The act of Tzimtzum
Note: The Hebrew noun Tzimtzum (צמצום) denotes the act of contraction, pressing, squeezing or forcing into close confinement.
In bringing about the creation as a work outside of Himself, the Eyn Sof, blessed be He, willfully set aside His limitlessness and adopted a path of limited action. This is called the Tzimztum ("contraction") of Eyn Sof, blessed be He.
Having discussed how to understand the Sefirot, we know that they were a new innovation. We must now learn how they developed thereafter. You have already heard that in viewing the Chariot, there are two factors: the vision and the explanation -- seeing and understanding. I will now proceed to explain the vision. Since I have already set forth elsewhere the details of what is seen in the vision (in Pitchey Chochmah VaDaat and Klallut HaIlan), with hindsight you should now be able to understand them, for what follows is the explanation of the details. In order to make things easier, from this point onwards I will indicate how the various different aspects appear in the vision.
The proposition has three parts: Part 1: In bringing about the creation as a work outside of Himself... This tells us where the Tzimtzum took place -- to what it applied. Part 2: ...the Eyn Sof, blessed be He, willfully... This tells us what the Tzimtzum was. Part 3: ...and adopted a path of limited action... This tells us how the Tzimtzum took place.
Part 1: In bringing about the creation as a work outside of Himself.... The Supreme Will, which is Eyn Sof, blessed be He, includes different kinds of powers having no end or limit. But we are not talking about His aspect of limitlessness, with which we have no connection. Rather, we are talking about that particular power among His numberless powers that is the cause of us. The power that causes us is His power to bring about a work "outside" Himself -- in the sense of creating and governing apparently separate, independent realms and beings. This He did in accordance with His quality of goodness, for the nature of goodness is to bestow goodness upon others. If so, we are talking only about His acts and works, not about His own essence in Himself.
The truth of this is affirmed by the Tzimtzum itself. For the Tzimtzum took place only for the sake of the creation. If it had some other purpose, it would have had a different outcome. Since we see no other outcome of the Tzimtzum except the creation, which is its true outcome, if so, we may say that the Tzimtzum was for the sake of the creation. Further, His act of Tzimtzum prepared the way for the creation to come into being in a way suited to the nature of the created realms and beings, which exist within limits. If so, the Tzimtzum was for the sake of the creation. What is accomplished by all of Eyn Sof's other powers -- with the exception of the particular power that is the cause of the creation -- is not for the sake of the creation. If so, the Tzimtzum took place only in that which is for the sake of the creation, namely in His power to bring about the creation as a work outside of Himself.
In other words: Among His limitless powers there is one power -- the law that goodness bestows goodness -- which is the power to create realms and beings that exist as separate entities "outside" of Him. This is the power that is affected by the Tzimtzum, for initially this power was limitless, but He contracted it in order to create beings that exist within limits.
Correspondingly, in the vision, the Tzimtzum appears in one place, while all around it is Eyn Sof, blessed be He. In other words, His power to create creatures -- one among all His other powers -- appears in one place. All around it are all His other powers, endless and without limits. His aspect of limitlessness is removed from one place only, and this what is subject to the contraction.
Part 2: ...the Eyn Sof, blessed be He, willfully set aside His limitlessness... It is already clear to us that the Supreme Will in Himself is beyond all limits. Accordingly we must not think that He created only what He was able to create and that he was unable to create any more than this. He is certainly capable of much more, but He did not want to do more. He acted not in His aspect of omnipotence and limitlessness, but with precisely the degree of power that He calculated to be perfectly suitable to accomplish the intended purpose of His action. Thus we see that even though in Himself He is without limits, He set aside His limitlessness in order to bring about the creation. Accordingly, we may say that the power that is the cause of creation already lacks the aspect of limitlessness, which has departed from it.
To say that He set aside His limitlessness implies firstly that the Sefirot are not something new that was not already included in Eyn Sof, blessed be He. Prior to the Tzimtzum, the Sefirot already existed on a plane of limitlessness, and this is what He set aside in the Tzimtzum. The second implication of saying that He set aside His limitlessness is that as long as the Sefirot were totally subsumed in Eyn Sof, we cannot say they existed in the same way as they do now. We must say that they existed in some other way. For the difference between existence within limits and existence on the plane of limitlessness is not only one of quantity but also of quality. In their unlimited aspect, those same Sefirot had a different quality: they existed in a different way. If so, when they took on limits, they received a new quality. This is the sense in which they were an innovation. Through being revealed within limits, they came into being in the way they exist now, and this is the innovation.
Proof of these two inferences is as follows: The concept of limitlessness implies that every power which can possibly exist in the world and which might afterwards be found within bounds and limits must also exist on the plane of limitlessness without any boundaries at all. Accordingly, we must think of the limited power that brought the created realms into existence as being subsumed within the unlimited, and there its limits disappear. We may conclude from this that the pathway of limitation is included within the unlimited without boundaries.
It could be objected that if the pathway of limitation exists on the level of the unlimited without limitations and boundaries, this cannot be said to be the pathway of limitation. This objection may be answered if we distinguish between the kind of concept that includes another concept in the sense of affirming or maintaining its existence, and a different kind of concept that includes or involves another concept only in the sense that it is its very opposite and its negation. An example of the latter is death. The idea of death has no meaning without life, which death brings to an end. Death thus includes life in the sense that it is the negation of life, not that it sustains life. This is not so in the case of life, which does not include death at all.
Similarly, limitlessness includes limitations and boundaries -- in the sense that it is their very negation. This is the way in which the Sefirot exist in Eyn Sof, blessed be He. For the entire way in which He acts now -- within boundaries and limitations -- was already conceived on the plane of limitlessness as a hypothetical possibility that was, however, negated by His very limitlessness. If so, the finite existed in the infinite as a hypothetical possibility. When Eyn Sof wanted that His intrinsic limitlessness should not touch this part, it came into being in the way that it exists now, within limits.
This is quite simple, for the pathway of limitation was conceived by Eyn Sof, except that at the level on which He conceived it, it was beyond limits and boundaries because His intrinsic limitlessness held sway and brought it back to His level, which is beyond limitations. However, when Eyn Sof, blessed be He, removed His limitlessness from it, it remained as He conceived it prior to the removal of His limitlessness, except that now it was an actual creation as opposed to a hypothetical possibility. Thus prior to the Tzimtzum, the Sefirot were incluin Eyn Sof -- which is the first inference made above. However, on that level they existed not in the way they exist now but in a different way, which is the way of limitlessness. This is the second inference made above.
The way in which this appears in the prophetic vision is that Eyn Sof, blessed be He, contracts Himself in one place, leaving a place void of Him. This expresses how the work of creation is revealed with the aspect of limitlessness removed.
Part 3: ...and adopted a path of limited action. This is called the Tzimztum (contraction) of Eyn Sof, blessed be He. This indicates that the Tzimtzum is not only a matter of the absence of limitlessness. The Tzimtzum itself sustains the realm of boundaries and limitations in being. The Tzimtzum causes the disappearance of limitlessness, maintaining the boundaries and limits in being. In the realm of limits and boundaries thereby revealed lie the roots of Din, Judgment.
One may object: If the Tzimtzum is merely the departure of the aspect of limitlessness -- a matter of negation -- how can the Tzimtzum positively sustain or maintain anything in being? The answer is: It is the Will that wanted to reveal things in actuality (rather than their remaining as a mere hypothetical possibility) which brings all this about. What He wanted to reveal is His limited power. Accordingly He removed His aspect of limitlessness from it. If so, it is the act of Tzimtzum that actually sustains in being the limited realm revealed through it. This realm is revealed in accordance with His Will, through the removal of His aspect of limitlessness from the place of the Tzimtzum.
The way this appears in the vision is that in the place that remains contracted after the act of Tzimtzum, the root of Judgment is revealed, and this is what is maintained in existence through the Tzimtzum.
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138 OPENINGS OF WISDOM INDEX PAGE
by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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