The Spiritual Work of Our Generation: Lowliness: the Inner Experience of Kingdom

Sincere lowliness frees a person from many of the tensions caused by hubris. The most common cause of tension in life is hubris, a sense of self-worth and importance. There should be no mistake: every single person suffers from this problem. It has been the common psychological malady of all individuals (in the Western world) since the time of the Ba’al Shem Tov (18th century and on).

We have stressed that lowliness does not mean poverty of character or an inability to act and be successful. Rather, it means not giving credit to oneself for either, but instead realizing that everything that I have (with one exception, as will be discussed later) is a gift from the Almighty. Therefore, lowliness is the only real source of happiness in life, and particularly for someone who has decided to commit him or herself to a life devoted to the service of G-d.
False lowliness, which is similar to what we usually call “false modesty,” not only cannot overcome hubris, but actually intensifies it and all its negative consequences, like tension, etc. False lowliness is a cause for despair and depression in the psyche.

Lowliness does not contradict the feeling of pride that an individual who identifies with the Jewish people may have in the holiness of the nation,1 and is privileged to walk in the path of the Almighty, which He gave to his eldest son, Israel.2 By the same token, the Bible describes the pride that king Yehoshafat had in the ways of G-d: “And his heart was uplifted in the ways of G-d.”3

Lowliness is the inner experience of the sefirah of kingdom (malchut). Kingliness, in the sense of noble character, is the manner in which the sefirah of kingdom becomes manifest in a person. In practice, this translates into a concern for the Jewish people as a whole, and a complete identification with the nation. (The sefirah of kingdom manifests similarly in a non-Jew, whose nobility is measured by his or her concern for others and inward call to bestow good upon others.)

This type of pride, which is void of any pride in one’s self, and any feelings that one is worthy of anything, is the sentiment referred to in the verse: “G-d has ruled, He is enclothed in pride.”4 The idea here is that the experience of pride in the perfected realm of Atzilut (the World of Emanation, the world whose consciousness is always “before God”) translates into the experience of lowliness on our mundane plane of existence.

Specifically, in the verse quoted, the word for “pride” (ge’ut, in Hebrew), which also means “high tide” has the exact same numerical value as the Hebrew word for “lowliness,” which also means “low tide” (shefel). Both words equal 410.

This is a beautiful example of how the mundane is a (reverse) reflection of the supernal realm: what is pride there translates into lowliness here.

Another well-known and important word whose numerical value is 410 is “shema,” the first word of the verse that is cornerstone of the Jewish profession of faith in the unity of the Almighty: “Hear [Shema] Israel: Havayah is our God, Havayah is one.” This word literally means “listen” or “hear.” The numerical equivalence with “pride” and “lowliness” reveals that the inner sense of the ear, its ability to hear, is related to its role in balancing the body. The ear’s sensitivity to the truth allows it to realize that pride belongs above (“high-tide”) while lowliness belongs below (“low-tide”).

Notes
1. As the Torah says: “And you shall be for Me [G-d] a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).
2. Exodus 4:22.
3. II Chronicles 17:6.
4. Psalms 93:1.

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