Beginner Level Kabbalah: The Ten Sefirot: Keter (Crown)

keter כֶּתֶר
crown
binah בִּינָה
understanding
chochmah חָכְמָה
wisdom
da’at דַּעַת
knowledge
gevurah גְבוּרָה
might
chesed חֶסֶד
loving-kindness
tiferet תִּפְאֶרֶת
beauty
hod הוֹד
acknowledgment
netzach נֵצָח
victory
yesod יְסוֹד
foundation
malchut מַלְכוּת
kingdom

Keter, or Crown, is the first of the ten sefirot and corresponds to the superconscious realm of experience. Thus, the image of a “crown,” which suggests an aura surrounding one’s consciousness.

In the configuration of the sefirot, keter appears at the top of the middle axis.

The Zohar states: “the supernal crown [keter elyon] is the crown of kingdom [keter malchut].” The first, highest of the Divine emanations–keter–is thus linked to the last–malchut (kingdom).

The gematria of keter (כתר) is 620. This is the full number of God’s commandments to Israel, the 613 mitzvot of the written Torah together with the 7 mitzvot of the Oral Torah. The Torah text of the Ten Commandments possesses 620 letters, for all of the 620 mitzvot are included in the Ten Commandments. In Kabbalah, the secret of the 620 commandments is that from keter (=620) are projected “620 pillars of light” which serve to connect the ceiling of keter to the floor of malchut. These pillars of light encompass the souls of Israel that devotedly fulfill the will (keter) of the King of Kings (malchut).

The sefirah of keter develops into two partzufim (personas). Its external partzuf, referred to as Arich Anpin (“the Elongated Face”), corresponds to the superconscious power of ratzon (will) in the soul. Its inner partzuf, referred to asAtik Yomin (“the Ancient of Days”), corresponds to the corresponding power of ta’anug (pleasure) in the soul.

The seven lower sefirot of Atik Yomin are enclothed within the partzuf of Arich Anpin, (thus introducing pleasure as a primary motivational force driving the will). The three upper sefirot of Atik Yomin, which are not enclothed withinArich Anpin, represent the unadulterated superconscious pleasure of emunah (faith)–deriving from the experience of one’s essential rootedness within Divinity.

Hence, Kabbalah speaks of the three Reishin (heads) of keter, referred to by the Zohar (III, 288a) and the Arizal as:

  • Reisha d’Arich (the elongated head), corresponding to the force of ratzon;
  • Reisha d’Ayin (the head of nothingness), corresponding to the force of ta’anugand
  • Reisha d’lo Ityada (the unknowable head), corresponding to the force of emunah.

These three heads of keter correspond to the three meanings of the word keter in Hebrew. In addition to meaning “crown,” the root keter means both “to wait” and “to surround.”

The meaning “to wait” corresponds to “the unknowable head” of keter, for we wait, in perfect faith, for that level of God’s essential Divinity, absolutely hidden and concealed from the consciousness of this world, to become revealed in the consciousness of the world to come.

The meaning “crown” corresponds, in particular, to “the head of nothingness,” the source of Divine pleasure in the soul. The “crown” symbolizes the spiritual power to receive and integrate into one’s consciousness the pleasure of Divine revelation, as our sages express with regard to the world to come: “the righteous sit with their crowns on their heads and receive pleasure from the radiance of the Divine Presence” (Tractate Kalah Rabati 2:3).

The meaning “to surround” corresponds to “the elongated head,” the level of supernal will. The power of will “surrounds” all of the conscious powers of the soul (corresponding to the Divine emanations from chochmah to malchut). It forces them to manifest themselves in accord with its directions.

Three Reishin Force “Meanings” of keter Reflects God’s
Reisha d’lo Ityada Emunah “to wait” God is all. All is God
Reisha d’Ayin Ta’anug “crown” Omnipresence
Reisha d’Arich Ratzon “to surround” Omnipotence

The power of will, “the elongated head” of keter, reflects God’s omnipotence. Likewise, the Divine state of pleasure, “the head of nothingness” of keter, reflects God’s omnipresence (“the radiance of the Divine Presence”). Perfect faith, “the unknowable head” of keter, reflects the absolute truth that “God is all, all is God.”

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