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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)


First, let us examine the issue: “The connection between the Creator and the Creation”, having pointed out that the Creator’s Essence is unattainable. We can only grasp His actions. This connection may also be called “The Thought of Creation”, where the Creator’s desire is to bestow delight upon created beings.

Therefore, from the moment of The Thought of Creation, the Universe begins its descending evolution: creation of worlds, nature, and then, out of its root called “the soul of Adam haRishon”, human souls are born. All that was created before the birth of Adam’s soul (or simply soul) was prepared as an environment in which this soul can exist, develop and improve until it reaches its ultimate spiritual level.

Let us speak about the top-down evolution of the worlds. Wishing to delight the created beings, the Creator intended to give them, perhaps, 100 kg of pleasure. Hence, He had to create such beings that would be willing to receive that pleasure. The entire essence of creation consists in this will to receive the Creator’s delight. Hence, the name “Yesh mi Ayn”, i.e., the essence created from something that was previously non-existent, prior to the Creator’s Thought. This 'will to receive pleasure' was created for the single purpose of bestowing delight upon created beings.

The creation of a will to receive for delight must go through four phases of development, since man cannot enjoy anything without having a passionate desire for that pleasure. Therefore, a vessel is a passionate desire for delight. The size of the vessel is measured according to volume of its desire.

Two conditions are essential for a desire to appear:

  1. You must know what you want to enjoy. Man cannot wish for something that he never saw or heard of. In other words, a pleasure has to be something previously felt and evaluated as such.

  2. The vessel must not have this pleasure at this particular moment, since, if pleasure fills the desire, it extinguishes the aspiration to it.

To achieve these two conditions, i.e., to develop a genuine desire, the initial will to receive pleasure (that derives from nothingness, from the Creator’s Thought) must pass four phases of its development:

Phase Shoresh, 0, Keter is “the Creator’s 'desire to bestow' delight upon the created beings”.

Phase Alef, 1, Hochma is “the Creator’s 'desire to bestow' delight upon the created beings” created “Yesh mi Ayn”, out of nothing – a will to receive delight. Since the desire was created of the light – the pleasure prepared by the Creator, it emerged already filled with delight. Hence, there is no genuine striving after it.

Phase Bet, 2, Bina. Since the light emanates from the Creator and His property to bestow, the vessel gradually acquires that property of giving, i.e., the vessel wishes to be like the light. The emergence of a new desire in phase one turns it into a separate phase two.

Question: “If the desire of Bina is to give, why is it considered coarser and more remote from the Creator? Does it not have to be purer than Hochma?”

I would like to explain it with the following example. A person gives his friend a gift and he accepts it. Then, after thinking it over, decides not to, and returns it. First, he was under the giver’s influence; hence, he took the gift. Yet, having received it, he felt himself a receiver, and this feeling of shame forced him to return the gift.

From this, we may conclude that Behina Alef received under the influence of the giver and did not feel that it was receiving. However, when, affected by the light, it felt it was receiving, and then it stopped. Therefore, the sensation of desire to receive pleasure in Bina is greater than that in Hochma – the desire feels more egoistic, because it compares itself with the light, i.e., with the giver. Hence, it considers itself more remote from the Creator.

The light that enters the vessel, which wants to merge with the Creator by its properties, is called Ohr Hassadim. This light shines in Bina. However, Bina feels only the 'desire to give', and it can only give to the light, to the Creator. Bina realizes that its goal is to receive, to enjoy. It can give the Creator only by receiving His pleasure.

Hence, phase two makes a compromise: now it will accept the light of Hassadim and a little light of Hochma. Since Bina had to generate the desire to enjoy the Ohr Hochma in order to receive it, the new desire for both Hassadim and Hochma is coarser than the previous. That is why phase three is farther away from the Creator and is called Behina Gimel de Aviut. This phase bears the name “Zeir Anpin” – a small face, because Hochma is called “a Panim(“Anpin” in Aramaic) – “Zeir”, i.e., a miniature spiritual object.

When phase three is completely filled with the light of Hassadim (and the luminescence of Hochma), it feels the 'desire to receive' the entire light of Hochma and not just its part. This happens because the light lets ZA know that the Thought of Creation consists in receiving the entire light of Hochma prepared by the Creator. This awakening leads to an enormous desire for the Ohr Hochma rising up in the vessel. It wants to receive as much light as was in Behina Alef. The difference lies in the fact that Behina Alef did not have this passionate desire for the light that Behina Dalet (Malchut) has, so Behina Alef did not feel delighted, since the light gave birth to desire, whereas here the desire attracts pleasure!

Therefore, phase four is defined as a genuine vessel, and all previous phases are called preparatory. Malchut is filled with limitless, infinite pleasure; hence, it is called the “World of Infinity” – 100 kg of delight filled 100 kg of desire.

However, when the light fills phase four, Malchut, it starts passing it its properties, as it was in phase one: phase one received the light, but with the delight it acquired the light’s property of bestowal; hence, its 'desire to receive' turned into a 'desire to bestow', phase two.

Since this desire is absolutely opposite to its original, the natural will to receive pleasure, Malchut feels “shame” – a tremendous inner tension between its original desire and the one it acquired. Because of this, it decides to completely stop receiving the light, similar to phase one as it passed into phase two. Why did phase one not feel shame? It is because phase four already has a desire to receive pleasure that derives from the creation itself, and not the one created by the Creator.

The expulsion of pleasure from the desire (phase four, Malchut) is carried out by the creation; hence, it is called “the First Restriction” (“Tzimtzum Alef”).

The light passed its properties to Malchut, so that it would become like the light; but Malchut only stopped receiving pleasure. So how can the creation carry out the Creator’s will – to receive the entire light of Hochma without being a receiver?

After the restriction, Malchut makes a decision: to receive the entire delight according to the Creator’s wish, but only because He, and not Malchut itself, wants it.

Question: “The Tzimtzum was made only on Behina Dalet; only the desire “Lekabel al menat Lekabel” (“to receive pleasure for one’s own sake”) was restricted (in contrast to “receiving for the sake of bestowal”, which appears later). So why did the light disappear from all the previous Behinot?

Answer: The three first Behinot are not yet called “vessel”, for they merely contribute to the formation of the genuine vessel in Behina Dalet – “reception for the sake of reception”. The only true vessel is Malchut; if it does not want to receive, it stops feeling the light, as if being non-existent in phases zero through three.

Malchut, having accepted the entire light, was filled with it. Such an absolute state is called whole or round, because a circle (or, rather, sphere, since a 3-D figure, Malchut of the World of Infinity filled with the light is meant) is identical in all its parts; there are no “up – down”, “better – worse” in it. If every desire is filled, it does not matter what size it is, big or small; they all receive infinite delight.

Only after the Tzimtzum, when the light disappears, the empty desires begin to differ in their properties, sizes, and closeness to the Creator. They divide into up and down according to their significance, become more or less spiritual, closer, or farther away from the Creator. The desires that are more distant from egoism are considered more important, those that are closer to it – less important.

After the Tzimtzum, “traces” were left in the empty desires – the Reshimot of the light that was inside them. These five phases, or the 10 Sefirot (because phase three, ZA, consists of six parts) are called the “ten round Sefirot(“Eser Sefirot de Igulim”) after the restriction. They are called round because there are notions of “up – down” in them.

Since everything develops from the Creator to the creation, from perfection to imperfection, the upper object’s desire always becomes a law for the lower. Hence, after deciding not to receive the light for its own sake, Malchut makes a restriction, which applies to all future parts of the creation.

Egoistic reception of pleasure would be impossible, and if some part of Malchut, e.g. man, has such desire, he will not be able to enjoy it, constantly chasing after pleasure. Malchut is the only creation. All that exists are its parts.

Although the decision to restrict itself was voluntary, it became law the moment Malchut made it. Now reception for its own sake is forbidden. Now that a ban is imposed, notions like “up – down” as regards this ban, come into being. Hence, reception for the Creator’s sake is called “a Kav” (“line”), which spreads from the World of Infinity down to our world.

After the restriction, the empty round, Sefirot fill with the light by way of the line.

Thus, there are three states of the creation (desire, Malchut):

  1. The will to receive created in the world of Ein Sof, which received the entire light. It is called Malchut de Ein Sof (Malchut of the World of Infinity).

  2. The restricted desire called “Olam haTzimtzum” – the World of Restriction, Malchut Metzumtzemet (restricted, empty Malchut).

  3. The Malchut de Kav – Malchut, which decided to receive the light after the restriction, but only as much as it can accept for the Creator’s sake.

After the restriction, Malchut decides to receive pleasure for the Creator’s sake. It attracts the entire light that it expelled previously and calculates what part it can receive; not for itself, but to please the Creator. First, Malchut makes this decision in its mind (be Koach), then in action (be Foahl).

Such an interaction of Malchut with the light, antagonizing its desire to receive pleasure for itself and accepting the light in its 'desire to bestow' upon the Creator, is called “a Zivug de Haka’a Ohr be Masach” (interaction between the light and the screen by stroke). Malchut puts a barrier before the coming light.

This screen reflects the entire light, and then Malchut calculates that it can accept, perhaps, 20% of it for the Creator’s sake and receives it inside its desire, but this pleasure is dressed in the intention “for the Creator”. Malchut feels such enormous delight in the remaining 80% of the light that, if it accepts it, it will not be for the Creator, so it decides not to receive more than 20%.

What is the difference between the Tzimtzum and the Masach? The Tzimtzum took place because of Malchut’s independent decision to stop enjoying the infinite light, i.e., the entire pleasure emanating from the Creator that is inside it. The Masach is a law imposed by the superior spiritual object as regards the lower: even if the lower wants to receive, the superior will not allow it.

What is a Zivug de Haka’a? Wishing to bestow upon the created beings, the superior spiritual object creates a 'desire to receive' the light in the lower. The lower wants to be like the superior, so it decides not to accept the light. Hence, they contradict one another, which results in their impact (Haka’a).

The superior and the lower objects are always the Creator and the creation, since each higher level, Sefira, Partzuf, world or soul represents a parent, a source from which the lower one originates and receives the light. Furthermore, the lower can attain only the level above it. So the superior is always perceived by the lower as the Creator.

Because of this conflict, when each one wants to bestow and not to receive, an impact (Haka’a) takes place. Both come to an agreement by way of a Zivug (merging): the lower receives the light since the superior wants it to, but only as much as it can accept with an intention to bestow. A Zivug is possible only if an impact (Haka’a), a contradiction, preceded it.

The whole process of a Zivug de Haka’a takes place in the part of the creation that precedes the action. Such comprehension and decision making (be Koach) is called the Rosh (head) or the Shoresh (root). Then the action (be Foahl) follows; it is called the Guf (body).

The Rosh, the preliminary estimate of the action, is necessary because there are desires that are not equipped with an altruistic intention; hence, Malchut is obliged to make a calculation (called the Rosh) before it actually receives the light in the Guf.

Therefore, it is said, “There were neither the Rosh nor the Sof before the creation came into being”. Reception was not banned in the world of Ein Sof, so Malchut received without limit or preliminary evaluation. However, as soon as Malchut made its decision to receive only for the Creator’s sake, the need to oppose its own decision arose; the Sof was defined and the Rosh (be Koach) and the Guf (be Foahl) were separated.

The 20% of the light Malchut received are called the Toch, i.e., the place where the light spreads inside the desire. A desire consists of the Rosh, the Toch, and the Sof. The Rosh ends in the Peh (mouth). The light is received in a space from the Peh to the Tabur. This part of a desire is called Toch. The Malchut de Toch, which received 20% of the light, stands in the Tabur. It also restricts the reception of 80% of the light in 80% of the empty desires. The light that is supposed to fill these desires of the Sof remains outside and is called “the Ohr Makif” (“the Surrounding Light”).

When the vessel is filled with 20% of the light from the Peh to the Tabur, the remaining 80% of the light (the Ohr Makif) strikes into the screen, positioned at the Tabur. This tells Malchut that it is wrong, since it cannot fulfill the purpose of creation in this way. If it remains on the same level, it will never be able to receive more than 20% of the light. Since Malchut can neither accept more than these 20%, nor remain filled only with 20% (seeing now that this state is far from perfect), it decides to stop receiving the light altogether.

The collision of opinions of Malchut, which decided to receive only 20% of the light, and the Surrounding Light, is called the Bitush Ohr Makif be Ohr Pnimi or the Bitush Ohr Makif be Masach de Tabur.

Each spreading of the light consists in filling all the five parts of Malchut. Even if Malchut is filled by 20%, it means that each of its five parts receives 20%. Therefore, when Malchut decides to expel the received light, and does so systematically.

After the restriction, Malchut decides to receive 20% of the light, which it had in the state of being completely filled. That state left the Reshimot in Malchut, and it makes a Zivug on them.

The Masach gradually loses its Aviut: first, Behina Dalet de Dalet, then Gimel de Dalet and so on, until it reaches the Peh de Rosh, where the Masach de Guf originated. As it rises, the Masach uses smaller and smaller Aviut and consequently receives weaker light for the sake of bestowal. Being on the level of Behina Dalet, the Masach can receive the light of Yechida, on the level of Behina GimelHaya, on the level of Behina BetNeshama, on the level of Behina AlefRuach. Behina Shoresh provides it with the light of Nefesh for the sake of bestowal, until it becomes completely unable to receive the light for the sake of bestowal.

A question arises: “What did the Ohr Makif gain by forcing the creation to fulfill the purpose of creation and receive more and more light? On the face of it, what happens is opposite to what the Ohr Makif wants: the Masach completely stops receiving the light and the vessel loses the little light it had”.

Answer: There was no chance to receive any more light before the Bitush. Now that Behina Dalet disappeared, the vessel may receive more, i.e., in Behina Gimel. When Behina Gimel is lost, it receives light in Behina Bet and so on. New vessels were created with the help of the Bitush. So what is the gain, if each time the creation receives less and less? There is a rule: nothing ever disappears in the spiritual world. In other words, whatever was revealed remains; but it cannot be enjoyed. Only when the entire work is completed will all lights be revealed simultaneously. This will be the final gain.

There is a story about two men who were friends when they were young. Then their ways parted. One became a king, the other a beggar. Many years passed, when one day the beggar found out that his friend had become a king. He decided to travel to the country where his friend was ruling and ask him for help. When they met, he told the king about his distress. The story touched the king’s heart and he gave the beggar a letter to his treasurer. The letter allowed the beggar to spend two hours inside the treasury and take as much money as he could within that time.

Upon receiving the treasurer’s permission, the beggar began filling the cup he had used for collecting his alms with gold coins. When the cup was full, he moved to get out of the building, beaming with happiness. However, as he approached the door, a guard took the cup from his hands and emptied the contents onto the floor. The beggar burst out crying, but the guard told him: “Take your cup, go back, and refill it”. The beggar did as he was told, but as he came to the door, the guard once again emptied his cup.

And so it went on until the two hours expired. As the beggar came to the door for the last time with the full cup in his hands, he began to implore the guard to let him have this last cupful, since his time was up. The guard told him that he could have not just the last cupful of money, but also all the coins that were scattered on the floor.

From the story, we may conclude that every time we receive light for the Creator’s sake, it remains. However, if it does, there is no desire to accept more, since it is impossible to increase the intention for the Creator’s sake and receive a larger portion than before. Hence, the previous level has to disappear, so that each consecutive level will allow the correcting of the vessels, until they are all completely corrected and all the lights simultaneously shine in them.

Let us explain the notion of the Masach again. The first spreading of the light from the Peh down is called the Ta’amim. As the Masach gets weaker, new levels emerge in the process. All these levels are called Nekudot. My Rabbi said that new vessels were formed with the help of the Bitush. This allowed the reception of new portions of the light. As long as the light shines inside the vessel, it has no need or 'desire to receive' the light. Therefore, both the light and the vessel are identical. However, after the expulsion of the light, they (the light and the vessel) can be separately defined.

The levels that emerge during the weakening of the Masach are called Nekudot (Nekudat Tzimtzum is meant). What is this? Malchut without the light is called a black point. When the ban on egoistic reception is in force, darkness sets in. The point of the Tzimtzum starts acting in the place where the 'desire to receive' for oneself arises. In our example, when the Masach loses Behina Dalet, the ban on egoistic reception applies to it and the point of the Tzimtzum snaps into action. Then this process spreads to Behina Gimel and so on.

Now let us clear up the difference between the Rosh, the Toch, and the Sof. The Rosh is Behina be Koach; there is no actual reception in it. Two parts spread from the Rosh: one can accept the light of Hochma, the Ohr Pnimi, the light of the Thought of Creation. Another part is a will to receive for one’s own sake, which may not be used by the vessel, so Sof (end of reception) is formed there. It is called the 10 Sefirot de Sof. The main distinction between the Toch and the Sof consists in the fact that the Toch is filled with the light of Hochma, while the Sof contains the light of Hassadim with luminescence of Hochma.

The light of Hochma shines upon the vessels of reception and depends on their level of Aviut. The light of Hochma spreads top-down, so the notions “Aroch” (long) and “Katzar” (short) are inherent in it.

The light of Hassadim neither spreads because of the Aviut nor depends on it; hence, the notions expressing width (“right” and “left”) are applied to it. This hints at the luminescence on the same level regardless of the amount of Aviut.

We have so far discussed only the first Partzuf de AK called the Galgalta or the Partzuf Pnimi de AK. Each world has a Pnimi, which is dressed in four “garments”. Let us make it clear in the case of AK. The Partzuf Galgalta consists of a complete HaVaYaH (the Creator’s Name – “Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey”).

An independent level emerges from each letter of HaVaYaH. The Rosh is unattainable; it is called Keter or Kotzo shel Yud (point of Yud). The part from the Peh to the Chazeh is called Yud. The second Partzuf de AK called AB emerges on this level and dresses onto it. The part from the Chazeh and below is called the first Hey. This is the third Partzuf de AK. It is called SAG or Bina. The AB and SAG are dressed above the Tabur and constitute the letters Yud-Hey.

The letters Vav-Hey of HaVaYaH are located below the Tabur. The Vav takes the upper third of Netzah-Hod-Yesod, called MA, from which the world of Nikudim later emerges. The last Hey takes the lower two thirds of Netzah-Hod-Yesod. The Partzuf BON or Malchut emerges from it. Later on, the world of Atzilut, using Aviut Shoresh, comes into being there.

When the light disappeared from Galgalta, Reshimot remained in the empty vessels. Reshimo is a passionate desire for something that was available in the past. Reshimo consists of two parts: pure transparent light and coarser light. The Reshimo of the transparent light is left by the Ohr Yashar (Direct Light), whereas the Ohr Hozer (Reflected Light) leaves the Reshimo of the coarser light. Both of them merge and dress in common the Ohr Hozer, which plays the role of a vessel.

When the light shines upon the vessel, it is impossible to separate one from the other, both perform the same duty. It may be compared to food and appetite. Both take part in one process. If there is an appetite without food, eating becomes impossible. The same is true when there is food without an appetite.

As soon as the light disappears from the Partzuf, the notion “vessel” arises. Ohr Hozer plays that role. This notion also refers to the Reshimot. When both the transparent and the coarse lights are combined together, they are called “light”. When Ohr Yashar disappears from the Reshimo, the coarse light receives the name Nitzutzin. The light that vanished shines from afar.

Now we are going to discover the meanings of Shoresh of the vessels and Shoresh of the lights. There is a rule that states: all worlds emerge as ”a seal and its imprint”. The worlds develop in a descending order that corresponds unerringly to all the peculiarities that initially emerged.

The vessels first manifested in Partzuf Galgalta; hence, it is called the Shoresh of the vessels. As long as the light shines inside the vessels, there is no opportunity to differentiate between the vessels and the lights. The vessels first manifest after the expulsion of the light and retain the Reshimot of it. Therefore, the Kli Keter retains the Reshimo of the light of Keter. The Kli Hochma holds the Reshimo de Ohr Hochma. Each light enters the purest vessel, i.e., Keter, which is called the Shoresh of the vessels.

Now what are Tagin and Otiot? The Reshimo of Ta’amim is called Tagin. The Reshimo of Nekudot is called Otiot (letters).

When the light exits the Partzuf Galgalta, two kinds of Reshimot remain. The Reshimo of the light Keter, which was inside the vessels, is called Dalet de Hitlabshut. The last degree of the Masach's power (Dalet) is lost and now only Behina Gimel de Aviut is left. The Hitlabshut is the Reshimo of Ta’amim; the Aviut is the Reshimo of Nekudot.

As the Masach in Partzuf Galgalta grows weak and rises to the Masach de Rosh, two Zivugim took place in the Rosh of that level: one on Dalet de Hitlabshut, the other – on Gimel de Aviut de Ohr Hochma. Thus the Partzuf AB was born. The Dalet de Hitlabshut shines only in the Rosh of the level, preventing the light from spreading into the Guf. The Gimel de Aviut causes the light to spread in the Guf de Partzuf, i.e., in the vessels and the Otiot.

As the Masach de Partzuf AB loses the last degree of Aviut Gimel, only Aviut Bet and Hitlabshut Gimel remain. After two Zivugim on these Behinot, the Partzuf SAG emerges. The Nekudot de SAG is Behina Hassadim; therefore, they can spread under the Tabur de Galgalta. Regardless of the Aviut Dalet under the Tabur (the vessels of reception), the Nekudot de SAG still wish to bestow, and are not interested in receiving the light.

Having no Masach on Behina Dalet and being aware of the 'desire to receive' present there, the Nekudot de SAG wished the light for themselves. However, the Tzimtzum is imposed on the 'desire to receive', so the light instantly disappears. How is it that Nekudot de SAG (the vessels of bestowal) suddenly wanted to receive the light for themselves? The Gar de Bina did not want to receive. Only the Zat de Bina was supposed to get the Ohr Hochma to pass it on to ZA. Hence, the restriction took place only in the Zat de Bina, i.e., in the AHP that exceeded the bounds of the level. This is Tzimtzum Bet (TB). The Gar de Bina, i.e., the Galgaltave Eynaim (GE) did not merge with Behina Dalet. Meanwhile this place is called Atzilut.

When the Masach de Partzuf SAG began rising to the Peh de Rosh, the following Zivugim took place in the Rosh: a Zivug on Reshimot de Ta’amim de SAG, which did not descend under the Tabur, and on which the Partzuf MA Elion, emerged. A Zivug on Reshimot de SAG, which made Tzimtzum and merged with Behina Dalet under the Tabur. The Partzuf MA, called the world of the Nikudim, emerged on them. This Zivug was made on one half of Alef de Aviut and Bet de Hitlabshut with the information on TB.

There are two Rashim in the world of Nikudim: one is Keter – the Bet de Hitlabshut; the other is Abave Ima – the Alef de Aviut. Since Bet de Hitlabshut cannot draw the light for the lack of desire, it needs to work together with the Aviut. We have learned that “the VAK de Bina” is Behina “Hafetz Hesed”; with its help, this level feels no need for the light of Hochma. This light is also called “the Tikkun Kavim” (correction of lines).

We know that in the world of Nikudim “the Tikkun Kavim” shines only in the Rosh, because the Hitlabshut cannot spread the light into the Guf. There was just some luminescence in the Guf, so the state of Katnut brought no satisfaction to the vessels. However, as the light of Gadlut came, even the vessels of bestowal break.

Only after the vessels break does an independent desire called “the creation” come into being and begins looking for the way to its source. Hence, there is no action in the Universe, from the beginning to the very end, which would not bring the creation closer to its goal – eternal, perfect, and infinite filling with the Supreme Light.

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