Rosh Hashana: Hues of Kingship and the Rise of Malchut

As a former art student, one of the essential exercises my instructors gave me was to create a scale of values (see image above).  This is done by adjusting the pressure that is applied through the medium onto the paper over a series of blocks to create a closed system of relative pigment saturation, that progresses ever so steadily to its full tonality.  It occurred to me while looking at the ten verses of Kingship that we are going to say during Mussaf on Rosh Hashana that the verses depict G-d’s Kingship on a scale of value that contextualizes the purpose of the world in general and the purpose of Rosh Hashana in particular.  The value in flux on this scale is called “Malchut”, understood colloquially as “Kingship”, an concept which needs far more understanding than a single word translation.  

What is fascinating about the attribute of Malchut – G-d’s Kingship – is that the sages say that at times it has been high, like during the time of King Shlomo when peace reigned in the world, and at times it is has been low as we so painfully experienced during the holocaust.  All the sages agree that there is something deeper happening in our historical panorama.  “Malchut” is rising as we progress towards our future and the final stages of our collective story.  When we read these ten verses on Rosh Hashana, blow the shofar and stand in awe on the day of judgement we become instrumental in its ascent. 

But what exactly is “Malchut”, Kingship?  Isn’t Hashem King no matter whether we “make” Him King or not?  What is this mysterious spiritual work that we do on Rosh Hashana?  What is this epic journey dubbed “the rise of Malchut” and how can we help her rise?

The first thing worth noting is that when it comes to the ten verses, the number ten is not an arbitrary one.  Every spiritual process, according to our sages, progresses through a ten step trail every time.  These ten steps are none other than the ten attributes or mechanisms that define all of Hashem’s interactions with His finite creation.  You may have heard of the ten sefirot, esoterically translated as “emanations”. Whatever these ten beats are, hard as they may be to grasp, we can be sure that they are perfectly reflected in everything Jewish (think ten plagues, ten commandments, ten utterances in the story of creation…).  Each one of these “sefirot” has its own “color”, expression, and when emulated by man, soul power.

Except, that is, for Malchut.  Our sages teach that Malchut, the final attribute of G-d, in contradistinction to all the other nine expressions of Divinity, has “nothing of its own”. It is but a funnel through which all the other attributes pass through, sort of like the screen that projects all the higher lights outward, making them visible to the world.  When Malchut is diminished, its limited capacity to receive does not allow the light of all the other attributes of Hashem to shine through. As Malchut becomes more developed, she becomes more and more transparent until she is completely see-through and Hashem is fully revealed.

The sages liken the sefira of “Malchut” to the moon.  An enormous rock, the moon’s beauty is not herself but within her ability to reflect the sun’s light and project it to the places that need it most – the deepest black of the darkest sky. It is no wonder then that just like the moon has phases, Malchut too has phases.  Hence the concepts of Malchut, the moon, and the feminine archetype are deeply resonant of each other. Sometimes Malchut is up and sometimes she is down, sometimes a sliver and sometimes a full disc.  She is also both a receiver and a transmitter of light depending on her orientation.   It is the purpose of the Jewish people to do whatever they can to help her rise, as her glow is none other than the glow of Hashem in our very mundane and physical world.  When we do this fully, the moon, or Malchut, will be able to reclaim her full capacity to shine until night turns to day, immediately calling an end to the exile.  Practically, this means we are able to be receivers and reflectors of Hashem’s light while it is still dark, a state referred to by the mystics as raising the Shechina (presence of G-d).  This is the mission of the Jew.

Culling more from the wisdom of the Talmud, we learn that not only does Malchut not own any of her greatness, but that “there is no such thing as a King without subjects” – i.e., G-d’s Malchut somehow needs others to activate and qualify it.  Since the beauty of Malchut is in her sharing of light, without others in need of her light her beauty is not real.  The nature of beauty is that it requires a beholder, and so it is with Hashem’s Malchut – without man to receive His Kingly transmissions, He is not a Melech, because Malchut requires a beholder.

Thus, Malchut is the essence of co-creation.  By not revealing the fullness of His light during our six thousand year-long odyssey, Hashem is inviting us to come forward and make Him King, precisely when there seems to be so much compelling evidence to the contrary.  Malchut subtly scintillates in the night sky and does not impose herself on her subjects but invites others to approach and behold her through their own will.  This is why the last of the ten attributes of G-d strongly echoes everything feminine – Malchut is unforceful, beautiful, evocative of will – and most importantly, receptive to our overtures.  Similarly, Hashem’s feminine expression is waiting for us to partner with Her[1] in bringing the world to its destination.  It is precisely because Malchut isn’t yet fully revealed that we are being invited to become a player in the story of redemption!  Together with Hashem, as fully-fledged partners, we will have a good and sweet new year.

This Rosh Hashana, know that although much of the world is blind to the glow of Hashem’s Kingship, it is His chosen people who open their eyes to see it.  There will come a time, when Malchut will have risen, that this will be obvious to all.




Having understood the idea of Malchut and it’s unfolding through time, let us now track the evolution of Malchut through the ten verses through which we make Hashem king on Rosh Hashana, as the Talmud says[2]: “Say before Me Malchiot so that I will be made King over you.”


~ ~ ~


Verse 1:

יְהֹוָה יִמְלֹךְ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד  

“He will rule forever and ever”.

The verses begin with a taste of the end to direct the journey ahead – the final revelation of Hashem’s Kingship.


Verse 2:

 לֹא הִבִּיט אָֽוֶן בְּיַעֲקֹב וְלֹא רָאָה עָמָל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהָיו עִמּוֹ וּתְרוּעַת מֶֽלֶךְ בּוֹ:

“He doesn’t look at the evil in Jacob or the iniquity in Israel, Hashem his G-d is with him and the affection of the King in present in him.”


Hashem loves us even with our imperfections.  This is the starting point from which we continue to better ourselves, evolve and flourish.


Verse 3:

וַיְהִי בִישֻׁרוּן מֶֽלֶךְ בְּהִתְאַסֵּף רָֽאשֵׁי עָם יַֽחַד שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:

“And there is in Jeshurun a King, in the ingathering of the leaders of the nation when all the tribes of Israel are one.”

We can only truly make Him King when we are a unified force, many spokes on a wheel connected to the central point.


Verse 4:

כִּי לַיהֹוָה הַמְּלוּכָה וּמשֵׁל בַּגּוֹיִם:

“To Hashem belongs Kingship as well as dictatorship to the nations”


A true King is one whose subjects recognize him as the essence of good and beneficence out of their own free will. Once the truth is revealed for all to see, it will be too late to come to this recognition and all those who haven’t yet made Hashem King while it wasn’t glaringly obvious will be “forced” by the sheer compelling nature of the Redemption.  The trick is to choose to make Him King while the illusion of there being other options is viable.


Verse 5:

יְהֹוָה מָלָךְ גֵּאוּת לָבֵשׁ לָבֵשׁ יְהֹוָה עֹז הִתְאַזָּר אַף תִּכּוֹן תֵּבֵל בַּל תִּמּוֹט:

“Hashem rules, He dons grandeur, Hashem dons might, girding and establishing the earth that it will never falter.”


Hashem hasn’t yet donned the cloak of His full strength which is why it counts for so much when we make the choice to crown Him.  As opposed to the masculine mode of expression that He will transmit in the future revelation that will accompany the redemption, He is now in a feminine mode of interaction, waiting to receive our gestures of approach.


Verse 6:

שְׂאוּ שְׁעָרִים רָאשֵׁיכֶם וְהִנָּשְׂאוּ פִּתְחֵי עוֹלָם וְיָבוֹא מֶֽלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד: מִי זֶה מֶֽלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד יְהֹוָה עִזּוּז וְגִבּוֹר יְהֹוָה גִּבּוֹר מִלְחָמָה: שְׂאוּ שְׁעָרִים רָאשֵׁיכֶם וּשְׂאוּ פִּתְחֵי עוֹלָם וְיָבֹא מֶֽלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד: מִי הוּא זֶה מֶֽלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת הוּא מֶֽלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד סֶֽלָה:


This verse repeats on itself, indicating two times when the gates of the temple opened themselves to receive the King’s presence.  This is the magical moment when the king “moves in” to the structure that was erected to house Him and represents a culmination of the purpose of creation.  The indwelling and continual presence of the King is what we refer to as the Shechina, the Divine presence.

The first time the verse refers to the entrance of the King into the gates during the first Bait HaMikdosh.  The second time the verse refers to it is alluding to the third temple, coming soon with the ultimate redemption.  (The Second Temple was bereft of this presence and is therefore not included.)

Shechina – Divine Presence – is the result of our creating the vessel for it. Malchut is thus the powerful system of co-creation that Hashem employs through us.


Verse 7:

כֹּה אָמַר יְהֹוָה מֶֽלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגֹאֲלוֹ יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת אֲנִי רִאשׁוֹן וַאֲנִי אַחֲרוֹן וּמִבַּלְעָדַי אֵין אֱלֹהִים:

“So says Hashem King of Israel and their redeemer, G-d of hosts; I am first and I am last and besides for Me there is no other god.”


 The world progresses as the other “options” evaporate and no longer cast their tempting allure.  G-d’s light starts to shine through.


Verse 8:

וְעָלוּ מוֹשִׁיעִים בְּהַר צִיּוֹן לִשְׁפֹּט אֶת הַר עֵשָׂו וְהָיְתָה לַיהֹוָה הַמְּלוּכָה:

“And the saviors will ascend on the mountain of Zion to judge the mountain of Esau and all Kingship will be G-d’s.”

Malchut is only complete when all obstructions, from without and within, are removed and the light now shines clearly for all to see.


Verse 9:

וְהָיָה יְהֹוָה לְמֶֽלֶךְ עַל כָּל הָאָֽרֶץ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יִהְיֶה יְהֹוָה אֶחָד וּשְׁמוֹ אֶחָד:

“And Hashem will be King on the entire land on that day it will occur that G-d and His Name will be One.”


G-d’s Name represents how He reveals himself, as opposed to His essential being which we cannot pronounce while Malchut is still crouching low.  At this second to last frame, Malchut will have risen completely and the gap between Hashem’s name and essence will have totally closed. He will be as He truly is.  This is the last time the word Malchut itself is used. [Note for the mystic: Hashem’s name will literally be “י-ה-י-ה, an indication that the final ה (Malchut) will have risen[3]].


Verse 10: 

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ יְהֹוָה אֶחָד:

“Listen, Israel, Hashem, Our G-d, Hashem, Is One.”

Here the world will have entered into the sweetness of the messianic future.  Since Malchut will be completely revealed, as a concept it will have become obsolete, because in essence, Malchut never had any-thing of its own.  It is but a carrier for the Oneness of Hashem, which will be fully expressed.  Malchut is fully revealed as we proclaim:  Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad. 

[1] Because we are speaking about Malchut we use the pronoun “Her” instead of the usual “Him” when referring to G-d

[2] Rosh Hashana 16.)

[3] The name י-ה-ו-ה is the name of G-d during the exile.  Because the 10th of His sefirot will have risen, the vav no longer has to keep itself extended to supply Malchut with her light, because in the times of moshiach she receives it directly from the source.