04/27/2012 08:12 am ET Updated Jun 27, 2012

Beyond Chesed and Gevurah: Tiferet

Tiferet typically gets translated as beauty or compassion. It is considered the synthesis of chesed and gevurah. Usually when translating these far out kabbalistic terms, one needs a simple short version explanation which never quite captures tiferet's essence.

Unfortunately, the problem with those mystics who came up with this stuff is that you practically need a Ph.D. in it to join in the conversation. Well, I don't have a Ph.D., but I'm gonna take a stab at tiferet and demonstrate how it can be relevant and insightful in our lives today, at least my life.

לשם יחוד קודשא בריך הוא ושכינתיה

For the sake of the unification of 'Blessed Be His Name' and 'Her Dwellingness.'

That is the beginning of the statement used as a kavanah (intention) or preamble to many mystical prayers and texts. Clearly there is a powerful idea behind the phrase. I now understand them as embodying the spirit of tiferet because they serves as a prayer/desire/hope for a unity of what seems un-unify-able. With that in mind, I would interpret this mantra like this: "May the force that separates important things in my life (like the Male Energy of G-d from the Female Presence of the Divine for instance) figure out how to put your differences aside for a little while. Long enough to at least hear and receive what I'm about to teach."

In other words: Tiferet is an embodiment of the radical union of seemingly opposing forces.

And it's not just male or female forces. Tiferet is alive, for example, when simplicity and the profoundly complex are expressed simultaneously. We know when we're in the presence of teachers who draw from this well when they speak truths so simple and obvious that we giggle to ourselves and say, "I know that, but I don't *know* it."

Tiferet allows us to hold tension as an act of grace. It doesn't hit us over the head, but it can throw us (for a loop) because of its comfort with contradiction and paradox. Tiferet is the of holding tension in an act of grace. Not merely keeping things in balance, but allowing tension between seemingly adversarial energies to pull and push each other in the framework of a cooperative spirit. It has that quality of making the complicated look easy. The impossible becomes self evidently possible. Tiferet is not merely the balance or synthesis of chesed and gevurah. It's the new element that arises from opposing charges.

Here are some of the opposing tendencies in my life that I experience the unifying aspect of tiferet drawning toward.



Left wing/Right wing

Lazy/Hard work





Living with Loss/Celebrating gain (it makes sense that Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut are both on this week)

This list can go on...

Tiferet is at once recognizing our allegiances to both tendencies, while also allowing for them to move beyond the reactive impulse to keep them at odds. We can think in black and white and know that it serves us well and yet still allow room for awareness that the prism of possibility is larger that we intuit.

When we are conscious of tiferet, it can change our mind, move our heart and rock our world.

Happy Week of Tiferet Everyone.

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