Kabbalah #23: Malchut: The Kingdom Within
click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​




Kabbalah #23: Malchut: The Kingdom Within

Kabbalah #23: Malchut: The Kingdom Within

The last sefirah is the most important because God uses it to act through His creation.

by

The tenth and final sefirah is called "malchut" ("kingdom"), and in many ways this is the most important of the sefirot.

In order to understand what malchut is, we must refer back to the original verse that contains the ten sefirot: "To You, God, is greatness, strength, modesty, victory, awe, for all that is in heavens and earth; to You, God, is the kingdom." (1 Chronicles 29:11) We note that the description of malchut is an almost separate sentence and it restarts with the phrase, "to You, God, is..." Why this distinction?

Let us explain this by defining what malchut is.

When we think of a king or a kingdom, we imagine a dictator imposing his will on a helpless populace, draining them of their resources to be used for his own personal aggrandizement. Even if we picture him as a benevolent despot, he is at best an efficient bureaucrat.

When we speak of God and the concept of kingdom, we refer to a completely different model.

But when we speak of God and the concept of kingdom, we refer to a completely different model.

The model we have in mind is of a king who has a picture of good and bad, an ideology of right and wrong, and teaches the society around him those ideas and values. That society is then awakened to what is really right and structures itself and its institutions accordingly. When society has finished this process, it thereby amplifies and proclaims those values that the king had in his heart and mind.

That society is thereby not only expressing the king's norms and values, but showing that these norms and values are really the inner norms and values of the people in the country.

The real teacher is the one who inspires.

While we do not live with kings and it might be difficult for us to picture this, we can definitely use the illustration of a good teacher. A teacher who allows the students to "do as they wish" is not a teacher at all. The students have not received anything from him.

On the other hand, a teacher who forces his students to do as he says has merely imposed external shackles on them. He has not really affected them in any way, and he is not a teacher. The real teacher is the one who inspires his students, so that they realize that their own real feelings and values are those espoused by their teacher.

This is malchut in the true sense. It is God's actions and attributes – not as expressed by God, but rather as human beings express them. It is as if God's actions have struck a resonant chord in us, and we thereby act in a similar manner.

This requires that we do God's will, and not sin, and that we do so with free will. For if we do not do God's will, then we are not a reflection of the Divine process in the world. But if we do God's will out of fear then we are responding like the students who are forced by their teacher to do the teacher's bidding, and not from an inner sense of connection with God.

KING VS. DICTATOR

The way we respond to God is often expressed by commentators as the contrast of two synonyms:

  • Malchut meaning monarchial reign, and
  • Mamlacha meaning dictatorial rule.

Thus we say in our prayers, "...and they accepted (God's) malchut [monarchial reign] willingly." Whereas the verse speaking about the relationship between God and the nations who have not yet accepted Him states, "For onto God is mamlacha [dictatorial rule] and He is ruler over the gentile nations." This means that God really wishes to evoke malchut in the world, but as far as those nations are concerned, He rules over them in a dictatorial way but does not bring about malchut in them.

But, if we are to define the sefirah of malchut correctly, we need to be clear that (unlike the other nine) it is an attribute of God which does not emanate from God directly. Rather it emanates from God's creation -- when that creation reflects and evinces God's glory from within itself.

This is the reason why it is stated separately in the verse -- "To You, God, is greatness, strength, modesty, victory, awe, for all that is in heavens and earth; to You, God, is the kingdom" -- for there is a great gap between the first nine sefirot and the last one. The first nine are a continuous stream of God's actions which strike humanity and affect us. When we then absorb these influences of God, find them in ourselves, change and thereby reflect God's glory – then we evince malchut.

Malchut is the goal that God had in mind when He created the world.

It is in this sense that this is the most important sefirah. In malchut, God does not act merely by Himself, but rather God acts through us.

Malchut is the goal that God had in mind when He created the world. All of the other sefirot are only the means to see malchut emerge.

In relating to the first nine sefirot, we are outside observers – admiring God's handiwork objectively. We may be impressed but somehow it never quite becomes an overwhelming experience. It is only when we hear the voice of God echoing from within us – which is malchut – that we are truly transformed.

Published: June 2, 2001

Article 23 of 24 in the series Kabbala


Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.

Visitor Comments: 24

(24) chiedu, May 12, 2011 6:23 PM

The Sephiroth as a means for change???

Clearly, the Rabbi's explanation of what the Sephiroths are (the qualities with which man feels and interacts with his Maker and vice versa) is outstanding and I thank him. Apparently knowing God's ways of communication with his creatures is still a far cry from 'hearing, feeling or seeing" and or being receptive to and functional in (practical use) them. How can one attain Godliness via understanding this qualities or attributes of Divinity defacto? Does the Rabbi teach this as well or it is not the goal of Kabbalah?

(23) Anonymous, November 14, 2010 5:54 AM

Malchut is the Sh'china

It would have been useful to add that Malchut is the Sh'chinah, the equivalent of Hashem's imminence, and is the only feminine one of the sefirot.

(22) Ezequiel Fishkel, September 13, 2009 12:30 PM

I Feel Thankfull for waking up my heart once again

I thank you for connecting my heart, soul, mind and feelings with God once again. Amazingly once in spanish is 11 and also my birth number. Nishmati shlema and is manifesting harmony in this very moment. Thank you God for this very much. It makes me happy.

(21) Yechiel Shlipshon, January 16, 2009 9:21 PM

responcibility

I first started Kabbalah study in the 1980's. Each Shepahroth is rooted in the act of Creation, which like the Torah, is part of HaShem.So for me, each part is reflected is the ME that comes from HaSHem. I have felt that Malchut is the aspect which connects us to Him. Torah teaches that with free will comes the responcibility to act in accordance with His Teachings, or there may be negative consequences. This is how Humans can be a part of the continuning creation, to improve or distroy. Thus the teaching to "Rule your impulses", so we have the world He wants us to have. Also, thank all who commit, you help me to learn.

(20) Mayer Cohen, November 5, 2008 2:07 PM

The reason G-d said in Genesis that if Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil they will "Surely" die is because as they were created mortal and told to be fruitful and multiply will in the Garden of Eden, they had a chance to become immortal by eating from the tree of life, however, after their free choice of diobeying the creator they had been denied access to the tree of life at least in their current incarnation as Adam and Eve. Mayer Cohen.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.


  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment
stub