By Simon Jacobson
Kislev is the third month from the beginning of the year, Tishrei. It has an advantage over the third month of Sivan, when we begin [the counting] from Nissan, because the order from Nissan is in a way of ‘ohr yoshor’ [direct light] and the marriage of the giving of the Torah in the third month of Sivan was not sustained, because the first tablets [given in Sivan] did not remain intact. By contrast, Tishrei is ‘ohr chozor’ [retractive light], teshuvah which is higher than the service of tzaddikim, and the second tablets are ‘doubly strong’…and they endure forever…
The giving of the Torah was in the third month of Sivan, while mesirat nefesh [self sacrifice] for Torah and Mitzvot was in Kislev, because the Greeks wanted to ‘make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will.’ The miracle of Chanukah [in the month of Kislev]… was on nigleh [the revealed dimension] of Torah, and the miracle on the nistar [hidden dimension] of Torah was on the 19th, 29th and 10th of Kislev…
— R’ Levi Yitzchak Schneerson – Likkutei Levi Yitzchak, Igrot pp. 205, 217
Time is energy. Like a spiral, time flows in cycles, returning to its original point, each time on another plane.
Every month has its own unique energy. Actually, Chodosh (the Hebrew word for month) means ‘new.’ By aligning ourselves to the specific energy of each respective month, we open up new channels of blessings and opportunities in our lives.
The energy of this new Hebrew month of Kislev, the third of the winter months, is the power of harmony. The number three is associated with Tiferet, the third of the seven emotional sefirot, reflected in our seven emotional faculties [for a detailed description, see my Spiritual Guide to Counting the Omer].
Tiferet literally means beauty. What is beauty? Why do we find certain things appealing to the eye – what we call ‘beautiful’ – and others not so? What is the anatomy, the ingredients of beauty?
Some of you may argue, that frankly: who cares? If something is beautiful it’s just beautiful and that’s it. If it ain’t it ain’t. And anyway, beauty is just in the eyes of the beholder. ‘Al tam v’rayach ayn l’hisvakayach,’ on taste and smell one cannot argue (in the original Hebrew these two phrases happen to rhyme). So how can a definition of beauty help us? And can beauty be quantified with academic and scientific definitions?
Beauty – Tiferet – is harmony within diversity. Beauty always consists of the joining of two opposites. Anything beautiful is always multifaceted, but the diverse forces are symmetrically aligned.
As pretty as one color – say, blue – may be, it still would not be defined as beautiful. As sweet as one musical note may sound, it cannot be called beautiful. Beauty is always a combination of many colors – as in a painting – whose balance and coordination creates a beautiful mosaic. Many different musical notes, when played just the right way, generate a beautiful symphony.
Take nature. The beauty of nature is in the fact that so many different systems work with such astonishing synchronicity. Perhaps no better or closer example of this is our own selves. “From my flesh I behold G-d.” The healthy human body is a miraculous piece of architecture. So many different limbs and organs, numerous diverse systems and faculties. Let alone the multitude of cells, hormones, chemicals, and DNA. And all combined as one fascinating unit, working as one synchronized whole.
This is tiferet – beauty, the harmony within diversity.
Something that strikes us (even subjectively) as beautiful is balance and symmetry of several – or very many – different elements, all combined in just the right blend.
This also tells us that the components that create beauty always have the potential for chaos, and even unsightliness. One color, one note – and definitely several – out of synch, will compromise the entire composition and make it look awry. One mutant cell can wreak havoc in the entire body. A single musical note may not be beautiful and will be tedious if repeated again and again, but it will not create chaos, just annoying monotony. As soon as you introduce more elements, the potential for chaos becomes possible. Each additional element – that can further beautify the composition – creates more potential discord.
This is the paradox – and power – of beauty.
As we begin the third month of the year we enter the energy of balance and beauty. But not just plain beauty: Kislev is the harmony that emerges after chaos. [Sivan is the harmony that has not yet ‘tasted’ discord]. Even when we experience the clash of diverse forces in our lives – within ourselves, between our communities and between nations – this new month, with its holidays, all rooted in Chanukah, empowers us with the ability to find the deeper harmony within.
To discover harmony within diversity we need to be truthful to ourselves and to G-d. We need bittul – a combination of self-suspension, modesty and humility.
And therein lies the true secret of Tiferet. In addition to beauty, Tiferet is also related to emet (truth). Truth means that it is true not just in one circumstance, environment or set of conditions, but in all of them. If it is true it has to be true throughout – in the beginning, middle and end (hence, the three letters of EMeT, aleph, mem, tov, the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew Alphabet).
To recognize harmony within diversity we need to have profound bittul – a deep sense of truth and integrity – that allows us to see the underlying thread that unites a vast variety of distinct forces. Tiferet has this bittul, and therefore, as the third and middle branch in the sefirot structure it serves as the spine that connects all the different sefirot, reaching up to Keter (crown) and drawing down to Malchut (action). It is able to penetrate within all the diversity and draw out the inner unity within all the dimensions, while also allowing each one to express its individuality. Like a conductor, tiferet, coordinates all the different musical instruments, all the diverse musical notes, each playing its particular instrument and note at its best, while joining together in one beautiful composition.
This is the mystery of beauty.
May Kislev help us all become more beautiful people.