Chapter 9

פרק ט

In regard to the Holy One, blessed be He, however, the level of wisdom—which [in all created beings] is the beginning of thought and its genesis—is to Him the final stage of action;

אֲבָל לְגַבֵּי הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, מַדְרֵגַת הַחָכְמָה, שֶׁהִיא תְּחִלַּת מַחֲשָׁבָה וְרֵאשִׁיתָהּ – הִיא סוֹף מַעֲשֶׂה אֶצְלוֹ,

i.e., in relation to the Holy One, blessed be He, [wisdom] is considered as if it were the quality and level of action,

דְּהַיְינוּ, שֶׁנֶּחְשֶׁבֶת כְּאִילּוּ הִיא בְּחִינַת וּמַדְרֵגַת עֲשִׂיָּיה לְגַבֵּי הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

as it is written, “You have made them all with wisdom.”1

כְּדִכְתִיב: "כּוּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ".

At first glance, it would seem more appropriate for the verse to have said something such as “You have ‘intellected’ them all.” Why instead does it state, “You have made…” when speaking of wisdom?

That is to say that [wisdom relative to Him is] as the quality of the life-force in physical and material action is in relation to the quality of the life-force of wisdom,

וְהַיְינוּ לוֹמַר, שֶׁכְּעֵרֶךְ הַחַיּוּת שֶׁבַּעֲשִׂיָּה גוּפָנִית וְגַשְׁמִיִּית לְעֵרֶךְ חַיּוּת הַחָכְמָה,

[wisdom being] the beginning and source of the life-force in man and all the physical creatures.

שֶׁהִיא רֵאשִׁית וּמְקוֹר הַחַיּוּת בָּאָדָם וְכָל הַבְּרוּאִים גַּשְׁמִיִּים,

I.e., the life-force of physicality is incomparably lower than wisdom, which is the source of all life-force.

[For the life-force of physicality] is as nothing in comparison with the life-force in the letters of speech, which [in turn] is as nothing compared to the life-force in the letters of thought,

שֶׁהוּא כְּאַיִן לְגַבֵּי חַיּוּת שֶׁבְּאוֹתִיּוֹת הַדִּבּוּר, שֶׁהוּא כְּאַיִן לְגַבֵּי הַחַיּוּת שֶׁבְּאוֹתִיּוֹת הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה,

which [in turn] is as nothing in comparison to the life-force and level of the emotive attributes from which this thought is derived,

שֶׁהוּא כְּאַיִן לְגַבֵּי חַיּוּת וּמַעֲלַת הַמִּדּוֹת שֶׁמֵּהֶן נִמְשְׁכָה מַחֲשָׁבָה זוֹ,

For, as explained earlier, all letters of thought emanate from some emotion which brings them into being so that the individual concerned should think these particular letters. Clearly, the life-force of these letters of thought bears no comparison to the life-force of the emotions from whence these letters emanate.

which [in turn] is as nothing in comparison to the life-force and level and degree of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, the source of the emotive attributes.

שֶׁהוּא כְּאַיִן לְגַבֵּי חַיּוּת וּמַעֲלַת וּמַדְרֵגַת הַחָכְמָה בִּינָה וָדַעַת מְקוֹר הַמִּדּוֹת,

Thus, from the level of action to the lofty level of wisdom in the World of Atzilut, there are but five levels, each of which is of no account in comparison to the level above it. Clearly, then, the lowest level of action is surely of absolutely no account in comparison to the highest level, which is the level of wisdom in the World of Atzilut. And just as action is infinitely distant from the wisdom of Atzilut

Exactly so is the quality and level of wisdom, the beginning and source of the life-force in all the worlds,

כֵּן מַמָּשׁ, עֵרֶךְ מַדְרֵגַת וּמַעֲלַת הַחָכְמָה, שֶׁהִיא רֵאשִׁית וּמְקוֹר הַחַיּוּת שֶׁבְּכָל הָעוֹלָמוֹת –

For we are speaking here of the sefirah of chochmah of the World of Atzilut, which is the source of the entire World of Atzilut, the highest of all the worlds. As such, it is also the source of all the worlds below it. Now this level of wisdom is as nothing—

in relation to the Holy One, blessed be He, in His Glory and Essence,

לְגַבֵּי הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בִּכְבוֹדוֹ וּבְעַצְמוֹ,

Who is elevated and exalted by myriads of degrees of elevation more than the quality of wisdom is elevated over the quality of the life-force in action,

הַמְרוֹמָם וְהַמִּתְנַשֵּׂא רִיבּוֹא רִבְבוֹת מַדְרֵגוֹת רוֹמְמוּת, יוֹתֵר מֵרוֹמְמוּת מַדְרֵגַת הַחָכְמָה עַל בְּחִינַת חַיּוּת שֶׁבָּעֲשִׂיָּיה,

for this is an elevation of only five degrees, namely, the levels of action, speech, thought, the emotive attributes, and intellect.

שֶׁהִיא רוֹמְמוּת חָמֵשׁ מַדְרֵגוֹת לְבַד, שֶׁהֵן מַדְרֵגוֹת בְחִינוֹת עֲשִׂיָּיה וְדִבּוּר וּמַחֲשָׁבָה וּמִדּוֹת וְשֵׂכֶל.

The Holy One, blessed be He, however, is “high and exalted” above the level of wisdom by infinite myriads of such degrees.

אֲבָל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, רָם וּמִתְנַשֵּׂא מִמַּדְרֵגַת הַחָכְמָה – רִבְבוֹת מַדְרֵגוֹת כָּאֵלּוּ עַד אֵין קֵץ.

This being so, why do we compare the distance of wisdom from G‑d to the distance of action from wisdom, when in actuality, wisdom is infinitely more distant from Him?

But inasmuch as it is within the power of created beings to comprehend only the descent from the level of wisdom, which is their beginning, to the level of action, which is the lowliest of levels,

רַק מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין בַּנִּבְרָאִים כֹּחַ לְהַשִּׂיג רַק הַהִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת מִמַּדְרֵגַת חָכְמָה, שֶׁהִיא רֵאשִׁיתָם, לְמַדְרֵגַת עֲשִׂיָּה הַשְּׁפֵלָה,

therefore, we say that in relation to the Holy One, blessed be He, the level of wisdom is considered exactly as the level of action.

לְכָךְ אָנוּ אוֹמְרִים, שֶׁלְּגַבֵּי הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, נֶחְשֶׁבֶת מַדְרֵגַת הַחָכְמָה כְּמַדְרֵגַת עֲשִׂיָּה מַמָּשׁ,

We use this example simply because there is no greater descent in the realm of human experience than the descent from wisdom to action.

That is to say: [G‑d] is “high and exalted” and very greatly elevated above the level of wisdom,

דְּהַיְינוּ לוֹמַר, שֶׁהוּא רָם וְנִשָּׂא וְנַעֲלֶה עִילּוּי רַב מְאֹד מְאֹד מִמַּדְרֵגַת הַחָכְמָה.

and it is not at all appropriate to ascribe to Him anything that pertains to wisdom, even in a very lofty and sublime form, i.e., even if by doing so, we mean to express how He transcends wisdom;

וְלֹא שַׁיָּיךְ כְּלָל לְיַיחֵס אֶצְלוֹ שׁוּם עִנְיָן הַמִּתְיַיחֵס לְחָכְמָה, אֲפִילוּ בְּדֶרֶךְ מַעֲלָה וְעִילּוּי רַב,

for example, to say of Him that it is beyond the capacity of any higher or lower creature to comprehend His wisdom or His Essence.

כְּגוֹן לוֹמַר עָלָיו שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לְשׁוּם נִבְרָא עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים לְהַשִּׂיג חָכְמָתוֹ אוֹ מַהוּתוֹ,

Even this negative reference to wisdom is inappropriate—

For comprehension pertains and applies to a matter of wisdom and intellect, about which one can say that it can or cannot be understood because of the profundity of the concept.

כִּי עִנְיַן הַהַשָּׂגָה מִתְיַיחֵס וְנוֹפֵל עַל דְּבַר חָכְמָה וָשֵׂכֶל, לוֹמַר שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר לְהַשִּׂיגוֹ, אוֹ אִי אֶפְשָׁר לְהַשִּׂיגוֹ מִפְּנֵי עוֹמֶק הַמּוּשָּׂג;

However, concerning the Holy One, blessed be He, Who transcends intellect and wisdom, it is not at all appropriate to say that one cannot comprehend Him because of the profundity of the concept,

אֲבָל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא שֶׁהוּא לְמַעְלָה מִן הַשֵּׂכֶל וְהַחָכְמָה – לֹא שַׁיָּיךְ כְּלָל לוֹמַר בּוֹ שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לְהַשִּׂיגוֹ מִפְּנֵי עוֹמֶק הַמּוּשָּׂג,

for He is not within the realm of comprehension at all.

כִּי אֵינוֹ בִּבְחִינַת הַשָּׂגָה כְּלָל,

He who states that it is impossible to comprehend Him is like one who says of some lofty and profound concept that it cannot be touched with their hands because of the depth of the concept.

וְהָאוֹמֵר עָלָיו שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לְהַשִּׂיגוֹ – הוּא כְּאוֹמֵר עַל אֵיזוֹ חָכְמָה רָמָה וַעֲמוּקָּה, שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לְמַשְּׁשָׁהּ בְּיָדַיִם מִפְּנֵי עוֹמֶק הַמּוּשָּׂג,

Whoever hears [this] will mock him because the sense of touch refers and applies only to physical objects, which may be grasped by the hands.

שֶׁכָּל הַשּׁוֹמֵעַ יִצְחַק לוֹ, לְפִי שֶׁחוּשׁ הַמִּישּׁוּשׁ אֵינוֹ מִתְיַיחֵס וְנוֹפֵל אֶלָּא עַל עֲשִׂיָּיה גַשְׁמִית הַנִּתְפֶּסֶת בְּיָדַיִם,

Exactly so, the level of intellect and comprehension in relation to the Holy One, blessed be He, is considered as actual, physical action.

וְכָכָה מַמָּשׁ, נֶחְשֶׁבֶת לְגַבֵּי הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מַדְרֵגַת הַשֵּׂכֶל וְהַהַשָּׂגָה כַּעֲשִׂיָּיה גַשְׁמִית מַמָּשׁ,

Even the comprehension of the [superior and spiritual] Intelligences in the higher worlds, and even the level of supernal wisdom of the World of Atzilut, which gives life to them all [is considered so in relation to the Holy One, blessed be He],

וַאֲפִילוּ הַשָּׂגַת שְׂכָלִים שֶׁבְּעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים, וַאֲפִילוּ מַדְרֵגַת חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה הַמְחַיָּה אֶת כּוּלָּם,

as it is written, “You have made them all with wisdom.”2

כְּדִכְתִיב: "כּוּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ".

All of creation is rooted in the wisdom of Atzilut. Nevertheless, even the supernal wisdom of Atzilut is considered as action in relation to G‑d, for G‑d transcends it infinitely. It is thus impossible to say that G‑d can or cannot be apprehended through intellect, inasmuch as intellect and wisdom are not at all the means by which G‑d can be grasped.

As for the Holy One, blessed be He, being called “Wise” in Scripture, and our Sages, of blessed memory, have also referred to Him with epithets denoting the quality and level of wisdom,

וּמַה שֶּׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא נִקְרָא "חָכָם" בַּכָּתוּב, וְגַם חֲכָמֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה כִּינּוּ לוֹ מַדְרֵגַת וּמַעֲלַת הַחָכְמָה,

this is because He is the source of wisdom, for from Him issues and emanates the essence of the level of supernal wisdom, which is in the World of Atzilut.

הַיְינוּ, מִשּׁוּם שֶׁהוּא מְקוֹר הַחָכְמָה, שֶׁמִּמֶּנּוּ יִתְבָּרֵךְ נִמְשָׁךְ וְנֶאֱצָל מַהוּת מַדְרֵגַת חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה שֶׁבְּעוֹלַם הָאֲצִילוּת.

Likewise, [He is called] Merciful and Kind, even though He utterly transcends mercy and kindness, because He is the source of mercy and kindness,

וְכֵן "רַחוּם" וְ"חָסִיד", עַל שֵׁם שֶׁהוּא מְקוֹר הָרַחֲמִים וְהַחֲסָדִים.

and likewise, regarding the other emotive attributes: G‑d is referred to by the names of the other attributes because He is their source,

וְכֵן שְׁאָר הַמִּדּוֹת,

for they all proceed and emanate from Him.

שֶׁכּוּלָּן נִמְשְׁכוּ וְנֶאֶצְלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ יִתְבָּרֵךְ.

The manner and nature of the flow and emanation—how and what—i.e., how the intellectual and emotive attributes emanate from the Ein Sof, which totally transcends them, and exactly what they are, for after they have emanated from Him, they are wholly united with Him, is known to the savants.3

וְדֶרֶךְ וְעִנְיַן הַהַמְשָׁכָה וְהָאֲצִילוּת אֵיךְ וּמָה, יָדוּעַ לַמַּשְׂכִּילִים

The Alter Rebbe now briefly explains the various tzimtzumim that had to take place in order to enable the attributes of Atzilut to emanate from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light.

[This note will outline] the mystical principle of the tzimtzum of the Ein Sof-light,

סוֹד הַצִּמְצוּם בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

Before the tzimtzum, G‑d’s infinite manifestation was predominant. Tzimtzum caused His capacity for limitation and finitude, which previously had been submerged within His infinite power, to be revealed.

and the tzimtzum of Adam Kadmon, which is the highest state of existence after the tzimtzum, and the primal thought that contains and is the source of all subsequent emanations and creations,

וְצִמְצוּם אָדָם קַדְמוֹן,

and the esoteric doctrine of [the tzimtzum of] Dikna.

וְסוֹד הַדִּיקְנָא,

The life-force that animates hair is exceedingly attentuated to the point that cutting it causes no pain. Accordingly, the terms Dikna (lit., “beard”) and se’arot (“hair”) are used to represent a certain form of tzimtzum.4

For the underlying purpose of all the contractions is to condense the light in order to enable it to become enclothed within the vessels of the ten sefirot [of the World of Atzilut].

שֶׁסּוֹד כָּל הַצִּמְצוּמִים לְצַמְצֵם הָאוֹר שֶׁיִּתְלַבֵּשׁ בִּבְחִינוֹת כֵּלִים דְּי' סְפִירוֹת.

These “vessels” assume the specific form of wisdom or kindness. By contrast, the divine light that permeates these vessels is essentially simple. When, through tzimtzum, the vessels come into being and the light clothes itself within them and becomes fused with them, wisdom and kindness become one with G‑d.

It is only after the Ein Sof-light becomes clothed within the vessels of ChaBaD that Maimonides’ statement [about the Holy One, blessed be He] is in place: “He is the Knower, and He is the Knowledge, and He is the Known…and by knowing Himself [He knows all creation].”

וְהִנֵּה, אַחַר שֶׁנִּתְלַבֵּשׁ אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בִּבְחִינוֹת כֵּלִים דְּחָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת, אָז שַׁיָּיךְ לוֹמַר מַה שֶּׁכָּתַב הָרַמְבַּ"ם: "הוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ, וְהוּא הַמַּדָּע, וְהוּא הַיָּדוּעַ, וּבִידִיעַת עַצְמוֹ וְכוּ'",

For the vessels of Atzilut become the soul and life-force of [the Worlds of] Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah and all [the creatures] therein.

לְפִי שֶׁבְּחִינוֹת כֵּלִים דַּאֲצִילוּת נַﬠֲשִׂים נְשָׁמָה וְחַיּוּת לִבְרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־ﬠֲשִׂיָּה וּלְכָל אֲשֶׁר בָּהֶם.

By “knowing Himself” with the knowledge that is to be found in the vessels of Atzilut, He also knows all the Worlds and creatures of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, since they derive their life-force from these vessels.

All this, however, can only come about after the various tzimtzumim have brought about the contraction of the light, enabling it to be vested in the vessels of Atzilut.

However, without the aforesaid tzimtzum and investiture [of the light in the vessels], it is not at all appropriate to say that “He is the Knower and He is the Knowledge…”; i.e., the whole category of knowledge cannot be ascribed to G‑d, even in so exalted a manner as in the statement that “He is the Knower…,”

אֲבָל בְּלִי צִמְצוּם וְהַלְבָּשָׁה הַנִּזְכָּר לְﬠֵיל לֹא שַׁיָּיךְ כְּלָל לוֹמַר "הוּא הַיּוֹדֵﬠַ, וְהוּא הַמַּדָּע וְכוּ'",

for He is not within the realm and domain of knowing and knowledge at all, G‑d forbid,

כִּי אֵינוֹ בִּבְחִינַת וְגֶדֶר דַּﬠַת וּמַדָּע כְּלָל חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

but infinitely elevated above even the level and the bounds of wisdom,

אֶלָּא לְמַﬠְלָה מַּﬠְלָה ﬠִילּוּי רַב ﬠַד אֵין קֵץ אֲפִילוּ מִבְּחִינַת וְגֶדֶר חָכְמָה,

For even the statement that “He is the Knower…” implies restricting G‑d, so to speak, to one particular faculty—viz., wisdom, as distinct from (say) the attribute of kindness or mercy. G‑d, however, utterly transcends all such bounds,

to the extent that in relation to Him, the level of wisdom is considered like the level of physical action.

ﬠַד שֶׁבְּחִינַת חָכְמָה נֶחְשֶׁבֶת אֶצְלוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ כִּבְחִינַת ﬠֲשִׂיָּה גַשְׁמִית:

Before the note, the Alter Rebbe had said that “the manner and nature of the flow and emanation—how and what—is known to the savants.” I.e., it is they who understand how from the Ein Sof-light there emanated the intellectual and emotive attributes, which even after their emanation are so completely fused with G‑d that it can be said that “He is the Knowledge….” The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say:

Now, we are not concerned with esoteric matters—how the emanations of the sefirot from the Ein Sof-light came about and the subsequent manner of their unity with Him,

וְהִנֵּה, אֵין לָנוּ עֵסֶק בַּנִּסְתָּרוֹת,

but it is incumbent upon us to believe with complete faith matters that are revealed to us—that He and His attributes, viz., the vessels and sefirot, are One.

אַךְ "הַנִּגְלוֹת לָנוּ", לְהַאֲמִין אֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵימָה דְּ"אִיהוּ וְגַרְמוֹהִי חַד",

I.e., the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His will, and His wisdom and understanding and knowledge, [are One] with His Essence and Being,

דְּהַיְינוּ, מִדּוֹתָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא וּרְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ וּבִינָתוֹ וְדַעְתּוֹ עִם מַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ,

Who alone is exalted by infinite elevations above the level of wisdom and intellect and comprehension.

הַמְרוֹמָם לְבַדּוֹ רוֹמְמוּת אֵין קֵץ מִבְּחִינַת חָכְמָה וְשֵׂכֶל וְהַשָּׂגָה.

Hence, since He totally transcends intellect and comprehension, His union with the attributes which He emanated from Himself is also beyond the realm of comprehension;

וְלָכֵן, גַּם יִחוּדוֹ שֶׁמִּתְיַיחֵד עִם מִדּוֹתָיו שֶׁהֶאֱצִיל מֵאִתּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, גַּם כֵּן אֵינוֹ בִּבְחִינַת הַשָּׂגָה

[i.e., it is impossible] to understand how He unites with them; rather, this may be apprehended only through faith.

לְהַשִּׂיג אֵיךְ מִתְיַיחֵד בָּהֶן.

In the holy Zohar, therefore, the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He, which are the sefirot, are called “the secret of faith,”

וְלָכֵן נִקְרְאוּ מִדּוֹתָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא – שֶׁהֵן הַסְּפִירוֹת – בַּזֹּהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ: "רָזָא דִמְהֵימְנוּתָא",

which is the faith that transcends intellect, for this concept cannot be grasped intellectually but only through faith.

שֶׁהִיא הָאֱמוּנָה שֶׁלְּמַעְלָה מִן הַשֵּׂכֶל: