Basics in Kabbalah: Shiflut

The Powers of the Soul to Experience God

 Introduction: The Internal Dimension

Emunah Ta’anug Ratzon Bitul Simchah Yichud Ahavah
Yirah Rachamim Bitachon Temimut Emet Shiflut

Shiflut
“Lowliness”
 

Shiflut is the spiritual state associated with the sefirah of malchut.

In contrast to bitul (“selflessness”), the spiritual state associated with chochmah, shiflut does not imply the negation of self, but rather the experience of oneself as existentially “lowly,” “far away” from God. In shiflut, one experiences an innate state of sin, as David (the archetype soul of malchut and its inner attribute of shiflut) expresses in Psalms (51:7): “and in sin has my mother conceived me.”

As a holy attribute of Torah, one which serves to link one’s consciousness to God, it is said of shiflut that “from afar God appears to me.” God’s very essence is revealed to the soul who, in shiflut, feels himself “afar,” more so than to he who feels himself “near.”

Shiflut is the ultimate source of the soul’s motivation to return in teshuvah to Hashem. The above quoted psalm of David is the quintessential expression of teshuvah in the Bible. The Ba’al Shem Tov (a descendant of David) teaches that the beginning of all Divine service is to experience an existential sense of identification with all the most lowly creatures on earth, as though saying to himself: “they all fulfill God’s intentions for them faithfully; were only I able to do the same.”

In direct proportion to his existential state of shiflut (whose root shefel means “low tide”), is the true king able to manifest that state of “upliftedness” (geut, the “high tide”) necessary to constructively rule over his people (the two terms, shefel and geut, exactly equaling one another in gematria).

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