Moshe Chaim Luzzatto ("RaMChaL"):
138 Openings of Wisdom
Two kinds of direct and returning light: in the government of the worlds and in the developmental chain
The Sefirot shine with direct and returning light of two kinds:
(1) After the descent of the Sefirot level by level from Keter to Malchut, Malchut in turn becomes Keter, and so on in the same way until Keter becomes Malchut. This shows the absolute control and perfection of Eyn Sof. For everything emanates from Him, and He is the end goal of everything, as it says: "I am first and I am last" (Isaiah 44:6). He is revealed as such at the beginning as at the end. The closer any given level is to Him, the more it is magnified with His Name, and what was Malchut becomes Keter.
(2) The second kind of direct and returning light: No light accomplishes its purpose until it emerges from and then returns to its Source. In other words, the light descends with great power all the way down to the bottom. Afterwards, as it ascends, it leaves down in its place below the level in question, while the light itself goes up. The given level then remains there, built in its place within the structure, and so in the case of all of them.
The proposition has two parts: The Sefirot shine... This is a prefatory statement setting forth a fundamental aspect of the Sefirot. (1) After the levels descended... This explains the above statement.
Part 1: The Sefirot shine with direct and returning light of two kinds. This means that in the prophetic vision, these two kinds of direct and returning light are seen.
Part 2: (1) After the descent of the Sefirot level by level from Keter to Malchut, Malchut in turn becomes Keter, and so on in the same way until Keter becomes Malchut. In the vision, this looks exactly "like the appearance of lightning" (Exekiel 1:14). A flash of lightning looks as if it comes out from one side and travels over to the other side, then immediately afterwards, it appears to turn from the other side back to the side from which it came. Similarly, all the ten Sefirot, in every place where they are, appear in this way whenever they are seen. Keter emerges first from the Source, and the steps go down one by one to Malchut. Afterwards, Malchut itself is seen to be Keter emerging from Eyn Sof.
This is because Eyn Sof, blessed be He, encompasses the Sefirot as seen in the prophetic vision both above and below. The light flashes from above and descends and spreads out downwards. As it spreads out, so it becomes weaker, and when it reaches the bottom it returns to the Source below, Eyn Sof, Who encompasses below. Then the light goes back and flashes from below up above along exactly the same path. Thus: "And the Chayot were running and returning like the appearance of lightning" (ibid.).
And this shows the absolute control and perfection of Eyn Sof. For everything emanates from Him, and He is the end goal of everything... The whole point of this image in the prophetic vision is to show that the Sefirot are not something outside of Him in any way, for nothing exists against His will, but that His light shines in this way [within the Tzimtzum, like lightning] until it disappears. In other words, what is concealed [in the the Tzimtzum] is the perfection that was in Him from the beginning [before the Tzimtzum], just as it is now [in truth, even in the phase of concealment, within the Tzimtzum, for even within the present concealment, His perfection is really in control] just as it will be at the end.
Between the one and the other [between the initial and final perfection, within the Tzimtzum], all the Sefirot exist - they are the source of the entire government of all the worlds, for everything is included in these ten Sefirot. And what is the end goal of the entire government? The restoration of perfection [Eyn Sof, beyond Tzitzum] as at first. Thus during the concealment, the government starts from Keter, and does not end until Malchut. And when it is complete, what is the point? The point is that the perfection, which was initially concealed, is now fully revealed. This will be discussed further later on (Opening 30).
The prophetic vision was so instituted because all ten Sefirot are a complete cycle of government emerging from Eyn Sof, blessed be He, and returning to Eyn Sof, blessed be He. Now if you count the levels from the concealment [Tzimtzum] onwards, the first will be Keter and the second Chochmah, and so on until the end. But if you view the steps as leading to the ultimate future revelation after the entire cycle - for this is where the entire cycle leads - the first step after the concealment is the very first to approach the end and is thus the furthest away from it. Inasmuch as it is close to the head, it is called Keter, but because it is furthest from the end, it is called Malchut. So it is in the case of all of them. Thus the descent of the worlds under the government of the Sefirot one after the other turns out to be their ascent, as will be explained presently.
As it says: "I am first and I am last" (Isaiah 44:6). This refers to His encompassing everything above and below, to show that He is everything. And He is revealed as such at the beginning as at the end. What this means is that in order to understand the government of the worlds it is necessary to understand as follows: At first, there was complete perfection - "Everything was filled with the simple light of Eyn Sof" (Eitz Chayim, Igulim VeYosher 1:11:3). This perfection was concealed [through the first Tzimtzum or "contraction"]. Then the government of the worlds came into being [the Kav or "line"]. The end goal of the government is also complete perfection as at first [the complete revelation of His unity].
The closer any given level is to Him, the more it is magnified with His Name, and what was Malchut becomes Keter. This means that the ends turn about (from Malchut to Keter and from Keter to Malchut) and all the others change around in sequence (Yesod into Chochmah etc.).
(2) The second kind of direct and returning light: No light accomplishes its purpose until it emerges from and then returns to its Source.
The first kind of direct and returning light - in the government of the worlds, as we have been discussing until now - is constant. The second kind relates to how the lights are emanated within the causalchain (Hishtalshelut). No light is emanated except through the descent of the flash (He'arah) and its subsequent ascent from there [i.e. from the place to which it descended], for then the level in question remains there, as stated below.
In other words, the light descends with great power all the way down to the bottom. When a given light has to make one or several levels, it descends without deficiency or hindrance but rather with great power. It then ascends again, leaving behind what it leaves [i.e. a trace, reshimu, of its radiation, namely the level that remains there below]. This is because what descends is the actual light of Eyn Sof, blessed be He, for all the lights emerge from Him. Through their standing there in their place [after the ascent of this great light], the individual limited light suited to that level takes on its own existence. When the great light ascends to return to its Source, this part remains. This is what creates the bond connecting the lights themselves with their Source.
For every branch is rooted in its source, and not like its power below is its power at its root above. Do not think that the way a given power appears down below now is the same as its power above at source. When a power descends, its own essential root descends, for as yet the branch does not exist. After reaching the place of the branch, the root ascends, leaving the branch it produced in its place down below. The branch pursues its Source after the Source's ascent.
Afterwards, as it ascends, it leaves down in its place below the level in question, while the light itself goes up. This is when it has to make levels: the light descends with power and then ascends. As the light ascends, so it leaves levels - the levels from which it ascends, leaving them behind. The given level then remains there, built in its place within the structure, and so in the case of all of them. For it is when the great power of the root activates the branch that the branch emerges. The branch emerges only in its proper place. The root power descends to the place of the branch, and from there ascends, leaving the branch formed there and built into the structure. The root light does the same thing [i.e. it leaves level after level] as it continues its ascent to the very end of all the levels.
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by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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