We are now in week three of the seven-week period of the counting of Omer – a time when we contemplate all facets of God’s manifestation in this plane of existence as understood by Kabbala – as we move toward celebrating God’s revelation and the giving of Torah during the holiday of Shavuot. Week three focuses on Tiferet – harmony, balance, beauty, and holiness. I wrote this yesterday, on Day 16, when we were asked to contemplate Gevurah (power and strength) that is in Tiferet – or the power inherent in beauty.
In our society this particular combination makes natural sense. We worship the power of external beauty even as we judge it as superficial. But adding a spiritual dimension to this contemplation allows us to take a step back and see both beauty and power as divine emanations.
The Russian writer Dostoevsky, a profoundly religious man, once famously said that beauty will save the world. We can choose to believe that beauty, including physical beauty, was given us to contemplate the beauty of all creation and thus to admire the Creator. And the power of that beauty is in the good that it can bring to the world by uplifting and inspiring it. When we see beauty, we see God’s countenance, the inherent beauty and balance of God’s presence and creation. Thus, the power of beauty leads us into holiness and back to Tiferet.
The difference between simply worshiping the power of beauty and viewing it as one of the many ways in which God manifests himself in this world can seem subtle, but it’s a profoundly meaningful one. It may mean the difference between creating an idol out of an object of beauty versus dignifying the object as part of the larger universe that God creates in every moment. It may mean the difference between falling for the illusion of the particular versus viewing comprehending all the particularities as part of a single whole.