Rabbi Zvi Homnick
A drunk was walking across a bridge late at night when he spotted a well-dressed man standing on the railing, apparently about to jump. He immediately began laughing hysterically. The man was obviously offended and called out, “Hey loser, what are you laughing at?”
The drunk answered, “Folks are always telling me that you can’t get to recovery until you hit rock bottom. Well, good luck with having any kind of recovery after you hit rock bottom.”
BOTTOM OF THE BARREL
There is a term that the Rebbe used with great frequency that has become part of the everyday speech of every Lubavitcher, “the last generation of galus and the first generation of Geula.” However, in the teachings of the Rebbe, there seem to be two conflicting understandings of the significance of that designation for our generation.
On the one hand, the Rebbe explains that although we are the lowest generation we have the power to finish the job and bring the Geula. That is because we are like midgets on the shoulders of giants. It is all thanks to the generations that came before us and did all the heavy lifting. On the other hand, the Rebbe explains that in the spiritual realms the cause is always higher than the effect. So if we are the ones to bring redemption to all of the previous generations, including the Avos, Moshe Rabeinu and all of the other tzaddikim who came before, then we are the highest of all the generations.
So which is it? Are we the lowest? Are we the highest? Is it possible to be both? Can we be the bottom of the barrel of world/Jewish history, while topping the charts of all future history in the making?
When I spoke recently at the Tes/Yud Kislev farbrengen in 770, I cited the Rebbe Rayatz as saying that earlier Chassidim would not just work on understanding the Chassidus that they learned; they also would try to picture to themselves what the particular level that was discussed would actually feel like. This is based on what the Alter Rebbe writes regarding a person’s ability to imagine in his psyche and thoughts what a given emotional state would be like, even if the person is not yet on the level to experience it as a revealed emotion. So Chassidim understood that before doing any emotional “avoda” in davening, one first needs to be able to at least relate in thought to the sought-after emotions in question.
A day or so later, I was approached by someone who asked me how that idea would apply when learning something that did not have an obvious emotional component. The way he put it was, “What if someone is learning about Malchus of Atzilus?”
To me, it was obvious hashgacha pratis to be asked this at the exact time that I was working on developing this very topic. As we mentioned at the end of the previous series, the Rebbe stated that not only is the generation as a whole connected to the Sefira of Malchus, as he indicated in the very first maamar, but that each individual man, woman and child of this generation is him/herself the embodiment of the Sefira of Malchus. So what does it feel like to be the Sefira of Malchus? Knowing that would be sorta helpful if that is who I am and how I should be living my life.
WHEN BOTTOM IS TOPS
The analogy that Chassidus gives for Malchus is the power of speech. For all the endless yakking going on in the world, the power of speech itself actually has nothing to say for itself. Zip, zilch, zero. Not a word. It has no content and no substance of its own. It is only when the mind and/or heart have something that the person wishes to communicate to other or others that the power of speech can take those ideas, feelings, thoughts and express them in verbal form. In that sense it is infinite.
Whereas the mind and heart are limited to being contained within the self, the power of speech has no such limit. Nor does it have any limit on the amount of ideas and feelings it can communicate, or to how many listening ears it can communicate to. Beyond that, it can even take the mind and heart out of the finite limitations of self. The only limits it has are imposed upon it from the outside since it operates within a reality that is governed by the limitations of time and space as well as the limited capacities of the listeners. If you would live forever and your voice would be heard everywhere and every listener would grasp what you are saying, the power of speech can deliver ad infinitum.
In the analog of Sefiras HaMalchus, this aspect of infinity goes even further. In the analogy of human speech, there has to be an “other” that already exists to whom the power of speech can communicate, but Hashem’s power of speech actually creates the “other.” The divine power to create “other” that experiences itself as being “other” in relation to G-dliness (although in reality it is One with the Creator), is the ultimate expression of “absolute infinity.” The higher Sefiros are only an expression of “relative infinity” since they are “limited” to their infinite state; whereas Malchus, which has no revelation of its own (leis lei mi’garmei klum), can take all the infinite revelations of the higher Sefiros and communicate them to an infinite number of finite creations into infinity.
Chassidus has lots to say about how and why this is the case, but the basic idea is that it is specifically the lowest that is rooted in the highest source. It is Hashem’s “absolute infinity” or “Essence” that can produce finite from infinite, communicate the infinite to the finite, reveal the infinite within the finite, and ultimately merge the two seemingly polar opposites into a state of Oneness, with the coming of Moshiach.
What does it feel like to be the Sefira of Malchus? To know that you are so spiritually empty that you have nothing to offer of your own, but as a midget on the shoulder of giants you have the power to accomplish what those giants could not. You have to be able to truly feel your own nothingness, not as a depressing put-down of self but as the ultimate empowerment to feel the power of Hashem’s Essence flowing through you, to create new “worlds” and to reveal the Infinite Light of Hashem’s love into those worlds, by way of Torah and mitzvos and especially the Inner Dimension of Torah.
(to be continued, G-d willing)