Creation effected absolutely no change in the Creator, neither in His Unity nor in His knowledge. This we learn from the verse, “I, Havayah, have not changed,” as the Alter Rebbe explained in the preceding chapter. Though one might assume that by bringing created beings into existence, G‑d’s knowledge was supplemented—in that only after their creation did he become aware of them, so to speak—this, in fact, is not so, for G‑d’s knowledge is wholly one with G‑d Himself.

G‑d’s knowledge is thus entirely unlike man’s. Acquired knowledge constitutes an addition to a mortal soul, which is a compound, not a simple and perfect unity. G‑d’s Unity, by contrast, is perfect, without any superaddition. Accordingly, His unique manner of knowledge is such that by knowing Himself, He knows all of creation, which derives from Him.

This knowledge of self existed before G‑d brought created beings into existence. By knowing them, therefore, nothing at all was added to His previous knowledge. And such a manner of knowledge, concluded the Alter Rebbe, is beyond the comprehension of man.

In the chapter before us, the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain that Maimonides’ statement that “He is the Knowledge…” applies not only to G‑d’s knowledge but also to all His other attributes and Names, including His chochmah and will. They are all completely united with G‑d Himself.

Now, what Maimonides (of blessed memory) has said1—that the Holy One, blessed be He, His Essence and Being, and His knowledge are completely one, a perfect unity and not a composite at all—

וְהִנֵּה, מַה שֶּׁכָּתַב הָרַמְבַּ"ם זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ וְדַעְתּוֹ הַכֹּל אֶחָד מַמָּשׁ, אַחְדּוּת פְּשׁוּטָה וְלֹא מוּרְכֶּבֶת כְּלָל –

this applies equally to all the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He, and to all His holy Names, and the designations which the Prophets and Sages, of blessed memory have ascribed to Him, such as Gracious, Merciful, Beneficent, and the like.

כֵּן הָעִנְיָן מַמָּשׁ בְּכָל מִדּוֹתָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, וּבְכָל שְׁמוֹתָיו הַקְּדוֹשִׁים וְהַכִּינּוּיִים שֶׁכִּינּוּ לוֹ הַנְּבִיאִים וַחֲכָמֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה, כְּגוֹן "חַנּוּן" וְ"רַחוּם" וְ"חָסִיד" וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָהֶן,

This is also true with respect to His being called Wise, as it is written, “And He is also wise…,”2

וְכֵן מַה שֶּׁנִּקְרָא "חָכָם", דִּכְתִיב: "וְגַם הוּא חָכָם וְגוֹ'",

and likewise with respect to His will, [as it is written,] “G‑d desires those who fear Him,”3 and “He wishes to do kindness,”4 and “He desires the repentance of the wicked and does not desire their death and wickedness”5thus, we have verses indicating both what He finds desirable and undesirable; [so, too,] “Your eyes are too pure to behold evil”6yet another thing that He does not desire.

וְכֵן רְצוֹנוֹ "כִּי רוֹצֶה ה' אֶת יְרֵאָיו" וְ"חָפֵץ חֶסֶד הוּא" וְ"רוֹצֶה בִּתְשׁוּבָתָם שֶׁל רְשָׁעִים וְאֵינוֹ חָפֵץ בְּמִיתָתָם וּבְרִשְׁעָתָם" וּ"טְהוֹר עֵינַיִם מֵרְאוֹת בְּרָע",

From the above verses, then, we see that emotions, wisdom, and will are all ascribed to G‑d. Nevertheless:

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His will and His wisdom and His attribute of kindness and His mercy and His other attributes do not add plurality and composition (G‑d forbid) to His Essence and Being,

אֵין רְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ וּמִדַּת חַסְדּוֹ וְרַחֲמָנוּתוֹ וּשְׁאָר מִדּוֹתָיו מוֹסִיפִים בּוֹ רִיבּוּי וְהַרְכָּבָה חַס וְשָׁלוֹם בְּמַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ,

but His Being and Essence and His will and wisdom and understanding and knowledge and His attribute of kindness and His might and mercy and beauty, [the last of] which is composed of His kindness and might,

אֶלָּא עַצְמוּתוֹ וּמַהוּתוֹ וּרְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ וּבִינָתוֹ וְדַעְתּוֹ, וּמִדַּת חַסְדּוֹ וּגְבוּרָתוֹ, וְרַחֲמָנוּתוֹ וְתִפְאַרְתּוֹ הַכְּלוּלָה מֵחַסְדּוֹ וּגְבוּרָתוֹ,

and likewise His other holy attributes—all the above, comprising his Being and Essence, and his will, and the sefirot of ChaBaD and the middot, constitute an absolutely perfect unity, which is His very Being and Essence.

וְכֵן שְׁאָר מִדּוֹתָיו הַקְּדוֹשׁוֹת – הַכֹּל אַחְדּוּת פְּשׁוּטָה מַמָּשׁ, שֶׁהִיא הִיא עַצְמוּתוֹ וּמַהוּתוֹ,

And as Maimonides (of blessed memory) stated, “This [form of unity] wherein G‑d’s knowledge and so on is one with G‑d Himself is beyond the capacity of the mouth to express, beyond the capacity of the ear to hear, and beyond the capacity of the heart of man to apprehend clearly.”7

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתַב הָרַמְבַּ"ם זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה, שֶׁדָּבָר זֶה אֵין כֹּחַ בַּפֶּה לְאָמְרוֹ, וְלֹא בָּאֹזֶן לְשָׁמְעוֹ, וְלֹא בְּלֵב הָאָדָם לְהַכִּירוֹ עַל בּוּרְיוֹ.

For man visualizes in his mind all the concepts which he wishes to conceive and understand—all as they are within himself.

כִּי הָאָדָם מְצַיֵּיר בְּשִׂכְלוֹ כָּל הַמּוּשְׂכָּלוֹת שֶׁרוֹצֶה לְהַשְׂכִּיל וּלְהָבִין – הַכֹּל כְּמוֹת שֶׁהֵם בּוֹ,

For instance, if he wishes to envisage the essence of will, or the essence of wisdom, or of understanding, or of knowledge, or the essence of the attribute of kindness and mercy and the like,

כְּגוֹן שֶׁרוֹצֶה לְצַיֵּיר בְּשִׂכְלוֹ מַהוּת הָרָצוֹן, אוֹ מַהוּת חָכְמָה, אוֹ בִּינָה, אוֹ דַּעַת, אוֹ מַהוּת מִדַּת חֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָהֶן,

he visualizes them all as they are within himself.

הוּא מְצַיֵּיר כּוּלָּן כְּמוֹת שֶׁהֵן בּוֹ.

Just as this is so with regard to envisaging one’s own intellect and emotions, so, too, regarding an individual’s desire to apprehend Divine Intellect and emotions: he endeavors to do so by envisaging intellect and emotion as they are found within himself.

But in truth, the Holy One, blessed be He, is “high and exalted,”8 and “holy is His Name”9; i.e., His Name, too, is “holy” and set apart (for this is implied by the root קדש).

אֲבָל בֶּאֱמֶת, הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, הוּא רָם וְנִשָּׂא וְקָדוֹשׁ שְׁמוֹ,

That is to say, He is Holy and separated many myriads of degrees of separations ad infinitum, above the quality, type or kind of praises and exaltation which creatures could grasp and conceive in their minds.

כְּלוֹמַר, שֶׁהוּא קָדוֹשׁ וּמוּבְדָּל רִיבּוֹא רְבָבוֹת עַד אֵין קֵץ וְתַכְלִית מַדְרֵגוֹת הַבְדָּלוֹת, לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה מֵעֵרֶךְ וְסוּג וּמִין כָּל הַתִּשְׁבָּחוֹת וְהַמַּעֲלוֹת שֶׁיּוּכְלוּ הַנִּבְרָאִים לְהַשִּׂיג וּלְצַיֵּיר בְּשִׂכְלָם.

It is for this reason that G‑d is called the Holy One, blessed be He, for the degree to which He transcends the created universe defies mortal conception.

For the first i.e., supreme quality and rank with regard to created beings is wisdom, for which reason it is called “the beginning,” as in the phrase, “the beginning of wisdom.”10

כִּי הַמַּעֲלָה וּמַדְרֵגָה הָרִאשׁוֹנָה אֵצֶל הַנִּבְרָאִים הִיא הַחָכְמָה, שֶׁלָּכֵן נִקְרֵאת "רֵאשִׁית",

So, too, Targum Yonatan interprets בְּרֵאשִׁית (in the verse, “In the beginning G‑d created…”) to mean “with wisdom.” Thus, “wisdom” also connotes that which is first in quality and the source of all other attributes.

For it is indeed the beginning and fountainhead of all the life-force in creatures,

כִּי בֶּאֱמֶת הִיא רֵאשִׁית וּמְקוֹר כָּל הַחַיּוּת בַּנִּבְרָאִים,

for from wisdom are derived understanding and knowledge,

כִּי מֵהַחָכְמָה נִמְשָׁכוֹת בִּינָה וָדַעַת,

and from them flow all the emotive attributes of the rational soul, such as love and kindness and mercy and the like; all of these derive from the intellectual attributes.

וּמֵהֶן נִמְשָׁכוֹת כָּל הַמִּדּוֹת שֶׁבַּנֶּפֶשׁ הַמַּשְׂכֶּלֶת, כְּמוֹ אַהֲבָה וָחֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן,

This is seen vividly—that a child, having no wisdom, is always angry and unkind, and even his love is for trivial things which are unworthy of being loved,

וְכַנִּרְאֶה בְּחוּשׁ, שֶׁהַקָּטָן שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ דַּעַת, הוּא בְּכַעַס תָּמִיד וְאַכְזָרִי, וְגַם אַהֲבָתוֹ, הִיא לִדְבָרִים קְטַנִּים שֶׁאֵין רָאוּי לְאַָהֳבָם,

because he lacks the understanding to love things which are worthy of love, for love varies with [the level of one’s] understanding.

מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ דַּעַת לֶאֱהוֹב דְּבָרִים הָרְאוּיִים לְאָהֳבָם, שֶׁהָאַהֲבָה כְּפִי הַדַּעַת.

Thus, the emotions are dependent on the intellect and understanding, inasmuch as they derive from them.

From the emotive attributes of the soul, words and letters of thought issue forth,

וּמֵהַמִּדּוֹת שֶׁבַּנֶּפֶשׁ נִמְשָׁכוֹת בָּהּ תֵּיבוֹת וְאוֹתִיּוֹת הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה,

for the soul thinks of that which it loves or of how to perform deeds of kindness and mercy.

שֶׁהַנֶּפֶשׁ מְחַשֶּׁבֶת בְּדָבָר שֶׁאוֹהֶבֶת, אוֹ אֵיךְ לִפְעוֹל הַחֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים,

And so it is with the other emotive attributes: they all serve as a source for the words and letters of thought.

וְכֵן בִּשְׁאָר מִדּוֹת.

Within every thought in the world, there is clothed some emotive attribute that causes one to think that thought, and this attribute is the vivifying force of that thought.

וּבְכָל מַחֲשָׁבָה שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם – מְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בָּהּ אֵיזוֹ מִדָּה הַמְּבִיאָה לַחֲשׁוֹב מַחֲשָׁבָה זוֹ, וּמִדָּה זוֹ – הִיא חַיּוּתָהּ שֶׁל מַחֲשָׁבָה זוֹ.

From the letters of [a man’s] thought proceed the letters of [his] speech, and they—the letters of thought—are their actual vivifying force.

וּמֵאוֹתִיּוֹת הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה נִמְשָׁכוֹת אוֹתִיּוֹת הַדִּבּוּר, וְהֵן חַיּוּתָן מַמָּשׁ.

Speech [in turn] gives rise to action, [such as] of charity and kindness, as in the case of a king who orders his servants to give [charity].

וְהַדִּבּוּר מֵבִיא לִידֵי מַעֲשֵׂה הַצְּדָקָה וָחֶסֶד, כְּגוֹן הַמֶּלֶךְ שֶׁמְּצַוֶּה לַעֲבָדָיו לִיתֵּן.

I.e., his speech causes his charitable thought to result in action.

And even when a man himself does some deed which he had thought of doing,

וְגַם כְּשֶׁהָאָדָם עוֹשֶׂה בְּעַצְמוֹ אֵיזֶה דָבָר,

In this instance, no speech is involved: his thought leads directly to action. Nevertheless—the Alter Rebbe goes on to say—here, too, in order for the life-force to descend from thought to action, it must pass through an intermediary stage which resembles speech.

the power of the soul and its life-force, which clothes itself in this deed, is as absolute nothingness in relation to the power of the soul and its life-force, which clothes itself in the speech of man;

הֲרֵי כֹּחַ הַנֶּפֶשׁ וְחַיּוּתָהּ הַמִּתְלַבֵּשׁ בַּעֲשִׂיָּה זוֹ, הוּא כְּאַיִן מַמָּשׁ לְגַבֵּי כֹּחַ הַנֶּפֶשׁ וְחַיּוּתָהּ הַמִּתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּדִבּוּר הָאָדָם,

[they are to each other] as the relation and comparison of the body to the soul.

וּכְעֵרֶךְ וּמְשַׁל הַגּוּף לַנְּשָׁמָה,

To the same degree is there no comparison between the power of the soul and its life-force, which clothes itself in the speech of man, and the power of the soul and its life-force, which clothes itself in man’s actions. Therefore, when this power and life-force has descended so far that it is able to clothe itself in action, it has already undergone contractions and condensations which are far below the power of speech.

Likewise—like the distance of body from soul—is the relation of the letters of speech to the letters of thought,

וְכֵן עֵרֶךְ אוֹתִיּוֹת הַדִּבּוּר לְאוֹתִיּוֹת הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה,

and likewise is the relation of the letters of thought to the essence of the emotive attribute which is clothed in it and animates it,

וְכֵן עֵרֶךְ אוֹתִיּוֹת הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה לְמַהוּת הַמִּדָּה הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בָּהּ וּמְחַיָּה אוֹתָהּ,

I.e., the thought that derives from an emotion is in no way comparable to the emotion itself.

and likewise the relation of the essence and life-force of the emotive attribute in comparison with the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge which together constitute the intellect from which this attribute was derived.

וְכֵן עֵרֶךְ מַהוּת וְחַיּוּת הַמִּדָּה לְגַבֵּי הַחָכְמָה וּבִינָה וָדַעַת, שֶׁכְּלָלוּתָן הוּא הַשֵּׂכֶל שֶׁמִּמֶּנּוּ נִמְשְׁכָה מִדָּה זוֹ.

We thus see that in the chain of descent from level to level—beginning with wisdom and culminating with action—each level bears no comparison at all even to the level that immediately precedes it; emotions cannot be compared to intellect, thought cannot be compared to emotions, and so on. Surely, then, there can be no comparison whatsoever between the lowest degree of action and the highest degree of wisdom.

All this applies to the soul of man and the soul of all the created beings in all the higher and lower worlds. In all of them, wisdom is the beginning and source of the life-force.

וְכָל זֶה בְּנֶפֶשׁ הָאָדָם וְנֶפֶשׁ כָּל הַבְּרוּאִים שֶׁבְּכָל הָעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים, שֶׁבְּכוּלָּם הַחָכְמָה הִיא רֵאשִׁית וּמְקוֹר הַחַיּוּת:

G‑d, however, as will soon be concluded, is as distant from the degree of wisdom as He is from that of action; from the Divine perspective, action and wisdom are humble equals.