haYom tish’a u’sh’loshim yom, sh’heim chamisha shavuot v’arba’a yomim, laOmer: netzach she b’yesod

“soon as they came to baal-peor, they separated (devoted) themselves unto the shameful thing”

we find that the prophet Hoshea (9:10) recalls the incident at baal-peor, which is famous for the action of Pinchas, who–not content to allow a prince of Israel to consort with his idolatrous prostitute–took a spear and skewered the two of them in flagrante delicto…..joined as one flesh in the grave. for this zealousaction, Pinchas is granted a “covenant of shalom” directly from G’d, and is made high priest.

not the sweetness and light you expect from the Bible? well, it is only one instance of a theme that carries throughout Torah: devotion, service, dedication, and confirmation are double-edged. they can be great love of G’d as mesirut (devoted), nazar (set apart, consecrated), cherem (designated gift for G’d), and avodah (worship); or they can be evil in the same way: traitor, separated as in alien, designated for utter destruction, and slavery, respectively. just like the latin “devote”, ‘addiction’ is the dark side of religious ecstasy.

netzach in yesod is the sort of powerful dedication and spirit behind enduring effort that can build a Temple or be enslaving, obsessive and distancing from G’d. time and again in Torah and afterward in jewish history, what gets the People into a bad way is to become devoted to the wrong, to the conventional, to the surrounding culture…or these days to secular consumerism and shabbat-evacuating activities like, oh, school sports (yes, i said it).  channeling netzach in yesod correctly is  important.

we jews are supposed to be bound to G’d….just consider t’fillin…bound to arm, hand, and head….modeling even our relationship with G’d to the erotic cleaving love of Song of Songs…

“i am my beloved’s and he/she is mine”

holds between humankind and G’d as well as between bride and groom. and we mean it. we contract it. we acquire it. we bind and covenant it. it is all good, but one can easily see the other side, the dark side of this tight holding and utter devotion if a little confusion…and an idol or 2…get’s tossed into the mix.

jewish practice requires sustained effort, difficult endurance, diligence, determination. it is not enough to be strong (netzach), you must also make the strength abide, endure, be established on a sound footing of study, prayer, meditation and community engagement (yesod). because of our foundational strengths and bonds of the Promise, we have recently returned to the Land of the Promise to Avraham Avinu. this is the great example of netzach in yesod.

we are still like the early american pilgrims in that we are a People of Industry, of slow, steady growth, and devotion to what seem impractical ideals until we realize them. good marriages are like G’d and Israel….for better or for worse. and sometimes it takes a Pinchas action to rectify a situation…the effort of the work on the spirit trait of netzach in yesod is to be ready and able and willing to do tikkun olam…the rectification work of thousands of generations…..abiding as a matter of constitutional makeup. and too dang ornery to die off.

mussar for netzach she b’yesod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    reuse, recycle, renew. the environmentally conscious credo. conservation work, sustainability work, tackling greenhouse gases…these are gigantic worldly opportunities to practice netzach in yesod. whether the first step is leaving the car in the garage and extra day each month, or taking the time to drop off used clothing/furniture/computer equipment for a charity or recycling business requires strength in practice for a long haul to achieve the good resulets we all hope for. engage!

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo   be more holy because G’d is holy. commit to a long-term religious discipline. commit to a sustained charitable volunteer gig. commit to stop longing for what you ought not have.  foundational strength….

kabbalah for netzach she b’yesod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    many of us spent many years in school to master professions that we now base our entire livelihood on. others have been long-term supporters of the State of Israel.  but all of this requires that we have the firm base of healthy strength and energy with which to improve the world in our particular way. but maintaining health is itself a marathon. build up your health today, for the sake of your family, of yourself, of your community, of generation of the clan not yet born.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    too many of us lead lives of quiet desperation. but finding the strength to call a spade a spade and speak out on oppression is difficult. choose an item needing stong, sustained, tight-bound effort and then walk the walk and talk the talk.

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation  it is said that the only reliably constant thing is change. might be so of much in the secular world, but in the religious world it needn’t be so. contemplate the comforting role of enduring practice on your everyday secular side.

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition      mind your breathing. listen to your pulse. regular, enduring, life-sustaining. you have built a lifetime to this point taking this foundational strength for granted. but you are granted only so many heartbeats, only so many breaths in a lifetime. meditate on how you can be for your family, your spouse, your community…the whole world in your little corner…as foundational as a heartbeat, as invigorating and sustaining as a breath.

kinyan 39 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Ma’amido al haEmet….Setting/Leading Others to Truth.  ma’amido is the same root as in “amidah” (‘standing prayer’), so this way could be called standing others to truth. standing them up to truth. hmm. can’t preach your way there, but you can be a living model of your own faith, your own learning, your own loving practice before G’d. you can stand for truth and give all around you the chance to see…simply, and without any self-righteousness. just walk humbly within community and those who can and would will see. you acquire Torah by helping others to it.

then i bowed down and prostrated myself to G’d and blessed G’d, the God of my master Avraham, who led me on a true path to get the daughter of m master’s brother for his son.” (Genesis 24:48)

haYom sh’mona u’sh’loshim yom, sh’heim chamisha shavuot u’sh’lisha yomim, laOmer: tiferet she b’yesod

“let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own”

so teaches r’ Eliezer (Avot 2:10), and when we consider tiferet (compassion, empathy, balance) in  yesod (foundation, connection, communication, bonding), this teaching is a touchstone for balanced bonding, for empathic communication and for compassionate connection. r’ Eliezer might just as well have been teaching this day of the counting of the Omer’s kabbalistic interinclusion!

we have interinclusion entirely within the middle way in this case, no sway to right or left. 2 sefirot that are in the straight connection from keter above in the supernal worlds to malchut, the most grounded sefirah.

and we have interinclusion of heart and genitalia…of the seat of spiritual truth and of the seat of creational truth. perhaps it is no longer any wonder why the mark of the brit is on the penis, signifying the level of yesod, and the symbolization of the yichud (‘rejoining as one’) of the Holy One, blessed be with the Shechinah when the rectification of the world comes to be.

in every marriage, there is by definition kiddushin (‘of holiness’) made by joining tiferet truth with yesod truth, binding that bonding ultimately with malchut (as we will see in the final week of Omer). every kiddushin is messianic in that way….or at least has the potential to be. there is redemption of each for the other in an earthy spiritual way, for each is the help meet created for the other….it simply is not good for a human to be alone, so any relationships that avert that no-good aloneness (different from solitude, mind you) is itself a redemption to a better state.

but only in a relationship where each holds the honor of the other as dearly as his/her own can real holy interinclusion of spouses occur. it is in the physical, sensual act of sex that each opens channels for powerful flows of divine energy from above. through heart and the organs of coupling the channels open, and we forget so much of the everdayness of ourselves, opening widely to the mystery of what is much more than the sum of the couplers. sex can lead lovers into the realm of the no-thing…can give humans a powerful  approximation of the ein sof…..all through this harmony of foundation. the mutuality of give and take, active and passive, extension and reception.

and it is by way of this truth in truth that the new world that is a new life can come into being as well.

in another set of kabbalistic correspondences, the east wind is associated with yesod as “support”. yesod harmonizes the north wind (netzach) and the south wind (hod) to create the east wind, or kedem, which literally means “beginning”.  interinclude the divine gifting of balance twixt justice and loving-kindness into the ruach level of the winds of Creation and you have a trait-touch of G’d in the whirlwind….and the potential energy of new life….beginning.

this movement in the mainline of the seferotic tree evokes the primeval expression of the Will of G’d toward existence…everythingness…from out of nothingness. so, you see, there is enormous power in tiferet in yesod, and enormous power in relationships of mutual dignity, respect, honor and love….both in and out of lust.

mussar for tiferet she b’yesod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    welcoming guests is the mitzvah that comes to mind. when you treat a guest well, you are honoring the guest as yourself, literally giving of yourself through your holdings and your joie de vivre. this puts a new relationship on a strong foundation and lends support to the foundation already in place for an old relationship.  welcome some guests and treat them with honor.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    you can, of course, treat yourself as a guest by being one….not by barging into another’s home, ch’v, but by having a little spa time…or a private day out….or perhaps a meditation retreat…or even a little shopping excursion. find the self-as-guest mode that best suits you and go get you some.

kabbalah for tiferet she b’yesod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    it is easiest to remain balanced when you are standing/sitting on a broad, solid, supportive foundation….like, say, a floor. with your religious practice…whether in community or in your individual way…you also will have a broad, solid, supportive foundation on which your spirit can balance best. work on developing your most fundamental and beautiful practices (and, yes, sex counts as a religious practice for you marrieds as well).

“get up offa that thing, and try to release that pressure!

 get up off! good G’d!”

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    being balanced and strong yourself allows you to help those off their center, those at less than full strength, to recover their own sense of harmony in Creation. your bitachon (‘confidence’) and steadfast faith can inspire those in need.  do you know how to identify those who may benefit from your beautiful foundation?

“sometimes in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow,

but, if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow”

b’ezrat haShem….with the help of G’d is to lean on the Most Strong…whence we each draw a part of our strength….go ahead, lean on me when you’re not strong.

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    regardless of how real is the rock that i kick, there is always the fact that some part of the rock and the kick are real only in my perception. what i see will not be what another sees exactly. but we are also able to envision things and share those visions with others. envision a rectified world, do one of the acts that will sustain that world, and share it with one you love.

“i’m a dreamer, but i’m not the only one…i hope some day you’ll join us

and the world will live as one” 

(actually, it isn’t easy if you try, but, well, so what?)

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    we all pray for strength now and then…more now if you follow traditional jewish prayer and again then, daily….but do we hold G’d so near that we feel the Power that established the heavens in everything we do daily? meditate on how that would be….G’d so near that  G’d touches before our very eyes everything we do….

“at work i just take time…and all through my coffee break-time

i say a little prayer for You…”

kinyan 38 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Machrio l’Kaf Zechut….Judging Others Favorably.  literally “l’kaf zechut” means ‘to/for/toward the hand of merit’, which is something that most of us are willing to do for ourselves (even though none but G’d can possibly know better than we how wide of that mark we really are). it is harder, somehow, to give another the same easy benefit of the doubt nonetheless, that is a positive spiritual trait that Torah would have us all master. it is easier to do than you think if you simply remember that you never know as much as you think you do….so why impugn motives? and when you do this with those in the community, you will find it will contribute also in a parallel way to your study of Torah. you can choice to scoff at Torah, or you can choose to hear the Voice.

haYom shiv’a u’sh’loshim yom, sh’heim chamisha shavuot u’shnei yomim, laOmer: gevurah she b’yesod

“tell your brother Aharon that he shan’t enter the Holy of Holies at just any time”

we learn this (Leviticus 16:2) shortly after we learn of the death of Aharon’s sons Nadav and Avihu for bringing a strange fire into the Mishkan (‘temple in the desert’) on their own accord, without being commanded.  many of us might have been hard pressed not to snap back, “ya think?”

but few of us are as mighty as was Aharon, master of joy and peace in the most difficult of circumstances. as it turns out, Aharon would ultimately enter into the most Holy area behind the curtain once a year….on Yom Kippur. this is a pretty strict rule, but one from which we can learn a lesson of gevurah (restriction) in yesod (foundation, connection, bonding), for Aharon was a very special communicator with the People, he was the leader of the bringing of the Cohanic Blessing to the People (Numbers 6:24ff):

“may G’d bless you and keep you!

may G’d shine his face upon you and favor you!

may G’d lift up G’d’s face toward you and grant you shalom!”

and this is how G’d chose to put G’d’s name on the People and to bless them. that is a rather significant communication indeed. yet if offered just willy nilly, it would not be right. and we have a tendency to do that these days….this blessing is offered by just about anybody and just about anytime these days. a lack of gevurah in yesod.

think about the importance of taking the helm in building a relationship and then maintaining it. yesod comes to teach about establishing the way you will walk in them. too much gevurah and the contact points between people, no matter how deeply in love they may once have been, will atrophy like a muscle unused. but too little, constant communication of the wrong sort, or ill-timed insistence on, say, talking about the relationship, and all you end up with is meta-ralationship…..all talk smothering the individual walk. or perhaps the third errant way: all texting….constant not-quite-contact of all communication, virtually.

it holds between humankind and G’d as well….else the shechechiyanu (‘blessing for the particular special moment’) would have no more moment to bless. and none can look upon the face of G’d and live.

the good that comes of restricting communications, governing contact is that each person in a relationship gets to simply be in the relationship….with no more than the small gesture or look….or just a glimpse. perhaps exactly what gets one going in the first place….

mussar for gevurah she b’yesod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro   rabbeinu Gershom, the same rabbi that put the 1000-year ban on polygamy into effect in the year 1000 ce, also ruled that it was against the way of Torah to read another person’s mail. privacy continues to be a valid concern in Torah, regardless of the current-day cassandras of the death of privacy. take care to keep your nose out of other folks’ business.

with oneself….bein adam l’atzmo    we all know peer pressure in how we act in the world, especially in regard to our community.  but it is incumbent on each of us to make our own understandings and not simply follow blindly. when we see something that is against the walk with G’d, we should not make it foundational for ourselves. truth is the watchword of G’d…..and it works for people too.

kabbalah for gevurah she b’yesod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    in the morning prayer we bless G’d “who makes my steps firm”, ie, makes my walk with G’d confident.  but how often do we stop an assess what contacts and communications we might undertake to strengthen the foundations of the community we walk in?  consider this…then act.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    kony 2012 is now famous…indeed, the words are spray painted on many surfaces of buildings downtown.  now what? well, for the building owners, it means time and expense to clean up. the campaign is a good example of non-foundational effort….all text and you tube without reeal effects in the world. more than anything, it represents a missed opportunity to do some real good. consider how you can capture the fire of a compaign to do good in the world and then direct it into actually doing the good, for it is the DOING THE GOOD that is tikkun olam (‘repairing the world’), not just the desire to do it.

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    privacy is important, but it can sometimes lead to concealment of possibility. we are not always being active judges of our own potential. spend some time evaluating the hints of possibility in yourself…what can you bring to getting justice done? to spread loving-kindness? do you have what to offer in a new way?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    the loftier the building/effort/understanding/holy-making (add your own word), the deeper, broader, more strategically anchored must be the foundation. meditate on whether your spiritual foundations are worthy of supporting your loftiest aspirations.

kinyan 37 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Nosei b’Ol Chaveiro….Bearing/Sharing the Burden of Another.  loving your neighbor as yourself is a mitzvah that has a complex of associated/related mitzvot, each of which defines a part of the way in the doing of the central mitzvah. honoring your parents, accompanying a bride to huppah, burying the dead, visiting the sick, and comforting the mourner, among others, are all mitzvot supportive of “loving your neighbor”.  and all of the kinyanei Torah are spirit traits that support the great mitzvah as well…for they all support  walking humbly with Your G’d.

haYom shisha u’sh’loshim yom, sh’heim chamisha shavuot v’yom echad, laOmer: chesed she b’yesodot

“notzeir chesed la’alafim”

this is the ninth of the 13 divine attributes that we recite during the Days of Awe and again throughout the year for major festivals as part of the liturgy for the day. Rashi comments on this phrase that the chesed, involved, the loving-kindness involved, is done by humans before G’d and thereafter held dear and “preserved” by G’d. the important point is that the chesed is not G’d’s direct doing, but rather the chesed done by people that is then preserved–as in remembered–for a long time by G’d. though chesed is a gift of G’d to man–Creation itself is done through it–the attribute of G’d that matters here is G’d’s preserving of it for thousands of generations, essentially remembering it forever.  when we recite the 13, we remind G’d of that to overwhelm the 3 or 4 generations for visitation of justice when non-chesed is done….

Ramban brings another layer of meaning. he notes that “notzer” has a richer  meaning than “preserve” or remember. he points to Isaiah 11:1 where the root occurs meaning “to grow out”, and suggests that what is meant is the when humans do chesed in Creation, G’d makes it grow out further for thousands of generations.

and i think “notzer” is a foundational concept for yesod, for it is the seat of contact, connection, and communication. it is the nexus of bonding. and as you will recall from the spirit guide menu posting for week 6, it is associated with the genitalia in connection with procreation….the great growing out of something from next to nothing in the human sphere. what’s more, to be blunt, the association with the penis in Adam Kadmon leads to another deep rooted support for the notzer as growing out.

so in this interinclusion we have the issue of contact, connection and communication of chesed, and the way it touches on human relationships of all kinds and on our holy, covenantal bonding in marriage. in Torah the two most intimate ways of communicating are in speech and in sex……so it is all about intercourse either way all this week.

and the notzer that expands for thousands of generations acts on chesed, the fluid loving-kindness that recreates the world everyday. so what does this mean for us when we invoke the ninth attribute in prayer? consider how different your prayer itself would be if you realized in your soul that we are part of G’d’s expanding of every bit of chesed that any one has ever done….that we were born not simply to latch on to the merits of the Foreparents, but to expand them. we may ourselves be small standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before us, but we are still standing on those shoulders from the get-go, reaching higher still everyday that we take chesed to heart as part of our foundational way of walking with G’d, take Deuteronomy 15:7 to heart:

“do not  harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman”

and remember on this 36th day of the Omer, that the next person you meet, whether vastly wealthy or indigent, may be one of the 36 tzaddikim who uphold the entire world….or even Moshiach. don’t go shutting your hand now, right?

mussar for chesed she b’yesod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    rather than just giving and indigent a little change, give a little of yourself in conversation. learn something more about how a homeless person got homeless….or just talk about the weather (that is an obvious differentiator between the homeless and the homed). try to make a bit of a bond as part of your tzedakah.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    how well are you listening to the people around you? to your children? to your friends? your neighbors? to the one to whom you are bound in holiness…your spouse?  listen better today and make it transparent that you are deliberately listening….and open to more intercourse (speech will do in a pinch).

kabbalah for chesed she b’yesod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion   there is no better teaching than that in Isaiah (1:17), wherein we do not simply do loving kindness, but we LEARN TO DO IT….we make it foundational. and the examples provided? well, i’ll just spill it:

“learn to do good. devote yourself to justice; aid the wronged. uphold the rights of the orphan. defend the cause of the widow”

he doesn’t tell us how exactly….he tells us to learn how. we each must find our own way of making the mitzvah so. what matters first, though, is we make it foundational and we communicate it in order to expand the chesed in this world.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    are you open in communicating your own needs to those in your family? with your spouse? in your wider community? people tend to open up to those who are open with them. intercourse is a 2-way street, so make sure you are in the right lane of traffic and giving the right signals when you need to turn. remember: who is your help-meet in each situation?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    what bit of chesed have you learned from a generation before? perhaps from a parent, grandparent…a rabbi or an older friend? remember that you are taking part in “notzer chesed”….’growing loving-kindness in league with G’d, so today is a good time to call up an example that introduced or strengthened chesed into your life. then contemplate how you can extend/expand that loving-kindness in this generation.

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    we know that chesed is foundational to the entirety of the world. meditate on how you recognize it in the renewal of each day….the foundations may be established, but the Creation renews daily. try to sense it, feel it, know it….intuit it.

kinyan 36 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Eino Samayach b’Hora’ah….Not Delighting in Rendering Decisions.  we all wish to answer questions in a straightforward fashion. and often this is doable, baruch haShem.  but learned people, scholars and rabbis should be careful of rendering decisions without real care and trepidation. deep as your knowledge may be, you can never know it all, and to decide on an issue that others must then live by is an enormous responsibility. better to teach then to decide…..we learn in Sanhedrin (7a) that every Dayan (judge of an issue in halachah) must feel like a sword is between his legs and gehinom is opened up below him. it aint no walk in the park.

haYom arba’a u’sh’loshim yom, sh’heim arba’a shavuot v’shisha yomim, laOmer: yesod she b’hod

“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:

“perfume–

that night, that time,

that place”

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:

“who is honored?  who gives honor to others”

haYom sh’losha u’sh’loshim yom, sh’heim arba’a shavuot v’chamisha yomim, laOmer: hod she b’hod

“vayidom aharon…..Aharon was silent/still”

“dom” (‘still, stillness’) is an unusual word in Torah. it is used, as in Aharon’s reaction to the death of his sons Nadav and Abihu, to indicate a deep-seated, almost paralyzed state of nonreaction.  Aharon’s sons died offering “strange fire” before G’d, offering the ketoret (‘incense’) that was the special offering for atonement, and for joy.  why did they die?

Moshe tried to urge Aharon to consider their deaths as holy-proofs of the nearness of the Cohanim to G’d. they were so dear to him that they were “called home” as folks like to say.  Aharon’s response to Moshe’s urgings was “dom”, utter stillness.

we see the same phrase used in the book of Joshua:

“vayidom shemesh…the Sun was still/silent”

where it is usually translated as “stood still”. the point is the stillness, utter stillness in the heavens (the moon stood still too later after the sun “revived”.  of course, this is exactly what Joshua had told the celestial bodies to do.

we see it used in an opposite fashion in Psalm 22:3:

“i call out by day, there is no answer; by night, but there is no respite for me”

“there is no respite for me” is ‘lo dumiyah li’, another form of “dom” meaning stillness.

there are times when one needs stillness, a silence beyond simple noise suppression, and the spirit trait involved therein is hod in hod.  this interinclusion is sometimes called “passive” but that is too light a wordsense….we are talking about “dom” here. a stillness that examines only its own silence….actively passive, if you will.  even receiving is shut down. it is the state of being unreachable at all. so why do we call it a character trait that we want to cultivate? well, it is the stillness that is needed for true hitbodedut (‘solitude or meditation’). solitude is a positive state in judaism, just as valid as minyan and kahal, but only for selective use. in your prayers, you may strive for solitude that drives your words only through your soul without even speaking them…ultimately moving into a meditative state wherein words are not even the medium of communication.

solitude, silence, stillness are a trio increasingly difficult to come by in our overcommunicative, overentertaining world.  we should look at the chace to put away clutter in time as well as in space….else we will never hear the still small voice of G’d. hod in hod is the root of patience, of tolerance, even of moderation, for it is the key to banishing “fullness” and embracing “emptiness”.

mussar for hod she b’hod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    learn patience in silence. when you run into a difficulty today, instead of replying, just be still.don’t even count to 10.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    dress down today. no ostentatious clothing…if you adorn at all, just get your hair cut (it is lag b’Omer, after all), but nothing else. be visually still.

kabbalah for hod she b’hod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion   find a silent mitzvah to do today. Bava Batra 8b suggests that “to ransom prisoners is a splendid act of piety”.  contribute to a legal defense fund that assists prisoners in getting DNA testing to demonstrate their innocence…DNA is silent until it is listened to.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    silence is first, but listening is second.  trim yourself back today. if you have known mourning, recall that time, and reassess the value of stillness to let you hear what may be said to you in such a time.

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    take Psalm 22 to heart and create some stillness today. turn off the radio, the tv, the internet, and whatever other entertainment appliances you are accustomed to consuming from give yourself a space and time of stillness. what comes to mind in the space liberated from the din?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    Heschel teaches “to have faith is to perceive the wonder that is here”.  faith itself is a stillness in space and time….what does faith hear?

kinyan 33 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Ohev et haTochachot….Loving Reproof.  it is a mitzvah to gently point out to someone that they are wrong, or have done wrong. it takes netzach in hod to do it often, but sometimes silence itself is a reproof. but care must be taken to ensure that the silence is not misunderstood.  it is also important to consider whether the person you are trying to guide will have the space within which to hear….else the mitzvah cannot be accomplished—

“don’t reprove a scoffer, for they will hate…..

reprove instead a wise man, and he will love you”

 

haYom sh’naim u’sh’loshim yom, sh’heim arba’a shavuot v’arba’a yomim, laOmer: netzach she b’hod

“and i, with stubborn boldness, have promised that i will increase tenderness in this world”

r’ Nachman of Breslov was always very direct in his prayers, especially when he was uncertain about his success. this prayer reveals the energy of netzach in a hod promise.  it is a good combination, but have you, any of you, ever labored at “increasing tenderness” in the world?

we all try with our children. and often succeed. but inevitably some sterner justice/discipline will have to be meted out, no matter how carefully and tenderly, and something of a “spell” is broken, yes? but we are immediately flooded with netzach to push ahead again with the tenderness we want all people to grow up with that it may spread far and wide and help to redeem the world.

well, sometimes it is guilt first and then netzach. but the same hod that brings reserve and tenderness also judges your feelings and actions more guardedly thereafter. this is good in that severity is shunted, but bad in that you are not so naturally tender for a while. compassionate, yes, but probably netzach in tiferet pushing a little to the right-side extreme, overcompensating due to the pain brought by the discipline. but it is not so gentle as knowing hod tenderness.

netzach in hod is probably the dominant jewish combination…it is no wonder that they give their names to the pillars at either side of the opening to the Holy in the Bet haMidash. most of spiritual practice is based on fine differentiation, organizational clarity and record keeping in time and space, and prompts to continuously focus our energies. a painfully good example is sefirat haOmer….calling upon you to do a small thing that requires attention to detail–counting not only days but also complete weeks and also weeks and days–each day for a period of time. but all leading up the a closer, purer, stronger cleaving to G’d by the holy day of Shavuot. persistent, enduring expenditure of thought energy in rectifying your spirit traits of character each day, sharing in the splendor of each day’s unique count.

the Omer practice is itself something of a rectification for those who find their days passing each like the next, just like the previous. hod comes to teach that each day has it’s own number, and counting up elimiates the idea of genuine end. we don’t count down to a change of state….subtrait building into better overall traits accumulates. we grow richer in time, not poorer.

netzach in hod is also a good time to assess where you are in your count. what have you gained? know it, and press ahead.

mussar for netzach she b’hod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    are you ever puzzled that so many people answer their home phone with a question, “hello?” people seem to do it today even though we know who is on the other side of the line as often as not….why is that? try changing your phone greeting. make it more beautiful, more engaging….have it suggest from the start that you care about the person on the other end of the line.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo   apply the same principle to yourself. what do you know, or do people suggest to you, is your greatest beauty of spirit? once you’ve parsed that out, build it further…..for yourself (though beauty is bound to spill over onto others).

kabbalah for netzach she b’hod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion     hod is about recognizing splendor in the world and also becoming splendor in the world. look about you at the things you take for granted. where is the splendor in them? the beauty? the beautiful utility?  think about how to share that splendor with someone else….then do so with persistence til they get it!

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    preparation requires a combination of looking ahead and looking at where you are.  but we are taught to live fully in the moment. meditate on this. does the disparity cause your stress? if you adjusted a little more toward the moment, would it help?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    sometimes when we map out something, we see the end and the way there with immediate clarity. other times we will tread down a wrong path and have to make a change midcourse.  consider such times when you had to adjust…perhaps drastically.  what in you made you ready for the change and what made you able to push home a change? do you see other ways to approach similar situations today?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    communication is built on the focusing of energy in transmission and in receipt. this too is a netzach in hod relationship. contemplate your communications with G’d, through, prayer, through practice, through learning, whatever, and consider which is more difficult for you: sending your message to G’d? or hearing G’d’s message to you?

kinyan 32 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Ohev et haMesharim o haTzadakot.   so why do we come back to this one, just flipping the order from yesterday?  well, each of them can either mean the way of uprighteousness or righteous persons. yesterday we treated brevity in the way of righteousness. today we will urge the love of righteous persons. they are guides on the path and can set one straight always. and a maggid mesharim (‘a righteous preacher’) can teach Torah outside of the box. and since that is where the use of Torah will prove most difficult and pressing in life, baruch haShem for the maggid mesharim.

haYom echad u’sh’loshim yom, sh’heim arba’a shavuot, u’sh’losha yomim, laOmer: tiferet she b’hod

“before you ask G’d for something, first thank G’d for what you already have”

simple, quiet wisdom from Talmud, Brachot 30b. when you pile on compassion on top of empathy, something may well be prone to go all mavericky, and well-intentioned unwisely. all empathy and compassion of tiferet (compassion) in hod (empathy) may turn out a bit like Aharon’s disastrous effort to keep the erev rav (‘mixed multitude’ that wanted the golden calf) from going ballistic and leading to a bloodbath.

and if you pile beauty (tiferet) into splendor (hod) you may well find again that you will be prone to error like Shimshon’s, turning his nazirite status into a matter of outlandish shows of the strength he derived from the restraints of the nazirite way. of course, it turned out that he had an achilles hair…..

but bring truth and compassion (tiferet) into gratitude (hod) and you have a harmonious winning combination…and a sense of how much gratitude is right in any given situation. a sense that simply reminds you of a duty (thanks for what you have) before you go off extending that compassion further still. a making sure that you see the trees and not just the forest. going in and then out.

“praise G’d in his sanctuary; praise G’d in the firmament of G’d’s power”

from the small detail to the greater, from the concealed interior to the exposed exterior, as here in Psalm 150 is instructive, moving from the private to the universal. when G’d was in the Holy of Holies, only Aharon could encounter his force directly, and then only to give thanks and praise in the light and the incense. but in the firmament….loose in Creation….G’d’s power is available to all to sense and respond to. quiet beauty; public splendor….hod and tiferet spinning around each other.

and the psalm continues with a review of many different instruments and musical forms that can be used and harmonized for praise (hod), yet in the end, the universal comes to rule:

“let the voice of every neshamah (‘breathing soul’) praise G’d”

when tiferet interincludes in hod we see that everything contributes to the sustenance of each individual Creation. the whole is diminished with the loss of any one. and no one can survive without the life of the whole. once you understand this harmonious truth, is it really so difficult to love all neighbors? or to respect habitat for the sake of a small minnow living within it?

we are all quiet, more harmonious ‘musketeers’ it seems:

all for one and one for all

who knew?

mussar for tiferet she b’hod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    this would be a really good day to celebrate some other person’s simcha. reminding yourself of the gratitude you feel for all your own accumulated simchas should put you in a good frame of mind to celebrate another’s.

with oneself….bein adam l’atzmo    is your home–inside and out–a suitable place for G’d’s Presence? spruce it up with THAT special guest in mind. and resolve to have the parchments in your mezuzot checked THIS spring…they mediate between the inside and the outside, after all, brining Torah to comings and goings.

kabbalah for tiferet she b’hod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    sing out Psalm 150 today, then do a harmony to the melody line. consider how your mood changes. can you pull some nefesh and ruach into the hallelujah to join your neshamah?

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    “all for one and one for all” can operate in time as well. contemplate your personal history. which details have contributed most to making you as you see yourself to be. how many are way old? how many are recent?  can you find a way to add more recents?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    catalog your most beautiful, creative thoughts. now, do you feel humble? do you feel beautiful?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    Heschel speaks clearly of tiferet in hod often. where do you hear it herein:

“only grant me strong bright senses to bring happiness, to help, to hear the needs of even a pulse-beat. the call of any person!”

kinyan 31 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Ohev et haTzedakot o haMeisharim…..Loving the Righteous Way.   a teacher of mine once urged that every rabbi should learn brevity.  divrei Torah should be only a few minutes….maybe 7 minutes for natural teachings and an additional minute for a more difficult supernatural idea. any longer is a meandering path, some will follow you into the woods, over streams, up and down hills, but most would prefer that the path be simple, more-or-less straight, and on a level plain. truth and righteousness are their own beauty….the simple explication is the splendor of Torah.

haYom sh’loshim yom, sh’heim arba’a shavuot ush’nei yomim, laOmer: gevurah she b’hod

“while i live my songs will be for You, while i am i’ll speak my gratefulness”

not so far from Psalm 104 to a love song, yes?  ok, so maybe ‘gratefulness’ is a bit less sung in love songs, perhaps because they are largely focused on the next tryst….but that itself points to gevurah in hod….a love song born of more maturity suits this 30th day of the sefirat haOmer. 30 days from the onset of shiva is the normal end of strictest mourning, sh’loshim.  30 days reflects the mourning period recorded in Torah for Aharon and then later for Moshe. during the 23-day period after shiva and before sh’loshim,  traditionalists return to many aspects of life, but still reserve a few particular things: they avoid festive outings that involve music (usually including films, if they attend films normally), and they continue to avoid perfume and scents until the 30th day.

music and scent are the 2 things that most viscerally bring a loved one back and renew pain in loss. it is a very precisely targeted reserving, and that is what gevurah brings to a more general humility. the care of attitude in hod is targeted with the judgment and discernment of  gevurah.  but it also works the other way, in the attitude of hod, you can tend to miss larger issues for the sake of focusing on the splendor of the very, very small….literally miss the forest due to gratitude for the splendid bark of the trees. gevurah/judgement informs the reserve/focus of ‘unbridled’ hod/splendor.

but we are at 30 days, and only 3 days from lag b’Omer, the day on which all mourning customs associated with the sefirat haOmer are tossed aside….for bonfires, archery, kosher marshmallows/s’mores, haircuts (i know i need one), etc. so let’s consider a love song in proximity to Psalm 104:

“you are here, so am i….maybe millions of people go by…but they all disappear from view…

and i only have eyes for you….”

and, of course, that would be the purpose of tzitzit…to make sure that we don’t go about straying after the distractions of the eyes. but when it comes to Israel and G’d, is this pop lyric so far from a psalm that teaches out of gevurah in hod, discernment in reserving ourselves for the walk with G’d? Psalm 104 again….

“refreshing the face of the earth, Your Glory endures forever

Your work is an endless rejoicing”

ok. i find i have a showing of gevurah in hod today in my bride over which i can’t help but rejoice. she is prepping for an upcoming metal clay class she is teaching. and on the bedroom floor are spread out notecards with simple instructions, and an apportionment of just the right amount of supplies/materials for the doing in the class. she has been doing this since early this morning, stopping now and then for coffee and chat, or to watch the storm roll in. i see it and am overwhelmed with gratitude  for the love of a woman who brings such care and discernment to every thing she touches. gevurah in hod is this quiet work in the world, paying close attention to the particulars, considering the needs of others and preparing with wisdom gained from experience, seeing both the forest and the trees. baruch haShem yom yom for this love.

“my soul is for Your blessing”

Psalm 104 starts and ends in this refrain…..it absolutely rocks hod.

mussar for gevurah she b’hod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    appreciate the beauty in your spouse, your kids, your parents, your friends, your rabbi, your cantor. we all have a sheet of charges to level against others now and then.  just rip it up today. why? just for the sake of the splendor that you KNOW is in each of them somewhere, even if not in the place you would prefer it to be. be grateful that you have the beauty and suitability of the people you have.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    this is a tough exercise, i fear….just don’t complain today. not even to yourself. not even once….not even in the background. to everyone  you speak to today be nothing but thankful…show off that attitude of gratitude.

kabbalah for gevurah she b’hod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    when i go to the analgesics aisle at the drug store, i get a headache…maybe they plan it that way, eh? but i feel weariness and pain at the multitude of ridiculous choices we have for aspirin, acetominophen and nsaids….but everyday we are presented with oodles of temptations in choices. few are really good for us. many simply don’t matter much. and many others are downright bad for us. meditate on your choices of the past week, are there any of which your are particularly proud? any where your discernment played in to affect your ultimate choice?

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    my bride is very particular about the purses she buys….and she loves purses (can i get a witness?). it is less about how they look, i think (though i’m sure they all look swell as well) than how they function. the right compartments, pockets, attachables for the organizing of the mary poppins collection of stuff that must be carried about. if purses were alive, would they evolve? contemplate how powerfully operational suitability fits into the entirety of Creation. be thankful for the adaptations that allow you to function rather effortlessly in the world. and why is it that organizing a closet leaves you feeling so good?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    apparently we humans were created with an obvious skill to categorize and distinguish between things. we may have been put in the Garden of Eden to tend the veggies, but the first thing we are recorded doing is naming the animals. consider your skill in judgment, in calling a thing by its right name…how much of your ability is inbred? how much do you bring from experience? be thankful for both.

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    remember a time when you felt particularly close to G’d. did you think your way there? were you in a particular circumstance? did you meditate to that point? or did it just happen? can you put your finger on it? the effort partakes in gevurah in hod.

kinyan 30 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Ohev et haBriyot….Loving all Creatures.  we know that all the animals on the planet are important from the story of Noach. we may hypothesize that plants have a unique relationship with G’d, for they were left to their own devices, perhaps setting seed that could withstand the period of deluge was their ticket. but we learn this trait from the great r’ Hillel, who teaches we should all be like Aharon, loving peace, loving your fellow creatures, and attracting them to the study of Torah. we sort of have to assume that Hillel was thinking of humans…for attracting slugs to Torah is a fool’s errand.

unless we take the Ramban to heart. he teaches that the Torah is but one extended name of G’d and that all of Creation, therefore, has a relationship with it….even if we do not recognise it. therein is the acquisition of Torah as well.

stewardship is all inclusive, consider Psalm 8:

“you have given them care for the works of Your Hands…

placed the solid growing earth under their feet”

so when you walk humbly (in hod) with G’d, think fondly of the Demodex you host.

haYom tish’a v’esrim yom, sh’heim arba’a shavuot v’yom echad, laOmer: chesed she b’hod

hodu l’adonai ki tov….ki l’olam chasdo

‘praise-thank G’d who is good….everywhere and always is G’d’s loving-kindness’….we pray this regularly, with special fervor in Hallel for festivals, for it makes all the connections between hod (hodu) and chesed (chasdo) that anybody could possibly need. we give thanks because the loving-kindness is everlasting and everywhere….it is the aspect of G’d with which “olam” (‘universe/eternity’, ie, the whole of Creation) was created. these 2 belong together like Laurel and Hardy.

people forget that humility is not self-debasement…it is not demoralizing…it is not nicki minaj doin ‘stupid hoe’. it is not minimizing yourself to the detriment of yourself, but rather reserving what need not be in play. so it is humility….the sliver of the new moon…..that is the very seat of love and loving-kindness for another. why? because it is ready and right-sized for expansion, and chesed always wants room to expand. but to do chesed in hod, you have to have room to allow the other in. and to be grateful for the opportunity to have the relationship.

chesed in hod is having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ and a readiness to find the beauty in everything, no matter how small or subtle. hod is the appreciation of the other—heck, of ALL in Creation—chesed brings the overflowing love in, so what you have is the sun and the moon, really. the sun lighting it all up in loving-kindness and the moon reflecting that light with greater clarity simply by reducing the glare.

the gematria of hod is 15, which just happens to be the number of stair’s in the Cohen’s ascent to the Temple. it symbolizes the stages of approaching the Holy. and we do well to remember that it was Moshe’s lovingly generous brother Aharon to whom the closest regular approach to the Holy of Holies was given. Aharon is also  the agent of disseminating awareness of  G’d’s chesed through the procedures of atonement.

not surprisingly, chesed in hod is the attitude of temimut halev (‘sincerity of the heart’) which is the seat of ahavah called for in the Shema….you shall love G’d with all your heart….yet we must still find room to love our neighbor as ourself….

“there is still, in my love, so much room

and so many words for you”

Islam has Rumi and Hafez, for the jews, Ibn Gabirol. and here he teaches chesed she b’hod more compactly than anything i could ever write. let’s just leave it here. baruch haShem.

mussar for chesed she b’hod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    chesed in hod is about valuing the other for no reason other than that the other exists!…..is part of Creation!  why do you value and love the people in your life? show them; tell them….so many words for you.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    for this one, to do a favor for yourself, you are better off by doing a favor for another in proximity to giving thanks. before you pray today, or this week, do chesed in tzedakah. more of you will be in the prayer thereafter.

kabbalah for chesed she b’hod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    today is Pesach Sheni (‘second passover’ or maybe ‘do-over passover), a halachah from written Torah itself (Nubers 9:6-8). the episode reflects the question brought by some who were unable to do the Pesach at the appointed time due to having been ritually unclean at the time through no fault of their own…they were doing the great chesed of tending to the dead. Moshe brought G’d’s word, which was itself chesed: ok, so you can’t do the passover with the rest of us? we’ll give you a do-over passover time a little later after you are ritually pure again.  so, in empathy with those who need the do-over, have some matzah today (again? already?) and remember that it too is one of those wonders brought forth from the earth…..just like yourself.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    r’ Mordechai Breuer, z’l, used to teach that the core of the shechechiyanu  blessing was the full, rich appreciation of life in the moment…the final words are “lazman hazeh” (‘this very minute’).  be mindful of (ie, meditate in real time) a single moment of your day today. it doesn’t matter which you choose. give thanks for it, and for what you open out of it.

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    we are an ancient People, who have cultivated many traditions and practices over time. choose one you don’t regularly do and do it mindfully today. contemplate all those who brought love for G’d and Creation through it in generations past.

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    G’d is wherever we let G’d in. meditate on receiving with love today. find what stops you from doing it freely and resolve to remove those stops to chesed in hod.

kinyan 29 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Ohev et haMakom…..Loving G’d (in the guise of place).   as we said, G’d is wherever we let G’d in. among the names of G’d is “haMakom” (‘the Place’) presumably due to G’d’s designated Place in the Bet haMikdash, which was the Place of the Indwelling Presence amongst Bnei Yisrael.  when you say Shema tonight, be mindful of place and how the prayer itself calls on us to teach the Oneness of G’d in whatever place and time we find ourselves in.

“you shall love haShem Your G’d…..when you sit in your house…when you walk on the road”