Now1 the nature of the Divine order is not like that of a human being, a creature of flesh and blood. Therefore, human terms cannot adequately describe Divine qualities. Thus, in our case:

וְהִנֵּה, מִדַּת הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא שֶׁלֹּא כְּמִדַּת בָּשָׂר וָדָם;

When a man says something, the breath of the spoken word may be sensed and is perceived as an independent entity separated from its source, namely, the ten intellectual and emotional faculties of the soul itself.

שֶׁהָאָדָם, כְּשֶׁמְּדַבֵּר דִּבּוּר, הֲרֵי הֶבֶל הַדִּבּוּר שֶׁבְּפִיו הוּא מוּרְגָּשׁ וְנִרְאֶה דָּבָר בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ מוּבְדָּל מִשָּׁרְשׁוֹ, שֶׁהֵן עֶשֶׂר בְּחִינוֹת הַנֶּפֶשׁ עַצְמָהּ.

While still encapsulated in its source, the word is utterly nullified; however, when it is spoken and it leaves its source, it takes on an identity of its own. This is true, however, only with regard to human speech.

But the speech of G‑d is not, heaven forbid, separated from His Divine self, for nothing is outside of Him, and “no place is devoid of Him”2so that His speech is always contained within him.

אֲבָל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא אֵין דִּבּוּרוֹ מוּבְדָּל מִמֶּנּוּ יִתְבָּרֵךְ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, כִּי אֵין דָּבָר חוּץ מִמֶּנּוּ, וְלֵית אֲתַר פָּנוּי מִינֵּיהּ,

Therefore, His speech is not like our speech, G‑d forbid (just as, obviously, His thought is not like our thought, as it is written: “For My thoughts are not like your thoughts”3; and it is also written: “So are My ways higher than your ways [and My thoughts higher than your thoughts]).”4 Similarly, G‑d’s speech is different from human speech.

וְלָכֵן, אֵין דִּבּוּרוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ כְּדִבּוּרֵינוּ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם [כְּמוֹ שֶׁאֵין מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ כְּמַחֲשַׁבְתֵּינוּ, כְּדִכְתִיב: "כִּי לֹא מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם", וּכְתִיב: "כֵּן גָּבְהוּ דְרָכַי מִדַּרְכֵיכֶם וְגוֹ'"].

But if Divine speech is indeed never separated from G‑d, how can it be described as “speech” at all? Human speech constitutes communication only because the spoken word becomes separated from the speaker. (Thought, by contrast, because it remains within one’s soul, is hidden from all but the thinker himself.) But since nothing ever becomes separated from G‑d, the term “speech” seemingly provides us with no understanding at all of the nature of Divine communication.

In explanation, the Alter Rebbe states that speech is distinguished by two characteristics: (a) it reveals that which was previously hidden in the speaker’s thoughts; (b) it becomes separated from its source. Only the former characteristic of human speech is analogous to Divine “speech,” which reveals to Creation that which was hitherto hidden within G‑dliness.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

G‑d’s speech is called “speech” only in order to illustrate that quality of revelation which it possesses. For just as man’s speech reveals to his audience what was hidden and concealed in his thoughts,

וְלֹא נִקְרָא דִּבּוּרוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ בְּשֵׁם "דִּבּוּר", רַק עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל; כְּמוֹ שֶׁדִּבּוּר הַתַּחְתּוֹן שֶׁבָּאָדָם הוּא מְגַלֶּה לַשּׁוֹמְעִים מַה שֶּׁהָיָה צָפוּן וְנֶעְלָם בְּמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ,

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so, too, the emergence of the light and life-force of the Ein Sof from concealment before creation into revelation through the act of creation, for the purpose of creating and animating the worlds, is called “speech.”

כָּךְ לְמַעְלָה – בְּאֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, יְצִיאַת הָאוֹר וְהַחַיּוּת מִמֶּנּוּ יִתְבָּרֵךְ – מֵהַהֶעְלֵם אֶל הַגִּילּוּי לִבְרוֹא עוֹלָמוֹת וּלְהַחֲיוֹתָם, נִקְרֵאת בְּשֵׁם "דִּבּוּר".

In this case, the audience is the created being, which, from its own perspective at least, is separate from G‑d.

It is these revelations of Divine light and life-force that comprise the ten Divine utterances recorded in the Torah, namely, “And G‑d said, ‘Let there be light,’ ‘Let the earth sprout forth…,’”5 and so on, by which the world was created.6

וְהֵן הֵן עֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת שֶׁבָּהֶן נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם,

Likewise, all the other words of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Holy Writings are also called “speech,” even though they were not revealed for the purpose of creation, since they too represent the Divine revelation which the Prophets perceived in their prophetic vision.

וְכֵן שְׁאָר כָּל הַתּוֹרָה נְבִיאִים וּכְתוּבִים שֶׁהִשִּׂיגוּ הַנְּבִיאִים בְּמַרְאֵה נְבוּאָתָם.

Hence, when we refer to G‑d’s revelation as His “speech,” the analogy extends only to speech as revelation and communication but not to speech as something separate from the speaker—an idea which is not applicable to G‑dliness.

Thus, G‑d’s speech and thought are united with Him in absolute union, just like the speech and thought of man before he actually expresses them as speech and thought, rather as they are while still in his faculty of wisdom and intellect

וַהֲרֵי דִּבּוּרוֹ וּמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ כִּבְיָכוֹל מְיוּחָדוֹת עִמּוֹ בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד; דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, כְּמוֹ דִּבּוּרוֹ וּמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם בְּעוֹדָן בְּכֹחַ חָכְמָתוֹ וְשִׂכְלוֹ,

or as they exist in a desire or craving that are still in the heart, before they rise from the heart to the brain, there to be meditated upon with the letters of thought.7

אוֹ בִּתְשׁוּקָה וְחֶמְדָּה שֶׁבְּלִבּוֹ קוֹדֶם שֶׁעָלְתָה מֵהַלֵּב לַמּוֹחַ לְהַרְהֵר בָּהּ בִּבְחִינַת אוֹתִיּוֹת,

At that point, before one speaks or thinks, the letters of his speech and thought, which evolve from the aforementioned longing and desire, were still in a potential state in the heart,

שֶׁאָז, הָיוּ אוֹתִיּוֹת הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה וְהַדִּבּוּר הַזֶּה, הַנִּמְשָׁכוֹת מֵחֶמְדָּה וּתְשׁוּקָה זוֹ – בְּכֹחַ בַּלֵּב

where they were absolutely unified with their source, namely, the wisdom and intellect in the brain and the longing and desire in the heart.

וּמְיוּחָדוֹת שָׁם בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד בְּשָׁרְשָׁן, שֶׁהֵן הַחָכְמָה וְשֵׂכֶל שֶׁבַּמּוֹחַ וְחֶמְדָּה וּתְשׁוּקָה שֶׁבַּלֵּב.

In the case of a mortal, his thought and speech are completely unified with him before he speaks; at that point, the letters which constitute his thought and speech are still telescoped within their source. In the case of the Creator, however, His “thought” and “speech” remain unified with Him even after He “thinks” and “speaks”: they are always within their source—the omnipresent G‑d, as the Alter Rebbe now concludes:

Precisely so, by way of analogy, are G‑d’s “speech” and “thought” absolutely united with His essence and being even after His “speech” has already become materialized in the creation of the worlds, just as it was united with Him before the worlds were created.

וְכָכָה מַמָּשׁ, דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, מְיוּחָדוֹת דִּבּוּרוֹ וּמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד בְּמַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, גַּם אַחַר שֶׁיָּצָא דִּבּוּרוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ אֶל הַפּוֹעַל בִּבְרִיאוֹת הָעוֹלָמוֹת, כְּמוֹ שֶׁהָיָה מְיוּחָד עִמּוֹ קוֹדֶם בְּרִיאַת הָעוֹלָמוֹת,

Thus, for G‑d, nothing whatsoever was changed by the revelation of His creative power in Creation. The change wrought by Creation exists only with regard to the created beings, who receive their life-force from G‑d’s Word when it proceeds (from concealment) to actualization with the creation of the worlds.

וְאֵין שׁוּם שִׁינּוּי כְּלָל לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ, אֶלָּא אֶל הַבְּרוּאִים הַמְקַבְּלִים חַיּוּתָם מִבְּחִינַת דִּבּוּרוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, בִּבְחִינַת יְצִיאָתוֹ כְּבָר אֶל הַפּוֹעַל בִּבְרִיאַת הָעוֹלָמוֹת,

For the created beings, the revelation of the creative power contained in G‑d’s Word represents the greatest possible change—the passage from nonexistence to existence, since they come into being only when the Divine Word begins to actually create worlds,

at which time it clothes itself in these worlds to give them life.

שֶׁמִּתְלַבֵּשׁ בָּהֶם לְהַחֲיוֹתָם

This process takes place through a gradual descent from level to level (with the higher level referred to as the עִלָּה, the “cause,” and the lower level the עָלוּל, the “effect”) and a downward gradation by means of numerous and various contractions (tzimtzumim, i.e., a progressive decrease in the intensity of the revealed Divine powers).

עַל יְדֵי הִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת מֵעִלָּה לְעָלוּל וִירִידַת הַמַּדְרֵגוֹת בְּצִמְצוּמִים רַבִּים וְשׁוֹנִים,

G-d’s Word descends and is contracted to the point where the created beings can derive their life-force and existence from it without losing their identity.

עַד שֶׁיּוּכְלוּ הַבְּרוּאִים לְקַבֵּל חַיּוּתָם וְהִתְהַוּוּתָם מִמֶּנּוּ וְלֹא יִתְבַּטְּלוּ בִּמְצִיאוּת,

An undimmed revelation of the G‑dly life-force would create beings whose identity would be utterly nullified within their life-force. It was G‑d’s intention that His creations perceive themselves to be separate from Him and that through their own efforts, they achieve a spirit of self-nullification vis-à-vis their Creator. To this end, G‑d revealed His creative power only through a series of contractions, whose effect the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain:

All the contractions constitute a “veiling of the [Divine] Countenance”; that is, they veil and conceal the “face,” i.e., the essential aspects of the light and life-force that are derived from G‑d’s Word, so that it should not reveal itself with an intense radiance which the lower worlds would be incapable of receiving.

וְכָל הַצִּמְצוּמִים הֵם בְּחִינַת "הֶסְתֵּר פָּנִים", לְהַסְתִּיר וּלְהַעֲלִים הָאוֹר וְהַחַיּוּת הַנִּמְשָׁךְ מִדִּבּוּרוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, שֶׁלֹּא יִתְגַּלֶּה בִּבְחִינַת גִּילּוּי רַב שֶׁלֹּא יוּכְלוּ הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים לְקַבֵּל,

Therefore, too, because it is thus obscured through tzimtzum, the light and life-force of G‑d’s Word that is clothed in them appears to them as if it is something separate from G‑d Himself

וְלָכֵן גַּם כֵּן נִדְמֶה לָהֶם אוֹר וְחַיּוּת הַדִּבּוּר שֶׁל מָקוֹם בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בָּהֶם, כְּאִלּוּ הוּא דָּבָר מוּבְדָּל מִמַּהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

and as though it only issues from Him, just as the speech of a human being issues from him but then becomes separated from him.

רַק שֶׁנִּמְשָׁךְ מִמֶּנּוּ יִתְבָּרֵךְ – כְּמוֹ דִּבּוּר שֶׁל אָדָם מִנַּפְשׁוֹ.

This false perception of the G‑dly life-force as something separate from G‑d is possible only because the life-force is hidden from creation by means of the tzimtzumim.

Yet, in regard to G‑d, no concealment or veil hides or obscures anything from Him; to Him, “‘darkness’ (concealment) and ‘light’ (revelation) are alike,”8

אַךְ לְגַבֵּי הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, אֵין שׁוּם צִמְצוּם וְהֶסְתֵּר וְהֶעְלֵם מַסְתִּיר וּמַעֲלִים לְפָנָיו, וְ"כַחֲשֵׁכָה כָּאוֹרָה",

as it is written: “Even the darkness does not obscure [anything] from you.”8

כְּדִכְתִיב: "גַּם חֹשֶׁךְ לֹא יַחְשִׁיךְ מִמֶּךָּ וְגוֹ'",

This may also be interpreted: “Even the darkness does not obscure because it derives from you”, i.e., the veil of tzimtzum is itself of divine origin, and therefore, it cannot obscure G‑dliness. For as the Alter Rebbe goes on to say, only a foreign body can constitute an obstruction; one cannot hide from his own self.

For the tzimtzumim and the “veils” are not things distinct from Him, heaven forfend, since nothing is separate from G-d, but are “like the turtle (or: ‘snail’), whose garment i.e., its shell is part of its body”9; so too, the very “shell”—the process of tzimtzum—that hides G‑dliness is itself G‑dly.

מִשּׁוּם שֶׁאֵין הַצִּמְצוּמִים וְהַלְּבוּשִׁים דָּבָר נִפְרָד מִמֶּנּוּ יִתְבָּרֵךְ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, אֶלָּא כְּהָדֵין קַמְצָא דִּלְבוּשֵׁיהּ מִינֵּיהּ וּבֵיהּ,

Thus it is written: “G‑d—He is the L-rd,”10 as is explained elsewhere.11

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "כִּי ה' הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים", וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר.

In Hebrew: “The Divine Name, HavayahYud-hey-vav-hey—He is Elokim.” The Four-Letter Name of G‑d denotes Divine revelation and transcendence, while the Name Elokim refers to G‑d’s power of self-concealment by which he vests Himself in creation. The equation points out that they are one; Elokim is G‑dly just as is the level of G‑dliness signified by the other Name. Thus, Elokim does not act as a veil obscuring G‑d, since it is essentially one with Yud-hey-vav-hey, the power of revelation.

Therefore, in His presence, all else is of absolutely no account.

וְלָכֵן קַמֵּיהּ – כּוּלָּא כְּלָא חֲשִׁיב מַמָּשׁ:

Since G‑d is not affected by the tzimtzumim which make it possible for a created being to feel separate from Him, He perceives all the creations brought into being by His Word as being still within their source—Himself. There they are in a state of absolute nullification. From His perspective, they are still nonentities, and the fact of their creation in no way detracts from His absolute unity—He is One alone after Creation just as He was before Creation.