The present Epistle deals with a subject that has not been touched upon in the Tanya until now. Though it is one of the most profound and abstract principles of Chassidut, it has a practical application.

It will be recalled that the introduction to Epistle 18 pointed out the benefits of ascertaining the practical lessons in divine service — through the performance of mitzvot in general and the mitzvah of tzedakah in particular — that are to be found in each of these pastoral letters. For, as the Alter Rebbe’s sons state in their Approbation to the Tanya, the purpose of the letters is to “teach the people of G‑d the way by which they should walk and the deed which they should do.” And this letter is especially significant, for the Alter Rebbe wrote it (as the Tzemach Tzedek testifies1) “several days before his demise in the village of Piena.”

What the profundity of this letter ultimately conveys is a renewed and deepened appreciation of the performance of “physical” mitzvot in general (i.e., those involving material things, such as wool for tzitzit and parchment for tefillin) and the mitzvah of tzedakah in particular.

At the core of this letter is the principle that the creation of the physical derives from the Essence of G‑d Himself; it completely transcends the luminous and revelatory levels of G‑dliness from which all spiritual entities and worlds are created. For, as the Alter Rebbe writes, “Only G‑d Himself — Whose Being is of His Essence, and Who is not, Heaven forfend, caused by some other cause preceding Himself — has the ability to create something out of absolute nothingness,” to create a being that seems (to the corporeal eye) to be a wholly independent entity “without any other cause preceding it.”

Everything else that exists is possible and non-essential existence, and consequently is totally dependent upon G‑d as the cause for its existence. By contrast, only G‑d Himself — Whose existence is an imperative and Whose being derives from His own Self, and as such needs nothing to bring about His existence — has the ability to create a being so corporeal that it is entirely unaware that its existence depends on a Creator; indeed, it is satisfied with the delusion that it is responsible for its own creation.

Apart from this grossly physical world, everything created has an apparent causal link with a source of existence. Light, for example, visibly owes its existence to its source — a luminary; speech, being an alul (“effect”), clearly owes its existence to the faculty of thought, which is its ilah (“cause”). When viewing material matter, however, one does not perceive that it derives from and is nullified to something higher than itself; it seems to exist as a wholly autonomous being.

A being such as this, which is infinitely distant from its spiritual source — its source being Divine while the being itself is physical, and hence has to be created ex nihilo (“from nothing”) — can be created only by G‑d Himself, Who is truly without limitation and as such transcends the physical and the spiritual equally. Thus, it is specifically the physical things that were created by G‑d Himself, Who is, of course, infinitely higher than all the illuminations and radiations of G‑dliness that were responsible for the creation of all spiritual beings and entities.

This principle leads us to a newfound respect for the performance of commandments involving physical things — for their creation comes about from G‑d Himself.

This principle is indeed new. It supplements the explanation in Tanya, Part I (ch. 35ff) of the distinctive quality of practical performance alluded to in the phrase quoted on its title page: “that you may do it.” That explanation highlights the superiority of the mitzvot performed in the realm of action over those performed with thought and speech.

This superiority is explained there only in the light of G‑d’s ultimate intent: G‑d desires a dwelling place, i.e., that His Presence be revealed in the nethermost level, in this spiritually dark, physical world, which seemingly does its best to conceal G‑dliness. And this dwelling place is best built through the mitzvot involving action, for through them G‑dliness is drawn down into those aspects of this physical world that are lower than thought and speech.

The same is true with regard to the refinement and elevation of the animal soul and its transformation into goodness and holiness (for which reason the Divine soul first descended into the body): the optimal refinement and elevation of the animal soul is achieved specifically through the performance of these mitzvot — donning tefillin, wearing tzitzit, etc. — for they engage the power of the animal soul to a greater degree than do the commandments that are performed only in thought or in speech.

All this merely expresses the special quality of “action” as it relates to G‑d’s desire and intent; it does not, however, express the superiority of the physical object with which a practical commandment is performed. Seemingly, a commandment performed with one’s loftier soul-powers — such as the knowledge of G‑d-liness, a mitzvah that engages one’s mind, or the love of G‑d, a mitzvah that engages the spiritual emotions of one’s heart — should be inherently superior to a commandment that merely engages one’s hands or feet.

For as far as the Divine Will is concerned, since this is fulfilled both by the practical mitzvot and by those observed in thought and in speech, the spiritual result — being united with G‑d — would seem to be the same in both types of mitzvot. With regard to the object with which G‑d’s Will is being fulfilled, the commandments that are performed with one’s more spiritual qualities — comprehending G‑d with one’s mind and loving Him with one’s heart — would seem to be superior to the commandments that merely engage one’s physicality.

However, considering (as in the letter below) the unique standing of physical mitzvot inasmuch as the physical derives from G‑d Himself, it follows that the practical commandments are superior to those performed in thought or in speech by virtue of the physical objects they involve, for these objects harbor energy that is released when they are utilized in fulfilling the Divine intent.

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Rayatz, of blessed memory, once related2 that when “those few heavenly soul-words” that appear in the text below were first revealed, pointing out that it is from the infinite Essence of the Ein Sof Himself that physical objects first come into being, the chassidim of the time found that their performance of the practical mitzvot was invigorated by fresh wellsprings of vitality.

איהו וחיוהי חד

“He3 and His life-giving emanations (chayohi) are one;

I.e., the “lights” (orot) of the Sefirot, which (like souls) animate the “vessels” (kelim) of the Sefirot, are not merely connected to G‑d: they are actually one with Him.

איהו וגרמוהי חד בהון

He and His causations (garmohi; lit., “organs”) are one in them,”

I.e., the “vessels” (kelim) which emanate from G‑d, and which (like bodies to souls4) serve as receptors to the “lights” (orot) of the Sefirot, are one with Him — in them, i.e., in the Sefirot,

(פירוש: עשר ספירות דאצילות

(5 that is,6 in the Ten Sefirot of Atzilut.

חיוהי: הן האורות

“His life-giving emanations” — these are the lights, the orot of the Sefirot,

וגרמוהי: הן הכלים

and “His causations” — these are the vessels, the kelim of the Sefirot;

שכולן אלקות

they are all (one with the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, for they are) Divinity.

מה שאין כן בבריאה יצירה עשיה כו׳

This is not the case in the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, and so on.)

In these lower worlds, the kelim of the Sefirot as well as a distinct measure of the orot are not Divinity, but created beings.

וצריך להבין היטב איך האין סוף חד עם גרמוהי, הן הכלים

Now it needs to be clearly understood how the Ein Sof is One with His causations, i.e., with the kelim of the Sefirot.

הרי הכלים הן בבחינת גבול ותכלית, כמו שכתוב בעץ חיים

For the kelim are limited and finite, as is stated in Etz Chayim.7

Each of the Sefirot is not only a distinct entity (Chochmah having a separate identity from Binah, and Chesed from Gevurah, etc.), but in addition each Sefirah is inherently finite. How then can they be One with the Ein Sof, Who transcends any such particular identity (such as Chochmah or Chesed) and is moreover infinite?

The Tzemach Tzedek explains in Or HaTorah8 that the limitation that characterizes the kelim of Atzilut is their function as the Ko’ach HaGvul of the Ein Sof, the Power of Limitation whereby there can emanate from the [infinite] Ein Sof something limited and finite.

For it is stated in Avodat HaKodesh9 that “Ein Sof is the most perfect being of all; just as He possesses infinite powers so too does He possess finite powers, for if you were to say that He can only express Himself in an infinite manner and not in a finite manner, then you are diminishing His perfection.”

This means that in truth “infinity” is also “finite”, if it is limited to infinitude and barred from expressing itself finitely. A power that is only “infinite” and not “finite” lacks the capabilities of finitude. Since the Ein Sof is “the most perfect being of all,” hence possessing all qualities, He must possess a power of limitation and finitude just as He possesses infinite powers.

Avodat HaKodesh concludes that the Infinite One’s first expression of self-limitation is the emanation of the Sefirot — more specifically, the kelim of the Sefirot — which possess Ko’ach HaGvul, the Power of Limitation. As a result, the created beings that result from the enclothement of the “lights” in the “vessels” are limited in nature, even though the creative light that flows from the orot is infinite.

To return now to our query, as expressed above: Since the kelim are limited and finite, how can they be One with the Ein Sof, Who utterly transcends all bounds of identity and finitude?

אמנם הכוונה היא לומר, שהן אלקות לברוא יש מאין

However, the intention of the statement that the Ein Sof is One with His kelim is to say that they are Divinity with regard to creating something out of nothing, just as the Ein Sof is capable of doing,10

Creating something out of nothing is a capability hidden only “in the bosom of the Creator.”11 As our Sages, of blessed memory, expressed it,12 “If all the world’s inhabitants were to assemble, they would be unable to create the wing of a gnat and place within it a soul.”

It is with respect to this that the Ein Sof is One with the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Atzilut: through them something is created out of nothing; in this respect the kelim are Divinity.

ולא בבחינת השתלשלות עילה ועלול לבד

and not merely by way of an evolution from ilah (“cause”) to alul (“effect”), as links in a causal progression wherein a being — the alul, or “effect” — evolves of itself from its ilah, or “cause”.

ומה שכתב הרמ״ק ענין השתלשלות עילה ועלול, וכן הוא בזוהר הקדוש, פרשת בראשית

As for the statement of R. Moses Cordovero13 that creative development in the Sefirot takes place by way of ilah and alul, and so too is it stated in the sacred Zohar, Parshat Bereishit,14

היינו בהשתלשלות הספירות בספירות עצמן

this refers to the evolution of the Sefirot within the Sefirot themselves, whereby one Sefirah evolves from another, e.g., Binah from Chochmah,

(בבחינת הכלים) שנקראות בלי מה, בספר יצירה

(15with respect to the kelim), which are termed beli mah (“without anything”) in Sefer Yetzirah16 (the “Book of Formation”17),

(The text there reads, “Ten Sefirot without anything: their measure is ten....”)

שאינן בבחינת יש ומהות מושג

because they are not in the category of a substance (yesh)18 nor of a nature that is apprehensible to created beings,

וכמו האין סוף, דלית מחשבה תפיסא ביה כלל

like the Ein Sof,19 “Whom thought cannot grasp at all”; so too are the kelim of the Sefirot called beli mah, “without anything” tangible and comprehensible by created beings,

Since the Sefirot are not of an apprehensible substance (they are “without anything”), they evolve from one another as ilah and alul, rather than being created as something from nothing.

The Alter Rebbe will now show that the kelim of the Sefirot are not of an apprehensible nature:

וכמו שכתוב: ופני לא יראו

as it is written,20 “And My face (G‑d’s pnimiyut and inner self) shall not be seen.”

The aspect of Divinity termed “My face,” referring as it does also to the pnimiyut of the kelim, remained hidden even from Moshe Rabbeinu, transcending even his vision and comprehension.

ונבואת משה רבינו עליו השלום והשגתו, היתה מפרק עליון דנצח דז״א

The prophecy and apprehension of Moshe Rabbeinu, peace to him, related to the upper rank of Netzach of Z’eir Anpin.

As mentioned in the previous letter (Epistle XIX), the Sefirot of Netzach, Hod and Yesod are merely the conduits by which the flow of life-giving light reaches the recipient; i.e., they are merely the externality of the Sefirot rather than the internal level called panim.

ובהשתלשלות העלול הוא מוקף מהעילה

And in the evolution, the alul (before it emerges as a distinct entity) is encompassed by its ilah,

ובטל במציאות אצלו, כזיו השמש בשמש

and is in a state of utter self-nullification in relation to it, just as a ray of the sun loses any independent identity and is essentially non-existent when it is within the sun,

This is true even after the alul evolves from the ilah and is revealed as a distinct entity: even then it is essentially non-existent in relation to its ilah. And the same holds true with regard to the manner in which one Sefirah evolves from another: that which is drawn down and revealed is totally nullified to the ilah from which it evolves.

כמו שכתוב בפרדס מהרמ״ק

as stated in Pardes21 by R. Moses Cordovero.22

It would thus be impossible to create a substantive being, a yesh, that has a sense of existence independent of its source, through the process of ilah and alul.23

ואף גם צמצומים רבים מאד לא יועילו להיות גשם עב כעפר, מהשתלשלות הרוחניות משכלים נבדלים, אפילו של המלאכים

Thus even numerous contractions, even enough to make the screened light utterly dissimilar to the original light, will not avail to bring about matter dense as earth, by way of an evolution from the spirituality of abstract intelligences, not even [by way of an evolution from the spirituality] [Insertion by the Rebbe: “of the abstract intelligences”] of the angels.

Angels, too, are composed of matter and form. However, since even their matter is composed of spiritual elements, coarse matter such as earth will not result, even after a multitude of contractions, for in the evolving and descending chainlike progression called Hishtalshelut, the lowest link remains connected — i.e., retains some qualitative relationship — to the highest link.

אלא להיות רוח הבהמה מפני שור

There will only come into being — as a result of this gradated evolvement — the spirit of an animal, that derives from the “Face of the Ox” of the Celestial Chariot,

Although the spirit that animates the body of an animal can in no way be compared to its spiritual source in the “Face of the Ox” of the Chariot, by means of Hishtalshelut the “soul” of an animal can eventually evolve from there, since this “soul” too is spiritual in nature. Hishtalshelut, however, cannot result in the innovative creation of a physical entity from something spiritual,

כמו שכתוב במקום אחר, ועיין שם היטב

as explained elsewhere; examine it well.

The Rebbe notes that this may be referring, for example, to the discourse entitled Yaviu Levush Malchut24 in Torah Or.

The Alter Rebbe explains there that in a certain sense even the Supernal Chochmah of Atzilut is an entity, inasmuch as it is designated as Chochmah, as opposed to ayin, the state of “nothingness”. Therefore, it too cannot come into being by means of evolvement from the Ein Sof; it too must come about through the process of “something from nothing.” Indeed, as the verse states,25 “Chochmah derives from ayin” — Chochmah emerges from its source in a manner of “something from nothing.”

Here, however, we are not speaking of creation as it comes about from the Ein Sof, but rather as it results from spirituality in general, even from a spiritual level such as that of the abstract intelligences, i.e., the angels. It is with regard to this that we say that Hishtalshelut can only result in the soul of an animal deriving from the “Face of the Ox” of the Celestial Chariot; it cannot bring into being the physical body of an animal.

ויש מאין נקרא בריאה בלשון הקדש

The coming about of substantiality ex nihilo (yesh me’ayin) is in the Holy Tongue called beriah (“creation”).

As the Ramban points out in his commentary to the Torah,26 beriah is the only term in the Holy Tongue for absolutely innovative creation, creation ex nihilo.

In any progression from ilah (“cause”) to alul (“effect”), the alul existed previously as well, albeit in a distinctly different state. The term “creation”, by contrast, describes the coming into existence of something that until now did not exist, for, as mentioned earlier, it is impossible for yesh (“created substantiality”) to be found within ayin (“nothingness”). Were it to be otherwise, the ayin itself would cease to be ayin and would itself become yesh.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to anticipate a query. In point of fact, created substance is also truly nullified to the G‑dliness that creates it, for “All is before Him as naught.” Why, then, do we say that creation ex nihilo cannot result from ilah and alul because the effect — the created substance — would be nullified to its source, when in truth even as the substance exists as a yesh, created ex nihilo, it is in any event nullified to the Divine source that is responsible for its creation and that continuously vests itself within it to constantly create it anew?

The Alter Rebbe goes on to explain that while the above is indeed true, nevertheless, this is so only “before Him,” i.e., as it exists in G‑d’s knowledge (for G‑d, of course, views things as they truly are, so that created beings are “before Him as naught”: they are “like the non-existence of the sun’s rays while they are still found within the orb of the sun”).

A created being itself, however, regards its own existence in an entirely different light: it “knows” and “feels” beyond any shadow of doubt that it enjoys true and independent existence. This (entirely fallacious) view can only come about when it is created ex nihilo as a yesh. Were it instead to be created by a process of ilah and alul, it would be impossible for it not to be fully cognizant of its Creator; in its own view as well, it would exist in a state of bittul bimetziut, a state of utter self-nullification.

והגם שהיש הנברא הוא גם כן כלא חשיב קמיה

And although created substance is also as naught before Him, for everything, including the created yesh, is as naught before Him —

דהיינו: שבטל במציאות לגבי הכח והאור השופע בו

that is, it is essentially non-existent (Insertion by the Rebbe: “not only in relation to G‑d’s Essence, which utterly transcends worlds and creation, but also within creation”) in relation to the energy and light that flow into it,

מהכלים דיו״ד ספירות דאבי״ע, שהקו אור אין סוף ברוך הוא מאיר בהם

this force and light deriving from the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, into which the Kav of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light radiates,

Though we are speaking only of the creative force — the kelim of the Ten Sefirot — that animates created beings, this too may be termed “before Him,” since within these kelim is found the radiance of the Ein Sof-light.

כזיו השמש בשמש

and thus the degree of nullification of created beings is like that of a sunray while still in its source, within the sun,

While they are still in the orb of the sun, sunrays are essentially non-existent: there they contribute no independently identifiable illumination. Nothing exists there but their source, the orb of the sun, the luminary from which they derive.

כמו שכתוב בליקוטי אמרים, חלק ב׳

as explained in Likkutei Amarim (Tanya), Part II27that all created beings are truly nullified in relation to their source to the same degree as the sun’s rays are nullified within their source.

In light of the above, how can we possibly say that if creation were to result from ilah and alul, created beings would not exist in a manner of yesh but would be nullified to their source, when in truth, even after they were created ex nihilo they are still truly nullified within their source, like the sun’s rays within the sun?

היינו קמיה דוקא, שהיא ידיעתו יתברך, מלמעלה למטה

[The Alter Rebbe answers:] however, this is only “before Him,” as seen from the heavenly perspective (daat elyon) from which G‑d knows creation, His knowledge [perceiving] from above netherwards.

אבל בידיעה שממטה למעלה

But as seen from the earthbound perspective (daat tachton) of created beings, with a knowledge [that perceives] from below upwards,

היש הנברא הוא דבר נפרד לגמרי, בידיעה והשגה זו שממטה

created yesh is an altogether separate thing, in this knowledge and apprehension from below.

A created being perceives itself to be altogether separate and apart from the Source that creates it, not recognizing its ongoing dependence on it. Though aware that it came into being by virtue of a G‑dly Source, it nevertheless considers its own existence to be yesh (“being”), and its G‑dly Source, ayin (lit., “nothingness”).

This does not mean to imply, explains the Alter Rebbe, that a created being regards its Source is non-existent. Rather, the term ayin has a twofold connotation:

(a) “incomprehensible”: A created being is incapable of comprehending its Source. When it calls Him ayin, it means that He does not exist within its range of comprehension.

(b) “existing differently”: The Source exists so differently, so far beyond the pattern of existence familiar to the created being, that the latter calls its Source “non-existent” — He in fact does not exist within that earthbound frame of reference.

This is what the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say:

כי הכח השופע בו אינו מושג כלל וכלל

For the force that creates it and continuously flows into it is not understood [by the created being] at all.

The created being therefore calls its Source ayin since He does not exist in its world of comprehension.

Another reason for its calling the Source ayin, as the Alter Rebbe now continues, lies in the fact that He exists in an entirely different manner, there being no similarity between created and Creator.

וגם אין ערוך זה לזה כלל וכלל, לא מיניה ולא מקצתיה מהערך שמהעלול אל העילה

Moreover, there is no approximation whatever from the one to the other, from the yesh to the ayin, neither does the relation between them partially or minimally resemble the approximation between an effect (alul) and its cause (ilah).

The ayin does not exist at all in the same manner as does the yesh which it creates.

If, for example, intellection were to create a rock, the rock’s manner of existence would be so distant and so different from that of its source, that from its perspective it would be immaterial whether it had been created by intellection or from nothing at all. Intellection simply does not exist in the rock’s mode of existence.

שהעלול יודע ומשיג איזה השגה בעילתו

For an alul knows and has some apprehension of its ilah,

Since the ilah (cause) does exist in the world of comprehension of the alul (effect), the latter is affected by the comprehension of its ilah:

ובטל אצלו על ידי ידיעה והשגה זו

and it becomes nullified in relation to it (to the ilah) through this knowledge and apprehension.

A yesh, by contrast, has absolutely no apprehension of the ayin that is responsible for its creation.

וגם במהותם ועצמותם, אין הפרש גדול כל כך, רק שזה עילה וזה עלול

Even with respect to their intrinsic nature and essence there is not such a great distinction [between an ilah and its alul], except that one is a cause and the other is an effect;

The ilah and alul of intellect and emotion serve as a perfect example: Essentially, emotion is already to be found in its source, as “emotion within intellect” (middot shebaseichel), even before it exists alone as a distinct entity. But though “emotion within intellect” exists in a different manner from pure emotion, they are in essence the same.

ולא מיניה ולא מקצתיה מההפרש שבין מהות היש הנברא, למהות הכח והאור השופע בו, להוותו מאין ליש

yet [this distinction] neither partially nor minimally resembles the distinction between the essence of a created substance and the essence of the energy and light that flow into it, to create it from ayin to yesh.

Ayin and yesh are inherently and entirely different; the ayin does not exist at all in the manner that the yesh does.

ולכן נקרא יש מאין דוקא

This is why [creation] is called28 precisely yesh me’ayin — ex nihilo, “something out of nothing.”

For although even the created yesh is aware that “Everything derives from You,” it nevertheless calls its Source ayin for the two above-mentioned reasons: the Source “does not exist” in the limited world of the creature’s comprehension, and it “does not exist” in the same manner as the yesh.


Having explained in general terms why the creation of a substantial yesh from spirituality can only come about in a manner of ex nihilo (and not in a manner of ilah and alul), the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain that the first stage of the created yesh is the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.

For though they are considered Sefirot, and as such they constitute the Divinity in these three worlds, the kelim of these Sefirot already comprise an element of yesh. This is true even within the World of Atzilut, except that there the kelim are emanated (as a yesh hane’etzal, implying connectedness to their Source), rather than created (as a yesh hanivra, implying separateness from their Source).

As the Alter Rebbe will soon state, the creation of yesh as a distinct entity derives primarily from the Sefirah of Malchut in the World of Atzilut: it is specifically through this Sefirah that G‑d’s infinite ability to create yesh me’ayin is revealed.

והנה ראשית היש הנברא ותחילתו, הן הכלים דיו״ד ספירות דבריאה יצירה עשיה, וגם האורות נפש רוח

Now, the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, and also the orot — Nefesh and Ruach, are the first stage and the beginning of created substantiality (yesh).

The orot (“lights”) that vest themselves in the kelim and thereby animate them consist of Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah, which are simultaneously three levels in the soul, and three levels in the life-force (“light”) that animates the worlds at large.

The lower two of these, Nefesh and Ruach, also comprise an element of yesh.

ונבראו מבחינת הנשמה די״ס דבי״ע, שהוא אלקות

[The kelim] were created from the category of Neshamah of the Ten Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, this [Neshamah of the Ten Sefirot] being Divinity.

I.e., the G‑dliness of the Sefirot creates the yesh of the kelim of the Sefirot and also their Nefesh and Ruach.

והן הלמ״ד כלים דמלכות דאצילות

And these [orot of the Sefirot] are the thirty kelim of [the Sefirah of] Malchut of [the World of] Atzilut.

In the World of Atzilut, even the external aspect of the kelim of Malchut is G‑dliness. It is this external aspect of the kelim of Malchut that vests itself in the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah and becomes their soul and life-force. These external kelim are composed of three tenfold levels — the innermost kelim, the intermediary kelim, and the outermost kelim — thirty in all.

וכן באצילות

It is likewise in Atzilut, that the emanated yesh derives from the external aspect of the kelim of Atzilut.

מחיצוניות הכלים דיו״ד ספירות דאצילות, שהן אלוקות, נבראו ההיכלות דאצילות

From the chitzoniyut (the external aspect) of the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Atzilut, which are G‑dliness, were created the Heichalot (the Celestial Chambers) of Atzilut,

Unlike the kelim and Sefirot in which there is vested the internal level of the orot, these Heichalot are an external aspect of the World of Atzilut.

שמתלבש בהן בחינת העיגולים דיו״ד ספירות

in which the category of the Iggulim of the Ten Sefirot vests itself,

The term Iggulim (lit., “circles”) refers to the “encompassing” mode of influence (or makkif) of the Sefirot, which does not permeate the created beings which it illuminates. A penetrating mode of influence (or pnimi) would make the animated object resemble the life-force that animates it. The exterior or encompassing mode of influence called Iggulim, by contrast, allows the animated object to perceive itself as a yesh, albeit an emanated form of yesh.

וגם גופות המלאכים דאצילות, שהן בחינת יש

and also the bodies of the angels of Atzilut, which are a form of yesh, are created from the external kelim of the Sefirot of Atzilut,

וכמו שכתוב: ובמלאכיו ישים תהלה

as it is written,29 “And His angels He charges with deficiency,”30

The phrase “His angels” implies those nearest to G‑d, viz., the angels of the World of Atzilut. Yet even these are deficient in that they are yesh and not Divinity.

שאינן בבחינת ביטול לגמרי, כעלול לגבי עילתו

because they are not wholly in a state of nullification as the alul is in relation to its ilah, for they are created in a manner of yesh from ayin.

אך נשמות המלאכים, שיצאו מזיווג הנשיקין

By contrast, the souls of the angels that emerged by the zivug neshikin (lit., “the union of kissing”), i.e., by the more ethereal manner of union of the Sefirot, whence spiritual entities emanate such as the souls of angels,

וכן נשמות האדם, שיצאו מזיווג דזו״נ דאצילות

and also the souls of man that emerged by the union of zu’n31 of Atzilutthe union of Z’eir Anpin and Malchut of Atzilut,

This form of union is termed zivug gufani (lit., “a ‘physical’ union”), relative to zivug neshikin. From this form of union there derives the birth of souls that become enclothed in actual physical bodies. In the state in which they exist in Atzilut, however, these souls, —

קודם שירדו לבריאה, יצירה, עשיה

before their descent to Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah,

אינן בכלל יש ודבר נפרד בפני עצמו

are not counted as created substantiality (yesh) and as [instances of] a distinct and independent entity.

אלא הן מעין בחינת אלקות, בצמצום עצום

Rather, they resemble the category of G‑dliness in intense contraction, to the point of being on the level of a Neshamah.

וכעין הכלים דיו״ד ספירות דאצילות, שהן בבחינת גבול

They are like the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Atzilut which (though they are Divinity) are by nature finite,

על ידי צמצום אור האין סוף, הוא הקו המלובש בנפש רוח ונשמה שלהם

on account of the contraction of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, viz., the Kav that is vested in their Nefesh-Ruach-Neshamah,

The restricted diffusion of the Kav that descends into the kelim lacks the infinite degree of Ein Sof illumination that constitutes the essence of the Kav. It is this contraction that makes it possible for the kelim of the Sefirot to exist in a mode of limitation, even though their union with the orot and their nullification to the orot lends them the characteristics of Divinity, as mentioned above. And in a similar state are the souls of Atzilut as still found within Atzilut.

However, with regard to the contraction of the Kav that is vested within them, the Alter Rebbe goes on to state that this is not merely a tzimtzum, a contraction involving a diminishment of the G‑dly illumination. Rather, —

וכמו צמצום הראשון, להיות חלל וכו׳

just like the original tzimtzum that occurred in the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, a tzimtzum of such intensity that it was able to bring about a void — a “space” — for the existence of worlds, and so on.

This original tzimtzum, unlike all subsequent tzimtzumim, involved much more than a mere diminishment of the intensity of Divine illumination: it involved the removal of the light. The tzimtzum of the Kav which enables it to be vested within the Nefesh-Ruach-Neshamah of the Sefirot is similar to this original tzimtzum.

What has been said above refers to souls of Atzilut as they still find themselves within Atzilut, before they are vested within bodies. While in that lofty world they share the characteristics of Divinity, and are not detached entities.

The Alter Rebbe now says that even after their descent into this lowly world, the souls of the early tzaddikim did not undergo a change: they did not become sundered from G‑dliness.

(ואף גם לאחר שירדו הנפש רוח ונשמה דאצילות לעולם הזה לצדיקים הראשונים, אפשר שלא נשתנה מהותן, להיות דבר נפרד מאלקות

(32And even after the Nefesh-Ruach-Neshamah of Atzilut descended to this world to the first tzaddikim, it is possible that their essence did not change to become entities distinct from Divinity: they remained on the same level as they had been while still in Atzilut.

ולכן היו מסתלקות כשרצו לחטוא, בטרם יחטאו

That is why they withdrew [from their bodies] (i.e., they died) when they sought to sin, before they sinned.

This follows the teaching in Tikkunei Zohar,33 that a soul of the level of Atzilut departs from the body before the person sins. In this spirit, too, that source interprets the verse,34 “Your sins have separated between yourselves and your G‑d”: Sins cause a cleavage between a soul and its G‑dliness (i.e., the soul’s level of Atzilut which is an aspect of G‑dliness), for sin causes the soul-level that derives from Atzilut to withdraw.

וקרוב לומר שגם האלפים ורבבות עלמין דיתבא בגולגלתא דאריך אנפין וזעיר אנפין

It is reasonable to assume that also35 the thousands and myriads of worlds that are in the Gulgalta of Arich Anpin and Z’eir Anpin (abbreviated in the original Hebrew text as א״א and ז״א, respectively), as stated in the Kabbalah,36

אינן עלמין ממש, כעין ההיכלות דאצילות, ובחינת יש

are not really worlds, like the Heichalot of Atzilut, and a form of yesh,

אלא כעין נשמות המלאכים שיצאו מזיווג הנשיקין

but are like the souls of the angels that emerged from the zivug neshikin, which, as mentioned earlier, are not in the category of yesh as are the Heichalot or bodies of the angels,

ונקראו עלמין לגבי בחינת הגולגלתא ודיקנא

and are called “worlds” relative to the rank of the Gulgalta and Dikna.)

אך אינן אלקות ממש, לברוא יש מאין

They (the angels and souls of Atzilut) are not, however, actual Divinity, and as such able to create substantiality ex nihilo,37

The ability to create ex nihilo is exclusive to the Ein Sof. Since the kelim of the Sefirot of Atzilut are utterly united with the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, they are able to serve as conduits for the creation of yesh from ayin. The angels and souls of Atzilut, however, are not actual Divinity, and are thus unable to serve in this way, —

מאחר שכבר יצאו ונפרדו מהכלים דיו״ד ספירות, שבהן מלובש הקו מאור אין סוף

because they already emerged and became separated from the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Atzilut within which the Kav of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light is vested.

שהאור הוא כעין המאור, הוא מהותו ועצמותו של המאציל, ברוך הוא

For the light is like its source, the luminary, i.e., the very core and Essence of the blessed Emanator,

שמציאותו הוא מעצמותו, ואינו עלול מאיזה עילה שקדמה לו, חס ושלום

Whose Being is of His Essence — His is an essential form of being; He is not, heaven forfend, brought into being by some other ilah (cause) preceding Himself.

An antecedent state of non-existence could not possibly apply to G‑d’s existence, which is an essential form of existence.

ולכן הוא לבדו, בכחו ויכלתו לברוא יש מאין ואפס המוחלט ממש

It is therefore in His power and ability alone to create something (yesh) out of absolute naught (ayin) and nothingness,

G‑d is able to create substance (yesh) not only from the degree of ayin that merely lacks existence, but from “absolute naught and nothingness” — from an ayin that is the very antithesis of yesh, of substantial existence.

בלי שום עילה וסיבה אחרת קודמת ליש הזה

without this yesh having any other cause and reason preceding it.

The G‑dly life-force, the ayin, that creates the yesh, is the exact opposite of the yesh that it creates. As such, it is not a cause or reason that relates to or serves as a precursor of the yesh that is created by it; as ayin it is the very antithesis of yesh.

This is why creation can only result from the kelim of the Sefirot of Atzilut within which is vested the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, for they are actual Divinity. However, as pointed out above, angels and souls of Atzilut that have already emerged and become separated from the kelim cannot possibly act as conduits for the creation of yesh from ayin, inasmuch as they themselves are not actual Divinity.

The Alter Rebbe now anticipates the following question: Since only the Ein Sof can create yesh from ayin, what need is there for the kelim of the Sefirot?

He goes on to answer that the kelim “enable” the Ein Sof to create a finite yesh: since the Ein Sof is infinite, the beings that result from it would also be limitless — if not for the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Atzilut.

וכדי שיהיה היש הזה, הנברא בכח האין סוף, בעל גבול ומדה, נתלבש אור אין סוף בכלים דיו״ד ספירות דאצילות

In order that this yesh, created by the [infinite] power of the Ein Sof, should have a limit and measure, the [infinite] Ein Sof-light was vested in the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Atzilutfor the kelim are limited, inasmuch as they divide into the distinct categories of Chochmah, Chesed, and the like,

ומתייחד בתוכן בתכלית היחוד, עד דאיהו וגרמוהי חד

and it becomes united within them so absolutely that “He (the Ein Sof-light) and His causations (the kelim of the Sefirot) are One,”

לברוא בהן ועל ידן ברואים בעלי גבול ותכלית

so that [He can] create with and through them creatures that have limitation and finitude.

ובפרט על ידי התלבשותן בבריאה, יצירה, עשיה

This is especially the case through their investment (i.e., the investment of the kelim of Atzilut) in Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, for this adds immeasurably to the finitude and corporeality of the resultant created beings.


As we have seen, the objective creation of the yesh takes place through the investment of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light in the kelim of all Ten Sefirot of Atzilut. However, as the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain, the subjective yeshut of created beings — their self-perception as entities distinct and separate from their Creator — derives principally from the Sefirah of Malchut (in the World of Atzilut). For the very notion of Malchut (“sovereignty”) can apply only to individuals who are separate from the king who rules over them, and who nonetheless nullify their will to his.

This is in keeping with the axiom,38 “There is no king without a nation.” The Hebrew for “people” עם is etymologically related to the word omemut, as in the expression gechalim omemot, signifying embers whose fire has been dimmed. In this spirit, am implies a populace which is far removed from the king’s qualities and from his company. By contrast, the inherent closeness of a father and child makes it impossible for the father to reign over his child. Sovereignty is possible only over strangers, over those who are distant from their king.

It is for this reason that the Sefirah of Malchut creates beings that sense themselves to be separate from G‑dliness, for only over them is it possible for Malchut to reign — so that these distinct and separate created beings should, by dint of their own spiritual service, nullify themselves to G‑d’s will.

אמנם מודעת זאת שעיקר התהוות היש ודבר נפרד לגמרי, הוא ממלכות דאצילות

However, as is known, [any] yesh or entity that (in its own eyes) is utterly separate [from G‑dliness], comes into being principally through Malchut of Atzilut,

שנעשה עתיק דבריאה

which becomes the Atik of Beriah,

Atik is the element of delight (taanug) which is the innermost core of will (ratzon). Thus, Malchut of Atzilut becomes the delight and will that propel the World of Beriah into being. For it is Malchut that is able to project a sense of pleasure in creatures that perceive themselves to be separate entities, since only thus can sovereignty result.

כי אין מלך בלא עם וכו׳

for “There is no king without a nation” (am).

The analogy of the king who is able to rule only over subjects who are distant from him was explained above. In the analogue this corresponds to the created beings in the World of Beriah which are distant from G‑dliness, unlike the beings in the World of Atzilut אצילות which are “close to Him” אצלו: they cleave to G‑d. It is thus to the creatures of the World of Beriah that the Divine attribute of Malchut (“sovereignty”) relates.

וגם ריבוי הנבראים והתחלקותן, שנבראו בכח האין סוף, יחיד ומיוחד בתכלית

Also, the multitude and the diversity of creatures, [though, paradoxically,] they were created by the power of the One and absolutely uncompounded Ein Sof,

הוא על ידי ריבוי האותיות היוצאין ממלכות, פי ה׳, וברוח פיו כל צבאם

derives from the multitude of letters that issue from Malchut, which is known as “the mouth of G‑d,” [as it is written],39 “[By the word of G‑d were the heavens made], and by the breath of His mouth, all their hosts.”

וה׳ מוצאות הפה הן מה׳ גבורות דנוקבא

The five organs of [Supernal] speech (corresponding to the five physical organs of speech) are of the five Gevurot of Nukva (lit., “the female [element],” i.e., Malchut).

ולזאת נקראת עלמא דאתגליא, כי בה נגלה כח אור אין סוף לברוא יש מאין, שלא על ידי עילה ועלול

[Malchut] is therefore called Alma deItgalya (“the Manifest World”), because through it is manifested the power of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light to create something out of nothing, without recourse to ilah and alul (cause and effect).

The progression from ilah to alul exists among created beings as well; the creation of yesh from ayin is in the hands of the Ein Sof alone. And it is Malchut of Atzilut that makes this power manifest.

אבל ט׳ ספירות הראשונות נאצלו בהשתלשלות עילה ועלול

However, the first nine Sefirot that precede Malchut emanated by the causal evolution of ilah and alul,

ואור האין סוף, הוא מלובש בחכמה לבדה

while the [infinite] Ein Sof-light is vested in Chochmah alone.

Chochmah derives from the Ein Sof in a manner that resembles the derivation of yesh from ayin, as in the verse,40 “Chochmah derives from ayin.” The Ein Sof thus vests itself in Chochmah (and through it, the Ein Sof-light illuminates the other Sefirot as well).

וזה שכתוב: נעוץ תחילתן בסופן

And this is the meaning of the statement in Sefer Yetzirah41 regarding the Ten Sefirot, “Their beginning is wedged in their end.”

In the scheme of the Sefirot, the very beginning (signifying a level that transcends even the “head”) is to be found in the culmination of the series to an even greater extent than in the head. The Sefirah of Chochmah is variously termed “the head” ראש and “the first” ראשית. (The phrase42 ראשית חכמה is usually understood to mean “the beginning of wisdom,” but can also mean “Chochmah is first.”) Malchut is the last of the Sefirot. The Sefirah of Keter, which transcends even the Sefirah of Chochmah, is termed the “beginning”.

This “beginning”, then, which is called Keter, is “wedged” and is even more to be found in the “end” (Malchut) than in the other Sefirot, even Chochmah.

כי כתר הוא ממוצע בין המאציל לנאצלים, ויש בו בחינה אחרונה של האין סוף

For Keter is the mediator between the [infinite] Emanator and the [finite] emanated beings, and the lowest level of the Ein Sof is comprised in it.

Every intermediary (such as, in our case, the Sefirah of Keter) must incorporate at least some aspect of both the levels that it seeks to bridge. The aspect of infinite light contained in Keter is the lowest degree of Ein Sof. This level is the “beginning”, that level of Ein Sof that is “wedged” in the Sefirah of Malchut, for, as mentioned earlier, it is Malchut that reveals the power of the Ein Sof to create yesh from ayin.

ולכן נקרא כתר מלכות, כי אין כתר אלא למלך

That is why [the Sefirah of Keter, meaning “crown”] is called Keter Malchut (“the Crown of Sovereignty”), as stated in the introductory passage to Tikkunei Zohar which begins with Patach Eliyahu: “Supernal Keter is Keter Malchut,” for a crown is only for a king; i.e., the prime function of the Sefirah of Keter is to draw down the [infinite] Ein Sof-light contained within it into the level of Malchut.

וגם כי בחינה אחרונה דאין סוף היא מלכות דאין סוף

Also, [Keter is called Keter Malchut] because the final level of the Ein Sof is the Malchut of Ein Sof.43

Thus, Keter itself possesses the quality of Malchut, for Malchut is the lowest level of the Ein Sof.

ולכן גם המלכות דאצילות נקרא כתר, ממטה למעלה

Consequently Malchut of Atzilut, too, is called Keter, [when the Sefirot are considered] in ascending order.

From this perspective, looking “upward”, Malchut (the lowest Sefirah) is termed Keter in relation to the higher Sefirot. This is so because Malchut is the prime receptor for the down-flow of Keter which then illuminates the higher Sefirot by means of or chozer (“reflected light”) — like a beam of light that travels earthward through space, strikes a surface, and rebounds with renewed intensity.

The above concerns the ability of Malchut to manifest the power of Ein Sof in creating yesh from ayin, and to enable created beings to perceive themselves as entities distinct from their Creator. For this very reason, however, this creative ability cannot be considered a revelatory aspect of the Ein Sof-light. Rather, it demonstrates its capacity to conceal.

The Alter Rebbe therefore now goes on to discuss ways in which Malchut serves to reveal this light. (Souls, for example, though Divine, descend nevertheless within the limitations of created beings.) By virtue of its revelatory aspect, Malchut is called Alma deItgalya (“the Manifest World”), for through the Sefirah of Malchut the Ein Sof-light is revealed within the worlds.

ומה גם כי בריאת הנשמות ממנה, להיות יש ודבר נפרד בפני עצמן בעולם הבריאה

This is especially so since through [Malchut] the creation of souls takes place, enabling them to be yesh and separate entities in the World of Beriahand notwithstanding their becoming a yesh they still retain their aspect of G‑dliness.

While yet in Atzilut, souls have no sense of being a yesh, since they are entirely nullified to G‑dliness. Upon entering the World of Beriah, however, they perceive themselves as being distinct and substantive creatures. Notwithstanding this, they remain G‑dly entities and draw down G‑dliness within the worlds.

ונקרא בשם לידה, כקריעת ים סוף, דבעתיקא תליא

This [derivation of souls from Malchut] is termed leidah (“birth”), a process that requires the intervention of a higher power emanating from the Ein Sof, like the splitting of the Red Sea, which (as stated in the Zohar44) “depended on Atik.”

Atik (עתיק, related to נעתק, implying removal and separation from the created worlds) is the inner (i.e., higher) level of Keter, whose outer (i.e., lower) level is termed Arich. Atik is the final degree of the Ein Sof; Arich is the source and root of emanated beings.

The Kabbalah teaches that the birth of souls is comparable to the splitting of the Red Sea, and like it requires the power of the Ein Sof as found in Atik. The Alter Rebbe now explains that this infinite power is needed not only for the birth of souls but for their gestation as well.

וגם כל גידול הנשמות כל ז׳ חדשים, מזיווג של שמיני עצרת עד שביעי של פסח

Also, the whole growth of the souls, throughout the seven months from the union of Shmini Atzeret until the birth on the Seventh Day of Pesach,

It is taught in the Kabbalah45 that the union that “conceives” souls takes place on Shmini Atzeret, while the “birth” of souls takes place on the Seventh Day of Pesach, at the time of the crossing of the Red Sea.

הוא כמו גידול זו״נ בבטן אימא עילאה

resembles the growth of Zu’nthe Sefirot of Za and Malchut of Atzilut that were formerly concealed — in the womb of Imma Ilaah (“the Supernal Mother”), i.e., in the innermost degree of Binah of Atzilut.

שהוא על ידי אורות עליונים מאימא עילאה, ומלמעלה למעלה, עד אין סוף המתלבש בה כל ט׳ או ז׳ ירחי לידה

This takes place by means of the Supernal orot of Imma Ilaah, and of yet higher, as far as the Ein Sof which vests itself in it (i.e., in Binah) in order to bring about the growth of Zu’n throughout the nine or seven months of pregnancy.

Just as Zu’n of Atzilut is “delivered” from Binah of Atzilut, known as Imma Ilaah (“the Supernal Mother”), so too do souls gestate in Malchut, which is known as Imma Tataah (“the Nether Mother”), since Malchut incorporates within itself the Supernal orot of the Ein Sof.

וככה הוא בבריאת נשמות ומלאכים לעולם הבריאה

The same is true of the creation of the souls and angels in the World of Beriah: they, too, result from the Supernal orot of the Ein Sof that are drawn down into Malchut of Atzilut.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to state that these Supernal orot of the Ein Sof that descend into Malchut of Atzilut not only make possible the birth and gestation, but are also responsible for the actual “conception”.

וגם כל עיקר ושרש הטיפה שמקבלת ומתעברת מז״א, הוא ממוחין דאבא ואמא

Also, the very essence and root of the “seminal drop” which [Malchut] receives and through which she is impregnated by Z’eir Anpin, derives from the Mochin of Abba and Imma (lit., the “father” and “mother”), i.e., Chochmah and Binah, respectively.

ובכל זיווג, נמשכת לאבא ואימא מאריך אנפין ועתיק יומין, ומלמעלה למעלה עד אין סוף

And with every conjunction of Chochmah and Binah which is intended to bring about a birth, there issues forth to Abba and Imma [the seminal drop] from Arich Anpin and Atik Yomin, and from even higher, up to the Ein Sof.

רק שהכל בהעלם במוחין עד לידת הנוקבא, הנשמות והמלאכים וההיכלות לעולם הבריאה

Everything is concealed, though, in the Mochin, until the Nukva gives birth to (i.e., until Malchut reveals) the souls and the angels and the Heichalot for the World of Beriah.

נמצא שזהו גילוי אור אין סוף ממש, על ידי העיבור והלידה

Hence, by means of the “gestation” and “birth”, there is truly a revelation of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light.

Not only is the infinite power of Ein Sof drawn down through Malchut to bring about yesh: in addition, the Ein Sof-light is actually revealed by means of the “gestation” and “birth” of souls. By virtue of this role Malchut is termed Alma deItgalya, in addition to its function in drawing down the power of G‑dliness in a concealed manner within creation.

ובזה יובן היות המצוות במלכות, ה׳ של שם הוי׳

It will now be understood — in terms of the Sefirot and the corresponding letters of the Divine Name — why the mitzvot are in Malchut, the [latter] hei of the Four-Letter Name of G‑d,

והתורה בזעיר אנפין, וא״ו של שם הוי׳

while the Torah is in Z’eir Anpin, the vav of the Four-Letter Name of G‑d.

הגם שלמעלה באריך אנפין, המצוות הן בגולגלתא, בלבנונית

Though on a higher plane — as mitzvot and Torah are found in the level of Keter in Arich Anpin, the mitzvot are in the Gulgalta (lit., the “skull” that encompasses the Mochin) and, more specifically, in the “Whiteness” (i.e., in the level of Chesed of the Gulgalta, or Chesed of Arich Anpin),

היא האורחא דבפלוגתא דשערי, דמתפלגא לתרי״ג אורחין דאורייתא שבז״א

i.e., the “path” that is in the parting of the Se’arot (lit., the “hairs”) which divide into the 613 paths (i.e., effusions) of the Torah as it is in Z’eir Anpin,

Thus, mitzvot are on the encompassing level of Gulgalta that transcends the level of Mochin,

ושרש התורה דנפקא מחכמה עילאה, הוא במוחא סתימאה דאריך אנפין, והיינו החכמה דטעמי המצוות

and the root of the Torah which [merely] issues from the Supernal Chochmah though it ultimately derives from a root which is loftier than Supernal Chochmah is in the “Concealed Mochin” of Arich Anpin, which is the wisdom underlying the reasons for the commandments.

The “Concealed Mochin” of Arich Anpin that utterly transcends comprehension contains the wisdom underlying the reasons for the commandments. These reasons will first be revealed with the revelation of the “Concealed Mochin,” when Mashiach comes.

Insofar as Torah and the mitzvot are rooted in Keter, then, the mitzvot are on a higher plane than Torah; Torah is rooted in “Concealed Chochmah,” the level of Mochin in Keter, while the mitzvot are rooted in Gulgalta, the encompassing level of Keter that transcends Mochin.

Why is it, then, that in their standing within the Sefirot and within the corresponding letters of the Four-Letter Name of G‑d, Torah is loftier than mitzvot? — For the mitzvot are situated in Malchut, and in the corresponding final letter hei of the Divine Name, while Torah is in Z’eir Anpin, and in the corresponding letter vav of the Divine Name.

This is the question which the Alter Rebbe now answers:

אלא שהוא כחותם המתהפך

However, this is like an inverted seal.

The stamp of an engraved seal leaves an impression which is the exact opposite of itself: right becomes left and left becomes right; whatever protrudes becomes indented, and whatever was indented, protrudes.

So, too, the “protruding” or superior level of mitzvot in Keter descends by means of Hishtalshelut within the Sefirot in an “indented” or lower manner, while the “indented” or lower level of Torah descends within the Sefirot in a “protruding” or loftier manner.

ונעוץ תחלתן בסופן

Thus “Their beginning is wedged in their culmination”: The “beginning” or superior level of Keter in which the mitzvot are rooted descends and is “wedged” at the culmination of the lowest level of the Sefirot, viz., the Sefirah of Malchut,

הוא כח האין סוף ברוך הוא, לברוא יש מאין

that being the power of the blessed Ein Sof to create yesh from ayin, “something” from “nothing”, (for, as explained above, the power of Keter is vested within Malchut,)

ולא על ידי עילה ועלול, שיהיה העלול מוקף מעילתו, ובטל במציאות

and not by way of ilah and alul, whereby the alul (the effect) would be encompassed by its ilah (the cause), and essentially nonsubsistent [relative to it],

Such a manner of creation could not possibly fulfill the Divine intent in creation.

רק יהיה היש דבר נפרד מאלקות

but in such a way that the yesh should be — in its self-perception — an entity distinct from [its source in] Divinity,

בכדי שיהיה המאציל ברוך הוא מלך על כל הנפרדים

so that the blessed Emanator can be King over all such [self-styled] separate beings,

על ידי שיקיימו מצותיו שיצוה עליהם

through their fulfillment of the commandments that He will command them.

It is only thereby that G‑d’s desire to reign over created beings is fulfilled. For, as explained above, His sovereignty can find expression only over creatures who consider themselves to be separate entities from Him, but who nevertheless nullify their will to His through their actual performance of mitzvot.

וסוף מעשה במחשבה תחלה

Moreover, “The final act — those mitzvot that are performed with physical objects — was present in the beginning תחלה of thought,” in the level of thought that transcends even the “first” Divine thought ראשית חכמה. Within this sublime level a Divine intent desires the fulfillment of those mitzvot which involve physicality.

ולכן אמרו בירושלמי: ולית ליה לרבי שמעון שמפסיק ללולב וכו׳

That is why the Sages asked in the Yerushalmi:46 “Is then R. Shimon not of the opinion that one interrupts [Torah study] in order to fulfill the commandment of lulav?!...” — i.e., that even Torah study defers to a mitzvah, the time for whose performance has arrived.

The Sages asked this question in response to R. Shimon’s earlier statement that he and his colleagues would not interrupt their Torah study even for the recitation of the Shema. Their assumption was that whatever would be true of the mitzvah of lulav would also be true with regard to the recitation of the Shema.

The Yerushalmi then goes on to differentiate between Shema and other commandments with regard to interrupting one’s Torah study, explaining that both Shema and Torah study involve learning. Surely, however, R. Shimon would interrupt his Torah study for the performance of practical commandments in their proper time.

Insertion by the Rebbe: “And even Torah study itself presupposes the prior performance of the mitzvot — for they are its beginning, and on them depends its very existence (as in the forthcoming analogy on [the relationship between] the afterbirth and the child).”

וכל הלומד שלא לעשות, נוח לו שנהפכה שלייתו על פניו וכו׳

Moreover, as the Yerushalmi proceeds to quote R. Yochanan, “Whoever learns with the intention not to practice, it were better for him had his afterbirth turned over...,” and he would not have be born.

Why does the Yerushalmi relate to the afterbirth instead of simply stating that “it were better for him had he not been born”?

כי השליא נוצרה תחלה מהטיפה, והיא לבדה היתה עיקר הולד עד ארבעים יום, שהתחילה צורת הולד

For the afterbirth was formed first by the seminal drop, and until the fortieth day, when the embryo begins to take on form, it alone was the essential substance of the embryo.

וככה המצות הן עיקר התורה ושרשה, הגם שהמצוה היא גופנית, והתורה היא חכמה

In like manner, the commandments are the essence and root of the Torah, even though a commandment is corporeal and the Torah is wisdom, hence ethereal,

Insertion by the Rebbe: “This does not raise a problem as to the consequent standing of the Torah relative to the mitzvot, for the reason explained above [using the analogy of the inverted seal].”

רק שזה בחיצוניות, וזה בפנימיות

except that this (the lofty standing of the mitzvot) is on an external (makkif) level, while the other (the Torah) exists on an internal level, and thus infuses the mitzvot with vitality and soul,


as will be explained below.

Thus, should a person study Torah and not intend to perform the mitzvot, he is lacking the very root and foundation of the Torah, and it would thus have been better for him had his afterbirth turned over.

והנה כמו כן מזיווג זו״ן דבי״ע, נבראו מאין ליש כל הנבראים והנוצרים והנעשים

Similarly, by the union of Za and Nukva of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, there were created — as yesh from ayin — all the beings that were created in the World of Beriah, formed in the World of Yetzirah and made in the World of Asiyah,

As explained above, Malchut of Atzilut as well as the union of Zu’n (Za and Nukva) of Atzilut creates the souls and angels of the World of Beriah, creatures which are created in a manner of yesh. And as explained above, this comes about through the power of the Ein Sof and the Kav that is vested in Malchut in general and in the union of Zu’n in particular.

So, too, the union of Zu’n of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah results in the creation of the beings that pertain to these worlds (and, as the Alter Rebbe will conclude, here too there is a vestiture of a glimmer of the Kav, the infinite Ein Sof-light).

על ידי אור הנשמה שבתוכן, שהיא אלקות מהכלים דיו״ד ספירות דמלכות דאצילות

by the light of the Neshamah within them — for it (the Neshamah) is Divinity of the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Malchut of Atzilut.

The ten kelim of Malchut of Atzilut descend into the Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah to serve as the Neshamah and Divinity of the Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.

וגם בתוכה, הארת הקו דאור אין סוף

In it, within Malchut of Atzilut, there is also present the radiation of the Kav from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light,

Since the light of the Kav is similar to its source, the Luminary, it can bring about the creation of yesh from ayin, as explained above.

המלובש באצילות עד הפרסא

which is vested in Atzilut as far as the Prassa, the curtain or veil that screens off Atzilut from Beriah, so that the light of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah will be utterly different from the essence of the G‑dly light in Atzilut.

והארת הקו, שהיה מאיר בכלים דיו״ד ספירות דמלכות

This radiation of the Kav, that radiated in the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Malchut of Atzilut,

בקע הפרסא עמהם, ומאיר בהם, בבריאה יצירה עשיה, כמו באצילות ממש

pierced the Prassa together with them, and radiates in them — in the thirty kelim of Malchut of Atzilut that becomes a Neshamah for Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah in Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, just as in Atzilut itself.

This aspect of the illumination of the Kav that previously radiated within the kelim of Atzilut, remains constant even beyond the Prassa between Atzilut and Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, that causes the light of the latter three worlds to be completely different from that of Atzilut. For the thirty kelim of Malchut of Atzilut pierce the Prassa and hence retain their Divine characteristics, becoming the light and soul of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. The same is therefore true of the ray of the Kav that is within them and thus also pierced the Prassa together with them, so that it too radiates within the light of the soul of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, thereby creating and animating the beings that populate those three worlds.

וכן גם הקו בעצמו, המלובש בסיום וסוף נצח הוד יסוד דאדם קדמון

The same is the case (not only with the ray of the Kav that is vested within the kelim of Atzilut, but) also with the Kav itself, which is vested in the conclusion and end of the Netzach, Hod and Yesod of Adam Kadmon (abbreviated in the Hebrew original as נה״י דא״ק),

שהוא סוף רגלי היושר שלו המסתיימים במלכות דעשיה

i.e., the end of [the Kav’s] “feet of Yosher” which conclude in Malchut of Asiyah:

הנה הארת הקו מאירה משם, ומתלבשת באור הנשמה דיו״ד ספירות דבריאה יצירה עשיה, שהוא אלוקות

a radiation from the Kav radiates from there — from Netzach, Hod and Yesod of Adam Kadmon and vests itself in the light of the Neshamah of the Ten Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, which is Divinity.

Adam Kadmon (lit., “Primordial Man”), “Who observes and looks to the end of all generations”), represents the first Divine thought concerning and encompassing all of creation. The particulars that are found within this thought serve as the basis of life for all of creation.

Within this level are to be found two modes of emanation, called Iggulim (lit., “circles”) and Yosher (lit., “straightness”). The former (transcendent) mode of emanation encompasses all of creation equally, while the latter (immanent) mode of emanation animates the various levels of creation by permeating each according to its particular rank.

The concluding level of Yosher (the “feet” of Yosher) of Adam Kadmon comes to an end in the very last level of the lowest World (which is Asiyah), i.e., at the Sefirah of Malchut of Asiyah. It is with regard to this level that the Alter Rebbe states above that the radiation from the Kav that illuminates even as far as Malchut of Asiyah “vests itself in the light of the Neshamah of the Ten Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, which is Divinity.”

(The fact that it does so is not due to its vestiture in the kelim of Atzilut, but because of the Kav that radiates within Adam Kadmon, and as such is to be found within all levels of creation, even as far as the last level of Malchut of Asiyah. For Malchut of Asiyah too derives from the primordial thought of Adam Kadmon.)

והארה דהארה מתלבשת בנפש רוח דיו״ד ספירות דבריאה יצירה עשיה

And a radiation from [this] radiation [of the Kav] vests itself (not only in the light of the Neshamah of the Ten Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, but also) in the Nefesh-Ruach of the Ten Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah,

ואף גם בכל הכלים שלהם

and also in all their kelim (i.e., in the kelim of the Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah),

Though these kelim are not actual Divinity, they are nevertheless irradiated by a glimmer of a glimmer of the Kav. It is not the investment of the Kav within the kelim of Atzilut that brings this about, for Atzilut only illuminates and is vested within that which may be called Divinity. Rather, the Primordial Thought of Adam Kadmon causes the Kav itself (which transcends Atzilut) to irradiate a glimmer of a glimmer of its light even within the kelim of the Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.

והארה דהארה דהארה הוא בכל הנבראים ונוצרים ונעשים

while a radiation of [that] radiation of the [original] radiation is immanent in all the beings that were created in the World of Beriah, formed in the World of Yetzirah and made in the World of Asiyah,

This enables all created beings to be imbued with the Divine purpose of their creation, a purpose which is to be fulfilled by them. This intent, which originates in the Primordial Thought of Adam Kadmon, is the animating force of all created beings.

The meaning of “a radiation of a radiation of the radiation” is as follows: While a radiation of something is not the same as the object itself, nevertheless it is of the same nature. For example, the radiation of the Kav is still basically Divinity; it is of the same mahut (“essential nature”). By contrast, “a radiation of a radiation” (such as “a radiation of a radiation of the Kav”) differs from the Kav in essence, though still resembling it in the manner of its external manifestation; its metziut is the same.

This is why the “radiation of the radiation” vests itself in the Nefesh-Ruach of the Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. For they are not of the same mahut as their antecedent Sefirot in Atzilut, inasmuch as the Sefirot in Atzilut are actual Divinity while they are not. However, the Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah are similar to the Sefirot in Atzilut, for they have in common the spiritual manifestation (the metziut) of kelim and Sefirot. True, they are not actual Divinity, but neither are they a manifestation (a metziut) of created beings.

Proceeding one step further, “a radiation of a radiation of the radiation” does not even share the metziut, the outward man-ifestation, of the original radiation. Thus, “a radiation of a radiation of the radiation” of the Kav vests itself within all created beings — within all entities that are yesh — which were “created, formed and made.”

כמו שכתוב: הימים וכל אשר בהם, ואתה מחיה את כולם

as it is written,47“The seas, and all that they contain [were made by You], and You give life to them all.”

I.e., life-force is drawn down from “You” — from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light — into all of creation, by way of “a radiation of a radiation of the radiation” of the Kav.


וכל זאת בבחינת התפשטות החיות, להחיותם

Now all this is by way of an extension of the vital force to animate them.

With regard to this indirect mode of illumination there is a difference in the manner of vestiture — in Atzilut; in the light of the Neshamah of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah; in the Nefesh-Ruach and the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah; and ultimately, in all created beings.

אמנם מציאותו ומהותו של אור האין סוף אינו בגדר מקום כלל

However, the essence and nature of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light is in no way subject to space; hence it cannot be said that this light is to be found in Atzilut in one manner, and in another manner in the lower three worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah and all their ramifications:

וסובב כל עלמין בשוה

rather, it encompasses all worlds equally.

ואת השמים ואת הארץ אני מלא, בהשוואה אחת

[Thus G‑d says,48] “I fill the heavens and earth” — uniformly.

ולית אתר פנוי מיניה, אף בארץ הלזו הגשמית

Likewise,49“There is no place — or spiritual level — devoid of Him,” even in this physical world.

רק שהוא בבחינת מקיף וסובב

[The Divine light is present,] however, [only] in an “encompassing” and “encircling” manner — not in a palpable indwelling, but in a concealed transcendence,

וכמו שכתוב הפירוש בלקוטי אמרים

as this concept (i.e., makkif, or Sovev Kol Almin) is explained in Likutei Amarim.50

ולא התפשטות והתלבשות החיות, להחיותם ולהוותם מאין ליש

As to the presence in the worlds of the very essence and nature of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, this is not by way of an extension and investment of the life-force, thereby animating them and bringing them into being from ayin to yesh.

For even creation ex nihilo, though it involves a concealed power of the Ein Sof-light, is by definition an act of revelation and expansion that takes place by means of the Sefirot and spiritual levels that draw down and reveal this concealed power. This cannot result directly from the essence of the Ein Sof-light that is utterly concealed within creation.

כי אם על ידי הארה דהארה דהארה וכו׳ מהקו, כנזכר לעיל

Rather, [this extension of life-force and creative power emanates] only by means of a radiation from a radiation of the radiation, etc., from the Kav, as discussed above.

וגם מאור הסובב ומקיף לארבע עולמות, אצילות בריאה יצירה עשיה, בשוה

Also, from the [transcendent Ein Sof-] light that “encircles” and “encompasses” the Four Worlds — Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah — uniformly,

מאיר אל הקו הפנימי, דרך הכלים דיו״ד ספירות דבי״ע

there is a radiation to the inner Kav, by way of the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. The kelim thus encompass and transcend the light that is vested within them.

ובהארתו תוך הכלים, נותן בהם כח ועוז לברוא יש מאין

By its radiation within the kelim, it endows them with power and strength to create yesh from ayin.

It has already been explained that the creation of the respective beings of each of the Four Worlds comes about through the kelim of the Sefirot of that particular world. Their ability to create yesh from ayin (which can come about only from the essence of the Ein Sof-light that encompasses all worlds) results from the radiation of the encompassing light within them.

ומאחר שהבריאה היא על ידי הכלים

Now, because creation takes place by means of the kelim, which are finite and diverse, and the infinite light radiates within and through them,

לזאת הם הנבראים בבחינת ריבוי והתחלקות וגבול ותכלית

created beings are numerous and diverse, limited and finite,

ובפרט על ידי האותיות, כנזכר לעיל

especially since [the Divine radiation which brought them into being is revealed] by means of the letters, as explained above, for these letters (of speech) are even more finite and more diverse than the kelim.

To summarize: Both the indwelling aspect (the Kav) and the transcendent (“encompassing”) aspect of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light are present not only within the Sefirot, the Neshamah, Nefesh-Ruach and the kelim, of each of the worlds, but also within all the created beings of these worlds. The difference lies only in the degree of manifestation — whether it be a “radiation”, a “radiation of a radiation,” or a “radiation of a radiation of a radiation.”

When the creative light is present at the first and most direct level (“radiation”), though it is not the essence of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that is manifest, the light will still be of the same nature; it retains the same mahut. When it manifests as a “radiation of a radiation,” the creative light will be essentially different, and merely bear some external resemblance to its source in the manner of its manifestation; only its metziut remains Divine. When, however, it is manifest as a “radiation of a radiation of a radiation,” as is the case with all created beings, it does not retain even the metziut of the original radiation; the Divine radiation merely descends into the metziut of the created being.


The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that when the radiation descends in the third manner, it is manifest only in creatures of the lowest order, those deriving from the Element of Earth, this Element being lower than the other Elements of Fire, Air and Water. And it is mainly within the physical earth that the Divine power of creating yesh from ayin is revealed. This power derives from the essence of the Ein Sof-light; it is primarily found in the encompassing light, and is revealed through the Kav, the inner light.

This becomes apparent in the ability of the earth to make things grow: the physical growth of vegetative matter from the spiritual power of growth found in the earth is a clear demonstration of yesh resulting from ayin. Furthermore, the earth reveals this power constantly: it constantly produces vegetation as yesh from ayin. In this it differs from all living things that were created during the Six Days of Creation. Unlike all living things which, once created, simply reproduce, the earth consistently continues to reveal its creative power of yesh from ayin.

Thus, though the radiation within the earth is merely a “radiation of a radiation of a radiation,” it nevertheless demonstrates G‑d’s creative power — because it comprises both the encompassing light, and the light of the Kav which activates the power of the encompassing light to create and animate created beings.

The Alter Rebbe also explains that the distinctive power described above was revealed specifically within the earth, because Earth is the lowest Element of all. For, as explained above, it is specifically at the lowliest level of creation that the “rebounding light” manifests the essence of the original illumination with superior intensity.

ועוד זאת, יתר על כן, על כל הנ״ל

Furthermore, in addition to all that was mentioned above,51

הארה דהארה דהארה

the radiation of the radiation of the radiation, which descends into a created being utterly concealed, being then neither the mahut nor the metziut of Divinity, and nevertheless containing both the inner illumination of the Kav and the encompassing light,

וכל הנ״ל

and all the above, i.e., the manner in which both these levels of illumination ultimately radiate within created beings,

היא מראה כחה ויכלתה ביסוד העפר הגשמי, בגילוי עצום

demonstrates its power and ability, inasmuch as it is a G‑d-ly radiation descending from Malchut of Atzilut, in the Element of the physical Earth in an immense manifestation

ביתר עז מיסודות העליונים ממנו, וגם מצבא השמים

surpassing [that of] the elements (viz., Fire, Air and Water) that transcend it, and even the heavenly hosts.

שאין בכחם ויכלתם להוציא יש מאין תמיד

For they do not have it in their power and ability to constantly bring forth something from nothing (yesh me’ayin),

כיסוד העפר, המצמיח תמיד יש מאין, הם עשבים ואילנות

like the Element of Earth that constantly makes something (yesh) sprout from nothing (ayin), namely the herbs and trees that constantly grow from the earth’s vegetative power.

Even those plants that result from sowing and planting are produced in a manner that resembles yesh me’ayin, for the seed or seedling disintegrates, and serves merely to arouse the vegetative power.

(והמזל המכה ואומר: גדל

(52As for the mazal, the individual angel of destiny, “that strikes [each herb] and says, ‘Grow!’” —

Our Sages teach that53“There is no blade of grass below that does not have a mazal above that strikes it and says to it, ‘Grow!’” Would it not seem, then, that in addition to the earth’s vegetative power there is another factor in growth?

היינו, לאחר שכבר צמח העשב

this takes place [only] after the plant has already sprouted.

Once the plant exists as a created entity, it merely has to grow taller, the tree has to produce fruit with a certain taste, and so on — and these stages relate to the mazal.

ואינו אומר לו לצמוח מאין ליש, אלא מקוטן לגודל, ולשאת פרי, כל מין ומין בפרטי פרטיות

The mazal does not tell it to sprout ex nihilo into substantiality, but only to grow from being small to being large, or to bear fruit of its own particular species.

In Or HaTorah,54 the Tzemach Tzedek explains that the mazal sends forth an arousal to the power of growth that is found within the grass or tree, causing it to grow. The basic cause of growth, however, lies in the above-mentioned vegetative power.

Elsewhere,55 the Tzemach Tzedek explains that the above-quoted “smiting” means that the mazal illumines the particular tree or grass with which it is connected, causing it to be drawn to its source and hence to grow ever larger.

אבל בטרם יצמח, למי יאמר כל מזל ומזל לכל עשב ועשב בפרטי פרטיות

For before it sprouts, to whom would the individual mazal of each particular herb ordain all its details?)

מהכח הצומח שבו, שהוא אין ורוחני, והם גשמיים

[The above-mentioned plants of the earth grow, then,] from the vegetative property within it, which is insubstantial and spiritual, while they are physical.

What we have here, then, is yesh from ayin, which, as explained above, derives from the essence of the Ein Sof and finds expression in the Element of Earth. Why specifically there?

ואין זאת אלא משום דרגלי דאדם קדמון מסתיימים בתחתית עשיה

This is so only because the “feet” of Adam Kadmon culminate at the lowest level of Asiyah,

The “feet” (i.e., the last and lowliest levels) of Adam Kadmon, the Primordial Thought that encompasses all the levels of creation, concludes in the lowest degrees of the nethermost world, the World of Asiyah, and specifically, in the lowly Element of Earth within it.

ותחת רגליו מאיר אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, הסובב כל עלמין

And “below His feet,” i.e., below the lowest levels of Adam Kadmon, radiates the [infinite] Ein Sof-light which encircles (i.e., transcends) all worlds,

At the very “place” at which there ceases the indwelling Divine illumination that permeates all the worlds, there begins the “encompassing” degree of Divine light that transcends all the worlds.

בלי הפסק רב ביניהם, רק עיגולי א״ק לבדו

without any great interruption between them, except for the Iggulim of Adam Kadmon alone.

The Primordial Thought of Adam Kadmon consists of two modes of illumination — Yosher (lit., “straightness”, i.e., a permeating mode) and Iggulim (lit., “circles”, i.e., a transcendent mode). Where the former mode ceases and there remains only the latter (which is not absolute infinity like the Ein-Sof light that transcends all worlds), there is found the absolutely infinite illumination of the Ein-Sof light that transcends all worlds equally.

וגם הקו מאור אין סוף, המסתיים בסיום רגלי א״ק, מאיר ממטה למעלה, בבחינת אור חוזר

Also, the Kav of the Ein Sof-light, culminating at the end of the “feet” of Adam Kadmon, radiates from below upwards, in a mode of Or Chozer, a reflected light.

As mentioned above, this is a light that rebounds upward with increased intensity from a surface which blocks its further downward progress. Hence, for example, the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface is warmer than the atmosphere in altitudes which are nearer to the sun. In the same way, when the beam of the Kav, whose function is to infuse the inner reaches of all created beings with Divine light, reaches the furthest stages of the Divine thought that encompasses all worlds and created beings, it bounces back with sharper impetus: it is now an Or Chozer.

כמו שהמלובש באריך אנפין, ואבא ואמא, וז״א ונוקבא דאצילות, מאיר באור חוזר ממלכות דאצילות

This is like the investment [of the Kav] in Arich Anpin, Abba and Imma, and Za and Nukva of Atzilut, which radiates as an Or Chozer from Malchut of Atzilut,

ומלכות דאצילות, היא בחינת כתר ממטה למעלה

and Malchut of Atzilut, [if the Sefirot are considered] from below upwards, is [thus] a category of Keter, as mentioned earlier in this Epistle,

ונעוץ תחלתן בסופן

and “their beginning is wedged in their end.”

With regard to Malchut this means that the “beginning” of Keter which is loftier than Chochmah is to be found within Malchut. With regard to the Kav it means that the “beginning” of the Kav is wedged in the culmination of the “feet of Adam Kadmon” which ends in the nethermost levels of the World of Asiyah, in the Element of Earth.

Since the purpose of the Kav is to reveal Divinity, the Element of Earth best reveals that aspect of G‑d’s infinity which expresses itself in creating yesh from ayin, as the Alter Rebbe now concludes.

וככה הוא בסיום הקו דאור אין סוף, המסתיים בסיום היושר דרגלי אדם קדמון

It is likewise at the culmination of the Kav of the Ein Sof-light, culminating at the ending of the Yosher of the “feet” of Adam Kadmon:

I.e., when the “feet” of the lowest levels of Adam Kadmon descend into the interior of the various levels all the way down to the very lowest level, the Element of Earth at the lowest level of Asiyah,

מאיר ממטה למעלה לבחינת אור הנשמה דמלכות דמלכות דעשיה

it (i.e., the Kav) [then] radiates from below upwards, from the glimmer of a glimmer of a glimmer that is found within the physical earth, to the category of the light of the Neshamah of the Malchut of the Malchut of Asiyah,

This light, the Or HaNeshamah, is in fact the lowest level of spirituality within Asiyah. For Asiyah is the lowest of the worlds; Malchut is the final Sefirah within Asiyah; and of the ten component Sefirot that comprise Malchut, “Malchut of Malchut” is the lowest.

Nevertheless, since it is, after all, the “light of the Neshamah,” it is actual Divinity, as the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say.

שהוא אלקות ממש, מחיצוניות הכלים דמלכות דאצילות

which is actual Divinity, originating in the chitzoniyut (the exterior aspect) of the kelim of Malchut of Atzilut, which, as said above, becomes the “light of the Neshamah of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.”

In this lowest level of “light of the Neshamah,” that which is in Asiyah, there is found the illumination of the final degrees of Asiyah (i.e., that which in created beings is the final level), and this “enables” the Ein Sof to reveal its capacity for creating yesh from ayin as demonstrated in the above-described constant power of growth.

ולפי מה שכתוב בספר הגלגולים, פרק כ׳, הובא בלקוטי אמרים

According to the statement in ch. 20 of Sefer HaGilgulim, cited in Likutei Amarim,56

מתלבשת תחלה הארה זו של הקו דאור אין סוף, באור האצילות שבעשיה

this radiation from the Kav of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light vests itself first in the light of Atzilut in Asiyah,

וממנה לבריאה ויצירה שבעשיה

and from there to the Beriah and Yetzirah in Asiyah,

ומהן לבחינת אור הנשמה, דמלכות דמלכות דעשיה

and from them to the category of the light of the Neshamah of the Malchut of the Malchut of Asiyah.

ועל ידי זה יש כח ועוז בסיום הכלי דמלכות דמלכות דעשיה, שביסוד העפר

From this derives the [creative] power and force in the culmination of the keli of the Malchut of Malchut of Asiyah, i.e., the lowest degree and Sefirah of Asiyah, within the Element of Earth.

והוא מאמר תדשא הארץ וגו׳, להיות פועל בקרב הארץ, תמיד לעולם ועד

This is the constant and everlasting effect, throughout the earth, of the creative utterance,57 “Let the earth bring forth herbs...,” this fiat being the source of the power of vegetative growth

בחינת אין סוף

(58in a mode of infinitude,

Not only is the capacity for growth an instance of yesh me’ayin and a result of G‑d’s infinitude: the same is true of its constant recurrence.

ולא בלבד בששת ימי בראשית, כמאמר: ישרצו המים, ומאמר: תוצא הארץ נפש חיה

and not only during the Six Days of Creation, as with the fiat,59 “Let the waters bring forth [an abundance of creeping creatures],” and the fiat,60 “Let the earth bring forth living beings.”

Ever since these one-time creative utterances, every living being derives from another, and not ex nihilo from the earth or water.

מחכמה דמלכות דמלכות דעשיה

[These fiats derive] from the Chochmah of the Malchut of the Malchut of Asiyah.

שבשבעת ימי בראשית האיר בעולם הזה הארה מאור אין סוף בחסד חנם

For during the Seven Days of the Beginning there shone in this world a radiation from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light in a mode of gratuitous kindness,

בלי העלאת מיין נוקבין כלל

without any [prior] elevation of mayin nukvin at all.)

During those days there was no spontaneous arousal initiated from the world below, in the form of divine service on the part of the “female” or recipient element, in order to elicit a reciprocal arousal from above. (After these seven days, however, G‑d ordained that henceforth there must first be an arousal initiated from below.) By virtue of the gratuitous and unearned Di-vine kindness of those first seven days, each of the above-quoted fiats (“Let the water bring forth...” and “Let the earth bring forth...”) effectively brought about an instance of creation ex nihilo, of yesh from ayin.

The fiat “Let the earth sprout forth...,” by contrast, operates constantly:

להצמיח עשבים ואילנות ופירות מאין ליש תמיד, מדי שנה בשנה

to make grasses and trees and fruits sprout ex nihilo into substantiality, constantly, year by year.61

שהוא מעין בחינת אין סוף

This [constancy] is a kind of infinity,

שאם יתקיים עולם הזה ריבוי רבבות שנים, יצמיחו מדי שנה בשנה

for if this world were to exist for myriads of myriads of years, they would still sprout forth from year to year.

אלא שיש מהן על ידי העלאת מיין נוקבין, והם הזרועים והנטועים

There are, though, some [plants, trees and fruit] that result from a [prior] “elevation of mayin nukvin,” i.e., whose seeds serve as the above-mentioned arousal from below which calls forth the power of vegetative growth within the earth, namely, those which are sown and planted.

ואף על פי כן, הם כמו יש מאין

Nevertheless, these [too] are like yesh me’ayin,

שהגרעין הנטוע, אין לו ערך כלל לגבי הפרי, וגם נגד כל האילן עם הענפים והעלין

for the planted seed is of no estimation whatever in relation to the fruit, nor in relation to the whole tree with the branches and leaves.

Whereas the difference between the fruit and its source in the kernel is mainly qualitative (as in the taste, for example), the difference between the kernel and the resultant tree is more quantitative. By both of these criteria, then, the growth of a tree from a seed possesses an element of yesh me’ayin.

וכן במיני זרעונים וירקות, וגם במיני תבואה, להתהוות מאות גרעינין מגרעין אחד, הוא כמו יש מאין

The same applies to the various species of seeds and vegetables, and to the various species of grain: that hundreds of kernels should come into being from a single kernel, resembles yesh me’ayin;

ומכל שכן, הקשין והשבלים

and how much more so, with respect to their straw and spikes, which are so much more different from the parent kernel, and thus even more conspicuously come into being as if “from nothing.”

והנה הפירות על ידי העלאת מיין נוקבין, היא הזריעה והנטיעה, הם משובחים מאד מאד מהעולים מאליהן, מכח הצומח לבדו שבארץ

Now,62 these fruits that [grow] by means of an “elevation of mayin nukvin,” i.e., by sowing and planting, are far, far superior to those that come up independently, only from the vegetative property in the soil.

ומזה נשכיל המשכות אורות עליונים באצילות, בריאה, יצירה, עשיה

And from this we will be able to understand [the concept of] the elicitation of the Supernal orot, the Divine illuminations, [that are drawn down] in the Worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah,

The lights that are drawn down to this world in response to man’s divine service surpass by far the lights that are granted through “an arousal from above” as an unearned gift.

שהוא תכלית בריאת האדם

(63which is the ultimate purpose for the creation of man),

כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

as is explained elsewhere.



And from this, from the earlier explanation of the paradox of Or Chozer, whereby it is specifically in the lowest levels of Asiyah that the light of Sovev Kol Almin and the light of the Kav rebound most intensely,

יובן היטב בענין סדר המדרגות: דומם, צומח, חי, מדבר

we can clearly understand the subject of the order of the levels [of created beings] — the inorganic, the vegetative, the animal, and the articulate being (i.e., man),

שהן בחינת עפר, מים, אש, רוח

which correspond to and are expressed within the composition of all created beings as the Elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air.

שאף שהחי הוא למעלה מהצומח, והמדבר למעלה מהחי

For though the animal [level] is higher than the vegetative [level],64 and the articulate being is higher than the animal,

אף על פי כן, החי ניזון וחי מהצומח, והמדבר מקבל חיותו משניהם

nevertheless, the animal is nourished and lives by the vegetative, and the articulate being receives his vitality from them both,

וגם חכמה ודעת

and even wisdom and knowledge.

שאין התינוק יודע לקרות אבא ואמא, עד שיטעום טעם דגן כו׳

For, as the Gemara states,65 “A child does not know how to call ‘father’ and ‘mother’ until it has tasted grain.”

ועדיין לא אכילנא בישרא דתורא כו׳

[It is likewise written,]66 “I had not yet eaten the meat of oxen....”

This was the explanation which R. Nachman gave to Rava, as to why the previous evening he had been unable to give the better answer to his query that he had now given. Thus we see that the meat of a mere animal is able to stimulate the mind of man.

The key to this paradox, whereby the animal kingdom is nourished by the inferior vegetative kingdom, and man needs both of these inferior orders of creation, has been explained above:

כי הוא בחינת אור חוזר ממטה למעלה, מתחתית העשיה

For this is an instance of Or Chozer, the light that is reflected from the lower levels to the higher, from the lowest level of Asiyah,

שמתגלית שם ביתר עז, הארה דהארה כו׳

where there is an exceedingly strong manifestation of the radiation of the radiation, and so on, of the glimmer of a glimmer of a glimmer that is found within the physical earth,

מאור אין סוף, הסובב כל עלמין

from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that encircles all worlds, i.e., from the degree of Sovev Kol Almin that transcends all worlds equally,

ומהקו אור אין סוף, שבסיום רגלי היושר דאדם קדמון

and from the Kav from the Ein Sof-light at the culmination of the “feet” of the Yosher of Adam Kadmonthe final level of the internalized illumination that is found in all worlds. This illumination shines there:

בבחינת אור חוזר, כנ״ל

in a mode of Or Chozer, as stated above.


ויובן היטב בזה, טוב טעם ודעת

This will enable one to gain a reasoned understanding

מה שהמלאכים עליונים שבמרכבה: פני שור ופני נשר

how it is that the Supernal angels of the Merkavah, the “Celestial Chariot,” namely, the “Face of the Oxen” and the “Face of the Eagle,”

נהנים מאד, וניזונים ומסתפקים

derive great enjoyment, and are nourished and content,

מרוח הבהמה והעוף, העולה אליהם מהקרבנות שעל גבי המזבח

from the spirit of the cattle and fowl that ascends to them from the sacrifices on the altar.

The phrase,67 את קרבני לחמי לאשי (“My sacrifice, the bread of My burnt offerings...”), may be understood on a non-literal level to mean that the sacrifices provide sustenance for G‑d’s “fires”, i.e., for the angels.

וכדקדוק לשון הזהר הקדוש: ואתהניין מיסודא ועיקרא דילהון

As the holy Zohar expresses it precisely,68 “They derive enjoyment from their element and essence”: the spiritual root (as opposed to the animal component) of the sacrifices is reflected back to its angelic source in a mode of Or Chozer.


ואחרי הדברים והאמת האלה, דעת לנבון נקל

Now, after these words and this truth, knowledge comes easily to the discerning,

להבין על ידי כל הנ״ל, גודל מעלת המצות מעשיות

to understand through all the above the sublime worth of the practical commandments, those performed with physical objects and with man’s physicality.

אשר הן תכלית ירידת הנשמות לעולם הזה הגשמי

For [these commandments] are the ultimate purpose for the descent of souls to this physical world,

כמו שכתוב: היום לעשותם

as it is written,69 “Today [is the time] to do them.”

I.e., specifically “today”, in this world of action, are we provided with the opportunity to perform mitzvot with physical objects whose creation came about from G‑d’s very essence, and which contain the concealed power of His very being. By performing mitzvot with these objects we release this concealed power.

ויפה שעה אחת בתשובה ומעשים טובים בעולם הזה, מכל חיי עולם הבא

[It is likewise written,]70 “Better one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world, than all the life of the World to Come.”


עד כאן מצאנו מכתב יד הקודש

At this point the first publishers of Iggeret HaKodesh wrote: Until here we found of his holy writing.