haYom chamisha v’arba’im yom, sh’heim shisha shavuot u’sh’losha yomim, laOmer: tiferet she b’malchut

“when you pray, direct

your eyes toward the earth & your heart toward the heavens”

we learn this from Yevamot 105b, which goes on to explain that G’d’s Presence dwells everywhere, no less in the earthly realm than in the heavenly one. and this also reflects the position of tiferet in the sefirotic tree, for it is the central sefirah, the most interconnected one, receiving directly from every sefirah except malchut.

so it is eyes earthward for seeking out, perhaps, as the heart is not a hunter. though the Presence of G’d is everywhere, the hiddenness of G’d keeps the sense of exile alive. and the longing of the heart for reunification is a very important driver of tikkun olam. we repair the world for our own sake as well…..

tiferet in malchut is making harmony sovereign, giving compassion dominion over your life.

this year, in preparation for rosh chodesh sivan (which always corresponds with tiferet in malchut), the month of the giving of Torah, we had a broadly observable ring eclipse, in which the moon takes momentary primacy over the sun, creating a spectacular alignment light show in the heavens. but we also had interinclusion of the symbol of Shechinah/feminine/malchut in the moon in the symbol of  haKodesh Baruch Hu/masculine/tiferet in the sun. even the temporary celelstial symbolism of this yichud (‘oneness’ or ‘unification’) gives us the beauty of tiferet all round.

“the earth is full of G’d’s glory”

time and space in harmony this year for our counting of the Omer. baruch haShem. and it is no accident that this statemen of glory comes in the line that is the essence of the kedushah prayer in our liturgy….all angels encircling the Divine Presence, each angel calling out to each other,  with a bow casting eyes earthward, before lifting up eyes and all with “kadosh, kadosh, kadosh”. again and again and again.

tiferet in malchut….the realm of harmonious beauty all round.

mussar for tiferet she b’malchut

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    when we say the kedushah in prayer, all are equal, none of the differences of philosophy, approach, custom, even appearance that otherwise enter into everyday life matter a jot. all are as one, lifting on toes, uttering simply: “holy, holy, holy, G’d of hosts, full is the earth of Your Glory”.  there are times when we accept each other without a thought. find more such.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    the moon is always lovely, the sun always brilliant….yet neither ever does a thing to beautify itself….it is simply there.  do you comport yourself in a way that reflects harmony, balance and beauty? in a way that reflects the Divine Presence i nthe world as you walk in it? consider how you might be a better representative of the Way. start not with your clothing or your hair or your tie…start with doing justice and loving kindness…..the markers of blended tiferet…give them dominion in your realm.

kabbalah for tiferet she b’malchut

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    yesterday on the streets of chicago, while the NATO summit was going full on, protesters pushed and police shoved. balance was begun to be struck. by late in the day, reports of protesters accepting and police accepting compromise positions reached the world press. we even heard stories about the protesters and police joking together and sort of hanging out. if these strongly opposing sides can strike up even fleeting moments of harmony, what holds the rest of us back in our relationships with family, with friends, with neighbors…..with strangers? contemplate how you can remain open to harmony even in oppositional situations.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    our  emotions are key in being open to balance and harmony. most of us are not yet masters of equanimity, not yet calm regardless of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. meditate on how the love expressed in the Shechinah, the Divine Presence in malchut, can flow into the other emotions in your toolset. can you make compassion for all formative today?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    balance and harmony of spirit should extend not only to other humans, but to all of Creation. but working to retain/restore the environment, or to achieve world peace, or to stop needless war will take more than emotional change. it requires careful thought, examination and observation, planning and mobilization on a very large scale. this is an intellectual exercise as well. consider what specific steps you will next take to bring harmonious, compassionate, beautiful interactions to the larger world.

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    we recognise beauty in the  celestial mechanics of the moon and sun. why? for the religious, such moments are of apprehension of the Divine Presence. meditate on  how we can be of fully present of mind in such moments, not only to exist in them, but to remember the contextualizing blessings that are part of the response of our tradition. it is the blessing that brings the single moment into the following ordinary time.

kinyan 45 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Lomed al M’nat Laasot….Learning in Order to Practice.  the more we learn, the more we know. and to know, know, know G’d is to love, love, love G’d. among the most potent ways to know G’d is to study Torah tirelessly and to put into practice what we learn….that is, to live Torah is to love G’d….consider Psalm 50:

“You spoke….out of Zion, beauty’s perfection…You shone forth…arriving, breaking the silence. a fire before You with a cloud….calling

out of the heavens above and the earth below

for proving Your People….”

haYom arba’a v’arba’im yom, sh’heim shisha shavuot u’sh’nei yomim, laOmer: gevurah she b’malchut

“I have set my rainbow in the cloud”

we read about the covenant after the great flood in Genesis 9:13ff and may only rarely appreciate what an extraordinary idea this is. it is an explicit sign of covenant established between G’d and humankind, between G’d and all the living, between G’d and the earth. that much we all get. and it is a sign of the explicit agreement that never again will there be a “cutting off” of all flesh by the waters, and that never again will there be an earth-destroying flood. right. there’s the basics.

the idea of covenant of such a sort is astounding, but it is more extraordinary still in its implications. look carefully at the text (Genesis 9:12ff) and you will see why, i think. who looks at the rainbow and why?

“…I will remember my covenant….I will look upon it to remember my everlasting covenant….”

G’d is looking at rainbows….not us. it is a sign for G’d. for G’d to remember what is everlasting….to remember a particular judgment taken and punishment made, and to not follow that same course of judgment and punishment again.

G’d needs a reminder of what G’d has made everlasting?

well, yes, apparently. the rainbow is the great symbol of gevurah in malchut….self-restraint of sovereignty. and more….it is constraint of unlimitedness in a climate of  repentance. and it is something repeated in each incidence of possible flooding rain forever. there is no taking for granted here….

do we have any images of rainbows from space? nope. but pilots high in the atmosphere report seeing the full circle of some rainbows…apparently all of them tend that way, but from our viewpoint, the circle is broken by features of the horizon. so we don’t see raincircles, but rather rainbows.

this is a strictly terrestrial sign, then.  for G’d to see it, G’d would have to be standing where we are. and that is the point.

malchut is the Divine Presence amongst us as Shechinah. for us, then, the rainbow is a sign of the Indwelling Presence as much as it is of the covenant against world-destroying floods. malchut is described by kabbalists as the prism through which G’d’s unending light streaming through the upper sefirot is concentrated and then separated to shine into the lower worlds. malchut is a rainbow maker.

and one lesson of the prism is that we all need reminders about proper justice and severity. reminders to limit our desire/urge/tendency to limit strictly. to imitate G’d is to look to signs of restraint of constraint.

gevurah in malchut is in part the rainbow symbol of  repentance on a cosmic scale….and the light that refracts is the light through chesed with which G’d created all.

mussar for gevurah she b’malchut

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    this one is easy….and, oh, so hard: do what you say you will do!  you are master of a realm, and to be a good sovereign, you must do what you say you will….else you become arbitrary like a tyrant….and that is not the model of sovereignty.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    examine your motivations for your reactions to things in the world. if you are angry…why?  if you are sad….why?  “the unexamined life is not worth living”, said Thoreau….a bit extreme. it isn’t a matter of “worth”. rather the meaning might better be, “the unexamined life is not living”. examine your motivations…..

kabbalah for gevurah she b’malchut

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    you have unwritten covenants with all the people around you. unspoken, assumed agreements about intimacy, deportment, sharing, etc. consider, then, what would be the signs of these covenants that you would rely on, but like a rainbow, could also be seen by those affected? and how would you share those signs with the covenanted?

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    many have suggested that G’d might have regretted having destroyed the world by flood. we’ve argued here that the rainbow is a symbol of repentance, the very heart of malchut. we know that confession is essential…that sort of facing up to wrong is necessary. and we know that resolve not to wrong again is essential. but can one repent without experiencing regret?

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    it may be important to see clearly that G’d does not promise to never again destroy the earth and all the living, but rather promises only to not do so via flood. we could suppose that the myriad other options are still on the table….when one of us humans says “i’ll never do that again!”, do we mean  a broad “i’ll never do anything that has that effect again” or i’ll never achieve the same result doing a particular thing again….but i might achieve it doing something else? consider this for yourself. when you repent of something, how specific or broad are you?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    a rainbow is a diaphanous and passing phenomenon on a massive scale. meditate on how the signs of G’d’s Presence that you perceive are like a rainbow.

kinyan 44 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Lomed al M’nat l’Lamed…..Learning in Order to Teach.  people talk of going to college theses days to learn a profession. specifically to get a good, well-paying, not-likely-to-be-outsourced sort of job/career for life.  it has been a long-time since i’ve heard anyone suggest that they want to go to learn in order to teach what they learn. can’t really be a rabbi if you don’t teach….most of jewish practice individually and communally is do-it-yourself (or is intended to be). fortunately, we haven’t yet concluded that rabbis are amongst those who can’t do….so they teach! but so important is the intent to share your learning that Rabbi Yishmael, amongst the greatest of our teachers of Torah, says in Avot 4:5:

“who studies in order to teach is afforded adequate means (by G’d) both to study and to teach”

haYom sh’nayim v’arba’im yom, sh’heim shisha shavuot, laOmer: malchut she b’yesod

“the more conscious your commitment to being here,  

the deeper your soul will manifest in your being”

r’ Nachman of Breslov points out what should be obvious, but often isn’t:

“you are here by default. yet it would be a good idea to make a conscious commitment to being here.”

the more conscious your commitment to being here, the more sovereignty you bring to being here. you make your life your own and not simply a product of random procreative copulatory happenstance. perhaps you are content to be consider yourself as an accident, but i always wonder what one does with “love your neighbor as yourself” in that circumstance.

r’ Nachman would also believe that the uncommitted life leads to less soul attachment and stickiness, which leaves the body more vulnerable to those things that prey upon bodies….organic disease amongst the most persistent of those things.

to establish yourself in your life is to do malchut in yesod…to make both Divine Presence and nobility real in yourself. to make the Presence foundational in yourself is to open yourself to the way of the tzadik (‘righteous one’), and the tzadik is the foundation of the universe itself, so far from being here by default, you can come to be here with full mission of being that righteousness that establishes the Presence and the way of the Presence of G’d in the world.  else it smells a lot like, well, teen spirit:

“with the lights out, its less dangerous…here we are now, entertain us

i feel stupid and contagious…here we are now, entertain us”

a denial of the Divine Presence strips foundational down to mere habitual. yeah, a denial conceals the light of holiness that many of us are hard at work to release from the husks already covering it too often and in too many places. if life is merely a time to fill with entertainment, then maybe r’ Nachman is right that we simply make ourselves subject to organic disease…and make ourselves, well, more simply stupid and contagious.

it is, of course, your life to live. and it is in this spirit that the Holy One, blessed be, lays down the spirit gauntlet (Deuteronomy 30:19, 11:26):

” ….I call heaven and earth as witnesses…that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. now choose life, so that you and your offspring may live…” 

the heaven and earth that G’d established, of course, are called as witness to the fact that nothing is simply happenstance  here, choose life by choosing to commit to living the Way of G’d. else your choice, ie, being here by default, is death in existence….not life.

the Shekhinah is exiled from the Holy One, blessed be, for our sake. we rectify that sadness by our humble walk in the Way. malchut in yesod everyday.

mussar for malchut she b’yesod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro   there is the doing of tzedakah directly, helping the needy by your own personal action. then there is the organizing of a larger tzedakah effort by leading others to join in and expand what any of us can do alone. malchut in yesod would call us to do the second, so get out and organize an effort to do tikkun olam. establish something good.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo   accept the tenet of “this too is for the good”. to make it malchut in yesod, though, you will have to go farther. you will have to understand that the Hand of G’d is behind even the most inexplicable occurrences…perhaps not directly in the occurrence…but in the larger scheme in which the particular is but a minute piece. when you model the behavior of acceptance in such cases, you are extending the nobility of your actions, and establishing the sovereignty of One mightier than you could ever be.

kabbalah for malchut she b’yesod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion   humble does not mean bent. after all, you are walking the walk alongside G’d. your stride will, of necessity, have to be long and fast just to keep up. meditate on this.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    we spoke yesterday of trust but verify being the way of establishing truth in yesod. add to this the Presence of Divine Spark within. meditate on the how the ambition to walk with G’d is different from other worldly ambition, and how to lead by way of that walk is potentially even greater than the model of the POTUS.

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    necessity is the mother of invention, they say.  it is necessary that the Divine Presence be amongst us if we are to do tikkun olam. how do you use the Presence to spark insight for tikkun?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    Psalm 2:11 teaches us to “rejoice with trembling” in the service of G’d. r’ Heschel calls for us to hold in our hearts and minds a “radical amazement” in particular moments:

“of awareness of grandeur, of perceptions we can grasp but are unable to convey…that we attain the certainty that life has meaning, that time is more than evanescent, that beyond all being there is someone who cares”

it is in experience that we choose life and make it foundational. meditate on radical freedom and radical amazement that brings the majesty of the Presence to us daily.

kinyan 42 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Sho’ayl (u’Mayshiv)….Asking (and Answering). the 7 characteristics of asking/answering of the wise:

1. wise folk don’t speak in the presence of those wiser than they, they simply listen

2. they do not interrupt their study partner’s words

3. they do not reply in haste

4. they ask what is relevant and answer to the point

5. they reply to complex questions in an orderly sequence

6. of what they don’t know, they answer that they don’t know

7. they admit to the truth

what is opposite these are the characteristics of a “clod”.


haYom echad v’arba’im yom, sh’heim chamisha shavuot v’shisha yomim, laOmer: yesod she b’yesod

“Lord, lead me in the path of truth”

as i am about to reach for the door every day that i leave my house, i say this simple prayer. it isn’t intended to be a paraphrase of Psalm 25:5, though it is very close. and, yes, baruch haShem, i do put my hope in G’d all day, but i really am most concerned about that path of truth. i want that to be my yesod for the rest of the day, everyday.

no, i’m not habituated to falsehood, ch’v, but i know good and well that i will need to be led when i’m absent from the truth…even by way of momentary distraction….because the absence of truth is not a neutral state. it is falsehood, even when not driven to evil. it is falsehood because it is absence of G’d for a moment…ch’v…and i must be led out of it back onto the path, for i will not know it for what it is without a nudge.

or know it for what it isn’t, when it is a momentary lapse. “trust but verify” actually is a good watchword for yesod in yesod. for the spirit state associated with the foundation of the body is emet (‘truth’ and ‘verification’), G’d’s own seal. and when i pray to be led in truth, i’m asking for the sign of verification that i am continuing on the humble walk with G’d, and not dancing down, however joyously, some other path. all i look for is that subtle dance lead, that tad of pressure, that slightest pull in a different direction.

or maybe just a directing of my eyes to my tzitzit so i can remember the 4 corners of the world and the doubling of each set of strings at each corner. 8 (beyond the natural 7) to remind me that G’d  surrounds me……doubled as yesod in yesod…16…

emet v’yatziv…v’nachon v’kayam…v’yashar v’ne’eman…v’ahuv v’chaviv…

v’nechmad/v’nayim…v’norah v’adir…u’metukan/um’kubal…v’tov v’yafeh”



emet represents the realization of G’d’s will (beginning), the plan for the continuation of that will (middle), and the fulfillment, the verification and seal of that will (end). G’d is not only beginning and end, but also middle, which is where, broken matzah that i am, i find myself.

only with truth in truth, yesod in yesod, wherein truth is made foundational to every act, can we even reasonably hope for the fullness of self in every moment, the completedness of it simultaneous with the beginning of it in the next moment. and only with focus on it can we simply be in the moment fully with every step.

try to imagine the opposite….focus on falsehood….what would it be? to be lost and doomed to evil eventually. when in truth one can see falsehood, but the very second one steps away, even just distractedly, one is, well, distracted, hence in need of a nudge, a lead…maybe a whack upside the head….to get back to the truth.

G’d is my foundational rock; hence ever-ready to be my redeemer…in truth.

mussar for yesod she b’yesod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro    can you tell all the people you know the truth? if not, why not? examine that closely….is there a falsehood in your relationship that needs communicating?

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    can you tell yourself the truth? that is the very foundation of human potential, for when you can do that, you will know G’d. go ahead, tell yourself the truth about yourself and your condition…to yourself. you’ll find a path thereafter.

kabbalah for yesod she b’yesod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    a tzadik, or tzadik emet,  is called the “foundation of the universe”. are you a tzadik? if you were, you would have the power to ‘decree’ that G’d fulfill in actuality all of G’d’s promises. it is said that each of us has the potential to be tzadik emet…to realize one’s own deepest potential….which becomes the realization of G’d’s potential in Creation. now, get started.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation    yesod is also the seat of sexuality, and thereby, of creativity of foundational sorts….and of procreativity. fulfillment and satisfaction are down with each other. yesod that is in yesod….consider this….and then do something holy about it.

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    Proverbsi 24:3…

“by wisdom is a house built, and by understanding established”

and a word to the wise is sufficient…so….word!

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    which is more foundational? spirit or flesh? why? meditate on how both are foundational, in truth.

kinyan 41 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Mityashev Libo b’Talmudo….Thinking ‘Heartily’ in One’s Study.  you should not make your study of Torah dry and nought but demanding. we are meant to study in joy, with full hearts…if not, how could one possibly get “a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12)? no less a than the brilliant talmudist, r’ Chaim of Volozhin, urged the same thing:

“who studies gladly for a single hour will learn vastly more than one who studies glumly for hours on end”

haYom arba’im yom, sh’heim chamisha shavuot v’chamisha yomim, laOmer: hod she b’yesod

“surely it could have been created with a single utterance!”

but the world was created in 10 utterances. Mishnah (Avot 5:1) asks why. we should first remember that 10 is the number of completion, but also the number of “minimum sufficient” from the time of Sodom….Avraham stopped bargaining down the number of righteous whose presence could save the city from utter destruction at 10. not 11, not 9.

just like the sefirot….10, not 11, not 9. not surprising as the sefirot mirror the stops through which the creating of Creation happens. they are sometimes called the 10 building blocks. and the Zohar (III:2b) tells us that the Torah itself  is 10-dimensional. and there are those commandments numbering….

10 is also just 1 with nothing next to it…yet it represents the entirety of the made world. 1 is a mirror image of the ein sof (‘without end’), and the world was intended to be other than G’d. what is other than the explicit nature of G’d?  well, simply put: many. and 10, as the minimum sufficient for a completion, is the representative of many. but it need be written with only a single numeral-character other than 1, but not a multiple of 1, so to speak. 2 would not do….but 1 next to nothing would. all of Creation amounts to nothing beside the All of G’d. and sadly, the number 10 also represents how G’d is, from the point of view of Creation…in the view of so many humans…. “next to nothing”. that is what hiddenness will getcha.

and yet this particular nothing of 0 is distinct. and this is where hod she b’yesod comes in. for humility in foundation is like the 0 next to the All of 1.  and the world is further humbled, if you will, by its brokenness. yet the multiplicity of Creation is also its wonder and splendor. hod is splendor, after all.

bit the Mishnah goes on to explain that there are 2 primary ways of understanding this:

“to exact payment from transgressors who destroy a world of 10 utterances”

notice that it is not to punish transgressors of the 10 commandments, as so many will blithely tell you, but to “exact payment” from them. and what is the payment? t’shuvah, which itself is G’d’s reaction to the broken multiplicity of the world. t’shuvah is return to the oneness that is G’d. that is the payment….a drawing down of multiplicity (the dark side of left) back through adherence to the 10, with a powerful spiritual movement toward cleaving to G’d….becoming 1 with The One.

and the second reason?

“to better reward the righteous who sustain a world of 10 utterances”

and the reward for the tzaddikim? it is being tzaddik at all, for the tzaddik has made hod a yesod, humility and hiddenness is foundational for those who have perfected all 10 attributes and the 10 attributes of their interactions with the Creation around them. hod in yesod. from nothingness in multiplicity to oneness in hiddenness.

a paradoxical world indeed, this world of 10. and we are mindful of it on this 40th day of sefirat haOmer. this is the last set of 10 in the count, after all…..we’ve only 9 days left. for those who like NASA….it’s countdown time in the final couting up.

a paradoxical world of 10 utterances. and we are all in it together. ultimately in shalom, a wholeness of 1….no chaser.

mussar for hod she b’yesod

with another….bein adam l’chaveiro     lower your expectations with folks around you…not to think less of them, but simply to require nothing more than what is whole in them. everything beyond that is a multiplicity, and neither of you need that….nor does the world need more man-made fragmenting.

with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo    examine your stuff. consider the Morris ideal: have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or find to be beautiful. as stuff goes, peace comes….small really is splendid.

kabbalah for hod she b’yesod

in assiyah….the world of doing/completion    in hod we see the small details…all of them. in yesod we see foundations and systems. does the highest level of soul comprose all the details  of the lower levels of soul? or does it transcend them, forgetting all that is more earthly. consider the paradox of doing both. the birchat haShachar prayers give thanks for the great and the small. extend them in your prayers today.

in yetzirah….the world of feeling/foundation    systems are built of small connections interlinked. a household runs through the work of the mom, the work of the dad, and work now and then by whoever else is in the house. they don’t all do it all….to each a particular. take on a new responsibility in your household (or if you are a mom, give one up). consider what better use of your time you might now make in building new connections in a broader community.

in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation    examine the small interlocking pieces of the world…open up a device and see how the processor connects to the storage device connects to the ports, etc. meditate on what sort of cog in the wheel you are. could you be better as a different piece?

in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition    Moshe had to wear a veil to enable people to look upon him without being dazzled by the splendid light G’d’s presence had left there. there were 2 sides to that veil…Moshe’s view was not perfectly clear….neither was the view of Moshe from outside the veil. meditate on how we all erect a veil before us, protecting what is private, not seeing what we care not to see. what is proper hiddenness?

kinyan 40 of 48 ways to acquire Torah

Ma’amido al haShalom….Setting Up Others for Peace.   Hillel says it very well, pointing to Aharon as the symbol of hod and saying to make his way your foundation. remember that wholeness is 1, not even the roundest of zeroes.

“be among the followers of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to the Torah”

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:


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”