The Three Crown of Leadership
and the Crown of
a Good Name
In the Tabernacle
in the desert and later in the Holy Temple, twelve loaves of bread symbolizing material
sustenance were placed on a golden table situated on the north side. On the south side was
the menorah, the seven-branched candelabra, the symbol of light and spirituality.
In Pirkei Avot we are taught that there are three
essential crowns: keter malchut--the Crown of Kingship; keter Torah--the
Crown of Torah and keter kehunah?the Crown of Priesthood. These three crowns
form three pillars of leadership, both political and spiritual. When describing the
construction of the vessels in the Tabernacle, the Torah prescribes that the table upon
which the shewbread rested the Holy Ark and the golden alter should all be constructed
with a golden lattice crown surrounding the top of the base. These crowns correspond to
the three crowns of leadership as described in Pirkei Avot in the following manner:
Crown of Torah
Crown of Priesthood
Crown of Kingship
Table of shewbread
The power invested in the Crown of Torah emanates from the
tablets of the law kept in the ark. This energy is then drawn to the golden alter and the
Crown of Priesthood by way of the candelabra, the symbol of light and spirituality.
This progression is alluded to in the words for "ark" aron, and
"candelabra" menorah. Both words contain the word "candle," ner,
a source of light.
Kabbalah teaches that, unlike the two connected crowns of
priesthood and Torah, symbolizing light and spirituality, the Crown of Kingship is an
independent energy. The connection between kingship and the shewbread alludes to a king's
responsibility to provide society with the proper economic structure to enable the
physical needs of the nation to be secured. The rectification of the physical as a
prerequisite to the rectification of the spiritual is reflected in the saying of the
sages: "If there is no flour there is no Torah."
The surrounding golden crowns on three of the cardinal
components of the Tabernacle reveals the very purpose of the Temple--a finite physical
space where the infinite, eternal Divine Presence of G-d can "dwell"; a meeting
point between G-d and man. The word in the Torah for these crowns is zer, which
also means "strange." This alludes to the surprising secret in Kabbalah that the
source of vessels is higher than then source of lights. When the letters of
"crown," zer, are inverted, they form the word "secret," raz.
In the sequel of the above teaching in Pirkei Avot
we are taught that there is one more crown above the others--the Crown of a good name. The
Ba'al Shem Tov, "the Master of the Good Name" and founder of the
Chassidic movement, made the need to unite physical and spiritual a centerpiece of his
teachings and actions. Chassidic thought comes to reveal the deepest secrets of Kabbalah
and integrate them into our daily lives. It was by design that he preached initially among
the so-called simple, common people. It was they who could grasp the depths of his
teachings, even before the more intellectual Jewish aristocracy. It was only later that
many great scholars came to understand his message.
Name" of which the Ba'al Shem Tov was "master" is the four-letter
Name of G-d. According to Kabbalah, the first two letters, yud, hei, correspond to
spiritual and intellectual forces. The second two letters vav, hei, correspond to
the more physical aspects of emotion and action. The "Master of the Good Name"
knows how to unite these letters in perfect harmony, bringing wholeness and completion to