Moshe Chaim Luzzatto ("RaMChaL"):
138 Openings of Wisdom
The "back" in Atik: The face of BaN is the back of the face of MaH
The phenomenon of the backside, where the lights are darkened and do not radiate, is also not seen in Atik, for all of Atik shows a face on every side. The aspect of the back is absorbed within the aspect of the face that holds sway there. Except that there is a face because of MaH and a face because of BaN, and the face of BaN is considered like the back of that of MaH.
Following our general discussion of Atik, we must now explain one more detail that must be understood in connection with its male and female aspects.
This proposition consists of two parts. Part 1: The phenomenon of the backside... Atik has no actual "back". Part 2: Except that there is a face... Nevertheless, there is an aspect of "back".
Part 1: The phenomenon of the backside, where the lights are darkened... This too can be understood by considering the human form, which has a front - the "face" - facing and directed towards others, and a back, which is turned away and cannot be used to face anything. Similarly, the lights have an aspect through which they intentionally direct and set themselves on course in a particular direction, while other aspects are inferior to the "face" inasmuch as they lack this radiation and are subordinate to the main lights. Viewing the face, one finds a strong radiation powerfully directed towards the spectator, while looking at the backside is like standing behind a person's shoulders.
...and do not radiate... This darkness is not caused by any flaw: this is how it is by nature. For there are two levels in viewing the light: viewing its primary location, or looking somewhere less essential, where the radiation is less complete because that place is not recognizable as a "face" directed towards the onlooker.
...is also not seen in Atik... This indicates that there is no Judgment there at all. For the concept of the backside (אחוריים, achorayim) indicates removal and departure, in the sense that the lights are not directed downwards to the lower realm. Atik, however, which is the root of the complete and perfect governmental order, as will be discussed below, is all complete mercy, showing the face of sweetness on every side. Thus the proposition goes on to say:
...for all of Atik shows faces on every side.
The aspect of the back is absorbed within the aspect of the face that holds sway there. This answers an apparent difficulty. For we are saying that the face of MaH is to the front of Atik while the face of BaN is behind, and this may appear similar to the state of "back-to-back" in Zeir and Nukva, where, on the contrary, this is a deficiency, and they cannot couple unless they come face to face. Yet here we are presenting this as an advantage. This difficulty is resolved when we understand that the relationship between the male and female aspects in Atik is not the same as in the case of Zeir and Nukva. In the case of the latter, there is indeed a backside, and it is in order to protect the "back" from the husks (קליפות, kelipot) that the back is concealed within through the "back-to-back" state of the Partzufim. However, in the case of Atik the phenomenon of the backside does not exist. No back is revealed because of the great power of the face.
Two things are thereby resolved. Firstly, the male and female aspects in Atik are not "back-to-back" as in the case of Zeir and Nukva, because here, on the level of Atik, there is no backside. Secondly, they are able to couple together, for the state of Atik is called "face-to-face" since there is only a face on every side. For the category of the backside does not exist there at all but is absorbed within the lights of the face. (There is not the negative aspect of back-to-back required when two Partzufim must protect their back parts from the husks precisely because the two lack unity; Atik's being a single Partzuf that is all face shows the very perfection of Atik, and there is no higher level of coupling and partnership than this.)
Part 2: Except that there is a face because of MaH and a face because of BaN... Clearly, since they are two lights, they have two kinds of face. ...and the face of BaN is considered like the back of that of MaH. This is because they shine less than the face of MaH and they are slightly tilted because of the root of Judgment. Nevertheless, they are not actual "back", for they too look forth and shine to one who looks there.
138 OPENINGS OF WISDOM INDEX PAGE
by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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