Day 2: Kawhi not?

Tonight is day two of the Omer. Gevurah sheb’hesed. Within loving-kindness there is restrictive power.

I had the privilege of celebrating my birthday this year by attending the best game of the 2019-20 NBA Season, a 141-133 double overtime victory for the Boston Celtics over the visiting LA Clippers. Besides seeing the Celtics win and Jayson Tatum dominate down the stretch, the highlight for me was watching Kawhi Leonard up close. I’d never seen the reigning Finals MVP in person and to watch him battle the best basketball players in the world with his power and control was incredible. 

Day 2 of the Omer is the day of gevurah, which means power, might, and boundedness. It is the opposite of hesed, an overflowing, unbounded, loving-kindness, and associated with din or judgment. Day 2 is Gevurah sheb’hesed, a form of loving-kindness that manifests as restrictive power.

Even though gevurah was all about power and boundedness, when I thought about the week of hesed, I quickly dismissed Kawhi. Kawhi might be a fun guy, but I thought there was no way I could choose the notoriously private, tight-lipped 2x NBA Champion.

However, the more I reflected on the combination of sefirot for Day 2, the more I began to ask myself: Kawhi not? Chabad’s website defines gevurah is a “restrictive power, the power to limit and conceal the Infinite Light so that each creature can receive according to its capacity.”

Kawhi is so strong, especially in his lower body, that he broke a weight machine when he played for the San Antonio Spurs. And he is able to conceal nearly all emotion. Hmm…

Most players who are that private, have trouble building trust with their teammates, let alone leading them to an NBA championship, but Kawhi gave Toronto exactly what they needed a superstar who could control the game and let each teammate give according to their capacity. It’s unheard of that a Finals MVP would leave the team they just won a championship with. The good feelings are just too much. Kawhi was a national hero in Canada. He could have eaten for free for life in Toronto. But Kawhi was not going to be overwhelmed by the love. He was in control.

Kawhi was able to give generously to the Raptors, by being bounded. Even though he knew that he was probably leaving at the end of the season, he let his teammates in just enough for them to build trust and chemistry. He put the team first and set up his teammates to shine in their role. He embodied hesed by giving the players, franchise, city, and country the greatest gift an NBA player can give, an NBA Championship and he did it in the most gevurah way possible, through power, control, and strong boundaries.

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