Day 5, April 20: The Hod in Hesed

I stumbled upon a very interesting web site while putting this web site together...

I was looking for an image: a bookcase crammed with Jewish books to go with my “Day 2 Addendum” blog post on Additional Resources for the counting of the Omer. And so I Googled the word “seforim.” Sefer is the Hebrew word for “book,” of course, and the plural, in Sephardic Hebrew, is “sefarim” (pronounced s’fah-REEM). But in Ashkenazi Hebrew, the word is pronounced “s’FOR-im,” and in the Orthodox/Yeshiva world, seforim means Hebrew Jewish Books, like volumes of Talmud and Torah Commentary.

My Google search turned up the image that accompanies the above-mentioned blog entry, but it also led me to a web site I’d never seen before: TheTorah.Com. It’s a site run by observant, Jewish academics, seeking to integrate historical-critical-archeological study of the biblical text with Jewish life. There’s a lot of cool material on the site.

This morning in Torah Study at Congregation Beth Israel we discussed a couple of articles from Torah.Com on the Passover holiday. Both articles deal with different aspects of the same point: that Passover as we now have it is a melding together of two biblical festivals, a one-day holiday marking the Exodus from Egypt called Pesach, and a subsequent, 7-day holiday of agricultural origin called The Feast of Matzot (plural of Matzah).

Today, says the author of one of the articles, most Jews relate more to the drama and ritual of the Pesach (Seder) celebration than to the 6 (or 7) days of avoiding leaven and eating matzah that follow. [“I attended some kind of seder meal” is what most contemporary Jews no doubt mean when they say, “I celebrated Passover.”] The holiday of history (Pesach/Exodus) trumps the holiday of nature and harvest. (The Feast Of Matzah). But, our author says, it needn’t always be that way:

“Our sedarim need not be just about remembering the Exodus, but can also be a recognition of the wonder of spring and God’s work in creation. And if during the next six days we focus a bit more on enjoying our time off or outdoors, we can also remember our ancestors setting off into the desert, away from slavery and toward Sinai. This synthesis is the genius of Passover, and it is one that we should strive to embrace.”

This insight - that we can recapture the celebration of springtime embedded in The Feast Of Unleavened Bread and celebrate it alongside the Exodus/Freedom theme) - is a fitting one for this day of the Omer: The Hod in Hesed.

In the context of counting the Omer, I’ve seen Hod rendered as Glory or Presence. Rabbi Yael Levy sees the focus of this day as “Being where we are rather than where we think we should be or wish we could be.” Similarly, Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder writes,

“Hod is about seeing and appreciating what is already present and available. Hod of Hesed is deeper presence and stronger contact through recognition and appreciation... It celebrates the beauty of the encounter itself... rather than focusing on what is preventing the encounter from being something more.”

If yesterday’s combination of sefirot, the Netzach in Hesed, was about love that endures in spite of obstacles, then perhaps Hod in Hesed is about loving what is already there and comes to us of its own accord.

Two suggestions for practice on April 20:

  • Spend some time with someone just for the purpose of experiencing the relationship, with no ulterior motive. Celebrate the connection as it is rather than being pulled out of the present by what it might be.
  • In the spirit of The Feast Of Unleavened Bread, get outside and appreciate the Hod of the natural world. Take in the delights of the senses that come to you as a gift: light, warmth, rain, breeze, color, sound. Notice springtime! Compose your own, new blessing for something in the created world that you encounter today. Allow yourself to smile.

And keep on posting!

Rabbi Steve Folberg
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