We now come to an exposition of why our Sages, of blessed memory, said that specifically this world was created by the hey.

אַךְ בֵּיאוּר הָעִנְיָן, לָמָּה אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה שֶׁעוֹלָם הַזֶּה דַוְקָא נִבְרָא בְּה'?

According to the explanation provided above, not only this physical world but all of creation resulted from the letter hey, i.e., from the sefirah of malchut as expressed in Divine speech.

The Alter Rebbe resolves this apparent anomaly by explaining that it is indeed true that all creation derives from the infinite variety of permutations and combinations of the letters which constitute Divine speech. Nevertheless, the loftier and more spiritual created beings derive from the internal aspect of Divine speech, which stems from chochmah, and they therefore have an intellectual perception of G-dliness. Physical creation, by contrast, is of too lowly a level to be able to receive its life-giving Divine light and energy from the “soul” (i.e., the internal aspect) of the letters of G-d’s creative speech; it merely receives this from the “body” (i.e., from the external aspect) of these letters.

The creation of physicality thus resembles the breath emanating from the heart that forms the physical voice. Above, in like manner, the physical world is formed from supernal breath, the “body” of the letters.

Hence, our Sages teach that this world was created by the letter hey—for this letter denotes the Divine breath, as explained above.

It is this that the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say:

This is known to all the wise of heart25

הִנֵּה יָדוּעַ לְכָל חַכְמֵי לֵב,

concerning the multitude of worlds and heichalot, palaces or chambers, which are innumerable,

כִּי רִיבּוּי הָעוֹלָמוֹת וְהַהֵיכָלוֹת אֲשֶׁר אֵין לָהֶם מִסְפָּר,

as it is written, with reference to these countless worlds and heichalot, “Do His regiments have a number?”26

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "הֲיֵשׁ מִסְפָּר לִגְדוּדָיו",

Each heichal and regiment comprises [a finite but prodigious number of angels, as it is written,] “A thousand thousands [serve Him] and myriads of myriads27 [stand before Him].”28

וּבְכָל הֵיכָל וּגְדוּד אֶלֶף אַלְפִין וְרִבּוֹא רִבְבָן מַלְאָכִים,

Likewise, incalculable like the above heichalot and regiments are the levels of [souls, belonging to the five general categories of] nefesh, ruach, neshamah, chayah, and yechidah, in rungs to no end, for each of these five categories branches out into levels of inexhaustible number.

וְכֵן נֶפֶשׁ־רוּחַ־נְשָׁמָה־חַיָּה־יְחִידָה מַדְרֵגוֹת לְאֵין קֵץ,

And likewise [there are numberless levels] in all the worlds and heichalot from among the multitudes of heichalot that exist in the Worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, and Yetzirah.

וּבְכָל עוֹלָם וְהֵיכָלוֹת מֵרִיבּוּי הֵיכָלוֹת שֶׁבַּאֲצִילוּת־בְּרִיאָה־יְצִירָה

The three abovementioned worlds are “higher” than the World of Asiyah (“the World of Action”), which includes both the spiritual and physical worlds of Asiyah.

All these hosts [of created beings], then, one multitude beyond another ad infinitum,

הִנֵּה כָּל רִיבּוּיִים אֵלּוּ, רִיבּוּי אַחַר רִיבּוּי עַד אֵין קֵץ מַמָּשׁ,

all issue and flow from the multitudinous combinations of the twenty-two letters of the “word of G-d,”

הַכֹּל נִמְשָׁךְ וְנִשְׁפָּע מֵרִיבּוּי צֵירוּפֵי כ"ב אוֹתִיּוֹת דְּבַר ה',

which, in turn, divide into a further profusion of combinations, truly ad infinitum.

הַמִּתְחַלְּקוֹת גַּם כֵּן לְצֵירוּפִים רַבִּים עַד אֵין קֵץ וְתַכְלִית מַמָּשׁ,

As stated in Sefer Yetzirah, “Seven ‘stones’ (i.e., letters) build five thousand and forty ‘houses’ (i.e., words);

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּסֵפֶר יְצִירָה: "שִׁבְעָה אֲבָנִים בּוֹנוֹת חֲמֵשֶׁת אֲלָפִים וְאַרְבָּעִים בָּתִּים,

from here onward—i.e., from the sum of the factorial of eight and onward—go ahead and calculate that which the mouth is unable to express….’’29

מִכָּאן וְאֵילַךְ צֵא וַחֲשׁוֹב מַה שֶּׁאֵין הַפֶּה יָכוֹל לְדַבֵּר כוּ'".

In this way, the letters of Divine speech may be multiplied infinitely by various permutations and combinations, thus giving rise to a correspondingly infinite range of created beings.

But if the distinctions between all these beings lie merely in the ways in which their respective letters are combined, why are there also many and varying qualitative levels, “one surpassing the other”? This is the question that the Alter Rebbe now proceeds to address.

Though among the rungs and levels of the angels and souls there are so many distinct kinds of qualitative as well as quantitative levels and rungs ad infinitum,

וַהֲגַם שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּמַעֲלוֹת וּמַדְרֵיגוֹת הַמַּלְאָכִים וּנְשָׁמוֹת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה מִינֵי מַעֲלוֹת וּמַדְרֵיגוֹת חֲלוּקוֹת לְאֵין קֵץ,

one surpassing the other,

גָּבוֹהַּ עַל גָּבוֹהַּ –

[these variations of levels exist because] they all come into being according to permutations in the various letter-combinations and letter-substitutions of alef-tav, beit-shin, and so on30 (of the twenty-two letters which themselves come into being according to permutations in the various letter-combinations and letter-substitutions of alef-tav, beit-shin [and so on]),31

הִנֵּה הַכֹּל נִמְשָׁךְ לְפִי חִילּוּפֵי הַצֵּירוּפִים וְהַתְּמוּרוֹת בְּאַ"תּ בַּ"שׁ כוּ'

(32as explained in ch. 12 [of Shaar Hayichud VehaEmunah]).33

(וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּפֶרֶק י"ב).

Now, although there exists such a teeming superabundance of distinct and varying levels of created beings:

In a general way, they all possess wisdom and knowledge, and they know their Creator,

אַךְ דֶּרֶךְ כְּלָל, הִנֵּה כּוּלָּם בַּעֲלֵי חָכְמָה וָדַעַת, וְיוֹדְעִים אֶת בּוֹרְאָם,

because their life-force stems from the inwardness of the letters which issue from the supreme chochmah, as mentioned above.

מִפְּנֵי הֱיוֹת חַיּוּתָם מִפְּנִימִיּוּת הָאוֹתִיּוֹת הַנִּמְשָׁכוֹת מִבְּחִינַת חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה, וְכַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

We may therefore truly say that the beings encompassed by the general term of [creatures of] the World to Come were all created by the letter yud, for their vitality stems from the inwardness and radiance of the letters of Divine speech that derive from the yud of the Four-Letter Name of G-d.

This lowly world, however, with the life-force that is found within it,

אַךְ הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה הַשָּׁפָל, עִם הַחַיּוּת שֶׁבְּתוֹכוֹ,

is too small to contain and endure the light and life-force that proceed from the “form” and “inwardness” of the letters;

קָטָן מֵהָכִיל וְלִסְבּוֹל אוֹר וְחַיּוּת מִבְּחִינַת צוּרַת הָאוֹתִיּוֹת וּפְנִימִיּוּתָן,

[this lowly world is too small for this light and life-force to be able] to radiate and diffuse in it without any garment or concealment

לְהָאִיר וּלְהַשְׁפִּיעַ בּוֹ בְּלִי לְבוּשׁ וְהֶסְתֵּר

as they radiate and diffuse to the souls and angels, which receive the radiance from the inwardness of the letters without the garment and concealment of the “matter” and “body” of the letters which consist of the “breath.”34

כְּמוֹ שֶׁמְּאִירוֹת וּמַשְׁפִּיעוֹת לִנְשָׁמוֹת וּמַלְאָכִים,

Instead, the radiance and diffusion comes and flows to this world from the “matter,” “body,” or “externality” of the letters.

רַק הַהֶאָרָה וְהַהַשְׁפָּעָה בָּאָה וְנִשְׁפָּע לָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה מִבְּחִינַת חוֹמֶר וְגוּף הָאוֹתִיּוֹת וְחִיצוֹנִיוּתָם,

This is called “breath,” just as the “body” or external aspect of the letters of man’s speech derives from physical breath,

שֶׁהוּא בְּחִינַת הַהֶבֶל,

and it divides into the seven “breaths” of [the second verse of] Ecclesiastes,35 on which the world stands; as taught in the holy Zohar, “The world exists only by virtue of the [seven] ‘breaths’ uttered by King Solomon.”36

הַמִּתְחַלֵּק לְז' הֲבָלִים שֶׁבְּקֹהֶלֶת שֶׁעֲלֵיהֶם הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֵד, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ.

This is “the utterance that issues forth from G-d’s mouth,” i.e., this is the letter hey, which is vested in this world and all its hosts to animate them;

וְהוּא "מוֹצָא פִי ה'" הַמִּתְלַבֵּשׁ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְכָל צְבָאָיו לְהַחֲיוֹתָם,

in [this utterance] is vested the “form” of the letters of speech and thought,

וּבְתוֹכוֹ מְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בְּחִינַת צוּרַת אוֹתִיּוֹת הַדִּבּוּר וְהַמַּחֲשָׁבָה,

emanating from His holy attributes, and His will and wisdom, and so on,

מִמִּדּוֹתָיו הַקְּדוֹשׁוֹת וּרְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ וְכוּ',

This is similar to the letters (i.e., the potential and as yet inarticulate components) of a man’s speech or thought, which attain a state of revealed expression through his emotions: since, for example, he loves and desires something, he thinks and speaks about it. The emotions themselves, however, derive from his will and mind. The same is true Above: the letters of speech and thought are revealed by the Divine attributes and emanate from them, though ultimately they derive from G-d’s will and wisdom.

which are utterly incorporated in the blessed Ein Sof.

הַמְיוּחָדוֹת בְּאֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּתַכְלִית

Thus, the radiance emanating from the “form” of the letters—a radiance that emanates from G-d’s attributes, wisdom, and will—is merely found בְּתוֹכוֹ, within the internality of the Divine utterance that creates and vitalizes this world; it is not manifest. That which serves as the source of the creation and vitality of this world is the externality or “body” of the letters, the “breath” of Divine speech.

(37This is what Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory, stated—that the external aspects of the vessels of [the sefirah of] malchut of [the World of] Atzilut, [these external aspects being] alluded to by the [lower] hey of the Four-Letter Name of G-d, descended and became the soul for the World of Asiyah.38)

(וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמַר הָאֲרִ"י זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה, שֶׁבְּחִינַת חִיצוֹנִיּוּת הַכֵּלִים דְּמַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת, הַמְרוּמָּזוֹת בְּה' שֶׁל שֵׁם הַוָיָ' בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, הֵם יָרְדוּ וְנַעֲשׂוּ נְשָׁמָה לְעוֹלַם הָעֲשִׂיָּה).

It is likewise stated in the Tikkunim that the yud is in [the World of] Atzilut…, [the upper hey in the World of Beriah, the vav in the World of Yetzirah,] and the lower hey nests in [the World of] Asiyah.39

וְכֵן כָּתוּב בַּתִּקּוּנִים שֶׁהַיּוּ"ד הוּא בַּאֲצִילוּת כוּ', וְה' תַּתָּאָה מְקַנֶּנֶת בַּעֲשִׂיָּה:

These four letters of the Divine Name Havayah are the aspect of G-dliness that is revealed within the Four Worlds,40 as follows:

In the World of Atzilut, the sefirah of chochmah (the yud of the Divine Name) is manifest. Chochmah signifies the highest form of self-nullification, the awareness that “He is One Alone, and apart from Him, there is nothing,” as explained in the Note to Part I, ch. 35. This sefirah permeates the entire World of Atzilut so that whatever exists at that state of being experiences this degree of self-nullification before G-d.

The upper hey of the Divine Name, the sefirah of binah (“comprehension”), illuminates the World of Beriah. Hence, all the inhabitants of this world, both souls and angels, are characterized by a high degree of perception of Divinity.

The World of Yetzirah is illumined by the letter vav of the Divine Name, representing the six middot, the divine emotive attributes. The created beings of this world therefore serve G-d with their spiritual emotions, with ecstatic love and fear.

The World of Asiyah is animated by the lower hey of the Tetragrammaton, the sefirah of malchut. This is the world of action, the level of active Divine service that is motivated by an acceptance of the yoke of the heavenly kingdom.

However, this refers only to the soul of the World of Asiyah that emanates from the combinations of the letters of Divine speech at their innermost dimension. This level is clothed and concealed within the “matter” or “body” of the letters, the “breath.” The actual creation and animation of the World of Asiyah derives only from the externality of Divine speech, i.e., from the “breath.” It is for this reason that this world is physical and corporeal.