The Power of 11

Friday, 3 February, 2023 - 2:47 pm

I don’t know about lucky numbers, but there are significant numbers in Jewish tradition. When you delve into Kabbala, the significance of numbers plays an even greater role. There is something about the number 11 that figures very prominently in the Rebbe’s life. The first full day of the Rebbe’s formal role as leader of the Chabad movement was the 11th day of the 11th month (Shevat) in the year 5711. According to Jewish mysticism, the 12 months are associated with the 12 tribes as they are listed in the narrative of the inauguration of the Sanctuary. That inauguration took place during the first twelve days of Nissan. The tribe corresponding to the month of Shevat is the tribe of Asher. Asher’s tribal prince brought his inaugural offering on the 11th of Nissan (aligning with the 11th month of Shevat). By no coincidence, that day is also the Rebbe’s birthday.

So there is something about the number 11 that is intensely associated with the Rebbe. What else in Judaism is associated with the number 11? The Ketoret - incense in the Sanctuary had 11 ingredients. Why is this so? The mystics explain that most things in the realm of holiness find fulfillment in the number 10. There are 10 sefirot (Divine Attributes) with which Hashem created the cosmos. These are reflected in the 10 soul powers within each of us. Each of the 10 is comprised of (to use the Kabbalistic metaphor) a fusion of energy and a vessel or conductor to contain or channel the energy. Every positive force that Hashem created, has a counter-balanced force of negativity. This is so in order that there be freedom of choice between two options. As such, there are also 10 spiritual forces of negativity. There is one cardinal difference. Because of the inherent arrogance associated with negative forces, the fusion of energy and vessel does not take place. They remain distinct from one another. As such, the Zohar describes the forces of negativity as “the 11 crowns of impurity.” There is the energy, and then there are the 10 vessels to channel the energy.

This is why there are 11 ingredients in the incense. The Ketoret represents such a powerful force of holiness, that is has the power to mitigate the forces of negativity. It therefore had 11 ingredients, corresponding to the aforementioned “11 crowns of impurity.” From where does the Ketoret derive this power? The Zohar proclaims about G-d, “You are He whose Unity is infinite, but You are not in the calculation (of 10). But You are He who brought forth ten sefirot.” So we see that in Holiness there is also an 11th dimension. It is the Essence of G-d, which transcends the Sefirot. Ketoret channels the power of the Divine Essence, which mitigates anything that seeks to undermine G-d’s absolute unity.

This 11th dimension will be openly revealed to the universe in the era of Redemption. This then is the connection between the Rebbe and the number 11. From the get-go, the Rebbe’s declared goal was to usher in the Redemption. To echo the language the Rebbe used in his opening address, 72 years ago this week, “the task of our generation is to bring about the revelation of the Divine Essence for all to experience.”

May we indeed witness the fulfillment of this goal very soon.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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