LESSONS IN TANYA: Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tishrei 7, 5773 · September 23, 2012
Today's Tanya Lesson
Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 20

אך נשמות המלאכים, שיצאו מזיווג הנשיקין

By contrast, the souls of the angels that emerged by the zivug neshikin (lit., "the union of kissing"), i.e., by the more ethereal manner of union of the Sefirot, whence spiritual entities emanate such as the souls of angels,

וכן נשמות האדם, שיצאו מזיווג דזו״נ דאצילות

and also the souls of man that emerged by the union of zu'n1 of Atzilutthe union of Z'eir Anpin and Malchut of Atzilut,

This form of union is termed zivug gufani (lit., "a 'physical' union"), relative to zivug neshikin. From this form of union there derives the birth of souls that become enclothed in actual physical bodies. In the state in which they exist in Atzilut, however, these souls, —

קודם שירדו לבריאה, יצירה, עשיה

before their descent to Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah,

אינן בכלל יש ודבר נפרד בפני עצמו

are not counted as created substantiality (yesh) and as [instances of] a distinct and independent entity.

אלא הן מעין בחינת אלקות, בצמצום עצום

Rather, they resemble the category of G‑dliness in intense contraction, to the point of being on the level of a Neshamah.

וכעין הכלים דיו״ד ספירות דאצילות, שהן בבחינת גבול

They are like the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Atzilut which (though they are Divinity) are by nature finite,

על ידי צמצום אור האין סוף, הוא הקו המלובש בנפש רוח ונשמה שלהם

on account of the contraction of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, viz., the Kav that is vested in their Nefesh-Ruach-Neshamah,

The restricted diffusion of the Kav that descends into the kelim lacks the infinite degree of Ein Sof illumination that constitutes the essence of the Kav. It is this contraction that makes it possible for the kelim of the Sefirot to exist in a mode of limitation, even though their union with the orot and their nullification to the orot lends them the characteristics of Divinity, as mentioned above. And in a similar state are the souls of Atzilut as still found within Atzilut.

However, with regard to the contraction of the Kav that is vested within them, the Alter Rebbe goes on to state that this is not merely a tzimtzum, a contraction involving a diminishment of the G‑dly illumination. Rather, —

וכמו צמצום הראשון, להיות חלל וכו׳

just like the original tzimtzum that occurred in the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, a tzimtzum of such intensity that it was able to bring about a void — a "space" — for the existence of worlds, and so on.

This original tzimtzum, unlike all subsequent tzimtzumim, involved much more than a mere diminishment of the intensity of Divine illumination: it involved the removal of the light. The tzimtzum of the Kav which enables it to be vested within the Nefesh-Ruach-Neshamah of the Sefirot is similar to this original tzimtzum.

What has been said above refers to souls of Atzilut as they still find themselves within Atzilut, before they are vested within bodies. While in that lofty world they share the characteristics of Divinity, and are not detached entities.

The Alter Rebbe now says that even after their descent into this lowly world, the souls of the early tzaddikim did not undergo a change: they did not become sundered from G‑dliness.

(ואף גם לאחר שירדו הנפש רוח ונשמה דאצילות לעולם הזה לצדיקים הראשונים, אפשר שלא נשתנה מהותן, להיות דבר נפרד מאלקות

(2And even after the Nefesh-Ruach-Neshamah of Atzilut descended to this world to the first tzaddikim, it is possible that their essence did not change to become entities distinct from Divinity: they remained on the same level as they had been while still in Atzilut.

ולכן היו מסתלקות כשרצו לחטוא, בטרם יחטאו

That is why they withdrew [from their bodies] (i.e., they died) when they sought to sin, before they sinned.

This follows the teaching in Tikkunei Zohar,3 that a soul of the level of Atzilut departs from the body before the person sins. In this spirit, too, that source interprets the verse,4 "Your sins have separated between yourselves and your G‑d": Sins cause a cleavage between a soul and its G‑dliness (i.e., the soul's level of Atzilut which is an aspect of G‑dliness), for sin causes the soul-level that derives from Atzilut to withdraw.

וקרוב לומר שגם האלפים ורבבות עלמין דיתבא בגולגלתא דאריך אנפין וזעיר אנפין

It is reasonable to assume that also5 the thousands and myriads of worlds that are in the Gulgalta of Arich Anpin and Z'eir Anpin (abbreviated in the original Hebrew text as א״א and ז״א, respectively), as stated in the Kabbalah,6

אינן עלמין ממש, כעין ההיכלות דאצילות, ובחינת יש

are not really worlds, like the Heichalot of Atzilut, and a form of yesh,

אלא כעין נשמות המלאכים שיצאו מזיווג הנשיקין

but are like the souls of the angels that emerged from the zivug neshikin, which, as mentioned earlier, are not in the category of yesh as are the Heichalot or bodies of the angels,

ונקראו עלמין לגבי בחינת הגולגלתא ודיקנא

and are called "worlds" relative to the rank of the Gulgalta and Dikna.)

אך אינן אלקות ממש, לברוא יש מאין

They (the angels and souls of Atzilut) are not, however, actual Divinity, and as such able to create substantiality ex nihilo,7

The ability to create ex nihilo is exclusive to the Ein Sof. Since the kelim of the Sefirot of Atzilut are utterly united with the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, they are able to serve as conduits for the creation of yesh from ayin. The angels and souls of Atzilut, however, are not actual Divinity, and are thus unable to serve in this way, —

מאחר שכבר יצאו ונפרדו מהכלים דיו״ד ספירות, שבהן מלובש הקו מאור אין סוף

because they already emerged and became separated from the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Atzilut within which the Kav of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light is vested.

שהאור הוא כעין המאור, הוא מהותו ועצמותו של המאציל, ברוך הוא

For the light is like its source, the luminary, i.e., the very core and Essence of the blessed Emanator,

שמציאותו הוא מעצמותו, ואינו עלול מאיזה עילה שקדמה לו, חס ושלום

Whose Being is of His Essence — His is an essential form of being; He is not, heaven forfend, brought into being by some other ilah (cause) preceding Himself.

An antecedent state of non-existence could not possibly apply to G‑d's existence, which is an essential form of existence.

ולכן הוא לבדו, בכחו ויכלתו לברוא יש מאין ואפס המוחלט ממש

It is therefore in His power and ability alone to create something (yesh) out of absolute naught (ayin) and nothingness,

G‑d is able to create substance (yesh) not only from the degree of ayin that merely lacks existence, but from "absolute naught and nothingness" — from an ayin that is the very antithesis of yesh, of substantial existence.

בלי שום עילה וסיבה אחרת קודמת ליש הזה

without this yesh having any other cause and reason preceding it.

The G‑dly life-force, the ayin, that creates the yesh, is the exact opposite of the yesh that it creates. As such, it is not a cause or reason that relates to or serves as a precursor of the yesh that is created by it; as ayin it is the very antithesis of yesh.

This is why creation can only result from the kelim of the Sefirot of Atzilut within which is vested the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, for they are actual Divinity. However, as pointed out above, angels and souls of Atzilut that have already emerged and become separated from the kelim cannot possibly act as conduits for the creation of yesh from ayin, inasmuch as they themselves are not actual Divinity.

The Alter Rebbe now anticipates the following question: Since only the Ein Sof can create yesh from ayin, what need is there for the kelim of the Sefirot?

He goes on to answer that the kelim "enable" the Ein Sof to create a finite yesh: since the Ein Sof is infinite, the beings that result from it would also be limitless — if not for the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Atzilut.

וכדי שיהיה היש הזה, הנברא בכח האין סוף, בעל גבול ומדה, נתלבש אור אין סוף בכלים דיו״ד ספירות דאצילות

In order that this yesh, created by the [infinite] power of the Ein Sof, should have a limit and measure, the [infinite] Ein Sof-light was vested in the kelim of the Ten Sefirot of Atzilutfor the kelim are limited, inasmuch as they divide into the distinct categories of Chochmah, Chesed, and the like,

ומתייחד בתוכן בתכלית היחוד, עד דאיהו וגרמוהי חד

and it becomes united within them so absolutely that "He (the Ein Sof-light) and His causations (the kelim of the Sefirot) are One,"

לברוא בהן ועל ידן ברואים בעלי גבול ותכלית

so that [He can] create with and through them creatures that have limitation and finitude.

ובפרט על ידי התלבשותן בבריאה, יצירה, עשיה

This is especially the case through their investment (i.e., the investment of the kelim of Atzilut) in Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, for this adds immeasurably to the finitude and corporeality of the resultant created beings.


As we have seen, the objective creation of the yesh takes place through the investment of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light in the kelim of all Ten Sefirot of Atzilut. However, as the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain, the subjective yeshut of created beings — their self-perception as entities distinct and separate from their Creator — derives principally from the Sefirah of Malchut (in the World of Atzilut). For the very notion of Malchut ("sovereignty") can apply only to individuals who are separate from the king who rules over them, and who nonetheless nullify their will to his.

This is in keeping with the axiom,8 "There is no king without a nation." The Hebrew for "people" עם is etymologically related to the word omemut, as in the expression gechalim omemot, signifying embers whose fire has been dimmed. In this spirit, am implies a populace which is far removed from the king's qualities and from his company. By contrast, the inherent closeness of a father and child makes it impossible for the father to reign over his child. Sovereignty is possible only over strangers, over those who are distant from their king.

It is for this reason that the Sefirah of Malchut creates beings that sense themselves to be separate from G‑dliness, for only over them is it possible for Malchut to reign — so that these distinct and separate created beings should, by dint of their own spiritual service, nullify themselves to G‑d's will.

1. In the Hebrew text, the letters זו״נ are an abbreviation for ז״א (itself an abbreviation for זעיר אנפין, representing the six "male" middot) and נוקבא (the "female" or recipient element, viz., the Sefirah of Malchut).
2. Parentheses are in the original text.
3. Tikkun 70 (p. 124a).
4. Yeshayahu 49:2.
5. The Rebbe here refers the reader to an explanation of the Tzemach Tzedek in Or HaTorah, Shmot, p. 199, which may be summarized as follows: The "thousands and myriads of worlds" alludes not to actual worlds, but to extremely rarefied spiritual degrees ("letters") that descend into Asiyah and result in the creation of actual worlds. Hence, the above statement of the Alter Rebbe ("the thousands...yesh") means that "The created beings that came about from the 'letters' are indeed separate entities, while the 'letters' themselves are Divinity; they are termed `worlds' only in relation to Gulgalta; i.e., they are `letters' that have previously been drawn forth to serve as a source and root for the creation of worlds...."
6. Cf. Zohar III, 128b.
7. Cf. Or HaTorah, loc. cit.
8. Bachaye, Vayeishev 38:30, et al.; Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, ch. 7.

By Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), founder of Chabad Chassidism (Free Translation)    More articles...  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg. Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, all rights reserved.
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