Week three of the Counting of the Omer is the week of Tiferet, and in the context of Tiferet, Rabbi Robin Damsky will be sharing thoughts about gardening. Rabbi Damsky is the rabbi of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, IL, and the proud mother of Sarah. In her spare time she promotes tikkun olam – repair of the world – through her garden.
Tiferet is the Divine Attribute of compassion, harmony and truth. Rabbi Damsky quotes from Spiritual Guide to Counting of the Omer, by Rabbi Simon Jacobson, the following reflection for us to consider throughout this week:
Tiferet – compassion, blends with and harmonizes the free outpouring love of chesed with the discipline of truth, which is neither love nor discipline, and therefore can integrate the two. Truth is accessed through selflessness: rising above your ego and your predispositions, enabling you to realize a higher truth.
During this week of reflections on Tiferet, Rabbi Damsky will be considering truth, harmony, and compassion – in the context of her garden. Let us share in her journey, as she focuses on the harmony that is possible between us and the earth: how the earth nourishes us, and how, through our kavaanah – our intention – in planting and cultivation, we can help her to continue to do so.
May we find our hearts opening wider during this week, and may we find Tiferet imbuing our lives.
Rabbi Katy Allen, Ma'yan Tikvah
Day 15: Week 3, Day 1 of the Omer – Chesed of Tiferet
by Rabbi Robin Damsky
In the late afternoon of Erev Pesach I left my home to head to my seder as light hail was falling. Odd, I thought, a little early for the ten plagues. As the evening progressed, our group would pause now and again to look out the window at the accumulating snow. A good inch was sitting on my car by seder’s end. Yes, it’s late in the season for snow, even by Chicago’s standards. But issues of climate change have been covered well by others in this blog. I was thinking of the asparagus.
One of the first crops to grace us in the fragile days that are just past winter but not quite spring, the fronds poked up their heads the week before. That snowfall killed some of the baby stalks. I wonder if the harsh winter contributed to the fact that many of this year’s stalks thus far are too thin to gather. Nevertheless, one rainfall early this week and more stems are popping up. My first harvest was seven spears, tossed into a sauté/fried rice dish with brown rice, quinoa, herbs and eggs. Delicious.
Chesed of Tiferet demands of us that we examine the love aspect of our compassion, ensuring that it does not come across as pity. In looking at my asparagus bed, it brought to mind the following verse in our Torah in this week’s parashah:
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. I, Adonai, am your God. (Lev. 19:9-10).
The same text, almost exactly to the word, appears just a few chapters later, in a reading, that synchronously, we just read on Pesach: Leviticus 23:22.
Why leave the corners of our field for those who are hungry? It is a way to preserve their dignity; allowing those in need to eat without them having to ask for help. At the same time, we are exercising our care and compassion through a selfless act. We till the land, we plant the seeds and work the soil, knowing even as we plan our garden that a percentage of it will be dedicated to those who are in want.
One of the names we call God is Ha-Rachaman, the Merciful or Compassionate One. Within this name is the word “rechem,” which means womb. The womb is the source of all life, and God, as Ha-Rachaman, wants all life to be nourished with grace. As we read in the Ashrie prayer: “You open your hand; Your favor sustains all the living. Ha-Rachaman knows that there is enough sustenance for all.
Action: I have shared some of my asparagus with those who have less, and will continue to do so from my garden throughout the season. Are you planting this year? Maybe even a pot of herbs or tomatoes? If not, can you do this today metaphorically? I invite you to share some of what you “grow” with others in a way that is compassionate and selfless while honoring others’ self-respect, so you can personally experience the Chesed of Tiferet.