United in Prayer
Malchut - Self-reflection and Return
My House shall be called a house of prayer for all people.
Sefirah Correspondence: Malchut, tenth sefirot
Meaning: Kingdom, sovereignty, world
Rung of the Ascending Ladder: One
Symbol: Book of Psalms
Key Emotion in Song: Deep reflection, aroused devotion, and selfevaluation (teshuvah)
Key Words: Prayer (tefillah) and penitence/repentance/connect with God
Archetypal Persona: Female, woman, Nukvah
Historical Figure: Moshiach/Davidic bloodline and all of humanity
Text: Shemoneh Esrei, Eighteen Benedictions
Aspect of the Soul: Vital force, Nefesh
Inner Quality of the Soul: Lowliness (shiflut)
Spiritual Stage: Initiation; one who is doing, initiating action (Asiyah)
Tabernacle (Ohel Moed): The world it stands in
Spiritual Practice: Return to God and prayer--“a call to prayer”
Spiritual World: Action, Asiyah
Anatomy: Feet and mouth
Illumination: The illumination of speech and action
The person begins in Malchut, the bottom of the Tree of Life, “doing” prayer. Preparing for divine awareness, each person contributes to divine revelation on earth.
The Descending Light Becomes the Ascending Light
In Kabbalah, the light of the Creator coming down to us from above is followed by our ascendency, which acts as the returning light, going back up the Tree of Life, from Asiyah (action) to Atzilut (emanation). The Tree of Life is sometimes referred to as a ladder of light that we climb, rung by rung. R. Yehuda Leib Ashlag named his twentieth century masterpiece translation of the Zohar the Sulam, or in Hebrew HaSulam, for “the Ladder.” Using this imagery of a ladder we will explore why prayer is the first rung of our ladder for climbing toward union with God and a life of spiritual and physical refinement.
Tefillah the Hebrew word for “prayer,” comes from the root Pey Lamed Lamed (palael) as in l’hitpael, meaning to judge oneself. Another related root, Tav Fey Lamed (taphal), which means to connect, expresses prayer’s basic function between man and God, the person and their soul. Prayer is how the heart speaks openly. Prayer connects our hearts and our mouths, feeling and intellect. Traditionally it is said that prayer is the service of the heart. Essentially, talking with God in prayer is the language of the soul, the joy of the heart. When we humble ourselves in prayer and stop the noisy chatter of the mind, we can settle down (shachain) into the innermost place in our hearts, in the sanctuary of self where only God and those we give entry to can enter. There we are open to welcome in the presence or Divine Immanence (the Shechinah) of the Creator. Here we experience His Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh).
As the first rung of our path to illumination, prayer is the fundamental practice for a successful spiritual journey. Prayer makes it possible to go through life with greater intuition and keener sensory awareness. King David is said to have written his Psalms under the influence of the Holy Spirit or Ruach HaKodesh, sometimes referred to as the essence that illumines our minds and hearts in prayer. King Solomon wrote his Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim), the next rung of the ladder we will explore, in similar union with the Creator’s Holy Spirit. But why should prayer, as Malchut, be analogous to the Kingdom and the sovereign human who is making a journey to divine consciousness?
In Kabbalah the human is sometimes called the speaking human, distinguishing the power of speech for humankind as the greatest gift bestowed by God. Malchut corresponds in our bodies to our feet, how we walk on earth, and our mouths, how we talk on earth. Speech is an act of creation. A primary lesson then of Malchut is for us to do what we say we are going to do, “to walk our talk,” in modern terminology. Prayer unites the heart, the feeling in the act of praying with the mind, the thoughts and ideas in the prayer, and the mouth through speaking the prayer. Prayer utilizes the creative forces inherent in the act of speaking holy words. Each word, composed of letters, is a vessel for the light to animate. Each time we speak holy words we give, according to Chassidic teachings, the angels attached to them an opportunity to endow us with the Creator’s light. Just as each angel is called to a task, each of us creates a vessel of light when we pray. In this way, prayer is a connector between his legions and us. When we pray to God, we are immersing ourselves in the field of life, surrendering our will to divine unfoldment.
The Connector between Keter (Illumination) and Malchut (Initiation)
The sages teach that the world began with prayer. Until God and Adam communicated there was no fulfillment of Adam’s needs for survival and glorifying God. In fact, God’s created universe stood waiting for humanity’s birth on the sixth day. Only after Adam prayed for rain did the earth come forth with its bounty. Prayer is the first lesson of “service” Adam learned, which we emulate, for until he prayed for rain, it could not rain. In this way we can say Adam, at the highest rung of this journey (Keter), shines on us at our start. Our first lesson in service, initiation in doing, is “to do prayer.”
Until we ask for God’s help, we cannot receive it. We see why the sages have said that the world rests on prayer. One could even say that God created man for the purpose of prayer, making it possible for his creations to talk with him directly. In the same manner in which prophecy is how the Creator speaks to man, prayer is our way of speaking to him. Prayer should hold a primary place in our lives. If prayer reflects the manner in which God created the world, through the spoken word with a heart of love, it shows us the importance of our word, the foundation of the speaking human’s inheritance as God-like creator beings.