Today we're beginning week three of the Omer. During the first week of the Omer, we focus on chesed, lovingkindness, a kind of limitless abundance. During the second week, we focus on gevurah, the force of strong boundaries which rein in that limitless chesed. This week, we find harmony and balance between the two. This is the week of tiferet.
One traditional association links the patriarch Abraham with chesed (his tent was open to all comers, symbolizing his overflowing love for all), the patriarch Isaac with gevurah (in the story of the akedah, the "binding of Isaac," we see boundaries at their most powerful) and the patriarch Jacob with tiferet. Jacob harmonized his father's boundaries and his grandfather's lovindkindness, and in that synthesis was able to become the man who could wrestle with an angel, wresting forth the blessing of a new name for himself and his descendants.
(If this idea interests you and you're wondering whether these sefirot can also be mapped to female figures or archetypes, allow me to recommend Ushpizin: Inviting the Mothers / Imahot to the Sukkah. R' David Seidenberg connects chesed with Ruth, gevurah with Sarah, and tiferet with Rebecca.)
Tiferet can also be translated as beauty. Balance between love and boundary, between kindness and strength, is beautiful. This week I ask myself: how can I manifest beautiful balance in my life?
In classical kabbalah, one name for the sefirah of tiferet is middat harachamim, "the attribute of mercy." This week I ask myself: how does being in-balance lead me to be merciful toward myself and toward others?
Tiferet is the sefirah of integration. This week I ask myself: how can I integrate opposites and find synthesis which will manifest as beauty and truth?
Hesed and gevurah together sustain the world. If there were no Divine love, there would not be a world at all. If there were no Divine restraint, the world would be overwhelmed. If there were no gevurah on the cultural level, there would be no justice; but without hesed, there would be no mercy. In the language of the Kabbalah, we are always striving for the balance of tiferet, whether we know it or not and however we conceive its unfolding.