The central word representing
the self--"I," ani--appears in many verses relating to both ego and
kingship. Adoniyahu, the son of King David, who wanted to rule while David was
still alive, began his "campaign" with the statement "I will rule." In
Kabbalah this statement is viewed as the quintessential example of unrectified ego. King
David, conversely, said of himself: "for poor, ani, and desolate am I."
In Kabbalah, the letters alef and ayin are interchangeable. In the above
verse the letter ayin of the word "poor" is transformed into the letter
alef of the word "I." From this verse we learn that the process leading to
rectified ego only occurs through an initial, and thereafter, continual awareness of one's
own existential lowliness.
Another beautiful allusion to
the idea of clarified self-consciousness is found when permuting the letters of the word
"I" ani, forming the word "nothing," ayin. One of the
most basic Jewish beliefs is that G-d created the world "something from
nothing," yesh meayin, implying that the universe is not eternal (as science
thought until the "big bang" theory) but has a "beginning." Rectified
ego and leadership qualities are "created" from a sense of being
"nothing" in relationship to an infinite, all-knowing Creator. Of G-d it says:
"In every place that you find the greatness of G-d, there you will find His
humility." How much more so should this hold true for a human being created "in
the image of G-d."
According to Kabbalah and
Chassidut, the essential rectification of ego occurs through prayer, as stated by King
David: "and I am prayer." The Amidah, the "silent" prayer,
recited three times daily, is divided into three sections, corresponding to the
fundamental attitudes deemed necessary for prayer to reflect a true, existential
relationship to G-d: acknowledgment, request and praise. In addition, we are taught that
our prayers should not be totally inward and silent, but should be enunciated ever so
quietly, thereby transmuting thought into speech, which in turn precipitates action.
The statement of the sages: "Would it only be that a
person could pray all the day," reflects not the desire to stand in synagogue all day
praying, but rather that our "world view" should emanate from the continuous
closeness and humility to G-d that prayer engenders. Paradoxically, the word
"humble" shafel, is numerically equal to the word for "pride," gayut,
410. Ego and pride, when clarified and rectified, give power to an individual--especially
a leader--to initiate and inspire. When speech and ego are purified through the crucible
of prayer, as expressed in the words of the Psalms: "I speak in prayer," what
follows is the awakening of compassion from on High, as well as from within: "I that
speak of righteousness, mighty to save."