Royal qualities

lion

Hashem runs this world and all the higher worlds via the Ten Divine features, (sefiros). The last and final of these features is called Royalty (Malchus).

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As you can see in the above chart, Malchus is the lowest of all the sefiros. This is because Malchus is the ultimate realization of the other sefiros. All the flow that emanates from the higher sefiros are experienced in Malchus.

One might envision Royalty to have a presumptuous character, as portrayed below in Western society, but this depiction couldn’t be further from the truth.

king james

As discussed in an earlier blog, humility is the key feature of Royalty. In Torah 30 Rebbe Nachman teaches that the higher perceptions of Godliness (שכל עליון) need to be masked in the many filters of, what he calls, lower intellect (שכל תחתון). This lower intellect is an aspect of Malchus, because it’s the experience of the higher intellect. In order to understand this lower intellect, the student has to despise monetary gain (שונא בצע). (It must be pointed out here that in Torah 60 the Rebbe spoke of lofty Torah levels that are unattainable without wealth, so he clearly didn’t recommend not having money, or disposing of ones wealth). So why is hating monetary gain an aspect of Malchus?

The expression שונא בצע is one of the four attributes that Jethro listed when he advised Moses to choose men who will judge the people (Shemos 18:21). The Shadal explains that the root of the word בצע, which is translated as gain, always connotes dividing gain between two or more parties. We also find that breaking bread is called בציעת הפת, so the one who hates gain really hates to divide. This is why it’s a key ingredient of Malchus, because Malchus can’t be at all divided from Hashem. The Zohar says that just like the moon doesn’t have its own light, Malchus has nothing of its own (Zohar I 249a). It’s totally a receiver, without any of its own influence. To fully shine the light of the upper sefiros, the king has to be an empty vessel. If any part of the vessel is full, or divided for that matter, it can’t shine the light of the true king. (In fact, in this lesson the Rebbe teaches that Malchus needs to draw life-force from Or Hapanim, [a very lofty light that shines from Arich Anpin, which is outside the scope of this article]. But we clearly see that Malchus draws its life-force from somewhere else.)

King David embodied the attribute of Royalty. Of course he was a king, but his humility was astonishing. When the Prophet Shmuel shocked David’s family and anointed him to be the next King of Israel, the Midrash teaches that all of his family called out in song “Long live the king, long live the king”! Can you imagine the feeling of validation that David had after he was vilified by his family all his life as an illegitimate child? The verse says (Shmuel I 16:13) that after the anointing, Shmuel got up and went [back to his town] Ramah. What did David do then? The Midrash says that he went back to his sheep, with his stick and backpack! Not only that, but he took out his flute and composed a song (Psalms 131). Here are the words:

:שִׁ֥יר הַֽמַּֽעֲל֗וֹת לְדָ֫וִ֥ד, יְהֹוָ֚ה  לֹֽא־גָבַ֣הּ לִ֖בִּי ,וְלֹֽא־רָ֣מוּ עֵינַ֑י וְלֹֽא־הִלַּ֓כְתִּי בִּגְדֹל֖וֹת וּבְנִפְלָא֣וֹת מִמֶּֽנִּי

“A song of ascent by David: Hashem, my heart isn’t haughty and I didn’t lift up my eyes. I also didn’t pursue things that are greater than me”. 

Could you believe the humility? This is the song that he sings to Hashem (who knows the truth) after “the stone that the builders rejected became the cornerstone”? But as we all know kingship radiates a certain splendor and the same can be said about someone who is truly humble. It’s a magnificent trait to possess.

One final thought on Malchus. In the last paragraph of the lesson, the Rebbe says something very deep. “From a person’s voice, his measure of Malchus is discernible”. In one of the most amazing moments in Jewish history, as the kingship was passing from Saul to David and Saul was trying to kill David to prevent him from usurping the kingdom, David had a chance to kill Saul but declined to do so, instead cutting off the corner of Saul’s robe. When Saul was at a safe distance, David called out to him and gave him great honor but rebuked him for chasing an innocent person. To show his innocence, David held up the ripped corner of Saul’s robe, proving his good intentions. The verse then says, “When David finished these words, Saul said ‘Is that your voice, David my son’? And Saul lifted up his voice and wept”. The Rebbe teaches that from hearing David’s voice, Saul recognized that David would be King. So he wanted to lift up his own voice and attain that measure of Malchus himself, but the sound that emerged was a sob.

Why is the voice an indicator of someone’s capacity for Malchus? I think it’s the same idea. The blessing we make on the Shofar is “to hear the voice of the Shofar”. We don’t bless the sound of the shofar, but its voice. This is because the sound of the shofar is totally unadulterated. It’s a pure sound straight from the belly of the blower. That’s what a voice is too. Every person’s voice is unique and indicative, on a deeper level, of who he is. Not necessarily his ability to sing on tune, but the essence of his voice. When hearing David’s voice, Saul recognized David’s oneness with Hashem and his humility. Here he was giving rebuke to the King of Israel, but it was in total humility, he had no ego in the moment.

When we yearn for Hashem’s kingship to spread across the world, we are hoping that every creature will know God’s humility. Namely, how He is the most powerful being, yet He makes Himself available to even the lowest creature alive. May we know it speedily in our days. Amen!

 

מִי כַּֽיהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ הַמַּגְבִּיהִ֥י לָשָֽׁבֶת, הַמַּשְׁפִּילִ֥י לִרְא֑וֹת בַּשָּׁמַ֥יִם וּבָאָֽרֶץ

“Who is like you Hashem our God, who dwells in the highest places, yet lowers Himself to look to the heavens and the earth.” (Psalms 113:5-6)

 

[Not] blinded by the light

reaching higher

Every now and then I wonder where I’m going with my Avodas Hashem? I take my job seriously, spending most of my personal time learning, going to synagogue or secluding myself in personal prayer. But sometimes when I learn the hidden parts of the Torah, about pure devotions, the names of God, His features and the sublime character of the righteous, I feel like I’m off the mark. Yes, I go out to the fields and pray, I’m finishing Tractates of the Talmud, I’m staying far away from impurities but where is the missing illumination? Why isn’t the Divine Spirit resting on me? Is it just a question of time? Will another couple hundred trips to the Mikva do it? I wonder…

Perceptions of Godliness can only be grasped through many contractions, צמצומים רבים.

(Torah 30)

The light of God’s awesome wisdom needs many channels and filters so that man can partake and benefit from it. The lower the light descends, the more cloaks and veils it needs, or else it will destroy us. The truth is that the letters of the Torah are powerful diffusers of the Divine light, as the highest possible levels of Divine perception (at least as much as finite man can reach) are buried in those holy letters. You can tell how strong the filters are because, as I mentioned earlier, we can learn Torah just like another book and still not experience spirituality.

Rebbe Nachman says (ibid) that the great Tzaddikim know how to enclothe the most profound wisdom in order for the laymen to understand it. They start with introductions and lower insights which first take the student around the material before they almost slip-in the lofty insights to the mind of their student. He recommends that every person seek out a suitable teacher who can adequately drape the higher intellect to give it over to their student. And contrary to what you might think, the lower a person is, the greater his teacher needs to be. Similar to a sick patient who can only be healed with the best doctor.

In Hilchos Nezikin 4, Reb Nosson writes that even though we don’t understand at all the secrets of the Torah that Rabbe Shimon Bar Yochai revealed in the Zohar Hakadosh, he did a great thing for our souls. Through his self sacrifice and holiness, he dug deep wells and created strong vessels for us. Because of the many filters and channels in which he hid the great light of Divine intellect, we can more easily attain Divine perception now. This is what the great Tzaddikim do for us. They spend their life working on remedies, so that we can benefit from what remains.

So how does this help someone like me who wonders whether they’re making any headway? It helps for a few reasons: Firstly, so much of what we do is only possible because of the revelations that the Tzaddikim left for us. We might not think about it too much, but by reciting the prayer of unification before a mitzvah, לשם יחוד, we are actively fulfilling the main purpose of our mitzvos. This deeper level, which is now an accepted part of our mitzvah, was only made possible by the holy Reishis Chochma, who instituted that little prayer, filtering a bit more of the exalted light. Secondly, although we might not feel like prophets when we pray, the Tzaddikim revealed to us that even the smallest steps in Avodas Hashem have great implications. By believing in the Tzaddikim, drinking their words of encouragement and following their advice, we will be successful. Maybe we will feel more spiritual soon, or more often, but even if God forbid not, we can rest assured that more is going on than we know. The small things that we do with great effort, even though we might not pat ourselves on the back now for doing them, will one day be unwrapped before our holy eyes glowing with the most brilliant light that we could ever have imagined. Please God. Amen!

Joseph, the simple tzaddik

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The verse has an peculiar way of describing Joseph, the holiest of all the brothers:

“וְה֣וּא נַ֗עַר, אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י בִלְהָ֛ה וְאֶת־בְּנֵ֥י זִלְפָּ֖ה”

“Joseph was childish, and was commonly found with the maidservants’ children (Genesis 37:2)”.

The Torah is telling us two amazing things about very rare tzaddikim, such as Joseph and Rebbe Nachman, who are “the foundation of the world” (Proverbs 25).

First, in Torah 30, Rebbe Nachman taught that “the farther one is from Hashem, the greater the teacher he needs, similar to someone extremely ill who needs the best doctor to heal him”. This is the Torah’s intention when saying that Joseph ‘hung out’ with the maidservants’ children. Not that those specific children of Jacob were distant from Hashem, but ‘maidservants’ children’ is an allusion to the type of people that are forlorn and in need of help. Additionally, this is why immediately after Joseph was born, Jacob knew that he can overcome his brother Esau. Had Esau not himself strayed from Hashem, his holy task would have been to bring others who have strayed closer to Hashem. It would have been Jacob’s job to study and teach Torah, and Esau’s job to give encouragement to those who felt far from Hashem. But when Esau relinquished his position, it was Joseph who stepped in as the Kiruv Rabbi. Joseph, being the greatest type of tzaddik, was able to reach even the lowest criminals. We see this clearly in Joseph’s outreach to the prisoners in jail, and later on how he circumcised all of Egypt, the most lewd place on earth at the time. Finally, as we find throughout Hassidic literature, Joseph is intimately connected to the festival of Hanukkah. This is alluded to in our custom to light the Menorah very low to the ground, similar to Joseph was able to reach even the most hopeless and lowly people.

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What does it mean that Joseph was childish?

In Tinyana 78 the Rebbe teaches something very mysterious. He says that sometimes the true tzaddik becomes a simpleton. The idea is as follows: The Torah is literally our lifeline (Deuteronomy 30:20). So how do we survive when we’re not learning torah? We only survive because the tzaddik gives us life. But how does the tzaddik survive when he’s not actually learning Torah? He receives life from the אוצר מתנת חינם, the store-house of free-gifts. (Consequently, this is also how the world survived for twenty six generations before the Jews received the Torah). So sometimes the tzaddik legitimately becomes a simple ignoramus, so that he can give life to the other simple people in the world, Jews and non-Jews alike. This is what it means that Joseph was childish. He was literally doing silly things, and with those foolish behaviors, he was giving life to the world.

In the same lesson, the Rebbe teaches that this ‘simplicity’ that a tzaddik experiences is also called דרך ארץ ישראל, the way to the land of Israel. In fact, Reb Nosson writes the when the Rebbe made his pilgrimage to Israel, his behavior was extremely bizarre. At times he was found not wearing a hat or jacket and running around with little kids playing silly games. Other times, on his voyage, he met great scholars. When they asked him to speak, he would talk gibberish! We truly can’t understand the ways of a tzaddik, especially one of Rebbe Nachman’s caliber. His every move was mysterious, as he connected heaven and earth with his every move. All we can do is feel fortunate that Hashem sends us these great people who, with their deep love, reach even the lowest of the low.

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