According to Rambam’s approach, it is possible to understand why the Torah refers to G‑d as wise and as kind, for He is identified with His attributes. However, according to Maharal, it is difficult to understand the Torah’s use of such descriptions, for G‑d transcends all definition.

In resolution: Maharal explains that for G‑d, knowledge is merely an activity. Neither it, nor any of G‑d’s attributes, are identified with G‑d as He is in His Essential state. The Sefiros are like tools through which G‑d works, but they are not identified with Him.

The Tzemach Tzedek questions Maharal’s resolution, because if knowledge is merely a tool through which G‑d knows, that would mean He would know with knowledge that is outside of Him. Thus, there would be other entities – i.e., knowledge and other attributes – that exist independent of G‑d.

The Tzemach Tzedek resolves that difficulty by elaborating upon the way in which G‑d interacts with the Sefiros and the union between the oros (lights) and the keilim (vessels). In doing so, he explains that Rambam’s statement that G‑d is “the Knower, the Knowledge, and the Object of Knowledge” is an appropriate description of the union between G‑d and the Sefiros of Atzilus.


– IV –

אַךְ לְפִי זֶה צָרִיךְ לְהָבִין בְּעִנְיַן הַתֹּאָרִים שֶׁבָּאוּ בוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ בַּתּוֹרָה

Nevertheless, according to the above, explanation is required with regard to the descriptions of G‑d found in the Torah

וְכִנּוּ לוֹ חַזַ"ל גַּם כֵּן

and the titles our Sages ascribed to Him;

כְּגוֹן חָכָם וְחָסִיד כוּ'

e.g., wise, generous, etc.

As explained in sec. 3, Rambam had offered a resolution of the question of how the Torah’s identification of G‑d with particular attributes is not a contradiction to the principle of His Oneness. Maharal refuted Rambam’s resolution, stating that G‑d is simple and transcendent, with no definition whatsoever. Seemingly, it would follow that He could not be described as wise. That is not an appropriate term to refer to G‑d, since wisdom is an entity with a specific definition, and He is above all definitions. Accordingly, it is necessary to offer a different explanation of the original question.

הִנֵּה לְתָרֵץ זֶה אָמַר הַגָּאוֹן הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל עוֹד שָׁם וְזֶה לְשׁוֹנוֹ

To resolve this difficulty, in Gevuros HaShem, the Gaon Maharal continues to explain as follows:

וּמִזֶּה בְּעַצְמוֹ שֶׁהוּא פָּשׁוּט כוּ'

From the very fact that He is utterly simple…

עַד כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר (מֻעְתָּק לְעֵיל פֶּרֶק ג')

as will be explained (Maharal’s explanation is quoted above in sec. III),

וְאִם לֹא הָיָה בִּשְׁבִיל שֶׁיֻּגְדַּר בְּדָבָר מְיֻחָד

we are compelled to say that He can also express Himself through wisdom or creation, for if He would not know everything or there would be an entity that did not come into existence from Him,1 i.e., that He would not be able to define Himself in a specific way,

Were He not able to do so, if so, this quality would be beyond Him, outside His range, as it were.

וְזֶה אֵינוֹ כִּי לֹא יֻגְדַּר

This cannot be true, because He cannot be limited at all.

Just as it cannot be said that He is defined as being a particular quality, for that would limit Him, so too, saying He does not possess a particular quality would also put a limit on Him. There would be a boundary that would constrict Him, as it were. Thus, He cannot be defined by any positive definition (“He is...”), nor can He be defined by any negative definition (“He is not....”). Hence, we are forced to say He includes everything.2

וְדָבָר זֶה בָּרוּר

This matter is clear.

וְהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ יוֹדֵעַ הַכֹּל בְּחָכְמָתוֹ וּפוֹעֵל הַכֹּל בְּכֹחוֹ

He knows everything with His wisdom and brings about everything with His power.

כִּי אֵין חִלּוּק בֵּין הַהַשָּׂגָה שֶׁהוּא מַשִּׂיג הַנִּמְצָאִים

And there is no difference between the understanding with which He comprehends all existence

אוֹ מַה שֶּׁהוּא פּוֹעֵל שְׁאָר פְּעֻלּוֹת

and the other activities He performs.

Maharal is thus differing with Rambam, for Rambam distinguishes between knowledge – which he identifies with G‑d – and other activities. Maharal is explaining that our Sages did not identify G‑d with any attribute. By describing Him as wise, they were merely implying that He understands the world with His wisdom.

כִּי הַהַשָּׂגָה גַם כֵּן פּוֹעֵל

For understanding is also an activity

וְיָבֹא בִּלְשׁוֹן פּוֹעֵל שֶׁיֹּאמַר וַיֵּדַע אֱלֹקִים

and is expressed as an active verb, as it is said: “And G‑d knew,”

כְּמוֹ שֶׁיֹּאמַר וַיְדַבֵּר אֱלֹקִים וְכוּ'

just as it is said, “and G‑d spoke.”…

וְכַאֲשֶׁר נֹאמַר שֶׁאֵין הַיְדִיעָה עַצְמוּתוֹ

Once we state that His Essence is not knowledge,

שׁוּב לֹא יִקְשֶׁה לְךָ כְּלָל

no problem at all should not arise from the fact

כִּי תִּהְיֶה יְדִיעָתוֹ מִשְׁתַּנֶּה

that His knowledge changes, He gains new information, as it were.

וְיִהְיֶה עַצְמוּתוֹ מִשְׁתַּנֶּה

There is no reason to think that His Essence would change,

כִּי אֵין עַצְמוּתוֹ הַיְדִיעָה

for His Essence is not knowledge.

רַק הוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ מְתֹאָר שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ כֹּל

He is merely described as all-knowing.

וְזֶהוּ דֶּרֶךְ הַחַיִּים שֶׁרָאוּי לְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל לָדַעַת וּלְהַאֲמִין

This is the path of life for the entire Jewish people to know and believe.

עַד כַּאן לְשׁוֹנוֹ

This concludes his words.

וְכֵן הֵבִיא תַּלְמִידוֹ הַתּוֹסְפוֹת יוֹם טוֹב מִשְּׁמוֹ

Similar concepts are quoted in Maharal’s name by his disciple, the author of the Tosfos Yom Tov,

פֶּרֶק ה' דְּאָבוֹת מִשְׁנָה ו' וְזֶה לְשׁוֹנוֹ

in his gloss to Avos,ch. 5, mishnah 6, saying:

וְרַבֵּנוּ בְּדֶרֶךְ חַיִּים

In his text Derech Chayim,3 our master

הִפְלִיא עֵצָה הִגְדִּיל תּוּשִׁיָּה

gave wondrous counsel that brought about great salvation4

לְהָסִיר זוֹ הַשְּׁאֵלָה

by resolving this question

(רוֹצֶה לוֹמַר עִנְיַן שִׁנּוּי רָצוֹן לְמַעְלָה

(i.e., that there could be a change of will Above

שֶׁאַף עַל פִּי כֵן אֵינוֹ שִׁנּוּי בְּעַצְמוּתוֹ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם)

and, nevertheless, it would not involve a change in His Essence, Heaven forbid),

אָמַר כִּי הַיְדִיעָה וְהַיְכֹלֶת הַכֹּל מִפְעֲלוֹתָיו

saying that His knowledge and His potential for activity are all part of His actions,

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב וַיֵּדַע אֱלֹקִים

as it says: “And G‑d knew,”

הוּא לְשׁוֹן פְּעֻלָּה

i.e., using knowledge as a verb.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁשְּׁאָר פְּעֻלּוֹת אֵין מְחַיְּבִים בּוֹ שִׁנּוּי

And just as His other acts do not logically obligate Him to have undergone any change,

In a certain sense, performing an activity does not involve a change in the person who performed it. As soon as he ceases the activity, he returns to his previous state. All that was necessary is that for a given amount of time, he had to invest himself in the activity. His character, who he is as a person, is fundamentally unaffected by the performance of the activity.

However, in a more absolute sense, this is not an appropriate analogy. For while performing the activity and even before (for preparation is necessary), a human being is involved, and afterwards, the activity he performed does bring about a change within him. Nevertheless, this is because man is acting in a world that exists outside of himself. Hence, every interaction with that external environment involves change.

By contrast, nothing exists outside of G‑d. Hence, the activities He performs – His knowledge, His creation, and His maintaining existence – do not cause Him to change.

וְלֹא רִבּוּי

nor do they bring about multiplicity within Him,

כָּךְ גַּם אֵלּוּ

so too, these, i.e., will and knowledge, do not bring about change or multiplicity.

וְנִסְמַךְ בְּזֶה בְּחָכְמַת הַקַּבַּלָּה עַיֵּן שָׁם

For these explanations, Maharal relied on the knowledge of Kabbalah. Consult that text.

עַד כַּאן לְשׁוֹנוֹ׃

This concludes his words.

בֵּאוּר דִּבְרֵיהֶם

The words of Maharal and his disciple can be explained as follows:

כִּי הֵם חוֹלְקִים עַל הָרַמְבַּ"ם וְסִיעָתוֹ

They differ with Rambam and his followers

בְּמַה שֶּׁכָּתַב שֶׁהַיְדִיעָה הִיא עַצְמוּתוֹ

with regard to Rambam’s identification of knowledge with G‑d’s Essence,

וְהוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ וְהוּא הַיָּדוּעַ וְהוּא הַדֵּעָה עַצְמָהּ כוּ'

as Rambam says: “He is the Knower, He is the Object of Knowledge, and He is the Knowledge itself.”

אֶלָּא שֶׁמֵּאַחַר שֶׁכְּבָר הִתְבָּאֵר שֶׁעַצְמוּתוֹ רָם וְנִשְׂגָּב לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה מִגֶּדֶר שֵׂכֶל

Instead, Maharal explains that His Essence is elevated and exalted far above the category of intellect,

אֶלָּא הוּא הֲוָיָה פְּשׁוּטָה

and He is, rather, a simple Being

לֹא יֻגְדַּר בְּשׁוּם דָּבָר,

Who cannot be defined at all.

אִם כֵּן מַה שֶּׁהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ מַכִּיר אֲמִתּוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁהִיא

Accordingly, the fact that He recognizes His truth as it is

אֵינוֹ בִּבְחִינַת יְדִיעָה כְּלָל חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

cannot be considered knowledge at all, Heaven forbid.

אֶלָּא לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה עִלּוּי רַב כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל

Rather this recognition is far above knowledge, in a very lofty way, as explained above. G‑d’s identification with His own Being is not intellectual knowledge, but an inner self-recognition.

וְלָכֵן לֹא שַׁיָּךְ

Therefore, it is not appropriate,

וְאֵין מֵהַצֹּרֶךְ לוֹמַר עַל זֶה

nor is it necessary, to say concerning G‑d’s recognition of Himself

הוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ וְהַדֵּעָה וְכוּ'

that “He is the Knower, … and He is the Knowledge itself.”

רַק שֶׁמַּה שֶּׁהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ יוֹדֵעַ הַנִּמְצָאִים מִמֶּנּוּ עַל זֶה שַׁיָּךְ לוֹמַר גֶּדֶר מַדָּע

With regard to His knowledge of the entities that come into being from Him, it is relevant to speak of the category of knowledge.

כִּי כָּךְ בָּחַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לֵידַע הַנִּמְצָאִים בִּבְחִינַת דַּעַת

For this was G‑d’s choice: to know the entities that come into being from Him through knowledge,

וּבִידִיעָה זוֹ יִחְיוּ וְיִתְקַיְּמוּ

and through this knowledge they live and are maintained

כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ הֵם בַּעֲלֵי דֵעָה וּבִבְחִינַת גְּבוּל וְתַכְלִית

so that they will be entities that possess knowledge and are limited and defined.

G‑d did not have to create through knowledge. Nevertheless, to make a world as we know it – a world with limited and defined entities and moreover, entities that possess knowledge – He chose to bring about knowledge within His own being and through that knowledge, create our existence.

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן אִלּוּ הָיָה מֵאִיר עֲלֵיהֶם מֵאוֹרוֹ הַפָּשׁוּט

If, by contrast, He would shine to the created beings from His simple light,

הָיוּ הֵם גַּם כֵּן בִּבְחִינַת בְּלִי גְבוּל וְתַכְלִית

they would also be unlimited and undefined,

וּלְמַעְלָה גַם כֵּן מִבְּחִינַת דַּעַת וְהַשָּׂגָה,

and also above the ability to be known.

וְאִם כֵּן הַיְדִיעָה זֶה שֶׁהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ יוֹדֵעַ אוֹתָם הוּא פְּעֻלָּה,

Thus, the knowledge with which He knows them is an action, an activity performed that is distinct from His essential being.

The philosophers and the kabbalists were faced with a paradox. There are two axioms of faith that are seemingly contradictory. On one hand, as the Tzemach Tzedek has and will further explain, G‑d does not change, nor is there any multiplicity within Him. He is – simple, undefined, and unchanging.

Simultaneously, G‑d is one with all existence. Nothing exists outside of Him. Were there to be such an entity, it would also be a god, as it were.

Now, since our world is made up of different elements and undergoes changes, how can G‑d be one with such a world and yet be simple and unchanging?

These are the inner issues around which the difference of opinion between Rambam and Maharal revolves. As the Tzemach Tzedek will explain, Chassidus resolves this paradox by expounding upon the interaction between the oros, G‑d’s lights, and the keilim, the vessels in which they are enclothed.

– מַהֲדוּרָא קַמָּא –

– Mahadura Kamma5

כְּלוֹמַר כְּמוֹ שֶׁעוֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֵׂה הַיְדִיעָה עַל יְדֵי הַדַּעַת וְהַשֵּׂכֶל

I.e., like one who performs an act of knowledge through the qualities of knowledge and intellect,

שֶׁהֵם הַסְּפִירוֹת

which are Sefiros.

Similar concepts apply with regard to the Divine attributes which are identified with the other Sefiros.

וְהֵם רַק אֶצְלוֹ כְּמוֹ כְּלִי אוּמָנוּת

For Him, they are only like tools

שֶׁהָאוּמָן עוֹשֶׂה מְלָאכָה בָּהֶם

with which a craftsman performs work.

By describing the Sefiros as tools and as actions, the Tzemach Tzedek is clarifying the approach of Maharal who sees them as different from His Essence.

שֶׁאֵין הַכְּלִי מֵעֶרֶךְ עַצְמוּתוֹ

Obviously, the tool is not at all comparable to the craftsman’sessence.

כֵּן הַדַּעַת וְהַשֵּׂכֶל שֶׁהֵם מִכְּלַל הַי' סְפִירוֹת

Similarly, knowledge and intellect are among the Ten Sefiros,

הֵם כֵּלִים

they are keilim,

וְהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ פָּעַל אוֹתָם וְהִמְצִיאָם

and G‑d caused them to exist and brought them into being

כְּדֵי שֶׁעַל יָדָם יַשְׁפִּיעַ בַּנִּבְרָאִים

so that, through their medium, He could convey influence to the created beings.

שֶׁעַל יְדֵי שֶׁיֵּדַע אֶת הַנִּבְרָא בְּדַעַת זֶה יְחַיֵּהוּ מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ

For by knowing a created being through the medium of knowledge, He grants it life, bringing it into being from nothingness.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ פּוֹעֵל רִבּוּי פְּעֻלּוֹת וְנִבְרָאִים לְאֵין קֵץ

And just as He performs a multitude of other activities and creates an infinite number of entities,

כָּךְ פָּעַל אֶת הַדַּעַת וְהַשֵּׂכֶל,

so, too, he causes the existence of knowledge and intellect.

אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּזֹאת מַעֲלָתָם יְתֵרָה עַל שְׁאָר הַפְּעֻלּוֹת שֶׁנִּבְרְאוּ מִמֶּנּוּ

There is, however, an advantage to knowledge over the other entities He caused to exist and which were created from Him.

בִּהְיוֹתָם אֶצְלוֹ כְּלִי אוּמָנוּת

For knowledge and intellect are tools

שֶׁעַל יְדֵיהֶם פּוֹעֵל וּמַשְׁפִּיעַ לַנִּבְרָאִים

through which He acts and grants influence to the created beings.

G‑d interacts and works with His attributes. In contrast, the created beings themselves are brought into being from these attributes without direct connection with Him.

וְיָצָא לָנוּ מִזֶּה שֶׁרִבּוּי הַתֹּאָרִים אֵינָן מְחַיְּבוֹת רִבּוּי בְּעַצְמוּתוֹ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

From this we can conclude that the different descriptions used to refer to G‑d do not necessitate that there be multiplicity within His Essence, Heaven forbid,

מֵאַחַר שֶׁהֵם פְּעֻלּוֹת שֶׁהוּא פָּעַל אוֹתָם וְהִמְצִיאָם

since they are merely activities which He performs and brings into being,

וְלֹא שֶׁהֵם עַצְמוּתוֹ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

and they are not His Essence, Heaven forbid.

Thus, we need not say, “He is the Knower…,” as Rambam maintained, or identify G‑d with any other of His qualities.

וְכֵן יָצָא לָנוּ שֶׁשִּׁנּוּי הָרָצוֹן אֵינוֹ מְחַיֵּב שִׁנּוּי בְּעַצְמוּתוֹ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

Similarly, a change in His will does not obligate a change in His Essence, Heaven forbid,

מֵאַחַר שֶׁהָרָצוֹן הוּא פְּעֻלָּה וְלֹא עַצְמוּתוֹ כוּ',

since will is an activity and not His Essence.

And thus the concept of a change in His will – a philosophical quandary debated over the centuries – does not present a challenge to a believer, for His will is merely an activity that He performs.

אֶלָּא שֶׁדִּבְרֵיהֶם צְרִיכִים לְפָנִים וְלִפְנַי וְלִפְנִים

Nevertheless, these concepts require explanation, and indeed, extended explanation.

כִּי אִם הַיְדִיעָה הִיא כְּמוֹ כְּלִי וְעַל יָדָהּ הוּא יוֹדֵעַ

For if knowledge is merely a tool through which He knows,

אִם כֵּן יוֹדֵעַ בִּידִיעָה שֶׁחוּץ מִמֶּנּוּ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

then He would know with knowledge that is outside of Himself, Heaven forbid.

This would be a contradiction to His Oneness, for it would imply that there is something – His knowledge – apart from Him. Thus, Heaven forbid, there would be existence outside of Him.

אַךְ בֵּאוּר זֶה נִתְבָּאֵר בְּאֹרֶךְ בַּפַּרְדֵּ"ס מֵהָרְמַ"ק שַׁעַר עַצְמוּת וְכֵלִים פֶּרֶק ד'

The explanation of this concept is found at length in the Pardesby Ramak,6 Shaar Atzmus VeKeilim, ch. 4,

וְשָׁם פֶּרֶק אב"ג

and in chs. 1-3 of that source,

הֵבִיא גַם כֵּן ב' דֵעוֹת בְּזֶה

where he also cites two perspectives regarding this matter:

דַּעַת רַבִּי מְנַחֵם מֵרֶקַנְטִי

one perspective, that of Rav Menachem Recanti,7

שֶׁהַסְּפִירוֹת שֶׁהֵם חָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת וְכוּ' הֵם כֵּלִים

that the Sefiros,i.e., ChaBaD,etc., are keilim(“vessels”);

וְדַעַת רַבִּי דָוִד

and the other, the perspective of Rav David,8

שֶׁהֵם עַצְמוּתוֹ

that the Sefiros are His Essence.

וְקָרוֹב עִנְיָן זֶה לְמַה שֶּׁנִּתְבָּאֵר לְעֵיל הַהֶפְרֵשׁ בֵּין

The difference of opinion between these kabbalists resembles the difference of opinion between Rambam and Maharal mentioned above.

דַּעַת הָאוֹמְרִים שֶׁהוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ וְכוּ' שֶׁהֵם כְּדַעַת רַבִּי דָוִד

Those who say that G‑d is “the Knower…” appear to follow the perspective of Rav David.

Thus, the Attributes – Chochmah, Chessed, etc. – are expressions of G‑d’s light and thus identified with Him, as Rambam states.

וּבֵין דַּעַת הַגָּאוֹן מַהֲרַ"ל שֶׁהוּא כְּדַעַת רַבִּי מְנַחֵם

And the perspective of the Gaon Maharalappears to be that of Rav Menachem, that G‑d’s light is above all attributes and merely expresses itself through them.

אַךְ שֶׁיֵּשׁ לְפָרְשׁוֹ גַם כֵּן כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתַב הָרְמַ"ק שָׁם

Nevertheless, it is also possible to explain that Maharal’s approach parallels that of Ramak who states –

וְהוּא הָאֱמֶת

and this is the truth –

שֶׁהַסְּפִירוֹת הֵם עַצְמוּת וְכֵלִים,

that the Sefirosare a composite of His Essence, i.e., His light, as will shortly be explained, and keilim.

Ramak’s approach identifies G‑d’s attributes as a dynamic fusion between the oros (lights) and keilim (vessels).

רוֹצֶה לוֹמַר כִּי זֶהוּ הַנָּחָה מְקֻיֶּמֶת כְּמוֹ שֶׁהִנִּיחַ הַגָּאוֹן הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל

The intent is that Maharal established a fundamental principle:

שֶׁעַצְמוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ הוּא הֲוָיָה פְּשׁוּטָה

that G‑d’s Essence is a simple Being

וְאֵינוֹ בְּגֶדֶר שֵׂכֶל

that is not within the grasp of intellect,

אֶלָּא מְרוֹמָם וּמִתְנַשֵּׂא לְאֵין קֵץ כוּ'

but is loftier and exalted infinitely above it.

וְהַשֵּׂכֶל הוּא נִפְעָל מִמֶּנּוּ

Intellect is brought into being through it, that is,

שֶׁפָּעַל וְהִמְצִיא לִהְיוֹת מְצִיאַת שֵׂכֶל

He brought intellect into being and caused it to exist,

וְהוּא הַנִּקְרָא כְּלִי הַחָכְמָה

creating the existence of intellect which is called the k’li(“vessel”) of Chochmah.

וּבְתוֹכוֹ מֵאִיר אוֹר הָעַצְמוּת

In it shines the light of G‑d’s Essence

שֶׁהוּא הֲוָיָה פְּשׁוּטָה

which is a simple entity,

כִּי הָאוֹר הוּא מֵעֵין הַמָּאוֹר

for the light is representative of the source of light.

Hence, just as G‑d’s Essence is a simple, transcendent entity, so, too, the light that comes into being from His Essence is also simple and transcendent.

וְאוֹר זֶה הוּא הַמְחַיֶּה אֶת הַכְּלִי

This light grants life to the k’li

וְהוּא הַפּוֹעֵל עַל יְדֵי הַכְּלִי

and brings about activity through the medium of the k’li,

רוֹצֶה לוֹמַר שֶׁמַּשְׂכִּיל עַל יְדֵי הַחָכְמָה

i.e., it gains wisdom through the medium of Chochmah.

וְיוֹדֵעַ הַנִּבְרָאִים עַל יְדֵי הַדַּעַת

Similarly, the light knows the created beings through Daas

וּמִתְחַסֵּד עַל יְדֵי הַחֶסֶד

and generates kindness through Chessed.

The expression of G‑d’s qualities in the world stems from an interaction of the light (or) and the different keilim. The or is the source of life and vitality, because it is connected to its source. Nevertheless, because it reflects its source, which is undivided and simple, it is transcendent and therefore above all particular activities such as knowledge or kindness. Those activities are performed through the medium of the k’li, which is defined according to the particular quality that defines its nature.

וְנִמְצָא עַל יְדֵי הַכְּלִי נַעֲשֶׂה תְּמוּנָה בְּאוֹר הַפָּשׁוּט הַנִּקְרָא עַצְמוּת

Thus, through the k’li,form is given to the simple light which is referred to as the essence,

לִהְיוֹת נִגְדָּר בְּדָבָר פְּרָטִי

causing it to be defined as a specific quality,

כְּמוֹ חָכְמָה אוֹ בִּינָה אוֹ חֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים

e.g., Chochmah, Binah, Chessed,or Rachamim.

וְיָצָא לָנוּ מִזֶּה שֶׁאֵין הוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ יוֹדֵעַ בְּדֵעָה שֶׁחוּץ מִמֶּנּוּ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

Thus, G‑d does not know with knowledge that is outside of Himself, Heaven forbid,

כִּי הֲרֵי פְּעֻלַּת הַכְּלִי אֵינָהּ מִתְיַחֶסֶת בַּאֲמִתַּת אֶלָּא לְהָאוֹר וְחַיּוּת הַמִּתְלַבֵּשׁ בָּהּ

for the activity of the k’liin truth is attributed to the light and vitality that is enclothed in it,

שֶׁהוּא הָעַצְמוּת הַמֵּאִיר בָּהֶם

i.e., the uncompounded, essential light which shines within them.

וְהֵבִיא שָׁם מָשָׁל לְזֶה

In that source, Ramak cites an analogy that describes this:

כְּמוֹ שֶׁחַיּוּת הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַמְלֻבָּשׁ בַּגּוּף

the vitality of the soul which is enclothed within the body.

שֶׁהוּא גַם כֵּן פָּשׁוּט בְּעֶרֶךְ הַגּוּף

It is also simple when compared with the body.9

וּכְשֶׁמֵּאִיר בָּעַיִן נַעֲשָׂה בּוֹ תְּמוּנַת כֹּחַ הָרְאִיָּה

When the soul shines within the eye, its vitality takes on the form of the power of sight,

וּכְשֶׁמֵּאִיר בָּרֶגֶל נַעֲשָׂה בּוֹ תְּמוּנַת כֹּחַ הַהִלּוּךְ

and when it shines within the foot, it takes on the form of the power of walking.

וְאִם כֵּן הַשִּׁנּוּי הוּא בַּכֵּלִים שֶׁהֵם עַיִן וְרֶגֶל

Thus, the change is within the k’li, i.e., the eye or the foot,

וְהַפְּעֻלָּה מִתְיַחֶסֶת בַּאֲמִתּוּת לְאוֹר הַנֶּפֶשׁ שֶׁבָּהֶם

but the activity performed by these organs is truly attributed to the light of the soul within them,

שֶׁהוּא פָּשׁוּט

which is simple.

וּפוֹעֵל פְּעֻלַּת שׁוֹנִים מֵחֲמַת שִׁנּוּיֵי הַכֵּלִים

It performs different activities because of the differences in the keilim,i.e, the organs,

וְעִם כָּל זֶה הוּא הַפּוֹעֵל

but it, i.e., the uncompounded soul, is the active force.

וְאִם כֵּן כְּמוֹ כֵן לְמַעְלָה

Similarly, in the analogue in the spiritual realms,

מַה שֶּׁהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ יוֹדֵעַ עַל יְדֵי הַדַּעַת

the fact that G‑d knows through the medium of Daas

יְדִיעָה זוֹ הִיא דַוְקָא בְּכֹחַ הָעַצְמוּת הַמֵּאִיר בְּדַעַת

comes about through the power of the Essence that shines in Daas,

כְּמוֹ שֶׁהָרְאִיָּה הִיא עַל יְדֵי חַיּוּת הַנֶּפֶשׁ שֶׁבָּעַיִן

just as the power of sight operates through the vitality of the soul in the eye

וְלֹא מִצַּד גּוּף הָעַיִן

and not merely the eye’s physical substance.

וְאִם כֵּן אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ בְּדֵעָה שֶׁחוּץ מִמֶּנּוּ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

If so, G‑d does not know through knowledge that is outside of Himself, Heaven forbid,

כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ דַוְקָא הוּא

for the knowledge stems from Him.

אֶלָּא שֶׁמַּה שֶּׁהִשִּׂיג אוֹר עַצְמוּת זֶה הַפָּשׁוּט תֹּאַר וּתְמוּנָה פְּרָטִי

It is only that the transition that enables this simple essential light to take on a specific description and form

לִהְיוֹת צוּרַת יְדִיעָה עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל

– e.g., to become the form of knowledge –

זֶהוּ לְפִי שֶׁפָּעַל יְדִיעָה זוֹ עַל יְדֵי הַכְּלִי

comes about because He brings about this knowledge through a k’li

שֶׁעִנְיָנָהּ כְּלִי הַדַּעַת

whose character is defined as the k’liof Daas,

לֵידַע דָּבָר שֶׁחוּץ לְנַפְשׁוֹ כוּ'

which parallels our knowledge that involves knowing an entity outside one’s soul.

וְעִם כָּל זֶה אֵינוֹ שִׁנּוּי אֲמִתִּי

Nevertheless, this does not involve a true change,

It would seem that the enclothement of G‑d’s light in the keilim would involve a change within the light because it is given a specific character and form as a result of this enclothement. Such a statement would be untenable, for the implication would be that G‑d is changing, as it were, and that would run against the fundamentals of faith, as it is written (Malachi 3:6): “I, G‑d, have not changed.” Among the philosophical difficulties that arise is that this would contradict His Oneness; there would be G‑d as He exists before having undergone the change and as He exists afterwards.

שֶׁנִּשְׁתַּנָּה אוֹר הָעַצְמוּת שֶׁבַּכֵּלִים חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

i.e., the light of His Essence does not change in the k’li,Heaven forbid,

כִּי בֶּאֱמֶת הוּא פָּשׁוּט כְּמוֹ שֶׁהָיָה

for in truth, it is simple as it was before its enclothement.

אֶלָּא רוֹצֶה לוֹמַר הַשִּׁנּוּי הוּא לְעִנְיַן הַפְּעֻלָּה

The intent is merely that the change involves only the activity that is brought about,

To illustrate this concept, Ramak gives the example of light which shines through colored glass, as will be explained.

שֶׁפָּעַל פְּעֻלָּה פְּרָטִית אֲשֶׁר הִיא הַיְדִיעָה שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ אֶת הַנִּבְרָא עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל

i.e., in this manner, there is a specific activity, for example, knowledge, that is brought about, enabling Him to know a created being.

שֶׁיְּדִיעָה זוֹ פְּעֻלָּה מַמָּשׁ הִיא

This knowledge is actually an activity.

וְהִיא חַיּוּת הַנִּבְרָא

G‑d’s knowledge of this created being is the life-energy of this created being.

וְנִפְעֲלָה עַל יְדֵי אוֹר הָעַצְמוּת הַפָּשׁוּט

It comes into being from His simple, essential light,

מֵחֲמַת שֶׁפָּעַל זֶה בְּאֶמְצָעוּת הַכְּלִי

because that essential light brought about activity through the medium of a k’li.

שֶׁלָּכֵן הֲגַם שֶׁהַפְּעֻלָּה הִיא בְּכֹחוֹ שֶׁהוּא הֲוָיָה פְּשׁוּטָה

Therefore, even though this activity comes from the power of His light, which is a simple entity,

עִם כָּל זֶה תִּהְיֶה הַפְּעֻלָּה פְּרָטִית

there will nevertheless be specific activities

מֵחֲמַת שִׁנּוּי הַכְּלִי שֶׁבְּאֶמְצָעִיתוֹ פּוֹעֵל

because of the difference in the k’li being employed.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁהָאָדָם יִפְעַל בְּיָדוֹ שֶׁהִיא אַחַת פְּעֻלּוֹת שׁוֹנִים עַל יְדֵי כֵּלִים שׁוֹנִים

For example, a person can carry out different activities with the same hand depending on the different utensils he employs.

שֶׁבְּקֻלְמוֹס יִכְתּוֹב וּבְסַכִּין יַחְתּוֹךְ וְכוּ'

He writes with a pen and cuts with a knife, etc.

וְעַל דֶּרֶךְ זֶה הוּא בִּשְׁאָר פְּעֻלּוֹת

Similarly, in the analogue, with regard to G‑d’s other activities,

שֶׁהוּא מִתְחַסֵּד עַל יְדֵי הַחֶסֶד

He performs kindness through the attribute of Chessed.

וְנִמְצָא כֹּחַ הַפְּעֻלָּה עַל יְדֵי אוֹר הָעַצְמוּת שֶׁבְּחֶסֶד

Thus, the power for this activity comes through the essential light which shines in the Sefirah of Chessed.

שֶׁהוּא פָּשׁוּט

That light is simple.

וּמַה שֶּׁפְּעֻלָּתוֹ פְּרָטִית מִין חֶסֶד

Nevertheless, it brings about a specific activity, a type of Chessed,

זֶהוּ לְפִי שֶׁפָּעַל עַל יְדֵי הַחֶסֶד כוּ'

because it functions through the k’li of Chessed.

וְכֵן הוּא בְּכָל הַמִּדּוֹת,

Similar concepts apply with regard to all the other emotional qualities.

וְכָל זֶה הוּא לְעִנְיַן הַפְּעֻלּוֹת שֶׁפּוֹעֵל בַּנִּבְרָאִים

The above refers to the activities that He brings about within the created beings

שֶׁהוּא פּוֹעֵל עַל יְדֵי הַי' סְפִירוֹת

through the medium of the Ten Sefiros

שֶׁהֵם חב"ד חג"ת נהי"ם (חָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת חֶסֶד־גְּבוּרָה־תִּפְאֶרֶת נֶצַח־הוֹד־יְסוֹד־מַלְכוּת)

which are ChaBaD, ChaGaT, NeHYM,

The above terms are acronyms for the groupings of the Sefiros: Chochmah, Binah and Daas; Chessed, Gevurah, and Tiferes; and Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malchus.

שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ אוֹתָם עַל יְדֵי הַדַּעַת

i.e., He knows them through Daas

וּמַשְׁפִּיעַ חָכְמָה עַל יְדֵי הַחָכְמָה כוּ'

and endows wisdom through Chochmah.

וְעִם כָּל זֶה אֵינוֹ נִקְרָא שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ בְּדֵעָה שֶׁחוּץ מִמֶּנּוּ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

Nevertheless, it cannot be said that He knows with a knowledge that is outside of – i.e. separate from – Himself, Heaven forbid,

כִּי כָּל פְּעֻלּוֹת אֵלּוּ הֵם בְּאוֹרוֹ הַפָּשׁוּט כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

because all of these activities are performed with His simple light, as explained above.

אֲבָל מַה שֶּׁמַּכִּיר עַצְמוּתוֹ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם אֵין נוֹפֵל בְּזֶה לְשׁוֹן יְדִיעָה

It is not, however, appropriate to describe His recognition of Himself with the term “knowledge”

עַד שֶׁנִּצְטָרֵךְ לוֹמַר עַל זֶה שֶׁהוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ וְהוּא הַיָּדוּעַ וְהוּא הַדֵּעָה עַצְמָהּ

and thus be required to say “He is the Knower, He is the Object of Knowledge, and He is the Knowledge itself,”

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתַב הָרַמְבַּ"ם זַ"ל

as Rambam states.

כִּי אֵינוֹ בְּעַצְמוּתוֹ בְּעֶרֶךְ בְּחִינַת מְצִיאוּת יְדִיעָה

For His Essence is not comparable to an entity that can be known.

כִּי מְצִיאוּת הַיְדִיעָה וְהַהַשְׂכָּלָה הוּא בְּרִיאָה מְחֻדֶּשֶׁת מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ

For the existence of knowledge and conceptualization is a new creation brought into being from nothingness

שֶׁהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ פָּעַל אוֹתָהּ עַל יְדֵי הַכֵּלִים כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל

which He brought about through the medium of the appropriate k’lias explained above,

וְהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ רָם וְנִבְדָּל מִזֶּה

and He Himself is exalted and separate from this knowledge,

וְיִחוּסָהּ אֶצְלוֹ כְּעֶרֶךְ הָעֲשִׂיָּה גוּפָנִית מַמָּשׁ

to the extent that for Him knowledge is actually like a physical deed.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁאֵינוֹ נוֹפֵל עָלָיו לוֹמַר שֶׁאֵינוֹ נִתְפָּס בְּמִשּׁוּשׁ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

Thus, just as it is inappropriate to say that G‑d cannot be grasped by the power of touch, Heaven forbid,

כָּךְ מַמָּשׁ לֹא נוֹפֵל לְשׁוֹן הַשָּׂגָה מֻשָּׂג אוֹ בִּלְתִּי מֻשָּׂג

so, too, it is inappropriate to use the terms comprehensible or not comprehensible in relation to His Essence.

כִּי כָּל זֶה אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא בְּדָבָר מֻגְבָּל

For these terms are appropriate only with regard to a limited entity,

Knowledge and comprehension involve the objective appreciation of an entity: knowing what it is. This is possible only when the entity is defined and limited. Hence, it is not only that man cannot comprehend G‑d – because man is finite and G‑d is infinite – but rather, G‑d is unknowable, because He defies the very limits of knowledge. Thus, the concept that G‑d is unknowable is plain and obvious like the concept that He cannot be grasped through physical touch.

שֶׁהֵם כָּל הַנִּמְצָאִים שֶׁנִּתְחַדְּשׁוּ אַחֲרֵי הַהֶעְדֵּר

i.e., any of the entities that came into existence from non-being.

G‑d created everything yesh me’ayin, from utter nothingness. By definition, a created entity has specific limits; i.e., it is made in a given manner that delineates what it is. This allows it to be known.

אֲבָל הוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ שֶׁהוּא לְבַדּוֹ הוּא

G‑d, Who exists alone, above the entire framework of Creation,

וְאֵין בִּלְתּוֹ

and aside from Him, nothing exists,

אֵינוֹ מֵעֶרֶךְ זֶה

is not comparable to this type of existence.

וְהוּא אֶחָד הָאֱמֶת

He is true Oneness

שֶׁאֵין עוֹד מַמָּשׁ

and there is truly nothing else aside from Him.

וְאוּלַי תֹּאמַר אִם כֵּן מַהוּ,

If one will ask, if He is indefinable, then what is He?

כְּבָר כָּתַבְתִּי לְעֵיל פֶּרֶק ג' תְּשׁוּבָתוֹ בְּצִדּוֹ

I have already explained the answer to this above in section 3.

כִּי מִי הוּא וְאֵיזֶהוּ אֲשֶׁר מְלָאוֹ לִבּוֹ לַחֲקוֹר עַל זֶה

For who can have the boldness of heart to research this?

וְאֵיךְ וּבַמֶּה יַחְקוֹר

How and what will he research?

כִּי כָּל חוּשׁ תּוֹפֵס מוּחָשׁוֹ

For all the senses can do is perceive entities appropriate for that sense.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יוּכַל לִרְאוֹת בְּרַגְלוֹ

And just as one cannot see with his feet,

כָּךְ לֹא יוּכַל לִתְפּוֹס בְּשִׂכְלוֹ מַהוּת בִּלְתִּי נֶעֱרָךְ לְהַשֵּׂכֶל

so, too, he will not be able to grasp with his mind an entity that is above the paradigm of intellect.

אֶלָּא כְּלִי לִתְפּוֹס זֶה הוּא עִנְיַן הָאֱמוּנָה

Instead, the medium with which to realize this dimension of G‑dliness is emunah,faith;

רוֹצֶה לוֹמַר לְהַאֲמִין שֶׁכֵּן הוּא וְלֹא זוּלָתָהּ

to believe that this is the truth and there is no other truth.

וְדַי לַמֵּבִין:

This is sufficient for a man of understanding.

וְהִנֵּה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ שֶׁהַי' סְפִירוֹת הֵם כֵּלִים

Behold, although we stated that the Ten Sefiros are keilim,

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר לְעֵיל שֶׁעַצְמוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ אֵינוֹ מֵעֶרֶךְ בְּחִינַת דַּעַת וְשֵׂכֶל,

for as explained above, His Essence transcends entirely knowledge and intellect – and certainly, He transcends the powers below intellect –

אַף עַל פִּי כֵן אֵין הַכֵּלִים נִפְרָדִים

these keilimare not separate from Him;

כְּמוֹ הַגַּרְזֶן שֶׁבְּיַד הַחוֹצֵב,

they do not resemble an axe in the hand of chopper, entities with an independent existence that G‑d uses to perform tasks.

אֶלָּא הֵן גַּם כֵּן בְּחִינַת אֱלֹקוּת

Instead, they are also G‑dliness

Were this not to be true, it would be impossible for His light to be enclothed within them, for unbounded and infinite G‑dliness could not be enclothed within a limited being. Moreover, their very existence would seem to be a contradiction to His Oneness, for there would exist entities outside of Himself.

וְהֵם נִמְשָׁכִים גַּם כֵּן מֵעֶצֶם הָאֱלֹקוּת

and they are drawn down from the Essence of G‑dliness,

אֶלָּא שֶׁהוּא עַל יְדֵי צִמְצוּמִים רַבִּים וַעֲצוּמִים

except that the process in which they come into being involves manifold and awesome tzimtzumim.

שֶׁנִּתְצַמְצֵם וְנִסְתַּתֵּר הָאוֹר הַפָּשׁוּט

His simple light becomes contracted and hidden

עַד שֶׁנִּתְהַוָּה מִמֶּנּוּ מְצִיאַת חָכְמָה וָדַעַת,

until the entities of Chochmahand Daascome into being from it.

וְזֶהוּ פֵּרוּשׁ לְשׁוֹן אֱלֹקוּת (גֶעטְלִיךְ בִּלְשׁוֹן אִידִישׁ)

This is the meaning of the phrase G‑dliness (Getlich),

כְּלוֹמַר שֶׁהֵם הִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת

i.e., expressions of Him,

וְלֹא עַצְמוּתוֹ מַמָּשׁ,

but not His Essence.

אֲבָל עִם כָּל זֶה אֵינָן נִפְרָדִים

The keilim are nevertheless not separate from Him,

כְּמוֹ הַנִּבְרָא שֶׁהוּא בִּבְחִינַת דָּבָר בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ,

as are created beings which are separate entities.

To illustrate, the Chessed of Atzilus is G‑d’s Chessed, i.e., the love and the kindness that He showers upon His created beings. The Chessed of Beriah is identified with the angels it brings into being, the Serafim, “those that burn.”They are given that name because they are on fire with the love of G‑d to the extent that they are consumed with it and lose their identity. Nevertheless, despite this great love for G‑d, they are nevertheless, separate entities who love Him. The Chessed of Atzilus, by contrast, is identified with Him and does not have any sense of individual identity.

This paradoxical concept, that the keilim are identified with a specific quality and yet are G‑dly, is further explained in sec. 5.

וְלָזֹאת הָאוֹר הַפָּשׁוּט מִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּתוֹךְ הַכֵּלִים

Accordingly, G‑d’s simple light enclothes itself within the keilim

וּפוֹעֵל עַל יָדָן,

and brings about activity using them as a medium.

וְאָז שַׁיָּךְ לוֹמַר מַה שֶּׁכָּתַב הָרַמְבַּ"ם שֶׁהוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ וְהוּא הַדֵּעָה עַצְמָהּ וְהוּא הַיָּדוּעַ

On this level, Rambam’sstatement “He is the Knower, He is the Object of Knowledge, and He is the Knowledge itself” is appropriate.

כִּי הָאוֹר מִתְיַחֵד עִם הַכְּלִי בְּיִחוּד עָצוּם וְנִפְלָא

For the light becomes one with the k’liin an awesome and wondrous unity

עַד שֶׁהָיוּ לְדָבָר אֶחָד מַמָּשׁ,

until they become truly one entity;

דְּהַיְנוּ שֶׁבְּחִינַת הַדַּעַת שֶׁבּוֹ יוֹדֵעַ,

i.e., the knowledge with which He knows

עִם הָאוֹר הַפָּשׁוּט שֶׁבְּתוֹכוֹ הַיּוֹדֵעַ,

and G‑d’s simple light enclothed within it that is referred to as the Knower

הוּא אֶחָד מַמָּשׁ אַחְדּוּת גָּמוּר,

are actually one, with perfect unity.

וְהוּא הַיָּדוּעַ,

And He is the object of Knowledge.

וְדָבָר זֶה אֵין כֹּחַ בַּפֶּה לְאָמְרוֹ וְלֹא בְּלֵב הָאָדָם לְהַכִּירוֹ עַל בֻּרְיוֹ

“There is no power within our mouths to make this statement, nor within our ears to hear it, nor within a mortal heart to comprehend it thoroughly,”10

אֵיךְ וּמָה הוּא הַיִּחוּד הַלָּז,

i.e., to comprehend how the unity is achieved and what is its nature.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁעַצְמוּתוֹ הוּא לְמַעְלָה מֵהַדַּעַת

Just as His Essence is above knowledge,

כָּךְ אֹפֶן הִתְיַחְדּוּתוֹ עִם הַי' סְפִירוֹת הוּא לְמַעְלָה מֵהַדַּעַת וְהַהַשָּׂגָה

so, too, the manner in which He unites with the Ten Sefirosis above knowledge and comprehension.

וְלָכֵן נִקְרָאוֹת הַי' סְפִירוֹת רָזָא דִמְהֵימְנוּתָא

Therefore, the Ten Sefirosare called11 “the secret of faith.”

שֶׁהֵם בִּבְחִינַת אֱמוּנָה גַם כֵּן שֶׁלְּמַעְלָה מֵהַהַשָּׂגָה,

For understanding the manner in which G‑d unites with them and they radiate influence to the world involves faith that transcends comprehension.

וּבְזֶה צָדְקוּ דִּבְרֵי הָרַמְבַּ"ם בְּמַה שֶּׁכָּתַב שֶׁהוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ כוּ'

In this regard, Rambam’swords were accurate when he said: “He is the Knower….”

Rambam did not speak about the transcendent levels of G‑dliness above Atzilus. His statement emphasizes the absolute unity of G‑d’s light with the attributes of Atzilus.

דְּהַיְנוּ לֹא כְּמוֹ שֶׁחָשְׁבוּ הָאוֹמְרִים שֶׁהַכֵּלִחם דְּי' סְפִירוֹת הֵם בְּחִינַת דָּבָר נִבְדָּל מֵהָאֱלֹקוּת

Implied is the negation of the perspective of those who postulated that the Ten Sefiros are separate entities from G‑dliness,

כְּמוֹ הַגַּרְזֶן וְכוּ'

like an axe which is separate from the chopper who uses it.

אֶלָּא שֶׁהֵן הֵן אֱלֹקוּת

Instead, they are G‑dly,

וְהָאוֹר הַפָּשׁוּט מִתְיַחֵד עִמָּהֶן בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל

and the simple light unites with them in ultimate oneness as explained above.

אָמְנָם עַצְמוּתוֹ הוּא לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה מִזֶּה כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

His Essence, however, transcends them, as explained above.

וְלָכֵן מְבֹאָר בְּעֵץ חַיִּים שֶׁכֵּלִים דַּאֲצִילוּת נַעֲשִׂים נְשָׁמָה לִבְרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה

On this basis, it is explained in Etz Chayim12 that the keilimof Atzilusbecome the soul for Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah,


giving life

מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ נִבְרָאִים וּבַעֲלֵי גְבוּל

and bringing into being limited created beings from nothingness.

מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהֵן אֱלֹקוּת וְכַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

This is only possible because they are G‑dliness, as explained above, for only G‑d can create something from nothingness.

To explain: All created beings have a specific identity. They are made with a defined capacity of what they can do. To express that capacity is not considered as creating something new. And to act beyond that capacity is not in their reach. Only G‑d’s essence which is truly undefined and unlimited is capable of creating something new and not within existing definitions. Since the keilim of Atzilus are one with His Essence, they too can create.

וְזֶהוּ פֵּרוּשׁ הַתֹּאָרִים שֶׁנִּקְרָא הוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ

This is the explanation of the descriptions and titles ascribed to G‑d,

חָכָם וְחָסִיד כוּ'

e.g., the Wise One, the Generous One.

שֶׁבְּחִינַת הַחָכְמָה הִיא כְּלִי הַחָכְמָה דַאֲצִילוּת שֶׁהִיא אֱלֹקוּת

For wisdom is the k’liof Chochmahof Atzilus, which is G‑dliness.

וְכֵן הַחֶסֶד הוּא כְּלִי הַחֶסֶד,

Similarly, generosity is the k’liof Chessed.

אָמְנָם מַה שֶּׁעַצְמוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ

Nevertheless, the concept that G‑d’s Essence

שֶׁהוּא לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה מִגֶּדֶר הַחָכְמָה כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל

– which is far above the level of Chochmahas explained above –

נִקְרָא חָכָם

is called the wise,

for the titles are describing G‑d, not merely His qualities.

הַיְנוּ עַל שֵׁם הִתְלַבְּשׁוּתוֹ בִּסְפִירַת הַחָכְמָה

refers to Him as He enclothes himself in the k’liof Chochmah,

שֶׁאָז הוּא מִתְחַכֵּם בָּהּ

at which point He expresses wisdom through it

וְיוֹדֵעַ הַנִּבְרָא בְּדַעַת זֶה כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל:

and knows the created beings through knowledge, Daas, as explained above.


– V –

אַךְ בֶּאֱמֶת צָרִיךְ לְהָבִין עֲדַיִן בְּעִנְיַן הִתְהַוּוּת הַי' סְפִירוֹת עַצְמָן

Nevertheless, in truth, a difficulty remains, for it is still necessary to understand how the Ten Sefiros themselves came into being.

שֶׁהֵם בְּחִינַת כֵּלִים

For they are keilim,

בְּחִינַת דַּעַת

like Daas,

שֶׁאֵינוֹ מֵעֶרֶךְ עַצְמוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ הַפָּשׁוּט.

which are not comparable to His simple Essence.

The remainder of Section 5 continues after the Mahadura Basra.


Maharal explains that knowledge is merely an activity. Neither it, nor any of G‑d’s attributes, are identified with G‑d as He is in His essential state. According to this perspective, the Sefiros are like tools with which G‑d works, but they are not identified with Him.

– Mahadura Kamma –

The Tzemach Tzedek states that Maharal’s resolution requires explanation, because if knowledge is merely a tool through which G‑d knows, that would mean He would know with knowledge that is outside of Himself. Thus, there would be other entities – i.e., knowledge and other attributes – that exist independent of G‑d.

The Tzemach Tzedek explains that the resolution to the above difficulty is based on the conception that the Sefiros involve both His light and His keilim. G‑d’s light is simple and infinite as is He, for light reflects the character of its source. This light unites itself with the keilim, which give it form and expression. Thus, G‑d does not know with knowledge that is outside of Him, for the act of knowledge involves both the light (identified with G‑d, the Knower) and the k’li (which establishes a connection with the object of knowledge). He explains this with an analogy of the life-force of the soul that is enclothed in the body and adapts itself according to the nature of the body’s organs and limbs.

This explanation, however, raises a fundamental question, because through enclothing itself in the Sefiros, G‑d’s simple light appears to change. The Tzemach Tzedek resolves this difficulty by saying that the light itself does not change; it is only that the different keilim through which it shines bring about a change in the activities produced. He explains this with an analogy of a person who can perform different activities with the same hand depending on the tool he uses.

The entire discussion above refers only to G‑d’s light. G‑d Himself, however, is totally above our comprehension, for He is utterly infinite and thus undefinable. The medium with which to relate to this dimension of G‑dliness is Emunah, faith; to believe that He exists and that there is nothing outside of Him.

The Tzemach Tzedek then proceeds to state that the keilim are not separate from G‑d. They are called G‑dliness (Getlich), i.e., expressions of Him. For if they were not G‑dly, it would be impossible for His light to be enclothed within them. For unbounded and infinite G‑dliness could not be enclothed within a limited being. Although they are defined – each k’li being identified with a specific attribute – they are not limited, but are G‑dly.

On this level – i.e., as G‑d’s light unites with the keilimRambam’s statement “He is the Knower, He is the Object of Knowledge, and He is the Knowledge itself” is appropriate; i.e., His infinite light (the Knower) is united with the k’li (the Object of Knowledge) producing Knowledge, the Sefirah of Daas as it exists in Atzilus. The nature of this union is, however, beyond our powers of comprehension.

On this basis, we can resolve the question raised at the beginning of section 3. The Torah and our Sages identify G‑d with certain attributes because they are describing G‑d’s Oneness as it exists in Atzilus and not in His Essence. On that level, Rambam’s statement “He is the Knower, He is the Object of Knowledge, and He is the Knowledge itself” applies. Similar concepts apply with regard to G‑d’s other attributes identified with the other Sefiros of Atzilus.

Mahadura Basra means “the later version.” Originally, the Tzemach Tzedek wrote Derech Mitzvosecha at a relatively young age, and revised different portions of it later in life. In the following section, he explains the approach of Maharal – in contrast to that of Rambam – that G‑d’s knowledge is an activity that is not united with His essence. The Tzemach Tzedek then explains the approach of the Arizal as explained by the Alter Rebbe, which fuses together both approaches.

– מַהֲדוּרָא בַּתְרָא –

– Mahadura Basra –

כְּלוֹמַר כְּמוֹ שֶׁעוֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֵׂה הַיְדִיעָה שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ אֶת הַנִּבְרָא

Thus, according to Maharal, the knowledge with which G‑d knows a created being is an activity, i.e., like one who performs an act of knowing,

וְהוּא בְּרִיאָה חֲדָשָׁה

This knowledge is a new creation,

כְּמוֹ מַה שֶּׁבָּרָא גּוּף הַנִּבְרָא,

comparable to the creation of the body of the created being.

Although G‑d’s conception and comprehension of the created beings are spiritual, they nevertheless involve the conception and comprehension of entities that feel separate from G‑d. The very conception and comprehension of this separation are, as it were, creations, for they are new entities that did not exist within G‑d’s simple Oneness.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁרִבּוּי הַנִּבְרָאִים אֵין מְחַיְּבִים בּוֹ רִבּוּי חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

Nevertheless, the existence of a multitude of created beings does not necessitate that there be multiplicity within Him,

כִּי מֵרִבּוּי הַפְּעֻלּוֹת לֹא יִתְחַיֵּב רִבּוּי בַּפּוֹעֵל חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

because a multitude of activities does not necessitate multiplicity within the One who brought them about, Heaven forbid,

מִטַּעַם שֶׁכָּתְבוּ הַחוֹקְרִים כָּל אֶחָד כְּשִׁיטָתוֹ,

as the different sages of Chakirah have explained, each one according to his own approach.

The Tzemach Tzedek explains this concept according to Chassidus later in this section.

כָּךְ רִבּוּי הַיְדִיעוֹת

Similarly, a multitude of knowledge,

שֶׁהֵם גַּם כֵּן רִבּוּי פְּעֻלּוֹת

which, according to Maharal,is fundamentally a multitude of activities,

For Maharal sees knowledge as an activity like other activities.

אֵין מְחַיְּבִים רִבּוּי בּוֹ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

does not necessitate that there be multiplicity within G‑d, Heaven forbid,

שֶׁיְּדִיעָה זוֹ גַם כֵּן אֵינָהּ אֶלָּא בְּרִיאָה וּפְעֻלָּה,

for His knowledge is also nothing but a creation and an activity.

The terms “creation” and “activity” imply that the inner nature of the one creating or performing the activity is not involved in the creation or the activity. It relates only to his external dimensions. When applying this concept to G‑d, this means that since His inner nature is not involved in Creation, the fact that there is multiplicity within Creation does not necessitate that there be multiplicity within Him, for He transcends the beings He creates. Similarly, G‑d’s knowledge of the different created beings does not bring about multiplicity with Him, because it is merely an activity and does not affect His Essence.13

וּמֵעַתָּה הֲגַם שֶׁלֹּא נוּכַל לוֹמַר מַה שֶּׁכָּתַב הָרַמְבַּ"ם שֶׁבִּידִיעַת עַצְמוֹ יוֹדֵעַ כָּל הַנִּבְרָאִים,

According to this understanding, Rambam’sstatement – that through the knowledge of Himself, He knows all the creations – is no longer fitting.

שֶׁזֶּה אֵינוֹ

For according to the above explanations, this statement is not true in an ultimate sense.

כִּי יְדִיעַת עַצְמוֹ אֵינָהּ בִּכְלַל יְדִיעָה כְּלָל

For knowing Himself is not knowledge in the ordinary sense,

אֶלָּא לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה מִגֶּדֶר מַדָּע כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

but far above the quality of knowledge, as explained above.

Rambam also maintains that G‑d knows Himself in a way that differs from ordinary knowledge. Our knowledge retains a dimension of subjectivity, for the knower, the knowledge, and the known entity are separate. Such separation does not exist with regard to G‑d’s knowledge, and in that way, His knowledge surpasses ours entirely. Nevertheless, Rambam postulates that G‑d knows Himself through His own knowledge, while according to the approach of the kabbalists explained here, G‑d is fundamentally above knowledge. For knowledge can only grasp a limited entity. Therefore, they understand His self-knowledge as being a totally different type of knowledge.

וּמַה שֶּׁיּוֹדֵעַ הַנִּבְרָאִים הוּא בִּבְחִינַת יְדִיעָה מַמָּשׁ,

In contrast, He knows the created beings through actual knowledge.

Just as mortal knowledge involves knowledge of a separate entity, so too, according to Maharal, G‑d’s knowledge of the created beings is comparable to the knowledge of a separate entity, as it were.

To explain: it is written:14 א־ל דעות ה׳, meaning “G‑d is a G‑d of knowledge.” Chassidus explains15 that the plural form of the term דעות (knowledge) indicates that G‑d possesses two levels of knowledge: one in which He knows the creations on His terms – this is the Self-knowledge mentioned above – and another in which He understands them as they perceive themselves, i.e., as created beings with a separate identity. According to Maharal, it is not appropriate to say “He is the Knower, He is the Knowledge…” with regard to either of these levels. On the higher level, there exists no distinction between the Knower and the knowledge, for everything is subsumed in His Essence. And on the lower level, there exists a difference between the Knower and the knowledge, for this lower level of knowledge is an activity that is separate from G‑d’s Essence, as it were.

אַף עַל פִּי כֵן לֹא יִשָּׁאֵר קֻשְׁיָא כְּלָל עָלֵינוּ,

Nevertheless, the Maharal’s conception that G‑d is not one with His knowledge, i.e., the lower level of knowledge mentioned above, does not raise a question that challenges our approach.

כִּי הָרַמְבַּ"ם הֻכְרַח לוֹמַר כֵּן

For Rambamwas forced to say that G‑d is one with His knowledge

כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִקְשֶׁה עָלָיו שֶׁרִבּוּי הַיְדִיעוֹת

so that he would not be faced with the difficulty that the multitude of knowledge

שֶׁל כָּל נִבְרָא

knowing every created being in a particular manner

הֵם בְּחִינַת רִבּוּי בּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ

would seemingly create multiplicity within Him.

וְלָזֶה אָמַר שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ כֻּלָּם בִּידִיעַת עַצְמוֹ

Therefore, he stated that G‑d knows them all as self-knowledge

שֶׁהוּא יְדִיעָה אַחַת,

which is one comprehensive knowledge in which G‑d is identified with the process of knowledge and the known entities in total unity.

וְכָל זֶה הוּא לְשִׁיטָתוֹ שֶׁהַיְּדִיעָה הִיא עַצְמוּתוֹ

All of this, however, is only necessary because of Rambam’s approach which identifies knowledge with His Essence.

וְאִם כֵּן אִם הָיָה אֶצְלוֹ יְדִיעוֹת רַבּוֹת חֲלוּקוֹת

If so, i.e., if He is one with His knowledge, were there to be a multitude of different aspects within G‑d’s knowledge,

הֲרֵי זוֹ בְּחִינַת רִבּוּי בְּעַצְמוּתוֹ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

that would imply a multitude within His Essence,

שֶׁהוּא עַצְמוֹ הַיְדִיעָה,

for He is identified with His knowledge.

וְלָזֶה אָמַר שֶׁבִּידִיעַת עַצְמוֹ יוֹדֵעַ כָּל הַנִּבְרָאִים

Therefore, Rambam postulates that by knowing Himself, He knows all the created beings.

אֲבָל מֵאַחַר שֶׁהִתְבָּאֵר שֶׁהַיְדִיעָה אֵינוֹ עַצְמוּתוֹ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

Nevertheless, since it was explained that according to Maharal knowledge is not identified with His Essence

וְהִיא בְּרִיאָה מַמָּשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ

but is actually one of His creations,

אִם כֵּן אֵין רִבּוּי הַיְדִיעוֹת מְחַיְּבוֹת רִבּוּי בּוֹ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

then a multitude of elements of knowledge does not obligate multiplicity within Him, Heaven forbid.

וְאִם כֵּן יִתָּכֵן שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ כָּל נִבְרָא

Hence, it is possible that He will know every created being

וְהִיא יְדִיעָה מְיֻחֶדֶת מִידִיעָה שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ נִבְרָא הַשֵּׁנִי

and know it in an individual way, with His knowledge of one created being differing from that of another created being

לֹא שֶׁבִּידִיעָה אַחַת יוֹדֵעַ,

rather than knowing everything as one.

According to Rambam’s approach, none of the created beings are known in an individual manner. Instead, through G‑d’s knowledge of Himself, He knows them. Maharal’s approach, by contrast, allows for individual knowledge of every created being, for according to Maharal, G‑d knows the created beings from their own perspective.

וְרִבּוּי הַיְדִיעוֹת הֵם בְּרִיאַת דְּבָרִים רַבִּים

The many different elements of knowledge are in fact the creation of many entities,

הַנִּקְרָא יְדִיעָה כָּל אֶחָד

described as knowledge of each entity,

כְּמוֹ שֶׁבְּרִיאַת גּוּף הַנִּבְרָא הִיא בְּרִיאָה חֲדָשָׁה

just as the creation of the body of the created being is a new creation.

Just as bringing a created being into existence is a new creation, i.e., an activity in which G‑d extends beyond His Essence, as it were, so too, the knowledge of a created being is an activity in which G‑d extends beyond His Essence, as it were. Thus, the knowledge can be termed a new creation.

וְרִבּוּיָים אֵין מְחַיְּבִים רִבּוּי בַּבּוֹרֵא,

The multitude of objects known does not obligate that there be multiplicity within the Creator.

כָּל זֶה הוּא בֵּאוּר דִּבְרֵי הַגָּאוֹן

All of the above represents the approach of the Gaon Maharal

וְתַלְמִידוֹ הַתּוֹסְפוֹת יוֹם טוֹב,

and his disciple, the author of Tosfos Yom Tov,in their refutation of Rambam’s approach.

וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁדְּבָרָיו צוֹדְקִים מְאֹד בְּמַה שֶּׁכָּתַב שֶׁהַיְדִיעָה אֵינָהּ עַצְמוּתוֹ

Their words are very true with regard to their statement that knowledge is not G‑d’s Essence,

כִּי הוּא רָם וְנִשָּׂא מִגֶּדֶר מַדָּע כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר

for He is exalted and uplifted above the parameters of knowledge, as explained above.

וְאִם כֵּן בְּחִינַת הַיְדִיעָה אֶצְלוֹ מַמָּשׁ כְּעֶרֶךְ גּוּף הַנִּבְרָא

If so, for Him, knowledge is comparable to the body of a created being,

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ

as implied by the expression: “You made them all with Chochmah,

שֶׁהַחָכְמָה וַעֲשִׂיָּה גוּפָנִית שָׁוִים,

i.e., Chochmahand actual physical deed are the same for Him.

אַף עַל פִּי כֵן אֵין הַיְדִיעָה בְּחִינַת בְּרִיאָה לְעִנְיָן שֶׁהִיא בְּחִינַת נִפְרָד

Nevertheless, according to the conception of the AriZal as explained by the Alter Rebbe, knowledge is not considered a creation in the sense that it is considered a separate entity,

כְּמוֹ שֶׁגּוּף הַנִּבְרָא הוּא נִפְרָד לְעַצְמוֹ,

like the body of a created being which is a separate entity in and of itself.

For then G‑d would be knowing with knowledge that exists apart from Him, as explained in the Mahadura Kamma.

אֶלָּא לְעִנְיָן זֶה נִקְרֵאת הַיְדִיעָה בְּחִינַת אֱלֹקוּת מַמָּשׁ

On the contrary, knowledge can be described as actual G‑dliness,

כְּלוֹמַר שֶׁהִיא יְדִיעָה שֶׁלּוֹ

i.e., it is His knowledge,

שֶׁהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ עָשָׂה עַצְמוֹ יוֹדֵעַ

for He made Himself One Who knows.

כְּמוֹ עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל הָרַב

To describe by analogy, it is like a teacher

שֶׁמַּשְׁפִּיל עַצְמוֹ לְהִתְחַכֵּם עִם תִּינוֹק קָטָן לְפִי הַשְׂכָּלָתוֹ,

who lowers himself to share wisdom with a young child according to the child’s understanding.

שֶׁאַף עַל פִּי כֵן צִמְצוּם הַשְׂכָּלַת הָרַב אָז אֵינוֹ בְּחִינַת נִפְרָד

Nevertheless, the contraction of the teacher’s intellect is not a separate entity from the teacher himself and his own understanding.

וְהוּא הוּא מַמָּשׁ אֶלָּא שֶׁצִּמְצֵם עַצְמוֹ,

He himself is actually involved, but he has contracted himself.

וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין הַמָּשָׁל דּוֹמֶה לַנִּמְשָׁל

Nevertheless, the analogy is not comparable to the analogue,

כִּי שֵׂכֶל הָרַב הוּא מַהוּתוֹ מַמָּשׁ,

for the intellect of the teacher is identified with his being,

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן הַדַּעַת מַהוּתוֹ רָחוֹק מִמַּהוּת הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא

while Above, the nature of knowledge is far removed from the nature of the Holy One, blessed be He,

הַפָּשׁוּט בְּתַכְלִית,

Who is the ultimate of simple transcendence.

אֵין זֶה אֶלָּא רִחוּק יוֹתֵר

This, however, is nothing but a greater distance,

שֶׁצִּמְצֵם אוֹרוֹ לִהְיוֹת בְּמַהוּת רָחוֹק יוֹתֵר,

i.e., it was necessary for G‑d to contract His light into a more distant entity.

אֲבָל עִם כָּל זֶה אֵינוֹ נִפְרָד חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

It is, nevertheless, not separate from Him, Heaven forbid.

The Tzemach Tzedek is explaining that the comparison between G‑d and His knowledge and the teacher and the knowledge with which he relates to a small child is not appropriate, because the relative distance between G‑d and His knowledge and the teacher and his knowledge are incomparable. Nevertheless, the nature of the union of G‑d with His knowledge is comparable to that of the teacher and his knowledge.

וְזֶהוּ לְשׁוֹן אֱלֹקוּת (גֶעטְלִיךְ בִּלְשׁוֹן אִידִישׁ)

This is what is implied by describing the Sefiros as G‑dliness (Getlich),

כְּלוֹמַר הִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת כֹּחוֹת אֱלֹקִיִּים

i.e., they are the outpouring of Divine powers,

וְלֹא עַצְמוּתוֹ מַמָּשׁ

but not His Essence itself,

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנִּקְרְאוּ הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה וְדִבּוּר כֹּחוֹת נַפְשִׁיּוֹת

just as thought and speech are called powers of the soul,

שֶׁהֵם הִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת אוֹר הַנֶּפֶשׁ

for they are the outpouring of the soul’s light,

וְלֹא עַצְמוּתָהּ,

but not its essence.

וְעִם כָּל זֶה אֵינָן נִפְרָדִים,

Nevertheless, they are not separate entities.

וְלָכֵן יִתָּכֵן שֶׁיְּדִיעָה שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא יוֹדֵעַ אֶת הַנִּבְרָא הִיא חַיּוּת לְהַנִּבְרָא מַמָּשׁ

Therefore, it is appropriate to say that the knowledge with which G‑d knows the created beings is actually the vitality of that created being.

כִּי הַיְדִיעָה הַזֹּאת

For this knowledge

אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלְּגַבֵּי מַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הִיא רְחוֹקָה

– even though with regard to G‑d’s Essence, it is considered distant,

כְּרִחוּק הַנִּבְרָא מַמָּשׁ

as distant as the created being itself

הַיְנוּ לְעִנְיַן רִחוּק הַמַּהוּת,

when considered in regard to the distance of the nature of its being from G‑d’s Essence

אֲבָל מִכָּל מָקוֹם הִיא בְּחִינַת הִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת אֱלֹקִית

is, nevertheless, an outpouring of G‑dliness

עַד שֶׁתּוּכַל לְהַחֲיוֹת הַנִּבְרָא מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר:

to the extent that it has the potential to bring a created being into existence from nothingness, for creation, bringing an entity into being from nothingness, can be performed only by G‑d, as will be explained.

וַהֲבָנַת דָּבָר זֶה לַאֲשׁוּרוֹ,

To explain this concept in breadth:

יוּבַן עַל פִּי מַה שֶּׁאֲנַחְנוּ צְרִיכִים לְבָאֵר הַתֵּרוּץ הָאֲמִתִּי בְּעִנְיַן הִסְתַּעֲפוּת רִבּוּי הַנִּמְצָאִים מִן הָאֶחָד הָאֱמֶת,

It can be understood on the basis of the true resolution of the question: How does a multitude of different entities come into existence from the true Oneness?

כִּי בֶּאֱמֶת לִכְאוֹרָה קַשְׁיָא

For on the surface, it is truly problematic:

כִּי מִן הָאֶחָד הַפָּשׁוּט לֹא רָאוּי לִהְיוֹת רַק אֶחָד,

From simple oneness, it would appear that only oneness could come into being.

וְאִם כֵּן קֻשְׁיָא זוֹ תִּהְיֶה גַם כֵּן אֵיךְ יִהְיֶה הִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת יְדִיעוֹת חֲלוּקוֹת מֵאֶחָד הַפָּשׁוּט,

If so, the question would seemingly apply: How is it possible for diverse dimensions of knowledge to come into being from G‑d’s simple Oneness?

וּמַה שֶּׁכָּתַב הַגָּאוֹן הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל כְּמוֹ שֶׁרִבּוּי הַפְּעֻלּוֹת אֵין מְחַיְּבִים בּוֹ רִבּוּי, כָּךְ גַּם אֵלּוּ,

Maharal explained that just as a multitude of activities does not obligate multiplicity within Him, Heaven forbid, so too, the diverse dimensions of knowledge also do not.

אַעִקָּרָא דְדִינָא קַשְׁיָא לִכְאוֹרָה,

But the very basis of the issue raises a question:

אֵיךְ נִמְשָׁךְ הָרִבּוּי הַמֻּפְלָג מֵאַחְדּוּת הַפָּשׁוּט,

How is it possible for a multitude of entities to come into being from simple oneness?

וְהַתֵּרוּץ הָאֲמִתִּי לְזֶה הוּא מַה שֶּׁאָמַר הַמְּשׁוֹרֵר מָה רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶׂיךָ ה' כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ,

The true answer to this is conveyed by the words of the psalmist:16 “How manifold are Your deeds, O G‑d! You made them all with Chochmah.

כְּלוֹמַר בֶּאֱמֶת הָיָה פְּלִיאָה לִכְאוֹרָה מָה רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶׂיךָ

In truth, there is justification for an expression of wonder: “How manifold are Your deeds, O G‑d!”

אֵיךְ נִמְשָׁךְ הָרִבּוּי מֵאַחְדּוּת הַפָּשׁוּט,

i.e., how can a multitude of entities come into being from simple oneness?

וְעַל זֶה הֵשִׁיב כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ,

To this, the psalmist replies: “You made them all with Chochmah.

כְּלוֹמַר אִלּוּ נִמְשְׁכוּ מִמֶּנּוּ הַפְּעֻלּוֹת עַל יְדֵי שֶׁהָיָה מֵאִיר עֲלֵיהֶם כֹּחוֹ וְאוֹרוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁהוּא, הָיָה קֻשְׁיָא,

Implied is that were the different activities to be drawn down through G‑d shining His power and His light as they exist without contraction, there would be grounds for a question, for when infinite transcendence is expressed as it is, seemingly, there would be no way in which limited entities could come into existence from it.

אֲבָל בֶּאֱמֶת בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ

But in truth, “You made them all with Chochmah,

שֶׁעָשָׂה אוֹתָם בְּאֶמְצָעוּת הַחָכְמָה

i.e., G‑d brought about all these manifold entities through the medium of Chochmah.

שֶׁנִּתְלַבֵּשׁ בִּבְחִינָה זוֹ הַנִּקְרֵאת חָכְמָה

His light enclothed itself in the attribute which is called Chochmah

וּבָהּ וְעַל יָדָהּ הֵאִיר וְהִשְׁפִּיעַ בַּנִּבְרָאִים,

and through it, this light shines and imparts influence to the created beings.

וּמִן הַחָכְמָה כְּבָר יָכוֹל לִהְיוֹת הִתְחַלְּקוּת

From Chochmah,there is already the possibility for different forms of existence,

לְפִי שֶׁאֵינָהּ בְּעֶרֶךְ עַצְמוּתוֹ כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל

for Chochmahis not comparable to His Essence, as explained above.

Due to the tzimtzum, Chochmah is already on a level where the Divine influence can be expressed in different forms and characters.

וְאִם כֵּן מֵאַחַר שֶׁהוּא מַשְׁפִּיעַ עַל יָדָהּ

If so, since G‑d conveys His influence through Chochmah,

לֹא יִמָּנַע שֶׁאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא אֶחָד פָּשׁוּט יִהְיֶה מַשְׁפִּיעַ דְּבָרִים חֲלוּקִים

it is not out of the question that even though He is simple Oneness, His influence will be manifest in different entities,

מֵאַחַר שֶׁמַּשְׁפִּיעַ בְּכֹחוֹ הַגָּדוֹל הַשְׁפָּעָה הָרְאוּיָה לִהְיוֹת עַל יְדֵי כְּלִי זֶה הַנִּקְרָא חָכְמָה,

because He grants influence with His great power through the medium that is called Chochmah

וְסֵדֶר הִתְחַלְּקוּת הַיְנוּ בְּחִינַת י' סְפִירוֹת

and, subsequently, through the order of different entities – i.e., the Ten Sefiros

שֶׁנֶּאֶצְלוּ מִן הַחָכְמָה שֶׁנִּקְרֵאת רֵאשִׁית

that emanate from Chochmah,which is called the “first.”

וְעַל יָדָם הוּא מַשְׁפִּיעַ בַּנִּבְרָאִים,

Through these Ten Sefiros, He conveys influence to the created beings.

וְלָכֵן יִתְחַלְּקוּ הַנִּבְרָאִים לְפִי הַכְּלִי שֶׁהִשְׁפִּיעַ עַל יָדָהּ

Therefore, the created beings vary according to the k’lithrough which He conveys influence.

כְּמוֹ הַהַשְׁפָּעָה הַבָּאָה עַל יְדֵי מִדַּת הַחֶסֶד יִהְיֶה כְּדֻגְמַת חֶסֶד

For example, entities receiving influence through the attribute of Chessedwill be representative of Chessed.

וְהֵם אוֹר וּמַיִם

They include light and water,

שֶׁנִּבְרְאוּ בְּיוֹם רִאשׁוֹן שֶׁהֵאִיר מִדַּת הַחֶסֶד,

which were created on the first day of Creation, on which the attribute of Chessed shined forth.

וְהַהַשְׁפָּעָה הַבָּאָה מִכֹּחוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ עַל יְדֵי הַגְּבוּרָה יִהְיוּ כְּדֻגְמַת הַגְּבוּרָה

The influence from the attribute of Gevurahbrings into being entities representative of Gevurah,

וְהֵם רָקִיעַ כוּ'

for example, the firmament, which is described by the Torah17 as “dividing.” This resembles Gevurah, which is the source for division in Creation.

וְעַל דֶּרֶךְ זֶה בְּכָל הַמִּדּוֹת כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר אִם יִרְצֶה ה'

Similar concepts apply with regard to the other emotional attributes, as will be explained with G‑d’s help.

וְרִבּוּי הַנִּבְרָאִים הֵם מֵהִתְכַּלְלוּת הַמִּדּוֹת זוֹ מִזּוֹ,

The multitude of types of created beings comes from the interrelation of the emotional qualities with each other.

וְהַכְּלָל בְּזֶה כִּי הַהַשְׁפָּעָה מִשְׁתַּנֵּית לְפִי הַכְּלִי שֶׁמַּשְׁפִּיעַ עַל יָדָהּ

The general principle that applies is that the influence changes according to the nature of the k’li through which it passes,

הֲגַם שֶׁכֹּחַ הַהַשְׁפָּעָה הוּא כֹּחַ אֶחָד

even though the power generating the influence is One,

הוּא הַיָּחִיד וּמְיֻחָד בָּרוּךְ הוּא הַפָּשׁוּט בְּתַכְלִית הַפְּשִׁיטוּת,

He Who is One and unified, Who is simple with ultimate simplicity.

וְהַמָּשָׁל בְּזֶה יָדוּעַ וּמוּבָא בַּפַּרְדֵּ"ס שָׁם פֶּרֶק ב' כְּעֵין הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וְהָאֵשׁ

The Pardes,Shaar 4, ch. 2, provides a well-known analogy for this: the effect of the sun or fire.

שֶׁבְּכֹחַ אֶחָד שֶׁבּוֹ וְהוּא הַחֹם

With one of its powers18 – heat –

הוּא מַתִּיךְ הַשַּׁעֲוָה

it melts wax,

וְתַקְפִּיא דָּבָר לַח

causes liquids to congeal,

וּתְבַשֵּׁל וְתִשְׂרוֹף וְתַשְׁחִיר וְתַלְבִּין

cooks, burns, causes certain entities to turn black and others to turn white.

וְחִלּוּף הַפְּעֻלּוֹת הַלָּז הוּא מִצַּד חִלּוּף הַמְקַבְּלִים

The difference between these effects depends on the different nature of the recipients,

מִבְּלִי שֶׁיְּחַיֵּב זֶה רִבּוּי בְּעַצְמוּת הָאֵשׁ,

without obligating that there be any multiplicity within the essence of the fire.

וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁבֶּאֱמֶת יֵשׁ לוֹמַר שֶׁהַקֻּשְׁיָא מֵעִקָּרָא דְדִינָא אֵינָהּ קֻשְׁיָא כְּלָל,

Furthermore, it can be said that in essence, the question raised above is not a question at all;

רוֹצֶה לוֹמַר מַה שֶּׁהִקְשׁוּ אֵיךְ נִמְצָא הָרִבּוּי מִן הָאֶחָד הָאֱמֶת,

that is to say, the question “How is it possible for a multitude of entities to come into being from simple oneness?” in truth does not represent a conceptual difficulty.

כִּי הַהַקְדָּמָה הָאוֹמֶרֶת כִּי מֵהָאֶחָד לֹא יִמָּצֵא מִמֶּנּוּ אֶלָּא דָּבָר אֶחָד,

For the axiom on which this question is based – that from oneness, only oneness can come into being –

הִיא אֱמֶת בִּדְבָרִים הַטִּבְעִיִּים שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם בְּחִירָה בִּפְעֻלָּתָם

is true with regard to natural entities that have no choice whether to perform the activities associated with them,

אֶלָּא פּוֹעֲלִים כְּטִבְעָם שֶׁהִטְבִּיעַ בָּהֶם הַבּוֹרֵא,

but instead perform that activity innately, according to the natural tendency that the Creator implanted within them.

וּלְמַה שֶּׁאֵין לוֹ כִּי אִם טֶבַע אֶחָד לֹא יִפְעַל כִּי אִם אֶחָד,

In that context, it is correct to say that something which has only one tendency will only bring about one type of activity and that type of activity will reflect its source.

וְלָזֶה הָיָה סִבַּת מַה שֶּׁהָאֵשׁ פּוֹעֶלֶת הַהַתָּכָה וְהַהַקְפָּאָה וְהַבִּשּׁוּל וְכוּ'

For this reason, the fact that fire causes melting, congealment, cooking, etc.,

שֶׁהֵם פְּעֻלּוֹת חֲלוּקוֹת, וְהִיא רַק כֹּחַ אֶחָד הוּא הַחֹם,

i.e., different effects, though it is only one power, the power of heat, does not present a question, because

הִתְחַלְּפוּת פְּעֻלּוֹת אֵלּוּ הוּא מִצַּד הַמְקַבְּלִים

the difference in these effects comes about because of the nature of the recipients,

שֶׁהֵם מוּכָנִים לְהִשְׁתַּנּוֹת כֵּן,

that they are prepared to change in these different manners:

זֶה לְהַתָּכָה וְזֶה לְהַקְפָּאָה

this one to melt and this one to congeal,

עַל יְדֵי כֹּחַ אֶחָד הוּא הַחֹם,

comes as a result of one power, the power of heat.

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן מִצַּד עֶצֶם הָאֵשׁ לֹא יִהְיֶה רַק פּוֹעֵל אֶחָד הוּא הַחֹם,

In contrast, the essence of fire has only one effect, producing heat,

כִּי כָּךְ טִבְעָהּ וְאֵין לָהּ בְּחִירָה כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

because this is its nature and it has no choice in this regard, as explained above.

אֲבָל הַשֵּׁם יִתְבָּרֵךְ שֶׁהוּא אֶחָד הָאֱמֶת

G‑d, by contrast, is true Oneness

וּפוֹעֵל בְּרָצוֹן וּבְחִירָה

and acts willfully and by choice.

הִנֵּה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהוּא אַחְדּוּת הַפָּשׁוּט

Hence, even though He is simple Oneness,

יוּכַל לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ כַּמָּה חֲלֻקּוֹת,

He can convey different types of influence.

וַאֲפִלּוּ אִם תִּמְצֵי לוֹמַר שֶׁהָאֶחָד לֹא יִפְעַל רַק אֶחָד

Even if it would be postulated that oneness could only bring about one type of influence,

גַּם בְּפוֹעֵל בְּרָצוֹן

even by acting willfully,

זֶהוּ לְפִי שֶׁהֱיוֹתוֹ אֶחָד מֻגְדָּר בְּגֶדֶר מְיֻחָד

that is because it is defined in its oneness, set aside in a category of its own

וְנִבְדָּל מִמֶּנּוּ זוּלָתוֹ

that separates it from other entities.

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן הֱיוֹתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ אֶחָד

G‑d’s Oneness, by contrast,

הַיְנוּ שֶׁאֵינוֹ מֻגְדָּר

is not defined in any given way.

וְאִם כֵּן אֵין כָּל דָּבָר נִבְדָּל מִמֶּנּוּ

As such, there is nothing that is separate from Him

וְיָכוֹל לְהַוּוֹת הַכֹּל

and He can bring everything into being,

וּכְמוּבָן מִמַּה שֶּׁנִּתְבָּאֵר פֶּרֶק ג' בְּדִבְרֵי הַגָּאוֹן הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

as can be understood from what was cited in section 3 from the words of the Gaon Maharal.

מִכָּל מָקוֹם הִנֵּה אִם הָיָה מַשְׁפִּיעַ לְהַנִּבְרָאִים בְּכֹחוֹ וְאוֹרוֹ הַגָּדוֹל כְּמוֹ שֶׁהוּא

Nevertheless, were G‑d to convey influence to the created beings with His great power and light as it is, without contraction,

הָיוּ הַנִּמְצָאִים גַּם כֵּן בְּלִי גְבוּל וּמִדָּה,

the entities brought into being would also be without limitation or measure, for every one of the entities brought into being would reflect the infinite dimension of its source, G‑d’s light.

To explain the latter point: Taanis 25a relates that the daughter of R. Chanina ben Dosa once accidently took vinegar instead of oil to prepare a lamp for Shabbos. When she realized her mistake, she became sad because it was too late to bring other fuel for the lamp. Her father comforted her, saying: “He Who said that oil should burn will say that vinegar should burn.” And indeed the vinegar burned for the entire Shabbos.

We regard that as a miracle. Why? Because according to the structure of the world at present, vinegar does not burn. But from G‑d’s perspective, as R. Chanina ben Dosa so eloquently explained, is there a reason why one substance should burn and not the other? And that is what miracles are: revelations of a higher reality in which the limits of our world do not apply.

This is what is meant by making entities with a distinct nature, but that those distinctions would be limitless, i.e., there would be limited entities, but they would not conform to any standard structure or pattern.

וְגַם הָיָה רִבּוּיָם לְאֵין קֵץ מַמָּשׁ וְלֹא בִּבְחִינַת גְּבוּל כְּלָל

And there would be a multitude of entities without any end or limit at all.

כִּי מֵאַחַר שֶׁהוּא הַבִּלְתִּי בַּעַל גְּבוּל וּבִלְתִּי בַּעַל תַּכְלִית

For, since He is infinite and endless,

כְּשֶׁיִּרְצֶה לְחַלֵּק וּלְהַוּוֹת נִבְרָאִים מִמֶּנּוּ בִּבְחִינַת הִתְחַלְּקוּת

were He to desire to make distinctions and create entities of a distinct nature,

יִהְיֶה הַהִתְחַלְּקוּת גַּם כֵּן בְּלִי גְבוּל

those distinctions would also be limitless,

כְּמוֹ שֶׁהוּא בְּעַצְמוּתוֹ בִּבְחִינַת אֵין סוֹף,

just as He in His Essence is infinite.

The Tzemach Tzedek is emphasizing a second point: that were G‑d not to create through tzimtzum, not only would every entity be unlimited in nature, He would bring into being an infinite number of created beings. Just as a person can continue counting ad infinitum, so too, there could be an unlimited number of Sefiros and worlds.19 Each of these Sefiros and worlds would be – like the vinegar mentioned above – fundamentally undefined in nature.

וּמֵאַחַר שֶׁאָנוּ רוֹאִים שֶׁהֵם בִּבְחִינַת גְּבוּל וּמִדָּה

We see that the created beings are limited and measured,

וְגַם יֵשׁ לָהֶם שִׁעוּר

and they also have a specific dimension.

מִן הָאָרֶץ לָרָקִיעַ ת"ק שָׁנָה

“From the earth to the heavens is a distance of a 500-year journey.”20

וּבוֹ נִבְרָאִים בְּשִׁעוּר מֻגְבָּל וּבְהִתְחַלְּקוּת,

Each of the created beings has a specific measure, and each is distinct from one another.

זֶהוּ לְפִי שֶׁהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ מֵאִיר וּמַשְׁפִּיעַ אוֹתָם עַל יְדֵי הַכֵּלִים הַנִּזְכָּרִים לְעֵיל

Hence, we are forced to say that the influence is not being conveyed from Him directly. Instead, He conveys light and influence through the keilim mentioned above,

שֶׁרֵאשִׁיתָם הַחָכְמָה

the first of them being Chochmah.

וְאַחֲרֶיהָ הַבִּינָה וְהַדַּעַת וְהַחֶסֶד וְהַגְּבוּרָה וְכוּ'

Afterwards follow Binah, Daas, Chessed, Gevurah,etc.

שֶׁהֵם הָעֲשָׂרָה לְבוּשִׁים שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַזַ"ל שֶׁנִּתְלַבֵּשׁ בָּהֶן וּבָרָא בָהֶן אֶת הָעוֹלָם,

These represent the ten garments in which, as our Sages say,21 G‑d enclothed Himself when He created the world.

וּמִצַּד הִתְחַלְּפוּת מַהוּתָן כָּךְ יִשְׁתַּנּוּ הַפְּעֻלּוֹת,

Because of their different natures, the effects brought about as a result of them also vary.

(וְסֵדֶר אֲצִילוּתָן וְהַמְשָׁכוּתָן הַכֵּלִים הַנִּזְכָּרִים לְעֵיל בְּעַצְמָן מְבֹאָר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר

(The order of the emanation of the keilim and the manner in which they are drawn down are explained in another source22

בְּעִנְיַן עֲקֻדִּים נְקֻדִּים וּבְרֻדִּים

with regard to the concept of Akudim, Nekudim,and Berudim.23

שֶׁמִּתְּחִלָּה הָיוּ כֻּלָּם בִּכְלִי אֶחָד

At the outset, they were all in one k’li.

וְאַחַר כָּךְ נִתְחַלְּקוּ לְי'

Afterwards they subdivided into ten,

וְי' לְי')

and each of these ten further subdivided into ten.)24

וְאִם כֵּן זֶה הָעִנְיָן הָאֲמִתִּי הוּא תֵּרוּץ גַּם לְקֻשְׁיָא הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל דְּהִסְתַּעֲפוּת הָרִבּוּי מִן הָאַחְדּוּת

As such, this true concept also serves as the resolution of the above question – how is it possible for a multitude to come into being from oneness?

הֲגַם שֶׁאֵין אָנוּ צְרִיכִים לָהּ מִצַּד עֶצֶם הַקֻּשְׁיָא הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל אֶלָּא כְּפִי שֶׁאָמַרְנוּ.

In truth, however, we don’t need to resolve the above question, for the essence of the question is not that problematic,as we explained.

As explained, as G‑d’s infinite light diffuses, it is possible that diverse entities be brought into being. However, the distinction between these entities would not be fixed and permanent, as in the vinegar that burnt for of R. Chanina ben Dosa’s daughter mentioned above. Every entity would be unlimited in nature. However, our world is made up of entities that are fundamentally distinct. Oil is oil and vinegar is vinegar. How such distinctions come into being from G‑d’s simple light thus requires explanation.

וּמֵאַחַר שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר שֶׁהֶאָרַת הַחַיּוּת מִמֶּנּוּ יִתְבָּרֵךְ נִמְשָׁךְ עַל יְדֵי הַחָכְמָה וּשְׁאָרֵי הַט' בְּחִינוֹת שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֲרוּ לְעֵיל

The core of the concept is, as has been explained previously, that the radiance of the life-force is drawn down from Him through Chochmah and the other nine attributes mentioned above.

שֶׁהֵם הַנִּקְרָאִים כֵּלִים

These are called keilim.

The term keilim has the meaning of “utensils.” That is a fitting description in this instance, because here we are emphasizing how the Sefiros are the medium through which G‑d brings about change within the created beings. The term keilim also has the meaning “vessels” or “containers.” That meaning is more appropriate when speaking about the interrelationship between the oros, “lights,” G‑d’s creative energy, and the keilim within the Sefiros themselves.

שֶׁעַל יָדָם הוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ פּוֹעֵל הַנִּמְצָאִים,

That term is appropriate, because through them, He brings about all forms of existence.

וּמַה שֶּׁנִּקְרָאִים כֵּלִים הַיְנוּ שֶׁהֵם בְּעֶרְכּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ כִּכְלִי בְּיַד הָאוּמָן

They are called keilimbecause when compared to G‑d, they are like a utensil in the hand of a craftsman

שֶׁבּוֹנֶה עַל יָדוֹ אוֹ כּוֹתֵב עַל יָדוֹ,

with which he builds or writes.

Thus, the difference and distinction that exists in our world and the worlds above stems from the keilim, the receptacles for G‑d’s light, which channel that light in diverse ways according to their individual natures. His light itself, by contrast, reflects His Essential Being, and hence is simple and undefined.

וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם


In the lines that follow, the Tzemach Tzedek explains an implied question: How can the keilim internalize G‑d’s light? G‑d’s light is infinite and simple, while the keilim are defined entities. How can infinite light be internalized within a defined entity? In resolution, the Tzemach Tzedek explains that

אֵינָן כֵּלִים נִפְרָדִים מַמָּשׁ כַּגַּרְזֶן לְגַבֵּי הָאוּמָן

the attributes of Atzilus are not separate keilim like an axe in the hands of a craftsman,

שֶׁהוּא נִבְדָּל מִמֶּנּוּ לְגַמְרֵי,

which is an entirely separate entity.

אֶלָּא הֵם אֱלֹקוּת מַמָּשׁ,

Instead, they are actual G‑dliness;

כְּלוֹמַר שֶׁהַחָכְמָה הַזֹּאת הִיא חָכְמָתוֹ מַמָּשׁ

i.e., the Chochmah is actually His Chochmah

שֶׁבָּהּ מִתְחַכֵּם,

with which He displays wisdom, i.e., Chochmah is not a distinct quality, existing independently, but is totally identified with Him.

וְכֵן הַחֶסֶד הוּא כֹּחַ חַסְדּוֹ מַמָּשׁ

Similarly, Chessedis actually His Chessed

שֶׁבּוֹ מִתְחַסֵּד,

with which He shows generosity.

Since the keilim of Atzilus are G‑dly, it is possible for G‑d’s light to rest within them.

וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁבְּעַצְמוּתוֹ לַאו מִכָּל אִנּוּן מִדּוֹת אִיהוּ כְּלָל,

True, His Essence is “not any of these attributes at all,”25 but rather is utterly transcendent, as explained above.

הִנֵּה זֶהוּ בֶּאֱמֶת עִנְיַן צִמְצוּם

Nevertheless, in truth the descent of His light and its transition to these lower levelsis accomplished through the tzimtzum,

שֶׁצִּמְצֵם וְהִסְתִּיר אוֹרוֹ הַפָּשׁוּט

whereby G‑d contracted and hid His simple light

עַד שֶׁיִּתְרָאֶה מִמֶּנּוּ דִּמְיוֹן כֹּחוֹת אֵלּוּ

until it was possible for there to appear from it entities comparable to the attributes described above:

כֹּחַ הַהִתְחַכְּמוּת וְכֹחַ הַהֲבָנָה וְכֹחַ הַיְדִיעָה

the powers of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.

שֶׁהֵם הַנִּקְרָאִים כֵּלִים דְּחָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת דַּאֲצִילוּת,

They are called the keilim of ChaBaD of Atzilus.

וְכֵן עַל דֶּרֶךְ זֶה בַּמִּדּוֹת מַהוּת כֹּחַ הַהִתְחַסְּדוּת אוֹ כֹּחַ הַגְּבוּרָה כוּ'

Similar concepts apply with regard to the emotional attributes, the powers of generosity (Chessed) and of might (Gevurah), etc.,

נִקְרָאִים חֶסֶד־גְּבוּרָה־תִּפְאֶרֶת,

which are called ChaGaT,

וְכַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל מִמְּשַׁל צִמְצוּם הַשְׂכָּלַת הָרַב

as explained above in the analogy of the concept of the contraction of the intellect of the teacher,

אַךְ שֶׁהִיא בְּדֶרֶךְ נִפְלָאָה יוֹתֵר,

but indeed, it is far more wondrous.

As mentioned, the distance and difference between G‑d and His wisdom is far greater than the distance and difference between a sagelike teacher and the wisdom that he conveys to a young child.

וְעִם כָּל זֶה אֵין כֹּחוֹת אֵלּוּ פּוֹעֲלִים בְּעַצְמָם לְבָד,

Nevertheless, these powers do not generate activity on their own.

אֶלָּא שֶׁהוּא יִתְבָּרֵךְ פּוֹעֵל בָּהֶם,

Instead, it is G‑d Who acts through them.

שֶׁמִּתְחַכֵּם עַל יְדֵי הַחָכְמָה

He displays wisdom through Chochmah.

וְעַל יְדֵי הַדַּעַת לֵידַע כָּל הַנִּבְרָאִים שֶׁבָּעוֹלָמוֹת,

Through Daas,He knows all the created beings in all the worlds.

וְכֵן מִתְחַסֵּד עַל יְדֵי כֹּחַ הַחֶסֶד,

And He acts generously through the power of Chessed.

וְאִם כֵּן הַפְּעֻלָּה מַמָּשׁ עַל יְדֵי כֹּחוֹ הַבִּלְתִּי בַּעַל תַּכְלִית

As such, the activity actually stems from His unlimited power,

אֶלָּא שֶׁבָּאָה בְּאֶמְצָעוּת הַכְּלִי

but it is expressed through the medium of a k’li.

וּלְעִנְיָן זֶה הוּא כִּמְשַׁל הַחוֹצֵב בַּגַּרְזֶן

With regard to this, the analogy of one who chops with an axe is appropriate.

וְגַם לְעִנְיַן רִחוּק מַהוּת הַגַּרְזֶן מִמַּהוּת הַחוֹצֵב

The analogy also conveys the distance between the level of the axe and that of the chopper,

שֶׁכֵּן לְמַעְלָה מַהוּת הַחָכְמָה כַּעֲשִׂיָּה גוּפָנִית אֵצֶל מַהוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ

for in truth, in the analogue, the nature of Chochmah is comparable to physical deed in relation to His Being.

וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם נִקְרָא אֱלֹקוּת מַמָּשׁ

Nevertheless, the Sefiros are considered actual G‑dliness, one with Him,

וּלְעִנְיָן זֶה אֵין הַמָּשָׁל דּוֹמֶה לַנִּמְשָׁל,

and in this regard, the analogy of the axe does not resemble the analogue, the keilim of the Sefiros.

וּלְפִי שֶׁהַכְּלִי הִיא אֱלֹקוּת מַמָּשׁ

Since each of the keilim is actually G‑dliness,

לָכֵן בְּזֶה יִתָּכֵן מְאֹד מַה שֶּׁכָּתַב הָרַמְבַּ"ם הוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ וְהוּא הַיָּדוּעַ וְהוּא הַדֵּעָה עַצְמָהּ

in this context, it is very appropriate to quote Rambam’s statement: “He is the Knower, He is the Object of Knowledge, and He is the Knowledge itself.”

שֶׁמֵּאַחַר שֶׁהַדֵּעָה שֶׁהִיא דַעַת דַּאֲצִילוּת הִיא אֱלֹקוּת מַמָּשׁ

For knowledge, i.e., Daas of Atzilus, is actual G‑dliness.

אִם כֵּן הוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ וְהוּא הַיָּדוּעַ בְּלִי פֵרוּד

Hence, He is the Knower and He is the Object of Knowledge without any separation at all.

וְדָבָר זֶה אֵין בִּיכֹלֶת הָאָדָם לַהֲבִינוֹ

“This concept is not within a man’s ability to understand,”

לְפִי שֶׁהָאָדָם מְצַיֵּר מַהוּת דַּעַת כְּמוֹ שֶׁהוּא בּוֹ

for a person conceives of knowledge as it exists within his own self,

שֶׁאֵין הוּא וְדַעְתּוֹ אֶחָד

and he and his knowledge are not the same.

אֶלָּא שְׁנַיִם

Instead, they are two distinct entities,

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּלִקּוּטֵי אֲמָרִים חֵלֶק ב' פֶּרֶק ח',

as stated in Tanya, Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah,ch. 8.

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן לְמַעְלָה מֵאֲצִילוּת

These concepts apply only in the realm of Atzilus. Above Atzilus, by contrast,

לֹא יִתָּכֵן לוֹמַר גֶּדֶר מַדָּע כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

it is not appropriate to speak of the category of Daas at all, as explained above.

The rationale is that Daas (knowledge) involves knowing a defined entity, and there is no concrete definition of existence above Atzilus.

וְיִתָּכֵן לוֹמַר שֶׁבִּידִיעַת עַצְמוֹ יוֹדֵעַ כָּל הַנִּבְרָאִים

Similarly, the statement that through the knowledge of Himself, He knows all the created beings is appropriate only when speaking of the keilim of Atzilus.

דְּהַיְנוּ פֵּרוּשׁ יְדִיעַת עַצְמוֹ

For the expression “the knowledge of Himself,”

שֶׁנּוֹפֵל עַל עַצְמוֹ שֵׁם מַדָּע

that G‑d could be described with the term “knowledge,”

הַיְנוּ בְּחִינַת כֵּלִים דַּאֲצִילוּת

is appropriate only on the level of the keilim of Atzilus,

שֶׁהֵן אֱלֹקוּת מַמָּשׁ

for they are actual G‑dliness

וְהֵם מְקוֹרֵי הַחַיּוּת לְכָל הַנִּבְרָאִים

and they are the source of vitality for all the created beings.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּעֵץ חַיִּים שֶׁכֵּלִים דַּאֲצִילוּת נַעֲשִׂים נְשָׁמָה לִברִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה

As stated in Etz Chayim,the keilimof Atzilusbecome the soul for the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah,and Asiyah.

וּבְזֶה צָדְקוּ דִּבְרֵי הָרַמְבַּ"ם

In this regard, Rambam’swords are correct,

דְּלֹא כְּהַחוֹשְׁבִים שֶׁהַכֵּלִים הֵם בְּחִינַת דָּבָר נִבְדָּל חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

unlike the views of others who maintain that the keilim are separate entities, Heaven forbid.

אֶלָּא הֵם אֱלֹקוּת

Instead, they are G‑dliness.

לָכֵן הֲרֵי יְדִיעַת עַצְמוֹ דְּכֵלִים הַנִּזְכָּרִים לְעֵיל

Thus, the knowledge of Himself, i.e., the knowledge of these keilim,

הִיא מַמָּשׁ יְדִיעַת כָּל הַנִּבְרָאִים

is actually His knowledge of all the created beings.

שֶׁנִּמְשְׁכוּ עַל יָדָן הַנִּבְרָאִים

For through G‑d’s knowledge of them, these created beings are drawn into existence,

וְזֶהוּ הַחַיּוּת שֶׁלָּהֶם

and it is their vitality.

וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם לְגַבֵּי מַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ מַמָּשׁ

Nevertheless, in relation to His Being and Essence,

הֲרֵי יְדִיעָה זוֹ פְּעֻלָּה מַמָּשׁ הִיא

this knowledge is comparable to an actual deed,

כְּמוֹ שֶׁבְּרִיאַת הַנִּבְרָא הִיא פְּעֻלָּה,

just as the creation of a created being is an actual deed.

וּפְעֻלָּה זוֹ נַעֲשֵׂית עַל יְדֵי כֵּלִים הַנִּזְכָּרִים לְעֵיל

This activity is performed by these keilim, as explained above.

וּבְזֶה צָדְקוּ דִּבְרֵי הַגָּאוֹן הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל דְּהַיְנוּ מַה שֶּׁכָּתַב שֶׁהַיְדִיעָה אֵינָהּ עַצְמוּתוֹ,

In this, the GaonMaharal was correct in saying that knowledge is not G‑d’s Essence.

אַךְ לְפִי שֶׁמִּכָּל מָקוֹם הִיא בְּחִינַת אֱלֹקוּת

Nevertheless, since the Sefiros are G‑dliness,

אִם כֵּן בְּזֶה צָדְקוּ דִּבְרֵי הָרַמְבַּ"ם

in that, Rambam’swords are correct

בְּהַפְלָגַת מַהוּת הַיְדִיעָה גַם כֵּן

in describing the wondrous nature of His knowledge,

בְּאָמְרוֹ שֶׁהִיא מִתְיַחֶדֶת עִמּוֹ

and by saying that it is united with Him,

וְרוֹצֶה לוֹמַר עִם הֶאָרָתוֹ הַמִּתְלַבֶּשֶׁת בָּהּ כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר אִם יִרְצֶה ה',

i.e., with His radiance that is enclothed within it, as will be explained with G‑d’s help.

שֶׁהוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ וְהוּא הַדֵּעָה

On this level, it can be said: “He is the Knower and the Knowledge,”

וְגַם שֶׁבִּידִיעַת עַצְמוֹ יוֹדֵעַ כָּל הַנִּבְרָאִים

and “with the knowledge of Himself, He knows all the created beings.”

וּשְׁנֵיהֶם דִּבְרֵי אֱלֹקִים חַיִּים,

Thus, both perspectives – that of Rambam and Maharalare the words of the living G‑d.26

דִּבְרֵי הַגָּאוֹן הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל צָדְקוּ בְּבֵאוּרוֹ עִנְיַן מַהוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ שֶׁאֵין נוֹפֵל בּוֹ גַּם גֶּדֶר מֻגְבָּל כְּמוֹ שֵׂכֶל

The words of the GaonMaharal are correct in his explanation of G‑d’s Being, that He cannot be defined in terms of a limited entity like knowledge.

Even the level of perfect knowledge explained by Rambam is not an appropriate description for Him.

אֶלָּא הֲוָיָה פְּשׁוּטָה

Instead, He is a simple entity,

נֶעְלָם מֵאִתָּנוּ

whose Being is hidden from our comprehension.

הִצְטַיֵּר מַהוּתוֹ רַק בִּבְחִינַת אֱמוּנַת אֹמֶן שֶׁיֵּשׁ מָצוּי זֶה,

We can relate to this level only through faith, by believing that such an entity exists.

וְדִבְרֵי הָרַמְבַּ"ם צָדְקוּ שֶׁהַיִּחוּד שֶׁבֵּאֵר הוּא,

And Rambam’s words are correct with regard to the unity he described,

הוּא עִנְיַן הִתְלַבְּשׁוּתוֹ בַּכֵּלִים דַּאֲצִילוּת

for they are an apt description of the enclothement of G‑d’s light in the keilim of Atzilus,

שֶׁהֵן אֱלֹקוּת כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל:

for they are G‑dliness, as explained above.


According to Maharal, the knowledge with which G‑d knows all existence is an activity, like the activity involved in a person’s acquisition of information. This does not create a philosophical problem, because just as a person’s performance of many activities does not necessitate multiplicity within his essence, so too, G‑d’s creation of a multiplicity of created beings – and, by the same token, His knowledge of them – does not necessitate multiplicity within Him.

Thus, according to Maharal, Rambam was incorrect in identifying G‑d’s Essence with His knowledge. Rambam stated that G‑d is one with His knowledge to resolve the difficulty of how G‑d’s knowing each created being in a particular manner would not necessitate multiplicity within Him. According to Maharal, by contrast, since knowledge is not identified with His Essence, His multitude of knowledge does not necessitate multiplicity within Him, just as creation does not necessitate multiplicity.

The Tzemach Tzedek accepts the basis of the approach of Maharal, but qualifies it somewhat. As Maharal states, G‑d’s Essence transcends knowledge entirely. Nevertheless, if G‑d’s knowledge were considered a separate entity, that would imply that something (knowledge) exists outside of Him. Instead, His knowledge must be described as actual G‑dliness, for He is identified with His knowledge. In this, the Tzemach Tzedek accepts Rambam’s view.

There are thus two dimensions: a) G‑d’s Essence, which is above our frame of reference entirely; and b) G‑d as He relates to the Creation through knowledge. Thus, G‑dliness contracts itself and brings into being the Sefiros, and more particularly, their keilim. These Sefiros are not G‑d’s Essence, but an expression of His powers. Nevertheless, they are not separate entities but are identified with Him.

The Tzemach Tzedek explains that G‑d’s Oneness with the Sefiros can be understood on the basis of a larger question: How do a multitude of different entities come into existence from True Oneness? It would appear that only Oneness could come into being from simple Oneness.

The Tzemach Tzedek bases the resolution of this question on an interpretation of the verse: “How manifold are Your deeds, O G‑d! You made them all with Chochmah.” The statement: “How manifold are Your deeds, O G‑d!” reflects the question: How can a multitude of entities come into being from simple Oneness? The resolution is: “You made them all with Chochmah.

The creative force – G‑d’s light – is simple Oneness, but because it shines through the medium of Chochmah and the subsequent Sefiros, i.e., keilim, there is the possibility for different expressions.

The term k’li means “utensil.” That term is used because when compared to His Essence, the keilim are like utensils in the hand of a craftsman who uses them to build or write. Nevertheless, the attributes represented by the keilim are not separate entities like an axe in the hands of a craftsman. Instead, they are actual G‑dliness; i.e., the k’li of Chochmah is actually His Chochmah with which He displays wisdom.

Fundamentally, Chassidus identifies with the Maharal’s position: that G‑d’s Being and Essence cannot be defined in terms of a limited entity like knowledge. Instead, He is a simple entity, transcending our comprehension. We can relate to this level only through faith, by believing that such a level of His existence exists.

However, Rambam’s words – that by knowing Himself, G‑d knows all the created beings – are a fitting description of the enclothement of G‑d’s light in the keilim of Atzilus, for they are G‑dliness, as explained above.