THE KNOWLEDGE OF G-D
The Need for restraint and concentration
In order to understand the transition from Kadmon to the beginning of actualization, we must return to the microcosm, the human being. In order for an intention to come out into actuality from the heyulie state to a specific line of movement, there must be an initial restraint and concentration (Tzimtzum). This is because the heyulie for movement, as it exists in the power of movement of the soul is unlimited. It therefore contains within itself the heyulie for every possible movement that one could make, as one simple undifferentiated unity. Since all the movements exist there as one, at this point he is incapable of making any movement. This is because a movement is specific and thus excludes all other movements. An example of this is the case of a person who is suddenly attacked by a wild animal, such as a mountain lion. The attack is so unexpected and shocking that he freezes. Why does this happen? Why doesn’t he run to save himself? The reason is because at that moment, he is so frightened that he wants to run in every direction, all at once. Therefore he cannot run in any direction. This is to say that the entire heyulie for movement wants to come out at once. Because of this, he cannot limit himself to any one direction and is immobilized. Nonetheless, after a moment, when he gets hold of the desire to run in all directions and concentrates on one specific line of movement, he regains his ability to move, and runs for his life. Another example is a person who stutters. The reason he stutters is because he is trying to bring out the whole thought in one shot. There are a wide variety of ways that one thought may be expressed, as we see, that two people may express the same idea with completely different words, but he cannot limit himself and concentrate on one specific line of speech to the exclusion of all others. From theses examples we can clearly see the need to restrain oneself from all the possibilities, and concentrate on one specific line of thought or movement in order to be able to bring them out.
Another example of this is the teacher-student relationship. When a teacher wants to teach a student, he must set aside the deep and broad understanding of how he knows the subject and concentrate on its central point, as it applies to the student. Only then can he draw out a line of explanations from this point, suited to the mind and temperament of the student. Were he to attempt to teach the subject, according to his own deep and broad understanding of it, without focusing on the point, to the exclusion of all else, the student would fail to comprehend the subject at all. Again we see that in order to act, there needs to be restraint and concentration.
Now that we have understood the need for restraint for a human being to bring out an action, we may likewise discern the matter of restraint above, in the Infinite Light. In order for there to be a transition from the infinite revelation of Ohr Ein Sof, to a limited line of revelation, there must be a Tzimtzum – a restraint. The Ein Sof (The Infinite One) concealed the Infinite Light within Himself, so that the central point, as a finite revelation, could be revealed.
This may be understood from the teacher-student relationship. The teacher understands the subject in a broad and deep manner. Because the student is not on the same intellectual level as he, the teacher must remove from his own mind, the entire breadth and depth of it, so that all that remains is an impression of the subject, the central point. Of course, the teacher did not actually forget anything. He merely put it aside, for the time being, and concealed it. He has not forgotten it at all, though he has put it “in the back of his head”, so that it is not at the forefront of his consciousness. However, if someone were to ask him a deep question on the subject, he could answer it immediately and expound on it at great length, even though he is presently teaching the student with brevity. So too, above, in order to create a limited world, G-d concealed the revelation of the Infinite Light into Himself. This concealment brought about the revelation of the finite as a “central point”, so to speak. But this concealment is not an actual concealment, in the way of forgetfulness. Even though He has “set it aside”, so to speak, He knows it totally. This means that even following creation, the entire Infinite Light and revelation of G-d “encompasses” the entire Creation in a hidden way.
We also see, that the Tzimtzum is not a true concealment because its entire intent is actually to reveal, just as a teacher’s true intent is to reveal knowledge to the student rather than to conceal it. Nonetheless, he conceals the way he knows it and reveals it according to the capacity of the student. In the same way G-d did not create the world according to His ability, but according to our capacity. Were a teacher to “reveal” the entire length, breadth, and depth of a subject to the student, the way he himself understands it, it would be beyond the capacity of the student’s vessel to receive. In actuality, this would not be revelation at all, but concealment.
But even more than this, the teacher’s true intention is not merely to
teach the student a lesser knowledge, but rather, his ultimate goal is that the
student should receive the full knowledge, as he himself knows it. This is
analogous to a great mathematician who is teaching small children mathematics.
He cannot teach it to them the way he understands it, because he knows
geometry, algebra, trigonometry, numbers theory etc., all of which are
completely above their heads. He must first remove the way he understands
mathematics from his mind and focus on the central “theme” or “point” of
mathematics. Then from this point he will “draw out” smaller points, which will
be the building blocks for greater and greater understanding of mathematics.
First he will teach them to add, then to subtract, multiply, divide etc. In
this way, he will move from point to point, on his line of explanation. His
ultimate goal, though, is not that they just know to add and subtract etc.
Ultimately, he wants then to know mathematics as he does. In the same way, it
must be understood, that G-d’s goal in Creation is
not just to reveal G-dliness in a limited fashion.
Rather, through greater and greater revelation, the ultimate goal is that we truly
know G-d, as He knows Himself, so to speak. This will come about in the World
to Come. About this Isaiah 64:3 states, “No eye has seen it.”
Furthermore, the entire length, breadth and depth of the subject as the teacher understands it, is implied in the central point that remains. This may be understood by the fact that in the short rulings of the Mishnah, is included, in an implied, hidden fashion, the entire length and breadth of the Talmud. In the words of the brief explanation, the entire length, breadth and depth of the full understanding is implied. Likewise above, an impression of the entire Infinite Light is concealed in the central point that remains after the Tzimtzum. For this reason, this central point is called the Reshimu – “The Impression”, because it retains in itself, in a hidden way, an impression of the entire revelation of the Ohr Ein Sof, which was withdrawn.
We now may summarize several points in regard to the Tzimtzum:
1) The Tzimtzum cannot be understood literally, for this would imply a limitation in G-d, Heaven forbid. Rather, we must say that it is only the Ohr Ein Sof- “The revelation of the Infinite”, which was withdrawn, and not the Ein Sof- “The Infinite One”, Himself. Furthermore, this concealment of his revelation is only in relation to us, the receivers, rather than Him, the giver. From His point of view, nothing has changed, as the verse states, “I HaShem have not changed.” Just as He was one and alone before the creation, so is He one and alone, after the creation.
2) The concealment brought about by the Tzimtzum is for the purpose of revelation rather than concealment. If G-d would reveal his light according to his ability, rather than our capacity, that revelation would actually be concealment, because it would be totally beyond us. Therefore, even this concealment is actually part and parcel of His desire to do kindness, which was the motivating factor of creation.
3) G-d’s ultimate intention is not to reveal a limited revelation of G-d. Though He reveals according to our capacity to receive, nonetheless, the ultimate intention is a full awareness of G-dliness. This will happen in the future, in the World to Come.
4) An impression of the entire Infinite Light is hidden in the central point of the Reshimu.
5) It must be understood that this Tzimtzum (holding back) and Reshimu (impression of the point), are still totally within Himself. This is similar to the teacher who sets aside his own understanding of the subject and concentrates on its central point, before he draws out an actual line of teaching from this point, or in the analogy of the person who is attacked by a mountain lion, this is when he restrains his urge to run in all directions, and concentrates on the point of running in a specific direction, before he draws out an actual line of movement from this point.
The Point and Impression
From the above, we understand that a central point, which contains an impression of the essential light of the soul remains. In the analogy of the teacher-student relationship, it is from this impression, this point, that the entire line of thought is drawn from the teacher to the student. Let us now examine exactly what this impression is.
As mentioned before, when the teacher “holds back” the broad and deep way of how he understands the subject, a central point remains. This point is the central “theme” or “point” of the concept and contains the entire concept within itself, in an implied, hidden manner. Only afterwards, when he concentrates on bringing out the point, is it possible for him to bring out a clear line of explanation from it, tailored to the capacity of the student. Now, when one explains a concept, he must use many words to bring it out. All the words of the explanation are “strung together” by the “line” of thought, which is an extension of the point and holds the thought together. This line is drawn out by going from point to point in the explanation, for a line is made up of many points. Each point along the line is one particular of the thought, and when they are strung together they make up a complete expression of the thought.
However, though the line of thought and the particular points which make it up, extend from their source in the central point, nevertheless, the central point is present throughout the entire continuum of the line from beginning to end. If this were not the case, neither the line nor its particulars could exist. This can be readily understood by the fact that in any action the central point must be present throughout.
It sometimes happens that a person goes to the refrigerator to take out something to munch on. He opens the refrigerator door and stands there with a blank expression on his face. He knows he must have come there for something, but he cannot remember what, so he makes an about face and goes back to the bedroom. The reason this happened is because he forgot the central point of why he went through all the particular points in the line of action which brought him to the refrigerator. Because he was distracted and forgot the point, the whole action was aborted. From this it is self understood that even when only the central point exists, before the line of action with all its particulars is drawn out, the entire line of action already exists as a heyulie-ability within the point.
In the same way, in the analogy of the teacher-student relationship, this central point includes within itself an impression of the entire depth and breadth of the teacher’s intellect, just as the brief teachings of the Mishnah imply the entire depth, length and breadth of the Talmud.
Another example of how the entire light is included in this impression is from a blueprint which includes the entire structure of the building in it, to the finest detail. It is from this blueprint that the contractors will build the building. Not a single detail of the building is missing from the blueprint. Nonetheless, a blueprint is not a building. It is just an impression of the architect’s imagination.
(A further example of an impression which includes the entire light, but
in a way of greater concealment, is the analogy of a person who gestures a sign
with his fingers, like the V for victory. This gesture is very meaningful to
all who understand its symbolism, especially during times of adversity, but by
itself it is nothing more than two fingers held up in the form of a V. It has
no real co-relation to the concept being conveyed. Nonetheless, when this
gesture was popularized by Sir Winston Churchill during the Second World War,
it became a source of great hope and encouragement to millions of people
throughout the world. This is similar to the analogy of someone who ties a
string around his finger as a reminder of something. This little string might bring to mind very
deep and profound concepts, but only to one who knows its meaning. The string
itself is not at all related to the concepts, for after all, it is only a
An even greater example of concealment is the analogy of someone who throws a ball. Once the ball leaves the hand of the pitcher, it is totally separate and removed from him. Nonetheless, the power of movement of the pitcher is still invested in it. It is this power which propels the ball into the air.
Reshimu – Impression
From the above, we understood that following Tzimtzum there remained a point which contained an impression of the entire Infinite Light, in a hidden way, and that it is similar to a blueprint. The blueprint is the design of the structure in all its details. From the blueprint the entire building is constructed exactly according to the intent of the architect. Not a single detail is missing.
Likewise above, although the Infinite Light is concealed in the Reshimu (Impression), nonetheless, it is all there. Not a single detail is missing. Furthermore, it is from this point and impression that the entire Creation is constructed. This is understood by the fact that a line is drawn from a point, just as the letter ו (vav) begins with the letter י (yud).
We see that the Reshimu represents two opposites, concealment and revelation. The Infinite light, which precedes it, is concealed in it, whereas all that follows it, is revealed through it. All of Creation is drawn from this point and included in it.
Kav V’Chut - The Line and Thread
The Kav V’Chut-Line
and Thread, which is the next stage in the creation process is the exact
opposite of what preceded it. Whereas
the Reshimu (Impression) is a complete withdrawal
into a point, in which there is no extension or revelation, the Line and Thread
represent extension and revelation. A point has no dimensions. Nevertheless, a
line cannot exist without a point for every line must begin with a point. A line is drawn from a point, thus creating
the dimensions of up and down, beginning and end. In the analogy of the
teacher-student relationship, this is the line of explanation that comes out of
the central point and theme of the subject. Due to this a revelation from top
to bottom, from the teacher to the student, becomes possible.
Similarly, when a person wants to think, speak or act, he must first focus on the point. Then the point must be extended and “threaded” through the entire line of action. This is analogous to the line which is threaded through the pearls of a necklace to hold them together. Similarly, if a person desires to express a thought to his friend, he must focus on the point and hold it in his mind throughout the conversation. If he will be distracted in some way he will forget the point and lose the “thread” of thought. Only when he is reminded of the point will he again be able to continue where he left off.
Furthermore, during the time that a student receives a teaching, he must make himself into a point, so to speak. This means to say that he must stay totally focused and invest his whole being into absorbing the teachings. Only afterwards, when he reviews the subject in his mind, can he analyze and contemplate all its ramifications and applications, thus bringing out its length and breadth. It is only then that he will be able to draw out a length of explanation to a fellow student.
From all the above it is clear that if one cannot focus on the point he will think and speak in a rambling and disjointed manner. This is because a person is capable of speaking only one letter at a time. The line of thought which contains the point must be “threaded” throughout his speech in order to make up words and sentences which give shape to a whole thought. In his actions too, if a person cannot focus on the point of the line of action, he will jump from one activity to the next, having difficulty finishing any one task and never accomplishing much. This is because there is no flow or clear line of thought or action from a central focal point. From all this we see that the point is the heyulie for the line, and that the line extends from the very beginning of the revelation process to its final culmination.
In the same way, in the creation process, the Reshimu (Impression) is the central point which remains after the Tzimtzum (Holding back). This Reshimu contains within itself everything that will come out in the entire “line of action” of creation, to its finest detail. However, in the Reshimu, all this is in a way of a Heyulie (Ability). Nothing has actually come out yet. Everything is still in a state of total concealment. It is specifically the Kav V’Chut, the line and thread that extends from the point of the Reshimu, which brings about revelation to the worlds. Unlike the Ohr Ein Sof, which is an unlimited, infinite revelation of G-d, the Kav V’Chut is a “thin band” of revelation specifically tailored to the capacity of the world. It is the “thread” of revelation that runs through all the spiritual worlds from the highest spiritual levels to this lowly physical world. The Kav V’Chut (Line and Thread) is the “connection” between the Giver and the receiver. In this fashion the Kav V’Chut represents both concealment and revelation. It is a concealment in that it reveals only a “thin band” of finite revelation, rather than the complete Infinite Light. On the other hand, it is a revelation in that it reveals according to the capacity of the recipients to receive.
However, it must be noted that though this extension of the Kav V’Chut comes from the Reshimu, in actuality it does not go out of it at all, but in to it. As mentioned before, the Reshimu is the central point which was left after the withdrawal of the Ohr Ein Sof (The Infinite Light). As such, it is called the, Makom Panooy (The Empty Space of the world). As long as the Infinite was in a state of total revelation, there was no possibility for the revelation of the finite. There was no “room” for it, so to speak. The Tzimtzum, which is the withdrawal of infinite revelation, brought about a Reshimu, a “space”, and “impression”, where the Infinite was not revealed, thus giving rise to the possibility of the finite. All of existence, from the highest world to the lowest world, is within this Makom Panooy (Empty Space). Therefore, when we say that the Kav V’Chut extends from the Reshimu, it means that it extends from it, but into it, rather than out of it.
Kav HaMidah - The Measuring Line
However, before there can be any actual revelation, there must first be a determination as to how long the Line and Thread should be. In the teacher-student relationship the line of explanation is what connects the teacher’s intellect to the student’s intellect. The length of the line represents the length of the descent which is necessary from the teacher’s mind to the student’s mind. Depending on the intellectual level of the student, that is “how far” the teacher will find it necessary to “bring down the subject” to the level of the student. In order for the teacher to shape his teachings to the capacity of the student, he must assess exactly who it is he is teaching. This assessment is at the very beginning of the line, so to speak, and is a slight protrusion from the point. It is called Kav HaMidah (The Measuring line) or Amat HaBinyan (The Builder’s Rod), because, though it is short, like a builder’s rod or a measuring line, nevertheless, all the measurements of the building are done with it.
In the same way, the Kav HaMidah (Measuring Line) is the ability of the teacher to “measure” and “assess” the student before the actual line of explanation itself. He must measure and assess the capability and intellectual level of the student. If he is teaching college students he will teach one way and if he is teaching third graders he will teach another way? Likewise, whenever someone speaks, before he begins, there must be a measuring process of who exactly he is speaking to. Only after he has measured the listener, will he be able to tailor his words according to that person. The type of person he is speaking to will determine the length of the line. If he is speaking to his intellectual equal, he will not have to bring the concept down too far and the line will be very short. If he is explaining a deep concept to a small child, however, the concept will have to be brought down very much and the line will be quite long. This applies to every action. If one is doing a simple task, the line need not be long. If one is doing a great task, such as studying a difficult subject, the line must be longer.
In the same way, in the creation process, the Kav HaMidah represents the ability to measure all of Creation, on all its levels. According to each spiritual level within the Seder Hishtalshelut, (Chaining down of the worlds) so will be the “length” of the line necessary to reach them. It is through this short “Yard stick” that the “measurement” of everything that ever existed or ever will exist comes about. It is all determined by the Kav HaMidah, the short measuring line which protrudes from the Reshimu. Furthermore, though a measuring line is short, it can measure anything. This represents G-d’s infinite ability to reveal Himself on any level, whether it is the highest or the lowest.
From the above, we see three general abilities in G-dliness.
1. The Ohr Ein Sof (The Infinite Light) represents the general ability for infinite Divine revelation.
2. The Tzimtzum and Reshimu (Restraint and Impression) represent the general ability for the absolute withdrawal and concealment of Divine revelation.
3. The Kav V’Chut (Line and Thread) represents a combination of the two, revelation and concealment, but both in a limited way. This is to say that there is a limited revelation of G-dliness according to the vessels of the recipients. This represents the general ability to reveal G-dliness on any level, whether it is the highest or the lowest.
HaGadol, HaGibor V’HaNorah–The Great, The Mighty and The Awesome
These three abilities correspond to the three Divine attributes which are mentioned three time daily in the first blessing of the Amidah prayer; HaGadol, HaGibor V’HaNorah (The Great, The Mighty and The Awesome)
- “The Great”, refers to the Ohr Ein Sof (The Infinite Light) which is G-d’s ability to reveal infinitely.
- “The Mighty”, refers to the Tzimtzum and Reshimu (Restraint and impression) which is His ability to restrain and conceal His revelation absolutely.
- “The Awesome” refers to the Kav V’Chut (Line and thread) which is His limitless ability to reveal in a restrained manner on any level between the two extremities of either infinite revelation or absolute concealment.
The Ten Sefirot
Before we continue explaining the creation process we must first introduce the concept of the Sefirot. Everything in existence contains certain qualities that give it characteristics which distinguish it from others. Every person possesses qualities that give him his unique personality and individuality. Every physical object is made up of specific qualities and characteristics which differentiate it from others. However, all existence may be categorized into ten general qualities. It is the combinations and permutations of these ten essential qualities that are the source for every quality and characteristic that exists. All other qualities and characteristics are merely derivatives of these ten. These qualities are called the ten Sefirot. Each Sefirah subdivides into ten and those in turn also subdivide into ten, etc. ad infinitum. Everything that exists derives from the combinations and divisions of these qualities.
The ten Sefirot are:
1. Keter – Crown
2. Chochmah – Wisdom
3. Binah – Understanding
4. Chesed – Kindness
5. Gevurah – Might
6. Tiferet – Beauty
7. Netzach – Conquest
8. Hod – Majesty
9. Yesod – foundation
10. Malchut – Kingdom
The first set of Sefirot is called The Three Upper Sefirot. This is because they correspond to the intellectual faculties. They are also called Mochin (Brains). They are:
1) Keter (Crown), which corresponds to the quality of pleasure and desire. (There also is a Sefirah called Da’at (Knowledge), which is actually one with the Sefirah of Keter and corresponds to the aspect of focusing and connecting to a subject. This Sefirah represents the intellectual interest into a subject, which relates to the aspect of desire.)
2) Chochmah (Wisdom), which is the ability to have a new insight into a subject. All wisdom derives from this Sefirah.
3) Binah (Understanding or Comprehension), which corresponds to having a comprehensive grasp and understanding into the subject by way of detailed analysis.
The next set of sefirot is called The Seven Lower Sefirot, and corresponds to the emotions (Midot). They are:
1) Chesed (Kindness), which is the quality of giving and revealing to others.
2) Gevurah (Might), which is the diametric opposite of Chesed. This is the quality of withholding and concealing from others.
3) Tiferet (Beauty), which represents the merging of the qualities of Chesed and Gevurah which brings about the quality of mercy.
4) Netzach (Conquest), which is the quality of overcoming all obstacles.
5) Hod (Majesty), which is the quality of grandeur and splendor.
6) Yesod (Foundation), which is the desire and ability to influence others.
7) Malchut (Kingdom), which corresponds to speech and action. It is called Malchut (Kingdom), because for a king, speech is regarded as an action. What a king decrees with his mouth, happens. Malchut also represents the desire to rule over others. All the above will be explained later in greater length and detail.