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.

רק שהברואים מתחלקים למיניהם בכללות ובפרטות

[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:

על ידי שינויי הצירופים וחילופים ותמורות כנ״ל

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

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.

כי כל אות היא המשכת חיות וכח מיוחד פרטי

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

Note of 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:

וכשנצטרפו אותיות הרבה להיות תיבה

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

אזי מלבד ריבוי מיני כחות וחיות הנמשכים כפי מספר האותיות שבתיבה

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

עוד זאת, העולה על כולנה

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

המשכת כח עליון וחיות כללי, הכוללת ושקולה כנגד כל מיני הכחות והחיות פרטיות של האותיות, ועולה על גביהן

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;

והיא מחברתן ומצרפתן יחד, להשפיע כח וחיות לעולם הנברא בתיבה זו לכלליו ולפרטיו

it unites them and combines them,1 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.


ולפי שכל אות ואות מכ״ב אותיות התורה היא המשכת חיות וכח מיוחד פרטי, שאינו נמשך באות אחרת


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,

לכך גם תמונתן בכתב כל אות היא בתמונה מיוחדת פרטית

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

המורה על ציור ההמשכה והתגלות האור והחיות והכח הנגלה ונמשך באות זו

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,

איך הוא נמשך ונתגלה ממדותיו של הקב״ה ורצונו וחכמתו וכו

[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.


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 of 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.”

כגון, דרך משל, בתיבות שבמאמר: יהי רקיע וגו׳, שנבראו בהן ז׳ רקיעים וכל צבא השמים אשר בהם

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.

כמאמר רז״ל: שחקים, שבו רחיים עומדות וטוחנות מן לצדיקים וכו׳

Thus our Sages, of blessed memory, speak of3 “[the firmament called] Shechakim, in which stand millstones that grind manna for the tzaddikim.,

זבול, שבו ירושלים ובית המקדש ומזבח וכו׳

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

מכון, שבו אוצרות שלג ואוצרות ברד

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

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.

שכללות הרקיעים נבראו וחיים וקיימים בכללות תיבות אלו שבמאמר: יהי רקיע וכו׳

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

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

ופרטי הברואים שבז׳ רקיעים, נברא כל פרט מהן וחי וקיים מאיזה צירוף אותיות מתיבות אלו, או חילופיהן ותמורותיהן

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,

שהן כפי בחינת חיות הנברא הפרטי ההיא

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

כי כל שינוי צירוף הוא הרכבת ואריגת הכחות והחיות בשינוי

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

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

שכל אות הקודמת בצירוף, היא הגוברת והיא העיקר בבריאה זו

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

Since, for example, alef is the first letter of the word אבן , 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.

והשאר טפילות אליה ונכללות באורה

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

ועל ידי זה נבראת בריאה חדשה

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

וכן בחילופי אותיות או תמורותיהן

Likewise, through the substitution of letters or their transpositions,

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

נבראות בריאות חדשות פחותי המעלה בערך הנבראים מהאותיות עצמן

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

כי הן, דרך משל, דוגמת אור המאיר בלילה בארץ מן הירח, ואור הירח הוא מהשמש

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,

ונמצא אור שעל הארץ הוא אור האור של השמש

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

וככה ממש, דרך משל, האותיות שבמאמרות הן כללות המשכת החיות והאור והכח ממדותיו של הקב״ה

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,

לברוא העולמות מאין ליש, ולהחיותן ולקיימן כל זמן משך רצונו יתברך

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

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

ומכללות המשכה והארה גדולה זו

From this aggregate flow and mighty radiation of the Utterances themselves,

האיר ה׳ והמשיך ממנה תולדותיה כיוצא בה וענפיה

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

שהן תולדות והמשכת האור מהאותיות

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

והן הן חילופי אותיות ותמורותיהן, וברא בהן ברואים פרטים שבכל עולם

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

וכן האיר ה׳ עוד והמשיך והוריד הארה דהארה דהארה מהארות האותיות

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

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

וכן המשיך עוד והוריד עד למטה מטה בבחינת השתלשלות

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

עד שנברא הדומם ממש, כאבנים ועפר

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

ושמותיהן אבן ועפר הם חילופים דחילופים כו׳ ותמורות דתמורות כו׳ כנ״ל

And their names אבן and עפרthe 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.

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 Tosafos 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 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:12 “Delve in it over and over again, for everything is in it.”.