Friday, February 24, 2017

Just Can't Wait to be King

What do you think of when you think about the glory of a king? Probably about the luxuries of royalty, a private chauffeur, the finest delicacies, honor, women, and, of course, the royal crown. Well, the Gemara Brachos (17a) has a different idea of what comes along with a crown: "Rav used to always say, the world to come is not like this world. In the world to come there will be no eating, no drinking, no reproduction, and no business dealings" and then he continues "rather, the Tzadikim will sit with crowns on there heads and take pleasure (and sustenance) from the radiance of Hashem's presence." Very nice Rav, but do I still get a chauffeur?

Obviously, Rav sees something in the concept of a crown that we're not getting. A crown is not something that happens to be associated with being a king because of some historical fashion fluke that caught on. A crown is part of the very definition of being king. In Kabbalah, their are ten levels of creation, or of Hashem's expression (and therefore, also the expression of Man who is created in the image of G-d). They are called Sefiros. The bottom Sefirah is called מלכות Kingship, or royalty, while the top is called כתר, crown. מלכות, being at the bottom is always receiving a flow from above, while כתר is the original, unbridled expression. Interestingly enough, every set of ten sefiros is followed by another set, in a long chain of expression from on high all the way down. The bottom sefira of the higher chain (מלכות) is also the top sefira of the bottom chain (כתר). In other words, every כתר is also מלכות.
Lehavdil, if you remember the scene from the movie Inception, where they walk up the stairs and as soon as they get to the top they're at the bottom again... That phenomenon that we experience in our dreams is actually a very really part of the way the world works spiritually. (Penrose Stairs)

A true king is someone who's entire identity is a ruler of his people. The role he takes on is much greater than his own personal life, even if his personal qualities make hime suitable for the job. He wears a crown, which lays on top of his head, but does not surround his head like a hat, because the fact that he is living for something beyond his own existence is what makes him king. The crown is higher than him. But its a paradox - because he nullifies himself to the crown, he actually elevates himself and becomes royalty and honored by everyone. He makes himself a receptacle (מלכות), for the higher purpose of his role (כתר).

Every person has the sense that there is something about him that is not from him. Its the experience of this paradox, that I am something more than just what I am for myself. That's what Rav is talking about. A Tzadik is someone who lives for this higher part of himself, the part that connects him to something much greater than what he is for himself. And that is what gives him the greatest pleasure and vitality. Rav is saying that there will come a time when the true nature of a Tzadik will be revealed, and we'll see that their creative energy, their life force doesn't come from gratifying their personal desires at all. It comes from wearing a crown like a king.

The Rabbi's say, the servant of the King is a king. I think they were also hinting at this idea. When a person subjugates himself entirely to the higher part of himself, the part that wants to give, that wants his lower self to follow his higher self, he becomes identified with the crown that he is serving, and that becomes the real 'him'! May we merit to see this reality come to be, both internally, and revealed in the world we can see with our eyes, speedily in our days.

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