The Kabbalists teach that we each possess seven basic qualities and character traits, namely Kindness, Discipline, Compassion, Devotion, Endurance, Bonding, and Dignity. These seven attributes are the foundation of our every feeling, virtue, emotion, character, and inner quality.

During the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot, refining these seven qualities constitutes the spiritual significance of the mitzvah of "counting the omer." Each week we attend to another of the seven qualities with accompanying nightly prayers that speak of cleansing them of any stains, refining them of any impurities. But while this refinement may be accentuated during these seven weeks, it is a process that continues throughout the year, throughout our lifetimes, beginning with childhood.

The first Counting of the Omer occurred immediately following our Exodus from Egypt, after we had lived in slavery for centuries. Affected by our environment, we approached the lowest depths of depravity, having become entrenched — sometimes by choice, sometimes by force — in the corrupt Egyptian ways. We had sunk so low that only G‑d Himself could redeem us. We had to be taken from Egypt by His outstretched arm.

But where did they come from, these seven qualities? And how was it possible for them to be so refined and cleansed of defilement that we could stand directly, openly, without shame, before G‑d, to receive the Torah at Sinai, a mere seven weeks later?

Jewish mysticism — Chassidism and Kabbalah — explains that these seven attributes are inherited, indestructible qualities possessed by every one of us as a birthright, an indivisible part of who we are.

We are born kind, disciplined, compassionate, devoted, enduring, bonded to G‑d, the world and our people, born with an inherent sense of dignity, of self-worth and the respect for the dignity of others.

We cannot be rent from these qualities. They can be damaged, corrupted, perverted, blemished, obscured, but they can't be destroyed.

Despite our life experiences and childhood traumas — they can always, always be corrected. We can return to them in their purest form.

And quickly.

The defilement we experienced in Egypt lasted for centuries. Yet, it took only 49 days for cleansing and correction, a job we had to do ourselves.

G‑d may have brought us out of Egypt, but He left the job of purification up to us. It had to be something we did with our own initiative and energy. Something we earned. And once earned it became an ability we could bequeath to our offspring.

Thus, as it was with our forefathers, so it is for us. Today, like them, we possess the ability to correct our faults and blemishes. No matter what we may have experienced or done in our lives — be it during our early childhood years or later in life — we have the opportunity to correct, refine, reverse and elevate, with our own energy and desire, wisdom and understanding, faith and will, the damage our experience has caused.

And not only does this have relevance to us, but to our children as well, and to the way we parent them.

Imagine the difference between instilling the trait of kindness in your child, rather than encouraging the kindness your child already possesses.

Or the difference between implanting within your children the qualities of discipline or modesty, and knowing that they've possessed these qualities from the day of their birth.

This doesn't let us off the parenting hook. We must still encourage the emergence of these traits from their sometimes subterranean depths. Often we must dig long before finding the well.

But this point of parental embarkation is a far cry from believing our children to be empty slates waiting to be written upon. Or, that without unfailing parental domination, their true animal, evil self will emerge, and our children will inevitably become self indulgent, wild - out only for their own preservation, satisfaction and pleasure.

If our children already possess these fine qualities of kindness, discipline, and compassion as inherent parts of who they are, then our job as parents is to create an environment in which kindness, responsibility, wisdom, and fairness flourish, in which these qualities are urged to emerge, are attracted and welcomed.

These higher, finer qualities are sensitive, vulnerable, fragile. Like our sublime souls, they will quickly withdraw and hide when faced with a corrupt or hostile world. They'll tentatively poke out their heads with faith and curiosity; they'll look around, test the waters, fearful of rejection. When they do, we, as parents must grasp the moment, welcome and affirm their appearance, celebrate their expression.

When their higher inner traits are welcomed and nourished, our children will feel healthier; they'll feel better when they act in harmony with their inner selves.

Just as we feel better after an act of kindness or after fulfilling a responsibility or after acting with courage and perseverance and keeping our commitments and promises, so do they.

These actions increase their sense of self-worth. They resonate with their own inner nature.

For our children, the expression of these virtues is not a mark of obedience, but the road to their inner pleasure and satisfaction.

Conversely, they feel bad after an act of selfishness or cruelty even when these acts result in personal gain. Gain stolen in this way feels fleeting, causes guilt, shame or a decreased feeling of self-worth.

For child and adult alike, unkind, selfish, irresponsible actions go against our inner nature. And, when that happens, like our forefathers in Egypt, we become weak. We feel bad. And, most importantly, we deny ourselves the opportunity to reach our highest potential. We cheat ourselves. And we cheat G‑d.

In Egypt, we lived a life contrary to our own natures. Sinking as we had to what the Kabbalists call the "forty-ninth level of defilement" was painful. Agonizing. We were swimming upstream every moment of every day. Going against our own inner tide. Battling, in our defilement, against our own holy natures. This was the deeper slavery we experienced in Egypt, the "back-breaking labor" that was the cause of our suffering.

And we prayed for the tide to turn. We cried out in agony that G‑d pry us from our prison of depravity and return us to our own true selves. We sought fulfillment through return to the true self that lay unblemished within, that we somehow knew - even in the garbage heap of Egypt - continued to lay within. We sought a path through the desert of our defiled emotions and virtues, a path that would lead us home to who we really were, to who we longed and were created to be.

And so it is with our children. Though at times it may seem that they are clothed in Egyptian garments, even sunk to the forty-ninth level of impurity (G‑d forbid), they too are on a journey to their inner selves. They too seek to cleanse the stains. They, too, seek the revelation of G‑d on that mountain, the gift of the Torah earned by constant striving, refinement, correction and emergence of their inner beings, their seven inherited qualities.

And just as we need the Almighty's faith in us in order to tread this path with confidence and courage, so do they need our faith in them. Just as our first leader Moses provided guidance, instruction and example for us as we tread, alone, in the desert, so do our children need the same from us.

Children and adults; ultimately, we share the same journey.

We inherit the same inner qualities. We seek the same love and guidance. We strive to uncover and refine the best of who we are, and offer ourselves to those we love, and to G‑d.

Note: This is the second article in Jay Litvin's "Language of the Soul" series. To view the first article click here.