Tiferet is another beautifully multi-faceted, divine, and human attribute on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. It represents and embodies balance, harmony, beauty, compassion, truth, the heart and more. Tiferet also plays a role in creating divine union with Shekhinah, the Presence, Sabbath Queen on Friday nights, as we enter the holy temple in time.
All qualities of Tiferet are needed for us to be in right alignment. It brings Chesed and Gevurah into balance. Tiferet allows full integration of ourselves as persons, with our beloveds, our communities, and our world. As with all Sefirot, it is a portal through which the Divine enters us and we the Divine. When we are not feeling harmonious, our heart is aching, and we are unable to see beauty, do we not turn to Source, G’d, Shekhinah to make us whole?
Tiferet as Integration and Balance
Our part in this Divine-human connection, this I-Thou relationship is to embody Tiferet’s qualities. We aim to bring the traits of love and compassion, strength, justice, and discernment into our human relationships. We bring Chesed and Gevurah into right relationship through Tiferet, so we may feel balanced, centered, grounded.
How, when and why do our lives get out of balance? Do we even know what balance feels like, after the last three years? Has our concept of it changed? Perhaps some of us are able to experience it more often. We’ve learned during the pandemic years to slow down. We meditate and channel our impatience or workaholic tendencies into creative pursuits and more self-care.
I think part of the trick to staying balanced is knowing what disorients us or throws us off. Then we can plan for those times when they happen, as they inevitably will. I suggest an exercise at the end of this post that has been helpful to me.
There are a range of things that help bring me back into balance and bring me comfort and joy. Seeing the face or hearing the voice of a beloved, talking to my ancestors, or reconnecting with an old friend. Visiting our local animal farm or communicating with one of our four-legged companions, walking in Nature, or talking to just one tree – usually the Western red cedar in front of our house, or the coast live oak that resembles the letter shin. Also high on my list is engaging in spiritual practice, writing, looking at powerful images and meaningful photos. Rotating our artwork and listening to favorite pieces of music always works, especially if it gets me dancing and singing! Digging up new pieces of research or listening to meditations such as two friends have created while in Nature!
In Journey Through the Wilderness, Rabbi Naomi Levy writes: “Tiferet shows us the beauty and brokenness of the world and says, Open to all of it, this is where you live.” The paradox of holding both, finding gifts in both, is a challenge but always worthwhile.
Chesed and Gevurah can play tug-of-war with each other, so Tiferet can be a good place for us to concentrate on opening our hearts. We find beauty in others and ourselves, practicing non-judgment and reconciliation.
As I grow older and have more control over my life, the balancing does get easier. No longer working within corporate structures, my schedule has opened in ways that allow me to make different decisions. “Aging while Sage-ing” can allow us more spaciousness, and the privilege of letting unimportant things fall away. For me, counting the Omer becomes a richer, more important practice each year. And of course, I continue to study the Sefirot through the matriarchal Kabbalist line as Reb Nadya translates and transmits through Wisdom School, which I first attended ten years ago. This dimension of my life has brought a depth and richness to my study of Kabbalah.
The Challenge Of Slowing
I have not always lived Tiferet fully. I learned the importance of balance when I left my Manhattan, corporate life for a freer, self-directed life in California and stopped driving through life at 160 mph. Now finding balance, beauty, and harmony in one’s life is something I teach my students and insist on for myself. Years ago, while engulfed in my non-spiritual job, my father periodically wrote, “Take time to smell the flowers.” It became kind of a joke between us, with him writing from his California garden to me, living in a skyscraper in a concrete jungle.
I grew up in a time and in a household where a work-life balance was not deemed important. Work was one’s main focus; that was where you drew your primary rewards and acknowledgment. My sister, cousins, and I were taught by German parents – in a country built in part on the Protestant ethic – not to play too hard or too long, not to enjoy anything too much. You might be inviting something negative in, if you took too much time away from work.
Of course, a cultural mindset that promotes production over human values and health is capitalist and patriarchal. This mindset is being countered by folks like Tricia Hersey, founder of the popular Nap Ministry and author of Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto, and Heather Archer, author of The Grind Culture Detox.
Tiferet: A Sacred Marriage
Viewing this Sefirah more globally, Tiferet’s function is to bring harmony to the world. When its energies unite with those of Shekhinah each Sabbath, it is a Sacred Marriage in heaven and on earth. According to religion scholar, Rita Gross (z”l), it is a union that balances female and male energies. Tiferet is needed to bring Shekhinah – and the female half of humanity – out of exile.
I first learned about the Sacred Marriage as an ancient Mesopotamian rite thought to assure an abundant agricultural harvest, an interesting thing to remember in this time of counting the Omer.
Thoughts and Practice For Tiferet
- Are you good at finding correctives when you find yourself unanchored or out of alignment?
- Can you find a few minutes to note down the source, some of the things or situations that throw you off, so that you can avoid them in future and start to rebalance? If you keep a journal or even a heavily annotated calendar, I strongly suggest you handwrite or draw as much of it as possible, and if you only have time or inclination to type it, print out a copy and put it into a notebook where you can add a picture, a few sentences or bullet points, a fun or powerful headline from a magazine.
- Though the computer seems faster/easier, I find that writing by hand opens up new windows every time, often revealing thoughts or ideas I didn’t know I had. Faber-Castell promotes its newest pen as setting the stage for the “creative force of writing as an analogue counter-trend” for “digital natives.”
- If you want to listen to one of the Nature meditations I refer to above, look up Maura Torkildson in my Lilith Institute Community network space (Scroll halfway down the page for her Moon Meditation)
- Or for a different mood, check out this recording on Soundcloud (just under 9 minutes)
- Another source is Janet Stickmon’s 10-minute meditation at the Pacific Ocean
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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