The Sefirot in the Lord’s Prayer

PART I 

In Matthew chapter 6, we have the following words, commonly known as, “The Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.”

The words of ‘The Lord’s Prayer” may follow the path of the ten Sefirot perhaps more closely than anything else in Tenakh or the New Testament. Not only are the ten presented, but they even follow traditional ‘groupings,” those being:

  • Keter, Chokmah, Binah (the mochin/intellect)
  • Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet (upper triad – ‘CHaGaT’)
  • Netzackh, Hod, Yesod (lower triad – ‘NeHiY’)
  • Malkhut

In this section, we examine the upper triad, the ‘intellect’ of the Sefirot, beginning with the first line of the Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”

This first sentence is a concise representation of the first three Sefirot, the ‘mochin’ (‘divine intellect’) which are usually in this sequence:

  1. Keter/Crown
  2. Chokmah/Wisdom
  3. Binah/Understanding

What is interesting is the order these are presented in the “Lord’s Prayer,” mirrors that of the Amidah prayer – and there is a reason for this.

“Our Father”

The prayer does not begin with Keter/Crown but begins with the salutation, “Our Father.” The idea of G-d as ‘Father’ (Abba) is in Torah literature a ‘partzuf’ (pl: partzufim) roughly equivalent to the English term ‘personae.”

G-d of course is not a person or any ‘thing’ at all, but as is often the case the Torah ‘speaks in the language of men,’ so that we can relate and understand. G-d is referred to as “our” father, lending the sense of relationship between G-d and Jews going back in time.

The partzuf of “Abba” correlates to Chokmah/Wisdom. Though this is the second Sefirah, it is the “highest” we can ponder, as “Keter/Crown” is “beyond” and considered as “nothingness.”

Chokmah emanates from this nothingness, as is written;

“Wisdom comes into being from nothing (ayin).” – Job: 28:12.

Thus, all prayer is ultimately directed to this ‘highest accessible point’ of “Abba/Chokmah.”

AMIDAH: “AVOT” – THE FATHERS

Blessed are you, O Lord our G-d and G-d of our fathers, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac and the G-d of Jacob, the great, mighty and revered G-d, the Most High G-d who bestows loving kindnesses, the creator of all things, who remembers the good deeds of the patriarchs and in love will bring a redeemer to their children’s children for his name’s sake. O king, helper, savior and shield. Blessed are you, O Lord, the shield of Abraham.

“Which art in heaven”

The idea of “heaven” is associated with the ‘highest world’ within all things created, which is called Beriah (“Creation”). In Hebrew the plural word shamayim (heavens) is typically used and within this is the idea of multiple heavens or levels of heaven (i.e., Paul’s ‘third heaven’ which is among the ‘seven heavens.’)

What is interesting in the “Lord’s Prayer,” is the idea of the father being “in heaven,” as the partzuf of Abba is linked to the world beyond Beriah (and the heavens), which is called the world of “Atzilut” and has to do with ‘nearness to G-d.’

The partzuf specifically associated with Beriah is Imma (Mother), the feminine concept to the Image of G-d mentioned in Genesis 1:27.

So why does this prayer say “Abba” is in the Shamayim – the world of Beriah which is within creation, and not ‘beyond creation’ in Atzilut, as we would typically consider?

There are two parts to this:

1.) The level of shamayim, being the highest level ‘within creation’ is something we can relate to. It is associated with everything coming from the second half of Genesis 1:1, “… Elohim created…”

It is taught in Judaism that those things preceding this (“In the beginning …”) as well as those things that occur afterward in the Olam Haba (the world to come) are ‘off limits” to our understanding. This being the case, we are being taught that this “Abba” who is ‘beyond creation’ we can still ‘relate to,’ as He is ‘within our perception’ as He is also ‘in heaven’ (within creation).

2.) A fundamental principle of the partzufim is that Abba and Imma are never separated (unlike the partzufim of bride & groom). Because of this, we address G-d as “Father” and not “Mother” as the latter is always included within the former, as the ‘masculine emanation’ of ‘force’ always precedes the ‘feminine emanation’ of ‘form’ in the Image of G-d and all that proceeds from it. So when we say “father” it both extends through all of creation as well as ties back to “In the beginning…” before creation.

Binah is the “head” of the Sefirot of the “left side” which is that of “form” or “restriction.” It is called the source of souls and the fountain of life where the properties of Keter and Chokmah become visible. It is the source of life giving waters from which the “River of Life” emerges.

Binah is further considered “mother” to the Sefirah of Gevurah, which lies ‘beneath’ it on the left side. Gevurah is the concept of “concentration of power” and associated with the resurrection of the dead.

Turning back to the second prayer of the Amidah, we see the expression of Binah through the power of life & resurrection that emanates from Gevurah:

AMIDAH: “GEVUROT” – THE POWERS

The Powers of G-d You, O Lord, are mighty forever, you revive the dead, you have the power to save. You sustain the living with loving kindness, you revive the dead with great mercy, you support the falling, heal the sick, set free the bound and keep faith with those who sleep in the dust. Who is like you, O doer of mighty acts? Who resembles you, a king who puts to death and restores to life, and causes salvation to flourish? And you are certain to revive the dead. Blessed are you, O Lord, who revives the dead.

“Hallowed be thy name”

This brings us to the final Sefirah of the mochin – Keter/Crown. As a “crown” is separate from the body, so too is Keter separate from the rest of the Sefirot and ‘above us’ as already mentioned. This concept of separation relates to the “holiness” of G-d.

Though we ‘relate to’ Chokmah/Abba and Binah/Imma, we ultimately recognize that G-d is separate/holy (Keter/Crown).

This brings us to the third prayer of the Amidah which follows the same pattern:

AMIDAH: “KEDUSHAT HASHEM” – THE HOLINESS OF G-D

“You are holy, and your name is holy, and holy beings praise you daily. Blessed are you, O Lord, the holy God.”

Of which not much more can be said …

PART II

This is a brief overview of some important concepts before moving forward with the next section of the Lord’s Prayer. It will include a little more background on the Sefirot. This is just an overview and if it seems confusing, I highly recommend Chabad and Aish as two places to learn more. (Or just post a question!) Analysis of the actual prayer will resume in Part 3.

As mentioned in Part 1, the Sefirot (the emanations of G-d that we relate to) are numbered as ten, with the upper three considered separate, as the ‘mochin’ or ‘intellectual’ Sefirot. These can be said to ‘oversee’ things but we don’t really relate to them directly in our day-to-day activities.

The seven below are called “middot,” (‘measurement’) which are also called the “emotional Sefirot.’ These seven are the ones we typically deal with in our lives. (FYI – in gematria, seven is a number of ‘completeness’ within creation.)

This group of seven is further divided into a group of six and the seventh by itself. The six go by the name “Ze’ir Anpin” (small face, ZA) which is associated with the concept of the ‘’son” or “groom” among the partzufim (divine personae).

The seventh is associated with the ‘lower feminine’ attribute and is referred to by such terms as; nukveh (female), the “bride,” the Shekinah, the Ruach hakodesh and malkhut (kingdom). It is associated with the presence of G-d within Creation and within men and women.

As applied to the most holy four-letter Name of G-d (Yud, Hey, Vav, Hey) we have:

  • Yud = father
  • Hey = mother
  • Vav = son/groom/ZA
  • Hey = daughter/bride/malkhut/the divine presence in Creation/humans

We can see from the above that a key aspect of ZA is that of ‘connection’ between Malkhut (i.e., humans and the rest of Creation) and the Mochin (i.e., G-d ‘in heaven’ and ‘beyond’ as discussed in Part 1.) As such, ZA is also viewed as a ‘filter’ for when divine judgment descends from above. Should it pass through the six Sefirot of ZA, it is ‘softened’ before reaching us. However if there is a ‘disconnect’ between the groom (ZA) and bride (Malkhut) then judgment is far more stern.

This being the case, our means of ‘connection’ goes through ZA in terms of gaining understanding (Binah) and wisdom (Chokmah), including our prayers, petitions, praise, etc. (This will be important with regard to the Lord’s Prayer.)

There is a further subdivision within the six Sefirot of ZA in that the ‘upper three’ are said to connect more ‘upwards’ (and are ‘broader’ in scope) whereas the lower three are focused more ‘downwards’ (and more ‘specific’ in scope.)

They are, with their acronyms:

  • Chesed/mercy, Gevurah/judgment, Tiferet/beauty (the upper triad – ‘CHaGaT’)
  • Netzackh/victory, Hod/majesty, Yesod/foundation (the lower triad – ‘NeHiY’)

The Sefirot of CHaGaT are thus more connected to deeper ‘spiritual concepts that transcend time,’ whereas those of NeHiY are more to ‘down to earth, every day matters.’

One more aspect to the lower seven Sefirot is that each is associated with one of the patriarchs of the Bible and to the seven days of Sukkot, where they are called the “Ushpizin” (guests) with each ‘welcomed’ to his particular day.

These are:

  • Day 1 – Chesed – Abraham
  • Day 2 – Gevurah – Isaac
  • Day 3 – Tiferet – Jacob
  • Day 4 – Netzach – Moses
  • Day 5 – Hod – Aaron
  • Day 6 – Yesod – Joseph
  • Day 7 – Malkhut – David

We can thus consider attributes of these seven people when studying these seven Sefirot.

PART III

As discussed, the first line of the Lord’s Prayer relates to the three ‘upper’ sefirot call the ‘mochin’ or ‘intellectual sefirot.’ The lower seven are called ‘middot’ (measurements) and have more direct application to our everyday lives.

The middot are further divided in a group of six, and then the seventh by itself. The prior set make up one divine personae (partzuf) which is understood as relating to the idea of ‘son’ or ‘groom.’ Or Ze’ir Anpin’ (ZA).

Adding this dimension to the four-letter Name, we now have:

  • Yud = father = sefirah of chokmah
  • Hey = mother = sefirah of binah
  • Vav = son/groom = six sefirot of ZA: chesed, gevurah, tiferet, netzach, hod and yesod
  • Hey = daughter/bride = sefirah of malkhut (kingdom)

This world of ZA is seen as ‘between’ our physical world and the spiritual world related to “heaven.” Perhaps the clearest representation of this in the Bible is the ladder in Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28:10-19, which showed earth/Jacob at the base, heaven/G-d at the top, and angels going back and forth in between – the ladder representing a realm that is called the world of angels.

Spiritual activity” between us and G-d “takes place” through this intermediary world. Thus, when we read in the Lord’s Prayer (and in the Amidah and other places) of us ‘asking’ and G-d ‘giving,’ the functional aspects of these things “pass through” this world.

Angels (“malachim,” literally “messengers”) act in the capacity of “delivering” requests to G-d and responses back from G-d. The next two lines of the Lord’s Prayer (and all bulk of the Amidah prayer) relate to this world.

The six sefirot of ZA, as mentioned, break down into an upper triad and a lower one. The upper relates more to broader spiritual concepts (in the direction of the Mochin) and the latter to more immediate/functional matters (in the direction of Malkhut).

These are, with their acronyms:

  • Chesed/mercy, Gevurah/judgment, Tiferet/beauty (the upper triad – ‘CHaGaT’)
  • Netzach/victory, Hod/majesty, Yesod/foundation (the lower triad – ‘NeHiY’)

As we will see, the next line of the Lord’s Prayer relates to the upper triad: Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet:

“Thy Kingdom Come, thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

While the next line relates to the lower triad:  Netzach, Hod, Yesod:

“Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation.”  (This will be covered in Part 4.)

Further, each of these sets of three functions along a right-left-center pattern as follows:

  • Right = the side of “expansiveness/force” (with Chokmah/Wisdom as the head of this pillar.)
  • Left = the side of “restriction/form” (with Binah/Understanding as the head of this pillar.)
  • Center = balance/harmony (with Keter/Crown as the head of this pillar.)

Looking at the first triad from the line, “Thy Kingdom Come, thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” we have:

  • Right: “Thy Kingdom Come”
  • Left: “…thy Will be done,”
  • Center: “…on earth as it is in heaven.”

Breaking these down further with regard to the associated sefirot and its qualities:

Right: Thy Kingdom Come = Chesed/Mercy

This is a ‘pro-active’ statement that sets the direction of all of our thoughts and actions. It reflects the expansive quality of Chesed/Mercy. Just as the ‘promise of the Kingdom’ is our ‘strength,’ Chesed is also called “gedulah” as it nurtures the other attributes of the soul. Chesed is not only first of the six sefirot of ZA in terms of hierarchy, but also in that it has nothing “causing it.” As it is written, “The world is built with chesed.” (Psalms 89:3).

Left: … thy Will be done = Gevurah/Judgment

This is a ‘restrictive’ statement as the concept of the “Will of G-d” implies something specific and conditional. This is the essence of Gevurah/Judgment which stems from Binah/Understanding above it. Whereas Wisdom and Understanding function independent of one another, Mercy and Judgment function together, simultaneously. Thus, “Thy Kingdom come,” and “Thy Will be done,” are two necessary parts of the same equation.

This is reflected in the verse: “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand does embrace me.” – Song of Songs 2:6

Center: … on earth as it is in heaven = Tiferet/Beauty

The concept of ‘beauty’ with regard to the sefirah of Tiferet, has to do with harmony and balance. Tiferet is considered to be the ‘center’ of all the sefirot.

As discussed, ‘Heaven’ is the highest level that we relate to G-d, and connects back to Keter/Crown, the ‘beginning’ in terms of the “the divine will of G-d.” The kingdom will come in the future (“on earth”) as it is already established from old (“as it is in heaven,” which is all the way back to Keter).

This is the Torah concept, “The end of a thing is in its beginning and its beginning is in its end.” (Sefer Yetzirah)

PART IV

Continuing onto our third triad, we have the three lower sefirot of:

  • Netzach/victory
  • Hod/majesty
  • Yesod/foundation

These three Sefirot (“NeHiY”) function along the line of “divine actualization,” with the three just above them (Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet) more along the lines of “divine energy,” and the very highest (Keter, Chokmah, Binah) are associated with the “divine mind.”

The three Sefirot of NeHiY work even more in conjunction with one another than the upper triads do.  Neztach and Hod are associated with the right and left legs that ‘work together’ as we walk. They are also called the ‘wings of Yesod.’

As these lower three are more ‘physically oriented,’ we see a lot of ‘give and take’ with regard to “action” in how they relate to the “Lord’s Prayer.”

  • Give us this day our daily bread (Netzach)
  • Forgive us our sin as we forgive those who sin against us (Hod)
  • Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil. (Yesod)

NOTE: The final words, “And deliver us from evil,” could also be connected to Malkhut. For this section of the study we will consider the doxology seen in some manuscripts (“For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever.”) as associated with the last Sefirah.

Again we examine these along the pillars of right, left and center:

Right: Give us this day our daily bread. Left: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Center: Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil.

Breaking these down:

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

This is associated with Netzah on the right pillar of expansion. It lies beneath Chesed and Chokmah and shares their ‘proactive’ quality as the energetic initiative and stamina in our lives.

Exodus 16:14,15 – And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.

“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

There are two elements to this phrase, and they perfectly depict an aspect of Hod called, “reverberation.” There is an input (from the proactive side of Netzach) which “bounces off” the left side of measurement. Hod is acceptance and yielding in our lives. The commandments of Torah that teach us what ‘sin’ is, are from the left side of ‘restriction.’

“Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil.”

In kabbalistic literature, the Sefirah of Yesod is associated with maintaining purity in the face of temptation. This can be purity of mind, heart or body which relates to the concept of “kavanah” which is our “intention” in following the commandments. Proper kavanah allows the processing and transmission of energies from the previous Sefirot into the world.

To review, from beginning to “end” what we have is:

  • Our Father (Chokmah)
  • Which art in heaven (Binah)
  • Hallowed be thy name (Keter)
  • Thy kingdom come (Chesed)
  • Thy will be done (Gevurah)
  • On earth, as it is in heaven (Tiferet)
  • Give us this day our daily bread (Netzach)
  • Forgive us our sin as we forgive those who sin against us (Hod)
  • Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil. (Yesod)

Which brings us to the final Sefirah of Malkhut.

PART V

In some manuscripts we find an additional verse to the Lord’s prayer, which is considered a ‘doxology’ – a short expression, often of praise, that “summarizes” what precedes it.

Such concluding statements were common throughout the history of Jewish prayer and instruction. For instance in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 we see a prayer of David that resembles the Lord’s Prayer of the New Testament (which references many of the Sefirot as well):

“Blessed are You, Lord G-d of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great, and to give strength to all.”

At the end of this, we have the following statement:

“Now therefore, our G-d, we thank You and praise Your glorious name.”

Another example is the final verse of the New Testament book of Jude:

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless. Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to G-d our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”

We find a doxology to the Lord’s Prayer in some manuscripts, as follows:

“For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever.

Going back to earlier in the prayer, we saw ‘kingdom’ associated with the Sefirah of Chesed where it says, “Thy Kingdom come …” With the doxology containing the phrase “For Yours is the Kingdom,” what we have are bookends – from Kingdom in Chesed to Kingdom in Malkhut:

“Thy Kingdom come … For yours is the kingdom”

This idea of a path beginning with Chesed and ending with Malkhut is found in the counting of the Omer after Passover, where we go through seven cycles of seven and arrive at Shavuot.

Shavuot in turn is associated with the experience at Sinai where the power and glory of the Lord were demonstrated to the people of Israel.

In the doxology we next have:

“… the Power and the Glory …”

This cycle of seven, from Chesed to Malkhut, is present both in the seven weeks of the counting of the Omer as well as the seven days of Sukkot.  Both concludes with an “eight.” At the end of the Omer, the “eight” is Shavuot. At the end of Sukkot, the eighth is Shemini Atzeret/Simcha Torah. Both are associated with the number eight, which carries the idea of “beyond” this world.

The doxology concludes with this concept of the eternal:

“… forever and ever.”

The Lord’s Prayer, as with all Jewish prayer, study and action, is very much about a final ‘goal’ – the coming of the Kingdom. In the Lord’s prayer we have the six Sefirot of ‘energy and action’ leading to the ‘result’ of the seventh Sefirah – Malkhut.

The coming of the kingdom is referred to throughout Torah literature (including the New Testament books) as the unification of the bride and groom.

  • Groom = Six Sefirot from Chesed to Yesod, called “Ze’ir Anpin” – the ‘Small Countenance”
  • Bride = Sefirah of Malkhut/Kingdom

When we follow the directive of Deuteronomy 6:5, and “love G-d with our heart (prayer), mind (study) and strength (following the commandments)” we cause the ‘bride to come closer to the groom’ – which in its completion means the coming of the kingdom.

Thus, in traditional siddurim (prayer books) we find this expression:

“I hereby do this mitzvah for the sake of the unification of The Holy One, Blessed is He, and His Divine Presence, in fear and in love, to unify the Name of yud-hey with vav-hey in completion, in the name of the entire Jewish people.”

What the above is saying is that by our fulfilling the commandments, we bring together the ‘father/mother’ personae of the Name (Yud-Hey) and connect them with the groom/bride personae (Vav-Hey) and cause the “Name of G-d to be One.”

This is yet another way of expressing the coming of the Kingdom as we find in Zechariah 14:9:

“And YHVH shall become King over all the earth; on that day shall YHVH be one, and His Name ONE.”