haYom tish’a v’arba’im yom, sh’heim shiv’a shavuot, laOmer: malchut she b’malchut

“to draw in the Shechinah an incense offering is required”

for the Divine Presence does not completely manifest herself within the realm of mortals without the aroma of incense”, continues the Midrash Tanchuma for Tetzaveh, 15.  the ketoret (incense offered on the golden altar in the Temple only’) that stops plagues, the ketoret that has qualities of flame and cloud….fiery pillar and cloudy pillar leading the People through the wilderness as they moved from freedom from direct physical slavery through the 40 years of wandering out of their spiritual slavery to become worthy of entering and living Torah in the Land.

perhaps her “mate”, the masculine haKadosh Baruch Hu enjoys also the reaich nichoach (‘sweet savor’) of the korban (‘nearness’ the core of sacrifice) going up in smoke….since this year the Shavuot holy day that comes immediately after Shabbat coincides with the american memorial day, thinking of barbecue might be just the ticket to making that scent real. there will probably be something remotely like burnt offerings going on all over the USA come this sunday…..

but what the ketoret and the reiach nichoach share is fragrance and a smoky, cloudy rising heavenward. ketoret’s fragrance is compounded of 11 spices and the korban’s fragrance is that of the barbecue with the addition of burning bread and olive oil for the grain offerings. hmm. perhaps it is no wonder that the Sages teach that the ketoret offering is more highly prized than all the korbanot together….

but the offered reason is that ketoret is not offered for the atonement of any offense, but rather (as in Proverbs 27):

“ketoret gladdens the heart”

and not just of us, but of G’d as well. we learn in Zohar that ketoret wipes away heavenly anger (slow to get there, but not absent, after all) and is entirely offered to sanctify G’d.  due to this, the burning of ketoret is said, again in Zohar, to send the forces of the Other Side (the dark side, if you will) packing…..like roaches fleeing the scent of insecticide. in fact, the ketoret is offered up on a special altar, which is called the golden “mizbeach” (‘altar’) just as the other mizbeach for offering slaughtered animals (the hebrew root zayin bet chet is associated with slaughtering) only because the forces of the Other Side are slain upon it via the offering of the incense itself. no animal was ever offered up on the golden mizbeach.

so the Shechinah, the  Earthly-Indwelling Presence of G’d is drawn by the the scent of what gladdens the heart of G’d. She comes in the presence of joy. malchut is in joy.

sovereignty never smells so sweet as that brought on by the Divine Presence. but let’s think again about that fragrant smokiness/cloudiness that rises up. is that not like the spirit? concealed by nothing more than diaphanous smoke/cloud, that, like the soul, constantly in motion, and generally moving from earth up. it is not permanent, nor steady, nor solid, yet it is redolent always….often our olfactory memories are stronger than the visual or the tactical or even the aural. smell abides…indeed, when it is bad, it is very hard to be rid of…..our sensory receptors for smell are designed to create permanent memory connections…not temporary ones like those of light and sound. permanent connections are connections that bind….so remember that the root of ketoret, kuf tet resh means to bind. ketoret binds a human soul to the upper worlds as it burns…..

malchut in malchut is a tightly bound interinclusion…and absolute kingdom of female Divine Presence with the power of the collected flow through the rest of the sefirot…the opening out and way into the way of the G’d.

and a fragrance can pull us out of anything we are doing….that is why incense has been used in many, many religious rites world- and time-wide. from pheromones to flowers, scent is the call to Creation at its root. ketoret is higher than prayer, for it draws the Shechina to the soul that brings it. the answer to the offering is joy and Presence of the Divine therein…. we are taught (Ta’amei haMitzvot, Mitzvat Aseh 41):

“the soul takes no physical pleasure except through the sense of smell”

bring flowers for the Shechinah this Shavuot…fragrant flowers to scent the synagogue for the Holy Day of Divine Presence.

mussar for malchut she b’malchut

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    if each of us has a realm in which we hold sovereignty for doing good, we each much respect the sovereignty of everyone else. that means being aware of their deep mineral rights and also their rights to sovereign airspace. be careful that you recognize the physical rights and the spiritual rights of your neighbors. they have responsibilities to fulfill in those arenas.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    it is taught that Moshiach will be fragrant. that will be among the markers of the Divine Presence’s Presence with the agent of redemption. the Chofetz Chaim had a special coat that hung on the back of his door for easy grabbing….it was intended to be worn when he went out to meet the Moshiach….he perfumed it.  what will you wear? how will you smell when Moshiach comes?

kabbalah for malchut she b’malchut

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    you may now have been working on your spirit traits for 48 consecutive days. what are you doing about it in the world on the 49th day, today?  bring something now that you couldn’t have brought before to every interaction you have with the Creation.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    light some incense (after Shabbat and Yom Tov!) in recognition of your soul’s ability  to take  a small bit of pleasure in it. remember the wanderings of the Sefirat haOmer this year. do you feel that your soul is more liberated? better able to walk the humble walk with G’d?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    you have had the chance to visit all 48 ways of acquiring Torah in the past 48 days. if you have taken even some to heart, you have prepared a fragrant field in which to study better from this point on. choose good study partners with which to share your new Torah gains during the  Tikkun Leil Shavuot.

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    you have been climbing and wandering through, around and beside yourself for 7 full weeks (counting today). you will now rest in Shabbat. dwell in the menuchah (‘contentment’) that comes of having worked hard and having come…finally…to that 7 time, Shabbat, when G’d G’dself rested. be content.

kinyan 49 of 48 ways to acquire Torah?

say what? we have completed the 48. the traditional way on day 49 is to review the lot of 48. so i’m going to suggest a kinyan related to that review: miktar hakinyanim….connect/burn the acquisitions. when you review the kinyanim, look for the correspondences (kabbalah) between them that will bind them (katur) in new ways. always approach Torah study with the desire to find the correspondences that will bind…and burn them in passionate study and understanding as you would any other offering….

“may my prayer be as ketoret before You”

haYom sh’mona v’arba’im yom, sh’heim shisha shavuot v’shisha yomim, laOmer: yesod she b’malchut

“lovemaking is far more than sex…

it is the kiss of earth and sky, of spirit and matter.

for when you make love in earnest, you are unifying Creator with Creation, 

G’d transcendent with G’d immanent”

yes, from talmud…Sotah 17a and Ketuvot 62a…more proof of the importance of being earnest. we are considering the interinclusion of yesod, seat of the male spirit genitalia (specifically the mark of the brit milah) , in malchut, seat of the female spirit genitalia, so to speak. and as we have said before, the union of the lower realm, of tiferet and malchut, which symbolizes the full reunification of Shechinah with haKadosh baruch hu, all comes together via that interinclusion of yesod and malchut, the only sefirot that share an exclusive linking pathway in the sefirotic tree of life.

indeed the thread that holds malchut to the tree at all is the pathway to yesod. go ahead, look at a diagram of the sefirot. it is clear to see. the Shechinah is tethered by way of the brit and otherwise more strongly separated, more exiled, if you will, from the interconnected flow of the rest of the tree.

but the female procreative spirit is the nurturing spirit…it is more independent of the support structure of the male in that fundamental way. is it really surprising then that the traditional way of gender suggestes that the female does not need prayer structure and study structure in the fashion of the male?

and in spite of the efforts of so very many kabbalists to keep the sefirotic away from the corporeal, we don’t have to go any farther than talmud to reveal how odd that point of view is….methinks they doth protest too much. birds and bees….and the flower of the tree….

again, the spiritual state associated with malchut in chassidut is shiflut (‘humility’ or ‘lowliness’). and malchut is associated with “dibur”, the world of speech and self-expression.   so we have intercourse either way you take it…..

but shiflut is related to tsniut…usually translated as “modesty” and usually applied unevenly to the dress and appearance of women in traditional circles. what is missed is the deeper meaning of tsniut–‘reserve’. to reserve something is to hold something back or set something apart for a special purpose. it isn’t about shame or covering up, but rather about not “letting it all hang out”….about avoiding familiarity among people or situations that don’t warrant complete exposure.

public sexuality is just a particularly popular and provocative way to violate reserve….an adolescent way really….not an exercise in thoughtful engagement with the idea………except to the degree that you understand our verses from talmud to be utterly true. sexuality is “demiurgic” in the view expressed in talmud, it is a way of manipulating upper and lower, “moving” even G’d G’dself, forcing cosmic change.

keeping such power in reserve is not a bad thing. and the outward symbol  of that inner reservation is the modest dress that people associate with the word.

but tsniut is the way of yesod in malchut also in that the interinclusion is tremendously powerful in itself, but even more powerful in its procreative sense…the pathway between that is connection of yesod and malchut is the focuser, the laser-like final path of all the flow through the rest of the tree…..all of it from keter on down into yesod transmits to malchut through one narrow path. and from malchut the Divine Flow births out into the wider world.

tsniut is the external aspect of anavah (‘humility’, ‘gentleness’, ‘meekness’).

let’s pay close attention to the word used for “walking ‘humbly’ with your G’d”. it is not anavah…so the walk is not meek, it is not even gentle (the pace is demanding after all). in fact the word used  is tsniut, ‘reservedly’. why isn’t it so translated? probably because in english the sense of coolness that attaches to reserve, the sense of ‘tightness’ and protection of self, is heavy. in casual use, someone who is reserved is not necessarily friendly or open in appropriate ways. but tsniut is closer to the idea of military reserves….power behind the front lines always ready to be exerted in the right circumstance, at the right time. when we walk humbly with G’d we also have G’d’s back….and there is always another part of us developing in the background as we improve our midot, a new strength held as yet in reserve until it is foundational and sovereign within us….only then can it be used well in the world.

to circle back…..tsniut is the word for right-timing sexuality and right-timing the ‘revelation’, if you will, of the corresponding primary and secondary sexual characteristics of the body…and the behaviors to which they are given….so when you are with your spouse…

“you know the night time (night n day) is the right time (night n day)

to be with the one you love”

then again, for reunification of  haKadosh Baruch Hu and the Shechinah, night AND day is the right time…. and it is pronounced good.  just so for laying the foundation in kingdom. it should be strong, and mighty, and at hand night and day…. but held in reserve for the appropriate time to be revealed to the world. the humble walk with G’d, the “v’halakhta bidrachav” (‘walking in [G’d’s way]’),  is a walk with holy power to spare, ever expanding as we do the work of the walk itself.

now if you will excuse me, i’m feeling a bit earnest.

mussar for yesod she b’malchut

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    in a world of virtuality in which privacy is said to be dead and gone, understanding reserve is more complex. it’s probably pretty easy to sense that “sexting” is probably not the way of holiness….but if G’d’s kingdom is foundational in you, how much privacy should be given up and how much kept in reserve online? what goes on the web, after all, affects not only one other, but all the others…..maintain your sense of reserve online today.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    in order to establish the kingdom of G’d’s ways in yourself, however, you must not be tsniut internally. rather you must be naked for your own private examination of your doings and intentions and imaginations. reveal yourself to your self!

kabbalah for yesod she b’malchut

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    i suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that there is a refractory period for most people working hard to develop their spirituality. i have heard many people say that the High Holy Days wear them out spiritually…..and that they need a break from “all that synagogue”. ok. go rest in a hut for a week….consider what the lesson of sukkot is for your growing religious practice.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation   as we grow in spirituality, making our foundation the sovereignty of G’d’s way, we become more subject to powerful temptation. the temptations of the tzaddik are said to be profoundly severe….yet they are defeated. it is said that the way of victory is not in holding rigidly to the ways we have found, but to be like flowing water, wearing down the stones of temptation almost imperceptibly. meditate on being the water that carves a canyon out of resistance and temptation.

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation     where do you bring the passion of love making to your more intellectual pursuits? in your profession? maybe just in your volunteer work? consider what it would be like to study Torah passionately enough to work up a sweat.

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    in the talmudic tale of the 4 who entered paradise (Chagigah 14b), we learn that 3 of the 4 could not withstand it and came to a bad end.only the 4th, r’ Akiva returned sound as the time he left. consider your won capacity to be very near to G’d. you cleave now to your spouse and become one flesh, but are you able to come as close in cleaving to G’d as you can to your spouse? how can you change this?

kinyan 48 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Omer Davar b’Shem Om’ro….Repeating a Teaching in the Name of the Sayer.  how does citation, specifically by name, increase the gaining of Torah knowledge? well, how many of you have looked up one the verses cited in this blog? and when you did so, did you end up learning something else that you hadn’t originally sought? QED. especially in the world of the web, citation is a crucial tool for expanding knowledge….and for playing fair (Avot 6:6).

“who repeats a dvar in the name of the speaker brings redemption to the world”

haYom shiv’a v’arba’im yom, sh’heim shisha shavuot vachamisha yomim, laOmer: hod she b’malchut

“who seeks more than he needs hinders himself from enjoying what he has”

“the more possessions, the more worries”

r’ shlomo ibn gabirol urges us to consider the foolishness of consuming beyond one’s needs: instead of enjoying what he has, such a one enjoys only the comsuming moment. we find a parallel statement in Avot 2:7. both rabbis urge us to get real about what we truly need, anything beyond that leads to less appreciation in joy, and to worry over loss. neither is very attractive for the soul.

the sense of “completeness” that comes with knowing what you need (and not want) and the quality of simplicity that comes with stripping down to gratitude for what you need being supplied leads to the spirit trait of temimut (‘sincerity’, simplicity’ & ‘completeness’), which associates with hod.

hod in malchut is the way of making simplicity/wholeness sovereign. as we mentioned yesterday, bringing one’s desires into line with G’d’s is a great thing, and temimut haratzon, (simple will to do G’d’s Will) is the natural response. temimut halev is the simplicity/completeness of devoted effort to do G’d’s way. and temimut hama’aseh is the very hodlike attention to even the most minute detail of doing G’d’s mitzvot.

all 3 together make for the noble splendor of malchut well realized in the lower worlds. the nobility of the simple can make the most minimal into the majestic…just ask Sir-Sir jonathan ives, master designer of Apple’s minimal aesthetic.

in the world of spirit traits also…..

“less is more”

for even gratitude is made more sovereign when needs–and not mere wants–are met.  being grateful for receipt of a want is for kids.

kabbalistically, in the joining of the ” lower union” of tiferet and malchut, the bride Shechinah/malchut, enters into hod, and the groom tiferet enters into netzach….the twin pillars of the Temple.  bride Shechinah is the fullest expression of G’d’s Presence in the lower spirit worlds, and brings the thankfulness component of menuchah (‘contentment’) to the keeping of Shabbat….

“sanctuary of the King, city royal, arise, go out from amidst the turmoil” 

as we sing in l’cha dodi to welcome the Shabbat Bride. the simple joy of a deliberately de-complicated day, a sincere time, a wholeness of way.

hod in malchut….simple majesty.

mussar for hod she b’malchut

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    when giving tzedakah today, be thankful to the recipient for letting you share in the doing of the mitzvah “loving your neighbor as yourself”.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    reduce your consumption of some nonessential in at least 1 area today. this, of course, will work some degree of tikkun in the entire olam.

kabbalah for hod she b’malchut

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    enjoy the intensity of the simple wonders in your life and surroundings. the scent of fruit, spices, candles……the spice of life is found in the small, sincerely enjoyed. find your favorite simple prayer…perhaps shema ….what is the scent in it that calls to you?

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    what is the simplest dish that you cook? is it one to which you attach contentment? joy? memories of the preparer when you were a child? what simple food brings you back to a time when you knew easy contentment? THAT was a time when you were sovereign of your realm. what’s changed?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    if i write e=mc2, do you think of the entire universe? now, how simple is that?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    sexuality in marriage is an evocation of the rejoining of tiferet and malchut….of Shechinah with haKodesh baruch hu.  is sex hard? or is it really like riding a bicycle? and is it better when you need it or when you merely want it?

kinyan 47 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Ha’mech’aven et Sh’mu’ato….Think Over What You’ve Heard. when you think something over, you make richer sense of it. you may dwell on details of what you’ve heard (learnt), which is hod. or you may consider a broader context into which to place the learning, which is malchut. either way , the thinking over affixes the material in your mind….consider Talmud Yerushalmi B’rakot 5:1:

“who understands his/her lesson will not readily forget it”

haYom shisha v’arba’im yom, sh’heim shisha shavuot v’arba’a yomim, laOmer: netzach she b’malchut

“great are the Works of G’d; they seek all of their desires”

exactly how to translate the second phrase of Psalm 111:2 is uncertain. it is cryptic, but what i have here is about as simply close as it gets. i’ve seen it as “they should be studied by all who enjoy them” and as “sought out according to all his wills”–maybe one of those works somehow for you. but  what i have here reflects netzach in malchut.

how so? well, every creature contributes to the great purpose of existence…each according to its realm. as we’ve seen before, each human has a realm in which to work. mitzvot that are best suited, which they will do strongly, with ambition and drive…that will seem most natural. each of us is a sovereign in our piece of the humble walk….ensuring that our walk is humble but not broken or despicable.

it is so for every creature. we may not understand what the realm of the ant-way is (except perhaps E.O. Wilson) but the ant is utterly best at it, and its chafetz (‘desire’) is most after that ant-way in Creation. the beauty of this understanding is that we are granted “strength” in desire, netzach in chafetz, hence we will press it home. and the sum of all our desires is nothing other than G’d’s Will…..

the sum of our desires becomes the greatness, the “gadol-ness”,  the malchut of Creation. we are the kingdom of G’d, each of us a small fractal bit of the whole.

that this is “natural” kabbalistically is easy to see, for Creation originates in the ratzon (‘will’) of G’d to love an other. in human terms, the “will” to love another is desire…to long for….to want.

“for I desire loving-kindness and not sacrifice,

and the knowledge of G’d, not burnt-offerings”

we go after netzach in malchut, ambition in sovereignty, when we learn Torah and make our fractal desire tend ever closer to the overarching ratzon of G’d. each piece of desire includes the essence of the whole. this is what r’ Yehuday haNasi, master of the Mishnah, means when he tells us in Avot 2:4:

“make your will like His Will, so that He will make your will like His Will”

is it odd to aspire to have G’d’s Will match your own? nope. it is simply netzach in malchut….the way of bending the will of the universe to the path of the  humble walk. THAT is the “victory” that is in the “kingdom”.

mussar for netzach she b’malchut

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    everyone has a contribution to make. help another to make his/hers.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    what is your strongest desire right now? the one you think is your strongest? is it spiritual? or is it material? if the latter, put it to the test: does it tend to justice? does it love kindness? and does it walk humbly with Your G’d? if not, keep seeking your desire and suppress your will.

kabbalah for netzach she b’malchut

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    it is important that we all examine our circumstances, motivations, and perceived limitations to find the Divine Spark underneath/inside. the Indwelling Presence of G’d in each of us is called penimyut or ‘innerness’. it is integrity, consistency and thoroughness….evenness and wholeness of spirit. find more of yours today.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    r’ Nachman teaches that

“all the world is a narrow bridge–the main thing is not to be afraid”

you must summon netzach, inner strength, to overcome the fear that grabs you just knowing that the world is fraught with danger and obstacles. but we are to fear only one thing in the universe–we are to be only in awe of G’d. the rest is emotion for us to take control over. consider your personal narrow bridges…..and dwell on the bridge that aids you in getting across!

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    King David is the model of a ruler in the Tanach. his strengths included his utter faith in G’d and the thoughtfulness of his approach to ruling in a Divinely Desired way. even an “enlightened despot” is enlightened…so seek ye wisdom in your realm of Creation. consider every action before doing it…and the consideration for every action can begin now.

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    “ki l’olam chasdo”…’His loving-kindness is for all time and space’ is a refrain from Psalm 136 that we first considered in week 1 of the counting (interinclusions in chesed).meditate on how G’d’s chesed is also netzach in malchut and strive to abide in it as the mark of your penimyut, jude.

kinyan 46 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Mach’kim et Rabo….Making One’s Teacher Wiser. there is no greater satisfaction for a teacher than to have students who are studying Torah so diligently and imaginatively that they produce new understandings that did not even occur to the teacher. this makes possible the axiom that each of us should learn from everyone we meet. and it is good for all to remember that it is the very rarest of rabbis who has all the answers!  teach your rabbi to be wiser, and you will be learn/do Torah in the process (Chagigah 14a):

“a wise person is a student who makes his/her teacher wiser”

haYom chamisha v’arba’im yom, sh’heim shisha shavuot u’sh’losha yomim, laOmer: tiferet she b’malchut

“when you pray, direct

your eyes toward the earth & your heart toward the heavens”

we learn this from Yevamot 105b, which goes on to explain that G’d’s Presence dwells everywhere, no less in the earthly realm than in the heavenly one. and this also reflects the position of tiferet in the sefirotic tree, for it is the central sefirah, the most interconnected one, receiving directly from every sefirah except malchut.

so it is eyes earthward for seeking out, perhaps, as the heart is not a hunter. though the Presence of G’d is everywhere, the hiddenness of G’d keeps the sense of exile alive. and the longing of the heart for reunification is a very important driver of tikkun olam. we repair the world for our own sake as well…..

tiferet in malchut is making harmony sovereign, giving compassion dominion over your life.

this year, in preparation for rosh chodesh sivan (which always corresponds with tiferet in malchut), the month of the giving of Torah, we had a broadly observable ring eclipse, in which the moon takes momentary primacy over the sun, creating a spectacular alignment light show in the heavens. but we also had interinclusion of the symbol of Shechinah/feminine/malchut in the moon in the symbol of  haKodesh Baruch Hu/masculine/tiferet in the sun. even the temporary celelstial symbolism of this yichud (‘oneness’ or ‘unification’) gives us the beauty of tiferet all round.

“the earth is full of G’d’s glory”

time and space in harmony this year for our counting of the Omer. baruch haShem. and it is no accident that this statemen of glory comes in the line that is the essence of the kedushah prayer in our liturgy….all angels encircling the Divine Presence, each angel calling out to each other,  with a bow casting eyes earthward, before lifting up eyes and all with “kadosh, kadosh, kadosh”. again and again and again.

tiferet in malchut….the realm of harmonious beauty all round.

mussar for tiferet she b’malchut

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    when we say the kedushah in prayer, all are equal, none of the differences of philosophy, approach, custom, even appearance that otherwise enter into everyday life matter a jot. all are as one, lifting on toes, uttering simply: “holy, holy, holy, G’d of hosts, full is the earth of Your Glory”.  there are times when we accept each other without a thought. find more such.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    the moon is always lovely, the sun always brilliant….yet neither ever does a thing to beautify itself….it is simply there.  do you comport yourself in a way that reflects harmony, balance and beauty? in a way that reflects the Divine Presence i nthe world as you walk in it? consider how you might be a better representative of the Way. start not with your clothing or your hair or your tie…start with doing justice and loving kindness…..the markers of blended tiferet…give them dominion in your realm.

kabbalah for tiferet she b’malchut

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    yesterday on the streets of chicago, while the NATO summit was going full on, protesters pushed and police shoved. balance was begun to be struck. by late in the day, reports of protesters accepting and police accepting compromise positions reached the world press. we even heard stories about the protesters and police joking together and sort of hanging out. if these strongly opposing sides can strike up even fleeting moments of harmony, what holds the rest of us back in our relationships with family, with friends, with neighbors…..with strangers? contemplate how you can remain open to harmony even in oppositional situations.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    our  emotions are key in being open to balance and harmony. most of us are not yet masters of equanimity, not yet calm regardless of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. meditate on how the love expressed in the Shechinah, the Divine Presence in malchut, can flow into the other emotions in your toolset. can you make compassion for all formative today?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    balance and harmony of spirit should extend not only to other humans, but to all of Creation. but working to retain/restore the environment, or to achieve world peace, or to stop needless war will take more than emotional change. it requires careful thought, examination and observation, planning and mobilization on a very large scale. this is an intellectual exercise as well. consider what specific steps you will next take to bring harmonious, compassionate, beautiful interactions to the larger world.

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    we recognise beauty in the  celestial mechanics of the moon and sun. why? for the religious, such moments are of apprehension of the Divine Presence. meditate on  how we can be of fully present of mind in such moments, not only to exist in them, but to remember the contextualizing blessings that are part of the response of our tradition. it is the blessing that brings the single moment into the following ordinary time.

kinyan 45 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Lomed al M’nat Laasot….Learning in Order to Practice.  the more we learn, the more we know. and to know, know, know G’d is to love, love, love G’d. among the most potent ways to know G’d is to study Torah tirelessly and to put into practice what we learn….that is, to live Torah is to love G’d….consider Psalm 50:

“You spoke….out of Zion, beauty’s perfection…You shone forth…arriving, breaking the silence. a fire before You with a cloud….calling

out of the heavens above and the earth below

for proving Your People….”

haYom arba’a v’arba’im yom, sh’heim shisha shavuot u’sh’nei yomim, laOmer: gevurah she b’malchut

“I have set my rainbow in the cloud”

we read about the covenant after the great flood in Genesis 9:13ff and may only rarely appreciate what an extraordinary idea this is. it is an explicit sign of covenant established between G’d and humankind, between G’d and all the living, between G’d and the earth. that much we all get. and it is a sign of the explicit agreement that never again will there be a “cutting off” of all flesh by the waters, and that never again will there be an earth-destroying flood. right. there’s the basics.

the idea of covenant of such a sort is astounding, but it is more extraordinary still in its implications. look carefully at the text (Genesis 9:12ff) and you will see why, i think. who looks at the rainbow and why?

“…I will remember my covenant….I will look upon it to remember my everlasting covenant….”

G’d is looking at rainbows….not us. it is a sign for G’d. for G’d to remember what is everlasting….to remember a particular judgment taken and punishment made, and to not follow that same course of judgment and punishment again.

G’d needs a reminder of what G’d has made everlasting?

well, yes, apparently. the rainbow is the great symbol of gevurah in malchut….self-restraint of sovereignty. and more….it is constraint of unlimitedness in a climate of  repentance. and it is something repeated in each incidence of possible flooding rain forever. there is no taking for granted here….

do we have any images of rainbows from space? nope. but pilots high in the atmosphere report seeing the full circle of some rainbows…apparently all of them tend that way, but from our viewpoint, the circle is broken by features of the horizon. so we don’t see raincircles, but rather rainbows.

this is a strictly terrestrial sign, then.  for G’d to see it, G’d would have to be standing where we are. and that is the point.

malchut is the Divine Presence amongst us as Shechinah. for us, then, the rainbow is a sign of the Indwelling Presence as much as it is of the covenant against world-destroying floods. malchut is described by kabbalists as the prism through which G’d’s unending light streaming through the upper sefirot is concentrated and then separated to shine into the lower worlds. malchut is a rainbow maker.

and one lesson of the prism is that we all need reminders about proper justice and severity. reminders to limit our desire/urge/tendency to limit strictly. to imitate G’d is to look to signs of restraint of constraint.

gevurah in malchut is in part the rainbow symbol of  repentance on a cosmic scale….and the light that refracts is the light through chesed with which G’d created all.

mussar for gevurah she b’malchut

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    this one is easy….and, oh, so hard: do what you say you will do!  you are master of a realm, and to be a good sovereign, you must do what you say you will….else you become arbitrary like a tyrant….and that is not the model of sovereignty.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    examine your motivations for your reactions to things in the world. if you are angry…why?  if you are sad….why?  “the unexamined life is not worth living”, said Thoreau….a bit extreme. it isn’t a matter of “worth”. rather the meaning might better be, “the unexamined life is not living”. examine your motivations…..

kabbalah for gevurah she b’malchut

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    you have unwritten covenants with all the people around you. unspoken, assumed agreements about intimacy, deportment, sharing, etc. consider, then, what would be the signs of these covenants that you would rely on, but like a rainbow, could also be seen by those affected? and how would you share those signs with the covenanted?

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    many have suggested that G’d might have regretted having destroyed the world by flood. we’ve argued here that the rainbow is a symbol of repentance, the very heart of malchut. we know that confession is essential…that sort of facing up to wrong is necessary. and we know that resolve not to wrong again is essential. but can one repent without experiencing regret?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    it may be important to see clearly that G’d does not promise to never again destroy the earth and all the living, but rather promises only to not do so via flood. we could suppose that the myriad other options are still on the table….when one of us humans says “i’ll never do that again!”, do we mean  a broad “i’ll never do anything that has that effect again” or i’ll never achieve the same result doing a particular thing again….but i might achieve it doing something else? consider this for yourself. when you repent of something, how specific or broad are you?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    a rainbow is a diaphanous and passing phenomenon on a massive scale. meditate on how the signs of G’d’s Presence that you perceive are like a rainbow.

kinyan 44 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Lomed al M’nat l’Lamed…..Learning in Order to Teach.  people talk of going to college theses days to learn a profession. specifically to get a good, well-paying, not-likely-to-be-outsourced sort of job/career for life.  it has been a long-time since i’ve heard anyone suggest that they want to go to learn in order to teach what they learn. can’t really be a rabbi if you don’t teach….most of jewish practice individually and communally is do-it-yourself (or is intended to be). fortunately, we haven’t yet concluded that rabbis are amongst those who can’t do….so they teach! but so important is the intent to share your learning that Rabbi Yishmael, amongst the greatest of our teachers of Torah, says in Avot 4:5:

“who studies in order to teach is afforded adequate means (by G’d) both to study and to teach”

haYom sh’losha v’arba’im yom, sh’heim shisha shavuot v’yom echad, laOmer: chesed she b’malchut

“be gracious to me, G’d, according to Your Chesed (‘mercy’)”

Psalm 51, as we saw in “of malchut: sefirat haShavua 7” in the Spirit Guide to the Weeks menu, is a great psalm of repentance. it is the call of the sinner in full, weighty realization of sin and the distancing that it causes that summons G’d’s grace according to the infinite flow of compassion.

chesed in malchut is a doubling of the action of G’d in the world, for within malchut is interincluded the repentance “triad”…..both sin and chesed work before G’d’s gate of repentance.

this interinclusion advances responsibility over fear. we are responsible over our personal realm–indeed, r’ Nachman of Breslov goes so far as to say that each of us has our own “kingdom” or malchut, which is sometimes revealed to us, sometimes hidden, maybe vast or maybe limited, but over which we have responsibility for. and the mitzvot related to this realm are ours to do, the traits associated with our malchut, ours to exemplify in the Creation.

and we must do what sovereigns do in that realm: provide for and defend all subject to our sphere of responsibility. so when we fail in this, we must do powerful repentance not only for our own sake, but for the sake of all within our personal kingdom within Creation. all of it depends on our t’shuvah.

loving-kindness is the way of the provider and caretaker. we all need it in spades in our realms, but we can obtain it only as a flow from G’d. hence we ask for it as grace, for we all know that we are not yet rectified in ourselves, let alone in the realms over which we are given sway.

the Shechinah, the symbol figure of Divine Presence in Creation, integrates immanent and transcendent aspects of the Divine. and we follow in that way, for whenever we exile ourselves from the transcendent Divine, we count on the gate that is the immanent Divine to get ourselves back “to the Garden”:

“in every exile into which the Children of Israel went, the Shechinah was with them”

so teaches Talmud (Megillah 29a). so in every distancing we do, the Shechinah that is malchut brings the gateway to return in G’d’s chesed. the master of malchut and repentance, King David, puts it like so:

“turn to me and be gracious, for I am alone and afflicted”

as is every exile. this is the very state of malchut…always crying out for chesed. this recognition sorta puts puts an entirely different kabbalistic spin on a badly misused verse of our Psalm 51…consider verse 7:

“i was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me”

i have heard this verse used time and againg to “justify” the idea of original sin and sin in the act of sexual intercourse. sigh. let’s consider it in the light of chesed in malchut and see what the deeper meaning is.

malchut is the state of being in sin AND knowing G’d’s Presence. it is the gate through which the upright pass to access G’d’s chesed in repentance. the mother is malchut, the Shechinah, the feminine sefirah and figurative nukva (female sex organs). in repentance, we are brought forth out of our sin, and born out of the gateway the mother sefirah of Divine Presence provides, thus is each of us reborn in chesed in malchut, coming out of shiflut (‘lowliness’…hebrew shefel root is ‘low tide’) of sin and returning to the geut (‘high tide’) of repentant rebirth in closeness to G’d. no more in exile.

“o G’d, open You my lips, and my mouth will declare Your Praise”

mussar for chesed she b’malchut

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro   r’ Haber very rightly points out that when you realized that everyone has a realm of responsibility in Creation, you begin to see everyone more richly. even those with work that seems somehow “lesser” we know that Divine Presence can and probably does work within the doer….and perhaps in the doing, so be thankful for the folks who tend to the “lesser” things….the garbagemen, the mail carriers, the streets & sanitation crews, the burger flippers (just remember kashrut!).

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo     you too have a realm to attend to. in the taking responsibility for it, including all the inclusive mitzvot that apply within it, you are extending G’d’s realm of chesed.

kabbalah for chesed she b’malchut

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    we go about blithing exiling ourselves from G’d daily, alas. we are very given to distraction and seem to feed it increasingly daily. we are often like King David, alone and afflicted, feeling the weight of our misdoings and the distance they bring. but remember that the Shechinah is indwelling, ever present within striking distance of our hearts, ready to open the gates of repentance. meditate on your own indwelling soul’s relationship to higher worlds….and how you can relieve the exile of that soul from the Divine Root….

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    every ruler should be called wonderful counselor….if as r’Nachman says we each have our malchut realm to attend to how can you be a wonderful counselor to yourself? consider this.

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    when 10 sit to study together, the Shechinah dwells amongst them. go get yourself a minyan with which to study in this last week of the Omer.

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    since we have entered the sabbath/seventh of the counting, consider how you can bring the chiyut (‘vibrancy, vitality’) of shabbat into your everyday activities this week. for chesed, meditate on  an olam shalom (‘whole/peaceful world’). what could it be right now?

kinyan 43 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Shomei’a u’Mosif…..Listening & Contributing.  while we are prohibited to add or remove anything from Torah itself, in the study of Torah, which is also torah (learning/teaching), much can and should be considered. in this way we come to new understandings of what is already there, and it is in this spirit that the yeshiva system of pilpul in chevruta was devised (arguing points of Torah with a studymate, and arguing strongly), as we see in Shabbat 116b:

“i came not to destroy Torah, but to add to torah”