Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto ("RaMChaL"):
138 Openings of Wisdom

Opening 25

The result of the Tzimtzum: the Sefirot became visible.

This Tzimtzum caused some of His light and radiance to become visible, whereas previously -- and this applies even now to those levels where the Tzimtzum does not reach -- they could not be seen or grasped in any way. And this light that is permitted to be seen is called emanated light, for it seems like a light that was newly generated. But the truth is that it is only a certain aspect of the primordial light, whose power was reduced through the Tzimtzum.

Having introduced the subject of the Tzimtzum, we must now trace its consequences, starting from the very first.

The proposition consists of two parts: Part 1: This Tzimtzum caused.... This informs us that the effect of the Tzimtzum was to enable the Sefirot to be seen. Part 2: And this light... This provides further understanding of this effect.

This Tzimtzum caused some of His light and radiance to become visible... For you surely already know and understand that what is beyond boundaries and limits cannot be seen. Initially the path of limitation and boundaries subsumed in Eyn Sof was also invisible, inasmuch as it was subject to His all-encompassing limitlessness, which turns all limits back beyond limits. But when the Tzimtzum came and removed the aspect of limitlessness from this pathway, the pathway remained there and now became visible. This is what caused ...some of His light. to become visible... This is the light of which we spoke earlier, which Eyn Sof wanted to be accessible so that the attributes of the supreme law would appear by way of radiations of light -- the Sefirot.

What this means is that it was not only as a result of the Tzimtzum alone that the divine attributes became visible as radiations of light, nor was this simply the inevitable consequence of the Tzimtzum. What the Tzimtzum did was only to remove the aspect of limitlessness from His power to bring a separate creation into being "outside" of Himself, so that from then on the work of creation would be subject to an orderly law within bounds and limits. Combined with this was His desire that this law should be able to be seen, and this is what caused the light to be visible.

Thus we see that the ability of the light to be seen was not merely an effect of the Tzimtzum but the result of God's will that it should be visible. Prior to the Tzimtzum, however, it was impossible for the light to be seen because it had no bounds or limits. If so, we may say that the Tzimtzum caused the light to become visible not in the sense that the Tzimtzum was the intrinsic cause of the light's ability to be seen but because the removal of limitlessness made it possible for it to be seen.

...some of His light and radiance... "Light" and "radiance" are terms that apply to the radiation emitted by a source of light. The radiation surrounds the source on the outside. This implies that the radiance that shines from Him is not something having no intrinsic relationship with Godliness, serving merely to designate Godliness in the way that an agreed sign may be chosen to indicate a given object although the sign has no intrinsic relationship with the object in question. On the contrary, this radiance is integrally related to Godliness, which it signifies directly.

For all that we see of Godliness is the Sefirot. However, the Sefirot are one way in which the Supreme WIll wanted to show His laws. This way is not intrinsic to Him but one that He willfully chose. If so, what we see of Godliness is not intrinsic Godliness in itself but only what He wants us to see. In that case, it might seem that you could not legitimately call the Sefirot Godliness but that you could only say they point to and indicate Godliness in a way similar to the way a written name designates the bearer of that name. The letters making up the name have no intrinsic connection with the bearer of the name but simply refer to him through an agreed convention. While the letters designate the bearer of the name, they are not in themselves a part of him in any way such that we could say they possess some intrinsic quality belonging to him. Yet we have called the Sefirot Godliness. If so, it must be that this radiation contains something Godly.

The truth is this: The radiation of light is Godly. In what way? Godliness is hidden from the created realms and their inhabitants, but they must nevertheless receive some revelation of it at the time when it is revealed to them. A comparable case is that of the beams of light that radiated from the face of Moses our Teacher, peace be upon him. Someone who stood before Moses would be ashamed to look directly in his face and would lower his eyes -- and then he would see Moses' radiance. Godliness is revealed to His creatures in the same way, yet they do not see it directly. What they see is only the radiance shining from Him, and this radiance is the Sefirot. This radiance relates to its Owner, being the revelation of the splendor of the glorious essence that remains concealed. That which is revealed of Him -- this radiation of light, the Sefirot -- is the radiance of Eyn Sof, blessed be He, namely the revelation of His splendor. If so, the Sefirot are bound up with Eyn Sof, blessed be He, the Owner and Source of this radiation.

It could be objected: We are saying on the one hand that because the radiance relates to its Owner, having emerged from Him, it is therefore intrinsic to Him. Yet we have said that the radiation was willful and not intrinsic, in which case the radiance does not relate to Him directly. If so, how can we call the Sefirot Godliness?

The answer is: It was God's will that the Sefirot should somehow be able to be apprehended by His creatures. When we say that the Sefirot are a radiation of light, what this means is that they emerged in such a way that they could be grasped by God's creatures. If so, the radiation was brought about willfully by God and is not intrinsic to His essence. His will was that the Sefirot should emerge by way of a radiation of light, but it could have been in a different way -- any way He might have chosen. However, the way He actually instituted was to make it possible for them to be apprehended by His creatures in the same way as a radiation that relates to the source emitting it, enabling us to gain some knowledof that source without actually seeing its intrinsic essence.

In other words, the Sefirot relate to His intrinsic essence, but the way they appear to us is subject to His will, and accordingly, His intrinsic Godliness is not visible to us. We may say that the Sefirot are Godliness in respect of their own intrinsic essence, but they are not Godliness inasmuch as they are visible to us, and the way they appear is bound up with the nature of the receiver viewing them. If so, the radiation of the light was a willful act of God, yet at the same time, the radiating light is bound up with its Owner. It is freely chosen in respect of the form in which it appears, but bound up with Him in its essence, inasmuch as it is a revelation of the Owner of the radiance. This explains the phrase of the sages describing the Tzaddikim in the future world as "enjoying the radiance of the Divine Presence" (Brachot 17a). They do not see the Divine Presence itself but attain a perception of the glory standing over them.

...whereas previously -- and this applies even now to those levels where the Tzimtzum does not reach -- they could not be seen or grasped in any way. Because of its visibility, there is a difference between the light we have been talking about -- the light of the contracted Sefirot -- and all that existed prior to the Tzimtzum, as well as Eyn Sof even now, after the Tzimtzum.

Part 2: And this light that is permitted to be seen is called emanated light... This is what the kabbalists call "emanated light" (אור נאצל, ohr ne'etzal, see Etz Chaim 1:3, 12b and 13b). One might mistakenly infer from the use of this expression that the Sefirot are an essentially new light which Eyn Sof drew forth and emanated from Himself, yet which is still Godliness inasmuch as the Emanator is attached to the Sefirot. This would certainly be an error, because drawing one thing out of another is a bodily accident. If so, we cannot say of Godliness that He drew one thing out of another, because that which He draws forth will also be Godliness.

It is called emanated light for the reason written here: for it seems like a light that was newly generated: There was no need for the essence of the light to be emanated as a new creation since it existed already in Eyn Sof. The innovation was that it should exist in the form of visible light. This is because whenever a given subject enters a new state that was not its initial state, this may legitimately be called a new innovation in its mode of being. In this case, a new state came into being: a state in which the light was visible -- which was not its initial state. If so, this is light in a new state of existence. For although in its essence it is the same as it was at first, the state of the light as visible was an innovation, and this is what is meant by emanated light.

But the truth is that it is only a certain level of the primordial light, whose power was reduced through the Tzimtzum. For the way of bounds and limits was originally subsumed within Eyn Sof, blessed be He, only His aspect of limitlessness caused the light to expand beyond all limits. When the aspect of limitlessness was removed from it, it remained with its limited power. If so, the light is from the very essence of Eyn Sof, but the Tzimtzum reduced and limited its power.

In the prophetic vision, the way in which this appears is that a new light -- the light of the Reshimu, the "Residue" -- was emanated from the concealed Source -- Eyn Sof.






Translated by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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