The Alter Rebbe has explained that the activating force of the Creator must constantly be vested within creation, ceaselessly recreating and reanimating created beings ex nihilo. This force consists of the creative “letters” which emanate from the five supernal organs of verbal articulation.

Now, following these words of truth concerning the nature of creation, namely, that the activating force must continually be vested in created beings and create them ex nihilo,

וְהִנֵּה, אַחֲרֵי הַדְּבָרִים וְהָאֱמֶת הָאֵלֶּה,

every discerning person will understand clearly that every creature and being, even though it appears to have an existence of its own, is in reality considered to be absolute naught and nothingness

כָּל מַשְׂכִּיל עַל דָּבָר יָבִין לַאֲשׁוּרוֹ, אֵיךְ שֶׁכָּל נִבְרָא וָיֵשׁ הוּא בֶּאֱמֶת נֶחְשָׁב לְאַיִן וָאֶפֶס מַמָּשׁ

in relation to the activating force which creates it and the “breath of His mouth” which is within it, continuously calling it into existence and bringing it from absolute nonbeing into being.

לְגַבֵּי כֹּחַ הַפּוֹעֵל וְרוּחַ פִּיו שֶׁבַּנִּפְעָל, הַמְהַוֶּה אוֹתוֹ תָּמִיד וּמוֹצִיאוֹ מֵאַיִן מַמָּשׁ לְיֵשׁ.

Since this function must be continuous, it follows that the creature’s activating force is the true reality of its existence; the being itself bears no comparison to the activating force which is wholly responsible for its existence.

The reason that all things created and activated appear to us as existing, i.e., self-subsisting and tangible, and we fail to see the Divine activating source, which is the true reality of any created being,

וּמַה שֶּׁכָּל נִבְרָא וְנִפְעָל נִרְאֶה לָנוּ לְיֵשׁ וּמַמָּשׁוּת,

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is that we do not comprehend nor see with our physical eyes the power of G‑d and the “breath of His mouth” which is in the created thing.

זֶהוּ, מֵחֲמַת שֶׁאֵין אָנוּ מַשִּׂיגִים וְרוֹאִים בְּעֵינֵי בָשָׂר אֶת כֹּחַ ה' וְרוּחַ פִּיו שֶׁבַּנִּבְרָא,

If, however, the eye were permitted to see and to comprehend the life-force and spirituality which is in every created thing,

אֲבָל אִילּוּ נִיתְּנָה רְשׁוּת לָעַיִן לִרְאוֹת וּלְהַשִּׂיג אֶת הַחַיּוּת וְרוּחָנִיּוּת שֶׁבְּכָל נִבְרָא,

flowing into it from “that which proceeds from the mouth of G‑d1 and “His breath,”

הַשּׁוֹפֵעַ בּוֹ מִ"מּוֹצָא פִי ה'" וְרוּחַ פִּיו –

then the physicality, materiality, and tangibility of the creature would not be seen by our eyes at all,

לֹא הָיָה גַּשְׁמִיּוּת הַנִּבְרָא וְחוּמְרוֹ וּמַמָּשׁוֹ נִרְאֶה כְּלָל לְעֵינֵינוּ,

for it (this physicality, etc.) is completely nullified in relation to the life-force and the spirituality which is within it

כִּי הוּא בָּטֵל בִּמְצִיאוּת מַמָּשׁ לְגַבֵּי הַחַיּוּת וְהָרוּחָנִיּוּת שֶׁבּוֹ,

since without the spirituality within it, it would be naught and absolute nothingness, exactly as before the Six Days of Creation, at which time the creature was utterly nonexistent.

מֵאַחַר שֶׁמִּבַּלְעֲדֵי הָרוּחָנִיּוּת, הָיָה אַיִן וָאֶפֶס מַמָּשׁ, כְּמוֹ קוֹדֶם שֵׁשֶׁת יְמֵי בְרֵאשִׁית מַמָּשׁ,

The spirituality that flows into it from “that which proceeds from the mouth of G‑d” and “His breath”—that alone continuously brings it forth from naught and nullity into being, and this spirituality gives it existence.

וְהָרוּחָנִיּוּת הַשּׁוֹפֵעַ עָלָיו מִ"מּוֹצָא פִי ה'" וְרוּחַ פִּיו, הוּא לְבַדּוֹ הַמּוֹצִיאוֹ תָּמִיד מֵאֶפֶס וָאַיִן לְיֵשׁ, וּמְהַוֶּה אוֹתוֹ,

Hence, there is truly nothing besides Him in any created being apart from the Divinity—the only true reality—that brings it into existence.

אִם כֵּן, אֶפֶס בִּלְעָדוֹ בֶּאֱמֶת.

The created being does not constitute a true reality, inasmuch as it is wholly dependent for its existence on the continuous flow of Divine life-force. Indeed, its existence verily consists of that activating force.

The Alter Rebbe proceeds to demonstrate how this is true of creatures that appear to be tangible by means of an illustration:

An illustration of this is the light of the sun, which illumines the earth and its inhabitants.

וְהַמָּשָׁל לָזֶה הוּא, אוֹר הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ "הַמֵּאִיר לָאָרֶץ וְלַדָּרִים",

[This illumination] is the radiance and the light which spreads forth from the body of the sun and is visible to all as it gives light to the earth and the expanse of the universe.

שֶׁהוּא זִיו וְאוֹר הַמִּתְפַּשֵּׁט מִגּוּף הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ וְנִרְאֶה לְעֵין כֹּל, מֵאִיר עַל הָאָרֶץ וּבַחֲלַל הָעוֹלָם,

Now, it is obvious that this light and radiance is also present in the very body and matter of the sun-globe itself in the sky,

וְהִנֵּה, זֶה פָּשׁוּט, שֶׁאוֹר וְזִיו הַזֶּה יֶשְׁנוֹ גַּם כֵּן בְּגוּף וְחוֹמֶר כַּדּוּר הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ עַצְמוֹ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם,

for if it can spread forth and shine to such a great distance, then certainly it can shed light in its own place.

שֶׁאִם מִתְפַּשֵּׁט וּמֵאִיר לְמֵרָחוֹק כָּל כָּךְ, כָּל שֶׁכֵּן שֶׁיּוּכַל לְהָאִיר בִּמְקוֹמוֹ מַמָּשׁ,

However, there in its own place, this radiance is considered naught and complete nothingness,

רַק שֶׁשָּׁם, בִּמְקוֹמוֹ מַמָּשׁ, נֶחְשָׁב הַזִּיו הַזֶּה לְאַיִן וָאֶפֶס מַמָּשׁ,

for it is absolutely nonexistent in relation to the body of the sun-globe, which is the source of this light and radiance,

כִּי בָּטֵל מַמָּשׁ בִּמְצִיאוּת לְגַבֵּי גּוּף כַּדּוּר הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ, שֶׁהוּא מְקוֹר הָאוֹר וְהַזִּיו הַזֶּה,

inasmuch as this radiance and light is merely the illumination which shines from the body of the sun-globe itself.

שֶׁהַזִּיו וְהָאוֹר הַזֶּה, אֵינוֹ רַק הֶאָרָה מְאִירָה מִגּוּף וְעֶצֶם כַּדּוּר הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ;

Since the sun’s light is merely an illumination deriving from the sun, it is in a state of complete nothingness while it is found within the sun-globe itself. One cannot say that within the body of the sun there is sunlight; only the sun itself is found there.

It is only in the space of the universe, under the heavens and on the earth, where the body of the sun-globe is not present, and all that is seen is but an illumination that emanates from it,

רַק בַּחֲלַל הָעוֹלָם, תַּחַת כָּל הַשָּׁמַיִם וְעַל הָאָרֶץ, שֶׁאֵין כָּאן גּוּף כַּדּוּר הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ בִּמְצִיאוּת –

that this light and radiance appears to the eye of all beholders to have actual existence,

נִרְאֶה כָּאן הָאוֹר וְהַזִּיו הַזֶּה לְיֵשׁ מַמָּשׁ לְעֵין כֹּל,

and here, the term “existence” (yesh) can truly be applied to it,

וְנוֹפֵל עָלָיו כָּאן שֵׁם "יֵשׁ" בֶּאֱמֶת,

The sun’s light and rays as they appear outside of the sun-globe can truly be said to exist, inasmuch as the sun itself is not found there.

whereas when it is in its source, in the body of the sun, the term “existence” cannot be applied to it at all; it can only be called naught and nonexistent.

מַה־שֶּׁאֵין־כֵּן כְּשֶׁהוּא בִּמְקוֹרוֹ בְּגוּף הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ – אֵין נוֹפֵל עָלָיו שֵׁם "יֵשׁ" כְּלָל, רַק שֵׁם "אַיִן" וָ"אֶפֶס",

There it is indeed naught and absolutely nonexistent, for there, only its source, the luminous body of the sun, gives light, and there is nothing besides it.

כִּי בֶּאֱמֶת, הוּא שָׁם לְאַיִן וָאֶפֶס מַמָּשׁ, שֶׁאֵין מֵאִיר שָׁם רַק מְקוֹרוֹ לְבַדּוֹ, שֶׁהוּא גּוּף הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ הַמֵּאִיר, וְאֶפֶס בִּלְעָדוֹ.

To sum up: Although the sun’s rays are surely found within the body of the sun, they cannot be said to “exist” there; they are found there in a manner of “nonexistence,” in a state in which their separate identity is utterly nullified. That which can be deemed to exist within the sun-globe can be nothing other than the sun itself.

The exact parallel [to this illustration] is the relationship between all created beings and the Divine flow [of the life-force that emanates] from the “breath of His mouth,” which flows upon them and brings them into existence and is their source.

וְכַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה מַמָּשׁ, בִּדְמוּתָם כְּצַלְמָם, הֵם כָּל הַבְּרוּאִים – לְגַבֵּי שֶׁפַע הָאֱלֹהִי מֵרוּחַ פִּיו, הַשּׁוֹפֵעַ עֲלֵיהֶם וּמְהַוֶּה אוֹתָם, וְהוּא מְקוֹרָם,

However, [the created beings] themselves are merely like a diffusing light and effulgence from the flow and spirit of G‑d, which issues forth [from Him] and becomes clothed in them, and brings them from naught into being.

וְהֵם עַצְמָם, אֵינָם, רַק כְּמוֹ אוֹר וְזִיו מִתְפַּשֵּׁט מִן הַשֶּׁפַע וְרוּחַ ה' הַשּׁוֹפֵעַ וּמִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּתוֹכָם וּמוֹצִיאָם מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ,

Hence, their existence is nullified in relation to their source, just as the light of the sun is nullified and is considered naught and utter nothingness,

וְלָכֵן הֵם בְּטֵלִים בִּמְצִיאוּת לְגַבֵּי מְקוֹרָם, כְּמוֹ אוֹר הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ שֶׁבָּטֵל בִּמְצִיאוּת וְנֶחְשָׁב לְאַיִן וָאֶפֶס מַמָּשׁ,

and is not at all referred to as “existing” when it is within its source, viz., the sun; the term “existence” applies to it only beneath the heavens, where its source is not present.

וְאֵינוֹ נִקְרָא בְּשֵׁם "יֵשׁ" כְּלָל כְּשֶׁהוּא בִּמְקוֹרוֹ, רַק תַּחַת הַשָּׁמַיִם – שֶׁאֵין שָׁם מְקוֹרוֹ,

In the same manner, the term “existence” can be applied to all created things only as they appear to our corporeal eyes,

כָּךְ כָּל הַבְּרוּאִים, אֵין נוֹפֵל עֲלֵיהֶם שֵׁם "יֵשׁ" כְּלָל, אֶלָּא לְעֵינֵי בָשָׂר שֶׁלָּנוּ,

for we do not see nor at all comprehend the source, which is the spirit of G‑d that brings them into existence.

שֶׁאֵין אָנוּ רוֹאִים וּמַשִּׂיגִים כְּלָל אֶת הַמָּקוֹר, שֶׁהוּא רוּחַ ה' הַמְהַוֶּה אוֹתָם,

Therefore, since we do not see nor comprehend their source, it appears to our eyes that the physicality, materiality, and tangibility of created things actually exist,

וְלָכֵן נִרְאֶה לְעֵינֵינוּ גַּשְׁמִיּוּת הַנִּבְרָאִים וְחוּמְרָם וּמַמָּשָׁם שֶׁהֵם יֵשׁ גָּמוּר,

just as the light of the sun appears to exist fully when it is not within its source and is found within the expanse of the universe.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּרְאֶה אוֹר הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ יֵשׁ גָּמוּר כְּשֶׁאֵינוֹ בִּמְקוֹרוֹ.

In truth, the Source of all creatures is constantly found within them, our failure to perceive this notwithstanding. Hence, their existence is totally nullified in relation to their source, and they cannot be said to truly “exist.”

But in the following respect, the illustration is apparently not completely identical with the object of comparison,

רַק שֶׁבָּזֶה, אֵין הַמָּשָׁל דּוֹמֶה לַנִּמְשָׁל לְגַמְרֵי לִכְאוֹרָה,

for in the illustration, the source—the sun—is not present at all in the expanse of the universe and upon the earth, where its light is seen as actually existing.

שֶׁבַּמָּשָׁל, אֵין הַמָּקוֹר בִּמְצִיאוּת כְּלָל בַּחֲלַל הָעוֹלָם וְעַל הָאָרֶץ שֶׁנִּרְאֶה שָׁם אוֹרוֹ לְיֵשׁ גָּמוּר,

Since the sun itself is not present upon the earth, its rays are able to assume a seeming reality of their own. It is therefore readily understandable why they are perceived as existing independently.

By contrast, all created beings are always within their source, the Divine activating force, which is continuously found within them, constantly creating and animating them ex nihilo,

מַה־שֶּׁאֵין־כֵּן כָּל הַבְּרוּאִים, הֵם בִּמְקוֹרָם תָּמִיד,

and it is only that the source is not visible to our physical eyes.

רַק שֶׁאֵין הַמָּקוֹר נִרְאֶה לְעֵינֵי בָשָׂר.

Since in reality, they are indeed within their source at all times,

Why are they not nullified in their source?

וְלָמָּה אֵינָן בְּטֵלִים בִּמְצִיאוּת לִמְקוֹרָם?

Why are creatures not nullified within their source in an obvious and revealed manner so that there is no mistaking them as independently existing beings?

To understand this, some prefatory remarks are necessary.

אַךְ לְהָבִין זֶה – צָרִיךְ לְהַקְדִּים:

The Alter Rebbe will go on to explain that the Divine power of concealment and contraction is responsible for hiding G‑d’s light so that it will not be perceptible to created beings. This enables creation to be perceived as possessing “existence” whereas in reality, it is totally nullified within its source.