What can we say about G‑d Himself? Maimonides opens his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah (Restatement of the Torah), with the following words: “The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of all wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Existence, who brings into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between, came into being only from the truth of His Existence."

Hassidism calls this primary existence Atzmut, from the word etzem, meaning “essence.” The Essence of G‑d is totally independent of any other existence. All other existence depends on G‑d, but He does not need or depend on any other existence. He may therefore be defined as the true existence.

To explain: Any being only exists because G‑d wills it to exist and constantly allows Divine creative energy to flow into that being. If G‑d were to cease generating even for an instant that creative energy, the being would cease to exist. That creation is therefore totally dependent on G‑d for its existence, whereas G‑d’s existence is Atzmut and is not derived from any other existence that preceded Him. He has no beginning and no end. He was, is, and will always be.

It is impossible to describe the essence of G‑d. G‑d is not corporeal, and therefore physical concepts and emotional temperaments do not apply to Him. There is nothing whatsoever that resembles Him. It is a principle of our faith that G‑d is One, a belief that not only means a singular being, but also that G‑d is everything and everywhere.

One can not talk of Atzmut using terms of "revelation" or "concealment," for G‑d’s essence is neither revealed nor concealed. In the words of Tikkunei Zohar, “You are exalted above all the exalted ones, hidden from all the hidden ones; no thought can grasp You at all.” Because no one can comprehend Atzmut, no descriptive terms may be applied.

We do, however, refer to G‑d as the Creator. This does not limit G‑d to the fact that He creates and sustains all the worlds, though the creation does reflect His essence. Only He has the power and ability to create something out of absolute nothingness, without this creation having any other cause preceding it. As we shall later explain in detail, the very essence of G‑d is manifest specifically in this physical world. Furthermore, the true infinite nature of G‑d is also manifest in the physical world by creating diversity without limit.

The Kabbalah examines closely the creative process, and maps out all the stages of this creative process, calling it the Seder Hishtalshlut—the “chain order of creation.” Using the word chain indicates that there are numerous links, each with purpose, importance, and a connection to the other. The Hebrew word for “world” is Olam, which etymologically is related to the word Helem (concealment). In the Seder Hishtalshlut there are higher worlds and lower worlds. In the higher, ethereal worlds, G‑d’s presence is more manifest and less concealed, and the beings in those worlds bask constantly in the Light of the Or Ein Sof (the Infinite Light). In the lower worlds, which are dominated by the physical, G‑dliness is more concealed.

The physical world in which we live is called the Olam Hatachton, meaning the “lowest of all worlds,” for it is the world of the greatest concealment of G‑d’s presence. It is important to know, however, that all of the worlds are operating within an admixture of spiritual and physical boundaries. Nowhere does chaos reign.