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Baal HaSulam/Study of the Ten Sefirot/Vol. 1/Part 1
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Chapter 1
 

TALMUD ESER SEFIROT

(The Study of the Ten Sefirot)

PART ONE

Restriction and line, containing two chapters

Chapter One

Explains the issue of the first restriction, when the light of Ein Sof became restricted in order to emanate the emanated beings and create the created beings; containing five issues:

1. Before the restriction, Ein Sof filled the entire reality. 2. The reason for creation was the revelation of His Names and Appellations. 3. The restriction of the light around the middle point. 4. The space that remained after the restriction was circular. 5. Because the light of Ein Sof was even, the restriction was also even. This is the meaning of the circle.

Before the restriction Ein Sof filled the entire reality

1. Know that before the emanated beings were emanated and the created beings created (1), an upper, simple light (2) had filled the entire reality (3). There was no vacant place (4), such as empty air (5) and space (6), but everything was filled with that simple, boundless light (7).

It did not have a quality of Rosh, or Sof (8), but it was all one, simple light (9), completely even (10), called light of Ein Sof (20).

Inner Light

We must remember that the entire wisdom of Kabbalah is founded on spiritual matters that do not take up time or space. They are not subject to change or absence and all the changes that are spoken of in this wisdom do not imply that the first form becomes absent and is replaced by a different form. The above change rather implies an additional form, while the first does not move from its place, as absence and change are corporeal conducts.

It is difficult for beginners, for they perceive matters by means of corporeal boundaries of time, space, change and exchange. However, the authors only used those as signs to point to their upper roots.

For this reason, I will make an effort to give every word its spiritual identity, detached of space, time and change. It is upon the readers to memorize the meaning of these words thoroughly, for it is impossible to repeat them every time.

1. The issue of spiritual time is explained thoroughly in Inner Observation Chapter 9, item 33.

2. It refers to the light that expands from the Creator Himself. Know that all the names and appellations that appear in the wisdom of Kabbalah are not at all in the Creator Himself, but only in the light that expands from His self. However, we cannot utter even a single word regarding His self, for the rule is that anything we do not attain, we do not know its name. Remember that and you will not fail.

3. It is seemingly perplexing, for it speaks of the time before the worlds were created. Thus, which reality exists here, that the upper light should fill? The thing is that all the worlds and the souls that exist and that are destined to be created with all their incidents until the end of their correction are all included in Ein Sof in their full measure and glory.

Thus, there are two rudiments we should discern in the reality before us: 1) They are fixed and exist in Ein Sof with their full measure and glory. 2) How they are arranged and cascade and are renewed before us after the first restriction in the five worlds: Adam Kadmon, Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira, Assiya.

The ARI writes that the upper light that extends from His self “had filled the entire reality,” meaning the entire reality of the first rudiment, relating to their existence in Ein Sof before the restriction. He tells us that the upper light filled them entirely, until they had no vacant place left where correction and perfection could be added whatsoever.

4. It means that before the worlds were created there was only Ein Sof. There was no “vacant place,” meaning a place of dearth that would qualify for corrections because the upper light filled that place. It left no room for the lower ones to distinguish themselves and add something to His completeness.

Because of the restriction there came about a wanting and a vacant place for the corrections. However, do not be mistaken to think that the book speaks of a corporeal place.

5. This does not refer to corporeal air whatsoever; but there is a spiritual light that is called by that name. There are two qualities of light in each complete Partzuf: light of Hochma and light of Hassadim.

Light of Hochma is the Partzuf itself, meaning its vitality. Light of Hassadim only operates as clothing light over the light of Hochma in the Partzuf since light of Hochma cannot permeate the Partzuf if it does not wear the light of Hassadim first.

However, sometimes, when the Partzufim [pl. of Partzuf] are in Katnut, they do not have more than light of Hassadim. You should know that that light of Hassadim is called “air” or “wind” (as well as “spirit”). In itself, without light of Hochma, it is called “empty air,” meaning devoid of light of Hochma. Then it waits for light of Hochma to clothe it and fulfill it.

The ARI tells us that before the worlds were created, meaning in Ein Sof, such empty air did not exist in reality at all, because there was not any dearth there.

6. To understand that word, you must first know the essence of a spiritual vessel. Since the emanated being receives its vitality from the Emanator, it necessarily implies that it has a desire and yearning to receive that abundance from Him.

Know that the amount of that desire and yearning is the entire substance that exists in the emanated being. Thus, everything that exists in the emanated being that is not that substance, no longer relates to its substance, but to the abundance that it receives from the Emanator.

Furthermore, this substance determines the Gadlut and the level of each emanated being, each Partzuf, and each Sefira. The expansion of the upper light from the Emanator is certainly immeasurable, but it is the emanated being that limits the abundance, for it receives no more and no less than its measure of desire to receive. This is the criterion in spirituality, because there is no coercion there; it depends entirely on the desire.

For this reason, we call this will to receive the “vessel of reception” of the emanated being. It is regarded as its substance and the reason that it stopped being regarded as an emanator and was denominated as an emanated being. The emanated being is defined by a substance that does not exist in the Emanator whatsoever, for there is absolutely no will to receive in the Emanator, because from whom would He receive?

Now we will explain how there are four degrees in this substance, from Katnut to Gadlut (of reception). The fourth degree, being the Gadlut of the reception, is complete only in Ein Sof, before the worlds were created. It is the only one that was subject to the restriction, and we will clarify henceforth that it was emptied of every abundance that she had from Ein Sof and remained a vacant space. This is what the ARI means when he says that before the world was created, meaning in Ein Sof, this vacant space did not exist.

7. This means that there is nothing that the lower ones can add to it by means of their actions.

8. The terms Rosh and Sof will be explained below.

9. Meaning without discriminating small and great, everything is even.

10. Where there is no refinement and thickness by which the degrees are set. These discriminations were established only with the renewal of the restriction.

20. We should ask: since we have no attainment in Ein Sof, how then do we know Him by name? After all, each name designates the attainment that we attain in Him, according to the definition of that name. We cannot excuse ourselves by saying that the name merely points to the negation of attainment, for then we should have named Him “Unattainable.”

The thing is that that name indicates the entire difference between Ein Sof and all the worlds beneath it. The restriction took place after Ein Sof. Thus, in every place this force awakens, it restricts the light and that ends the illumination in that place.

Hence, any Sof and Sium in any illumination in any Partzuf come solely from the restriction. Moreover, all the beings and their various fillings in the worlds come about and are innovated because of that Sof and Sium.

It is called Ein Sof because the restriction does not apply there, indicating that there isn’t any ending there whatsoever. With that we can deduce that this light is simple and completely even, for one depends on the other.

The reason for creation was the revelation of His Names and Appellations

2. When it rose upon His simple desire (30) to create the worlds and emanate the emanated beings to bring the perfection of His deeds, His names and appellations to light, which was the reason of the creation of the worlds,

Inner Light

30. We need not wonder how there is a desire in Ein Sof, who is higher than any notion, to which we can say, “rose upon His simple desire.” You should comprehend what has been said above that in every emanated being there is by necessity a will to receive the abundance from the Emanator.

However, in Ein Sof it is a “simple desire” because He is One and His Name One. The light in Ein Sof is called He and the will to receive is called His Name, and they are simple unity without any form of separation.

However, we should not resemble the unity and separation discussed here with corporeal unity and separation that are distinguished by motion, nearness and distance. That is because the spiritual essence does not take up any space.

Just as corporeal entities connect and separate through proximity and remoteness, so spiritual entities connect and separate according to their difference and equivalence of form. The disparity of form separates them from one another, and the equivalence of form brings them together. Remember that for it is the key element to this wisdom.

Now you will understand the meaning of the aforementioned words “He is One and His Name One,” and the simple unity we are so meticulous about in Ein Sof. Indeed this unity is of the wonders of His almightiness.

We have witnessed the difference between the Emanator and the emanated being that was caused by the form of that will to receive that exists in the emanated being and not in the Emanator. Because of that disparity of form, the emanated being became separated from the Emanator and acquired its own separate name, meaning emanated being, and not emanator.

The above explanation might mislead us into thinking that light of Ein Sof, called “He,” is not entirely adherent with Ein Sof, called “His Name,” meaning the will to receive the light and the abundance, called “He.” That is because the upper light that extends from Himself, called “He,” has but one attribute—to bestow—and none of the form of the will to receive.

However, Ein Sof, called “His Name,” which does have a will to receive, is therefore different from the upper light, which has no will to receive whatsoever, as has been explained, and we know that disparity of form separates. However, the Midrash and the ARI tell us that it is not so. Instead, He is One and His Name One in Simple Unity, means that there is no difference between them.

Although there is necessarily a difference of form between “He” and “His Name,” it is nevertheless completely inactive there. We do not understand it, but it is undoubtedly so. It is said about that, that there is no perception or thought in Ein Sof whatsoever, since this matter is above our mind (will be discussed further in the next item).

The restriction of the light around the middle point

3. Ein Sof then restricted Himself (40) in His middle point (50), in the very middle, restricted that light, and drifted (60) to the sides around that middle point (70).

Inner Light

40. You already know the meaning of He is One and His Name One. Although there is disparity of form with respect to the will to receive incorporated in Ein Sof, that still does not create any differentiation between that and the upper light, and they are in simple unity.

Still, this disparity of form has become the reason and the cause for the creation of the worlds, “to bring the perfection of His deeds, His names and appellations to light,” as the ARI says here. The creation of the worlds and their cascading down to this world, created and renewed the possibility to give room for work in Torah and Mitzvot not in order to receive, but only to bestow contentment upon the Maker.

It is then that the souls become able to invert the form of the will to receive in them, which separates them from the Emanator, into the form of the will to bestow contentment upon Him, which is what He wants (see item 90). This is the equivalence of form with the Emanator, called adhesion and unification. It is so because then they have already been stripped from the form of the will to receive and acquired the form of the will to bestow, being the form of the Emanator Himself.

You already know that equivalence of form makes the spirituals become one. For this reason, the worlds return to their previous condition.

This is the meaning of the ARI’s words, “When it rose upon His simple desire to create, etc.” “It rose” means that He increased the refinement and adhesion by diminishing the measure of the will to receive imprinted in him in order to equalize the form with the upper light.

The will to receive in Ein Sof, called Malchut of Ein Sof, or “His Name,” did not have any dearth in adhesion with the upper light because of its disparity of form. However, it embellished himself in order to equalize its form with the upper light and depart from the great will to receive, called “phase four,” so as to cleave more strongly to the upper light.

The proximity of the form makes for adhesion. It is expressed in the words “it rose,” meaning Malchut of Ein Sof, being a simple desire, rose and cleaved to the upper light, meaning diminished her will to receive.

This is the meaning of the words of the ARI, “Ein Sof then restricted Himself.” It has already been explained above (item 6) that the entire measure of His abundance and light and the height of the emanated being are measured by the amount of the will to receive in him.

Thus, since the above Malchut of Ein Sof restricted herself and diminished her will to receive, the light and the abundance departed due to the diminishing of the desire. This is the meaning of the restriction. The ascent of the desire caused the departure of the abundance and the light from there.

50. It is perplexing, for since there is neither Rosh nor Sof there, how is there middle? Moreover, are we dealing with a corporeal matter here? The thing is that it has already been explained that there is necessarily a will to receive in Ein Sof too. However, it is a simple desire, without discriminations of great and small, because the will to receive there is not regarded as a disparity of form that makes any separations. Consequently, it is in no way inferior to the upper light.

You should know that the upper light must expand via four degrees before it uncovers that will to receive in its fullest and permanent measure in the emanated being. The reason for it is that the will to receive is incorporated in the expansion of light from the root, and by that the light is considered to have departed from the Emanator and acquired its own name, meaning expansion from the Emanator.

As long as this disparity of form of the will to receive was not incorporated in it, it was still regarded as an emanator and not as expansion that departed and shifted from the Emanator. That is because the only difference in spirituality is the disparity of form (see item 6 and Inner Observation).

However, as much as this desire became disclosed by the force of the emanated being, it still was not permanent in the emanated being. It means that the emanated being must yearn to receive the abundance before it is considered that the will to receive appeared by the force of the emanated being himself.

This yearning can only be when he does not have the abundance, for only then is it possible to want it in a way that the will to receive will be uncovered through his own strength. It is then that the vessels of reception are completed permanently.

You should also know that any expansion of light from the Emanator must consist of a will to bestow, just as it consists of a will to receive. Otherwise, the Emanator and the emanated being would have been in oppositeness of form, meaning a total separation, and the oppositeness of form would then depart them from one another as the west departs from the east.

Thus, each light that expands from the Emanator must be incorporated of a will to bestow as well, so that the emanated being will have proximity of form with the Emanator. When the will to bestow appears in the emanated being, a great light extends to him from the Emanator, related to that awakening. This light is always referred to as light of Hassadim.

The first expansion from the Emanator, in which the will to receive is incorporated, is always referred to as light of Hochma, or the light of His self. You should memorize these two types of lights.

The second light, being light of Hassadim, is much lower than the first light, being light of Hochma. That is because it is extended by the intensification and the awakening of the emanated being by his own force, as he wants to equalize his form with the Emanator, for which reason he intensifies himself and awakens toward the will to bestow.

However, the first expansion, being light of Hochma, extends directly from the Emanator and the emanated being has no part in its extension. For this reason, it is much higher than it.

For this reason, the light of Hochma is regarded as the emanated being’s self and vitality. The light of Hassadim is only regarded as light for corrections, for the completion of the emanated being.

Now you will understand the four phases and degrees that must be in every emanated being. First, the light expands from the Emanator as the light of Hochma, containing only the “will to receive.” This is phase one.

Then, the will to bestow intensifies in that light, and it extends light of Hassadim. This intensification is regarded as phase two. Then this light of Hassadim expands intensively (will be explained below), and this is phase three.

After the above three phases fully emerge, the force of the will to receive incorporated in the first expansion reawakens and draws light of Hochma once more. This completes the permanent will to receive in the Partzuf that appears as yearning, when there weren’t light of Hochma in the Partzuf but light of Hassadim, after phase three, when the emanated being could yearn for light of Hochma.

It is this yearning that determines the will to receive in him, and completes his vessels of reception, which was absent in the first expansion. For this reason, the vessels of reception are completed only in this phase four, also called the second intensification.

Once phase four was completed in Ein Sof, the restriction occurred in her, meaning the departure of the will to receive from phase four, causing the departure of the light of Ein Sof from there.

This completes the explanation of the four phases that must exist in every emanated being. Phase one is called the first expansion, or Hochma; phase two is called the first intensification, or Bina; phase three is called the second expansion, or Zeir Anpin; phase four is called the second intensification, or Malchut.

The two expansions are regarded as males, for they are abundance that extends from the Emanator. The first expansion is abundance of light of Hochma, and the second expansion is abundance of light of Hassadim. The two intensifications are regarded as two females, for they are an awakening of the emanated being and the intensification of the desire by his own power.

The first intensification is the awakening in the emanated being for the will to bestow, which becomes the root for the light of Hassadim, and the second intensification is the awakening of the emanated being for the will to receive, which becomes the complete vessel of reception in the Partzuf. It is always referred to as phase four.

This phase four is called “The Middle Point” in Ein Sof. It is that which the ARI refers to when he says, “restricted Himself in His middle point.” It is called by that name for it is a vessel of reception for the light of Ein Sof, which is immeasurable and boundless.

For this reason, it is like a point in the interior and the middle of that light, while the light revolves around it and cleaves to it from all around immeasurably. Only thus can it sustain the upper light immeasurably and boundlessly.

However, in the vessels of reception after the restriction and below, meaning in the lower emanated beings, there are vessels that hold their light within them, in their internality. It means that the walls of the vessels, being their four phases, place a boundary and a measurement on the light inside them, because of their thickness.

However, in Ein Sof, where light and vessel are in simple unity, meaning He is One and His Name One (see item 30), the vessel does not limit that light that it holds. Hence, the light in it is regarded as Ein Sof.

Now we have thoroughly explained the issue of the middle point in Ein Sof. We have shown that it does not refer to a corporeal and tangible place and area, but phase four, which is incorporated in Ein Sof, is called by that name to indicate its simple unity with the upper light. Also, the restriction in that middle point has already been explained above (see item 40).

60. The term “spiritual distance” has already been explained in item 30. It has also been explained that there weren’t any distance between Ein Sof and the middle point, meaning between the light and the vessel.

However, after it restricted the light from the middle point, it uncovered a disparity of form from the light. That is because the light hasn’t any will to receive, but the point is indeed a will to receive, which differs from the light. Because their form is different, they are as far apart from each other as is the difference between them. This is what the ARI meant in the word “drifted.”

70. The above-mentioned four phases are also called “four sides.” The ARI tells us that although the restriction was only in the middle point, meaning phase four, the light nonetheless departed from all four phases as well. It happened because there is no partial in spirituality, and thus it departed from the three phases as well.

The space that remained after the restriction was circular

4. Then there was a vacant place (80), air, and an empty space, from the very middle point.

Behold, this restriction was even around that empty middle point (90), in such a way that that place of space was circular on every side, completely even (100). It had not a shape of a square, a perpendicular angle, for Ein Sof too had restricted Himself like a circle, even on all sides.

Inner Light

80. Has already been explained in items 4 and 5.

90. Meaning without discriminations of great and small. We should not wonder about that, since the disparity of form in the middle point had already been exposed by the departure of the light from it. Consequently, the smaller measurements were necessarily recognized as well, one smaller than the other.

For example, phase three is more refined than the middle point because the measure of her will to receive is less than phase four. Similarly, phase two is more refined than phase three because her measure of will to receive is smaller than phase three, and phase one is the most refined of all, for she has the least will to receive, rendering her disparity of form the least apparent.

Thus, we have a differentiation of great and small in the degrees. In that case, why does the ARI say that the restriction was even around that point? The answer is that the restriction did not turn the middle point into a Sof [end/conclusion]. In other words, if the light had left the point because of her disparity of form, then it would certainly become a Sof, meaning the lowest degree.

Then we would also regard the three preceding phases as more important than the middle point, as one above the other. However, it was not so, for the restriction did not occur due to the disparity of form in the point. This cannot be, for we are still concerned with Malchut of Ein Sof, in which there is no disparity of form between her and the light; they are both in simple unity, meaning He is One and His Name One.

The restriction occurred only because His simple desire wished to create the worlds, etc. (see item 40). It means that He wanted that equivalence of form which is destined to appear by the creation of the worlds, meaning the form of reception in order to bestow contentment to the Maker.

There is a great virtue in that: on the one hand, it is complete bestowal, because the desire is only to bestow contentment upon the Maker and not at all for one’s “self.” That makes the form completely equal with the upper light of the Emanator, and in complete adhesion with Him.

On the other hand, it is possible to deepen and increase the vessel of reception indefinitely and eternally. That is because now the form of reception does not produce any disparity of form, as it comes from within the will to bestow.

Our sages have said that with an important personality, if she gives the matrimony capital, and he says, “With this I thee sanctify,” then she is sanctified. It is written in the Torah “and giveth it in her hand,” meaning it is the husband who is to give the matrimony capital.

However, because he is important, the pleasure she receives from him is exactly the same as giving. An important person who receives money from her is similar to him giving her money. It is written in the Torah “and giveth it in her hand,” because he receives only in order to bestow contentment to the woman, to honor her with his reception.

We learn from the above that the primary reason for the restriction was the desire for the new form of reception in order to bestow that is destined to appear by the creation of the worlds (see item 40). However, it was not at all by reason of the thickness she felt in the middle point, for there were no thickness and difference there at all.

Hence, the middle point did not become a Sof because of the restriction. Thus, it is impossible to distinguish a small matter from a great one. That is why the ARI writes that the restriction was “completely even.”

100. It means that there was some image that had to have been made by reason of the restriction, though the restriction was even (as explained above thoroughly), and not because of any disparity of form. After the restriction and the departure of the light from that middle point, it became apparent that the upper light is unfit to cleave to it because of her form of the increased reception.

Because that became known she fell from the degree she had had in Ein Sof, and was now regarded as Sof, meaning the lowest possible thickness. Only that middle point remained a vacant space, unfit to clothe the light (see item 6), and the three former phases in virtue and refinement were still fit to clothe the light even after the restriction.

We have explained above (previous item) that she did not become a Sof for the above reason. This is the meaning of the precision of the ARI when he says that “that place of space was circular on every side, completely even.” He wishes to say that it is not an actual Sof, but is like the Sof in a circular picture, whose Sof is in the middle.

You can compare these four phases to four circles one within the other, like onionskins. The central circle is phase four, surrounded by phase three, surrounded by phase two, surrounded by phase one. This way there is no up or down, right or left.

For example, phase one is above all of them in its one half, and below all of them in its other half, and so it is in all the phases. Therefore, there is not up or down, right or left here. There is no difference between their virtue, and they are all completely even.

It has already been explained (above item) that the reason for the restriction was not the disparity of form. This is also the meaning of the precision of the ARI “circular on every side, completely even.”

Because the light of Ein Sof was even, the restriction too was even. This is the meaning of the circle

5. The reason was that since the light of Ein Sof was completely even, it had to have restricted itself evenly on all sides, and not restrict itself on one side more than on the others.

It is known in the wisdom of geometry that there is none so even an image as the image of the circle (200). However, this is not the case with the square (300), with the bulging perpendicular angle, the triangle (400), and all the other images. For this reason, the restriction had to have the form of a circle.

Inner Light

200. Has already been explained in the previous item.

300. If there had been a differentiation of up and down, right and left there, it would appear in the image of a square, which contains these four sides, being the four names of these phases. However, it was not so, but in the form of a circle, which does not have these discernments.

400. Indicating a degree that has but three phases, lacking phase four, meaning three sides – up, right and left. It lacks the bottom side, hence the name triangle.