Last updated 11.15.22
In this article, we show some different dimensions of the Shekinah, as related to emanations of the Creator found within existence. This article is longer than the previous two, however, it is but the tip of the iceberg of a complex area of study. We encourage you to read more on these subjects. (1) Please contact us with any ideas or questions you have that could benefit you and help us expand this project.
A Crash Course on Emanations
Here we introduce the second key ‘template’ of Torah. (The first one being the four worlds of existence.) The diagram below is called the “Tree of Life.” For the purpose of this study, we don’t go into all of its profundity.
Among the first aspects of ‘existence’ were Godly emanations called ‘sefirot.’ (Singular: sefirah). The sefirot are channels of divine creative life force or consciousness through which the unknowable divine essence that is beyond existence (discussed in the previous article) is revealed. Everything that happens in the spiritual dimension of the four worlds of existence takes place through the sefirot.
Note that on the diagram, there are three columns. Those sefirot on the left are associated with aspects of restriction, form and judgment, Those on the left with their ‘opposites’ of expansion, force and loving-kindness. The middle ones have to do with balance and connectivity, including the connection between “beginning and end.”
Malkhut: The Last of the Emanations
The sefirot extend, in a sense, from Keter (closest to the transcendent aspect of God) to Malkhut (closer to us). Although this gives us a sense of ‘distance,’ Malkhut is understood as the final expression of God’s desire:
In brief, God, who is infinite and ungraspable, expresses Himself and relates to man through His supernal attributes, which He also created. Malchut is both the last of the ten sefirot and the vessel through which the other nine express themselves in the world. This results in the revelation of the kingship of God.
The Rose Among the Thorns, Peretz Auerbach
This expression of God’s desire is also the aspect of the divine presence:
The last of these ten lights (Malkhut) is called Shekinah. It is here that all existing beings are rooted. … For besides the roots that all existing beings have in the other higher lights (sefirot) they also all have a root in the Shekinah.
Mishkney Elyon (Dwellings of the Supreme) Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
In the previous article, we showed the idea of spiritual personae, (partzufim) and how each of the worlds of existence related to one.
The same applies to the sefirot but in a different way. All ten exist in, and impact, each of the worlds, as well as certain ones having a particular connection to one of the worlds.
This is the alignment regarding the latter:
- Keter (crown) relates to the unknowable, transcendent aspect of God
- Chokhmah (wisdom) to the ‘father’ persona
- Binah (understanding) to the ‘mother’ persona
- The next six sefirot (from Chesed/mercy through Yesod/foundation) to the son or groom
- Malkhut (kingdom) to the daughter, bride, and Shekinah
The last of the sefirot, Malkhut/Malchut (meaning ‘kingdom’) correlates to the Shekinah in terms of spirituality within our lowest world of ‘physical’ existence, and thus the feminine character in Song of Songs.
Malchut, the last sefirah that manifests itself in this world, represents the feminine … Unlike the six sefirot whose direction is outward, it represents the internal, inner mode. It is the axis or focal point at the center of the six directions. Malchut and the feminine represent the state of being… While the masculine quality is characterized by a flurry of activity, malchut and the feminine represent the state of being.
“Malchut and the Feminine,” Chana Weisberg
Studying the connections enhances our understanding of what the book is about and why it is called “The Holy of Holies.”
Bride, Daughter, Sister, Mother
She (the Shekinah) is sometimes called ‘Daughter’, and sometimes ‘Sister,’ and here She is called ‘Mother.’ And She is indeed all these. He who penetrates into this mystery has imbibed precious wisdom. Now, what shall I do? Should I explain? But such a veiled mystery ought not to be disclosed. Yet should I not explain, these good men will be orphaned of this mystery.
The above Zohar verse relates well to the idea of Song of Songs being the “Holy of Holies” of scripture. The mysteries of the text are there for us to ‘penetrate’ in order to understand the deepest aspects of our Creator, such as the Shekinah.
Not only does the Shekinah have varied personae and functions, the relationships between the Shekinah/Malkhut and the other Sefirot are all unique and reveal aspects of spirituality in existence and our own lives.
The first six above the feminine Malkhut (Yesod, Hod, Nezach, Tiferet, Gevurah and Chesed) together make up the ‘masculine’ element of “diving groom” and the male character in Song of Songs. Collectively they are called the “Little Face” (Ze’ir Anpin).
The next two represent the higher persona of the divine Mother (Binah) and father (Chokhmah).
The last, Keter, means ‘crown’ and though associated with the remaining ‘body’ of nine Sefirot, it represents what came before them and separate existence/consciousness.(3)
We will work our way from “bottom to top,” and examine:
- Yesod, Netzach and Hod, with a focus on connectivity and teshuvah (return)
- Tiferet, and the bride-groom relationship
- Gevurah and Chesed, in terms of exile and harsh judgments
- Binah, as the feminine aspect of the Creator
- Chokhmah, with regard to the father-daughter relationship
- Keter, with a focus on the eternal
Keep in mind, this is an open/ongoing study and we will be adding more dimensions to these topics going forward!
Yesod, Netzach & Hod
Yesod is directly above Malkhut and forms the aspect of connection between Malkhut (e.g., our world) and ‘all’ the spiritual worlds above. This “works both ways” from above to below and below to above.
This “line of connectivity” between them is called the “path of the tzaddik” – one who acts righteously:
“One who wishes to ascend on high must always travel along the path from Malkhut-Kingship to Yesod-Foundation. Looking at the diagram of paths, it is evident that, while there are many paths interconnecting the other Sefirot, there is only one path leading from Malkhut-Kingship, the lowest Sefirah, upward, and this is the path leading to Yesod-Foundation. This path is called Tzaddik, the Pillar of Righteousness.”
The Bahir: Translation, Introduction and Commentary, Aryeh Kaplan
This is critical in Song of Songs, as the feminine character wishes to re-establish this connection that has been marred. The masculine character emphasizes how this will occur only after righteous actions return.
Yesod is part of the masculine group of six sefirot known as the “little face” (ze’ir anpin). The feminine dimension of Malkhut/Shekinah is also simply called the female – ‘nukveh.’
Song of Song is primarily concerned with the connection between these two, also understood as the divine groom and bride. (see Shaare Orah – pull a lot from that)
The final stage of creation, that which merges into and with history, is the union of the Little Face with the Divine Partner, or in kabbalistic terms, Zeir Anpin and Nukveh… This is a union that is temporary and completely dependent upon the good actions, thoughts, and feelings of sentient beings…”
Kabbalah of Creation, Eliahu Klein
Yesod, as the emanation between the bride (Malkhut) and groom (Tiferet), is considered ‘whole’ when the bride and groom connect. In kabbalah, Yesod is also called ‘shalom’ which is usually translated as ‘peace,’ but properly means ‘wholeness.’
The attributes of Netzach and Hod are called the “wings of Yesod.” Netzach reflects concepts of initiative and endurance, and Hod those of submission and contemplation. Yesod is the synthesis of their function. All three of these sefirot are a means toward accomplishing things.
This is the sefirah immediately above Yesod on the middle path. Tiferet means ‘beauty’ in terms of harmony. It is also called the sefirah of ‘truth’ and represents the entire ‘masculine’ group of six (Ze’ir Anpin) at times.
Tiferet and Yesod have a close relationship and mirror one another. Tiferet is associated with Jacob and Yesod with his son Joseph in kabbalistic literature. Joseph was the first of Rachel’s two sons and Jacob’s favorite.
In terms of Biblical characters, Tiferet is to Jacob as Malkhut is to Rachel. These represent the male and female figures in Song of Songs as discussed in the previous article. Yesod ‘connects’ them.
Gevurah and Chesed
Gevurah is on the left side of the Tree of Life diagram and is one of the most complex Sefirot. As it represents the aspects of judgment and restriction it allows for the presence of ‘evil’ in terms of any ‘restriction’ of the truth or light of God into the world.
(Remember, these and all the sefirot are ‘neutral.’ Gevurah is not ‘evil’ in and of itself.)
Malkhut has a very intricate relationship with Gevurah, which relates to the behavior of humanity. When people turn from the ways of God, this energizes the realm of ‘evil’,’ which is called the Sitra Achra, which translates to “other side.”
God’s judgments come from Gevurah via Malkhut/Shekinah:
“Know that this attribute (Malkhut), because it receives energy from higher powers (once received) has various qualities; to give life, or bring death, to bring up or bring down, to smite or to cure. All, however, is dependent upon the kind of energy that can be drawn to this attribute. It acts among all Creation according to the energy it receives … There are, however, other times when people transgress and the channels of judgment obstruct the channels of loving-kindness and mercy, causing much stress to be drawn into the world. The world, at that time, knows much suffering and want, and it is fraught with diseases and plagues.”
And at times this attribute (Shekinah) is called Elohim, for it is filled and draws from the attributes of power and fear, thus bringing judgments into the world, irrespective of whether it is for the sword or for peace, for abundance or famine, for life or death, or for sickness or health. It is from this attribute that all judgments are continually made and they are drawn from the attribute of power and fear (Gevurah). This is the attribute that wages the YHVH’s wars, “with sixty warriors surrounding her; all of them trained in warfare and skilled in battle’ (Songs of Songs 3:7,8) ready to destroy, kill, pillage and devastate lands; and to uproot kingdoms and avenge dishonor.
Sha’are Orah (“Gates of Light”), Joseph Gikatilla, 12th century
Gevurah, due to its potential for harsh judgment, is also known as ‘pachad’ (fear). This is referenced in our text:
A man with a sword attached to his thigh comes from the fear (pachad) of the nights.
Songs of Songs 3:8
At the same time, the aspect of Shekinah, being associated with the lowest world of existence, is itself vulnerable to evil in some sense. This concept introduces the aspect of divine protection and the need for it, which is reflected in Song of Songs.
This idea is expressed in the Zohar as her being ‘hidden’:
Because of Her vulnerability to the Other Side, Shekinah is not yet fully and openly ‘one,’ but in the Messianic age, when evil will be eliminated, she will be called ‘one’ explicitly, no longer in a whisper or cipher.
Zohar, Pritzker Edition, Volume 5, p. 241
The concept of evil in the Bible goes back to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. This, as it relates to the separation caused at that time, is associated with the separation seen in Song of Songs (We will discuss this more later.)
The serpent, who lurks beneath the Shekinah, craving the rich nourishment of emanation.”
Zohar, Pritzker Edition, Vol 1. p.329
The ‘lowliness’ of the serpent (beneath the Shekinah) goes back to the expulsion from the Garden:
… you shall walk on your belly, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.
Chesed is the opposite of Gevurah in the form of unrestricted loving-kindness. In Song of Songs, we see the relationship between these two in verses 2:6 and 8:3 which both say:
His left hand would be under my head, and his right hand would embrace me.
Binah and Chokhmah
Note that both Binah and Malkhut are associated with the feminine aspect of God and creation. Theirs is a mother-daughter relationship, though Malkhut/Shekinah can also function in the role of ‘mother’ as well.
Not only that, the upper emanation of Binah, is also an aspect of the Shekinah:
For the Shekinah is both here below and on high. … the upper Shekinah and the lower Shekinah are intertwined, and both operate together and simultaneously.
This is the aspect of, “on earth (Malkhut), as in heaven (Binah),” the earthly and heavenly temples, and “lower and upper Jerusalem.” It ties to the aspect of the people doing teshuvah (return) through correct behavior – the “arousal from below” required for the final stage of redemption (another major theme in Song of Songs).
The latter idea is also expressed this way:
Said the Holy One blessed be He: I will not enter the upper Jerusalem until I will enter the lower Jerusalem.
Talmud, Taanit 5a
The feminine dimensions of Binah and Malchut are also connected to their corresponding masculine dimensions. There are aspects of this in Song of Songs as well.
Binah is thus the actualization of Chochma, and Malchut is the actualization of the emotions. In both cases, the male principle is the abstract idea and the female principle is its concretization. The two Biblical archetypes for these two facets of femininity are the two wives of Jacob, Leah and Rachel. Leah is represented by the first hei of the Divine Name (Yud-Hei-Vav-Hei), and Rachel by the second hei. Since the four letters represent a sequential, descending process in the act of creation, this means that Leah (the “upper” hei) represents a higher level of spirituality than Rachel (the “lower” hei). Leah personified Binah; Rachel personified Malchut.
“The Mystical Aspects of Feminity,” Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky
Chokmah, as the concept of Father, is ‘hidden’ in Song of Songs. It has a key relationship with the female figure in the text. Recall that father is associated with the first letter in the 4-letter name of God, and the daughter with the last letter. Thus, they are ‘together’ when the name is ‘One’ (Zechariah 14:9).
However, in the state of exile, she is separated from all, and her connection is through the ‘son’ of Ze’ir Anpin (the six masculine attributes above her that make up the male character in Song of Songs):
In a primeval state, the daughter is fully integrated in the father, together constituting the androgynous form of divine wisdom. Indeed in this state, it is not even appropriate to conceive of father and daughter as distinct hypostases — but in a secondary stage, the daughter splits off from the father, and she is given to the son so that the original balance of gender will be restored. In order to restore that balance, the daughter had to be given to the son for she could no longer pair with the father.
“Language, Eros, Being: Kabbalistic Hermeneutics and Poetic Imagination,” Elliot R. Wolfson
The aspect of Keter relates to the ‘unknowable singularity’ outside of existence. What we can say is that it is the true ‘Source’ of everything in existence. This includes the Shekinah, Malkhut, etc., which, being the last of the Sefirot, is the endpoint of that originating at Keter.
This is alluded to in one of the more significant kabbalistic texts:
These ten Sefirot which are, moreover, ineffable, have their end even as their beginning, conjoined, even as is a flame to a burning coal.
Sefer Yetzirah 1:7
The singularity of Keter is also the goal of the end, Malkhut. The book of Purim (itself and Songs of Songs being the only two that do not mention any name of God) holds a clue regarding this:
The word keter (crown) only appears three times in the whole Tanakh (“Old Testament”) and all three are in the Book of Esther and always in the phrase “keter–malchut” which hints to a powerful kabbalistic practice, called yichud (unification/singularity).
Keter-Malchut, Sarah Yehudit Schneider
As everything descends from Keter into Malkhut, the ultimate role of the latter is to take on the same aspect of singularity:
This ability is due to Malkhut’s relationship to Keter (the crown of the middle path), the non-binary world where opposites are completely nullified: Malkhut/Kingdom has no separate and independent reality of her own apart from the Keter/Crown of the King.
Beyond Kabbalah: The Teachings That Cannot Be Taught, Joel Bakst
The revelation of Keter in Malkhut, is the summation of the entire plan of existence:
The outer aspect of the Keter of any particular world (of existence) is the expression of God’s will and purpose in creating that world … to unfold the level of Infinite Light appropriate for that plane of reality, all the way through the various stages of development (i.e. through the various sefirot) to the final revelation and manifestation of that light in the sefirah of Malkhut … the end-point which fulfills the purpose of the entire emanation.
Keter: The Highest Sefirah – The Crown of the Will, Moshe Miller
This is another ‘secret’ of Song of Songs. The elevation of the female in the story, through the correct actions of the people in this physical world, is the repair of what happened to the female in the Garden of Eden story, where she was ‘lowered’:
Just as the six masculine Sefirot function to elevate the seventh feminine of Malkhut, the six days of creation function to bring in the Sabbath. The six-thousand years of existence since the Garden of Eden, mirror this on a grander scale, elevating Malkhut to the ‘singular’ state of Keter:
The six Days are but a preparation for her. As they are united above in “One”, so she is unified below in the mystery of “one”, to correspond to them above. The Holy One, blessed be He, who is One above, does not take His seat upon the Throne of Glory, until She has entered within the mystery of the One in accordance with His very essence of Oneness, to be the One in One. This, as we have said, is the significance of the words: “The Lord is One, and His Name is One.” It is the mystery of the Sabbath, which is united with the mystery of the One so that it may be the organ of this Oneness.
The “arousal from below” (mentioned earlier) requiring correct action on our part, transforms Malkhut into the singularity of Keter:
The principle kabbalistic mystery involves the way that the One, simple, undifferentiated G-d creates a multifarious world, full of multiplicity and diversity. The principle kabbalistic service involves our affirmation of the Unity behind the seeming diversity of this world, making unities/yichudim. … Not in heaven, not in the Palace does obedience to the King most reveal His Glory. It is precisely here in this dark world where Godliness is concealed that following the Will of the King most reveals His Sovereignty/Malkhut. This principle also illustrates the paradoxical superiority of the World of Action over the “higher” spiritual worlds and hints at the superiority of action over the more refined realms of emotion and intellect.
Kabbalah Primer, Dr. David Fialkoff
Add More subTitles here and above
Which brings us to what might be called the ‘ultimate’ purpose of the separation of Malkhut, the Shekinah and humankind’s own ‘descent’ into the physical world.
Now, when malchut of Atzilut vests itself in kelipat nogah in order to extract the sparks that fell with the sin of Adam, and also the 288 sparks that fell with the shevirat hakelim malchut of Atzilut, too, is then referred to as “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” in relation to the zeyr anpin of Atzilut [which does not descend there and is referred to as Tree of Life].
Now, the investment of malchut in kelipat nogah is the mysterium of the “Exile of the Shechinah,” “That man rules in man..,” And this is the meaning of the statement in R’aya Mehemna: “But at the time that the Tree of Good and Evil dominates…. they …” … That is, at the time of the exile of the Shechinah [who effuses to the chitzonim that are in kelipat nogah, whence the mixed multitude (erev rav) elicits; and from their extract the scholars of Torah are supported in the exile], the principal service of man, and the purpose of the occupation with Torah and the commandments, is to disencumber the sparks, as known from R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory. Therefore, the principal mode of study is in the deliberation and argumentation of the law of issur and hetter, impurity and purity, in order to disencumber the permitted and pure from the proscribed and impure by means of the deliberation and argumentation of the law — with wisdom, understanding and knowledge. For as known, the Torah derives from chochmah. Thus it is only through ckochmah that they shall be disencumbered, i.e. the Supreme chochmah of Atzilut which is vested in malchut of Atzilut [the principium of the Oral Torah ( according to the principium of abba founded barta’ )]— which (in turn) is vested in malchut of Yetzirah, the principium of the Mishnayot ( and the Beraytot that are vested in the kelipat nogah which corresponds to the world of Yetzirah; for there begins the aspect of the evil inherent in the nogah), as known from R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory.
Now, the intelligent will understand something yet more amazing, namely, what happens in Heaven above through the deliberation and elucidation of an adjudged ruling (halacha) ot the Gemara and earlier and latter codifiers [which prior to this deliberation was in a state of concealment] : by means of this (deliberation) one elevates this ruling from the kelipot that were hiding and concealing it in such a way that it was not known at all, or that its reasoning was not clearly understood. For the reason (of the halacha) is the principium of the Sefirah of the Supreme chochmah whence [by the breaking of the vessels] sparks fell into the kelipot. (These sparks) are there in a state of exile because the kelipot domineer over them and hide the wisdom of the Torah from the upper and lower beings. That is why it is stated in R’aya Mehemna that “The problematic query is of the side of evil.”
Now, the celestial beings do not have the power to disencumber and elevate that which is in kelipat nogah because of the breaking (of the vessels). Only the terrestrial beings (can do that); for they are vested in a material body— “hide of the snake,” which is of the kelipat nogah. They weaken its strength by crushing the passions and suppressing the sitra achra so that “all the workers of evil are dispersed.” That is why the celestial beings come to hear novelties of Torah from the terrestrial beings, what they discover and reveal of the secrets of wisdom which until then were in bondage in the exile. And every one of Israel is able to reveal secrets of wisdom, ( to reveal) and to discover a new insight, whether it be in laws or in homiletics, in the revealed or in the esoteric parts (of Torah), according to the level of his soul’s root. Indeed, one is obliged to do so in order to perfect his soul by elevating all the sparks that fell to its part and lot, as known. ( And every word of Torah, especially one of halacha, is a spark of the Shechinah, the word of the Lord. Thus it is stated in the Gemara: “The ‘word of the Lord’— that refers to the halacha” the principium of malchut of Atzilut which garbs the chochmah of Atzilut, and they are (both) vested in malchut of Yetzirah, and by the breaking of the vessels descended into the kelipat nogah). And to this pertains what is stated in the Gemara: “The Holy One, blessed is He, says: whoever occupies himself with Torah … I account it to him as if he had redeemed Me and My children from among the nations of the world.”
But when the Shechinah will emerge from the kelipat nogah [after the extraction of the sparks shall be completed and the evil shall be separated from the good, “And all the workers of evil will be dispersed,” and the Tree of Good and Evil will not domineer because the good shall depart from it], then the occupation with the Torah and commandments will not be for the purpose of disencumbrance, but to consolidate more sublime yichudim, in order to elicit more orot, transcending Atzilut, as mentioned by R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory. And everything will be by means of the pnimiyut of Torah, by performing the commandments with supreme devotions directed towards supreme orot. For the root of the commandments is ever so high, in the blessed En Sof.
( As for the statement of our sages, of blessed memory, that the commandments will be abrogated in the future, this refers to the time of the resurrection of the dead. In the days of the Messiah, however, prior to the resurrection of the dead, they will not be abrogated).
And that is why the principal occupation with Torah will also be with the pnimiyut of the commandments, and their hidden reasons. The revealed aspects, however, will be manifest and known to every one of Israel, by an innate knowledge, without oblivion. Only the mixed multitude (erev rav) will have to deal with these, because they will not merit to taste from the Tree of Life, i.e. the pnimiyut of the Torah and the commandments. They will need to occupy themselves with Mishnah, in order to weaken (by the occupation with Torah) the power of the sitra achra which cleaves unto them, so that it will not dominate them— causing them to sin. Thus it is written: “And the sinner at the age of a hundred years old, will be cursed;” this refers to the sinners of the mixed multitude. Also, on the practical level, they will need the detailed rulings of proscription and impurity more than Israel. For (the latter) nothing shall occur that is unfit, impure, and proscribed, as “there shall not befall…” It is also possible, and would appear so, that (the Israelites) will know all the fundamentals of the revealed part of the Torah from the pnimiyut of the Torah, like our father Abraham, peace be to him. Thus they will not need to occupy themselves therewith at all. At the time of the second Temple, however, they needed to occupy themselves (therewith), not just for the practical application of the law, but, and this is the principal purpose of the Divine service, to weaken the power of the sitra achra and to elevate the sparks of holiness by means of Torah and worship, as explained elsewhere.
After these words and this truth, the above passage from the R’ayah Mehemna dealing with “the Tree of Good and Evil…” [i.e. the kelipat nogah, which is basically this world, as mentioned in Etz Chayim ], will be well understood with additional elucidation, and suffice this for the initiated.
Just as God’s plan begins at Keter and finds its fulfillment in Malkhut, our journey back to the Source, begins by ‘finding’ Malkhut:
When a person experiences fear of God in his heart, it is a sign that in his thought he has entered the King’s gate. This is the attribute called Malkhut. This experience of awe in the presence of God further reinforces the effort to detach oneself from physical pleasures.
Uniter of Heaven and Earth, Miles Krassen
- Sun and moon
- Bat Kol
- Shabbat and the 6
- Days of creation
- ‘neighbor’ with the people
- dwelling within
- male-female concept always one of giving and receiving (use in other article)
The Rose Among the Thorns (8 part series)