The function of the overall AV -- 288 sparks -- is to prevent the destruction of the vessels and the world
The essence of the Chariot consists of these names of AV, whereby the four Partzufim gain strength from Arich Anpin, which is beyond the reach of the damage. And here the Throne carries its bearers. It was therefore necessary for 288 sparks to descend from here to hold and sustain the vessels as they were descending so that the destruction would not be complete but only such that it could be repaired again. The affairs of this world were thus rooted in such a way that one power should endure so as not to allow the world to be destroyed, God forbid. Rather, through this remaining power, what was damaged will be repaired.
Having discussed the overall significance of this name of AV, it is necessary to explain its function and purpose in relation to the broken vessels. (The 288 Sparks correspond to the numerical total of the four names of AV=72 contained in the four Partzufim, as explained in the previous Opening: 4 x 72 = 288.)
This proposition consists of three parts: Part 1: The essence of the Chariot... This explains the function of the overall name of AV that we have been discussing. Part 2: It was therefore necessary... How this affected the vessels. Part 3: The affairs of this world... How it affecthe world.
Part 1: The essence of the Chariot consists of these names of AV... The Chariot is the overall bond of the entire governmental order, which consists of four levels, which are the four Chayot. Their essential function is bound up with these four names of AV, which are the mystery of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David, as explained in the teachings of the ARI (Pri Etz Chayim, Rosh Hashanah ch. 7).
At first sight this may appear problematic, for if these are the number of lights that descended at the time of the breaking of the vessels, as appears from the discourse on the 288 Sparks (Etz Chayim, Shaar RP"H ch. 2), what connection do the four legs of the throne -- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David -- have with this? However, the main point to grasp is that the root of these four names of AV lies in the mystery of the Chariot, as stated here, but that from here various aspects of them descended lower, as will be explained below.
...whereby the four Partzufim gain strength from Arich Anpin, which is beyond the reach of the damage. As explained earlier, the name of AV signifies the root (which is Arich Anpin) and is accordingly the source of their strength. And here the Throne carries its bearers. In other words, a reference to this phenomenon is contained in the saying of the rabbis that "the Throne carries its bearers" (see Zohar, Pekudey 242), alluding to how the power of Arich Anpin rescues the other Partzufim from the damage.
Part 2: It was therefore necessary for 288 sparks to descend from here... Very many sparks were in the process of going down with the vessels, as explained at length in the Kabbalistic sources. Afterwards, however, it was necessary to make a specific number of them so that they would come to a total of 288. For if not for this, it would have meant either that there was no need for any specific number at all, or that all the sparks that descended would have been counted as one, or that the first levels in each name would have been counted. But the essential principle is that it was in these sparks that fell that this matter of the four names of AV had to be revealed, and then all those levels were sorted and purified in the way explained in its proper place, until eventually these four names of AV remained in control, and all the others were included in them. And the truth is that the names of AV themselves radiate in a specific way in each name in accordance with the nature of that name, in order to lift them up above the damage, each one according to what befits it.
In other words, the levels that we see to have fallen with the breaking of the vessels are the very levels that the damage had the power to reach. And since there is a difference between the place reached by the defect in one name and the place it reaches in a different name, there is a difference in what will fall when the vessels break. Similarly, there is a difference in the way the name of AV is revealed, because it is revealed in whatever can become damaged, inasmuch as it is the main factor involved and it is this that lifts them up.
The sum of the matter is that it is through these names of AV that Arich Anpin lifts up the Partzufim, but it raises them in the place where they could be damaged, each in accordance with its particular nature. And the place where they were susceptible to being damaged became evident through the actual process of the breaking of the vessels, in that whatever fell is known to be that which was susceptible to being damaged. We thus find that what went down did so from the category of AV, and accordingly it is this that is counted, except that it is in the place where it is -- in AV's levels. But if had not gone down from AV but instead the sparks had descended according to the status of the names, either all of them would have been counted, or they would not have been counted at all.
...to hold and sustain the vessels as they were descending... This is a consequence that flows from what was explained earlier (Opening 30) that even though the unity becomes concealed, it necessarily continues to exist. Accordingly, even at the very moment of destruction, the destruction was not total but took place through the mystery of unity, whereby the unity does not prevent the Other Side from exercising great power yet still does not allow it complete control. ...so that the destruction would not be complete... i.e. total negation. ...but only such that it could be repaired again. So that afterwards it would be able to be repaired again.
Part 3: The affairs of this world were thus rooted... For everything that comes about in the Sefirot is nothing but a root for what is required in the lower creations. ...in such a way that one power should endure so as not to allow the world to be destroyed, God forbid. Nothing was to fall so far that no part of the light would be left to sustain it. If death is a fall, the vapor of the bones remains. If there is exile, the Shechinah never moved from shining some light over Israel. Rather, through this remaining power, what was damaged will be repaired. Even though what remains may be small, this is what maintains things in such a way that the repair will follow afterwards.
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138 OPENINGS OF WISDOM INDEX PAGE
by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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