Sunday, 18 April 2010

Day 19 of the Omer: Hod SheBeTiferet - Acknowledgement of Truth

The Sefirot Tiferet and Hod are by no means the easiest to translate, having a variety of possible understandings to them.

If one wishes to truly grasp the meaning of a Sefirah, one should simply make a parallel comparison of the Sefirah to the person who is the embodiment of that particular Sefirah.

Yaakov Avinu is the Sefirah of Tiferet personified. He (and the Sefirah) epitomises truth and Torah. He is the direct balance between his father Yitzchak who represents Gevurah (Strength/Restraint) and his grandfather Avraham – Chessed (Kindness.) For real truth is the complete balance between overflowing kindness and complete restraint and holding-back of something.

Aharon HaKohen is the Sefirah of Hod personified. He is certainly a man filled with kindness (even though he is not Chessed – Avraham). Yet part of the concept of being kind is the ability to acknowledge, admit to the truth, and thank those that are kind to oneself. In other words the one thing that stands out with Aharon HaKohen is not just his unselfish kindness to others, but rather than he is extremely empathetic to their needs, wants and desires. He acknowledges and admits to what must be admitted to – and in this way brings kindness and balance to all people – bringing peace to everyone.

How do we understand the concept of Hod SheBeTiferet – acknowledgment of truth?! We are taught that it is a great Mitzvah for one to put in effort to strengthening and supporting Torah scholars – those who spend their days and nights involved in Torah study. Indeed, Yaakov – the medium between Avraham and Yitzchak – balance and truth – also represents the Torah SheBichtav – the Written Torah. 

When we speak about Tiferet, we speak about the Written Torah. One who wishes to connect with Tiferet does so by studying Torah and also by being a support for those whose fulltime occupation is Torah study. Tiferet is also represented by the entire body which keeps all the vital organs in place and acts as the perfect middle point to joining all of a person's limbs and head. His body is the perfect balance that keeps him alive – just as the Written Torah is the essential body that keeps us all alive too.

Hod – acknowledgment and empathy – is also represented by the left leg – one of the supporting structures that hold the body up. After all, a body without legs is a body that is left limited to only one point. It cannot move about from one area to another. It needs the actual support of its legs in order to be able to bring things into reality. While the body may have a head upon it with all sorts of ideas to accomplishing various tasks in life – it will find most things to be impossible without its legs and feet! (Could it be that only the fastest sprinters in the Olympics realise that without feet they would be nowhere?!) Though in today's times we have a variety of artificial means to making travel possible – the theoretical concept still applies.

Those who support Torah study are rooted in the Sefirot of Netzach and Hod. Indeed as we say – the Torah is a tree of life for… those who hold on to her. For those who support the Torah – the Torah becomes their own very source of life. Torah is not just a source of life for those who are the embodiment of the Torah, rather those who support Torah are blessed with life too.

Those wishing to perfect the Sefirot of the day should strive to support Torah scholars as much as they possibly can – and those who study the Written Torah in particular. Included in this is to strengthen them with their wealth and with their deeds of action – and to provide for them all their needs – their food and the fulfilment of their will. They do this in order that the Torah scholar is free to engage in the study of Torah continuously – so that he need not be distracted from the task at hand – to be totally and 100% immersed in study. 

Those who would prefer to criticise the Torah scholar for apparently wasting his days away instead of getting a job like everyone else and the rest of the world – so that he can support himself without being a burden on society – should do well to reflect on the very real situation of what they do when finding themselves in need of a Rabbi to answer a very intrinsic (and often life threatening) question! Suddenly the importance of a responsible and knowledgeable person becomes apparent, and the "criticiser" is finally ready to admit defeat as he suddenly requires an expert to handle his questions. As our Sages of blessed memory have said, "If one shames a Torah scholar there is no healing for his wound" because he has desecrated the Torah, as it is said, "But they mocked the messengers of G-d... until there was no remedy" (Chronicles 36:16) (Shabbat 119b)

Yet if it is not for the Torah scholar's total absorption in Torah study day and night – so that he can master both the Written and the Oral Law, then when answers are needed – there will be nobody to ask! Once the what-would-be-Torah-Scholar is forced to working like everyone else – the entire Torah collapses. The Hod (glory and support) of Torah – the legs give in, leaving the body motionless, possibly even paraplegic with no means whatsoever of ever moving about ever again.

The criticiser looks well at the present situation while failing to "see the future" – the very needed trait of a "good and proper way" of life (see Pirkei Avot 2:10). The criticiser falls into the ultimate trap of the one who has no clue about real life and promptly positions himself on a path of life which is exactly the opposite of a "proper one" (Pirkei Avot 2:10)

In addition to the qualities above, the person wishing to perfect Hod SheBeTiferet should be careful not to insult the Torah students' studies to cause them to abandon their learning (even when it seems like they may not be making the progress that the other feels they should be making!) Rather one should honour and praise their learning and good deeds, in order that they will be strengthened even further in their service.

One should provide them with books (or the money needed to purchase the thousands of books necessary to acquiring the full range of Torah needed to be able to answer life's every day questions.) One should provide them with a Beit Midrash – a learning centre, so that they can learn with a broad and relaxed mind. In this sense, a beautiful, open and clean building is a basic necessity. An old dungeon with faulty chairs and rickety tables hardly accounts for blessing a Torah scholar with a place to learn – let alone old toilets (often lacking proper seats,) with broken doors and wide open windows for all and sundry to look through to see what is actually happening! Many using these facilities will be qualified Dayanim (Jewish judges) – and one can only but wonder if we would provide our every day judges with the same quality chair, table, study room and toilet!

One should awaken the hearts of others that they should be strengthened in Torah too and that they too strengthen those involved in learning Torah.

Through this, one is able to get a glimpse into the start of acquiring the perfection of Hod SheBeTiferet – acknowledgement of truth.

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