Day 29, May 14: The Hesed in Hod

We now turn our attention to another one of the Sefirot: Hod. Again, in trying to interpret today's combination of Sefirot, we come up against not only the difficulty of translating the terminology, but also of trying to tease out the subtleties of the Kabbalistic system.
On its most basic level, Hod is “beauty.” Rabbi Jacobson understands it to be “humility,” based upon the idea that Hod looks as if it comes from the same Hebrew root stem as "hoda'ah," gratitude. Although I'm certainly no expert in the Kabbalistic system, this reading seems to me to be a bit of a stretch, or perhaps, more charitably, a midrash. Happy


More convincing, or at least, more moving to me, is Rabbi Min Kantrowitz's understanding of Hod as “splendor, glory, reverberation.” It is, in her words,

“the Sefirah that reflects the splendor and glory underlying the created world… like fractals in mathematics, Hod recaps reality with never-ending variations and details… the slight changes in grain that differentiate wood from one species of tree from another, the subtle variations on a theme in music, to all those details that make the difference between the mundane and the magnificent.”

In this sense, how might we understand the Hesed, lovingkindness, in Hod?
Perhaps this combination of Sefirot might turn our attention to the multiplicity apparent in the created world as a manifestation of God's Hesed, lovingkindness. In one of the tracks on her meditation CDs, Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg speaks of the “call of the Shema” as geared toward recognizing “the Unity beneath the multiplicity.”

And if it is true that the riotous profusion of variations and lifeforms, not to mention the profusion of feelings and sensations that we experience throughout our lives, are an expression of an underlying Unity, and of that Unity's
boundless love for the world, then it might suggest that an appreciation of the variations on this single, Created Theme, would, with the proper intention, elicit a sense of divine lovingkindness within us.

Sadly, the opposite is often the case. For whatever reason, we are afraid of difference, we are put off by diversity and differentiation. How much happier our world might be if we understood “difference” is a cause for celebration, as an embracing of God's boundless, loving creative energy!
I'll end this post with what might be an instructive text from Jewish liturgy, the blessing for “seeing someone of unusual appearance” (as in, someone with a physical deformity:

Baruch Atah Adonai, m'shaneh ha-b'ree'ot!
Blessed are You, Eternal One, Who varies Your creatures!

Rabbi Steve Folberg
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