The Alter Rebbe explained in the previous chapters that the Scriptural statement that “in the heavens above and upon the earth below there is none other,” is not intended to negate the existence of another god. Rather, it tells us that Divine Unity is such that there is no true existence other than G‑d, for all created beings are completely nullified in relation to Him and are united with Him. This is not perceived by them nor manifest in them, only because of the tzimtzum which conceals the Divine life-force that continuously brings about their existence ex nihilo. Being unable to perceive this life-force, they consider themselves to be independently existing entities.
This concealment, of course, applies only to created beings but not to their Creator. From the Divine perspective there is no concealment whatever, inasmuch as Havayah and Elokim are truly one: the concealment effected by Elokim thus does not act as a concealment for Havayah.
The Alter Rebbe will now explain how the above enables us to understand the teaching of the Zohar that Shema Yisrael is “higher-level Unity” and Baruch shem is “lower-level Unity.”
Were Divine Unity merely to signify the existence of one G‑d, it would be impossible to speak of higher and lower levels of Unity. According to the above explanation, however, that Divine Unity means the nullity of created beings and their unity with G‑d, it is indeed possible to speak of two diverse levels of Unity.
In this sense, “higher-level Unity” refers to the Divine faculty of creative speech (otherwise known as Malchut), considered at the stage in which it is still found within its source. By way of analogy, the seminal letters of a person’s speech are first encapsulated within his thought and emotions, which will ultimately be responsible for his subsequent speech. (The Rebbe notes that “this was explained in Part I, chs. 20-21.”)
The same is true Above: When Supernal creative speech is at the stage in which it is still included within the Supernal attributes — which, being infinite, are too lofty to serve as a source of creation, for creation is inherently limited to space and time — creation as it exists in its source is united with G‑d at the higher level of Unity. Its manner of nullification is then similar to the nullification of the sun’s rays as they are found within the sun-globe.
When, however, the Divine creative power of speech (or Malchut), after undergoing a process of tzimtzumim, descends to a level at which it is able to serve as a source for creation, then the term “lower-level Unity” applies. Created beings at this level cannot be said to be completely and utterly nullified. For inasmuch as this level becomes the actual source of created beings, they must perforce have some measure of identity in relation to it. Although this level, too, is pervaded by the Ein Sof-light which unites with the Divine faculty of creative speech, this unification is nevertheless one of “lower-level Unity,” wherein created beings are seen to have some measure of existence — albeit a nullified form of existence, but existence nonetheless.
ובזה יובן מה שכתוב בזהר הקדוש דפסוק שמע ישראל הוא יחודא עילאה, וברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד הוא יחודא תתאה
With the above in mind, we may now understand the statement in the holy Zohar, that the verse Shema Yisrael is yichuda ila‘ah (“higher-level Unity”), and that the verse Baruch shem kvod malchuto leolam vaed is yichuda tata’ah (“lower- level Unity”).
The connection between the last-mentioned verse and Divine Unity is now explained:
כי ועד הוא אחד בחילופי אתוון
For vaed is equivalent to echad through the substitution of letters.
The alef of echad interchanges with the vav of vaed, since both letters belong to the same group of letters, viz., alef, hei, vav, yud (which, the Rebbe notes, are known as otiyot hahemshech, the “connective letters”). The chet of echad interchanges with the ayin of vaed, since they share the same source (motza) in the organs of speech, and thus both belong to the category of “guttural letters,” viz., alef, hei, chet, ayin. Finally, the large daled of echad transposes into the small daled of vaed.
כי הנה סיבת וטעם הצמצום וההסתר הזה שהסתיר והעלים הקב״ה את החיות של העולם, כדי שיהיה העולם נראה דבר נפרד בפני עצמו
The cause and reason for this tzimtzum and concealment with which the Holy One, blessed be He, obscured and hid the life- force of the world, making it appear as an independently existing entity, [is as follows]:
I.e., the Alter Rebbe is asking why it is indeed necessary for the world to appear as an independently existing entity. What would be lacking if the world would be perceived in its true state — as an entity wholly nullified in relation to its source? The reason for this is as follows:
הנה הוא ידוע לכל, כי תכלית בריאת העולם הוא בשביל התגלות מלכותו יתברך
It is known to all that the purpose of the creation of the world is the revelation of [G‑d’s] sovereignty,
דאין מלך בלא עם
for “there is no king without a nation.”
פירוש עם: מלשון עוממות
The word עם (“nation”) is related etymologically to the word עוממות (“dimmed, extinguished”), as in the expression גחלים עוממות (Rashi on Shoftim 5:14), describing coals in which the fire is not to be seen. In terms of the relationship of a king and his subjects, the word עם thus signifies those whose relationship with the king is not readily apparent,
שהם דברים נפרדים וזרים ורחוקים ממעלת המלך
for they — the subjects who comprise a nation — are separate entities, distinct and distant from the level of the king; only upon them does the king reign, as a result of their nullifying themselves to him.
כי אילו אפילו היו לו בנים רבים מאד, לא שייך שם מלוכה עליהם
For even if he had very many children, the term “kingship” would not apply to them, inasmuch as the king’s children are part of the king himself,
וכן אפילו על שרים לבדם
nor is it possible for a king to reign even over nobles alone.
Although they — unlike a king’s children — are not part of him, nevertheless, since their position puts them in constant and close contact with him, thereby lending them some of the aspects of kingship, the king cannot reign over nobles alone.
רק ברוב עם דווקא הדרת מלך
Only “in a numerous nation is the glory of the king.”
Only upon strangers can sovereignty apply. The same is true Above: The ultimate intent of the revelation of Divine Kingship finds expression in His reigning over lowly created beings, who perceive themselves as existing independently of Him — so that they, too, should humble and nullify themselves before Him.
ושם המורה על מדת מלכותו יתברך הוא שם אדנות, כי הוא אדון כל הארץ
The Name that indicates the attribute of G‑d’s Malchut (“Kingship”) is the Name of Adnut (“Lordship”), for His Kingship lies in the fact that He is L‑rd of the whole universe.
ונמצא כי מדה זו ושם זה הן המהוין ומקיימין העולם להיות עולם כמות שהוא עכשיו
Thus, it is this attribute (viz., Malchut) and this Name (viz., the Name of Adnut, signifying lordship) which bring the world into existence and sustain it so that it should be as it is now —
יש גמור, ודבר נפרד בפני עצמו, ואינו בטל במציאות ממש
a completely independent and separate entity, and not absolutely nullified,
כי בהסתלקות מדה זו ושם זה, חס ושלום, היה העולם חוזר למקורו בדבר ה׳ ורוח פיו יתברך, ובטל שם במציאות ממש, ולא היה שם עולם עליו כלל
for with the withdrawal of this attribute and this Name from the world, G‑d forbid, the world would revert to its source in the “word of G‑d” and the “breath of His mouth,” where it would be completely nullified, and the name “world” could not be applied to it at all.
Inherent in the name “world” is being and limitation. However, in the state in which the world finds itself within its source it would have no “being” and would not be limited.
והנה גדר ובחינת שם עולם נופל על בחינת מקום ובחינת זמן דוקא
The term “world” can be applied solely to [that which possesses] the dimensions of space and time,
בחינת מקום הוא מזרח ומערב, צפון, דרום, מעלה ומטה
“space” referring to east, west, north and south, upward and downward,
ובחינת זמן: עבר, הוה ועתיד
and “time” referring to past, present and future.
Only with regard to entities that are subject to the limitations of space and time can the term “world” be applied.
והנה כל בחינות אלו אין להם שייכות במדות הקדושות העליונות
All these dimensions of space and time have no relation to the holy supernal attributes of the World of Atzilut, because those attributes are infinite.
As explained earlier, the attribute of Chesed is infinite; so, too, are the other attributes in the World of Atzilut. Hence, by definition, they are not at all subject to the limitations of space and time.
כי אם במדת מלכותו יתברך לבדה שייך לומר שהוא יתברך מלך למעלה עד אין קץ ולמטה עד אין תכלית, וכן לד׳ סטרין
Only concerning the attribute of [G‑d’s] Malchut is it possible to say that He is King “Above without end and below without limit,” and likewise in all four directions.
This means to say that G‑d is King of all creatures, from the very highest to the very lowest. Thus, when speaking of Malchut, it is in order to use terminology that has some relationship to space, such as “higher” and “lower”. This indicates that Malchut itself has some relationship to the aspects of time and space.
וכן בבחינת זמן
The same is true concerning the dimension of time, i.e., that the attribute of Malchut is in some small measure related to time, as it is written:
ה׳ מלך, ה׳ מלך, ה׳ ימלוך
“G‑d reigns, G‑d has reigned, G‑d will reign.”
I.e., G‑d’s reign is related to present, past, and future — the dimension of time.
ונמצא שחיות המקום וכן חיות הזמן, והתהוותם מאין ליש, וקיומם כל זמן קיומם, הוא ממדת מלכותו יתברך ושם אדנות ברוך הוא
Thus, the life-force of space, and likewise of time, and their coming into being from nothingness, and their existence as long as they shall exist, are from [G‑d’s] attribute of Malchut, and from the Name of Adnut.
ולפי שמדת מלכותו יתברך מיוחדת במהותו ועצמותו יתברך בתכלית היחוד, כמו שיתבאר
Now, since [G‑d’s] attribute of Malchut is united with His Essence and Being in an absolute union, as will be explained,
הלכך גם בחינת המקום והזמן בטילים במציאות ממש לגבי מהותו ועצמותו יתברך, כביטול אור השמש בשמש
space and time which are created from Malchut are therefore also completely nullified in relation to [G‑d’s] Essence and Being, just as sunlight whilst it is still within the orb of the sun is nullified in the sun.
This means to say: As long as Malchut still exists in a state of complete union with G‑d’s Essence and Being, space and time — the source of worlds — as found within the attribute of Malchut are utterly nullified relative to G‑d.
This state is called “higher-level Unity.” It exists only before the descent of Malchut through various tzimtzumim in order to vest itself in the lower worlds, thereby creating them and providing them with life. It is then that the worlds enjoy the state of “higher-level Unity,” because from the perspective of the pristine source of Malchut and Adnut which brings about their existence, their actual creation is as yet inconceivable, inasmuch as Malchut and Adnut are still in a state of inclusion within their source. Consequently, space and time “exist” there in the same manner as the light of the sun “exists” within the sun — in a state of complete nullity.
וזהו שילוב שם אדנות בשם הוי"ה
And this is the [meaning of the] alternation of the [letters of the] Name of Adnut with the [letters of the] Name Havayah.
When the letters of one Divine Name are alternated with the letters of another, the Name whose initial letter appears first is the dominant one, the second Name being intertwined and encompassed by it. If, for example, the first letter is the initial of the Divine Name that designates Chesed and the second letter is the initial of the Divine Name that designates Gevurah, the revelation of Chesed will predominate.
One speaks of “the alternation of the [letters of the] Name of Adnut with the [letters of the] Name Havayah” when referring to Malchut and Adnut while they are still united with G‑d’s Essence and Being, which are too lofty to serve as a source for created beings.
The eventual source of the existence of created beings is Malchut and Adnut. Nevertheless, since the Divine Name Havayah is dominant — i.e., since Adnut is submerged within Havayah — all “existence” is completely nullified in relation of G‑d’s Essence and Being, just as sunlight is devoid of all identity within the sun.
כי שם הוי"ה מורה שהוא למעלה מהזמן, שהוא היה, הוה ויהיה ברגע אחד
The Name Havayah indicates that He transcends time, that “He was, is, and will be — all at the same instant,”
Past, present and future meld into one within the Name Havayah, indicating that Havayah transcends time,
כמו שכתוב ברעיא מהימנא, פרשת פנחס
as is stated (in Ra‘aya Mehemna on Parshat Pinchas);
וכן למעלה מבחינת מקום, כי הוא מהוה תמיד את כל בחינת המקום כולו, מלמעלה עד למטה ולד׳ סטרין
and likewise [the Name Havayah] transcends space, for [Havayah] continuously brings into existence the whole dimension of space, from the uppermost level [of space] to the lowermost level [of space], and in the four directions.
Clearly, the Divine Name Havayah transcends time and space. Malchut and Adnut, however, do bear some relation to time and space. Nevertheless, since the letters of the Name of Adnut are interspaced within the letters of the Name Havayah, the dimensions of time and space are completely nullified in relation to G‑d. This is the state called yichuda ila‘ah, or “higher-level Unity.”
והנה אף על פי שהוא יתברך למעלה מהמקום והזמן, אף על פי כן הוא נמצא גם למטה במקום וזמן
Now, although G‑d transcends space and time, He is nevertheless also found below, within space and time — even as space and time, i.e., the dimensions that constitute the world, exist (in their own eyes) as independent entities;
דהיינו, שמתייחד במדת מלכותו, שממנה נמשך ונתהוה המקום והזמן
that is, He unites with His attribute of Malchut, from which space and time are derived and come into existence.
This refers to Malchut after its descent through the various tzimtzumim. However, even this level of Malchut is united with G‑d. Thus, G‑d Who transcends time and space is also found within time and space.
The reason created beings are unable to perceive Him is that Malchut conceals His Presence; they thus regard themselves as possessing independent existence, subject to the limitations and divisions of time and space.
וזהו יחודא תתאה
And this is yichuda tata‘ah, or “lower-level Unity,”
In this state, created beings are not totally nullified in relation to their source, the attribute of Malchut, inasmuch as it allows them to be aware of their own existence.
שילוב הוי"ה באדנות ברוך הוא
([meaning] the intertwining of [the letters of the Name] Havayah within [the letters of the Name of] Adnut).
In this instance the Divine Name Havayah is intertwined and vested within the Name of Adnut; i.e., Havayah is concealed and submerged, while Adnut is revealed and predominant, allowing for the creation of time and space.
דהיינו, שמהותו ועצמותו יתברך, הנקרא בשם אין סוף ברוך הוא, מלא את כל הארץ ממש בזמן ומקום
I.e., His Essence and Being, which is called by the Name Ein Sof, “the Infinite One,” completely fills the whole earth temporally and spatially.
כי בשמים ממעל ובארץ ולד׳ סטרין, הכל מלא מאור אין סוף ברוך הוא בשוה ממש, כי כך הוא בארץ מתחת כמו בשמים ממעל ממש
For in the heavens above and on the earth [below] and in the four directions, everything is equally permeated with the Ein Sof-light, for [G‑d] is to be found on the earth below exactly as in the heavens above,
כי הכל הוא בחינת מקום, הבטל במציאות באור אין סוף ברוך הוא
for everything — including both heaven and earth — is within the dimension of space, which is utterly nullified in the Ein Sof-light,
המתלבש בו על ידי מדת מלכותו, המיוחדת בו יתברך
which clothes itself in it through [G‑d’s] attribute of Malchut that is united with Him.
In relation to the Ein Sof-light which totally transcends time and space there exists no difference between heaven and earth; G‑d is found equally in heaven and upon the earth. This being so, why are time and space not totally nullified?
רק שמדת מלכותו היא מדת הצמצום וההסתר, להסתיר אור אין סוף ברוך הוא
[They are not nullified] because [G‑d’s] attribute of Malchut is the attribute of tzimtzum and concealment, [whose function is] to hide the Ein Sof-light, so that it will not be perceived by created beings,
שלא יבטלו הזמן והמקום ממציאותם לגמרי, ולא יהיה שום בחינת זמן ומקום במציאות, אפילו לתחתונים
so that the existence of time and space should not be completely nullified and there will be no dimensions of time and space whatsoever, even for the lower worlds.
I.e., it is only because of the concealment effected by Malchut that time and space exist for created beings.
והנה במה שנתבאר, יובן מה שכתוב: אני ה׳ לא שניתי
Now, from the foregoing exposition one will be able to understand the verse, “I, Havayah, have not changed.”
Not only has there been no change in G‑d’s conduct, or even His will, with regard to rewarding the righteous and so on, but this verse means explicitly that there is no change, heaven forfend, in G‑d: there exists nothing that can alter Him.
The only consideration that might possibly cause one to wonder about there being a change in G‑d’s unity is His bringing created beings into existence. Before their creation nothing whatever existed other than Him. After their creation, however, one might erroneously conclude that there now exists something in addition to Him — the various worlds and their denizens. And were this to be so, this would constitute a change in G‑d’s absolute unity, heaven forbid. The verse therefore anticipates this by saying, “I, Havayah, have not changed.”
שאין שום שינוי כלל: כמו שהיה לבדו קודם בריאת העולם, כך הוא לבדו אחר שנברא
there is no change in Him at all; just as He was alone before the creation of the world, so is He alone after it was created.
Superficially this is difficult to understand. How can we possibly say that G‑d is alone after the world was created, when there now exists an additional entity — the world?
However, according to the explanation given here regarding Divine Unity, this matter is clearly understood. Since the world is truly nullified in its entirety in relation to Him and is wholly united with Him, G‑d is thus just as truly alone after the world was created as He was alone prior to its creation.
וזהו שאומרים: אתה הוא עד שלא נברא העולם, אתה הוא כו׳
Accordingly it is written, “You were [the same] before the world was created; You are [the same after the world was created],”
It would have been simpler to state, “You are the same before and after the world was created.” The text, however, chose to be more explicit in order to stress that the “You” that existed before the world’s creation remains exactly the same “You” after its creation.
בלי שום שינוי בעצמותו, ולא בדעתו
without any change in His Being, nor even in His knowledge,
One might have supposed that with the creation of the world G‑d’s knowledge underwent a change, inasmuch as He could not have possibly known the world beforehand; once the world was created, G‑d would thus know something that previously He did not. The Alter Rebbe therefore tells us that G‑d’s knowledge has not changed at all:
כי בידיעת עצמו, יודע כל הנבראים, שהכל ממנו ובטל במציאות אצלו
for by knowing Himself, He knows all created things, since all derive from Him and are nullified in relation to Him.
Creation thus added nothing to G‑d’s knowledge. This knowledge of self existed before creation, and it is with this prior knowledge that He knows of all of creation.
וכמו שכתב הרמב״ם ז״ל, שהוא היודע והוא הידוע והוא הדיעה עצמה, הכל אחד
As Maimonides, of blessed memory, stated, that He is the Knower, He is the Known, and He is Knowledge itself: all are one.
This is radically different from mortal knowledge, which comprises three distinct elements: (a) the person’s soul — the knower; (b) the subject that is known; and (c) the power of knowledge — the faculty of Daat, which enables the knower to know the known. In the Divine realm, however, these three elements are all one: all are G‑d. (See ch. 2 of Part I for further elaboration of this theme.)
ודבר זה אין כח בפה לאמרו, ולא באזן לשמעו, ולא בלב האדם להכירו על בוריו
This — Maimonides goes on to say — is beyond the capacity of the mouth to express, beyond the capacity of the ear to hear, and beyond the capacity of the heart or mind of man to apprehend clearly.
כי הקב״ה, מהותו ועצמותו, ודעתו, הכל אחד ממש מכל צד ופינה, בכל דרך יחוד
For the Holy One, blessed be He, His Essence and Being, and His Knowledge — are all absolutely one, from every side and angle, and in every form of unity.
ואין דעתו דבר נוסף על מהותו ועצמותו כמו שהוא בנפש האדם, שדעתה דבר נוסף על מהותה ומורכב בה
His Knowledge is not superadded to His Essence and Being as it is in a mortal soul, whose knowledge is added to its essence and is compounded with it.
הרי כשהאדם לומד ויודע איזה דבר, כבר היתה בו נפשו המשכלת בטרם שלמד וידע, ואחר שלמד וידע ניתוספה ידיעה זו בנפשו
For when a man studies a subject and knows it, his rational soul was already within him before he studied and knew it, and afterwards, this knowledge was added to his soul.
Man’s knowledge is thus a supplement to his intrinsic being; through it he becomes aware of something he did not know before.
וכן מידי יום ביום: ימים ידברו, ורוב שנים יודיעו חכמה
And so, day after day, “Days speak, i.e., instruct a person, and a multitude of years teach wisdom.”
ואין זו אחדות פשוטה, אלא מורכבת
This is not a simple i.e., perfect unity, but a composite.
The Alter Rebbe means the following: Although man’s knowledge, too, is united with him (lit., “with his soul”), for it is the person himself who knows, nevertheless this is not a perfect unity, for “simple” implies that any alternative would be inconceivable. Since a man’s knowledge is acquired, not having been part of his essential being, its acquisition yields an imperfect and composite form of unity, a unity comprised of two separate entities that have coalesced.
אבל הקב״ה הוא אחדות פשוט, בלי שום הרכבה וצד ריבוי כלל
The Holy One, blessed be He, however, is a perfect unity, without any composition or element of plurality at all, inasmuch as it is impossible to speak of any aspect of Him as not having existed previously.
Hence, since His unity is perfect and uncompounded, one cannot say that His Knowledge is something apart from Him, for that would imply, heaven forbid, a composite — that his knowledge is superadded to His Essence, effecting a change within Him. Rather:
על כרחך מהותו ועצמותו ודעתו הכל דבר אחד ממש, בלי שום הרכבה
one must conclude that His Essence and Being and Knowledge are all absolutely one, without any composition.
ולפיכך, כשם שאי אפשר לשום נברא בעולם להשיג מהות הבורא ועצמותו, כך אי אפשר להשיג מהות דעתו
Therefore, just as it is impossible for any creature in the world to comprehend the Essence of the Creator and His Being, so it is impossible to comprehend the essence of His knowledge, which is One with G‑d Himself;
רק להאמין, באמונה שהיא למעלה מהשכל ומהשגה, שהקב״ה יחיד ומיוחד
[it is possible] only to believe, with a faith that transcends intellect and comprehension, that the Holy One, blessed be He, is One and Unique.
Inasmuch as faith transcends intellect, it is able to apprehend truths that lie beyond the province of mortal intellect.
הוא ודעתו הכל אחד ממש, ובידיעת עצמו מכיר ויודע כל הנמצאים, עליונים ותחתונים
He and His knowledge are all absolutely one, and knowing Himself, He perceives and knows all the higher and lower beings, i.e., the beings in the higher and lower worlds,
עד שלשול קטן שבים, ועד יתוש קטן שיהיה בטבור הארץ
including even a small worm in the sea and a minute mosquito that may be found in the center of the earth;
אין דבר נעלם ממנו
there is nothing concealed from Him.
ואין ידיעה זו מוסיפה בו ריבוי והרכבה כלל, מאחר שאינה רק ידיעת עצמו, ועצמותו ודעתו הכל אחד
This knowledge does not add multiplicity and composition to Him at all, since it is merely a knowledge of Himself; and His Being and His knowledge are all one.
Thus, by knowing Himself, He knows all created beings that derive their existence from Him and that are utterly nullified to Him and unified with Him.
ולפי שזה קשה מאד לצייר בשכלנו, על כן אמר הנביא: כי גבהו שמים מארץ, כן גבהו דרכי מדרכיכם ומחשבותי ממחשבותיכם
Inasmuch as this form of knowledge is very difficult to envisage, the Prophet [Isaiah] therefore said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
וכתיב: החקר אלקה תמצא וגו׳, וכתיב: העיני בשר לך, אם כראות אנוש תראה
It is likewise written, “Can you by [intellectual] searching find G‑d?...”; and so too, “Have You eyes of flesh, and do You see as man sees?”
שהאדם רואה ויודע כל הדברים בידיעה שחוץ ממנו
For man sees and knows everything with a knowledge that is external to himself, and hence something is added to him by his knowledge,
והקב״ה בידיעת עצמו
whereas the Holy One, blessed be He, [knows all] by knowing Himself.
עד כאן לשונו
These are the [paraphrased] words [of Maimonides].
עיין שם בהלכות יסודי התורה, והסכימו עמו חכמי הקבלה, כמבואר בפרד״ס מהרמ״ק ז״ל
(See Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah. The Sages of the Kabbalah have agreed with him, as is explained in Pardes of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, of blessed memory.)
There are a number of Torah sages who sharply disagree with Maimonides‘ view. They claim that no descriptive term may be applied to G‑d — not even that of knowledge, and not even of a form of knowledge so rarefied that it is completely beyond the realm of human experience. To say that G‑d is the “Knower” and the “Knowledge” and so on, so the argument runs, is to give Infinite G‑d a description which would serve to limit Him.
In the light of what has been said above — that G‑d’s knowledge is wholly one with G‑d Himself, for otherwise it would imply multiplicity in One Who is perfect unity,
יש להבין שגגת מקצת חכמים בעיניהם, ה׳ יכפר בעדם
it is possible to understand the error of certain scholars in their own eyes (May G‑d forgive them!) — for even those who have erred unwittingly are in need of atonement,
ששגו וטעו בעיונם בכתבי האריז״ל, והבינו ענין הצמצום המוזכר שם כפשוטו
who erred and misinterpreted in their study of the writings of the AriZal, and understood the doctrine of tzimtzum (which is mentioned therein) literally —
In the writings of the AriZal it is stated that in the “beginning”, before creation, the [infinite] light of the Ein Sof-light filled all “space” and there was no “room” for the creation of finite worlds. For inasmuch as worlds are by definition finite, whereas the Divine light is infinite, there is no room within the infinite for finitude. How, then, did finite worlds come into being?
The AriZal explains this through the doctrine of tzimtzum: The Ein Sof-light “departed” — i.e., it ceased to be revealed, so that infinity was no longer in a state of revelation, and all that remained revealed was the power of finitude. This power does allow for the creation of finite worlds.
The “scholars in their own eyes” misunderstood this mere concealment to mean a literal departure —
שהקב״ה סילק עצמו ומהותו חס ושלום מעולם הזה
that the Holy One, blessed be He, removed Himself and His Essence (G‑d forbid) from this world, i.e., that He literally removed His presence, rather than merely concealing it,
רק שמשגיח מלמעלה בהשגחה פרטית על כל היצורים כולם אשר בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת
and only guides from above, with individual Providence, all the created beings which are in the heavens above and on the earth below.
They thus envisage G‑d as a king who sits in his palace; although his gaze extends beyond its confines, the king himself is not to be found there. In the same way — so they would say — G‑d gazes from Above on all created beings which are found (heaven forfend!) outside His “palace”.
והנה מלבד שאי אפשר כלל לומר ענין הצמצום כפשוטו, שהוא ממקרי הגוף, על הקב״ה, הנבדל מהם ריבוי רבבות הבדלות עד אין קץ
Now, apart from the fact that it is altogether impossible to apply the doctrine of tzimtzum literally — for that would be an instance of corporeal phenomena — to the Holy One, blessed be He, Who is set apart from them by infinite myriads of separations,
One who is subject to the characteristics of a physical body can be said to undergo actual tzimtzum and to depart: previously he was here and now he is not. It goes without saying that this cannot be ascribed to G‑d, Who is infinitely removed from the phenomena of corporeality. Apart from all the above:
אף גם זאת לא בדעת ידברו, מאחר שהם מאמינים בני מאמינים שהקב״ה יודע כל היצורים שבעולם הזה השפל, ומשגיח עליהם
in this thing itself they also do not speak wisely, since they are “believers, the sons of believers” that the Holy One, blessed be He, knows all the created beings in this lower world and exercises [His] Providence over them,
Thus, they themselves admit that G‑d’s knowledge and Providence extend to this physical world.
ועל כרחך אין ידיעתו אותם מוסיפה בו ריבוי וחידוש, מפני שיודע הכל בידיעת עצמו
and perforce His knowledge of them does not add plurality and innovation to Him, for He knows all by knowing Himself.
Were G‑d’s knowledge of created beings not to come from knowing Himself then it would be correct to say that this knowledge adds plurality and innovation to Him; previously He did not know them and now he does. However, since plurality and innovation cannot possibly apply to G‑d, He must perforce know them through His knowledge of Himself.
הרי כביכול מהותו ועצמותו ודעתו הכל אחד
Thus, as it were, His Essence and Being and His Knowledge of created beings are all one.
Since G‑d’s knowledge and Providence extend to this world, and since His knowledge is one with Him, it follows that G‑d Himself is to be found within this physical world. Unlike the king who sits in his palace and gazes beyond its walls, the King Himself is to be found wherever His Providence and knowledge are found.
True enough, it is only through divine service that this world may be transformed into a place in which G‑d is revealed. Nonetheless, G‑d is present in this lowly corporeal world, which feels itself to exist independently of Him, to the same degree as He is present within the higher spiritual worlds.
וזהו שכתוב בתיקונים, תיקון נ״ז, דלית אתר פנוי מיניה, לא בעילאין ולא בתתאין
And this is what is stated in Tikkunim, Tikkun 57: “There is no place devoid of Him, neither in the upper worlds nor in the lower worlds”;
Thus we find it explicitly stated in Tikkunei Zohar that G‑d Himself is to be found within the lower worlds, the lowest of which is this physical world.
וברעיא מהימנא, פרשת פנחס: איהו תפיס בכולא, ולית מאן דתפיס ביה כו׳, איהו סובב כל עלמין כו׳, ולית מאן דנפיק מרשותיה לבר, איהו ממלא כל עלמין כו׳, איהו מקשר ומיחד זינא לזיניה, עילא ותתא
and in the portion of Zohar called Ra‘aya Mehemna, on Parshat Pinchas, we read: “He grasps all and none can grasp Him…. He encompasses all worlds…and no one goes out from His domain; He fills or permeates all worlds...; He binds and unites a kind to its kind, upper with lower,
ולית קורבא בד׳ יסודין אלא בקודשא בריך הוא, כד איהו בינייהו
and there is no closeness in the four elements of which this corporeal world is comprised except through the Holy One, blessed be He, when He is within them.“
It is only through His power that these four inherently contradictory elements are bound together.
עד כאן לשונו
Until here are the words [of Ra‘aya Mehemna].
ורצונו לומר: לית מאן דתפיס ביה, שאין מי שיתפוס בהשגת שכלו, מכל שכלים העליונים, במהותו ועצמותו של הקב״ה
“None can grasp Him” means that there is no one, [even] amongst all the “Supernal Intelligences,” i.e., the incorporeal creatures of the higher spiritual worlds whose apprehension of Divinity is superhuman, who can grasp by means of his intellect the Essence and Being of the Holy One, blessed be He;
כמו שכתוב בתקונים: סתימא דכל סתימין
as it is written in Tikkunim, “[He is] hidden from all the [spiritual worlds which are themselves] hidden from physical creatures,
ולית מחשבה תפיסא בך כלל
and no thought can grasp You at all.“
The point being made here is that G‑d cannot be grasped even by the heavenly thought processes of the “hidden worlds.” There is, however, yet another concept inherent in the word “grasp” — the ability to adhere and thereby effect a change. Thus, the fact that one cannot “grasp” G‑d also means that nothing can effect a change in Him.
When a person makes something he will inevitably be “grasped” by the object of his creation: he will undergo changes in accordance with the particular demands of the object which he is producing. In the case of G‑d, however, His creation of all existing beings causes no change in Him whatever: they do not hold Him (so to speak) in their “grasp”.
From this point of view, the creation of the lower worlds is even more telling, for their creation required a greater degree of tzimtzum and enclothement. Nevertheless, they cause absolutely no change in Him: they too do not “grasp” Him. In the Alter Rebbe’s words:
וגם בתחתונים, אף על גב דאיהו ממלא כל עלמין
And even in the lower worlds there are none that “grasp” Him, even though “He permeates all worlds” and animates them with a life-force suited to each individual created being in particular,
אינו כנשמת האדם תוך גופו, שהיא נתפסת תוך הגוף עד שמתפעלת ומקבלת שינויים משינויי הגוף וצערו, מהכאות או קרירות או חמימות האש וכיוצא
[for this vestment] is not like [that of] the soul of a man which clothes itself within his body, and is grasped within [it] to the extent that it is affected and influenced by changes involving the body and its pain, such as from blows or cold or the heat of fire and the like.
מה שאין כן בהקב״ה, שאינו מקבל שום שינוי משינויי עולם הזה, מקיץ לחורף ומיום ללילה
The Holy One, blessed be He, however, is not affected by any of the changes of this world, from summer to winter and from day to night,
כדכתיב: גם חשך לא יחשיך ממך, ולילה כיום יאיר
as it is written, “Even darkness does not obscure for You, and the night illuminates like the day,”
לפי שאינו נתפס כלל תוך העולמות, אף על גב דממלא לון
for He is not grasped within the worlds at all, even though He fills them.
וזהו גם כן ענין סובב כל עלמין
And this is also the meaning of “He encompassess all worlds.”
This does not mean to say (heaven forfend) that G‑d is not found within the worlds but merely encompasses them. Rather:
פירוש, דרך משל: כשאדם מתבונן באיזה דבר חכמה בשכלו, או דבר גשמי במחשבתו
This means, by way of analogy: When a person reflects upon an intellectual subject in his mind or upon a physical object in his thoughts,
אזי שכלו ומחשבתו מקיפים על הדבר ההוא המצויר במחשבתו או בשכלו
then his intellect and thought encompass that subject whose image is formed in his thought or in his mind, inasmuch as they are found within his thought and mind,
אך אין מקיפים על הדבר ההוא ממש בפועל ממש
but they — his intellect and thought — do not encompass that subject in actual fact.
They merely encompass his image of the subject, not the actual subject. When one envisions a table, the actual physical table is of course not found within the brain; it is merely its image that is encompassed there.
אבל הקב״ה, דכתיב ביה: כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם וגו׳
The Holy One, blessed be He, however, of Whom it is written, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts...,”
מחשבתו וידיעתו, שיודע כל הנבראים, מקפת כל נברא ונברא בפועל ממש
His thought and knowledge of all created beings actually encompass each and every creature;
שהרי היא היא חיותו והתהוותו מאין ליש בפועל ממש
for [G‑d’s knowledge] is verily its life-force and that which brings it into existence out of nothingness, in actual reality.
G‑d’s thought, unlike man’s, thus encompasses the actual subject of His thought — in this case, all created beings. It brings about their creation and continued existence, even though it does not descend to their level and become internalized within them, but remains in an exalted state.
וממלא כל עלמין היא בחינת החיות המתלבש תוך עצם הנברא
And “He fills all worlds” is the life-force that becomes enclothed i.e., is internalized within the essence of the created being.
שהיא מצומצמת בתוכו בצמצום רב, כפי ערך מהות הנברא, שהוא בעל גבול ותכלית בכמותו ובאיכותו, דהיינו מעלתו וחשיבותו
It is powerfully contracted within it according to the intrinsic nature of the created being which is finite and limited in quantity and quality, [“quality”] meaning its significance and importance.
Since the life-force must vest itself within the finite created being and unite with it utterly, it must necessarily be contracted and limited according to the intrinsically finite nature of the created being.
כגון השמש, שגופו יש לו גבול ותכלית, שהוא כמו קס״ז פעמים כגודל כדור הארץ
An example is the sun, whose body is finite and limited quantitatively, being approximately one hundred and sixty- seven times the size of the globe of the earth,
ואיכותו ומעלתו, הוא אורו, גם כן יש לו גבול עד כמה יוכל להאיר
and whose quality and significance, namely, its light, is also limited as to the extent that it can emit light,
כי לא יאיר לבלתי תכלית, מאחר שהוא נברא
for it cannot illuminate indefinitely since it is a created being, and hence inherently limited. Thus, although the light of the sun illuminates at a prodigious distance, that distance is not without limit.
וכן כל הנבראים הם בעלי גבול ותכלית, כי מהארץ לרקיע מהלך ת״ק שנה כו׳
Likewise, all created beings are finite and limited, for “from the earth to heaven is a journey of five hundred years..., and so, too, from one heaven to another is a distance of five hundred years.”
ואם כן, החיות המלובשת בהם היא בבחינת צמצום רב ועצום
Hence, since created beings are limited and finite, the life-force which is invested in them is greatly and powerfully contracted,
כי צריכה תחלה להתצמצם צמצומים רבים ועצומים, עד שיתהוה מכחה ואורה עצם הנבראים כמות שהם בעלי גבול ותכלית
for it must first undergo numerous and powerful contractions until created beings, by nature finite and limited, may be brought into existence from its power and light.
Only after this process of self-limitation will the limitless life-force be able to invest itself within finite created beings and become united with them, as will soon be explained.
כי מקור החיות הוא רוח פיו של הקב״ה, המתלבש בעשרה מאמרות שבתורה
For the source of the life-force is the “breath of the mouth” of the Holy One, blessed be He; it becomes enclothed in the Ten Utterances of the Torah, from which all created beings come into existence.
ורוח פיו יתברך היה יכול להתפשט לאין קץ ותכלית, ולברוא עולמות אין קץ ותכלית לכמותם ואיכותם, ולהחיותם עדי עד
The “breath of His mouth” could have diffused without end and limit, and created worlds infinite in their quantity and quality, and given [them] life forever, unlike their present state, in which they are limited in all these respects,
ולא היה נברא עולם הזה כלל
and this corporeal world, all of whose beings are limited and finite, would not have been created at all.
It was the contraction of the life-force that made possible the creation of this physical, limited world with its finite creatures.
The reason why the “breath of His mouth” — were it not to have been contracted — would have created worlds without end, is now explained by the Alter Rebbe in the parenthesis.
שכמו שהקב״ה נקרא אין סוף, כך כל מדותיו ופעולותיו, דאיהו וגרמוהי חד
(For just as the Holy One, blessed be He, is called “Infinite”, so are all His attributes and actions [infinite], “for He and His attributes are one”;
דהיינו החיות הנמשך ממדותיו, שהן חסד ורחמים ושאר מדותיו הקדושות, על ידי התלבשותן שמתלבשות ברוח פיו
i.e., the life-force that emanates from His attributes, namely, Kindness and Mercy and His other holy attributes, [emanates from them] through their being enclothed in the “breath of His mouth,” which refers to the Sefirah of Malchut.
כי הוא אמר ויהי
For creation results from G‑d’s speech and the “breath of His mouth,” as Scripture states, “For He spoke — and it came into being.”
ועולם על ידי חסד יבנה
Moreover, creation came about through Chesed, as it is written, “The world is built through Chesed,”
But how is it that the world is created both through Chesed and Malchut (the “word of G‑d”)? This means: the attribute of Chesed vests itself within Malchut,
בדבר ה׳ ורוח פיו, הנעשה כלי ולבוש לחסד זה
so that creation takes place through “the word of G‑d and the breath of His mouth,” which becomes a vessel and “garment” for this creative attribute of Chesed,
כהדין קמצא דלבושיה מיניה וביה
“like the snail, whose garment is an integral component of his body.”)
The “word of His mouth” is thus a garment and vessel that unites with the attribute of Chesed, from which the world was created. The life-force emanating from the “breath of His mouth” is thus capable of creating worlds which are infinite both quantitatively and qualitatively.
אלא שצמצם הקב״ה האור והחיות שיוכל להתפשט מרוח פיו
The Holy One, blessed be He, however, contracted the light and life-force that could diffuse from the “breath of His mouth,”
והלבישו תוך צירופי אותיות של עשרה מאמרות וצירופי צירופיהן
and invested it in the combinations of the letters of the Ten Utterances, and the combinations of their combinations,
בחילופי ותמורות האותיות עצמן, ובחשבונן ומספרן
by substitutions and transpositions of the letters themselves and their numerical values and equivalents.
שכל חילוף ותמורה מורה על ירידת האור והחיות ממדרגה למדרגה
For each substitution and transposition indicates the descent of the light and life-force degree by degree,
דהיינו שיוכל לברוא ולהחיות ברואים, שמדרגת איכותם ומעלתם היא פחותה ממדרגת איכות ומעלת הברואים הנבראים מאותיות ותיבות עצמן שבעשרה מאמרות
so that it will be able to create and give life to creatures whose quality and significance is lower than the quality and significance of the creatures created from the very letters and words of the Ten Utterances
שבהן מתלבש הקב״ה בכבודו ובעצמו, שהן מדותיו
within which is enclothed the Holy One, blessed be He, in His Glory and Essence — which are His attributes, since they are one with G‑d Himself.
והחשבון מורה על מיעוט האור והחיות, מיעוט אחר מיעוט
The numerical value — even when it is not calculated through the substitution and transposition of letters — indicates the progressive diminution of the light and life-force,
עד שלא נשאר ממנו אלא בחינה אחרונה, שהוא בחינת החשבון ומספר כמה מיני כחות ומדרגות כלולות באור וחיות הזה, המלובש בצירוף זה של תיבה זו
until there remains from it only the final level, which is that of the sum and number of kinds of powers and grades contained in the light and life-force invested in a particular letter-combination of a particular word.
The extent of the remaining life-force is indicated by the sum, which reflects the progressive descent and the constant diminution of the life-force.
ואחר כל הצמצומים האלה וכיוצא בהן, כאשר גזרה חכמתו יתברך
(It is only after all these contractions and others like them, as [G‑d’s] Wisdom has ordained,
הוא שהיה יכול האור והחיות להתלבש גם בתחתונים, כמו אבנים ועפר הדומם
that the life-force could invest itself even in the lower created beings, such as inanimate stones and dust in which no life-force at all is revealed, inasmuch as they represent the lowest levels of the nether created beings.
כי אבן, דרך משל, שמה מורה כי שרשה משם העולה ב״ן במספרו
For example, the name אבן ("stone") indicates that its source is in the Divine Name ב"ן which numerically equals fifty-two (נ"ב) i.e., the numerical value of the Divine Name Havayah when spelled out phonetically in a particular way,
ועוד אלף נוספת משם אחר (לישעם) [נראה שצריך להיות: לטעם] הידוע ליוצרה
with an alef added to it from another Name, for a reason known to its Creator.
והנה שם ב״ן בעצמו הוא בעולמות עליונים מאד
Now, the Name ב"ן, itself relates to very high worlds, and in its pristine state it can in no way serve as the source of physical stone,
רק שעל ידי צמצומים רבים ועצומים ממדרגה למדרגה, ירד ממנו חיות מועטת במאד מאד, עד שתוכל להתלבש באבן
yet through numerous and powerful contractions, degree by degree, i.e., from higher to lower levels, there descended from it a life-force so exceedingly diminished that it could clothe itself in a stone.
וזו היא נפש הדומם, המחיה ומהוה אותו מאין ליש בכל רגע, וכמו שנתבאר לעיל
And this very greatly condensed life-force is the soul of the inanimate being, which gives it life and brings it into existence ex nihilo at every instant, as has been explained previously — in ch. 1, where it is stated that even inanimate creatures possess a soul that brings them into existence at every instant.
וזו היא בחינת ממלא כל עלמין, מה שאין כן בחינת סובב כל עלמין
This greatly condensed life-force is the level of “He fills all worlds,” as opposed to the level of “He encompasses all worlds”), wherein the life-force is not contracted in proportion to the spiritual capacity of created beings.
In summary: The Divine life-force is capable of creating worlds that are infinite both in quantity and in quality. Finite beings are created only when this life-force garbs itself in the letters and transpositions of the letters of the Ten Utterances and in their numerical values.
וכל כח ומדרגה יכול לברוא ברואים כפי בחינת מדרגה זו, גם כן לאין קץ ותכלית בכמותם ואיכותם, להחיות עדי עד
Each power and grade [of the life-force] — after it has descended and undergone contractions, so that there remains only the numerical equivalent of the letters of the Ten Utterances — would be able to create beings according to its own level, even unlimited in quantity and quality, giving [them] everlasting life,
מאחר שהוא כח ה׳ המתפשט ונאצל מרוח פיו, ואין מעצור כו׳
since it is the power of G‑d that diffuses and emanates from the “breath of His mouth,” and there is no restraint [to His ability to create unlimited worlds].
אך שלא יהיה איכותם במעלה גדולה כל כך, כאיכות ומעלת ברואים שיוכלו להבראות מבחינת כח ומדרגת האותיות עצמן
Their quality, however, would not be on a level as high as the quality and level of the creatures which could be created from the power and degree of the letters themselves.
I.e., the created beings resulting from the transposition of letters, and surely from the numerical value of the letters, would be inferior to the beings which could be created from the letters themselves
Commentary of the Rebbe On Chapter Seven
1. Among the explanations and innovative interpretations of the Alter Rebbe in Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, two major points stand out:
(a) The explanation of the “comment of the Baal Shem Tov” on the verse, “Forever, O G‑d, Your word stands firm in the heavens”; namely, that “‘Your word’ which You uttered, [viz.,] ‘Let there be a firmament...,’ these [very] words and letters stand firmly forever within the firmament of heaven…to give them life…. For if the letters were to depart [even] for an instant, G‑d forbid, and return to their source, all the heavens would become naught and absolute nothingness, and it would be as though they had never existed at all,…exactly as before the Six Days of Creation.”
From this it will be understood “that each creature and being is in reality considered to be naught and nothingness in relation to the activating force and the ‘breath of His mouth’ which is within it, continuously calling it into existence and bringing it from absolute non-being into being.”
(b) The tzimtzum is not to be understood “literally — that the Holy One, blessed be He, removed Himself and His Essence, G‑d forbid, from this world, and only guides from above, with individual Providence, all the created beings which are in the heavens above and on the earth below.”
It could be argued (see below) that this statement — that tzimtzum is not to be understood in its literal sense — proceeds from the explanation of the Baal Shem Tov’s comment by way of corollary.
2.What is novel about the comment of the Baal Shem Tov is not only that the word of G‑d must constantly create all beings, but that the words “Let there be a firmament” must be “forever clothed within all the heavens to give them life.”
The same is true of all other created beings: the words and letters of the Ten Utterances which create them and provide them with life must be continuously vested within them.
(Thus indeed the Alter Rebbe explains at length how within every creature there is “a soul and spiritual life-force.” For even those beings not specifically mentioned in the Ten Utterances in the Torah also receive a spiritual life-force which descends from them by stages “by means of substitutions and transpositions of the letters, and by gematriot…until [the life-force] can be condensed and enclothed, and a particular creature can be brought forth from it.”)
Hence, rather than the Divine Utterance constantly creating a creature, which then becomes sundered from it, the Divine Utterance is actually vested within the particular creature itself — within its “space”, so to speak — to the point that the life-force (and soul) of every individual created being is the Divine Utterance that is clothed within it.
It may thus be understood how “every creature and being is in reality considered to be naught and nothingness in relation to the activating force and the ‘breath of His mouth’ which is within it, continuously calling it into existence and bringing it from absolute non-being into being.”
Accordingly, it would seem that the nullification of the created being is not total, for the life-force that permeates and enclothes itself within the created being is attenuated and limited (to suit each individual creature). As such, it “allows for a being’s existence.” Consequently, the nullification resulting from this life-force is also not complete.
However, according to what the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain — that tzimtzum is not to be understood in its literal sense, G‑d forbid — this difficulty is resolved. For even in the “place” (i.e., level) in which the light and life-force contracts and enclothes itself within created beings, “There is no place devoid of Him,” and “His Essence and Being…completely fills the whole earth temporally and spatially.”
Thus the following two opposites coexist within each created being: Every created being possesses its own “soul and spiritual life-force” which it receives through the tzimtzum and vesting of the Divine Utterance within it; at the same time, every created being is bound up with the very Essence of G‑d, for in the same “place” in which it is found, G‑d’s “Essence and Being” is also to be found.
And the fact that G‑d’s Essence utterly transcends the world makes it possible for one to perceive that the existence of the world itself is G‑dliness (as in the classic phrase, “The created being is True Being”) — “There is none else apart from Him.”
From Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 25 (Kehot, N.Y., 1987), p. 193 (Parshat Vayeishev, Yud-Tet Kislev, 5744)