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 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”

haYom sh’mona v’esrim yom, sh’heim arba’a shavuot, laOmer: malchut she b’netzach

I am the Infinite One who makes All”

“who stretched forth the heavens alone; who spread abroad the earth by myself”

who, in fact, “formed each of us from the womb”, as it is written in Isaiah 44:24ff,  who “says to the Deep: ‘be dry, and i will dry up your rivers”.  this is absolute sovereignty, absolute eternity…infinitude is the ultimate endurance. and only One Who Creates a Womb Within (through tzimtzum, ‘internal withdrawal’ to create nonG’d space for Creation) can claim to have brought forth everything according to G’d’s own desire….and due to G’d’s absolute will to share love with Creation.

malchut in netzach has this aura of sovereign eternity following only self-same ends, motivated by nothing external to itself, beholden to nothing other. this is strength. and as we imitate the aspects of G’d, it is for us to find a way to bring an evocation of this majesty into our own way of walking, humbly, with that absolute Creator…..who nonetheless desires us to walk alongside!…or maybe just a tad behind as we are always following in G’d’s way.

the Sefer haBahir (Mishnah 22) interprets these verses in a useful way for us, explaining that the Sovereign We actually had a more down to earth end in mind:

“it was I alone who planted the tree of existence, so that the entire universe would derive pleasure from it. and I carved everything within this tree, and called its name The All. because the very existence of all is suspended from this tree; all come from it, all are in need of it, all gaze upon it with hope, and all souls are derived from it”

Avatar, anyone?  there is nothing new, apparently, even under alien suns….but this rerendering by the author of the Bahir gives us not only a technical tie-in of the sefirotic tree and Creation, but also some very human sounding options to consider. for us the existence of All is to be experienced in pleasure and with hope. hope and pleasure might well be the Indwelling Presence within Endurance, for they are the unexpected, the purposive, the nonrational, unpredictable, not rationally looked for aspects within the random system of our understanding of Creation.

how do hope and pleasure dwell with randomness in so many aspects of the underlying realities of the world?  we have most of us experienced how the world bustles on around us even thought the news dishes up tragic stories nightly. 20 dead in a traffic accident here…..so, like, where should we go for lunch?  tsunami inundates fukushima and the nuclear reactors are seriously compromised….i am SOOOO looking forward to Midnight in Paris…have you seen it? i hear that its woody’s best picture ever.

there is a spiritual source behind our ability to be aghast and then move on. we are created to not only serve, and to do justice, love kindness, but to also walk humbly with G’d….and to do that we have to be able to derive pleasure and gaze to the future with hope….lest we become self-righteous, or so troubled by the brokenness of the world that we can find no pleasure in it.  THAT is not humility in the walk; normality is.

we often see the Divine Presence in the wonderful event….the happiness of a new marriage, the birth of a child….but we must also see the Divine Presence in the bad situation calling out for our help. the good times ought to be a nudge to us to step up to that other call in the bad times…..we serve G’d in The All. and it is precisely the pleasure and the hope that gives us the ability to face the bleak and the dark.

those who make volunteering a regular part of their weekly schedule know this. they see how the one feeds the strength for the other. and those who bring their persistent strength to bear in acts of good know the sovereignty in the quiet call to justice, to mercy, to caring and compassion. and after they have given? they can laugh again without regret, or guilt. as you serve the needy, you hope for their pleasure….you hope for their hope.

Shechinah is a mom. ruling one minute over a birthday party, the next over an emergency trip to the hospital for an unforeseen tumble. to and fro. pleasure to hope….and back again. mom’s rule because they endure….they are all malchut in netzach.

mussar for malchut she b’netzach

with another…..bein adam l’chaveiro    make it a practice to donate an amount equal to one of your entertainments in each week. that is a material/spiritual way to link the pleasure and hope to the just and kind, and to acknowledge the sovereign persistence of G’d in All.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo   make it a practice to say “b’ezrat haShem’ (‘with the help of G’d’) when you give an assurance that you will do something, or make a promise. including when you make a date to go out and have some fun.

kabbalah for malchut she b’netzach

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    you have a personal share in the root of Shechinah through you indwelling nefesh.  the ruach, the emotional soul, may flit about, but the nefesh abides.in fun and pain, in effortless and in effort. meditate on this personal indwelling presence of G’d.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    when we see the light of recognition in a student’s eyes, or see someone on the mend making progress in physical therapy, do we worry about the failure and the difficulties that are still to come for that student or that patient? no, we smile and know the pleasure of recognizing a small bit of fixing in a broken world. and we spur on with hope and encouragement. “b’ezrat haShem, you can do it!”  meditate on how we can bring ready openness to pleasure to all the situations we or others around us face that need hope…that seem distant to pleasure.

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation     we see bumper stickers urging us to do “random acts of kindness”. but we are after sustaining kindness, enduring compassion, sovereign  loving. contemplate how to bring the spirit of “randomness” productively to your sustaining kindnesses….(hint: think One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and learn pleasure and hope in hardship).

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    the Kotzker teaches that “G’d dwells/abides wherever/whenever we let G’d in”.  for some G’d is invited when they are happy; for others when they are sad and in need. Song of Songs teaches “the voice of my Beloved, here it comes”,  suggesting that G’d is ever arriving in the moment. can you lay out a welcome mat worthy of The All?

kinyan 28 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Ahuv….Being Beloved.   combining pleasure with hope and persistence was not alien to the Rabbis, or to our Foreparents. consider this from Avot d’Rabbi Natan 31:

“3 things make a person beloved: an open hand, a set table, and a sparkling wit”

and open hand is both cheerful greeting and generous giving; a set table is both hospitality in entertaining and planning/readiness to meet needs; a sparkling wit is both bon vivance and humble compassion (“splendor” of hod and “brilliance”  of tiferet)

haYom shiv’a v’esrim yom, sh’heim sh’losha shavuot v’shisha yomim, laOmer: yesod she b’netzach

“i will betroth You to me in righteousness, in justice, in kindness, and in mercy”

this is one of several verses from Hosea (2:21ff) that we say when we are wrapping the t’fillin strap around our middle finger….making a ring.  yesod is the level of foundation and of the figurative genitalia. and our relationship to G’d, as r’ Akiva pointed out in insisting that Song of Songs be included in the canon, is as one lover to another. this relationship is Holy of Holies, in a way….a boundless love for G’d, and by G’d for G’d’s People.

“the entire universe is unworthy of the day that the Song of Songs was given”

so what are we to make of this (Yadayim 3:5ff)?  perhaps, that we should be very serious when we marry. it is not called kiddushin (‘holiness’ and part of the wedding ceremony that gives its name to the whole) for nothing, fot it reflects the love of G’d for us….in good times and bad….in sickness and in health.

the love between the well-wedded is the one place wherein we can all see enduring victory built upon the most solid of foundations, spiced with the delight of lovemaking and the promise of yet another life-long covenantal love relationship with the children of the marriage.  all yesod in netzach, all the time! baruch haShem!

but we know that the conventional sociological view of modern marriage seems to show us something very different….something built on shifting sands in an active seismic zone.  no clear foundation…no enduring….no touch of eternity in G’d.

the problem seems to be that yesod is the seat of the ego and the associated genitalia. we know that each of those can go oh so wrong, but when the ego is confident (netzach) but not overweening, and a touch of a real notion of eternity in acknowledgement of G’d, there is foundational reliability (yesod) in the loins….probably literally and figuratively. the touch of eternity matters fundamentally, for it is also the suggestion that the ego, the individual will,  is superceded by something….if by nothing else than by the relationship and the other to whom one is convenanted. seems so easy to grasp, yet we fail in it so often. Rachel weeps for lack of children; Leah weeps for lack of her husband’s love. Sarah laughs at the possibility of offspring in senescence, and Rivka had to intervene in a father-son relationship for the sake of both of them. marriage is a life-long wrestle….in and out of the sack….that is the enduring bedrock of Creation. think about it.

not perfect, marriage, but it really does work when people enter into covenant–not just lip service–through it. 2 souls, each retaining independence, nevertheless strive to become one flesh. the very model of cleaving to G’d. and in the parent-child relationships that come of marriage, there is the reiteration of Eden and the chance to do a better leave taking from it in each generation….less wandering…perhaps no wandering of Cain at all!

all relationships take part in this relationship, for all of us are either children of parents, or married and out of our parents home….or both….and this colors our capacity to love our neighbor as ourself in powerful ways.

and we experience the joys of stable relationships only to the degree that we mirror a good marriage in even our platonic relationships. mutual respect regards the yesod of each participant as something to be honored. compromise of self-centeredness is the directing of the capacity of netzach to tend to tolerance in persistence.

yesod in netzach gives each of us the potential for enduring victory, conditioned most directly by chesed and tiferet, by way of hod.

mussar for yesod she b’netzach

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro   is your individual strength, your netzach, strengthening the foundation, the yesod, of your relationships?  or are you overweening? if the latter, remember the covenant that underlies your friendship, or your marriage, or your parenting. remember that a covenant expects performance from both parties in balance. work on coming through on your initial promises in your relationships.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    consider writing an ethical will (google it!) this week. the aspirational values statement that you would leave to your beloveds should you die. after you write it, consider how well you yourself live up to it.

kabbalah for yesod she b’netzach

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    doesn’t the ideal of a solid foundation for your best ambitions seem wonderful? take stock of your ambitions for good and assess how solid are the foundations you have established for each. bolster the foundation of at least 1 that remains on shaky ground.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    it is difficult to assess relationships sometimes, for they are always packed with memories and feelings. it can seem tiresome to even think about relationships after a number of years. yesod in netzach can also serve as a battery recharger, providing you with energy to examine your life in relationships, and come out stronger for the examination. how will you use your charge?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation       Ahad Ha’am said that “more than the jews have kept the sabbath, the sabbath has kept the jews”.  time is the touch of eternity that helps get each of us out of our self-relational space in place. contemplate how jewish time, the holy days, the rosh chodesh, the weekday reading schedule, affest the jewish psyche and soul.

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition     for thousands of years, jews have been wrapping themselves in the leather straps of t’fillin and betrothing themselves to to G’d. put on your t’fillin today…borrow a pair if you haven’t any of your own–and meditate on yourself as the spouse of G’d.

“and i will betroth You to me in faithfulness….and you shall know G’d”

kinyan 27 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Eino Machazik Tovah l’Atzmo….Claiming No Credit for Yourself.     ideally, each of us sits to learn Torah with a friend. the modern academic model of sitting down by yourself and reading silently is alien to the heart of judaism….we learn through public reading and arguing over Torah! it is a shared endeavor….like marriage!

“if you have studied much Torah, do not take credit for yourself, because that is what you were created to do”