The Light of Faith and Prayer
Malkhut translates as kingship and implies authority, similar to that of a monarch who wields power over his domain. In a deeper sense, Malkhut represents the Authority of God. As mentioned earlier (see p. 59), Malkhut is the vessel that manifests the Light of Keter. God’s Light originates at such a lofty level that we are unable to access it; it must be filtered down through all Ten Sefirot until it reaches Malkhut, from where it can shine onto us and our world.
By mastering all the energies that devolve until they reach Malkhut, we can attain the right to authority. We can become an authority in our field. We can be an authority to others. Through Malkhut, we can learn to exercise control and to use power beneficially for ourselves, our neighbors and communities. Though power often corrupts those who wield it, the fact that we have grounded our efforts on the moral base of Yesod (see previous chapter) helps us act with controlled energy rather than dictatorial whim.
Conceptually, Malkhut represents the mouth. It is the mouth that issues the king’s edicts. Furthermore, just as a person reveals his innermost thoughts when he speaks them aloud, Malkhut represents the revelation of God and His Kingdom. When we perform acts that evoke God’s Malkhut (such as the recital of the Shma, which the Talmud explains is “kabbalat ol Malkhut Shamayim—accepting the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven”), we draw the energy of Malkhut (control and power) into our lives. As Rebbe Nachman teaches, “Everything we do—praying, Torah study, performing mitzvot, eating, earning a livelihood and much more—has one fundamental aim: to reveal the kingship of God” (Likutey Moharan I, 77).
Malkhut is also said to correspond to one’s mate. No one can attain his goals on his own. All life is a series of give-and-take relationships that unify benefactor and beneficiary (see p. 53). Just as a husband and wife unite to bring about the birth of their child, so too all the higher energies (the benefactor) unite with Malkhut (the beneficiary) to “give birth” to our ideas and our potential.
We can access this Sefirah and release its energy into our lives with two powerful tools: faith and prayer.
Faith is a key component of Malkhut. Without faith—including faith in ourselves (see p. 38)—our ability to do and accomplish would never materialize. Faith helps us gain control over our lives and make and carry out decisions with a sense of responsibility. Our faith also builds up our Malkhut, helping us gain control over our objectives and see our goals through to completion.
Faith is one of the most oft-quoted ideas of Rebbe Nachman. Through his teachings we can begin to integrate faith into our lives and develop our “Malkhut potential” to its fullest. Hinting at the structure of the Sefirot through which we have passed, step by step, from Keter through Malkhut, Rebbe Nachman observes: “Through faith you can rise to all levels and attain Desire and Will, which is above everything else” (Tzaddik #564).
The Talmud teaches that the prophet Habakkuk included all the commandments of the Torah in one principle (Habakkuk 2:4): “The righteous man shall live by his faith.” Faith is the foundation and root of all Torah and devotion. Faith must be clear and pure. Faith is the channel for every benefit and blessing (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #261).
When faith is pure, the blessings received through it are pure. We experience blessing, find contentment and fulfillment, and feel comfortable with ourselves and our achievements. The Rebbe once said, “Pure faith—without any sophistication or proof—is a light that shines by night” (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #106). Day suggests knowledge (e.g., “clear as day”). Night suggests a lack of knowledge—darkness, confusion and questions that challenge a person who does not have clear vision. Without pure faith, we can get so confused as to mix up the means with the goal. By remaining strong in faith, we will merit a strong and clear light, even in moments of confusion.
Faith is only applicable to something which we do not understand logically. Nevertheless, with perfect faith it becomes revealed to us as if we see it with our own eyes (Likutey Moharan I, 62:5).
That is, instead of “seeing is believing,” Rebbe Nachman teaches that “believing is seeing”! Faith becomes a person’s “eyes,” leading him to realize his goals. As long as he remains focused on his objective, even if he does not immediately attain it, he remains “faithful” to his goal. He “sees” his objective clearly, though it’s not yet within reach.
It should be mentioned that faith cannot represent a full sense of accomplishment. That requires knowledge, while faith is a medium that directs us to knowledge. When we have faith, however, we realize that our achievements have great value and appreciate whatever degree of success we have attained. We know we’re “on the way” to greater accomplishments—a reflection of our faith in ourselves.
If you have faith, you are truly alive. When you have faith, every day is filled with good. When things go well, it is certainly good. But when you have troubles, it is also good. For you know that God will eventually have mercy, and the end will be good. Everything must be good, for it all comes from God. The man without faith is not really alive. Troubles befall him and he loses all hope. There is nothing to cheer or comfort him, for he has no faith. He does not feel himself to be under God’s Providence and has no good at all. But if you have faith, your life will be good and pleasant (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #53).
One of the best ways to develop faith is simply to speak about it and continuously declare it. King David says (Psalms 89:2), “I will make known Your faith with my mouth.” Rebbe Nachman explains that the first step is to affirm our faith verbally, articulating it in various ways. We can always take a moment to say, “I believe in God!” “I believe You created the entire universe!” “I believe You oversee the world and everything in it with Your Divine Providence!” (Likutey Moharan II, 44). There are many ways to express faith; the more we do, the more we nurture it. This idea also applies to building faith in oneself. A person who always says to himself, “I believe I can accomplish,” will certainly achieve his goals.
In the same lesson about faith, Rebbe Nachman cautions us not to use any words of atheism or mockery when speaking about God (ibid.). The articulation of atheistic words can deflect a person from faith entirely. Like the alcoholic who always has alcohol on his breath, or the chain smoker who exhales the smell of tobacco, a person who speaks atheism will reek of atheism. The opposite is also true: A person who speaks faith, breathes faith.
Faith is actually part of our basic makeup. Reb Noson writes that virtually everything in this world is somehow connected to faith. For example, if there were no faith, no one could conduct business. The storekeeper would always suspect that the customer is out to rob him, and the customer would never be sure he is paying a fair price. If someone wants to do business in another state or country, he must find a representative whom he trusts to buy, sell or trade on his behalf. The global economy would crumble without faith.
Every relationship is also based on faith. Parent and child, husband and wife, friends, neighbors and whole communities must have some basis of trust before they become committed to one another. Once we realize how integral faith is to our lives, we can begin to develop and nurture it (see Likutey Halakhot, Giluach 4:2-3).
Honesty is another prerequisite for faith. Kabbalistically speaking, Tiferet (truth and honesty) is the center column that combines the opposing energies of the right and left columns (see p. 116). The same is true of Yesod. All these combined energies filter through to Malkhut. Rebbe Nachman explains that the transfer of truth, honesty and integrity in this manner translates into the need to be honest in our faith without embellishing our perceptions, and to make sure that our beliefs are in areas that are truthful and honest (Likutey Moharan I, 7:2-3). It doesn’t help our faith at all to place it in false hopes or untruthful goals. On the other hand, being honest about our capabilities and goals can raise our faith to great levels.
Rebbe Nachman places much importance on having faith in the Tzaddikim. We can readily understand this, because Malkhut (faith) is the “mate” of Yesod (the Tzaddik). “We have received the Torah through Moses our teacher and it has been transmitted to us by the awesome Tzaddikim of each generation,” Rebbe Nachman describes (see Avot 1:1). “There is no question as to their integrity and they can be relied upon without question. All you need to do is follow in their footsteps, believe in God with innocent simplicity, and keep the commandments of the Torah as taught by our holy ancestors” (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #32).
All faith must be coupled with faith in God, lest we begin to think of ourselves as all-mighty beings who are in control of our own destinies.
We may think we believe in God as the Ultimate Cause of everything. But in practice, we put our trust in the means. For example, we believe that our livelihood is totally dependent on our business activities and the energy we invest in them—as if without them, God would not have any other means of providing us with our sustenance. In effect, we believe that our business activities are the source of our livelihood and not just the intermediate factor. Or, we may believe that it is the medicine that produces the cure; as if without it, God would not have any other means of sending healing. Once we believe this, we inevitably become preoccupied with the means—chasing after the right medicaments, throwing ourselves into our work, and so on—and we forget to turn to God, the Source of all things and the Ultimate Cause. It is true that we do have to concern ourselves with the means. But we must not make the mistake of confusing the means with the Ultimate Cause and put our faith in the intermediary. We must have faith in God alone (Likutey Moharan I, 62:6).
It is interesting that faith reflects authority, since we have the “authority” to decide how to direct our feelings and emotions towards God and let them become manifest through our faith. Yet what should we do when we feel lost or confused, when our authority cannot seem to exert itself? The Rebbe answers: “You may have many questions and doubts. But when your heart cries out, it shows that you still have the burning spark of faith.…This cry can elevate and strengthen your faith until all difficulties vanish” (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #146).
If things get really rough, remember this teaching: “If you have doubts about your faith in God, say out loud, ‘I believe with perfect faith that God is One—first, last and always’” (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #142). The more you express your faith, the more you build it, as in (Psalms 89:2), “I will make known Your faith with my mouth.” Using the mouth (Malkhut) to proclaim God’s Malkhut strengthens that realm, and awakens the latent authority needed to overcome all questions and challenges to faith.
Malkhut is also expressed through prayer. “Prayer is founded on the belief—the faith—that there exists a Creator Who continually recreates the world as He wishes,” Rebbe Nachman explains. “With this belief, you can pray to God that He fulfill your requests. Then, by means of your prayers, you can even effect miracles in the world which defy the laws of nature” (Likutey Moharan I, 7:7).
We are used to thinking there is a “natural order” for everything in life. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west, etc. “That’s the way it is; there’s nothing anyone can do about it,” people say—but they are wrong. True, God created a natural system within which the world operates, but He also brings about “natural” phenomena such as tsunamis, tidal waves, hurricanes, monsoons, volcanoes and earthquakes which, though they have scientific explanations, defy the natural order, showing us that nature can be changed. The Ten Plagues in Egypt, the Splitting of the Sea, and other miracles recorded in the Torah mirror this truth, while in each and every generation many individuals testify to miracles that happened to them.
Prayer gives us the power to defy nature. When we rely on God, Who has the power and authority to do as He pleases, we can invoke that power and effect miracles. Through prayer we become attached to God, the Infinite Source of all our potential, and through prayer we eventually see our goals attained (see Likutey Moharan II, 84).
Accustom yourself to pray for anything you lack, whether livelihood or children or the health of a sick person. In all these things, your primary strategy should be to pray to God. Believe that “God is good for everything” (Psalms 145:9)—for healing, for livelihood and for everything else—and the essence of your efforts at obtaining what you need should be directed towards God. Do not chase after other kinds of strategies, since most of them are totally ineffective and we are generally unable to discover even the tiny fraction of them that are effective. But calling to God is good and effective for everything in the world; this method is always available, because God is always there (Likutey Moharan I, 14:11).
Prayer is also the most effective tool for surmounting every challenge and obstacle that arises in the course of our lives. “Whatever battles you have to fight—whether against your evil inclination or against those who put barriers and obstacles in your way—should all be fought with prayer,” Rebbe Nachman recommends. “Prayer is the source of your very life. Speak to God and beg Him to help you in every way. Prayer is the weapon with which to win the battle” (Likutey Moharan I, 2:1).
Admittedly, it’s not always easy to pray. Sometimes we’re tired, sometimes under pressure, other times angry, or not at peace with ourselves to be able to speak to God. Rebbe Nachman reveals: “The secret of prayer is to be bold. Have the audacity to ask God for everything you need. The only way to stand up and pray to God is with boldness and daring. When you pray, cast aside your timidity and boldly ask God for whatever you need. This boldness is needed to thwart the opposition that tries to prevent you from serving God” (Likutey Moharan I, 30). That is, we must take control (i.e., Malkhut) of the situation and, to an extent, “force the issue” of our prayers and requests before God.
You may sometimes pray with great devotion. But then the feeling departs and the words begin to seem empty. Do not be discouraged. Continue the service, saying each word in absolute simplicity. Sometimes you will try very hard and still not be able to pray. But never become discouraged. This is the most important rule of all. Force yourself to say each word of the service. Make believe that you are a child just learning to read, and simply say the words. In most cases, God will then touch your heart with a flame and it will be aroused to pray with feeling.…
Listen to every word you say. Concentrate and do not let your thoughts stray. Simply keep your mind on the words of the service. Follow the order of the service even without feeling. Continue word by word, page by page, until God helps you achieve a feeling of devotion. And even if you complete the entire service without feeling, it is not the end. You can still say a psalm. There are other prayers to be said. In general, you must force yourself to do every holy task with all your might. This is especially true of prayer. If you are not worthy, it is still forbidden to become discouraged. Be strong and cheer yourself as much as possible. Pray in happiness, with a joyful tune. Put yourself into a cheerful mood before you begin your worship. Seek out your good points; use them to bring joy to your prayers (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #75).
Rebbe Nachman was known never to force an issue. Yet when it came to prayer, he insisted upon never being lax. We must exercise our authority—our Malkhut—to be forceful and bold in this area. Forceful—to make sure we pray and ask for our needs. Bold— because even if we think we may be distant from God—even if we are guilty of terrible sins—nevertheless, we can always approach Him. What we need is the faith that God listens to and hears our prayers. As Rebbe Nachman teaches, “The basis of all prayer is faith—namely, our belief that everything is in God’s power, even to alter nature, and that God does not withhold just reward from any creature (Pesachim 118; Likutey Moharan I, 55:3).
You may have prayed profusely and secluded yourself with God day after day for years and years, and yet you still feel that you are very far from God. You may even start to think that God is hiding His countenance from you. But it is a mistake for you to think that God does not hear your prayers. Believe with perfect faith that God pays attention to each and every word of all of your prayers, petitions and conversations with Him. Not a single word is lost. Each one leaves its mark in the worlds above, however faintly. Little by little they awaken God’s love.
If there seems to be no response, the reason is that the edifice you are destined to enter is not yet perfected. The main thing is not to give up and fall into despair. That would be foolish. Be firm and continue with your prayers with new determination. In the end, God’s love will be aroused and He will turn to you and shine His radiance upon you and fulfill your wishes and desires. He will draw you towards Him in love and abundant mercy (Likutey Moharan I, 2:7).
There are times when you must even conquer God. You may feel that God rejects you because of your sins. You may think that you are still not doing His Will, but remain strong and throw yourself before God. Spread your hands to Him and beg that He have mercy and let you still serve Him. It may seem that God is rejecting you, but cry out, “No matter what! I still want to be close to You!” This is the way you overcome God. God has great joy when you conquer Him this way (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #69).
Rebbe Nachman says that the main reasons why people do not pray properly are depression and laziness, which both stem from a lack of faith. If their faith were complete and they truly believed God was standing over them and hearing every single word they uttered, they would certainly pray with great fervor and zeal. Similarly, the whole reason that people are far from the Tzaddikim and from true service of God is lack of faith. Nothing stands in the way of one who has complete faith (Likutey Moharan I, 155:2).
Prayer refers to the set prayers in the siddur and to spontaneous prayers that arise from the depths of the heart. The latter is referred to in Breslov writings as hitbodedut, Rebbe Nachman’s unique path of meditation (see below). Both types of prayer are effective in attaining the goal we seek, which is a connection to God. In either case, we can invest our own personalities and desires into our prayers, in the following ways:
When you pray, be so tightly bound to God that you do not notice anybody else at all. Think that there is nothing in the world except God, and that you yourself are the only creature in the world. All you should hear is what you yourself are saying before God. It is true that the ultimate goal is to surrender yourself so much that you do not even hear yourself. But even if you have not attained this level, you should at least try not to hear anybody else (Likutey Moharan II, 103).
Prayer must be spoken out loud—literally. It is not enough to think the prayers. It is true that God knows what you are thinking. But the words have to be spoken, because speech is a vessel with which you receive the influx of blessing. The blessing you receive is in accordance with the words you speak. When you articulate the words on your lips and your speech is well-ordered and proper, you are able to receive rich blessings. You should pray for whatever you need, whether spiritual or material, in words, and then you will be able to receive the influx of blessing (Likutey Moharan I, 34:3).