Day 21, May 6: The Malkhut in Tiferet

So here we are: standing on the threshold of the last day of Omer Week 3 - the 21st day, Malkhut in Tiferet.blogEntryTopper
Before saying something about the combination of Sefirot for this day of the Omer, I want to offer a word about practice.
A practice, in the sense I’m using it, is something we “show up” to do regularly. We do it whether or not we feel like it on any given occasion: whether we are “into” it or not, enthusiastic at the prospect or not, energized or not. In fact, the very act of committing to a practice (whatever it might be) helps us to learn how our experience changes in practicing when we are in different states of mind.
A practice may have immediate or long-term benefits... we usually hope that it does. But on any given occasion, we don’t expect any particular outcome. We just cultivate a trust that, in time, we will grow and unfold through the practice.
An essential part of all of this is the understanding that when we set a kavvanah - an intention - to stick with a given practice, we will inevitably find (because we’re human!) that we drift away from that intention. The challenge at that moment of awakening or remembering our intention is to bring a loving awareness - Hesed - to that forgetting, to greet it with joy, even, because it is an opportunity for teshuvah: a chance to turn or return to our intention. The moment of remembering our intention is a moment of waking up.
I want to suggest that you might try - even if you haven’t done so until now - to count the day of the Omer in some way, each day in the evening, from now through the end of the counting. Traditionally, the Omer is counted after sunset. Even if you just pause, draw a breath, and say aloud, “Today is the twenty-first day of the Omer,” it’s enough.
Why bother?
To see what it’s like... which is something only you can know. But if you try this practice, remember to be compassionate and loving with yourself. You may be amazed at how easy it is to forget. But, as I’ve noted above, the forgetting itself if an opportunity to return.
Up until now, we've been understanding Tiferet as a divine and human quality of "balance" or "harmony."
But in his little book, The Counting Of The Omer: Forty-Nine Steps to Personal Refinement According To The Jewish Tradition (see sidebar here) Rabbi Simon Jacobson (who connects the Sefirot to "emotional attributes") understands Malchut to be "nobility, sovereignty, leadership" and Tiferet to be "beauty and harmony; compassion."
It's not always clear to me how he derives these "emotional attributes" from these particular Sefirot, but this reading does lead him to some interesting places!
For example, he understands today's combination of Sefirot, The Malchut in Tiferet, to manifest the quality of dignity or nobility (Malchut) in compassion (Tiferet). Compassion, he asserts, "should boost self-esteem and cultivate human dignity - both your dignity and the dignity of the one benefitting from your compassion."
Jewish tradition, which has such a highly refined and expansive set of teachings about tzedakah (righteous, monetary giving to good causes and especially to the poor) and gemillut chasadim (acts of lovingkindness) is well aware that our attempts to help others can backfire badly if they shame the recipient, increase his/her dependency, or meet our (the giver's) ego needs rather than the practical and emotional needs of the one we're supposedly trying to help.
This concern for the dignity of the recipients of our largesse permeates one of the most famous Jewish texts, Moses Maimonides' "8 Levels Of Tzedakah," from his great legal code, The Mishneh Torah:
Maimonides’ Ladder of Tzedakah
There are eight levels of tzedakah, each one higher than the one preceding it:
  • To grudgingly give less than one should.
  • To give less than one should, but with grace.
  • To give a sufficient amount, but only after being asked by the recipient.
  • To give a sufficient amount directly to the recipient without being asked.
  • To give so that the recipient knows the identity of the donor, but the donor doesn't know who received the donation.
  • To give so that the donor knows the identity of the recipient, but the recipient doesn't know the identity of the giver.
  • To give so that neither giver nor receiver knows the identity of the other.
  • To help a person become self-sufficient by giving him/her a business loan or entering into a partnership.
For study today: How is concern for the recipient's dignity (Malchut) manifested in each of the 8 levels of tzedakah?
AND (for a real brain-teaser) - What are the 4 distinct values or concerns underlying Maimonides' tzedakah hierarchy? (Answer in tomorrow's post!) Happy
Rabbi Steve Folberg
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