and the Number 10
“Ten and not nine. Ten and not eleven” – Sefer Yetzirah
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, I was struck by the fact that this anniversary
takes place in midst of the Ten Days of Teshuvah. 9/11 in
middle of a period of 10 (days), concluding with the 10th
of Tishrei, Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. Hmm.
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 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.
9/11 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 single 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 Hashana 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.
In Kabbalistic language this ten day period
is called ‘binyan ha’malchus,’ 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
In the ten days from Rosh Hashana 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 mission.
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 them being
reflections of the Divine Image.
One 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 Neilah prayer – we declare
that G-d is One and we repeat seven times that “Hashem hu
ha’Elokim.” G-d that transcends all of existence is one with
the G-dliness within all of existence.
Religion 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. Business that is missing
the Divine dimension will ultimately self destruct.
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
Above all, Malchut is distinguished for its
bittul. 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, temporary, 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 all the world felt
that we had it ‘all figured out.’ Our unprecedented prosperity,
highest 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.
Religion without the dignity and balance of
Malchut – without the basic respect for the G-dliness in others
– becomes a destructive force. The same is with business.
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.
As the deepest part of each of our souls enters
the ‘holy of holies’ on Yom Kippur, may we regain our essential
dignity/malchut as Divine agents charged with the mission
of transforming the universe and creating of it a home for
Blessings for a year of peace, harmony and redemption.