Contemplating on the greatness of the blessed En Sof, the intelligent person [will realise] that as His name indicates, so is He— there is no end or limit or finitude at all to the light and vitality that diffuse from Him, may He be blessed, by His simple will, and which is united with His blessed essence and being in perfect unity. Had the worlds descended from the light of the blessed En Sof without "contractions," but according to a gradual descent, from grade to grade by means of cause and effect— this world would not, in such case, have ever been created in its present form, in a finite and limited order, [viz.] "From the earth to heaven there being a journey of five hundred years," and similarly between heaven and heaven, and so also the diameter of each heaven. Even the World to Come and the Supreme Garden of Eden— the habitation of the souls of the great tzaddikim— and the souls themselves and, needless to add, the angels— are all in the realm of bounds and limitation, for there is a limit to their apprehension of the light of the blessed En Sof, which shines on them through being clothed in ChaBaD, etc., hence, there is also a boundary to their enjoyment derived from the splendour of the Shechinah, and to their pleasure in the light of G‑d; for they cannot absorb enjoyment and delight of an infinite order, without being nullified out of their existence and returned to their source.

Now, as for the intricate details of the "contractions"— this is not the place for their explanation. But in general they are something in the nature of "occulation and concealment" of the flow of the light and vitality, so that only an extremely minute portion of light and vitality should illuminate and reach the lower creatures in a revealed manner, as it were, pervading them and acting in them and animating them so that they might receive existence ex nihilo, and be in a state of fmitude and limitation. This constitutes an exceedingly contracted illumination, and it is considered as virtually nothing at all compared with the quality of the limitless and infinite illumination, and there is no reference or relationship between them, as the term "reference" is understood in values, where the figure 1 has a relevancy with the number 1,000,000, for it is one millionth part of it; but as regards a thing which is in the realm of infinity, there is no number that can be considered relative to it, for a billion or trillion do not attain the relevancy of the figure I in comparison with a billion or trillion, but is veritably accounted as nothing.

So, indeed, is the quality of the contracted illumination which informs the higher and lower worlds, acting in them and animating them— compared with the quality of the hidden and concealed light that is of an infinite order and does not clothe itself or exercise its influence in the worlds, to animate them in a revealed manner, but it "encompasses" them from above and is called sovev kol almin (the "Encompasser of all Worlds"). The meaning of this is not that it encircles and encompasses from above spatially, G‑d forbid, for in spiritual matters the category of space is in no way applicable. But the meaning is that it "Encircles and encompasses from above" insofar as the so-called "revealed" influence is concerned, for influence which is in the category of "revelation" in the worlds, is referred to as "investiture", being "clothed" within the worlds, for the influence that they receive is clothed and comprehended by them; whereas the influence which does not come within the category of "revelation," but remains in occultation and concealment and is not apprehended by the worlds, is not described as being "invested" but as "encircling and encompassing." Therefore, since the worlds belong in the order of the finite and limited, it follows that only an extremely minute and contracted reflection of the flow of the light of the blessed En Sof clothes and reveals itself in them in a revealed form, and this, only to animate them in a finite and limited state. But the principal light without contraction to such an extent, is called makif ("encircler") and sovev ("encompasser"), since its influence is not revealed within them, inasmuch as they belong in the order of the finite and the limited.

To illustrate this point, consider this material world. Even though "The whole world is full of His glory," namely, the light of the blessed En Sof, as is written: "Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord," nevertheless only a very small vitality, of the category of inanimate and vegetable worlds, is clothed therein in the form of "revealed" influence, while all the light of the blessed En Sof is termed as "encompassing" it, even though it actually pervades it, since its influence is no more revealed in it, but is active in it in a hidden and concealed manner; and any influence of a concealed nature is referred to as "Encircling from above," for the "hidden world" is on a higher plane than the "revealed world."

Let us make it more intelligible by means of an example. When a man forms an image in his mind of something that he has seen or sees— although the entire body and essence of that thing, both its exterior and interior and its very core, are completely mirrored in his mind and thought, for he has seen it or is seeing it in its entirety— this is expressed by saying that his mind encompasses that object completely, and that thing is enveloped by his mind and thought. But it is not encompassed in actual fact, only in the imagination of the man's thought and mind.

The Holy One, blessed be He, however, of Whom it is written: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts,..." surely His Thought and Mind knowing all created things, encompass each and every created being from its beginning to its end and its inside and very core, all in actual reality.

For example, in the case of the orb of this earth, His blessed knowledge encompasses the entire, diameter of the globe of the earth, together with all that is in it and its deepest interior to its lowest depths, all in actual reality. For this knowledge constitutes the vitality of the whole spherical thickness of the Earth and its creation ex nihilo. However, it would not have come into being as it now is, as a finite and limited thing, with an exceedingly minute vitality sufficient for the categories of inorganic matter and vegetation, were it not for the many powerful contractions which have condensed the light and vitality that is clothed in the orb of the earth, so as to animate it and sustain it in its finite and limited status and in the categories of inorganic and vegetable matter alone.

But His blessed knowledge which is united with His essence and being— for "He is the Knowledge, the Knower, and the Known, and knowing Himself, as it were, He knows all created things, but not with a knowledge that is external to Himself, like the knowledge of a human being, for all of them [the created things] are derived from His blessed Reality, and this thing is not within the power of human beings to comprehend clearly," and so forth—

Note: As Maimonides, of blessed memory, has written— and the scholars of Kabbalah subscribed to his viewsas is stated in Pardess of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, of blessed memory. This also accords with the Kabbalah of our Master Rabbi Isaac Luria, of blessed memory, in the mystery of tzimtzum and the clothing of the lights in vessels, as has been mentioned previously in ch. 2.

— this knowledge, since it is of an infinite order, is not described as clothing itself in the orb of the earth, which is finite and limited, but as encircling and encompassing it, although this knowledge embraces its entire thickness and interior in actual reality, thus giving it existence ex nihilo, as is explained elsewhere.