The other day, a Sefardi friend told me a story. Ashkenazi rabbis were deep in their studies when, lo – a beautiful woman walked by. The rabbis buried themselves deeper into the books so as not to be led astray by the sight of the woman. On the other side of the world, a beautiful woman walked by a group of Sefardi rabbis. In contrast to their Ashkenzi holy brothers, the Sefardim stopped their studying in order to bless God.
Tiferet – beauty, harmony, and holiness – is at the heart center of Kabbala’s symbolic diagram, and when that diagram is interposed on the human body, Tiferet is all the beauty that the human heart contains.
Contemplating Tiferet in Tiferet, which is what we do on Day 17 of the counting of the Omer, is like being at the heart of beauty and holiness itself.
Tiferet corresponds to one of God’s holy Names – YHVH. Jay McCrensky writes in “Receiving Holiness” that any time The Zochar refers to HaKadosh Baruch Hu – “The Holy One Blessed be He” – we have the chance to be in the Tiferet consciousness, to tap into the energy of beauty and holiness as God created them.
To my mind, the Sefardi holy brothers got the point much better than the Ashkenazi ones. When we see beauty, what we need to do is contemplate its holiness and praise the One who created it to elevate our souls.