Moshe Chaim Luzzatto ("RaMChaL"):
138 Openings of Wisdom
How the Emanator operates through the Sefirot - through chains of cause and effect, and by clothing one power in another. How these appear in prophecy.
The works of the Emanator, blessed be His Name, which He brings about through the Sefirot in accordance with the law He wanted for them, are interdependent. Things emerge as consequences of one another. One thing is concealed within another, in the sense that one power may be acting in a hidden manner while outwardly it appears as if a different power is acting - yet the truth is that the manifest power acts only in accordance with the power concealed within it. Therefore the Sefirot are seen taking all these forms and likenesses, appearing in the form of lights clothed within lights, or as lights emerging from other lights. All these forms and likenesses are what the soul sees when looking at the Sefirot. From seeing them, the soul gains an understanding of these phenomena on the spiritual plane, just as we gain knowledge of physical phenomena through the vision of the bodily eye.
Having explained the subject of the forms and likenesses in which the Sefirot appear in general terms, we will now enter into further details.
The propostion has two parts. Part 1: The works of the Emanator... This discusses the interconnectedness of the lights governing the creation. Part 2: Therefore the Sefirot are seen... This explains how this interconnectedness is appears in the prophetic vision.
Part 1: The works of the Emanator, blessed be His Name... Clearly, the Sefirot are not to be identified with the works of the Emanator, blessed be His Name, in creating and governing the worlds. Rather, the Sefirot are the thoughts that underlie these works, while the created realms and beings and the way in which they are governed are the works arising out of these thoughts.
.which He brings about through the Sefirot in accordance with the law He wanted for them... When God acts through the Sefirot, it is not in accordance with His intrinsic omnipotence, whereby He can do everything in one command without things being differentiated. When He chose to act through the Sefirot, He organized His powers in an orderly system, as stated in Bris Menuchah (a 15th century Kabbalistic text by Rabbi Abraham of Grenada). In other words, He chose to act little by little and to think about each thing by itself. Not that He Himself has any need of this. He chose to act in this way because this is the way in which man can gain a modicum of understanding of God's ways and His works.
The Sefirot of which we speak are parts of the interconnected order in which the Supreme Will organized His creative activity, similar to the way in which a person thinks his thoughts little by little and carries them out little by little. This being the case, it is possible for us to understand how many powers are involved in each individual act, which was first, which came afterwards, how it acted, and so on. It would have been completely impossible to talk in such terms if Eyn Sof, blessed be He, had wanted to act in His omnipotence. His acting little by little is like a person who knows how to read a complete word all at once yet chooses to read each letter individually in the way that children do.
...are interdependent: Thus when we speak of lights, we can distinguish which are roots and which are branches. We speak of Zeir and Nukva being "governed" by Imma, or of Abba and Imma being "crowned" or "encompassed" by Mazal. We are able to speak in such terms because the Emanator, blessed be His Name, wanted to order His powers in this manner, and He instituted that one power should be dependent upon another. This is similar to man, who is made up of many different parts, all of which he needs and all of which are interdependent. For example, man's faculty of speech depends upon his ability to think, for one who does not think does not speak.
Things emerge as consequences of one another: This refers to the concept of the chain of development (השתלשלות, Hishtalshelut) mentioned in Kabbalistic writings. Likewise, the various powers of the soul of the individual are also organized as a system in which one is bound up with another. Thus memory is a product of thought and the ability to recognize similarities. All the different powers of the soul are likewise interdependent. When we come to the details of how God governs the world with kindness, judgment and compassion, we will gain a clearer understanding of how things are bound together in a developmental chain. An example of this interconnectivity may be found in the various traits of the human psyche, such as mercy, anger, love, hatred, desire and the like. Just as all these traits of the psyche are interconnected, emerging one from another, so too we speak of similar interconnections between the Partufim.
One thing is concealed within another... This refers to the concept of "clothing" (הלבשה, Halbashah) discussed in the Kabbalah. This phenomenon is perfectly evident as it manifests itself in man's soul. For example, when a father chastises his son, love is the active power, for the father does what he does only because he loves his son. Yet while love is the active power on the hidden plane, our eyes see only the father's surface anger or hatred, because he puts on an outer face of rage. There are many similar examples. Sometimes what is inside and what appears on the surface are not opposites. What is hidden is may be a deep thought which the owner does not want to reveal, and accordingly he outwardly acts in a different way, and this all that is revealed to those who see him.
...in the sense that one power may be acting in a hidden manner while outwardly it appears as if a different power is acting, yet the truth is that the manifest power acts only in accordance with the power concealed within it. The meaning of this should be clear in the light of what we have said above.
Part 2: Therefore the Sefirot are seen taking all these forms and likenesses... In other words, the forms and likenesses in which the prophet sees the Sefirot - interdependent, clothed one in another, and so on - appear on the spiritual plane in a way similar to the way the corresponding phenomena appear in the physical realm. This is because these very phenomena in the upper realms are the root of the corresponding phenomena in the lower worlds and are therefore automatically related to them, as will be discussed later.
...appearing in the form of lights clothed within lights, or as lights emerging from other lights. Here we have the two concepts I mentioned above: "clothing" and "the developmental chain". A third kind of interrelationship, in which one power depends upon another (in the way that Abba and Imma are "crowned" or "encompassed" by Mazal), is more understandable after we grasp the other two.
All these forms and likenesses are what the soul sees when looking at the Sefirot. From seeing them, the soul gains an understanding of these phenomena on the spiritual plane, just as we gain knowledge of physical phenomena through the vision of the bodily eye. Accordingly, we speak in terms of the soul "seeing" just as the eye sees. The soul and the physical eye each possess their own characteristic faculty of vision. [For example, there is the circle that the physical eye sees, and there is the circle "seen", "conceived" or understood by the mind.]
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by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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