Kether (in Hebrew כֶּתֶר keṯer “Crown”) is the highest sephirot of the Tree of Life explained by the Kabbalah tradition. Since its meaning is “crown”, it is interpreted as both the “summit”, the “royal crown” on the Tree of Life.
Keter is so sublime that it is called in the Zohar “the most hidden of all things hidden” and is incomprehensible in its entirety by human beings, also described as absolute compassion.
Since the crown is worn over the head, this stage refers to things that are above the normal understanding of the mind. All other Sephirot are compared to parts of the human body, but the crown lies above connecting the concept of tangible earthly royalty with the abstract and intangible Ein Sof.
This Sefirah represents Ein Soph’s primordial desire to enter the multiform life of being. But in this form it does not contain any proper substance of the “Supreme Being”, but encloses all its potentialities, and for this reason it is called “The Nothing”, “The Hidden Light”, or “The Air that cannot be grasped”. The will to bring to light the world represents absolute compassion.
The name of GOD associated with Keter is “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh”. (in Hebrew: אהיה אשר אהיה), or “I am who I am” (Exodus 3, 14), the name by which Moses was revealed to the burning bush, “He who is” the infinite.
Keter, though the highest Sephirah is below Or Ein Soph which is the source of all Sephirot, and receives from the Sephirah of Malkuth.
The ethical behavior, in relation to the Sephira of Kether, that man should follow in order to emulate his Creator are in order of importance:
- Humility, because although Keter is the highest, he humbles himself, not looking at his source, but looking at the stages below.
- Thoughts must remain pure
- The forehead must not show signs of hardness of spirit
- Ears should always be turned to listen to the good
- The eyes must always move away from evil, and always look towards the good
- The nose must be free from huffing anger
- The face must always shine and the mouth must not express anything but good.
The 13 Attributes of Compassion
As enumerated in the Book of Exodus (Ex 34, 6-7) there are 13 Divine Attributes with which GOD governs the world, but they should not be considered as connotations of GOD because He as being is infinite and cannot be defined, but as the way He exercises His control and with which the limited mind of observing humanity evaluates divine government. In the Sifre, however, these attributes are not called “middot”, which can mean both “quality” and “rule” and “measure”, but “derakhim” (ways), for they are the ways of GOD that Moses begged to know and that the CREATOR revealed to him. The thirteen attributes are mentioned several times in the Bible, and the verses in which GOD is described using all or some of the attributes include: numbers 14, 18 ; Joel 2, 13 ; Jonah 4, 2 ; Micah 7, 18 ; Naum 1, 3 ; Psalms 86, 15 – 103, 8 – 145, 8 and Nehemiah 9, 17.
Through the interpretation of a passage from the Book of Michah, 13 attributes have been associated with Sephirah Kether:
Who is God like you, who forgives iniquity and forgives the transgressions of the residue of his inheritance? He does not keep his anger forever, because he delights in kindness. He will show us compassion again, he will defeat our iniquities, and You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Show loyalty to Ya’akov, kindness to Avraham, who you swore to our fathers since ancient times.
(Michah, 7, 18-20)
These 13 attributes are derived from this step and are described in great detail. Also called the “Thirteen Attributes of Mercy” were described by Rabbi Chizkiyah in an allegorical representation of a lily among thorns, a phrase found in Shir Hashirim 2, 2:
The secret of spiritual protection is revealed through a richly metaphorical discourse by Rabbi Chizkiyah who explains that the spiritual forces protecting and watching over us are the 13 Attributes of Mercy. They are transmitted to our physical world through the first 13 words of the Torah, and when insults are decreed against us, these 13 forces can safeguard us by drawing a Light of protection upon us as we begin to see the mystical sequences of the Text and to learn by reasoning about the spiritual teachings present in Sacred Scripture.