Since the Divine activating force responsible for the existence of created things must continuously be present within them, they are completely nullified in their source. This means, as the Alter Rebbe explained in the previous chapter, that in reality, they do not “exist.”

Why, then, do we nevertheless perceive created beings as enjoying a tangible “existence”? Only because we are unable to see or comprehend the Divine utterance that is contained within each created thing and that calls it into being.

The Alter Rebbe illustrated this by considering the sun’s rays. When they are not within their source, the sun, but diffused throughout the expanse of the universe, they are perceived as having independent existence. However, when they are contained within the sun-globe, they clearly have no such “existence” at all.

The following question therefore arose: Since created beings, unlike the sun’s rays, must constantly have their source within them, why do we not actually see how they are completely nullified in their source?

In order to answer this question, the Alter Rebbe wrote that a certain preface would be necessary—and hence this, the fourth chapter, now elaborates on G-d’s capacity for tzimtzum, or contraction.

It is written, “For a sun and a shield is Havayah Elokim.”1

כִּי הִנֵּה כְּתִיב: "כִּי שֶׁמֶשׁ וּמָגֵן ה' אֱלֹהִים",

Just as the sun gives forth illumination, so, too, does the Four-Letter Divine Name Havayah provide us with spiritual illumination. Likewise, just as the sun’s shield protects us from the intensity of its rays, so, too, does G-d shield us with the Divine Name Elokim.

“Shield” refers specifically to [that shield which is] a covering for the sun

פֵּירוּשׁ, "מָגֵן" – הוּא נַרְתֵּק לַשֶּׁמֶשׁ,

to protect creatures so that they should be able to bear it (i.e., the sun’s heat).

לְהָגֵן שֶׁיּוּכְלוּ הַבְּרִיּוֹת לְסָבְלוֹ,

As our Sages, of blessed memory, have said, “In time to come (i.e., in the Messianic Era), the Holy One, blessed be He, will take out the sun from its sheath; the wicked will be punished by it…,”2 as they will be unable to bear the intensity of the sun. The passage goes on to say that the righteous will not only be able to tolerate it; they will actually be healed by it.

כְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "לֶעָתִיד לָבֹא הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מוֹצִיא חַמָּה מִנַּרְתֵּקָהּ, רְשָׁעִים נִידּוֹנִין בָּהּ כוּ'".

Now, just as the covering shields the sun, protecting creatures from the intensity of its rays so that benefit may be derived from it,

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁהַנַּרְתֵּק מֵגִין בְּעַד הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ,

so does the Name Elokim shield the Name Havayah, blessed be He, enabling the created universe to absorb the Divine illumination that emanates from it.

כָּךְ שֵׁם "אֱלֹהִים" מֵגִין לְשֵׁם הֲוָיָ"ה בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

Our opening verse—“For a sun and a shield is Havayah Elokim”—thus means that the Name Havayah illumines like the sun while the Name Elokim screens its illumination, like the sheath of the sun, enabling its light to be received.

The meaning of the Name Havayah is “that which brings everything into existence ex nihilo.”

דְּשֵׁם הֲוָיָ"ה, פֵּירוּשׁוֹ – שֶׁמְּהַוֶּה אֶת הַכֹּל מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ,

The Rebbe notes: “This refers to the [last three letters hey, vav, and hey of this Name, which form the word hoveh, the root of the verb which means ‘[to bring into] being.’”

The letter yud, prefixed to the stem הֹוֶה, modifies the verb, indicating that the action is present and continuous,

וְהַיּוּ"ד מְשַׁמֶּשֶׁת עַל הַפְּעוּלָּה שֶׁהִיא בִּלְשׁוֹן הֹוֶה וְתָמִיד,

as Rashi comments on the verse, “In this manner was Job (lyov) accustomed to do (ya’aseh) all the days.”3

כִּדְפֵירֵשׁ רַשִׁ"י עַל פָּסוּק: "כָּכָה יַעֲשֶׂה אִיּוֹב כָּל הַיָּמִים",

Just as here, the prefix of the letter yud indicates an ongoing process, so, too, does the initial yud of the Name Havayah indicate that G-d creates everything ex nihilo, continuously.

This [action] is the life-force which flows at every single instant into all things created, from “that which proceeds from the mouth of G-d” and “His breath,” and brings them into existence ex nihilo at every moment.

וְהַיְינוּ – הַחַיּוּת הַנִּשְׁפָּע בְּכָל רֶגַע מַמָּשׁ בְּכָל הַבְּרוּאִים מִמּוֹצָא פִי ה' וְרוּחוֹ, וּמְהַוֶּה אוֹתָם מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ בְּכָל רֶגַע,

For the fact that they were created during the Six Days of Creation is not sufficient for their continued existence, as explained above; they must continuously be recreated.

כִּי לֹא דַי לָהֶם בְּמַה שֶּׁנִּבְרְאוּ בְּשֵׁשֶׁת יְמֵי בְרֵאשִׁית לִהְיוֹת קַיָּימִים בָּזֶה, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר לְעֵיל.

It is the “sun” of Havayah whose illumination continuously brings creation into being. However, were this illumination to be revealed within created beings, they would be aware of their complete nullification within their source, and we would not see before us created beings. For as explained earlier, when the activating force is perceived, the created being is “nonexistent.”

This is why the “shield” of Elokim is necessary—in order to conceal from created beings the Divine illumination of Havayah that is within them and that is responsible for their existence. Only then can they perceive themselves as existing independently of their life-force. And this perception in turn makes it possible for created beings to consider and feel themselves to be tangibly existing, as shall be explained.

In the enumeration of the praises of the Holy One, blessed be He, it is written,4 Hagadol (“the Great”), Hagibor (“the Mighty”), and so on.

וְהִנֵּה, בְּסִידּוּר שְׁבָחָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא כְּתִיב: "הַגָּדוֹל הַגִּבּוֹר כוּ'",

“Hagadol” refers to the attribute of chesed (“kindness”) and to the spreading forth of the life-force into all the worlds and created things, without end or limit,

וּפֵירוּשׁ "הַגָּדוֹל" – הִיא מִדַּת חֶסֶד וְהִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת הַחַיּוּת בְּכָל הָעוֹלָמוֹת וּבְרוּאִים לְאֵין קֵץ וְתַכְלִית,

so that they shall be created ex nihilo and exist through gratuitous kindness, for G-d maintains all creatures, whether they are worthy of His kindness or not.

לִהְיוֹת בְּרוּאִים מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ וְקַיָּימִים בְּחֶסֶד חִנָּם,

[The attribute of chesed] is called Gedulah (“greatness”), for it derives from the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He, from Himself in all His glory,

וְנִקְרֵאת "גְּדוּלָּה", כִּי בָּאָה מִגְּדוּלָּתוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בִּכְבוֹדוֹ וּבְעַצְמוֹ,

for “G-d is great…and His greatness is unsearchable,”5 inasmuch as it is infinite,

"כִּי גָדוֹל ה' וְלִגְדוּלָּתוֹ אֵין חֵקֶר",

and therefore, He also causes life-force and existence ex nihilo to issue forth for an unlimited number of worlds and creatures,

וְלָכֵן מַשְׁפִּיעַ גַּם כֵּן חַיּוּת וְהִתְהַוּוּת מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ לְעוֹלָמוֹת וּבְרוּאִים אֵין קֵץ,

for “it is the nature of the benevolent to do good.”6

שֶׁטֶּבַע הַטּוֹב לְהֵטִיב.

G-d’s benevolence thus dictates that there be an infinite number of worlds and creatures that will benefit from His beneficence.