By contrast, the souls of the angels that emerged by the zivug neshikin (lit., “the union of kissing”), i.e., by the more ethereal manner of union of the sefirot, whence spiritual entities emanate such as the souls of angels,

וְכֵן נִשְׁמוֹת הָאָדָם שֶׁיָּצְאוּ מִזִּיוּוּג דְּזָ"א וְנוּקְבָא דַּאֲצִילוּת

and also the souls of man that emerged by the union of za and nukva28 of Atzilutthe union of z’eyr anpin and malchut of Atzilut,

קוֹדֶם שֶׁיָּרְדוּ לִבְרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה

This form of union is termed zivug gufani (lit., “a ‘physical’ union”), relative to zivug neshikin. From this form of union there derives the birth of souls that become enclothed in actual physical bodies. In the state in which they exist in Atzilut, however, these souls—

before their descent to Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah,

אֵינָן בִּכְלַל "יֵשׁ" וְדָבָר נִפְרָד בִּפְנֵי עַצְמָן,

are not counted as created substantiality (yesh) and as [instances of] a distinct and independent entity.

אֶלָּא הֵן מֵעֵין בְּחִינַת אֱלֹקוּת בְּצִמְצוּם עָצוּם,

Rather, they resemble the category of G-dliness in intense contraction, to the point of being on the level of a neshamah.

וּכְעֵין הַכֵּלִים דְּי' סְפִירוֹת דַּאֲצִילוּת, שֶׁהֵן בִּבְחִינַת גְּבוּל

They are like the kelim of the ten sefirot of Atzilut, which (though they are Divinity) are by nature finite,

עַל־יְדֵי צִמְצוּם אוֹר הָאֵין־סוֹף, הוּא הַ"קַּו" הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בְּנֶפֶשׁ־רוּחַ־נְשָׁמָה שֶׁלָּהֶם,

on account of the contraction of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, viz., the kav that is vested in their nefesh-ruach-neshamah,

וּכְמוֹ צִמְצוּם הָרִאשׁוֹן לִהְיוֹת חָלָל וְכוּ'

The restricted diffusion of the kav that descends into the kelim lacks the infinite degree of Ein Sof illumination that constitutes the essence of the kav. It is this contraction that makes it possible for the kelim of the sefirot to exist in a mode of limitation, even though their union with the orot and their nullification to the orot lends them the characteristics of Divinity, as mentioned above. And in a similar state are the souls of Atzilut as still found within Atzilut.

However, with regard to the contraction of the kav that is vested within them, the Alter Rebbe goes on to state that this is not merely a tzimtzum, a contraction involving a diminishment of the G-dly illumination. Rather—

just like the original tzimtzum that occurred in the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, a tzimtzum of such intensity that it was able to bring about a void—a “space”for the existence of worlds, and so on.

(וְאַף גַּם לְאַחַר שֶׁיָּרְדוּ הַנֶּפֶשׁ־רוּחַ־נְשָׁמָה דַּאֲצִילוּת לָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה לַצַּדִּיקִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁלֹּא נִשְׁתַּנָּה מַהוּתָן לִהְיוֹת דָּבָר נִפְרָד מֵאֱלֹקוּת,

This original tzimtzum, unlike all subsequent tzimtzumim, involved much more than a mere diminishment of the intensity of Divine illumination: it involved the removal of the light. The tzimtzum of the kav which enables it to be vested within the nefesh-ruach-neshamah of the sefirot is similar to this original tzimtzum.

What has been said above refers to souls of Atzilut as they still find themselves within Atzilut, before they are vested within bodies. While they are in that lofty world, they share the characteristics of Divinity and are not detached entities.

The Alter Rebbe now says that even after their descent into this lowly world, the souls of the early tzaddikim did not undergo a change: they did not become sundered from G-dliness.

(29And even after the nefesh-ruach-neshamah of Atzilut descended to this world to the first tzaddikim, it is possible that their essence did not change to become entities distinct from Divinity: they remained on the same level as they had been while still in Atzilut.

וְלָכֵן הָיוּ מִסְתַּלְּקוֹת כְּשֶׁרָצוּ לַחֲטוֹא בְּטֶרֶם יֶחֶטְאוּ.

That is why they withdraw [from their bodies] (i.e., they died) when they sought to sin before they sinned.

וְקָרוֹב לוֹמַר, שֶׁגַּם הָאֲלָפִים וְרִבְבוֹת עָלְמִין דְּיָתְבִין בְּ"גוּלְגַּלְתָּא" דַּ"אֲרִיךְ אַנְפִּין" וּ"זְעֵיר אַנְפִּין" –

This follows the teaching in Tikkunei Zohar30 that the soul-level of Atzilut departs from the body before the person sins. In this spirit, too, that source interprets the verse, “Your sins have separated you from your G-d”31: Sins cause a cleavage between a soul and its G-dliness (i.e., the soul’s level of Atzilut, which is an aspect of G-dliness), for sin causes the soul-level that derives from Atzilut to withdraw.

It is reasonable to assume that also32 the thousands and myriads of worlds that are in the gulgalta of arich anpin and z’eyr anpin, as stated in the Kabbalah,33

אֵינָן "עָלְמִין" מַמָּשׁ כְּעֵין הַהֵיכָלוֹת דַּאֲצִילוּת וּבְחִינַת "יֵשׁ",

are not really worlds, like the Heichalot of Atzilut, and a form of yesh,

אֶלָּא כְּעֵין נִשְׁמוֹת הַמַּלְאָכִים שֶׁיָּצְאוּ מִ"זִּיוּוּג הַנְּשִׁיקִין",

but are like the souls of the angels that emerged from the zivug neshikin, which, as mentioned earlier, are not in the category of yesh as are the Heichalot or bodies of the angels,

וְנִקְרְאוּ "עָלְמִין" לְגַבֵּי בְּחִינַת הַ"גּוּלְגַּלְתָּא" וְ"דִיקְנָא").

and are called “worlds” relative to the rank of the gulgalta and dikna.)

אַךְ אֵינָן אֱלֹקוּת מַמָּשׁ לִבְרוֹא יֵשׁ מֵאַיִן,

They (the angels and souls of Atzilut) are not, however, actual Divinity, and as such able to create substantiality ex nihilo34

מֵאַחַר שֶׁכְּבָר יָצְאוּ וְנִפְרְדוּ מֵהַכֵּלִים דְּי' סְפִירוֹת, שֶׁבָּהֶן מְלוּבָּשׁ הַ"קַּו" מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף,

The ability to create ex nihilo is exclusive to the Ein Sof. Since the kelim of the sefirot of Atzilut are utterly united with the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, they are able to serve as conduits for the creation of yesh from ayin. The angels and souls of Atzilut, however, are not actual Divinity and are thus unable to serve in this way—

because they already emerged and became separated from the kelim of the ten sefirot of Atzilut within which the kav of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light is vested,

שֶׁהָאוֹר הוּא כְּעֵין הַמָּאוֹר, הוּא מַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ שֶׁל הַמַּאֲצִיל בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

for the light is like its source, the luminary, i.e., the very core and Essence of the blessed Emanator,

שֶׁמְּצִיאוּתוֹ הוּא מֵעַצְמוּתוֹ, וְאֵינוֹ עָלוּל מֵאֵיזֶה עִילָּה שֶׁקָּדְמָה לוֹ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

Whose Being is of His Essence—His is an essential form of being; He is not, heaven forfend, brought into being by some other ilah (cause) preceding Himself.

וְלָכֵן הוּא לְבַדּוֹ בְּכֹחוֹ וִיכָלְתּוֹ לִבְרוֹא יֵשׁ מֵאַיִן וָאֶפֶס הַמּוּחְלָט מַמָּשׁ,

An antecedent state of nonexistence could not possibly apply to G-d’s existence, which is an essential form of existence.

It is therefore in His power and ability alone to create something (yesh) out of absolute naught (ayin) and nothingness,

בְּלִי שׁוּם עִילָּה וְסִיבָּה אַחֶרֶת קוֹדֶמֶת לַיֵּשׁ הַזֶּה.

G-d is able to create substance (yesh) not only from the degree of ayin that merely lacks existence but from “absolute naught and nothingness”—from an ayin that is the very antithesis of yesh, of substantial existence.

without this yesh having any other cause and reason preceding it.

וּכְדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הַיֵּשׁ הַזֶּה הַנִּבְרָא בְּכֹחַ הָאֵין־סוֹף בַּעַל גְּבוּל וּמִדָּה – נִתְלַבֵּשׁ אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בְּכֵלִים דְּי' סְפִירוֹת דַּאֲצִילוּת,

The G-dly life-force, the ayin, that creates the yesh is the exact opposite of the yesh that it creates. As such, it is not a cause or reason that relates to or serves as a precursor of the yesh that is created by it; as ayin, it is the very antithesis of yesh.

This is why creation can only result from the kelim of the sefirot of Atzilut within which is vested the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, for they are actual Divinity. However, as pointed out above, angels and souls of Atzilut that have already emerged and become separated from the kelim cannot possibly act as conduits for the creation of yesh from ayin, inasmuch as they themselves are not actual Divinity.

The Alter Rebbe now anticipates the following question:

Since only the Ein Sof can create yesh from ayin, what need is there for the kelim of the sefirot?

He goes on to answer that the kelim “enable” the Ein Sof to create a finite yesh: since the Ein Sof is infinite, the beings that result from it would also be limitless—if not for the kelim of the ten sefirot of Atzilut.

In order that this yesh, created by the [infinite] power of the Ein Sof, should have a limit and measure, the [infinite] Ein Sof-light was vested in the kelim of the ten sefirot of Atzilutfor the kelim are limited, inasmuch as they divide into the distinct categories of chochmah, chesed, and the like,

וּמִתְיַיחֵד בְּתוֹכָן בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד, עַד דְּ"אִיהוּ וְגַרְמוֹהִי חַד",

and it becomes united within them so absolutely that “He (the Ein Sof-light) and His causations (the kelim of the sefirot) are One,”

לִבְרוֹא בָּהֶן וְעַל יָדָן בְּרוּאִים בַּעֲלֵי גְבוּל וְתַכְלִית,

so that [He can] create with and through them creatures that have limitation and finitude.

וּבִפְרָט עַל־יְדֵי הִתְלַבְּשׁוּתָן בִּבְרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה.

This is especially the case through their investment (i.e., the investment of the kelim of Atzilut) in Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, for this adds immeasurably to the finitude and corporeality of the resultant created beings.