Ruminating on the first anniversary of Tuesday September 11,
feeling the grief and trauma of my fellow New Yorkers as they and thousands of
visitors solemnly gathered at Ground Zero, something rings a bell. Where have
I heard the numbers nine and eleven before? It then comes to me. In the Sefer
Yetzirah (Book of Formation), the oldest Kabbalistic text, attributed to the
patriarch Abraham, a cryptic phrase states: "Ten sefirot of nothingness;
ten and not nine, ten and not eleven."
The ten sefirot
(divine attributes) are the basic building blocks -- the spiritual DNA -- of all
of existence. Exactly ten. Not nine, not eleven. Exactly ten, not more, not less.
Precision is critical to all systems. One missing or extra point in a computer
program, one deficient or additional cell, can wreak devastating havoc.
is a day that shook up our entire system, a day that exposed our vulnerabilities
and revealed the tenuousness of global stability. What is the missing ingredient
in 9/11 -- the tenth dimension -- that manifests the events unleashed one year
ago on September 11?
Yom Kippur -- the tenth day --
is that ingredient. Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the universe with
the human at the center. The following ten days rebuild the structure of existence,
culminating with Yom Kippur, when Moses descends from Sinai with the Second Tablets
and the promise of hope even after destruction.
language this ten-day period is called binyan ha'malchut, the building
of sovereignty. Psychologically, in this period we rebuild human dignity -- the
essential value and sanctity of every person's life derived from the fact that
each human being is created in the Divine Image.
In the ten
days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, and especially on Yom Kippur, we reaffirm
the indispensable nature and inalienable rights of every human being on earth,
by virtue of our connection to G-d, who chose each of us to fulfill our unique
And it is this Divine ingredient -- the dignity of
Malchut -- that was missing from the demonically distorted religious beliefs
of the attackers. Love of G-d is one with love of all people, if for no other
reason than their being reflections of the Divine Image.
can have an elaborate structure of all nine elements -- a complete intellectual
and emotional system -- but if you are missing the tenth dimension, Malchut, everything
Malchut also represents the Divine presence
within nature and all of existence. At the pinnacle of Yom Kippur -- the conclusion
of the Ne'ilah prayer -- we declare that G-d is One and we repeat seven times
that "HaVaYaH hu ha'Elokim" -- G-d that transcends all of existence
is one with the G-dliness within all of existence.
that believes in a G-d in Heaven but forgets about G-d's presence on Earth (ten
minus one -- nine), or annihilates life on Earth (ten plus one -- eleven), will
be fundamentally bankrupt.
9/11 -- and all the events of the
past year -- remind us that science, politics, economy, every one of our systems,
must include the tenth dimension, Malchut, for us to survive. This tenth ingredient
is the key to our security and future.
Above all, Malchut is
distinguished for its bittul (self-effacement). Malchut is the moon, with
no light of its own, reflecting the light of the sun. When you shine your own
light, you are only as great as you are. You may be very great, but human greatness
is always limited, temporal, mortal. When you become a channel that reflects a
light greater than your own, when you are dedicated to something beyond yourself,
you become greater than yourself. When you dedicate yourself to eternity -- and
to eternal values -- you become eternal.
Before 9/11, Americans,
and much of the rest of the world as well, felt that we had it "all figured
out." Our unprecedented prosperity, high standard of living, sophisticated
technology, created an illusion of invulnerability. 9/11 reminded us that we need
the tenth truth, Malchut, and the bittul it espouses.
without the dignity and balance of Malchut -- without the basic respect for the
G-dliness in others -- becomes a destructive force. Just as is the case with
a business corporation.
Don't cut out the tenth dimension,
and don't add to it. Don't be too secular and don't be overly religious. Don't
overindulge in the material and don't escape into the spiritual. Balance and integrate
the two. Don't be less or more religious than G-d. Don't be materially or spiritually
arrogant. G-d created a universe and entrusted us with the power to refine and
not destroy the material world.
[Reprinted from www.chabad.org]
Simon Jacobson is the author of the best-selling Toward a Meaningful Life: The
Wisdom of the Rebbe (William Morrow, 1995), and the founder and director of the
Meaningful Life Learning Center (www.meaningfullife.com).