The blessing of lack

Kabbalah is an attempt to understand the brokenness of the universe.The other night, my chevruta (Study partner) and I were reading  a section of a work by the Magid of Mezritch, in which he about what it means to “rule” or have dominion.

In the version of kabbalah that the Magid is discussing, we understand God as being essentially unapproachable and beyond understanding.  But there is a little piece of God, called the shekhina, which is just, just approachable, just barely comprehensible, by human beings. This, the lowest  “level” of godliness, is a kind of conduit. If we do mitzvot, commandments, we help repair the essential brokenness of the universe, and  we open a little flow – like a faucet almost- into the human world of time and stuff, that allows God’s animating principle to bring wholeness and blessing into the world.  But this lowest level also has another tap – not just hot water, but also cold – if we don’t do mitzvot, or if we do evil, then this other tap is opened, and not only doesn’t blessing come into the world, but  brokenness – the brokenness we create by not doing God’s will, does.

This is a roundabout way of saying that our actions affect the universe in profound ways, and are reflected even in the divine realms.  The magid says that this brokenness comes because the sitra achra– the “other side” which plugs up blessing, says to itself, “Ana Emloch,” I will be king.  This is interesting when you consider that the other name for the shekhina is malchut – dominion, or kingliness.  The sitra achra is made up of several discrete parts, but when each one says, “I will be king,” the brokenness comes not because they wish to be king, but because they cannot join together – each one is a thing unto itself, alone, complete unto itself. But even more, each piece is complete unto itself, and thus doesn’t
anything else.

This, he says, is the negative aspect of dominion. In its utter completeness, and lack of need for others, it shuts out the very thing that could make it godly and truly whole.

Posted on December 19, 2012

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