A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth

A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth: Part 49 – Seeing the Beautiful

It is not surprising to find that this skill of customizing advice relates to the property of the soul associated with the sefirah of tiferet ("beauty") with a strong influence from chesed ("loving-kindness") as well as gevurah("strength").

The sefirot of chesed, geveruah, and tiferet represent the inner emotions of the heart that precede any action or expression. They are the primary "garments" which "enclothe" the soul thereby enabling it to interact with the physical world. Although these three lights of the soul seem to be perfectly balanced, in fact, according to Kabbalah, tiferet leans toward the right, toward chesed, and away from gevurah. Therefore the loving-kindness of chesed sets the mood and the overall character for this condition.

A loving desire to give to the student (chesed) motivates the teacher to judge (gevurah) his words and advice carefully, using as criteria the extent to which the advice actually "beautifies" the student (tiferet). And this is the most important component of the teacher‑student relationship.

As we saw in Part 1, Abraham is the archetypal educator for he is the first figure identified with initiation/inspiration and integration in the Torah. The attribute most associated with Abraham is chesed, as the Prophet Micah states, "give kindness to Abraham."  From this we learn that the true foundation and inviolate prerequisite to effective education is the love of teacher for student (and vice versa)

In the Book of Joshua, Abraham is called "a great man among giants" This statement expresses the tremendous esteem he possessed in the eyes of his students–that they considered him the greatest of the great. On a deeper level, the Hebrew word meaning "greatness" (gedulah) often appears as a synonym for "kindness," in which case it indicates "greatness" of heart. (We often hear the expression–"he has a big heart"–to describe a generous person.) Kabbalah teaches that gedulah is the capacity of the heart before it reveals itself in action. The greater one's heart, the more kindness one express in one's deeds. Adding this all together, we learn that when a student's esteem is based on the teacher's "greatness" (as opposed to intelligence, wit or the like), then it will naturally evolve into a deep trust which will inspire the students to accept the disciplines imposed upon them by the teacher's advice.

In summary, love is the essential ingredient for nourishing growth. Even plants and animals respond to this emotion in their caretakers. This is even more true for human beings, especially when that love is manifest and articulate. In the relationship of a teacher to his students, this love is expressed as an ability to consider the details of their lives and personalities and to fashion his advice in accordance with a vision of what will be most becoming to each one of them. The power of this approach is apparent on two levels: first, the teacher's advice becomes more specific and thus more potent; and second, this expression of real concern creates an ambiance of love and tenderness which itself nurtures truth and positive growth.

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