מִזְמוֹר שִׁיר חֲנֻכַּת הַבַּיִת לְדָוִד.
A psalm, a song of dedication of the House, by David.
King David composed this song after G-d promises him that his son Solomon will build the Holy Temple. Divinely inspired it refers to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Temple. The basic reason this song is said right before beginning the official prayers, is so that we should be reminded; that although our prayers are substitute for the sacrifices, we might think that it would be okay to remain in the present state without the temple. Therefore, this song reminds us of the ultimate goal of the actual rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The kabbalists however, explain that deeper underlying theme is of concealment and revelation. Difficulties, hardships and challenge are an inseparable part of life. A Jew faced with these challenges calls out to the Creator awakening divine compassion and love. Light is illuminated and the challenge is overcome. And we see this pattern again and again occur throughout our lives. The question is, why is the pattern of concealment and revelation necessary at all? Why can’t everything just always be good? Why does there even have to be challenges and suffering?
A psalm; a song of dedication of the House, of David.
In the beginning of this song we say (verse 3), “Hashem, my G-d, I cry out to you and you heal me”.
As we said before that when faced with challenges and difficulties in life, A Jew works to have ‘Bitachon’ absolute and total trust and certainty in the infinite and unconditional love of the Creator that everything will work out in the best way possible. (To learn what makes one so sure of this see last class)
Then the verse says (verse 4), “you’ve lifted my soul from the depths of hell, you have revived me from the descent into the pit.” Prayer has the power to bring person from the deepest depths of darkness and elevate them to the most sublime light and joy. We continue and say (verse 6), “at night I lay and cry” meaning we readily express the pain of the challenges that we are going through and the, “in the morning I sing” This again follows the them of concealement and revelation, exile and redemption. There is also an obvious allusion to the ‘Bedtime Shema’, which kabbalistically is a very important and powerful time for change. How we go to sleep, mystically, creates the kli/vessel for how effective morning prayer will be. The question still remains. why must there first be concealment? Why must there be darkness before the light?
The answer to that is (verse 7), “And I said during times of tranquility, I shall never fall.” If a person were always to live in peace without have to face any challenges or hardships, one might mistakenly think that they are the one that is in total control and do not to rely on the Creator. And so to prevent us from falling into spiritual slumber, (verse 8), “…you have concealed your face from me I was afraid”. When the light of the Creator is concealed and our consciousness perceives challenge and hardship, one becomes deeply aware at the realization that their entire life is totally dependent on the Creator. And thus (verse 9), “To you Havaya (Z’’A), I will call and to you Ado-nai (Malchut) I will pray.” One redirects the focus back to the source and awakens divine benevolence. When one realizes (verse 10), “What gain is there in my blood, in my descent to the grave?” How will I be able to become aware of your good and praise you when I am dead (verse 10), “…to speak of your truths?” How will I be able to reveal divine truth in the world? And since there is no benefit and possibility for growth if I am dead therefore (verse 11), “Hear me Havaya and be gracious to me. Be my helper.”
And then finally redemption comes, and the light is illuminated (verse 12), “You have turned my lament into dancing. You loosened my sackcloth and girded me with joy.” This is referring to not only overcoming the challenge, but the total transformation of darkness into light. the darkness itself becomes the light. Like when David was persecuted by his own son Avshalom, then even his enemies became his allies.
Descent for the purpose of Ascent
This model of existence is not only true in our world the physical world but it is also the supernal world. In fact, this is how the Creator began the whole process of creation. First darkness, then light. First concealment, then revelation. This is what in Kabbalah is called tzimtzum/contraction.
Like a teacher that must conceal the depth and breadth of their wisdom in order to be able to not overwhelm the student. The teacher must first adapt and convert the idea into a way that the student will be able to understand, little by little increasing the information and knowledge according to the kli/vessel, capacity of the student. So to the Infinite Light of the Creator must be first be concealed and diminished in a way that limited finite beings will be able to receive it. But can’t the Creator reveal the goodness and light directly without having to first preceed it with darkness and concealment?
Lower waters and Upper waters
The answer to this is in (verse 13), “So that I will sing Your glory and not be silent.”
The Zohar explains that in the beginning of creation after the upper and lower waters were separated, the lower waters continuously desired and yearned to return to their supernal source. Kabbalistically, ‘water’ always symbolizes ‘pleasure’. The upper waters are spiritual pleasures and the lower waters are physical pleasures. Before the separation everything was mixed together and after the separation the supernal waters became pure spiritual pleasure, and the lower waters became total coarse physical pleasure. Like the yeast and wine mixed together in the mash. After the separation the wine becomes refined, clear and pure, while the dregs become waste. So wouldn’t it have been better that the lower waters had stayed spiritual and not descended in the first place?
The reason the Creator did this was so that there would awaken within the lower waters a deep yearning and desire to return to their supernal home. But if they return to what originally was what will be gained?
The mystics explain that the yearning and desire that the lower waters experience have to return to their source gives them the possibility to affect a transformation within themselves. The lower ego consciousness (physical pleasure) can be elevated and transformed into higher unity consciousness (spiritual pleasure). Without the separation there would be no refinement and the physical would be remain inferior to spiritual. But after the separation and concealment the physical has the potential to become ever higher than the spiritual.
So too in our lives, before receiving the shefa and abundance and goodness it is first preceded difficulty, hardship and challenge. This awakens within us the desire for the light and creates change within us. The resulting success, triumph and achievement and most importantly transformation of consciousness are infinitely greater than the hardship and challenges themselves. The Ego then itself becomes divine and pure.
We say the verse of “Mizmor L’David”, in order to remind us that the shefa energy that comes to us without any difficulties, challenge or hardship is only an external aspect of divine good and is therefore limited. But when we rise up to the challenges of life and awaken a powerful yearning and desire to be reconnect to the light. We release the false perceptions of immortality and invincibility and surrender to the light and unity of the Creator. Ego is transformed becoming itself an expression of the divine Will and this creates a vessel to access and download sublime limitless shefa from beyond the order of creation.
Exercise think of times in your life where you have gone through hardship and challenge and things seemed very dark and difficult but then there was a positive outcome and revealed good. Write that down, in a journal or in the margin of the prayerbook. Remember how you feel at that moment. The fear, the anger, the uncertainty. Now move to that moment when you found peace, resolution. And how with the power of hindsight you saw how it helped you to grow and mature. Now bring the wisdom of hindsight into the present moment. Think of something challenging that you are going through right now. Allow yourself to know that it is a part of the fabric of creation. Call out to the Creator. Surrender Ego. And know with absolute and total trust and certainty that great revelation and sublime shefa is on the way. And that this experience will soon be another concealment turned into beautiful success and achievement.