Malchut: Manifesting Torah and Celebrating Shavuot with Kavana!

Tonight, we will count the Omer for the 49th and final time; tomorrow night we begin the festival of Shavuot! This seventh week of sefirat ha-Omer is associated with the Devine emanation called Malchut, the sefiraat the very base of the sefirotic map. Literally, the word "malchut" means "rulership" or "kingdom." In a kabbalistic sense, it's the sefira most closely tied with physicality, and it speaks to how divine sovereignty is made manifest in the world.

Tonight, we will count the Omer for the 49th and final time; tomorrow night we begin the festival of Shavuot! This seventh week of sefirat ha-Omer is associated with the Devine emanation called Malchut, the sefiraat the very base of the sefirotic map. Literally, the word "malchut" means "rulership" or "kingdom." In a kabbalistic sense, it's the sefira most closely tied with physicality, and it speaks to how divine sovereignty is made manifest in the world.

This is a perfect set-up as we move into Shavuot. If Passover is all about telling the story of becoming free, Shavuot is about how we manifest our values (and divinity and Torah itself) in the world. In addition to reading the Ten Commandments and the Mount Sinai story, the Book of Ruth is the megillah linked to this holiday. In Ruth's tale, as today, circumstances beyond our human control (there, a famine; here, a pandemic) become the backdrop for an unfolding human drama. On Shavuot, we celebrate the choices we make -- on this day and every day -- to opt into the covenant, to hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards, and to strive towards compassion (chesed) in our interpersonal relationships and in our society. Two of my colleagues have written beautiful pieces about the relevance of the Book of Ruth in this particularly challenging season, and in the interest of spreading Torah far and wide this Shavuot, I am happy to share their teachings: here's a link to an essay published in this week's Forward by Dr. Mijal Bitton of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, and here's a link to a dvar torah by Rabbi Elie Kaunfer of Mechon Hadar.

Malchut's claim on us obligates us to speak out about systemic racism -- and to do our part in dismantling the systems (both "out there" and "in here") that have taken the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. It should go without saying, and yet it needs to be said, that BLACK LIVES MATTER. This same claim of malchut is also the reason that Kavana recently signed on -- together with the Jewish Coalition for Immigrant Justice NW (JCIJ-NW) -- to a Washington Jewish call to action calling on Governor Inslee, Majority Leader Billig, and Speaker Jinkins to support undocumented immigrants in our state who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is up to us to manifest divinity in the world, day in and day out; our utmost opportunity to do so lies in treating our fellow human beings (those created in the divine image) according to our highest values.

Finally, in order to do this work in the physical world -- as well as to try to build the Jewish community we envision for ourselves -- we need fuel. That fuel is called Torah. Over the coming days, there will be many different opportunities to celebrate the giving and receiving of Torah, and "kabbalat ol malchut" ("acceptance of the yoke of sovereignty"). Because Torah is supposed to be as "sweet as honey" in our mouths and as necessary to us as mother's milk is to an infant, it's customary to treat ourselves to dairy delights on this holiday. To that end, we invite you to break out the blintzes or kugel, bake a cheesecake or order ice cream for delivery... and to join Kavana (plus the Jewish Emergent Network and Reboot communities) online for DAWN: tomorrow night's special all-night Tikkun Leil Shavuot.

I look forward to seeing you at the mountain -- and on the other side too -- as we continue trying to manifest divine values in this physical world of ours!

Chag sameach,

Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum