I wish to confess to imposing a specific nuance upon the ideas associated with Dirah Betachtonim through much of this book. I do so both to caution the person who has not read any of the original literature, as well as to acknowledge to those familiar with it that it may not be unfair to reject my interpretation.

In the original texts the Hebrew terms עצם and עצמות are widely used. I have translated them as essence (or Essence) and often interpreted them as being. I will state here in brief why I have given this interpretation. Should the reader refuse to accept being and the related ideas in the book as the crucial part of the meaning of עצם and עצמות, I think these are at least helpful in rounding out the concepts denoted by these terms.

Let us begin by attempting to define the terms עצם and עצמות in ways that appear readily acceptable to all. It appears readily acceptable to regard (albeit not to define) עצמות as that which is at the top of the G‑dhead. Accordingly, when it is said, for example, that a particular activity or sphere relates to עצמות, this connotes that it relates to the very top, rather than to lower parts of the G‑dhead. (Similar to this would be the notion that עצמות is the center or core of the G‑dhead.)

It also appears that עצמות is regarded, at least by some, as that which always was in the G‑dhead (akin to קדמון), that which is unchanging, absolute, as distinct to those spheres which were produced, which came into being at some stage. Accordingly, when it is said that a particular activity or sphere relates to עצמות, this connotes that it relates to specifically that which always was, always is, in the G‑dhead, as distinct from that which came into being at some stage.

Does עצמות denote source? Clearly עצמות is the source, the Ultimate Source, the מאור, and hence when referring to עצמות the notion of source will be somewhere in the background; but it appears reasonable to say that this is not the connotation of the term and notion עצמות itself. ruen or מאור would be more in place for this concept (though מאור, in turn, is often used in relation to the ideas related to the notion of עצמות.)

There is another notion that many may associate with עצמות, as distinct from גילויים, namely being hard and fast (compare:לא ידע, אוכם [not העלם] נעלם) rather than dynamic. עצמות is also associated with פשיטות (simplicity [not being complex], featurelessness). It both exists prior to the arising of specific features (a product of tzimtzum of one type or another), and incorporates them all1.

To sum up, עצמות is that which is the top of the G‑dhead, always was, is a hard and fast core, and is simple, that is, undifferentiated and free of specific qualities and colorings.

But there appears to be more to the notion of עצמות. Moreover, the term עצם has a tradition; it has meaning associated with it prior to Dirah Betachtonim, indeed long before Chasidut, as today outside of Chasidut or even philosophical disciplines altogether, such as in the works of the Rogatchover Gaon and others. The terms עצם and עצמות in Chasidut and Dirah Betachtonim appear associated with the sets of ideas generally denoted by the term עצם (,עצמות denoting that part of the G‑dhead which has the nature of עצם .)

Simply put, עצמות denotes G‑d as He is in Himself, not as He is when in relation to other entities. Or, more profoundly, G‑d in Himself, not G‑d in relation. (Compare: בעצמו.)

To explain this more deeply we might look at the classic distinction between the עצם and the nine מקרים, accidents: quantity, quality, influence etc.2

To paraphrase this classic distinction between עצם and מקרה—take the example of a table. It has a particular color, size etc. But these are מקרי, accidental: there are tables of other colors and sizes, or, in other words, a table can exist with other colors and sizes, and conversely, other things can have this same color and size. Thus, this color and size have no inherent connection with table, they are incidental. But there is another dimension of the table perceived by the mind, one or some of its features, without which it will always not be a table and with which it always will be a table, irrespective of the presence or absence of other dimensions, the accidents. Let us, for simplicity of presentation, define this dimension of table: the ability of the object to support something else and its having some support by way of legs. Where this is, there is a table, without it—even in the presence of color, size, wood etc.—there is no table. Once this is, superimposed on it there are color, size etc. These, by way of other entities, other parts of reality acting upon it, as it were.

What, then, are the notions included in the עצם of table? Substratum, upon which the accidents are superimposed. Aloneness: this dimension is not shared by anything else; it exists ontologically apart from everything else. But also: it is with this dimension that table comes into being, and with its removal or absence that table ceases to be. This dimension is the being, the “is” of the table. The other dimensions are what it does, how it is, the state of its “is”, but not its “is” itself, its being. עצם denotes the being. Thus though עצם does denote aloneness, constantness, substratum, primary, core, hard and fast, simple (if you will, constancy and nakedness of being) relative to features, to accidents (even aloneness is relative to the frame of reference of accidents)—it is perhaps primarily being.

With regard to G‑d in particular, the עצם of G‑d, עצמות, is yet more closely related to the notion of being. A number of considerations are relevant. First, with regard to the Creator, the frame of reference includes non-existence and hence entities are not to be defined solely in terms applicable once they exist. Thus, עצם is not solely substratum, or a similar notion, which is relative to accidents, a definition assuming it already is, but being: a definition relative to non-being (see also above, particularly chapters 9 and 13).

Furthermore, the notion of G‑d relative to us, to reality, is primarily provider of being. Furthermore, the notion of G‑d Himself is being: something which is because it is. In fact, some prove the existence of G‑d this way, maintaining that all contingent beings must trace their ontology back to an absolute, necessary being3.

Thus though עצמות may include a variety of notions, being is a, perhaps the, fundamental one4 .

And being is indeed non-expressive, hard and fast, constant and simple etc.

As for the term גילויים used in Chasidut and particularly Dirah Betachtonim, though it may have special nuances, it appears that the term’s connotations aim to add to, but not subtract from, the classical notion of מקרה.

These are, perhaps, termed גילויים rather than מקרה: to denote that they are not there by accident, but as a purposeful production; to denote their dynamic nature, as opposed to a state (or conversely, that they are merely manifestations, not something else); to denote that they are produced by the עצם not just are, that is, not of equal ontological reality to עצמות and that their substance emerges from the עצם , not as an independent ontological source and being. That is, the term גילויים does not only denote features, or the lower, created, dynamic part of the G‑dhead, but also that which is not עצם , with all the relevant implications, including that the גילויים are not the is, the being.