The world of Kabbalah contains powerful lessons and guidelines that can be applied to the practical areas of self-development and personal growth. Although the Kabbalah primarily describes G‑dly revelation, the biblical verse states that man has been created “in the image of G‑d.”

One of the fundamental precepts of Kabbalah is the idea that the creation of the finite world is facilitated by means of Sefirot, divine attributes. G‑d creates the world and reveals Himself by enclothing His Infinite Light in ten attributes that parallel human characteristics. These attributes, or Sefirot, contain G‑dly revelation within defined areas of intellect, emotion, and expression.

By grasping the meaning of the Kabbalistic Sefirot, we begin to understand ourselves better. Ironically, in our quest to know G‑d we end up knowing much more about ourselves. Let us examine the emotional attribute of Tiferet, harmonized emotion, from an excerpt from the new book The Sefiros and the Self: A Divine Blueprint for Self-Discovery and Personal Growth.

Case Study

Frank is the father of a young family. He was raised alone by an authoritarian father who administered harsh discipline. Although he now has a loving wife and a comfortable environment, he retains many of the attitudes and approaches of his upbringing. Frank has very definite ideas about how a household should be run, and accordingly there are a series of rules and regulations which must be adhered to. Any divergence from his rigid set of rules leads to anger and harsh discipline. Like a drill sergeant, his approach is “my way or the highway.”

This parenting style has created a level of success in the management of the home: the children follow the rules, there is an adherence to strict bedtimes, and chores are done quickly and without any backtalk. The household is organized and efficient, but the success is on a narrow spectrum. The relationship between father and children is superficial (“Did you do your homework?” “Yes, Dad”). The children do not feel a deeper and more loving connection with him. There is a spirit of rebellion in the air and a total lack of enthusiasm for his initiatives.

Furthermore, as a result of his ideas about competition and toughness, which pit one child against another, there is a sense of overall distrust and tension in the home. The dynamics between mother and children are also affected by the father’s rigidity; he frowns upon her displays of love and affection, telling her that this will spoil the children. Love has become a scarce resource in this house, and the effect is like a slow poison.

Eventually, Frank begins to recognize that he is failing as a parent. While he may have gained the obedience of his family, he has not won their hearts. Where has he gone wrong?


The attribute of tiferet is translated literally as “beauty.” The beauty of tiferet is in its ability to blend two opposites: chesed and gevurah. Pure chesed is the unbridled expansiveness of giving; pure gevurah is the total opposite: restraint, caution and control. Tiferet is the ideal blend, expansiveness that is balanced with control, trust with caution, and giving with restraint.

How does tiferet work?

The Kabbalistic masters explain that both kindness and restraint are primarily inwardly driven: they are motivated by an internal need and tendency. The expansiveness and kindness of the chesed-oriented person is based on his need to give. He enjoys the experience of giving and expressing love. This is what makes him feel alive. Kindness is more about the need of the giver to give than it is about the receiver to receive the gift. As such, the kindness may not always fit the actual need of the receiver. As in the case of a spoiled child, the boundless nature of kindness can sometimes lead to harmful consequences.

The same is true with regard to a restraint-oriented individual, who is most comfortable in a highly structured, regulated environment. Even when the rules make little sense, there is a tendency to enforce them without flexibility. Think of low-level bureaucrats and the great pleasure they take in enforcing inconsequential rules. Restraint, when taken to an extreme, is driven by a need to exert control even when it may detrimentally affect the situation.

In contrast, tiferet is driven externally. Tiferet is the desire to connect and form a meaningful relationship with another. Tiferet, therefore, listens for feedback from the other person before deciding what and how to give. Without hearing the response of the other person, there can only be a superficial connection between them. Whereas chesed may give a large, rich meal to a pauper whose stomach cannot handle rich food, tiferet will be sensitive to the pauper’s unique needs and will serve a meal that is appropriate.The approaches of both kindness and restraint tend to be one-sided, rooted as they are in their own bias. Tiferet is called the attribute of truth, due to its ability to overcome bias and personal perceptions and discover the ideal method of connectivity and resolution.

Frank’s problem in relating to his family stems from his overemphasis on restraint. His own life experience and personality have set him on a path of rigid control and lack of empathy. In order to create a more meaningful relationship with his family, he will need to develop the empathy, connectivity and balance that is tiferet.

This can be treated in three steps.

The Time-Out: Stepping Outside Oneself

The first step in transitioning to tiferet begins with the awareness that we don’t have all the answers. Most of us have a tendency to assume that our approach to a given situation is the correct one. We have a natural bias toward a particular methodology based on our personality and our past experiences, and we tend to repeat this approach time and again.

Tiferet begins by asking the question: What if my natural approach to this problem is missing the point? What does this particular situation call for? Frank must stop saying to himself, “This worked for my father and my other children, and it will work for this child too!” Instead, he must take a timeout and think, Perhaps there is another way to handle this that will lead to better results. This willingness to take a timeout, to go against one’s natural flow and bias, is the beginning of tiferet.

Dialogue: Empathy

Step two requires that Frank enter into a dialogue with his family. They must feel more comfortable expressing themselves in their relationship with their father. He must create a time and place for interacting with them in a non-threatening, non-judgmental atmosphere. There the children can feel freer to be themselves, expressing their hopes, dreams, desires and ideas.

This does not need to be a focused process of negotiating specific points or procedures in the home. On the contrary, the concept of dialogue begins with a sense of comfort and safety, which is a platform for trust.

Just as a business negotiation may take place in a coffee shop or restaurant, and begin with some informal getting-to-know-each-other conversation, so too Frank’s interaction with his family must first ease some of the tension. Playing a game with the children is one way to do this. Once the children are more comfortable being with their father, there will be a looser, easier environment.

Eventually there can be a more open and honest dialogue between them. Frank can express his goals and concerns for his family in a broader sense, and the children can express their own perspective. This back-and-forth is akin to a process of negotiation, in which each party must fully express its interests and concerns. If the negotiation is handled with empathy and goodwill, a harmonious conclusion will ensue. As preconceptions are put aside, a willingness to work together is born.

The family can eventually join together to create a synergy—to find solutions that will balance Frank’s goals and concerns with the needs of his children.

Fusion: Discovering a Deeper Connection

Fusion and connectivity can occur only after establishing dialogue and rapport. Most people can intuitively sense when they are connecting with another person or when the conversation is flat and two-dimensional. This can be observed when a couple is on a date, meeting each other for the first time. The conversation may at first be stilted and awkward or superficial. However, a turning point can take place whereby a connection is made and there is an intensified engagement of the emotions. There is a moment when things begin to “click.” We cannot force these moments to take place. However, by creating platforms of dialogue, exploration, sensitivity and listening, achieving the desired connectivity and fusion becomes a real possibility.

For Frank and his family, step three is the moment of transition to connectivity and fusion. Having created a dialogue with his family, they are now secure in sharing their differing perspectives. As they engage in this conversation, they must seek to identify the point of connection, the “click” that will allow them to fuse together and find directions that they can all be enthusiastic about.

This synergy must be intuitively discovered. Frank must remain alert to the possibilities, and more importantly, believe that a higher level of connectivity is possible. Once Frank identifies a point of connectivity, it will lead to further forms of connection, wherein the family can explore a rewarding relationship.

By utilizing these tools in his interactions to his own family dynamics, Frank will achieve tiferet, with all of its connotations of harmony, balance, integration and beauty.