Day 17 of the Omer

יוֹם הוּלֶּדֶת אֶת אַאַזְמוּ"ר — בִּשְׁנַת תּקצ"ג. צוּ זִיבּעֶן יאָהר האָט עֶם אַמאָל דעֶר צֶמַח צֶדֶק פאַרהעֶרט. דֶער זֵיידעֶ האָט געֶמאַכט אַזוֹי גוּט, אַז זַיין מְלַמֵּד אִיז זֵייעֶר נִתְפָּעֵל געֶוואָרעֶן, האָט זִיך נִיט געֶקעֶנט אַיינהאַלטעֶן אוּן געֶזאָגט דעֶם צֶמַח צֶדֶק: הַא, וואָס זאָגט אִיהר, עֶר מאַכט גוּט. דעֶר צֶמַח צֶדֶק האָט אִיהם געֶעֶנטפעֶרט: וואָס אִיז דִי הִתְפַּעֲלוּת, אַז תִּפְאֶרֶת שֶׁבְּתִפְאֶרֶת מַאכט גוּט.

The birthday of my revered grandfather, the Rebbe [Maharash], in the year 5593 (1833).1

Once, when he was seven years old, [his father] the Tzemach Tzedek tested him in his studies. My grandfather answered so well that his teacher became exuberant. Unable to contain himself, he turned to the Tzemach Tzedek: “Ah! What do you say? Isn’t he doing well!”

The Tzemach Tzedek replied: “What is there to be so excited about when Tiferes shebeTiferes does well…?”2

Probing Beneath the Surface

The term Tiferes means “beauty,” and Tiferes shebeTiferes implies the quintessence of that attribute. Beauty is a quality that cannot be captured in words; it leaves one open-mouthed. A work of art can be described in terms of colors, contrasts, forms and the like, but the quality that gives a beautiful masterpiece its appeal is indescribable.

This is the difference between the work of a master and that of a copyist. The work of a skillful copyist may resemble a masterpiece in its external details, but it lacks its indefinable soul.

This is an implication of the Kabbalistic concept3 that “Tiferes ascends to [i.e., is rooted in] the inner dimension of Keser.” The Sefirah called Keser is the crowning dimension of G‑dliness, a level transcending any particular definition. Beauty (Tiferes) reveals that unbounded quality within the context of our limited existence.

The Kabbalists explain that beauty proceeds from a synthesis of opposite tendencies. To translate that concept in modern terms: from a judicious balance of colors, contrasts and forms emerges an infinite dimension of soul. It is that which motivates the artist to create his work and this is what he seeks to share with others.

The Rebbe Maharash, who was born on the day of Tiferes shebeTiferes, is identified with this attribute; he wasthe quintessence of this quality. Is it therefore surprising that Tiferes shebeTiferes does well?