Day 18: Sacredness and Beauty as an Expression of Vision, Principles and Values


Any building meant to evoke a sense of beauty, harmony and holiness must adhere to certain rules. It begins with the architect’s vision. It must stand on firm foundation. Its construction is based on architectural blueprints. And the actual building process is guided by the understanding of the laws of physics, construction principles, rules of finance, and many others.

Yet, if the building is masterfully made, the first thing those visiting it will likely notice is the feeling that it evokes. If they think about the process of construction at all, it will likely happen only later.

In a building like that, harmony and beauty are inseparable from the vision, values and principles that guided its construction. Zaha Hadid’s masterpieces are an example of that. So is Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The whimsical creations by Gaudi in Barcelona and Hundertwasser in Vienna are another example.

The Kabbalistic lens of this 18th day of the Omer – Netzach she’b’Tiferet – expresses that idea perfectly. While Netzach is traditionally understood as “victory” or “endurance,” the deeper interpretation, as Jay McCrensky explains in “Receiving Holiness,” is that Netzach is about God expressing himself through us by helping us formulate our values and principles, grasp our purpose and mission.

One way to think about it is to recall the construction of the Tabernacle, the tent of meetings where God was to dwell among Israelites in the desert. The Torah contains pages and pages describing the specific ways in which it was to be built: “make this Tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you,” we read in Exodus 25:9. And it doesn’t spare any effort in describing ways in which priests were to conduct themselves within it.

As a Dutch theologian Hermann Witsius observes, “God created the whole world in six days, but he used forty to instruct Moses about the tabernacle. Little over one chapter was needed to describe the structure of the world, but six were used for the tabernacle.”

Only the High Priest was allowed to enter the Tabernacle’s holy of holies – its inner sanctuary, the ultimate sacred space, and even he was to do so only one day a year, on Yom Kippur, while observing specific rituals and procedures. The importance of this instruction is made abundantly clear when Aaron’s son Nadab and Abihu die after breaking some of those rules.

The holiness, perfect harmony and physical and spiritual beauty of the Tabernacle and its inner sanctum rest on the foundation of God’s vision as the architect-in-chief and the elaborate rules and procedures that He set for Israelites to build it and act within it. In its turn, the Tabernacle expresses this vision and the guiding principles and values perfectly, while evoking feelings of sacredness. That is one way in which we can think of the essence of Netzach she’b’Tiferet that this 18th day of the Omer is called to express.

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