In Jewish practice we are nearing the end of a seven-week period that began on the second day of Passover, a time that spans the days from the miraculous events of redemption from slavery to the receiving of the Torah, the “Standing at Sinai” to hear God’s word.
Each of these seven weeks has a name, a characteristic derived from the attributes of God (see diagram below). This last week is called Kingship, in Hebrew Malkhut. I have been asking myself, whose kingship? Who is King or Queen?
Along one dimension, God is bestowing divine attributes on humans: kindness, strength, beauty, endurance, glory, something called “foundation,” with the final one being “kingship.” It is like a rope ladder descending from above, one level unfolding after another.
From another angle of vision, we can work on ourselves to refine these characteristics: to become more loving, to learn restraint, to attune to our higher selves, to persevere through obstacles, to live in wonder and appreciation, to have integrity, and then to – what? What is the expression of royalty at the end of this journey? It seems clear that this is a path of imitatio Dei, imitation of God, or as the Torah says, “to walk in His ways.” What does this mean with Kingship?
The Torah alludes at one point to “ornaments” the Israelites received at Sinai, even though they had to take them off after the sin of the golden calf. I think of these ornaments as a kind of crown, an outer acknowledgment of an inner state of kingship. In receiving the Torah, the people had come into their own. They had heard God’s voice and were blessed by the Divine Presence, the Shekhinah who is also called Malkah, Queen, and knew – at least briefly – what it was to walk in the light of God.
The seven blessings that descend, little by little, over these weeks (for each day also is an expression of one of the seven attributes) are each like a taste of the Divine call at Sinai. Each blessing is an evocation of our potential. We can respond, or not, each day and each week to the call. Sometimes the inspiration to be loving and kind is vibrant within us, at other times it is just a good idea or a thin memory. We may resist the calls. It may seem just too hard to persevere in the face of obstacles, to stand up and be counted and accountable. Each week has brought its opportunities, encouragements, and challenges.
And now, whatever we have made of these weeks, the time for the results to shine forth. We have the current week to review this unique time. Next week, we can study Torah on Shavuot, the holiday of Weeks, to bring out hidden dimensions that we may have missed. We can hear the story of the giving of the Ten Commandments to recall and re-live the voice of God. We can read of Ezekiel’s vision of the Chariot coming to the Jews in exile, to remind us of the Presence even when it appeared deeply hidden.
And now . . . and now . . . we are each the King or Queen or, if you prefer, the Spark of royalty in our corner of the world, one of the gems in the crown. Your kingdom is where you have power to act and influence. Your family, your circle of friends, your workplace; your home or art work or writing or garden or classes; all the people you touch, at the café or the shop or the gym or the grocery or the hardware store or in cyberspace.
The difference between this and external “kingship” – the hierarchies of power we see in the world at large – is that we know about the inner dimensions, the seven threads, and we know that we must be connected to their Source. Those seven threads lead back to the Source of Blessing.
The rabbis say of God that the Torah never mentions His greatness without also mentioning His humility. So may it be with us.