On the street corners, in the fields, and atop the mountains, a short prayer is recited monthly with great intensity and joy. We receive the Shechinah, we reach toward the heavens, we welcome Dovid Hamelech’s reign, we salute each other — we greet the renewal of the moon.
What is the nature of the ceremony of Kiddush Levanah, the sanctification of the new moon? What is the common theme of the greetings we extend?
When the moon reappears, we anticipate the renewal of malchus, kingship; the revelation of Malchus Shamayim, the Kingdom of Hashem; the restoration of Malchus Beis Dovid, the Davidic dynasty; and the rebirth of the majesty of our nation. How so?
The Midrash tells us of a conversation that took place during the first week of Creation. When Hashem created the moon and sun of equal size, the moon protested: Can two kings rule with one crown? Hashem responded by diminishing its status.
Since then, the moon has no light of its own; it merely reflects the light of the sun. It orbits the earth and seems to wax and wane as we catch different views of its lighted face. Its reappearance in the beginning of each month gives us pause. We gather outdoors to praise Hashem for this visible evidence of His creation, and we look forward to its eventual regaining of its original appearance.
The relationship of the sun and moon is a paradigm for the classic relationship of a giver and his receiver, such as a king and his subjects. It describes to us the dynamic of malchus and will lead us to an understanding of the seventh Sefirah, the middah of malchus.
Chazal use the expression leis lei migarmei klum, he has nothing of his own, to describe one who is truly humble. This is an apt description for the moon, which has no light of its own. The relationship between the sun and the moon is clearly that of mashpia, giver, and mekabel, receiver.
Let us take a second look. Is this solely a one-way relationship? Does the sun gain anything from the moon? In the dark of the night, when the sun has already set, we’d never know it exists. Enter the moon, the receiver of the sun’s rays. By reflecting the sun’s light, it reveals the sun’s presence to mankind.
In the darkness of Olam Hazeh, how does the world know of Hashem’s existence, of Malchus Shamayim? Klal Yisrael reveals His Presence. Our conduct, our values, our acceptance of His mitzvos — including our readiness to die for these beliefs — reflect the existence of the Creator. By fashioning ourselves into willing receptacles of Hashem’s light, we enlighten the world. This is our middah of malchus.
We are called Yehudim, from the name Yehudah, which is spelled as a combination of the Name of Hashem plus a daled, which indicates dalus, poverty. When we claim no self-definition other than the recipients of the King’s largesse, we become the receptacle whose very existence reflects the glory of the Giver.
Similarly, the name of Dovid Hamelech, who is the leader associated with the Sefirah of malchus, begins and ends with a daled. The function of a king in Yisrael is not to promote his own glory, but to personify and inspire the recognition of Hashem’s majesty. This is the middah of malchus.
We can compare this to the work of a mirror. The plainer the mirror — if it isn’t tinted and has no design or border — the greater and clearer the image it reflects. Thus the diminished moon; Dovid, the youngest son of Yishai, and Klal Yisrael, the smallest of the nations, are the vessels that do the best job of revealing the King — for they assert leis lei migarmei klum — they have no greatness nor accomplishment of their own.
Rav Yaacov Haber offers the example of a king’s chauffeur. Lucky fellow! He drives the fanciest car in the country. Yet, he owns none of it. And that’s precisely the reason he can be the chauffeur. The moment he takes ownership — when he stops opening the door of the vehicle for the king and refuses to follow directions — he loses his job. It’s precisely because he has nothing that he has everything.
We are all drivers of the King. Chazal use the metaphor of a merkavah, a chariot, to describe our work. We transport His Presence into the world by conducting our lives in a way that proclaims His existence and kingship. This is termed kabbalas ol malchus Shamayim. When we do so, we have everything, for while He is the Melech, we are the malchus, the kingdom that reveals His majesty.
This role is what makes the relationship of the mashpia and the mekabel so fascinating. The receiver is also a giver. The moon reveals the sun’s presence during the nighttime hours when it would otherwise be overlooked. The chauffeur brings the king into all parts of the country. The talmid contributes to the rebbi’s erudition by asking challenging questions. Rabi Chanina declared (Taanis 7a), “Mitalmidai yoseir mi’kulam — I have learned more from my students than from any teacher.”
A king enjoys a similar relationship with his subjects. Rav Pincus explains: Ein am bli melech, there can be no nation where there is no king. Countrymen are a disparate bunch until the king’s rule gives them purpose and unity. But the reverse statement is equally true: Ein melech bli am, there can be no king where there is no nation. A king cannot self-coronate. In order to capture light, a kli, a receptacle, is needed. When the people give the king their allegiance and loyalty, they have crowned him king.
Our celebration of the moon’s renewal is an expression of our longing to become the moon to Hashem’s sun — to crown the King. Thus, during Kiddush Levanah, we refer to the reemergence of Malchus Beis Dovid, whose goal is to reflect and reveal Hashem’s rulership.
Malchus Stands Alone
Unlike the other attributes, the Sefirah of malchus doesn’t emanate from Hashem directly, but from His creations, from our absorption and reflection of His Kingship. Therefore, malchus is stated separately from the first six attributes. The verse begins with, “To You Hashem is gedulah, gevurah, tiferes, netzach, hod, all that is in the heavens and the earth.” Then we repeat the first two words and continue, “To You Hashem is the malchus…”
Malchus is the seventh and last Sefirah, and it sets the stage for Matan Torah. It is not an active middah — leis lei migarmei klum — but rather it is the visible outcome, the culmination of the first six Sefiros. It is for the purpose of this revelation that Hashem created the world.
Rav Pincus offers a parable: A fabulously wealthy man was planning his only son’s wedding. He spared no effort or expense to design the wedding of the century. He even built an enormous banquet hall just for the occasion. When the day finally arrived, the guests were stunned by the intricate decor, the sumptuous menu, the lavish flower arrangements, and the world-renowned orchestra.
But the chassan did not arrive. He had changed his mind.
“How do you think the people reacted?” asks Rav Pincus. “Did they say: ‘We’re here anyway, we may as well enjoy the evening; let the waiters serve the first course and tell the musicians to strike up a tune’?”
Of course not. When there was no longer a reason to celebrate, nobody felt like eating or dancing. The food, the music, and all the accoutrements were suddenly flashy and distasteful.
Suddenly, another change of mind: the chassan entered! The wedding would take place! The hall was swept up in a crescendo of ecstasy.
Let’s think for a moment. What was the source of that incredible wave of joy? Was it the food that could now be savored? The orchestra that began to play? The newfound beauty of the furnishings? All that may have enhanced the celebration, but the real joy was the presence of the chassan!
With the first six sefiros, Hashem built our beautiful, elaborate world. Every facet — the breathtaking scenery, the lush vegetation, the complex creatures — manifests the presence of the King. But our ecstasy at beholding our Creator is not only because our acceptance of his Kingship allows us to enjoy the wonderful world he has fashioned for us. Rather, we exult in the presence of the King Himself!
The middah of malchus can be refracted within ourselves, as well. So many of us possess latent strengths that we don’t utilize, nurture dreams that have yet to see the light of day. For example, a person can truly want to help others (chesed), create the proper boundaries to do so (gevurah), fashion a balanced plan (tiferes), overcome obstacles (netzach), get his opponents on board (hod), stay fully grounded in the project (yesod)… and somehow never really make it happen. This person is deficient in the middah of malchus.
But when we do bring the project to fruition, we actualize and reveal the six middos that we invested in our mission. In the language of the Sefiros, the accomplishment itself is the kli, receptacle — the malchus — that showcases the other middos.
And our accomplishment, in the flow pattern of the mashpia-mekabel relationship, has a direct effect on us. We are strengthened, elevated, and inspired. As the Sefer Hachinuch famously teaches, ha’adam nif’al k’fi pe’ulosav, a person is affected by his actions. When we build and achieve, we build ourselves — and we can then accomplish even more, leading to an endless cycle of achievement in avodas Hashem.
Avodas Yisrael writes that when we finally arrive at the 49th day of the Omer, the day of malchus she’b’malchus, one who hasn’t used the days of Sefirah properly until now has one last opportunity to catch up on this final day of preparation. This is the day to proclaim our readiness to be the malchus of the Melech.
We are now prepared to reexperience the ultimate wedding, that of Matan Torah. The mountain is our chuppah, the Luchos are the kesubah, and Hashem is our chassan. And we are the kallah, from the root word, kli. We are the receptacle, ready and eager to serve as the instrument that reveals the majesty of the King in all four corners of the earth.
Sources include the writings of Rav Shimshon Pincus and Rav Aharon Rubinfeld.
Originally featured in Family First, Issue 645. Mrs. Shani Mendlowitz is menaheles of Bais Yaakov Seminary of Montreal.
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