The World of Nekudim
The World of Nekudim
Note: The name Nekudim derives from the verse in Genesis 31:10: "I saw in a dream, and behold, the rams which leaped upon the flock were streaked, speckled and grizzled". "Streaked" (עקודים akudim) alludes to the World of Akudim, the lights of the Mouth of Adam Kadmon, which were contained in a single vessel, as discussed in the preceding Openings. "Speckled" (נקודים nekudim) alludes to the World of Nekudim, so-called because it is the "world" in which the vowel points (nekudim) emerged as "broken", separate and unconnected vessels, prior to the Tikkun ("repair" or "rectification"). Nekudim is the plural form of the Hebrew word nikud (cf. nekudah), which means a "dot" or "point" (as in Tosefta Shabbat 12:8). The word nekudim is also found with the connotation of "crumbled pieces" (in Joshua 9:12 and Terumah 5:1).
The World of Nekudim was when Atzilut with all its branches were successively being made, like the way in which a craftsman makes a vessel out of a piece of wood: at first it is a shapeless mass, but afterwards, when its form is completed, its beauty is then visible in its complete form.
Now starts the World of the Nekudim -- the World of Chaos (תוהו, Tohu). This is the first thing that must be explained after the preceeding discussion because this is the light that emerged after the lights we have discussed above.
The proposition consists of two parts. Part 1: The World of Nekudim was when... This provides the definition of the World of Nekudim. Part 2: ...like the way in which a craftsman... This provides us with a metaphorical way of understanding this world.
Part 1: The World of Nekudim was when Atzilut with all its branches... "Atzilut" refers to everything in the world of Atzilut, while the "branches" are Beriyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah with all their offspring. All of them are woven in a single web and fall under one category, for they are one whole bound together in a single bond, starting with Atzilut and ending with Asiyah. This is the true root of everything in the lower realms, and it did not exist until we reached this level. Man himself is a combination of Atzilut, Beriyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, corresponding to his Nefesh (Asiyah), Ruach (Yetzirah), Neshamah (Beriyah) and Neshamah-of-the-Neshamah (Atzilut). All of the different creatures come under the same order in the categories of Inanimate (corresponding to Asiyah), Vegetable (Yetzirah), Animal (Beriyah) and Man (Atzilut).
...were successively being made... This indicates that Eyn Sof did not want to produce everything fully-formed from the very outset but rather, gradually, stage by stage, starting with the minimum perfection and advancing steadily towards ever-increasing perfection, until complete perfection will reign. Accordingly, what exists at the end is what existed at the outset, except that it then lacked the perfection that was intended to come afterwards.
Part 2: ...like the way in which a craftsman makes a vessel out of a piece of wood. This means that Eyn Sof did not want to act in accordance with His own intrinsic, limitless power, for He would then have produced complete perfection instantaneously. Rather, He acted like a craftsman who is only able to work gradually, in stages. He takes the lump of material in front of him and shapes it little by little. It undergoes many different changes of form, from one to another, until finally it ends up in its complete form.
At first it is a shapeless mass, but afterwards, when its form is completed, its beauty is then visible in its complete form. It starts off as a completely formless substance, then afterwards it steadily takes on more and more of a distinct form. Nevertheless, only when the form is complete is the beauty visible, but one who sees the shapeless mass at the outset or in its initial forms will merely see something faulty. However, in the end the true form will be seen in all its beauty, and it will then be evident that all this was necessary in order to come to that beauty.
This is exactly the way in which Atzilut developed. The Supreme Will began to design it above in the Supreme Mind (המחשבה העליונה, hamachshavah ha-elyonah). It was while it was still beginning to take shape, before its form was complete, that the lights of the Nekudim emerged, corresponding to Atzilut before it was complete. Afterwards the design of Atzilut was complete, and it emerged in all the beauty of its intrinsic form, this being the state of Tikkun, "repair" or "rectification", as will be discussed below.
Two things must be understood here. The first is that the World of Nekudim came into existence when the World of Atzilut first began to take shape, before it was complete. Atzilut was then like a vessel whose form was as yet incomplete. The second thing that must be understood is that the World of Nekudim is not to be identified with the World of Atzilut itself. Rather, it is what emerged while the form of Atzilut was still incomplete.
Thus the Zohar states: "When the Craftsman pounded with the iron hammer, it produced sparks on all sides, and the emerging sparks came out as flashes that lit up and were then immediately extinguished, and these are called the Primordial Worlds, and because of this they were destroyed and did not endure..." (Idra Zuta 292b).
To explain this: The other levels prior to the World of Nekudim (e.g. the worlds of Vision, Hearing and Smell of Adam Kadmon) can properly be called levels leading to the world of Atzilut, because they continue to possess the same quality they always had. When we examine this more closely we find it to be one quality which steadily approaches the Likeness of Man that typifies Atzilut, except that it is still a little distant from it because the development is gradual. However, we cannot call the World of Nekudim a "level", because it is not something that endured. It existed, and then it was negated, and now, in its place, is the actual Atzilut. If so, Nekudim cannot be called a level leading to Atzilut, because if it were, it should have remained in existence. Otherwise we would be faced with a "leap", because one level would be missing, while the supreme intention was to arrange all the lights in order, one under the other, and if there is no need for this level now, it was also unnecessary at the outset.
Rather, we must say that the Nekudim are not to be understood as a level on the scale leading to Atzilut. They are something different. The Nekudim correspond to the "flashes" and "sparks" mentioned by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Zohar II, 254b). As the craftsman pounds the metal, the flashes and sparks are what separates from the body of the metal under the impact of the blow that comes to shape and fix the vessel. Following this metaphor, Atzilut is where the Supreme Mind took the underlying mystery of the Likeness of Man in order to establish it on its foundation, and the Supreme Mind then picked out what had to be removed and discarded from there. And what was it that had to be removed? Evil.
In other words, the purpose of those lights (i.e. of Nekudim) was to bring forth evil, for the concealment had already reached the level from which it was possible for evil to emerge. Now the intention here was not that the lights of the Likeness of Man should produce evil. On the contrary, the whole intention was that they should be purified and rectified, as will be discussed in due course. It was then that what stood ready to produce evil became separated from the essential body of the Likeness of Man, which stood ready to arrange things in the the proper way. It was then that He brought forth and separated this function (evil) from the Likeness of Man, and it came forth and was seen in itself, these being the "sparks" that "flashed and were then extinguished". Thus they performed their alloted task. For initially they emerged with a flash, as if they too had control, and indeed it was from their rule that evil emerged. Had they had no place or function at all in the governmental order, they would not have amounted to anything. Rather, they flashed and appeared and ruled... and because of the evil, they were destr. This is the function of the Other Side: to cause destruction to this root. The Zohar accordingly states (loc. cit.) that "the Mind scattered sparks on three hundred and twenty sides", these being the entirety of all these kings (the shattered vessels).
We may sum up by saying that Atzilut was steadily taking shape, and initially it took on a certain form that had the purpose of producing evil. This is its incomplete, imperfect form, inasmuch as it contains forces standing in an imperfect state suited to the production of evil. This is the state seen afterwards in the kings themselves: i.e. the first three (Keter, Chochmah and Binah) were insufficiently prepared to provide the needs of the seven lower Sefirot, while the lower Sefirot themselves were altogether unable to endure. Thus when this function existed in the Likeness of Man, it was ready to produce evil. What did the Supreme Mind do? He brought this function forth and removed it from the Likeness of Man. It was a power contained within the Likeness to produce this function, and He brought it forth and made it separate, by itself. (This is the "serpent", the evil side, which stands outside of man. Initially, it was mixed up within him in order to give it entry if man sins.) It is not the main essence but a small power that is part of the overall Likeness, whereas the essence of the Likeness is to bring things to a state of repair.
And this small power divides in turn into many particulars, and the Supreme Mind then brought forth all these particulars by themselves and gave them a certain power, as will be discussed further below. However, if the Supreme Will had so desired, He could have produced the Likeness ready fixed from the very outset, without including evil at all. But He wanted it to contain this deficiency and that it should depart from it in this way so that it should remain fixed only at the end. This is the perfect form after the removal of all that limits it. And what this perfect form is, you will see below, with the help of Heaven.
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by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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