Chapter 48

פרק מח

Having previously explained that G-d showed his love for the Jewish people by taking them out of the physical servitude of Egypt, the Alter Rebbe concluded ch. 47 by describing the love G-d shows His people by releasing them from a spiritual dimension of Egyptian bondage. This spiritual Exodus is daily manifest within all Jewish souls. It is natural, therefore, that Jews should reciprocate with love—like the water that mirrors the face of the beholder—and thereby strive to overcome all obstacles that hinder their service of G-d.

Contemplating the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof, the thinking person [will come to the realization] that as His Name indicates, so is He—there is no end or limit or finitude at all to the light and vitality that diffuse from His simple will (“simple” in the sense that it has no cause nor is it subject to the limitations inherent in mortal will),

וְהִנֵּה, כַּאֲשֶׁר יִתְבּוֹנֵן הַמַּשְׂכִּיל בִּגְדוּלַּת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, כִּי כִּשְׁמוֹ כֵּן הוּא – אֵין־סוֹף וְאֵין קֵץ וְתַכְלִית כְּלָל, לְאוֹר וְחַיּוּת הַמִּתְפַּשֵּׁט מִמֶּנּוּ יִתְבָּרֵךְ בִּרְצוֹנוֹ הַפָּשׁוּט

and which is united with His essence and being in perfect unity.

וּמְיוּחָד בְּמַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד.

The light and vitality that emanate from G-d in order that He create and animate finite Worlds are in no way similar to light and vitality as they are found within created beings.

Light that emanates from a created being is not limited by the capacity of the recipient; on the other hand, the luminary has no control over its power of illumination: having been created as a luminary, it has no choice but to illumine. Divine light, however, while possessing all the positive qualities of illumination as found in created luminaries, shares none of its deficiencies: light emanates from the Luminary only when the Luminary desires that it do so. The will of created beings likewise has strengths and weaknesses. Though it chooses freely, it is by its very nature limited and restrictive. G-d’s will, by contrast, while maintaining the positive attributes of mortal will, is encumbered by none of its limitations; His will (to illumine, for example) is unbounded, just as He Himself is without limitation.

Being infinite, G-d’s light “cannot” give rise to created and finite beings unless it first undergoes the series of self-limiting, self-concealing contractions known as tzimtzumim, as is now stated.

Had the worlds descended from the light of the blessed Ein Sof without “contractions” but according to a gradual descent from grade to grade by means of cause and effect, the loftier level being the direct cause for the manifestation of the level immediately following it—

וְאִילּוּ הָיְתָה הִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת הָעוֹלָמוֹת מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּלִי צִמְצוּמִים, רַק כְּסֵדֶר הַמַּדְרֵגוֹת מִמַּדְרֵגָה לְמַדְרֵגָה בְּדֶרֶךְ עִלָּה וְעָלוּל –

Such is the case with regard to thought and speech. That which a person speaks is first found within his thought; thought is the cause, and speech is the effect. Though thought is more spiritual than speech, the two levels stand in a certain proportion to each other in that (for example) both are composed of letters that form words. And so with every cause-and-effect relationship, the effect must partake of the characteristics of its cause; it would be impossible for a “cause” to bring into existence an “effect” which is infinitely removed from it.

Since the light and vitality—the creative power—that emanates from G-d is infinite while created beings are finite, it goes without saying that they could not possibly have come into being in a manner of cause and effect. For if this were the case,

this world and all it contains would not have been created in its present form, in a finite and limited order: “From the earth to the firmament is a distance of five hundred years,”1 five hundred years’ journey being a finite dimension,

לֹא הָיָה הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה נִבְרָא כְּלָל כְּמוֹ שֶׁהוּא עַתָּה בִּבְחִינַת גְּבוּל וְתַכְלִית, "מֵהָאָרֶץ לָרָקִיעַ מַהֲלַךְ תּ"ק שָׁנָה",

and similarly [limited is] the distance between one firmament and the next, and so also the radial extent of each firmament is a distance of five hundred years. And all the above applies to this world.

וְכֵן בֵּין כָּל רָקִיעַ לְרָקִיעַ, וְכֵן עוֹבִי כָּל רָקִיעַ וְרָקִיעַ.

Even the World to Come and the higher level of Gan Eden—the abode of the souls of the great tzaddikim—and the souls themselves, and needless to add, the angels, are all in the realm of bounds and limitation,

וַאֲפִילוּ עוֹלָם הַבָּא וְגַן עֵדֶן הָעֶלְיוֹן, מְדוֹר נִשְׁמוֹת הַצַּדִּיקִים הַגְּדוֹלִים וְהַנְּשָׁמוֹת עַצְמָן, וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר הַמַּלְאָכִים – הֵן בִּבְחִינַת גְּבוּל וְתַכְלִית,

The Rebbe notes: Although it was indicated early in ch. 39 that souls delight in G-d and derive pleasure from and comprehend the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, this poses no difficulty:

for there is a limit to their apprehension of the light of the blessed Ein Sof, which shines upon them through being clothed in ChaBaD, and so on,

כִּי יֵשׁ גְּבוּל לְהַשָּׂגָתָן בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמֵּאִיר עֲלֵיהֶן בְּהִתְלַבְּשׁוּת חָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת כוּ'.

Souls and angels, which inhabit these worlds, comprehend G-dliness as a result of its vestiture in the ChaBaD of those worlds. Though lofty, their comprehension is nonetheless limited.

hence, there is also a limit to the enjoyment that they derive from the rays of the Shechinah and to their pleasure in the light of G-d,

וְלָכֵן יֵשׁ גְּבוּל לַהֲנָאָתָן שֶׁנֶּהֱנִין מִזִּיו הַשְּׁכִינָה וּמִתְעַנְּגִין בְּאוֹר ה',

for they are incapable of deriving enjoyment and delight of an infinite order without being nullified out of their existence and returning to their source.

כִּי אֵין יְכוֹלִין לְקַבֵּל הֲנָאָה וְתַעֲנוּג בִּבְחִינַת אֵין־סוֹף מַמָּשׁ, שֶׁלֹּא יִתְבַּטְּלוּ מִמְּצִיאוּתָן וְיַחְזְרוּ לִמְקוֹרָן.

Thus, even the creatures of the highest spiritual worlds are finite beings, and in order for them to be created in a finite manner, the process of “contraction” must be invoked. Being finite, they are totally dissimilar to their source—the infinite G-dly light that exists prior to “contraction.”