Concerning the “measuring-rod” it is stated in the Zohar (II, 233b) that “it is not [of the level of] butzina dekardenisa...; rather, this rod descends from there to a lower level, which was ’frozen‘ from the illumination that remained after the ascent of butzina dekardenisa.” The “measuring-rod” is thus not [of the level of] butzina dekardenisa, i.e., the level of Gevuros of Atik Yomin that enclothe themselves in Mocha Stimaah, which is the level of the “measuring-line.” Rather, “from there this rod descends to a lower level, which was ’frozen‘ from the illumination that remained after the ascent of butzina dekardenisa.”

Thus, this [“measuring-rod”] is but a vestige of the light of the Gevuros of Atik Yomin that remained after the ascent of the illumination of the “measuring-line” which “measures” [the degree] of illumination and light [that is to descend into the vessels, etc.]. Accordingly, the “measuring-rod” measures merely the ascent and self-concealment of the Divine light, whereas the “measuring-line” measures the light and the revelation of the Ten Sefiros.

[The “measuring-line” is thus superior,] for the primary Divine intent was that light should be revealed in Atzilus and through it be drawn down [in some meas­ure] to illuminate [the three lower Worlds of] Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah as well.

All this is accomplished by means of the tzimtzum, which is the “measurement” effected by the “measuring-line”; without this “measurement,” the Ten Sefiros would not emanate in the manner desired by G‑d, viz., in their present form.

It is true (as explained earlier) that within the pnimi­yus of the blessed Emanator the intent of tzimtzum arose first [which would give precedence to the “measuring-rod” over the “measuring-line” inasmuch as it “measures” concealment rather than revelation] for the ultimate purpose of revelation; moreover, this revelation comes about by means of Atzilus and its Ten Sefiros which were drawn down and defined by the “measuring line.” Nevertheless, the ultimate [and innermost intent of the Emanator] remains — revelation.1 It is only that in order for this to take place in this [desired] manner, there [first] had to be an emanation of the Ten Sefiros, preceded by the tzimtzum of the “measuring-line.”

[Though the Sefiros came into being through an act of tzimtzum,] the [tzimtzum or] “measurement” effected by the “measuring-line” relates to light and [hence to] revelation. [As such it is superior to] the “measuring-rod” which “measures” the light which ascends [and becomes concealed from creation] and which is a vestige of the light of the “measuring-line.”

[Tohu and Tikkun]

In a more general sense, this is the difference between the “measurement” that takes place in [the Ten Sefiros of Atzilus, which is the World of] Tikkun and the “measurement” that takes place in the [the preceding level, which experienced the “breakage” and descent of its emotive vessels, viz.,] the World of Tohu. It is explained in Midrash Rabbah and in Sefer HaBahir2 that with regard to [the Sefiros of] Tikkun it is said, “These please Him,” whereas with regard to [the Sefiros of] Tohu it is said, “and these do not please Him.” Respectively, then, these are the levels of Divine “desire” and “lack of desire.”

Now, even those levels which are illuminated by Divine desire must also undergo “measurement” (for without it nothing but G‑d‘s desire would be revealed [and the other Sefiros would not be able to come into being], and the deficiency inherent in this has been explained). However, this “measurement” relates to a scale of illumination and revelation: it matches the de­gree of radiance to the receptive capacity of the vessels.

By way of analogy, an innately kind individual will shower generosity [upon his fellow], and at the same time increase his benevolence and prove his goodwill by doing so in a manner that can be properly received.

“Lack of desire” [on the other hand] is expressed in “measurement” motivated by concealment and tzimtzum.

The realm of Tikkun, where “These please Him,” thus manifests Divine desire. All “measurements” there seek to elicit and expand the revelation of Divine radi­ance within the lights and the vessels. Indeed, even their limitation and circumscription is intended to elicit [within themselves] even the “concealed light,” etc.

Tohu, in contrast, where “these do not please Me,” manifests a “lack of Divine desire.” All the “measure­ments” there reflect limitation and tzimtzum, which relates to the ascent [and concealment] of the Divine light.

The Sefiros of Tohu were thus in the state of [ascent and “advance” out of the vessels which is called] ratzo, whereas the Sefiros of Tikkun are in the state of [“return” which is called] shov, signifying a drawing down and diffusion [of the light within the Sefiros]. For3 “not for the sake of [the chaotic state of] Tohu did He create [the world]; rather, for the sake of habitation [i.e., a settled state, the shov of Tikkun] did He create it.” This enables the light and revelation to be drawn down even to the very lowest levels.

Now, the forces of the sitra achra — which are nurtured by the leavings of the most extrinsic aspects [of holiness that came into being] from the “breakage of the vessels” of Tohu by means of the multitudinous stages in the chainlike scheme of descent called Hishtalshelus — have no true or lasting existence at all. They are intrinsi­cally non-entities, inasmuch as they derive from a “lack of Divine desire,” and the “measurement” that applies to them is one of withdrawal. They therefore have an appointed end-point at which they will utterly cease to exist.

Though in the “side of holiness” there also exist “measurements,” such as those of the “measuring-line” and the tzimtzum, these manifest G‑d‘s desire — to reveal and draw forth [His light to them]. Any thrust which manifests G‑d‘s desire is infinite; as is stated in Tikkunei Zohar,4 “G‑d‘s infinite light extends upward without any bound and downward without any end.” Moreover, whatever is elicited by dint of G‑d‘s desire enjoys essen­tial and absolute existence as well; as was explained [earlier], when the vessels cleave and fuse with the Divine light which they house, they too enjoy essential and absolute existence.

The same is true of all mitzvos that are clothed in physical things, such as parchment or the wool of tzitzis. Likewise, anything which G‑d ordained to serve as a proper receptor for the irradiation of His light enjoys an essential and absolute existence.

[Holiness Cannot Be Displaced]

(One might add that this is the meaning of teachings such as,5 “Holiness cannot be displaced,” and6 “Ritual objects retain their sanctity.” Thus, the place in which a tzaddik studied Torah and engaged in the service of G‑d retains its sanctity even after he has ascended out of corpo­real life and begun true life, for the luminescence of his Divine service remains there. We may therefore say that the place in which he studied and engaged in Torah, and all the vessels he utilized in the course of his spiri­tual service, retain their sanctity as part of his personal share in the spiritual rectification and elevation of the world. In this connection: Once, in about the year 5645 or 5646 [1885-6], I saw my revered father [the Rebbe Rashab] enter the study of his father — my grandfather [the Rebbe Maharash]; at that time the room was still arranged as it had been during his lifetime. He was wear­ing a gartl and stood against the table, opposite his father‘s chair. His lips were moving as if in speech and he shed many tears.)

In contrast to the “side of holiness,” the kelipos derive their existence from a “lack of Divine desire” and were therefore sundered from G‑d‘s unity. They have no exis­tence other than the animation which they receive from the encompassing level of Divine light. When this source is removed they will be totally cut off [from life] and will be utterly obliterated. This is the meaning of the above-quoted verse, “[G‑d] has set a limit to darkness....” The darkness of kelipah has a limited time, after which the kelipos will be utterly destroyed and annihilated,” since they originate from a “lack of Divine desire.”

Though the above is true of sitra achra in general, it is especially true of the kelipah of Amalek, whose whole being is brazenness and chutzpah, with no inner content at all. Every other kelipah has at least some content, albeit evil, such as the Chesed (or some other evil attribute) of kelipah.”

This is not the case with the kelipah of Amalek, the kelipah of brazen chutzpah; an insolent individual, as he himself is aware, is essentially a non-entity. For by their very nature, as we observe, the baser and more degraded such people are, the less do they retain their human aspect; the more do they relate with insolence, in an animal-like fashion, to people more elevated than them­selves.

(In fact, every individual can find a trace of this within himself as it relates to his spiritual service: During the time he indulges his corporeal cravings, for food and drink and the like, there arises within his mind a marked coolness toward higher things, etc., i.e., toward things which relate to the inner essence (the pnimiyus) of his avodah, such as the enhanced observance of mitzvos, or to observances that reflect the insights of the Kabbalah.)

So, too, the kelipah of Amalek, whose whole being is insolence, is essentially a non-entity. Amalek thus resem­bles the waves of the sea that are lifted by the wind. While water by nature descends, it is [capable of being] lifted by the wind and [momentarily] standing upright like a wall; however, as soon as the wind abates, the water collapses. So, too, kelipos in general and Amalek in par­ticular derive their sustenance only from the encompassing level of Divine life-force, and will thus “appear and disappear with the wind.” This, then, is what is meant by the phrase, “[G‑d] has set a limit to darkness”: the darkness of the kelipos has an appointed end, after which they will be cut off and utterly destroyed, leaving no trace.

In this regard there is a difference between [Mashi­ach‘s coming] “at the appointed time” and [his coming] “in haste” [before the “appointed time”].”7 If the kelipos are nullified “at the appointed time,” they will be utterly annihilated. If, however, the Jewish people are found worthy [and Mashiach comes] “in haste” at an earlier [than the appointed] time, then [the kelipos] will be nullified by being rectified.

In either case there will be an increase in the light of holiness, except that if the kelipos are nullified by being rectified, this holy light will radiate with far greater intensity.

This is the meaning of Achashverosh‘s command to Haman:8 “Make haste and take the garment....” Why the haste? Achashverosh was simply giving him some sound advice. Ultimately Haman [as the epitome of evil] was sure to be nullified. If this were to take place “at the appointed time,” then he would be utterly obliterated. Achashverosh therefore advised him to be rectified by means of beirur, by elevating the sparks of holiness embedded in the world — by serving as a garment to adorn Mordechai the tzaddik. If this took place “in haste,” he would not be totally nullified, but rather be rectified. Besides, there would be a corresponding increase of illumination in the realm of holiness.

[Three Shades of Darkness]

In terms of man‘s spiritual service, “[G‑d] has set a limit to darkness” may be understood as follows.

The Hebrew word for darkness (חשך - choshech) is spelled ches, shin, chaf. This is also an acronym for the words meaning donkey, ox, and dog (chamor, shor, kelev).9

“Donkey” recalls the observation of the Sages that10 “A donkey is cold even during the hottest days of Tam­muz.” [Let us understand this in terms of man‘s spiritual service.] It is written,11 “For [the Divine Names] Havayah [and] Elokim are [respectively] a sun and a shield”; i.e., the Name Elokim conceals and occludes the radiance of the Name Havayah. However, there are times at which the illumination of the Name Havayah radiates overtly — as in the verse,12 “I am Havayah: I have not changed....” If, even at such a time, one‘s contemplation [of G‑dliness] is not as fruitful as it should be, [then he is likened to the donkey who remains cold even when standing out in the sunshine]. Concerning this [abysmal spiritual state] the prophet laments [at the conclusion of the above-mentioned verse], “...yet you, sons of Yaakov, are not consumed” with a passion to cleave to G‑d.

“Ox” alludes to people who kick and gore, as is the nature of those who are defiant and insolent: even if they are grazed ever so slightly by those who seek to elevate them, they immediately kick.

The epithet “dog” suggests shameless insolence, as in the verse,13 “And the dogs are fierce-tempered....”

The darkness of kelipah, [then, includes the attributes which are alluded to by the Hebrew initials for donkey, ox and dog, which together spell choshech — darkness]. However, “[G‑d] has set a limit to darkness,” for these very attributes may be utilized in the pursuit of holiness.

For a start: The attribute represented by the epithet “donkey” may be harnessed to serve holy ends. Thus it is written,14 “and he bent his back to the load,” meaning that one applies himself15 “like an ox to the yoke and like a donkey to the load,” by setting aside fixed times for Torah study, notwithstanding his busy schedule and his many concerns. (The Alter Rebbe stressed that this regu­larity should be fixed and imprinted upon one‘s soul,16 and not necessarily fixed to certain times alone. For a schedule may from time to time be broken, whereas if it is fixed within his soul, then even if he happens to miss his appointed time of Torah study and is unable to learn, he will still fulfill his obligation.) Moreover, while studying one should be aware of the fact that he is study­ing G‑d‘s Torah.

The attribute represented by the epithet “ox” — an inclination to gore — may be sublimated by its use17 in the thrust and parry, the queries and the solutions, that are part of the pilpul of Torah. [To borrow the language of our Sages,18] “ scholars who [metaphorically speaking] gore each other in [their lively debates] on the Halachah.”

(One might add that the attribute represented by the epithet “ox” may also be applied in the service of prayer, at which time the worshiper stomps and gores the evil found within him, such as in the course of [the Psalms of] Pesukei deZimrah, when one “clips the oppressors,” and uproots the evil traits which every individual can identify within himself.)

Finally, the dog also calls to mind a positive attribute. The Jews are called19 “an impetuous people.” In a posi­tive sense, this means that they hasten to do good things and are quickly aroused by stimuli that address their innermost core. [At Sinai, for example,] they proceeded to say naaseh (“we shall do”) before they said nishma (“we shall hear”), thus indicating their self-nullification before G‑d and His Will, as they set aside their own selves completely.

In all, these [holy attributes] represented by the donkey, the ox and the dog rectify and elevate their counterparts in the realm of kelipah.

This, then, is the meaning of the statement that “Amalek is the first among nations...”: Amalek is the first and root of all nations. All nations, being rooted in the sitra achra, essentially have no true being, inasmuch as they derive from a “lack of Divine desire.” Among these, Amalek is the first in rank, for the kelipah of Amalek is that of insolence and chutzpah, which indicates the ulti­mate degree of non-being, as explained above.

This is why “in the end he shall be destroyed,” for kelipah will ultimately be annihilated — if [Mashiach arrives] “at the appointed time.” If, however, as a result of Divine service in the realm of beirurim, [Mashiach arrives] “in haste,” then it is possible for the nations to undergo some form of rectification. It is for this reason that we find that the descendants of Haman publicly studied Torah. This means that there was a refinement and rectification [of kelipah], and this in turn called forth an additional measure of G‑dly illumination.