Chapter 12

פרק יב

The letters that constitute the ten utterances, as the Alter Rebbe has just explained, are effluences of the Divine attributes which are wholly united with G‑d Himself. Therefore, though they are termed mere “letters,” they are able to serve as vehicles for creating the wisdom and intellect of created beings, to which they are thus far superior; they are termed “letters” only in relation to the supernal attributes from which they emanate.

These letters are the specifically twenty-two manners of manifestation through which G‑d chose to create the world. Accordingly, as the Rebbe notes, the forthcoming chapter underscores the fact that all created beings, in all their vastly differentiated multiplicity, are in fact no more than twenty-two distinct forms of Divine manifestation. Moreover, continues the Rebbe, we can understand why the Alter Rebbe explains this concept at such length further on in this chapter. Such an explanation would seem to be at home in tracts such as Sefer Yetzirah that deal with the respective stages of the creative process, not in a treatise dedicated to an explanation of Divine Unity.

The Alter Rebbe explains this here, nevertheless, thereby actually highlighting the concept of Divine Unity—not only insofar as it exists in its Source but as it exists in practice. For all the multifarious components of creation are in reality no more than twenty-two different forms of Divine manifestation.

[Although there are only twenty-two letters, they are able to create a vast multitude of creatures,] for the creatures are divided into categories both general (e.g., whether human or animal) and particular (e.g., the animal world in turn comprises numerous species of beasts, birds, fish, etc.). This multitudinous division comes about:

רַק שֶׁהַבְּרוּאִים מִתְחַלְּקִים לְמִינֵיהֶם בִּכְלָלוּת וּבִפְרָטוּת,

by changes in the combinations, substitutions, and transpositions [of the letters], as was explained above,

עַל יְדֵי שִׁינּוּיֵי הַצֵּירוּפִים וְחִילּוּפִים וּתְמוּרוֹת, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

When the letters are combined in one way, one kind of creature is created; a different combination gives rise to a different kind of creature. For as explained in ch. 1, certain letters may sometimes be substituted or transposed with others. Those creatures whose names are not mentioned in the ten utterances derive their vitality by means of the combinations, substitutions, and transpositions of the letters that do appear in the ten utterances.

for every letter is a flow from an individual, particular life-force and power.

כִּי כָּל אוֹת, הִיא הַמְשָׁכַת חַיּוּת וְכֹחַ מְיוּחָד פְּרָטִי,

Note by the Rebbe: Since the letters are separate from each other, what combines them, and how is this accomplished? The Alter Rebbe goes on to answer this by saying:

And when many letters—i.e., many particular powers and life-forces—are combined to form a word,

וּכְשֶׁנִּצְטָרְפוּ אוֹתִיּוֹת הַרְבֵּה – לִהְיוֹת תֵּיבָה,

then, in addition to the numerous kinds of powers and life-forces which issue forth according to the number of letters in the word,

אֲזַי, מִלְּבַד רִיבּוּי מִינֵי כֹּחוֹת וְחַיּוּת הַנִּמְשָׁכִים כְּפִי מִסְפַּר הָאוֹתִיּוֹת שֶׁבַּתֵּיבָה,

there is, in addition, transcending all [the particular powers],

עוֹד זֹאת הָעוֹלָה עַל כּוּלָּנָה –

the flow of a higher power and general life-force, which contains and is equivalent to all the various individual powers and life-forces of the letters and transcends them all;

הַמְשָׁכַת כֹּחַ עֶלְיוֹן וְחַיּוּת כְּלָלִית הַכּוֹלֶלֶת וּשְׁקוּלָה כְּנֶגֶד כָּל מִינֵי הַכֹּחוֹת וְהַחַיּוּת פְּרָטִיּוֹת שֶׁל הָאוֹתִיּוֹת וְעוֹלָה עַל גַּבֵּיהֶן,

it unites them and combines them1 in order to grant power and life-force to the world which was created in both its general and particular aspects, i.e., with its individual created beings, through this word.

וְהִיא מְחַבַּרְתָּן וּמְצָרַפְתָּן יַחַד, לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ כֹּחַ וְחַיּוּת לָעוֹלָם הַנִּבְרָא בְּתֵיבָה זוֹ, לִכְלָלוֹ וְלִפְרָטָיו.

Inasmuch as every single one of the twenty-two letters of the Torah is a flow of an individual, particular life-force and power, which does not flow through any other letter,

וּלְפִי שֶׁכָּל אוֹת וָאוֹת מִכ"ב אוֹתִיּוֹת הַתּוֹרָה, הִיא הַמְשָׁכַת חַיּוּת וְכֹחַ מְיוּחָד פְּרָטִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ נִמְשָׁךְ בְּאוֹת אֲחֶרֶת,

therefore, the written shape of each letter is likewise specific and distinctive,

לְכָךְ גַּם תְּמוּנָתָן בִּכְתָב – כָּל אוֹת הִיא בִּתְמוּנָה מְיוּחֶדֶת פְּרָטִית,

which indicates the pattern of the flow and manifestation of the light and life-force and power which is revealed and flows through this letter,

הַמּוֹרָה ﬠַל צִיּוּר הַהַמְשָׁכָה וְהִתְגַּלּוּת הָאוֹר וְהַחַיּוּת וְהַכֹּחַ הַנִּגְלֶה וְנִמְשָׁךְ בְּאוֹת זוֹ,

[i.e.,] how it flows and is revealed from the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His will and His wisdom, and so on.

אֵיךְ הוּא נִמְשָׁךְ וְנִתְגַּלֶּה מִמִּדּוֹתָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא וּרְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ וְכוּ':

Returning to the body of the text, the Alter Rebbe now goes on to illustrate how one utterance (“Let there be a firmament”) created the extensive components of the worlds as well as their specific creatures.

Note by the Rebbe: This also helps us understand the degree to which Divine Unity may be perceived in relation to the created beings of this world too, in that the seven heavens and all their celestial hosts were created and live and exist from the solitary utterance, “Let there be a firmament.”

As, for example, through the words of the utterance, “Let there be a firmament…,”2 the seven heavens and all their component celestial hosts were created.

כְּגוֹן דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, בְּתֵיבוֹת שֶׁבְּמַאֲמַר "יְהִי רָקִיעַ וְגוֹ'", שֶׁנִּבְרְאוּ בָּהֶן ז' רְקִיעִים וְכָל צְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם אֲשֶׁר בָּהֶם,

Thus, our Sages, of blessed memory, speak of ‘‘[the firmament called] Shechakim, in which stand millstones that grind manna for the tzaddikim…,

כְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "שְׁחָקִים, שֶׁבּוֹ רֵחַיִים עוֹמְדוֹת וְטוֹחֲנוֹת מָן לַצַּדִּיקִים וְכוּ',

[the firmament called] Zvul, in which stand [the heavenly] Jerusalem and the Holy Temple and the Altar…,

זְבוּל, שֶׁבּוֹ יְרוּשָׁלַיִם וּבֵית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ וּמִזְבֵּחַ וְכוּ',

[and the firmament called] Machon, in which there are stores of snow and stores of hail….”3

מָכוֹן, שֶׁבּוֹ אוֹצְרוֹת שֶׁלֶג וְאוֹצְרוֹת בָּרָד וְכוּ'",

Each of the seven firmaments thus has its general nature—the fact that it is a firmament—as well as its individual aspect, as exemplified above.

The heavens as a whole were created and live and exist through the aggregate words of the utterance, “Let there be a firmament…,”

שֶׁכְּלָלוּת הָרְקִיעִים נִבְרְאוּ וְחַיִּים וְקַיָּימִים בִּכְלָלוּת תֵּיבוֹת אֵלּוּ, שֶׁבְּמַאֲמַר "יְהִי רָקִיעַ וְכוּ'",

In general terms,4 their existence as heavens results from the comprehensive illumination contained within the words, “Let there be a firmament…,”

and each individual created being in the seven heavens5 was created and lives and exists by virtue of some combination of the letters of these words, or their substitutions and transpositions,

וּפְרָטֵי הַבְּרוּאִים שֶׁבְּז' רְקִיעִים – נִבְרָא כָּל פְּרָט מֵהֶם וְחַי וְקַיָּים מֵאֵיזֶה צֵירוּף אוֹתִיּוֹת מִתֵּיבוֹת אֵלּוּ, אוֹ חִילּוּפֵיהֶן וּתְמוּרוֹתֵיהֶן,

[these combinations, substitutions, and transpositions being] according to the quality of the life-force of that particular creature.

שֶׁהֵן כְּפִי בְּחִינַת חַיּוּת הַנִּבְרָא הַפְּרָטִי הַהוּא.

For every change in a combination is an intermixing and interweaving of the powers and life-forces in a different form,

כִּי כָּל שִׁינּוּי צֵירוּף, הוּא הַרְכָּבַת וַאֲרִיגַת הַכּוֹחוֹת וְהַחַיּוּת בְּשִׁינּוּי,

For example: the three Hebrew letters א־ב־ן in that particular order comprise the word אֶבֶן, which is the name and life-force of a stone. When, however, these selfsame letters are transposed, a different form of creative power and life-force—and consequently a different creature—comes into being.

since each letter antecedent in the combination dominates, and it is the essential [force] in this created being,

שֶׁכָּל אוֹת הַקּוֹדֶמֶת בְּצֵירוּף – הִיא הַגּוֹבֶרֶת וְהִיא הָעִיקָּר בִּבְרִיאָה זוֹ,

Since, for example, alef is the first letter of the word אֶבֶן, it is the dominant force in the created being that bears this name. If it is a letter stemming from the attribute of chesed (“kindness”), then that attribute will predominate; if it is a letter of gevurah (“severity”), a different attribute will prevail.

while the others i.e., the other letters and forces contained within the word are subordinate to it and are included in its light,6

וְהַשְּׁאָר – טְפֵילוֹת אֵלֶיהָ וְנִכְלָלוֹת בְּאוֹרָהּ,

and thereby—through the different combinations of the same letters—a new being is created.

וְעַל יְדֵי זֶה נִבְרֵאת בְּרִיָּה חֲדָשָׁה.

Likewise, through the substitution of letters or their transpositions,

וְכֵן בְּחִילּוּפֵי אוֹתִיּוֹת אוֹ תְּמוּרוֹתֵיהֶן,

When, for example, not only is the order of the letters changed but an alef (say) is substituted for an ayin,

new creatures are created that are of lower levels than the beings created from the [original] letters themselves.

נִבְרָאוֹת בְּרִיאוֹת חֲדָשׁוֹת פְּחוּתֵי הַמַּעֲלָה בְּעֵרֶךְ הַנִּבְרָאִים מֵהָאוֹתִיּוֹת עַצְמָן.

For they (the substituted letters), by way of illustration, resemble the light that shines upon the earth at night from the moon—and the moonlight is from the sun,

כִּי הֵן דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, דּוּגְמַת אוֹר הַמֵּאִיר בַּלַּיְלָה בָּאָרֶץ מִן הַיָּרֵחַ, וְאוֹר הַיָּרֵחַ הוּא מֵהַשֶּׁמֶשׁ,

hence, the light which is on the earth is a light [reflected] from the light of the sun.

וְנִמְצָא – אוֹר שֶׁעַל הָאָרֶץ הוּא אוֹר הָאוֹר שֶׁל הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ.

Exactly so, allegorically speaking, the letters comprising the utterances are the aggregate flow of the life-force and the light and the power [that issue] from the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He,

וְכָכָה מַמָּשׁ דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, הָאוֹתִיּוֹת שֶׁבַּמַּאֲמָרוֹת, הֵן כְּלָלוּת הַמְשָׁכַת הַחַיּוּת וְהָאוֹר וְהַכֹּחַ מִמִּדּוֹתָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא

to create the worlds from nothingness and to give them life and sustain them as long as such shall be His blessed will.

לִבְרוֹא הָעוֹלָמוֹת מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ, וּלְהַחֲיוֹתָן וּלְקַיְּימָן כָּל זְמַן מֶשֶׁךְ רְצוֹנוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ.

The general life-force thus emanates from the utterances themselves.

From this aggregate flow and mighty radiance of the utterances themselves,

וּמִכְּלָלוּת הַמְשָׁכָה וְהֶאָרָה גְדוֹלָה הַזּוֹ,

G‑d caused its similar derivations and its offshoots to shine and issue forth,

הֵאִיר ה' וְהִמְשִׁיךְ מִמֶּנָּה תּוֹלְדוֹתֶיהָ כַּיּוֹצֵא בָהּ, וַעֲנָפֶיהָ,

these being derivations and effluences of the light from the letters.

שֶׁהֵן תּוֹלְדוֹת וְהַמְשָׁכַת הָאוֹר מֵהָאוֹתִיּוֹת,

And these derivations and offshoots are the substitutions of letters and their transpositions, with which He created the particular creatures of each world.

וְהֵן הֵן חִילּוּפֵי אוֹתִיּוֹת וּתְמוּרוֹתֵיהֶן, וּבָרָא בָהֶן בְּרוּאִים פְּרָטִים שֶׁבְּכָל עוֹלָם.

Likewise, G‑d projected the light from the letters in another manner and caused a radiance of a radiance of a radiance to issue forth and descend from the diffusions of light from the letters,

וְכֵן הֵאִיר ה' עוֹד, וְהִמְשִׁיךְ וְהוֹרִיד הֶאָרָה דְהֶאָרָה דְהֶאָרָה מֵהֶאָרוֹת הָאוֹתִיּוֹת.

In the earlier analogy, the moon’s reflected light was a radiance of the sun’s radiance. The Alter Rebbe now speaks of a descent one generation further removed—merely a radiance of a radiance of a radiance.

and likewise, He further caused [the radiance of the radiance, etc.] to issue forth and descend to the lowest level in the chain of descents,

וְכֵן הִמְשִׁיךְ עוֹד, וְהוֹרִיד עַד לְמַטָּה מַּטָּה בִּבְחִינַת הִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת,

until completely inanimate beings, such as stones and earth, were created.

עַד שֶׁנִּבְרָא הַדּוֹמֵם מַמָּשׁ כַּאֲבָנִים וְעָפָר,

And their names אֶבֶן and עָפָרthe names being each object’s life-force, as mentioned in ch. 1—are substitutions of substitutions, etc., and transpositions of transpositions, etc., as mentioned above.

וּשְׁמוֹתֵיהֶן "אֶבֶן" וְ"עָפָר" הֵם חִילּוּפִים דְּחִילּוּפִים כוּ' וּתְמוּרוֹת דִּתְמוּרוֹת כוּ', כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל:

Thus, the life-force and existence of every created being are the letters of a particular Divine utterance, and to this, the created being is utterly nullified. In this manner, all of creation is nullified to G‑d and united with Him.

Commentary of the Rebbe on Chapter Twelve

The Rebbe notes that the Alter Rebbe omitted many details when quoting the Sages7 concerning the characteristics of each of the seven heavens. (Indeed, the Gemara begins with the heaven called Vilon, proceeds to Rakia, and only then speaks of Shechakim, the heaven with which the Alter Rebbe begins.)

Briefly, the explanation is as follows: The Alter Rebbe desires to show how a multitude of created beings—these seven heavens with all their hosts—are essentially united insofar as they all proceed from a single Divine utterance. For this reason, once the Alter Rebbe has said that the utterance, “Let there be a firmament…,” brought about the creation of the seven heavens, there is no need for him to repeat them again by name, as detailed below.

The Alter Rebbe omitted the heaven called Vilon, for “it serves no particular purpose,” i.e. (as the Gemara states there), it does not contain created beings. Even according to the opinion of Tosafot that light emanates from Vilon, light was created and continues to exist by virtue of a different Divine fiat, namely, “Let there be light.” (For all light—not only that created during the first day and then concealed—owes its creation and existence to the utterance, “Let there be light.”8)

The Alter Rebbe also omitted Rakia, in which are found the sun, moon, stars, and constellations (as the Gemara states), for they were all created by the utterance, “Let there be luminaries in the firmament of the heaven….”

With regard to Shechakim, the Alter Rebbe quotes the Gemara at length to the effect that this is the heaven “in which stand millstones that grind manna for the tzaddikim," for since its function is an ongoing one, this heaven illustrates his point that the heavens all “live and exist”—in the present, too, and not only in the time of the Jews in the wilderness—“through the aggregate words of the utterance, ‘Let there be a firmament….’”

Concerning Zvul, the Alter Rebbe omits the detail that the Angel Michael brings an offering upon its heavenly altar because there is an opinion9 that angels were created during the fifth day of creation. According to this view, the creation and existence of Michael derive not from the utterance that ordained, “Let there be a firmament…” but from the words, “and birds shall fly.”

For the same reason, the Alter Rebbe makes no mention of Maon, where flights of angels sing by night the praises of their Maker.

Concerning Machon, the Alter Rebbe does not speak of the “rising of dew,” the “storms and tempests” and “fire,” for these were all created during the first day and thus are not connected to the utterance, “Let there be a firmament….”10

Also omitted is Aravos, the abode of “righteousness and justice” (as the Gemara states there), for these are Divine attributes. The souls of the tzaddikim which are also found in this heaven are likewise not mentioned, for they were created by the utterance, “Let us make man….” So, too, the Throne of Glory, which had existed before G‑d had decreed “Let there be a firmament…,” indeed, before Creation had begun.11

Yet once more, concludes the Rebbe, we are able to see how meticulous is the wording of the Tanya, encumbered by no superfluous word and lacking no necessary word, for, as we see here, each phrase omitted from the Talmudic citation has its specific reason. Accordingly, to follow the counsel of the Mishnah concerning the study of the Torah: “Delve in it over and over again, for everything is in it.”12


נִשְׁלַם חֵלֶק שֵׁנִי בְּעֶזְרַת ה' יִתְבָּרֵךְ וְיִתְעַלֶּה