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Midot Hayom 5770 Day 17: Tiferet in Tiferet

“Who has no slander on his tongue,” [i.e. who is a man of truth and takes pains not to speak deceitfully] (Psalms 15:3). This refers to the patriarch Jacob [who objected to taking the blessing by cunning,] as it is written, “Perhaps father will feel me and I shall appear as a deceiver” (Genesis 27:12) (Makkot 24a).

The Holy One, Blessed is He, chose Jacob but did not draw him near; [Jacob] drew himself near [without the special assistance of God] (Bamidbar Rabbah 3:2).

Jacob called himself a servant [of God], and the Holy One, Blessed is He, called him the same (Sifri Va’etchanan 27).

I was immediately struck by the fact that the first Midrash begins with, “Who has no slander on his tongue,” which does not seem to have any bearing on the description of Jacob. I suspect that the Midrash is teaching us that Jacob’s discomfort with cunning included his determination to not take the approach that Esau was evil and undeserving. He focused on becoming deserving himself.

Jacob did not seek to achieve greatness by attacking Esau, but by rising to increasing levels of goodness and holiness. Jacob was interested in finding the justification for his receiving the blessings within himself. That was his Tiferet.

God chose Jacob, but waited until there would be a Tiferet, or Balanced, response from Jacob to draw himself near to God. The meeting point between God’s choice and Jacob’s drawing near is the meeting point between Heaven and earth, the place of Tiferet. It is the place where we reach up to God, Who is reaching down to us.

This is also why when Jacob declared his desire to be a servant of God, there was a Tiferet – Balanced – response from Heaven, and God responded in kind by declaring Jacob to be a servant of God.

Tiferet demands that we are determined to reach back to God when He reaches to us through Torah and Mitzvot. True Tiferet must always be an expression of what we achieve, and never a reflection of comparison to others or through criticizing and tearing down other people.


Learn Torah, pray, and perform Mitzvot as a response to God reaching out to you, not as an obligation.

Make a special effort today to not speak critically of others.

Do not speak in a self-disparaging manner at all today.

Consider your best qualities and choose one or two on which to focus during this day to improve in those specific areas.

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