Basics in Kabbalah: Introduction – The Inner Dimension

The Powers of the Soul to Experience God

Kabbalah teaches us that at every level of created being–from the perfected realm of Atzilut (Divine “Emanation”) to the deficient plane of our own earthly existence–there exist ten sefirot (Divine “radiances” or “powers”) around which that reality is constructed. Each of these sefirot is given a name describing its unique role in the fashioning of reality.

Each of the sefirot possesses both an external as well as an internal dimension. The external dimension of each sefirah is identified with the “functional” role that it plays in the process of Creation; its internal dimension is identified with the hidden motivational force which inspires its activity. Even more so than with respect to the external dimension of the sefirot, their inner dimension can only be appreciated in context of how it manifests itself in the Jewish soul. Given the Divine derivation of our soul, we can understand how an analysis of its essential properties and powers can serve as the best vehicle for achieving insight into God’s own inscrutable being.

Chassidut describes the inspirational force behind each sefirah. While the Kabbalistic names of the sefirot serve well to express the Divine effect that each of these powers has upon Creation, only the terms put forth by Chassidut reveal the inner dimension of each sefirah.

Another way of explaining the differing emphases of Kabbalah and Chassidut is to say that Kabbalah focuses on the “vessels” (kelim) of Creation while Chassidut deals with the “lights” (orot) that fill these vessels. This distinction is apparent even in the names attached to these two mystical traditions: The word Kabbalah in Hebrew is derived from the root kabal, “to serve as a receptacle or vessel,” while the word Chassidut is constructed from the root chesed, “lovingkindness,” an attribute often referred to symbolically as the “light of day.”

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