“we are the clay and You the potter. we are all the work of Your hands”
so the prophet Isaiah reminds us (64:7). when we wonder about whether we have within us the “plasticity” to change, we might want to recall this verse. we are clay in the good hands, but the potter gives shape to a vessel without ever, perhaps, using it for any specific purpose. it is up to another to fill it, or display it, or sound it, or whatever.
yesod (foundation) in hod (splendor, humility) comes to focus us on our inner splendor. what are the blessings in our G’d-given shape? how has it been used by us? how else might we use it? when we find the right utility, we somehow designate the vessel….that is the foundational moment.
the great question is: when does the potter finish the shaping? maybe not yet, in which case we are as plastic and formable as raw clay….and also capable of collapse. when finally kilned, we lose plasticity and become hard….perhaps brittle. i am always reminded of this passage from Isaiah when performing the ablutions on the dead….among the last acts taken is the placement of shards over eyes and mouth of the deceased. what sort of pot is lost to us? destined to return to earth.
hod in hod was withdrawal hard into stillness of a sort that simply does not work out in the world…only within us with G’d. one needs solitude for it. how fine, then, that yesod comes the very next day to take us to center, in the mainline of the flow from G’d and away from solitude.
hod is the sefirah of temimut (‘sincerity’). we’ve been through temimut haratzon (‘of will’ to do G’d’s will), and temimut halev (‘of heart’ in seriousness of devotion); now yesod in hod comes to drive our temimut hama’aseh (‘sincerity of doing’ the details of G’d’s mitzvot). herein the vessel shows its purpose, its best utility here on earth.
and mitzvot should operate most powerfully in the middle way, where all is aligned in balance. the balance between G’d-given gifts of spirit, and the use-making we bring to it. between the effects of our G’d-given gifts on the people around us, and the effects of having them help us with our efforts. we all give and all receive in the middle way.
hod is the celebration of the infinitesimal detail in everything around us. our hod will bring our own detail honing to the mitzvot we do. with the steadiness of yesod we anchor our own way in the universal way. our sincere doing of the mitzvot through our gifts and expressions becomes splendor, a gleaming present beauty even beyond the passing moment.
oh, and did i mention the connection of yesod to the penis in men and the womb in women? no? well, maybe next week. but perhaps this haiku will point toward how yesod makes the in the moment detail more permanent:
that night, that time,
mussar for yesod she b’hod
with another….bein adam l’chaveiro consider the utility of food as fuel. so why is it so colorful? so fragrant? so lovely in shape and texture? now look at a friend. do you see the same complexity? some of it perhaps seeming superfluous? if it is sincere it is not passing fancy, but splendor. see people for their splendor.
with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo we have tzitzit to keep us from following our eyes after others. but what do we have to help us not stray after distracting currents within ourselves? find such a practice and make it foundational for yourself.
kabbalah for yesod she b’hod
in assiyah….the world of doing/completion are you comfortable being one bold flower amidst Flanders fields of bold poppies? or do you need to be a single hybrid tea rose? see the field of flowers around you….at work, at home, at synagogue.
in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation is your beauty only skin deep? or do you have the splendor of the deeply folded, furled moonflower, offering texture and twist–and scent– from the depths of your soul? try to open your soul to others like such a flower today.
in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation we are all works in progress, though some have hardened more than others. consider the work you are doing in yourself during this season of counting….what has formed better moral/spiritual structure within your own temimut during the sefirat haOmer?
in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition if you know how the vessel is used, do you know its shape? how does holiness settle within you? what is the opening like through which you pour it out when needed? meditate on form and function. and can you still feel the potter’s hands working you?
kinyan 34 of 48 ways to acquire Torah
Mitrachayk min haKavod….Keeping Far From Honor. this does not mean that you should decline an aliyah to the Torah! ch’v. what it means is that the simple kvod habriyut that each owes the other is sufficient. more heapings on will only distract you from the humility of hod in which you are to walk with G’d. there is simpley no honor greater than that of having the chance to simply (with temimut…simplicity and sincerity) walk in the Way of G’d. ben Zoma teaches in Avot 4:1: