Omer Week Three: Tiferet

Thoughts from Rabbi Ariel Burger, Designer of Adult Learning at PJ Library
This article is from the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah Blog

13 Ways of Looking At Tiferet

1.  It was so beautiful I had to catch my breath.

2.  It’s not the blending of kindness and discipline; it’s the tension between them. It is the love and the abyss between a father and a son after the Akedah. It is a feminine word but it is always associated with Jacob. It is untranslatable, not just beauty, not merely glory, a moving swirling river of colors and feelings. It receives in one hand and gives with the other. Imagine a dervish dancing, one hand cupped upward to catch spirit, the other open and relaxed, letting go, sharing. In receiving, giving; in giving, wholeness.

3.  He didn’t give up when he saw he didn’t fit in, he had willingness to spare, so he wrestled with the angel until dawn. Yes he was wounded, I know, we all know, but wasn’t he beautiful as he staggered toward honesty?

4.  He is the kind of man who stands and stares at one painting in the gallery for an hour. He is the smooth talker who says to his brother, “You go on ahead – I’ll walk with the children.” He moves slowly on the road to Jerusalem so as not to leave himself behind.

5.  A woman walks into a bar at night. She orders one of everything to go, but she is not a drinker. Instead she packs it all into a baby carriage and brings it to the park, where she gives it out to people living in boxes so they can toast each other by moonlight, when they become beautiful.

6.  There was a hummingbird outside my window. I had never seen one before. It was my first morning far away from home. I was waiting to pray because my heart felt so closed. That tiny movement of color and vibration startled me awake.

7.  Why did I choose that color, that brushstroke? It wasn’t my head, it was my body. If my body recognizes rightness, can it lead me home?

8.  Rabbi Isaac Luria sits and thinks. His project of reorganizing the Passover Seder plate is simply not working, and he considers moving on to another task. Some elements make perfect sense, but the whole is broken. He meditates for hours, staring at the Seder plate on his wooden table, the cool Tzfat air waltzing with the room’s single candle. Time slows, pauses. He catches his breath, and slowly moves one piece, with the singular focus of a chess player, so that the center of the plate is empty. Then he lifts the bitter herb, his hand trembling slightly, and places it in the vacant spot. In the Tiferet spot.

9.  When I ate maror at the Seder, the horseradish face-reddening kind, it hurt, and there was fear that my sinuses would explode or that my heart would stop. But even in the midst of that, I felt how beautiful it is to feel so much.

10.  The first time he went to the Wailing Wall a bird pooped on his shoulder. And he laughed. And became religious.

11.  It was the smile that did it. She told me of her burden, she spoke of her pain – and she smiled. In a recent interview Louis CK said that when he goes to any sort of live play or theater production he always finds himself crying during the first minutes of the show. It’s the realness, the vulnerability. Leonard says, “Everything has a crack in it/that’s how the light gets in”.  Tiferet softens the armor we wear.

12.  When David went to fight Goliath (and he didn’t know the story of David and Goliath), Saul gave him his armor. David tried it on, but after a few moments he took it off. We know he was armed with a slingshot and the Name of God. But David went to war with a third weapon, the most powerful of all: the absence of armor.

13.  Can you feel your heart, how vulnerable it is, how soft and sweet? It’s a child, my God, it’s only a child. Oh, sweetie.