The Sefira of Hod on the Tree of Life is fascinating, and non-binary. It is vibrant and engaged, yet other times quiet in its brilliance; deliberative in its self-reflection; prophetic yet humble. It has the capacity for spiritual leadership, yet is able to acknowledge others’ contributions and step back when needed.
Hod’s generally recognized qualities include:
- the majesty, splendor, and radiance that inspire awe
- surrender, submission, release, and letting go
- spiritual leadership
In Wisdom School I learned about Hod as a prism, acting as a catalyst for beauty, through which the wonders of Nature are magnified. Hod makes beautiful that which in Netzach may only be mundane, ordinary, missing the aesthetic of Divine and human splendor.
Tracking My Hod
I’ve kept a Tree of Life scroll for nearly a decade, in which I track my embodied experience of the Sefirot. For me, Hod also holds:
- our capacity for thought, for appreciation, to see and feel close connection to the divinity in all
- our skills, often evidenced through Netzach but even those that often remain dormant or unrecognized
- our uniqueness, though of course that is expressed in all the sefirot
- hidden wisdom
- a kind of simplicity, even in its variety / multiplicity and
- an invitation to do close, careful listening
Hod’s job is to contain the multiple, persistent, goal-oriented, determined energies of Netzach. That doesn’t mean Hod is lazy, sitting around waiting for our Netzach to act. It serves as a reflective container, a balancing counterpoint. Hod tells us when we have gone too far and need to check our speech or actions. If we become so engrossed in our own desires and projects that we don’t leave psychic room for others with whom we’re in relationship, if we cannot maintain open channels of communication with Spirit because self-centeredness has taken over, we are not in alignment and need to recalibrate. Though I’ve always loved and relied on my high Netzach energy, I was finally able in a recent meditation to say, “Netzach, take a nap!”
Hod in its aspect of spiritual leadership can bring an awareness that without taking time to breathe fully or even to take a few hours – or a day – off, there is no chance of opening our consciousness enough to fully take in or even hear Divine or ancestral guidance.
Humility: Finding Hod in Tzimtzum
When I first started learning about Hod, the quality I had the most resistance to was humility. I’d always railed against the idea. When I was younger, my father would display or discuss the importance of being humble, especially in the workplace. For me, it signified letting go of control; it seemed to require sacrificing part of ourselves. In my mind at the time, being humble in a situation only made one appear weak. As I got older, I recognized it as wisdom and a sign of strength and learned to apply it myself. As part of the Kabbalistic concept of tzimtzum, I found it could open up opportunities for more meaningful, equitable relationships.
One of Hod’s strongest qualities is as a portal into tzimtzum. It is the ability to make space for others to show up in their fullness. This still allows us to step forward when it is our turn, to express our opinions, and be seen. In its original form, it is a vital piece of Kabbalist Isaac Luria’s Creation myth. We read this description from a contemporary source:
“In the creation myth of ancient Judaic mysticism, God creates the universe by a process dubbed tzimtzum, which in Hebrew means a sort of stepping back to allow for there to be an Other, an Else, as in something or someone else.”Rabbi Gershon Winkler and Lakme Batya Elior in The Place Where You are Standing Is Holy
As an advocate of people finding voice, I paid attention to this concept when I first heard of it, even teaching it at a university seminar. As a former New Yorker who speaks and moves fast, I could unintentionally take over a space and silence others. My subconscious remembers, as I write this, that I was often silenced as a child. This could have been a useful principle to live by then! We were taught that children should speak politely and only when appropriate. That never ever included voicing a dissenting opinion. Arguing back with parents to take up our rightful space was never encouraged. It was regarded as being fresh, impertinent, or – “worst” of all – disobedient.
Surrender and Submission: Hod At Risk
I’ve never liked these terms, probably because both indicated the presence of boundaries set by others, Gevurah’dich limitations on my being, or my excitement about a project or idea.
In religion there are different ways of viewing submission. Islam itself means submission (to the will of G’d). This can be a powerful concept for some, one that gives their lives great meaning. However, problems arise when religious or spiritual leaders teach that submission is required to be considered holy or “good” enough. Even at its extreme, that it is Divinely ordained.
The concepts of surrender and submission can then too easily lead to abuses of power – spiritual, psychological, emotional, sexual, financial – especially by unethical leaders. We have seen a number of these leaders teach that to be loved by G’d, to be on a path of “G’dliness” or to show “proper” respect or obedience to G’d, we must submit not only to G’d but to G’d’s representatives on earth; the clergy, in this case usually males in positions of power. As theologian Mary Daly wrote in Beyond God the Father (1974, 1993), “If God is male, then male is God.”
Surrender to The Divine: Hod as Letting Go
However, giving myself or my problems over to a deity, to a force greater than myself, to Nature, on my own terms and in my own time has shown itself to be powerful, even transformational at times, as both prayer and ritual can be. It has allowed me to be more open, to receive the Presence more fully, indeed to surrender to the Mystery. Giving myself over to moments and experiences that inspire awe, at the ocean or in a Giant Redwood grove, for example, allows me to temporarily let go of my “monkey mind” – the mind that only shuts down, for the most part, in sleep.
Hod has brought the Divine Presence into my life when I am fully present and open to receive. I can do amazing work out of that place of surrender; my vision, my perspective, my sense of awareness is heightened, expanded, deepened. At these times I can receive Divine messages, I can hear the holy messages sent by my ancestors or hear what my intuition and senses are trying to tell me. I can examine my own actions more deeply.
The Daily Word from Unity, which my mother used to receive as a small paper booklet, has the last word. I received this daily word this week and include it as it’s so apropos for Hod:
“Let Go, Let God.
Faith gives me the courage to let go.”
Practice thoughts for the week:
- As one practice for this week, how about making a list of material things or ideas you cling to, espouse, believe? And then take note of which ones you could release for a day, a week, or altogether.
- Are you able to turn your unanswerable questions, rage or grief over to a supernatural being or a specific deity, to the universe, to the Source of Life? If you find it possible to do this, are you doing it alone, with a friend, in community? This act may only last for a few moments or perhaps you carry the intention for a day and then drop it. But the more we think about, even plan to do this practice, the more likely we will at some point do it. As someone who finds it difficult to turn anything over to someone else to worry about, even Shekhinah, I know it can be a powerful practice.
If you’re never able to “surrender” or ask for help in this way, through praying, writing, or meditating … what stands in the way? Make yourself a note – and revisit the idea in a week or two. Once we realize doing this can be a source of tremendous help and relief, it can feel like a less scary or alien practice. In those times I am able to turn over my confusion, grief or anger to a force much larger than me, I feel held by the Mystery, and usually find some comfort. Solutions or at least new perspectives arise which can bring me a sense of peace. It is there I think I find the greatest gifts of Hod.
Kohenet Ruach D’vorah Grenn, Ph.D, Mashpi’ah Ruchanit
She co-directed the Women’s Spirituality MA Program, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology/Sofia University in Palo Alto, California, and founded Mishkan Shekhinah, a movable sanctuary honoring the Sacred Feminine in all traditions. Her Talking To Goddess anthology includes sacred writings of 72 women in 25 spiritual traditions. Other publications: Lilith’s Fire: Reclaiming our Sacred Lifeforce; “The Kohanot: Keepers of the Flame” in Stepping into Ourselves (Key & Cant); the Jewish priestess and Lilith entries in Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions.
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