of yesod: sefirat haShavua 6

“the loftier the building,

the deeper must the foundation be laid”

we set the tone for tiferet with keats; why not continue the tradition with Kempis, Thomas a Kempis, from whom this quotidian quote. Kempis is best known for a little 15th century book called “the imitation of christ”, which is the second most widely translated book in history….the first being, of course, the Bible. seems to me that the imitation is, well, rather deadly, but this little piece of Kempis is true even today for architects and, metaphorically, for the rest of us.

of course, just looking at the quote centered on 2 lines suggests pretty quickly that there is at least one other point of view…that of the mayans and other mesoamerican first nations people  (gotta love that canadian phrase, eh?), who would tell you that:

“the loftier the pyramid, the broader must the foundation be laid”

i was reminded of the importance of personal spiritual foundation by a question asked of me in synagogue on shabbat just past. i was asked if the dresses worn by women young and (sadly) old alike troubled me, for they seemed designed only to expose secondary sexual charactertistics above and below, making it quite impossible for the young women to do traditional prayer practices like, oh, bowing for barchu, or the blessings of the amidah, or the aleinu, etc.  can’t say i’m a fan of much of anything mini or low, cut or otherwise. but what i answered was that troubled was what was in the mind and hearts of those who make such choices. that is where the issue is…where is the foundational spirit in the the choice?

which brings us to coco chanel, who uttered perhaps my favorite quote about foundations (not exactly makeup, but close enough):

“wear perfume wherever you want to be kissed”

and the same applies to the soul. where would you have your soul kissed by that of another? THAT should influence all you do and the way you think as you are seeking to improve your spiritual traits. sticking with coco for another minute, she also advised simply, wisely and truly that “elegance is refusal“, and a little more refusal for contemporary fashion trends might have better suited the spiritual lives of the daughters of Israel that were encountered in synagogue shabbat morning.

yesod is foundation and communication. it should probably be deeply laid, broadly laid and as precise in the directional signals issued as an aircraft carrier or the desire for a kiss. it is the lower focus point for all the energy flowing from above through all the various weigh stations of the sefirot. it is the seat of contact, connection and communication with the external world.  it has its analog in eastern systems in the swadisthana chakra and equivalents in far eastern chi.

it is the gathering point for distribution of energies from above into creation through the way of the human soul. it is also associated with the genitalia due to the focusing on supernal energies into the creation potential of engendering new life.  as we’ve noted before, birth seems to be the universal miracle that is utterly natural and commonplace. there is recognition therein of something from nothing, yesod is focusing on the engineering and structure that underpins the eventual miracle in nature, the spiritual behind the procreative operation. conception, pregnancy and birth, then, are the very model for doing the way in the World.

“and the tzaddik is the foundation of the world”

for the tzaddik procreates not only physically but also spiritually, arousing souls to return to G’d, to study and pray with fervor, to share their gains with their neighbors, to build and rebuild the structures that make individual spirit way into communal spirit way. as the founder of chabad had it: the meaning of be fruitful and multiply is that a jew must make another jew….whether by flesh and spirit, or by spirit alone.

what is engendered in both cases is the spirit way, and therein is the yesod to communicate to and through the flesh….to and through the rest of Creation. and yesod also brings the stability to direct the drive to finish what one begins….there is the ongoing imitation of divinity (Kempis has what to learn).

yesod is the terminus of the second triad, and the underpinning of the pillars of netzach and hod. and it is the nexus point for the rejoining, or folding back in, of malchut and tiferet, the model of the yichud (‘making one’ as in coitus, for instance) of Shechinah and the Holy One.

in chassidut, yesod is the sefira of truth, not tiferet. it is shifted one triad down, and is more completely involved in the more human sphere, the more earthly sphere, for while chesed and gevurah are divine gifts, netzach and hod are gained by the active work of humans in the world. and the lower triad through yesod is responsible for “verifying” the work of the spirit by “realizing” it in the world.

it is not accidental, in this view that the hebrew “emet” (‘truth’) which comprises the first, middle, and last letter of the hebrew alphabet is associated with the sefirah that comes to conjoin tiferet and malchut, joining sovereignty with beauty by way of truth….

“come together, right now, over me”

so, what do you think?

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