haYom shisha v’esrim yom, sh’heim sh’losha shavuot v’chamisha yomim, laOmer: hod she b’netzach

“if a ruler’s anger rises against you, don’t leave your place;

for calmness lays great offences to rest”

this enigmatic verse from Kohelet (Ecclesiastes 10:4) really gets at the idea of hod she b’netzach, for it suggests a blend of standing pat while also laying low, and most importantly, practicing ‘calmness’ because it works! hod is an odd sefirah (we will study it in greater detail next week) in that it comprises things that we don’t often hold together in the west: passivity, deference, humility…and SPLENDOR, as in brilliance, majesty and grandeur!

certainly kazan’s “splendor in the grass” doesn’t strike us as having to do with victory through restraint! or does it?

but the kabbalists are thinking very differently…. hod and the female  (left side of the sefirotic tree) are indeed associated….and they are thinking of Aharon–second fiddle and a sort of help-meet to Moshe–who ends up in the fanciest duds of all as High Priest. vast stretches of Zohar are devoted to the deep meaning of the splendorous clothing of the High Priest. and it is only Aharon who can actuate atonement, via the way laid out by G’d, for the People. he is the master of ketoret (‘incense’ perhaps even perfume) that heals the plague and brings back joy.  (think about this, ladies: how many of you have beloveds who are masters of scent? not every dude is a spice merchant….)

Aharon’s face is never veiled like Moshe’s, even though Aharon spends lots of time in proximity to the Divine Presence. and he attains his high stature even though he once gave in to the vile urges of the mixed multitude and takes part in the “shaping” of the golden calf. most amazing indeed.

Aharon is the central figure in repentance. he both needs to do it in a way that Moshe is not called on the carpet for, and is the pleader  with Moshe to pray for healing for Miriam when she is afflicted with t’zara’at (‘spriritual skin affliction’), and he  is the  key figure in the Mishkan (‘temple in the desert’) and the rites of returning to G’d through offerings. it is Aharon who becomes the keeper of the fiery snake (the antisnakebite snake that later was kept in proximity to the Temple) just as he was the one who laid down the staff before pharaoh for it to become the flexible staff that is a snake….the wavy manipulation of the serpent in Eden spoke to Chava, so we know how powerful it can quite calmly, unassumingly be…

hod in netzach is simple really. it is to recognize that you don’t achieve the greatest ends alone, but rather with the help of others. with the help of G’d; with the help of humans. it takes the wisdom of Aharon to be joyous at the news that his brother would be G’d’s designee to free the People, and that he would be, at least at first, Moshe’s assistant. Aharon shows us the power of the team–Moshe, the captain does not–and quietly, calmly, as attends to so very much business behind the scenes…as do the masters of hod in our world, women…the more flexible, yielding, yet healing, watery set. we should all remember that the path of shefa (‘divine flow’) to foundation (yesod)…to the penis, if you will…goes by the water way of women…and men like Aharon who can muster the water way as well.  is calmness and magnifence making a little more sense now?  splendor in the bending, wavy water way of the grass……

mussar for hod she b’netzach

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro   you will find in this interinclusion that (once again) your mother was right…..you should always say thank you. the harder part can sometimes be to recognize the help of all those who get you to where you are, and where you need to be. indeed, none of us is an island….so say thanks to everyone you meet today who might even remotely be helping you in your walk with G’d today…even say thanks to those whose help you only begrudgingly acknowledge…whose approach you mostly have to endure!

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo   for many folks, the hardest part of teshuvah is confessing your wrongs. but careful cheshbon nefesh (‘accounting of the soul’) is the necessary base on which teshuvah is built thereafter. admit your errors, and admit also that you still have the power to work at the tikkun olam (‘repair of the world’) in spite of your errors. face it and thank G’d for this splendor in your persistence.

kabbalah for hod she b’netzach

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    ther is splendor in the constant power of a waterfall; and it was the enduring drip of water on the stone that convinced Akiva that even unlearned he could become a rabbi (and such a one!). consider how water over eons can carve a grand canyon in stone…how water as ice can flatten the landscape over which it drags…..think on the power of water as you wash your hands today. purity and power in one.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    emotions are often said to run like water. but we are directed in the words of Amos (5:24) to “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”.  contemplate the fluidity called for here. do your judgements have either the easy altering course of water or the ever-flowing quality of steadiness?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    think of how fluid scientific discovery is…splashing information from very different starting points into a coherent stream of thought. halacha means ‘walk’ or ‘way’, and hold within it the same quality of meander….while it is a a cohesive legal voice, it is nonetheless made up of the interpretations of thousands over many, many generations. meditate on constancy in judaism in spite of the absence of central authority.

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    opinion is the enemy of righteousness, for it is formed and no longer plastic. righteousness is not a chiseled monolith of practice gleaming in the sunlight. we see justice and righteousness instead as flowing water, glinting with splendor as light strikes its unendingly changing facets. still water, however, runs deep…..contemplate how G’d’s light can nonetheless reach it….unfailingly.

kinyan 26 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Siyag l’Dvarav….Fencing Ourselves Away from Distraction.   in order to study productively, you have to get away from everyday distractions. yeshivot are designed to help you do that, but most folk are not able to get that far away. but each of us can make a time or place temporarily away from the rush of everyday life. even if it is just 30 minutes over a quiet cup of coffee, or before bed, or on the train commuting. if you can do something more substantial, all the better. but you must be as removed from temptation as possible in order to achieve real concentration on Torah and not on your feelings of deprivation.  but remember that teaching is also study…..

“teach them repeatedly to your children, speaking of them when you sit at home,

and when you travel on the way, when you lie down and when you rise”

so, what do you think?

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