by Student Rabbi Dr. Roberta Glick
Malchyot: Kingship. What relationship does that word evoke in you?
Is it the “radical amazement” of Heschl trying to explain the awesome mystery of the transcendent Divine Presence?
Is it the fear and trembling of judgment, like Adam when he heard the kol of G-d who asked: “Ayekah? Where are You?”
Sometimes we need a Malchyuot, someone else to be in charge. As Sylvia Boorstein said (at our recent retreat): “Cosmos, you drive, today!”
What is this relationship we have with the Divine, and how, in any relationship do two distinct souls join together in one union/ Echad without either compromising or diminishing itself: How does 1 + 1 =1 and still remain 2?
Reflecting this year on the stranger, perhaps we are also the stranger, and have become estranged from ourselves, from others, and from G-d.
I would like to share, briefly, a teaching (with my comments) from Sfat Emet on the very question of our relationship with G-d, which reflects our relationship with ourselves and with others. Sfat Emet suggests this relationship is one of reciprocal love.
As most of you know, Elul, this month of preparation leading up to the The Days of Awe, is also an acronym for Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li – I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me (Song of Songs)
It also emphasizes another vital aspect – that a relationship is a reflection: You and your beloved mirror each other: “Like the face reflected in water, one heart [is reflected] in another” (Proverbs 27:19).
However, Sfat Emet sees the words in a slightly different light. G-d is being the initiator. Creation and redemption were all gifts given to us, not for any of our doing, not out of our merit, but out of love. The same with the revelation at Sinai, Torah and the commandments. And just like in any love relationship, sometimes the recipient is not ready to give back love, to return the gift, to commit, to reciprocate. Instead we built the golden calf and turned away. Elul then becomes a time of repentance, of Tsheuvah, of turning and returning, of turning toward, of cleaning up our messes, of returning to our true essence, of taking the first step to reach out to G-d. Then, with Tsheuvah, and the building of the mishkan, a place for G-d to dwell, we earned G-d’s love, and ready to return the love. Now we can have a reciprocal love relationship.
The mystics say Tsheuvah was created before the world: The cure was there before the disease existed. And today, the mishkan is no longer the external place out there, but rather, your hearts. Rabbi Menachem Mendel says: “Where do we find G-d? Wherever we let G-d in”. In the opening and the breaking of our hearts, we find the Divine.
Sfat Emet ends by saying that we can see Elul as lovers seeking each other, and Tshevah fills us not with fear, but with a yearning to become closer to G-d.
But as the final step of tsheuvah, after our awareness of our problems, and after making amends with others, and re-establishing relationships, why do we have to come before G-d and confess our sins. Doesn’t G-d know everything? Rabbi Balinsky offered this answer: It’s because our words create our consciousness. Our words create our world.
The high holidays are about the consciousness in our relationships. Mindfulness, is heartfulness. Jonathan Sachs writes says that tsheuvah, tzadakah and tefilah are about relationships: Tsheuvah: our relationship with ourself; tzedakah: our relationship with others; and tefillah: our relationship with G-d. And I recently realized that it’s one process: we must clean up our own mess and purifiy our hearts (tsheuvah) so we can reach out and help others (tzedakah), leading to a relationship with G-d (tefillah). Our liturgy says: “Before G-d we will be pure”, or “we will be pure before G-d” On Yom Kippur, G-d purifies us. It is not up to the High Priests. G-d is our Mikveh. Our most intimate relationship.
Daily we say: “YHVH, Hoshiah, Ha Melek yayenyu, byom karenu”: G-d, save us, answer us on the day we call out to you”. Our call today is: Malchyot, G-d, “Purify us, so that we may have hearts of wisdom, from which forth flows generosity, and compassion and kindness, to ourselves and to all beings.