More on Day 14, Malkhut in Gevurah

Submitted by Shai Gluskin on April 27, 2006 12:53 AM

In the Kabbalistic system Malkhut, literally, "sovereignty" or "kingshipness" is also called, Shekhina. Shekhina, the Divine Presence, comes from a root which means to dwell. It is the emanation of God that is closest to the human experience. It mediates the Divine overflow (shefa) so that God's presence can be experienced by human beings in a flawed world without the world being destroyed by the purity of God's power.

I've focused on Gevura's meaning around limitation and death. But its literal meaning is power and strength. Unfortunately in our world, power too often gets translated into death. Because of that, power, for us, is forever tied to restraint.

So what are the implications when immanent/nurturing malkhut combines with the powerful and dangerousgevurah? The combination may give us hints of a redeemed world where divine and human energies can flow in healthy resonance.

That vision of malkhut and gevurah in healthy balance is reflected in the Gevurot prayer in the Amida. My translation:

You [God], my master are mighty and forever
You give life to the dead
You are the teacher of salvation
You bear/contain/nourish with committed love
You bring life to the dead with abundant compassion
You support the fallen, heal the sick, and free the imprisoned
You establish trust with those who sleep in dust
Who is like you, God of the powers?
Who can be compared to you?
[You are the] King who brings death, life, and the buds of salvation.

The prayer begins with a token statement of the mighty nature of God. But soon on we hear about how this raw power is mediated in our human world via care for the weak. Kabbalistically, transformation of God's power into human care is the function of malkhut, the "lowest" sefira—considered to be a female emanation of God which "resides" in the liminal place between the upper and lower worlds.

The actions in the prayer ascribed to God are a prescription for us. Would that malkhut, as some kind of force separate from us, transform the violence in the world into nurturance. Not! It is up to us.

This prayer is an example of Judaism's essentially pedagogic system. The prayer teaches us a conceptual frame under which the forces of power and nurturance could be in balance. But it all depends on our partnership with the divine forces, our willingness to be talmidim, learners, in this fragile experiment of our existence.