friend. People with a good heart will always be happy to help everyone. They'll notice when something is bothering someone or he needs help. For when the heart is happy and calm a person is free to look at everyone in a positive light. His friends will have a good friend, and of course a good neighbor.
When the heart is happy and calm, he is calm and his mind is clear to see the future. A good heart is better than anything, because it is the foundation of everything good.
In Kedoshim we are commanded: “Love you neighbor as you love yourself …”Rabbi Akiva says that this is a great rule in the Torah”, and this rule is the summary of the entire of Torah (you can understand while standing) on one foot, for this is the foundation. “And you shall love.” The word love contains so much heart in it! A person with a good heart radiates goodness to those around him as the sun sends light and warmth to the whole world.
“Give me your heart”, says G-d, only the heart – and that's enough!