Week 6: The Middot and the Tzaddik
Day 38 – Tiferet in the Tzaddik
As discussed in the previous weeks, one aspect of the Sefirah of Tiferet is ‘harmony’ particularly between the right side of mercy and the left of judgment. (i.e., Jacob, being the integration of Abraham and Isaac.) In addition to this right-left concept, Tiferet (the ‘central’ Sefirah) also functions in a ‘vertical’ manner, and is concerned with matters both spiritual and physical.
We see this idea in the tzaddik as well:
“One who leads the community for the sake of heaven must direct the people both in worldy and in spiritual matters, not with words and deeds alone, but also in thought, joining himself to the L-rd with the people of his generation and raising them so that they might cleave to the L-rd, under the condition that they too will join themselves to the leaders of the generation. Then the leaders of the generation can seize their hands and raise them… This is the meaning of the passage, “When one believes in a shepherd of Israel, it is as if he believes in the L-rd Himself,’ (Melkhita) for the one is the means to the other… By a shepherd is meant one who shepherds and watches over the flock so that they are well fed… acting for the sake of heaven, for the welfare of Israel. It is good to believe in such a man” (Toldot Yaakov Yosef 56c).”
The Zaddik, Samuel Dresner, pp. 129-130
Tiferet is especially significant in the Tzaddik (which is associated primarily with Yesod) due to the natural connection between those two emanations along the central column of the Tree of Life. Tiferet is associated with Jacob and draws the divine abundance from the higher spiritual worlds, down to Yesod, through which it is channeled to our world. Without the Sefirah of Yesod, represented by Yosef, the chain is incomplete, and the flow to the lower worlds cannot be achieved.
This connection and flow is alluded to in Genesis 37:2 where it begins, “These are the generations of Jacob: Joseph …” There is deeper teaching surrounding Jacob, Joseph and Benjamin, and how the latter ‘substituted’ for Joseph in his absence, and how Joseph utilized this to reunited with his father.
The Zohar (1:197a) explains that when Yosef was taken away from his father, Yaakov was no longer able to establish the connective chain between the upper and lower worlds. Yaakov then designated Binyamin, along with the remaining tribe leaders, to perform the functions required by the sefirah of Yesod. Hence, Yaakov’s argument with his sons: “If you should take Binyamin, who currently assumes the role of tzaddik Yesod, then I will have to assume both functions of Tiferet and Yesod to generate the flow of God’s kindness to the world. ‘Upon me it has all fallen!’ How can I alone produce the associations to the Ein Sof and stimulate the attributes which prompt the divine abundance to reach the world?” This is the reason Yosef asked his brothers, “Is your father still alive?” (Bereishit 43:27). He meant, “Has he retained the vitality necessary to influence the lower worlds? Do you have a righteous brother able to interact with the attribute of Yesod?” Since Yosef did not see Binyamin, he understood that his young brother could not be separated from his father because of his interaction with the sefirah of Yesod. Consequently, he developed a scheme to pull Binyamin away from his father, in which case Yaakov alone would unite with the attribute of Yesod, a process which would lead Yaakov to rediscover Yosef, the original embodiment of the attribute of Yesod.
From, “A Bridge to Heaven: A Collection of Classic Kabbalistic Commentaries on the Torah,” Yosef Gabay
It can be said that the ‘godlike’ attributes attributed to the tzaddik especially relate to the aspect of Tiferet:
“Because Tiferet symbolizes the state of harmony among the Sefirot, it came to be associated with the traditional name for God in rabbinic literature — Ha-Kadosh Barukh Hu (The Holy One Blessed be He). Tiferet was understood to be the subject of many traditional prayers. Prayers that emphasized God as father and king were usually prayers referring to Tiferet in particular or, through it, to the Sefirot in general. In this way Tiferet was often portrayed as the representative of the other Sefirot. Tiferet came to symbolize the aspect of God that was known as the traditional God of Judaism, the God of the Hebrew Bible. Tiferet was the Sefirah that most closely symbolized the transcendent deity. If was the Sefirah that spoke at Sinai as the representative of the other Sefirot.”
The Mystic Quest: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism, David S. Ariel, Jason Aronson, London, 1988, p. 81