Thursday, 15 April 2010

Beauty of Beauty - Tiferet SheBeTiferet - Constant Growth

The Sefirah related to the 17th day of the Omer is Tiferet SheBeTiferet. Roughly translated it would be Beauty of Beauty / Truth of Truth / Compassion of Compassion / Mercy of Mercy.

Tiferet refers to the actual body itself – that part that joins right and left side. Because of it being situated in the middle, it teaches us the concepts related to balance in everything. Giving is great. Receiving (at the right time) is also meritorious. But being a constant giver or constant receiver is not a comfortable situation. One needs balance.

Likewise being too stern on others can affect many. Being too kind to others likewise can cause more harm than good. One needs to keep balanced in everything one does. Balance – of course, as defined by the Torah's definition (and not our own logic!)

There are many ways of viewing this combination of Sefirot (as with all others too.) For this article, we will take just one idea with a wonderful story – in the hope that it will serve to inspire us on to higher growth in all that we do.

Tiferet refers to the idea of balance. If so, it seems that once one has attained this balance – one has reached the goal of creation. After all, how much more can one do after one has attained complete and perfect balance in everything? Our Sages teach us differently. There is never an end to the growth we can attain. While the attribute of "balance" has a middle point of perfection in all matters, it is also a point that reaches from below to above. This means to say that while the balance remains balance wherever one is on the vertical pole of balance, there is always room for improvement.

In fact the concept of the Sefirah of Tiferet SheBeTiferet is exactly this idea. Just when one thinks that one has attained the balance, one must seek out even greater ways to grow even further in understanding what real balance is really all about. There is never an end to any of the attributes – the Sefirot. On every level there is always the truth, but there is never a case of attaining complete balance because even balance reaches until infinity!

One should never feel completed in having attained the level of perfection demanded by the Sefirah of Tiferet – because there are even higher levels for those wishing to climb the ladder of success in balanced growth.

The story is told regarding Rabbi Saadia HaGaon, the outstanding Torah leader of the 9th century. One evening a student of his came over to visit his Rebbe and caught him by surprise! Rabbi Saadia was rolling in the snow (a practice upheld by many great Rabbis wishing to purify themselves by experiencing the pain of the cold in order to numb the body to physical desires.) The student was amazed and asked his Rebbe what he was doing! "Rebbi, Rebbi," he cried out, "Have you G-d forbid performed transgressions that require such afflictions? And if you can assume you have done something so bad that it requires such afflictions to atone for, what will become of us whose every-days are filled with an abundance of forbidden things since our youth? What are you doing rolling in the snow?!"

Rabbi Saadia replied that indeed he had never ever done any sins that required such atonement as rolling in the freezing snow. Rabbi Saadia explained to the pupil that he had however learned about the necessity to do this from a manager of an inn. Rabbi Saadia related a story that had happened to him. "I had once gone out of town and had lodged by an inn where the manager had not known who I was. The manager had treated me as he would any guest in the inn, making sure he had his basics, from food to lodging etc. but certainly no more honour was given to me than would be to any regular client. Suddenly the news got out that I was in town, and those who knew who I was became flocking to attend to me and to greet me. Men – Torah scholars, women and children all came through and began praising me and serving me."

"The manager of the inn – after realising that I must have been some sort of important personality came over to me and apologised for the way he had treated me!"

"Had I only known who you were," he said, "I would have granted you all the respect due to you. I would have served you faster. I would have brought you better food, a better bed! I would have made sure to honour you accordingly in whatever way I could have to make your stay an easier one, a more comfortable one and a more dignified one."

"From that moment on, the manager began treating me with even more respect in accordance with his ability to do so."

"When I wanted to take leave, the manager came over and began crying and weeping, begging my forgiveness for the way in which he had behaved towards me before knowing who I was. I asked him how he could think all this, after all, he had treated me in the best possible way he could from the moment I had entered the inn. He replied that he had only treated me as he would treat any guest, but that had he only known who I was, he would have gone to even more effort – spared nothing – to make sure I got even better service from him, even above the norm!"

"And so," the managed continued, "I must beg your forgiveness on the little honour I had at first given you – as I had not known who you really were!"

"These words entered and penetrated the innermost parts of my heart as I considered what was being said… If for the sake of the honour of people – of flesh and blood, he had fallen in front of me crying and supplicating that I should forgive him regarding the past, then all the more so when it comes to the Creator of the entire world that I have known well – and yet I now know even better than I did before."

"And so my own service towards Him – my love and fear of Him are even greater in accordance with my recognition of Him now. So I now regret the past and supplicate and request from Him – and I afflict myself with these afflictions that He should forgive me on the little I have done to serve Him. My love and fear of Him have been so small, and my service to Him have been so little in comparison with the way I now understand how great He truly is and even more so as I realise how much I must still learn about Him to serve Him even more so! The more I learn, the more I realise how little I had known of Him before, and how much I must now serve Him even more!"

"For this, I constantly regret my service towards Him as I realise that as time goes on, I must serve Him even more so than I had from before… and must do Teshuva even upon the Teshuva I have already done as I realise just how great He truly is!"

Truth is true wherever it is. Beauty is beauty wherever it is. But when one comes to appreciate – even more so – the greatness of another, the greatness of G-d, then one has to add even more to the Tiferet – the truth and beauty that one has already acquired.

The Middah for the 17th day of the Omer (Tov!) is one which shouts out loudly… Even when you have reached truth… even when you have reached the perfection… even when you have reached balance, realise there are even higher levels within this balance, more perfection within the perfection, more beauty in the beauty and even more truth within the truth itself. There is no end to truth, because G-d – who is Truth, is infinite Himself.

Our duty is to search for the good, the perfection, the truth and the balance. But even when we think we've mastered it, we must realise that there are even further deeper levels to attain. Tiferet SheBeTiferet… Balance of Balance – Mercy of Mercy – Beauty of Beauty – Truth of Truth.

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