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Appreciating  Malchut (The Kingdom of God) Through  Our Everyday Jewish Experiences: By Eitan Bloostein

05/11/2021 01:00:01 PM

May11

This week, we reflect on the Kabbalistic sefirah of malchut, Kingship or the Kingdom of God. This sefirah is interesting in that it is not a direct attribute of God but, rather, an attribute of how we as human beings see God.  God’s Kingdom is creation and God reigns as King over creation. Without creation, without human beings, there is no Kingdom, Kingship, or malchut.

 

At the start of the Omer count, during Pesach, we are reminded that “in every generation it is our duty to consider ourselves as if we have come forth from Egypt.” As we exit Egypt we are unable to think and do for ourselves.  God leads the way in a pillar of cloud, and God provides us food in the form of Manna.  We are a people directed by the hand of God. Each of us is told to remember our role in the Exodus as a way to remind ourselves of the powerful hand of God in our lives.

 

Over the course of the Omer period between Pesach and Shavuot, we experience the development of the Jewish people.  As we count the days from the Exodus, we wander through the desert and approach Sinai having had the time to mature.  The central event of Sinai represents a moment of mass and communal communication with God. Many rabbis point to a midrash that explains: Each and every Jew that ever was or ever will be was present at Sinai during revelation.  Klal Yisrael, the entirety of the Jewish community, was there as the Torah entered into our hands.  

 

We leave Egypt with nothing and are guided solely by God.  We wander through the desert and end up at Mt. Sinai.  Sinai represents more than the revelation of Torah--it represents our ability to read it for ourselves.

 

There is a famous story of a debate in the Sanhedrin over the status of a new kind of oven’s kashrut. Rabbi Eliezer ben Harkanus argues that the oven is kosher; the rest of the Sanhedrin say it is unkosher. Rabbi Eliezer is so sure of himself that he asks God for assistance.  To prove Eliezer is right, God makes miracles--he moves a river, uproots a tree, and, eventually, causes the walls of the house of study to cave in.

 

“Enough!!!” cried Rabbi Yehoshuah.  “We, the majority, can decide.  Lo bashamayim hee it is no longer in heaven.”

 

Once the Jewish community received the Torah at Sinai--once we received the Torah at Sinai--it is in our hands alone to decipher.  God gave us guidelines and we fill in the specifics. Our leadership, in other words, is a reflection of God. But, it is in our hands.  

 

The Hassidic Master, Rebbe Nahman of Breslov, reflects on the sefirah of malchut when he says that our ability to understand the Torah can be understood in terms of the sun.  Just as the sun’s light shines on everything, so too does the light of the Torah.  The key for us to gain access to this light, he says, is a deep appreciation for God’s malchut.  For us to meaningfully understand the Torah we must contextualize the text in terms of the natural world and ourselves.  In that way, we can best understand the Torah by understanding malchut.

 

The sefirah of malchut is not inherent to God.  We bring meaning to it when we experience God’s world. Our appreciation for God’s Kingdom gives great depth and important context to our Torah. The Torah is in our hands. We have the power and ability to read and interpret it.  Yet, doing so requires an appreciation for God’s creation, malchut.


On this last week of the Omer and as we head into the holiday of Shavuot, I encourage you to take time to appreciate our world, God’s malchut.  Have a conversation with a friend or take a walk in nature.  Write in your journal or express yourself creatively.  These kinds of activities are the keys to our autonomy as individuals and as interpreters of the Torah.  These are among the gifts of Sinai.

Saturday, July 31 2021 22 Av 5781