This letter was sent to Rabbi Yosef Goldstein.

B”H, 18 Teves, 5709

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your questions:

a) Question: How is it possible to say that there are different levels within the light that precedes the tzimtzum? For it is said (in Etz Chayim, Shaar Igulim VeYosher, Anaf 2), that it is an undifferentiated light that [regards] all levels in an absolutely equal manner.

Reply: The statement that this light is simple, [i.e., un­defined and undifferentiated,] applies in relation to the spiritual cosmos, i.e., not only with regard to the worlds, but [also when compared to all the various sublime levels] where there are preceding stages [of spiritual existence], [as in] a cause and effect sequence. For all of these [individual levels] were brought about by the tzimtzum. Nevertheless, [even the light preceding the tzimtzum] is not absolutely simple. We must say this, because absolute simplicity, i.e., simple oneness, does not exist [on this level]. [For] it is impossible for two dimensions [to exist within an absolutely simple entity]. And with regard to every entity — with the exception of G‑d’s very essence — there are at least two dimensions: the entity itself and the entity that brings it into being. For example, with regard to the light described above, there is the light and the power of the Lumi­nary within it, i.e., the dimension with which it clings to the Luminary.

There are several examples of entities that are considered simple with regard to entities that are below them, yet are considered composites when compared to entities on a level above them. Using the four fundamental elements as an example: they are simple when compared to the other created beings, but a composite when compared to the hyli.1 (See Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah, chs. 3-4; Ramban, the beginning of his Commentary to the Torah; the conclusion of Etz Chayim; Bad Kodesh, ch. 4.) [Another example is] the soul that is enclothed in the body, which is simple when compared to [the body] (see Tanya, ch. 51), but a composite when compared to the essence of the soul. [This is reflected in the fact that the soul which enclothes itself in the body] is divided into [five levels]: nefesh, ruach, neshamah, chayah, and yechidah.2

In general and on a deeper level: From the Creator’s per­spective, everything is absolutely simple, for everything is Him, for “there is nothing else aside from Him,”3 without any distinction. [This applies on all levels,] from the highest peaks that have no end to the lowest depths that have no limit. From the perspective of the revealed powers, by contrast, everything is a composite, as explained above.

To cite a parallel to this concept in our Divine service: [Within the realm of] true service, i.e., that of a simple servant who does not feel his personal identity at all, all matters are absolutely simple. He does not feel a difference between [any type of Divine service he must perform, whether it be] a preparation for a mitzvah, a mitzvah of Rabbinic origin, or a mitzvah from the Torah. For he regards them all [as extensions of] G‑d’s Being. The reason he acts stringently with regard to questions involving Scriptural Law and leniently with regard to those involving Rabbinic Law4 and the like is not that he is differentiating between the mitzvos. Instead, just as the existence of the Master is perceived in the recitation of the Shema, so, too, it is perceived in making the distinctions between ruling leni­ently regarding a question of Rabbinic Law and ruling stringently regarding a question of Scriptural Law.

To cite an analogous concept in nigleh, the revealed dimen­sion of Torah law: According to Rambam (Mishneh Torah, the beginning of Hilchos Mamrim; Sefer HaMitzvos, General Principle 1), all the mitzvos commanded by the Rabbis have the power of Scriptural Law.5 [A distinction is made between questions of Rabbinic Law and questions of Scriptural Law only] because the Rabbis — [whose rulings,] according to this opinion, have the power of Scriptural Law — directed that the distinction be made.

All other forms of Divine service are a composite involving several elements — at the very least, the person observing the mitzvah and the mitzvah itself. There is room for elaboration concerning all of the above if you inform me that you have difficulty with regard to any of the above concepts.

Note: This is not the place to explain a concept that is not understood: What creates the divisions in the light before the tzimtzum, since there, only [G‑d] and His name exist?

b) Question: The maamar entitled Lulav V’Aravah, 5666, speaks of “the light of the concept” and “the concept.” What is the difference between them?

Reply: There are several levels in the downward progression of the intellect. In brief, to cite a rudimentary example: the intellectual concept that one who admits [to being liable for] a portion of a claim is obligated to take an oath. On a higher level, there is the concept that a person will not respond bra­zenly to his creditor (Bava Metzia 5a).6 And on a higher level than that, there is the concept of human refinement; and above that, the concept — or more appropriately, the perception — of the soul of a person.

In the above [progression of ideas], as [a concept ascends the ladder of intellectual abstraction], it has less of a connection to vessels and letters than the preceding concepts. Every higher concept is a cause and “light” in relation to the lower one. And the final [and highest] concept has no connection to the letters of thought at all.

In a similar way, a downward progression can be found within every rationale and concept. See also Tanya, ch. 20; [the maamar entitled] Heichaltzu, [5659,] secs. 5 and 22, et al.

Thus in each and every maamar, it is possible to clarify the conceptual sequence: what is “the light of the concept” and the concept itself.

The maamar entitled Lulav VeAravah cited above focuses on the concept of Chochmah, a level where even the letters of thought do not exist. Accordingly, it is necessary to say that the difference between “the light of the concept” and the concept is the difference between the beginning of the undefined apprecia­tion of the idea,7 i.e., the point where he sees that it is inclined in a particular direction, and the undefined appreciation itself. Both of these levels are above the letters [of conscious thought].

Surely you will endeavor to work according to your poten­tial on the matter described in the enclosure, the division of the Talmud [for the sake of combined study].8

Concluding with wishes for everlasting good,

M. Schneerson

[A further] note with regard to the concept of simplicity, [that in an ultimate sense], it applies only with regard to G‑d’s essence. [See] Toras Shalom, p. 198.9