By Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi The Alter RebbeTo Understand the Concept of the Tzimtzum 5565-1805 Indented text by the translator
Here, There and Everywhere
Nothing is the Same
The Essence of the Light-source—the Absolute Godhead Himself—is termed “the Hidden One of all the hidden ones” by the Zohar. Isaiah says of God, “The whole world is filled with His glory.” And King David relates, “Even darkness obscures not from You, and night shines like the day; darkness and light are the same.”
Everything is considered as naught before Him. Consequently, God is present in the lowly world of Action just as He is found in the most supernal realms. And just as He exists in the highest realms in a hidden manner, likewise His presence is concealed in the bottommost worlds.
Relative to God, the entire system of successive worlds—above and below—simply don’t exist; the myriad levels of what we call reality are all as nothing compared to God. Their absolute nullification before His essence makes them equivalent to each other.
Relative to true Infinity, all manifestations of emanation and creation are viewed as finite. When an entity stands before God’s Essence, it becomes nullified, losing its identity. Emanations and spiritual beings which are close to God experience a greater revelation of His light than those farther away; His illumination induces a profound recognition of worthlessness. Lower beings are exposed to less light. Consequently their sensation of worthlessness is less pronounced. Nonetheless, both the actual entities and the fact of their self-nullification, regardless of their position in the system of worlds, are equally regarded as nothing compared to God.
“The name of heaven” [God] is uttered even by women and children. They routinely make reference to God—that is, to His Absolute Being. For He is equally extant, albeit in a concealed fashion, in both the higher and lower worlds.
Relative to God, there is no distinction between the world of Emanation and the worlds of Creation, Formation, and Action. We recite this principle in our Rosh Hashana prayers, “All the hidden things are revealed before You.”
On the other hand, God’s revealed light indeed manifests numerous differentiations. It is exposed to a much greater extent in the world of Emanation than it is in the three lower worlds of Creation, Formation, and Action.
In the beginning, when God decided to emanate the 10 sefirot and bring the worlds into existence, He revealed His glory—His Infinite Light. Its revelation was exceedingly great. God saw that it would be impossible to bring finite worlds into existence from His Infinite Light; finite reality couldn’t exist as long as His Presence was so intensely exposed.
So God withdrew His light. It was reintegrated into the Essence of His hidden Absolute Being. Consequently, a vacuum remained, emptied of God’s revealed Infinite Light. Light itself was submerged into the concealed and hidden Light-source: God’s Essence.
The Infinite Light itself didn’t suffer any manner of contraction or diminution. Rather, the term “empty space” is used, since His Infinite Light, which had previously filled space in an exposed manner, now returned to its Light-source. But of course God, the Light-source itself, is in the empty space as He is in all places. That’s why the Zohar says, “There is no place void of Him.” It’s just that God is present in a concealed manner.
Eyesight allegorizes this concept. The faculty of sight descends from the brain and radiates into eyeballs. Eyes are vessels which observe all that is visible.
The soul possesses 10 general powers. Sight, speech, thought, sense, and action are among its faculties. These spiritual powers initially enter the brain, which serves as the seat of the soul. From there, each power is directed to its specific locale within the body.
When an eye is blinded, the damaged vessel prevents the power of sight from carrying out its role; the power is unable to dwell in a revealed manner within the eye. One can’t say, however, that the power of sight is actually absent; it continues to exist within the eye, although its presence there is concealed. For it can’t function in a revealed fashion within a ruined vessel.
In a similar manner, we can understand God’s withdrawal of His Infinite Light. There, the light was withdrawn and reintegrated into the hidden Light-source. A space remained behind, bereft of revealed light. But the space isn’t truly empty. Rather, it is filled with the hidden Light-source in its totality. God permeates every place; there is no place devoid of Him. Then afterwards, a single beam (kav) of revealed Infinite Light descended straight down into space. From it emanated the 10 sefirot.
Kabbalah illustrates the emergence of the beam: A circle is bisected by a line. The beam starts at the top of the circle and progresses downward. Small rings spring out from its sides. It doesn’t touch the circle’s bottom. The circle represents the interface between infinity and finitude. Outside the circle is the revealed Infinite Light. From our finite perspective “inside,” we can imagine this light as being revealed within a concealed Light-source.
God directed a beam of light to emerge into the vacuum created by the great withdrawal. The light then entered space, thereby creating it. As it descended, sefirot were emanated into their proper worlds. A transcendent crown preceded each set of sefirot. These crowns are the rings in the Kabbalah illustration.
The lower the beam travels, the more diminished the light of its sefirot becomes. And the beam never reaches the bottom of the circle; that’s reserved for the Future era, when the finite will be fused with the Infinite.
Nothing is the Same
the Absolute Godhead Himself
Sha’ar HaHakdomot, portal 1, introduction 4;
Shelah, Toldos Adam, chapter Beis HaShem, paragraph 1.
“the Hidden One of all the hidden ones”
The Second Book of the Zohar, page 89, side a;
Tikunei Zohar, introduction, page 17, side a.
“The whole world is filled with His glory”
The Book of Isaiah, chapter 6, verse 3.
“Even darkness obscures not from You, and night shines like …”
The Book of Psalms, chapter 139, verse 12.
Everything is considered as naught before Him.
The First Book of the Zohar, page 11, side b;
Reishis Chochmah, portal HaYirah, chapter 1;
Tanya, Igeret HaKodesh, chapter 25, page 139, side b.
His illumination induces a profound recognition of worthlessness.
Tikunei Zohar, chapter 58, page 92, side b;
Tanya, Igeret HaKodesh, chapter 15, page 124, side a.
“The name of heaven”… They routinely make reference to God
Midrash Tanchuma, parshat V’yashav, chapter 8;
Rashi’s commentary on The Book of Genesis, chapter 27, verse 21;
Shelah, Sha’ar Ha’Otiyot, chapter 1, Emes V’emunah, paragraph 16.
“All the hidden things are revealed before You”
Musaf Prayer of Rosh Hashana.
He revealed His glory—His Infinite Light
Eitz Chaim, portal 1, section 1.
“There is no place void of Him”
Tikunei Zohar, chapter 57, page 91, side b; ibid., chapter 70, page 122, side b;
Shemot Rabbah, chapter 2, section 5.
The soul possesses 10 general powers.
Tikunei Zohar, chapter 13, page 28, side a;
Akedat Yitzchak, portal 52, chapter 4.
each power is directed to its specific locale within the body
Derek Chaim, chapter 2, section 7.
afterwards, a single light beam (kav) of revealed Infinite Light descended
Tikunei Zohar, chapter 5, page 19, side a;
Mevoh Sha’arim, portal 1, section 1, chapter 1.
illustrates the emergence of the beam: A circle is bisected by a line
Otzarot Chaim, portal 1, introduction;
Mevoh Sha’arim, portal 1, section 1, chapter 2;
The First Book of the Zohar, page 171, side b.
The circle represents the interface between infinity and finitude.
Sha’ar HaHakdomot, portal 1, introduction 4;
Emek HaMelech, portal Sha’ashuei HaMelech, chapter 1, page 1, column a.
The “lower” the beam travels, the more diminished the light of its sefirot Mevoh Sha’arim, portal 1, section 1, chapter 2.
reserved for the Future era, when the finite will be fused with the infinite
The Book of Isaiah, chapter 54, verse 2;
Midrash Tanchuma, parshat Tzav, chapter 12;
Pesikta d’Rav Kahana, chapter 12, section 22.