Moshe Chaim Luzzatto ("RaMChaL"):
138 Openings of Wisdom
The images of prophecy derive from Malchut, and only through the lens of Malchut can we understand what is above it and what is below it.
The ability of the Sefirot to be represented in the images and likenesses of prophecy derives from the Sefirah of Malchut, which is the root of the lower realms. It is through Malchut that they are all made in the form in which they are made. Accordingly, the Kabbalistic sages said it is impossible to ascend or receive except through Malchut. Even the very forms of the images themselves provide knowledge of the wisdom with which the worlds are governed. For through them, we can know how the Shechinah - God's Indwelling Presence - needs to govern for the sake of the matter [represented in a given image] and to bring it down to the level of the lower realms. From and through Malchut, it is possible to gain knowledge of the levels above it, these being the actual powers and attributes of God's government [i.e. the Sefirot themselves, as opposed to the images through which these powers and attributes appear when seen in the lens of Malchut].
Following our discussion of prophetic likenesses and images, we will now explain the benefit they provide.
The proposition consists of two parts: Part 1: The ability of the Sefirot... This explains where the images of prophecy are rooted. Part 2: Even the very images and likenesses themselves... This explains the benefit we gain from them.
Part 1: The ability of the Sefirot to be represented in the images and likenesses of prophecy derives from the Sefirah of Malchut... For each Sefirah has its own particular, unique power, and that unique power influences all the other Sefirot. The ability to represent the other Sefirot through the images and likenesses of prophecy is the unique power of Malchut.
...which is the root of the lower realms. And for this reason, the beginning of form and likeness is found on the level of Malchut, which contains the very root of form and likeness. Accordingly, Malchut itself appears in the prophetic vision as the general category of a likeness or image. Malchut also acts as a "lens" or "looking glass" which shows the other Sefirot in the form of images or likenesses, because they can all be apprehended only through Malchut.
It is through Malchut that all are made in the form in which they are made. This means that only through Malchut can they be revealed and seen, and this is the reason why they all appear in the way they do in the prophetic vision. Malchut is like a lens or mirror, in which the form in which the objects standing before it appear depends upon its own intrinsic fitness and quality as a lens or mirror [polished, clear or unpolished, blurred, etc.]
Accordingly, the Kabbalistic sages said it is impossible to ascend or receive except through Malchut. This indicates that it is impossible to gain any perception of the higher realms except in this way.
Part 2: Even the very forms of the images themselves... It is not enough to understand the attribute revealed through and represented by a given prophetic image. It is also necessary to understand why it is that the attribute in question has to be represented by this image in particular.
...provide knowledge of the wisdom with which the worlds are governed. For Malchut is the root of the lower realms, and it is necessary to understand the various ways in which it is connected with them and how they are rooted in it. Afterwards, when you see the lights (i.e. the upper Sefirot) as depicted in these images, you will then understand how any particular light must be drawn down into the lower worlds precisely in this guise as a result of the unique qualities inherent in Malchut. For example, the prophetic image of the lion represents Chessed or Abba. If you understand what a lion is by contemplating the form of a lion in the lower world, you will then understand why Chessed must be channeled by the Indwelling Presence into the lower worlds precisely in this manner. And this is why the earthly lion, which emerges from Malchut, is made in this form.
...for through them we may know how the Shechinah (God's Indwelling Presence) needs to govern for the sake of the matter [represented in a given image]. Through understanding the images of prophecy in general - how the form of the creatures in the lower worlds is bound up with Malchut and its unique qualities - we can know how the levels and powers of Malchut are bound together to produce this thing.
...and to bring it down to the level of the lower realms. Malchut's power to depict things through images stands in the middle, between the flow of spiritual sustenance from the higher Sefirot and the receiving of that sustenance by the lower worlds. On their own intrinsic level up above, the sustaining powers (the higher Sefirot) are simple. However, when they descend in order to send spiritual sustenance into the lower worlds, the Shechinah must forge a bond of connection between the two. This is done by "translating" the simple light of the higher Sefirot into a form in which it can be received in the lower worlds through various "contractions", and the light can then go forth in this manner to its place in the lower worlds.
From and through Malchut, it is possible to gain knowledge of the levels above it, these being the actual powers and attributes of God's government [as opposed to the images through which these powers and attributes appear when seen through the lens of Malchut]. This is quite obvious, because the prophetic visions derive from Malchut, and through Malchut it is possible to gain an understanding of the powers with which God governs the world and their rules of operation.
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by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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