Basics in Kabbalah and Chassidut: Tzimtzum

The Stages of the Creative Process
from God’s Infinite Light to Our Physical World

 Introduction
 Or Ein Sof (“God’s Infinite Light”)
 Sod Ha’Tzimtzum (“The Secret of ‘Contraction’”)
 Adam Kadmon (“Primordial Man”)
 Akudim, Nekudim, Brudim (“Binding, Points, Connection”)
 Keter D’Atzilut (“The ‘Crown’ of Emanation”)
 Olam Ha’Atzilut (“The World of Emanation”)
 ABiYA (The Four Worlds: Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, Asiyah)

Sod Ha’Tzimtzum (“The Secret of ‘Contraction’”)
Three stages of the secret of “contraction”: the “removal” of God’s Infinite Light; the “impression” that God “withdrew” from creation; the “ray” of Divine light radiated into the primordial darkness.

 Tzimtzum Reshimu Kav

 

Tzimtzum
Contraction

The concept of tzimtzum, the contraction and “removal” of God’s infinite light in order to allow for Creation of independent realities, is elucidated in the teachings of the Arizal. In the generations that followed, two schools of thought developed with regard to the meaning of tzimtzum: one took the concept literally (i.e. that God’s infinite light is no longer present within the “vacuum” or “womb” of the created universe) while the other (that of the Ba’al Shem Tov and his disciples after him) understood the concept as not meant to be interpreted literally, but rather to refer to the manner in which God impresses His presence upon the consciousness of finite reality.

In truth (according to the accepted second opinion), from the perspective of God as it were, His omnipresence (and that of His infinite light) is constant, undergoing no change from before to after Creation. From our perspective, however, His light seems to disappear. This is necessary for the sake of the act of Creation itself, the bestowal of free will to man, and the fulfillment of God’s ultimate will in Creation, to “reveal Himself below.”

One of the philosophic dilemmas that finds its resolution in the doctrine of tzimtzum is the query as to how finitude may emerge from infinity and plurality from absolute unity.

In Chassidut, we are taught that the Divine act of tzimtzum (the manifestation of the Divine attribute of gevurah, “might,” or din, “severe judgment”), the concealment of God’s absolute omnipresence, is ultimately for the sake of revelation.

The tzimtzum is understood as the process by which a “teacher,” the brilliance of whose knowledge and insight is infinite, must totally conceal his level of understanding in order to begin to teach and relate to a student of no previous background. The ultimate intention and desire of the teacher is to illuminate the consciousness of his student with the brilliance of his own mind, but first he must “contract” and constrain himself. The reshimu or “residue” (to be explained) of his brilliance which remains becomes the initial point from and through which all of his teachings to his student will emanate (by means of the kav, to be explained).


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