THE KNOWLEDGE OF G-D
Lights and Vessels
Now, before we can continue to explain the various parts of the emotions and their interrelationships with each other, the intellect, the desire and the self, we must first understand several important matters in regard to lights and vessels.
The Zohar states that “He and His life force are one” and “He and His organs are one”. “He and His life force are one” refers to the lights of the sefirot, and “He and His organs are one” refers to the vessels of the sefirot. The Sefer Yetzirah calls the lights of the ten sefirot, “The ten sefirot without whatness” (Esser Sefirot Blee Mah). In other words, the lights themselves are beyond form or description. As we learned above, the Essential Light is a quintessential singularity which is beyond description altogether. It is specifically the vessels which give description and tangible existence to the lights. This will now be explained in greater detail.
The ten sefirot have names. These names are the vessels for the sefirot. The reason for this is because a name draws out the essence and spreads it forth into revelation. This is understood by the fact that when one’s name is called out, it draws that person’s essential identity and attention toward the caller. Furthermore, a name is what gives description to something. This is to say that a description is a name. Now, a name is not the actual thing itself. Rather, it brings the essence of the thing to light and defines its specific form. If someone were to go to a craftsman and tell him, “make it for me”, without defining it by name, such as make a chair for me or make a table for me, the craftsman would surely not know what to make. He would simply not know what is wanted of him. Even if the person who placed the order has a clear picture in his own mind of what he wants, nonetheless, since no description was given, the object will never be made. It is the description of this thing, i.e. its name, which reveals it to the craftsman, and makes it possible for the object to come into actuality. Likewise above, the names of the sefirot etc. are the descriptions which contain and bring the G-dly light into revelation. Without the vessels of the names and descriptions, the G-dly lights could not be tangible and would remain completely beyond tangible comprehension and definition.
(Footnote: In general, the ineffable name of G-d has four letters, Y-H-V-H (Hebrew). Each of these letters corresponds to and represents particular sefirot. The thorn of the first letter, Yod, corresponds to Keter. This is because it is from this tiny point that everything originates. Nonetheless, it remains completely hidden. The body of the Yod itself, corresponds to Chochmah. This is because, as mentioned above, Chochmah, like the Yod, is a point, the seminal drop which flashes into Binah. Binah corresponds to the first Heh of the Holy Name. This is because this is where the point of Chochmah becomes expanded and developed into a tangible comprehendible thought with a length and width, similar to the shape of the Heh. The next letter is Vav, whose numerical value is 6. The Vav corresponds to the 6 emotional sefirot. The final letter is Heh. This corresponds to Malchut, which represents tangible actualization.
More particularly, just as the sefirot subdivide into many subdivisions, so too, this name can be expanded as well. Now since a name is a description or explanation of something, then an expansion of a name means that it is an explanation of the explanation. There are four general expansions of the ineffable name of G-d which also correspond to the subdivisions of the sefirot. These expansions too can be further expanded etc. In general, the following four expansions of the ineffable name are used:
The first is YOD-HY-VYV-HY (Hebrew) and is expanded with Yods. This is the name of 72-A"V (H) which is its numerical value. This name corresponds to Chochmah.
The second is YOD-HY-VAV-HY (Hebrew) and is expanded with Yods and an Aleph. This is the name of 63-SA"G (H) which is its numerical value. This name corresponds to Binah.
The third is YOD-HA-VAV-HA (Hebrew) and is expanded with Alephs. This is the name of 45-M"AH (H) which is its numerical value. This name corresponds to Zeir Anpin, the six emotional attributes.
The last is YOD-HH-VV-HH (Hebrew). This is the name of 52-B"AN (H) which is its numerical value. This name corresponds to Malchut.
These various names are the vessels of particular sefirot which bring out their essence into tangibility, description and existence. All of this will be discussed later at greater length.)
The Function of Vessels
The vessels have two aspects which are interrelated:
1) The first aspect is that the vessels give form and definition to the lights. This is in order to give them defined existence. Furthermore, it is because of the vessels that a transformation from spiritual existence to physical existence takes place. For example, because of the vessel of the physical eye, the spiritual power of sight transforms from spiritual sight to physical sight. Through the vessel of the physical arm, the spiritual power of movement transforms from spiritual movement to physical movement. The physical brain transforms the spiritual ability to think so that one can think only in physical terms. It is specifically because of the vessel that a transformation from spiritual existence to physical existence, from beyond definition to definition, from infinite to finite takes place.
2) The second aspect is that the vessels limit the light. For example, the human eye limits the power of sight to seeing only so far. The physical arm limits the power of movement to the limited capability and strength of the arm. The physical brain limits the power of thought. One can think so much before he has overloaded his brain and must rest. Such is not the case with the spiritual light itself. It is unlimited. On rare occasions the unlimited spiritual light of the soul may break forth. Examples of this are the well known cases of a mother who rescues her child who is trapped under the wheels of a vehicle. With superhuman strength she lifts the vehicle and rescues the child. Another example is a person running for his life from his enemies. He will suddenly be able to run much faster and much further than he is naturally capable of. Both of these are cases of the light of the soul breaking forth in an unrestrained fashion.
The Power to Limit & Actual Limitation
There are two kinds of limitation:
1) The first is the essential “ability to limit”. For example, a person has the “ability to limit” the unlimited power of movement to a specific movement. This “ability to limit” exist even before it becomes limited to any “actual movement”.
2) The second is the “actual limitation” to a specific movement when he moves his hand. Now, even though the limitation into an “actual movement” depends on the “power to limit” of the soul, nonetheless, the “power to limit” and the “actual limitation” are not comparable to each other. Firstly, the one is spiritual and essential, while the other is physical and separate from the self. Secondly, the ability to limit is not an “actual” limitation. It is only that he limits his power according to his desire and choice. It is not that he is actually limited and that he does not have the power to spread forth to a greater degree. Rather, it is simply that he does not have the desire to do so. Although it is the source of actual limitation in the movement, it itself is not actual limitation at all.
Likewise above in the sefirot, this “Power to limit” is the essential power to limit (Koach HaMagbil), which is the source of the vessels which define the lights of the sefirot. Furthermore, the “actual limitation” is dictated exactly according to the “power to limit”. Therefore, although the vessels define the light through names (definitions), nonetheless, it only goes according to the decision in G-d’s essential ability to limit (Koach HaGevool). Furthermore, the ability to limit becomes one with the limited action. For example, the ability to limit the power of movement of the hand becomes one with the actual limited movement of the hand. This, then, is the meaning of the statement, “He and His organs are one.”
Spiritual Form and Physical Form
It is clear that there are two matters to every vessel: form and substance. For example, in an eye, the substance is the physical vessel of the eye, whereas the form is the spiritual power of sight. In a brain, the substance is the physical organ of the brain, whereas the form is the spiritual power to think etc. It is clear that the substance of the eye limits the spiritual form of the eye which is the power of sight. Nonetheless, somehow, the substance of the eye is patterned after the spiritual form for sight. Because of this it can contain it. It is because of this that it becomes a vessel to it, like a glove to the hand. Likewise, the physical substance of the brain limits the spiritual form which is the power to intellectualize. However, though the two are essentially different, the one being a spiritual heyulie and the other being a physical organ, nonetheless, the physical substance of the brain is somehow patterned after the spiritual form of the heyulie to think. It thereby is a vessel designed to contain it.
Now, the substance is made up of the “thickening” of the form. For example, ice is nothing more than “thickened” water. It is specifically when the water thickens that it loses its fluidity and becomes solid. Furthermore, it is the last level of form which becomes the first level of substance. For example, from the last level of the power of growth, actual physical growth comes about. Another example is that it is the last level of the soul which becomes invested in the physical body. A further example is that the physical power of sight comes from the last level of the spiritual power of sight. For this reason when a child grows, the spiritual growth of his intellect is simultaneous to the growth of his brain. The substance of the vessel grows according to the growth of the form, which is the light.
The Thickening of the Lights
As mentioned above, the vessels come about from the “thickening” of the lights. This can be understood as follows. As explained earlier, the concept of a name is that it defines and describes something. It was further explained that the lowest level of the upper world, becomes the highest level of the lower world. This is to say that the Malchut of the upper world becomes the Keter of the lower world. A more tangible example of this is that from the letters of this book, which constitute its most external level, the inner intellect and motivation of the reader come about. When this book is studied thoroughly until its ideas “settle” in the mind, they become “thickened” to the point that they congeal as “concrete” concepts. At this point, not only do they become totally assimilated and “one” with the mind of the student, but he then will be able to convey them and explain them to others. From the last level of the letters of his thoughts, the ideas will come into his speech to convey them to someone else. This is how names work in general. From the external name and description of Chochmah of Adam Kadmon, the tangible light and revelation of Chochmah of Atzilut is revealed. It is from the “thickening” of the internal light that the vessels of that light come about. These vessels, in turn, become the “light” of the next level. So, as in the above example of a customer placing an order with a craftsman, from the internal letters of the seminal idea in the mind of the customer, come the letters of thought in the customer’s mind, of the details of the object he wants. Then, from those letters, come the letters of speech of the customer. This is when he orally “names” the object, such as saying “chair” or describes it to the craftsman, and as was stated above, to describe something is to name it. When the craftsman understands what the customer wants, this becomes his inner desire and his thought, speech and action, until at the end of the process, he crafts the actual object.
Now, when the customer goes to the craftsman and tells him to make a “table”, this is its external name. On the other hand, when the concept and description of the “table” is in his mind, this is its internal name. We see that there are internal names and external names.
The Source of the Vessels
From the above, we understood that the “vessels” come about from the “light”. It would, therefore, seem that the source of the lights is higher than the source of the vessels. This is because the vessels come about from the “thickening” of the light. However, this is problematic. It is clearly observable that when, G-d forbid, a person passes away, his soul departs but his body remains intact. Now, if the vessels only exist as a result of the thickening of the lights, then how is it possible that the vessel could remain intact without the light? How could the body exist without a soul?
Furthermore, in order for there to be any “thickening”, there must be an original vessel, as in the example of the ice. If there is no original vessel to halt the fluidity of the water how could it freeze into ice? Another example is that of a balloon. When one blows air into a balloon, the air thickens due to the pressure of the walls of the balloon. This expands the balloon, giving it its form. Now, if there was no original vessel of the balloon, how could there even be a thickening of the air to begin with?
It is, therefore, clear that the source of the vessels preceded the source of the lights, for it cannot be otherwise. If this were not so, then how could the vessels have the power to contain the lights? The container must be of a higher order than the thing contained. Furthermore, how would it be possible for the vessel to remain intact after the light is withdrawn?
That the source of the vessels precedes and is higher than the source of the lights, resolves several issues:
1) Firstly, it gives us insight into how it is that the vessels have the capability and power to restrain the lights.
2) Furthermore, it resolves the fact that the vessels have their own existence separate and apart from the lights. Therefore, they can remain intact even after the withdrawal of the light.
3) Even more, it explains how there must be an original vessel in order to thicken the lights.
In conclusion, the vessels are independent of the lights. Nonetheless, they receive their form from them. Therefore, what is meant when we say that the vessels come about from the “thickening” of the lights, is only that the vessels receive their form from the “thickening” of the lights. On the other hand, the actual substance of the vessel is independent of the light and is from a higher source than it. This may be understood from the example of a balloon. The balloon exist as a “formless substance” before the air is blown into it. Afterwards, when the air is blown into it, it takes on form. In the same way, the substance of the vessels exists before the light is contained within them, but it is the light which gives them form once it is invested within them.
The Inclusion of Opposites in the Vessels
Now, there is an advantage of the vessels over the lights in the fact that it is specifically because of the vessels that the investment of a light in its opposite vessel can take place. As mentioned before, this is the most important quality of Tikkun. This means that a vessel of Gevurah can contain a light of Chesed, or that a vessel of Chesed can contain a light of Gevurah. For example, when a parent disciplines his or her child, it is an act of Gevurah which contains the light of Chesed. The inner motivation is love, not anger. Rather, it is in the best interest of the child, so that he will mature into be a responsible human being. However, the act itself is one of sternness (Gevurah). This is an example of how the act (vessel) could be Gevurah, but its inner intent (light) could be Chesed.
The opposite is also true. The vessel could be Chesed and the light could be Gevurah. An example of this is a business man who suspects his employee of embezzling. He is very angry at him and wants to harm him. Instead of firing him, he does the opposite. He doubles his salary for several months and then fires him. By then, the employee has become so accustomed to earning double the salary, that he will find any job that pays less below his dignity. This will literally ruin his life. In this case, the inner intent (light) is Gevurah, but its vessel, which is the act of giving him a raise in salary, is a Chesed.
Furthermore, as can be seen from any human being, every organ is connected to every other organ of the body, and depends on it for its well being. All the parts of the body work together as one integrated system. For this reason if someone has an ingrown toenail, it will affect his ability to function on the job or to concentrate on his studies. This interconnectedness of the organs, one with the other, is the basis of acupuncture, where, in order to heal a person’s eyesight, for example, needles will be stuck into his foot.
This inclusion and symbiosis of the vessels, one with the other, does not apply to the lights. If a person is having trouble with his eyes, for instance, no matter how many good intentions he may have, it will not improve his eyesight. Furthermore, as mentioned before, opposite lights cannot coexist. The light of Chesed and the light of Gevurah are mutually exclusive and cannot coexist. Rather, it is specifically the vessels which have the ability to bring about the compromise and synthesis of opposites. Thus, as mentioned before, it is specifically through the abundance of vessels, that Tikkun (rectification) can take place.
The Body of the King
There are three main organs (vessels) in a human being which are the chief organs of the body. These are the brain, heart and liver. The brain is the vessel for the intellect, the heart is the vessel for the emotions and the liver is the vessel for the physical life force. The brain is the vessel for the Neshamah level of the soul, which animates the intellect. The heart is the vessel for the Ruach level of the soul, which is the spirit of life and emotions and the liver is the vessel for the Nefesh level of the soul, which is the physical life force invested in the blood. The two higher levels of the soul, the Chaya and Yechidah are not contained within vessels and are therefore called “encompassing lights”. (This will all be explained in greater detail in subsequent chapters)
Now, it is clearly observable that a vessel has three parts. There is the inner part of the vessel, which is the inner surface of the vessel that comes in contact with that which is contained in it. There is the external part of the vessel, which is its outer surface, and there is the inner part of the vessel, which is its thickness between the inner and outer walls. (This will all be explained later)
In general the emotions are called Zeir Anpin (Small Face) in contrast to Arich Anpin (Long Face). A human being has 248 limbs and organs. Likewise above, there are 248 vessels or ‘organs’ of Zeir Anpin. It is for this reason that Zeir Anpin is sometimes referred to as “The body of the King”.
(Footnote: The explanation of the limbs of Zeir Anpin is as follows: Zeir Anpin contains nine sefirot within it. The tenth sefirah is Malchut, which as we will later explain, is separate, for it becomes its own individual stature (called Nukva). Now, as mentioned above, the sefirot subdivide into subsequent sefirot. The 9 sefirot of Zeir Anpin multiplied by the 9 sefirot which each of the 9 sefirot contain, equals 81. 81 multiplied by the three parts of the vessels, (Inner, middle and outer) equals 243 (which is the numerical value of the name Avram). Plus the 5 kindnesses, which make the body grow, equals 248 (which is the numerical value of the name Avraham. This is the name that he was called after G-d added the letter Heh to his name.) These 248 limbs and organs correspond to the 248 positive commandments in the Torah. Altogether, there are 613 Commandments in the Torah. The 248 positive commandments correspond to the 248 limbs and organs in the body, and the 365 negative commandments correspond to the 365 sinews in the body, as well as the 365 days in the solar year.)