We learn from the writings of the great mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria, that the work of the High Holy Days is “Binyan HaMalchut.” Here are some of our beloved Reb Zalman’s z”l teachings about what this means and the ways in which we might experience it.
The Jewish mystical tradition teaches that every year, the energy “budget” to sustain the cosmos for the full cycle of the year is “allocated” – Life-giving energy flows out from the Infinite Sourcing Power to revitalize and recharge the depleted “God-field” that by the end of the past year’s cycle is exhausted and worn.
The mystical tradition teaches further that the fraying of the God-field is a natural consequence of the huge draw that sustaining existence demands.
Yet at the same time, we as humans have tremendous influence on it. We can hasten the energetic depletion and even damage the fabric of the energetic web though our ‘negative karma’ and mis-behavior. Our violence, rage, cruelty and injustice send destructive power-surges through the God-field, wreaking terrible damage and shorting-out connections. Holes manifest as a result of life’s mistakes and misdeeds.
On Rosh HaShanah, each year, a cycle of renewal and repair begins. Fresh new energy descends into the God-field, healing and repairing the tattered weave, opening blocked channels and refreshing the flow. When the God-field is reconstituted a new “NAME” meaning a newly re-energized יהוה Yod, Heh, Waw, and Heh re-constellates and glows with fresh new light to sustain the coming year.
Reb Zalman says: At the conclusion of Yom Kippur this fresh new Name begins to manifest. The first day post Yom Kippur – Yud. Next Heh, then Waw, followed by the final Heh. Four letters for four days. This brings us to Sukkot, the full moon Harvest Festival, with a brand new, clean, fresh, and pure Name.
How do we help recharge the God-field?
It means that I must allow some of my life-space to be taken away from my ego and put at the disposal of God.
Binyan HaMalchut also contains the idea of healing the Shekhinah. The God-field of
the last year – this is how we understand Shekhinah – was the appropriation of energy to the cosmos and was fully expended. It gets renewed each year on Rosh HaShanah. The appropriation for this planet, its creatures and peoples is what we pray for on Rosh HaShanah.
Through Yom Kippur into Sukkot through our prayers, rededication and t’shuvah, WE continue the process of building the God-field for the coming year. The understanding is that this God-field – the permeable membrane between the infinite and finite – is also what we call the “Name” of God. The “Name” is that which issues from the Infinite, is not identical with the Godhead, but is the presentation and the form in which the Infinite comes to us.
Through the “Name” we are in constant relationship with the Infinite. Let’s look at some of the High Holiday root metaphors and the notion of covenant. These root metaphors are always dealing with the mutuality that the two parties of the covenant pledge to each other, what they “covenant” about. When people say, “Where is God?” my response is the question, “Who are you in relation to God?” Relationship is about mutuality.
The liturgy is going to make it very clear: “God, You are our ‘King’ and ‘parent’ and we are your children.” In each of these metaphoric ways of speaking about God there is a root metaphor that implies mutuality and also mutual obligations. Each is an ancient metaphor from another age. But we can translate it into contemporary terms.
On Rosh HaShanah we want to create clarity for ourselves concerning the root metaphor with which we will serve God for the coming year. And this would be the ‘Name,’ or the ‘God-field,’ that is being established by us through Yom Kippur, through Sukkot and Simchat Torah to be the overarching matrix of our life for the coming year.
It is important that in this God-field for the coming year we should be harmonious and inclusive to all branches of Judaism and beyond. All our prayers are being said in the name of all humanity. We as a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, should pray for that integration that will make room for everyone and at the same time obligate them to be stewards of God’s kingdom on earth.
While in the ancient root metaphors, the mutuality of our covenantal relationship with God used primarily hierarchical language, and in our times we prefer more organismic language, the inter-being of human consciousness and the Infinite is captured in both. We can sing the High Holiday prayers with their ancient metaphors and understand them as images of reciprocity and mutuality, in which human consciousness attracts the flow of divinity and returns the flow with love and dedication to its Source.
As we learn to become more open channels, more loving, compassionate co-creators of the God-field, we will be creating loving harmony with one another, becoming better stewards of the earth and healers of the environment and society. Then we will see our prayers work and produce the good results we pray for.
“A special message from Reb Zalman given on September 11th, 2007” edited by Rabbi Marcia Prager, dean of the ALEPH Ordination Program.