as summarized by Daniel Granovetter
based upon the teachings of Harav Levi Yitzchak Ginsberg, Shlita

Seder Hishtalshelus

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Levels of the Hishtalshelus

In order to understand the Seder Hishtalshelus, we need to look into the human soul – as is written (Job 19:26): "From my flesh I see G-d."


Beriyah, Yetzirah, Asiyah – "The Garments of the Soul"


This world, the lowest world, is the lower part of the spiritual Asiyah.


In the spiritual Asiyah are 10 s'firos, from them came into being spiritual creations – such as the angels called Ofanim, and others. Also kelipos, firstly – Kelipas Nogah, and from Kelipas Nogah, the three impure kelipos receive their life-force.


In Yetzirah are 10 s'firos – and they are more powerful than those in Asiyah. From them were created the regular angels and the Chayos Hakodesh. Also in this world is kelipah – Kelipas Nogah, but here it is half good, half bad as opposed to the kelipah of Asiyah, which is mostly bad.


In Beriyah are 10 s'firos, from them were created the Serafim. The kelipah here is mostly good.


The three worlds of Beriyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah are compared in Chassidus to the three garments of the soul – thought, speech and action.

Intellect and emotion are the two powersof the soul. Thought speech and action are merely garments – just like, with regard to actual garments, you take them off and put them on. It is the same with thought, speech and action. They are not part of you; you can think something, even if you know what you are thinking is not true, even if it is something you don't feel is so.

Even though in Beriyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah the s'firos find expression, in these worlds is not the true place of the s'firos. In fact, the true place of the s'firos is above these worlds, shining down into them. This is why the Divine light in these worlds allows for the creation of entities that appear to be separate from Hashem.

This is why the lower the world, the stronger the kelipos, which conceal Hashem's light.


There are three stages in the creation of anything. These are creation, formation and action. Let's look at the example of an infant, developing in the mother's womb:


Creation: This is when the infant is conceived


Formation: In the nine months that the infant is in the mother's womb, the infant is formed, until the infant is all ready to be born.


Action: The infant is born


So is is with the worlds of Beriyah, Yetzirah, Asiyah – Creation, Formation, Action!


Beriyah: The possibility of created entities comes about.


Yetzirah: Created entities are formed; in this stage, however, they are still part of G-dliness.


Asiyah: Created entities come about into the state of being distinct from G-dliness.


These three stages of creation we see also with regard to the three garments of the soul – thought, speech and action:


Thought: While thought is only a garment of the soul, thought has a greatly strong connection with the soul, in that we are always thinking; we can never stop thinking.

So with Beriyah – the entities therein, though having been created, are still in a state of "bitul b'metziyus" – not thoroughly recognized as having independent existence apart from G-dliness.

Beriyah is known as "the feeling of bitul b'metziyus." Although the created entities of Beriyah have strong bitul – the fact that a "feeling" of bitul exists shows – to however slight a degree – the opposite of bitul. Therefore Beriyah is called "material without form," because in this world material has come about – but that's it; without form, an entity is not so recognizable as having independent existence from its form.

Therefore the kelipah in this world is mostly good – for the problem with it merely is the very feelingitself of bitul b'metziyus.


Speech: Speech differs from thought in that when you speak, the words leave your mouth; they are heard by others, as opposed to thoughts, that remain within your mind.

In Yetzirah, created entities have form, now recognized as being distinct from G-dliness. Yet, they are still in a state of bitul hayesh – they are yesh – existence apart from G-dliness, but have complete bitul to Hashem.

Therefore the kelipah of this world is half good and half bad; half good, because of its bitul to Hashem – and half bad, because it is yesh.


Action: When it comes to speech – you can only speak to that which is on your level of intellect (unless, of course you don't care about being understood, or getting a reply). You can speak to another person. You can't speak to an animal, or a tree for instance. But an action can be applied to anything.

In Asiyah, created entities are not in a state of bitul hayesh, but in a state of yesh gamur. As opposed to in Yetzirah, here the reality exists of not having bitul to Hashem. Even in the higher realms of Asiyah, where there exist created beings who do have bitul to Hashem, this is not complete bitul – it is bitul that comes about through the understanding and agreement that one should have bitul to Hashem. This bitul (which is not even bitul hayesh) is not part of their essence, but aside from it.

Therefore the kelipah of this world is mostly bad – because it fully recognizes itself as yesh.

Most of the created entities in Asiyah have bitul to Hashem – even though it is not complete bitul. But, in this world, the physical Asiyah, the lowest of the lowest of the worlds, of which "most of it is completely bad" are, needless to say, created beings that can go completely against the will of Hashem – and even deny Hashem's existence! It doesn't get more lowly than that!


Atzilus


The world of Atzilus is where the 10 s'firos are based. The 10 s'firos are compared to the intellect and emotion of the soul. These are not the essence of the soul – but they do expressthe essence of the soul; unlike thought, speech and action, which are merely the garments of the soul.

There are creations in Atzilus – among them angels, but they are not yesh; they do not recognize themselves as being independent beings, separate from Hashem.

Beriyah is called so – "Creation," because Beriyah is where creations starts. Atzilus is called so – "Loftiness" because Atzilus extends directly from Hashem's light. Still – it is not partof Hashem's light.


Keter


Above the world of Atzilus is Keter. Keter is divided into two parts: Atik Yomin, the higher level of Keter, and Arich Anpin, the lower level of Keter.

The G-dliness in Arich Anpin is represented through Hashem's ratzon – His desire.

Arich Anpin contains the roots of the s'firos. They are called "Hidden Chochmah," "Hidden Binah," etc.

The example from the soul of man is as follows: Everyone has hidden intellect and emotions. Someone can start out with less of an ability to learn, for instance, end develop his ability to learn, until he can learn better. Did he develop new learning abilities, that he didn't have before? Of course not; these came and were developed, in fact, from his hidden intellect.

Different people have different talents for different things; these talents extend from the hidden intellect.

When a person chooses to make an effort to become smarter in a particular intellectual matter, or a particular skill, it stems from his ratzon – his desire. Which is why different people desire to excel at different things – it depends on their individual desire – and that is the power to draw forth their hidden abilities, from within them.

An example of this in gashmiyus, is coal. The fire that the coal has potential to produce is hidden, so to speak within the coal.

And so we see, in Arich Anpin, the 10 s'firos are in a hidden state, absorbed in the simplicity of Hashem's Ein Sof light.

Atik Yomin is higher than even the hidden aspect of the s'firos; Atik Yomin is thus disconnected from them, for it is comprised of the simplicity of Hashem's Ein Sof light – just that within it is the root of the s'firos – Arich Anpin.

The G-dliness in Arich Anpin is represented through Hashem's ta'anug – His pleasure.

In the example of the soul of man – when you desire something, it is because you know it will bring you pleasure.

Thus, the ta'anug on the level of Atik Yomin is what directs the ratzon on the level of Arich Anpin – and thus, the s'firos are brought forth from Arich Anpin into reality, in Atzilus.


Ekudim


In the world of Ekudim are the soul powers that are part of the soul itself – higher than revelation.

The soul powers of Keter are hidden, but in a way that we call "hidden in reality." But the soul powers in the world of Ekudim are "hidden not in reality." An example of this in gashmiyus, is flint. The fire that the flint has potential to produce is even more hidden within it, than in the case of a piece of coal. In a piece of coal, the fire exists in a hidden state. In a piece of flint, the fire does not exist at all. Thus, you have to strike it hard – if you want to release sparks from it. The fire is "hidden not in reality" – it needs to be brought into reality.

A person feels his soul powers that are "hidden in reality," and is constantly able to draw from them. But the soul powers that are "hidden not in reality" a person does not feel – save for on rare occasions when one is "stricken hard" – when one is faced with some kind of emergency situation that calls for his strengths that he did not even realize he had – but now, in the great heat of the moment he is suddenly able to utilize them!

These soul powers are unlimited, since they are connected to Hashem's Ein Sof light.

Even one who, for instance, is blind, has within these innermost hidden soul powers even the power of sight.

Thus – even if both parents have a similar handicap, they can have children who do not have the handicap.

The s'firos in Ekudim are actually before the state of being divided into individual s'firos – they are absorbed in the simplicity of Hashem's Ein Sof light. Only the potential exists for the subdivision of the s'firos, just as the potential for fire exists in a piece of flint.


Adom Kadmon


Adom Kadmon is the highest level of G-dliness coming after Hashem's Ein Sof light was contracted. Here only the simplicity of Hashem's Ein Sof light is present – the existence of the s'firos and the individual soul powers is not recognized at all – for there only exists here the potential for them to be brought about. When it comes to the example in gashmiyus of flint – although the fire exists in a state of being "hidden not in reality" and needs to be brought forth into reality, it is because of this special feature that the flint has, that Hashem created within it. So too, in this level of the soul, we see that while the soul powers exist in this hidden state – we can separate, in theory, the soul itself, and the ability of the soul to bring forth these powers.

In the level of Adom Kadmon, the soul and the soul powers are one. The soul powers are in no way hidden within the soul – not even on the level of being "hidden not in reality." Just that the potential exists for the soul powers to be brought forth.

An example of this potential is the potential of a child to be given a certain name. Let's say a child is named Ruvein. Before he was named Reuven, the name Reuven had no connection to him – only after he was so named.

An example of calling someone a name that had a previous connection with him is, for instance, calling someone a talmud chochom. Calling someone this may spark motivation within him to learn more; but it had to be that he was a good learner already in order to be called a talmud chochom in the first place.

But when a child is called by his name, like Reuven – the name Reuven had no connection with him before; there only existed the potentialfor him to be called that.

So too it is on the level of Adom Kadmon. The s'firos here are not only hidden – they don't have a reality at all. Not even in the state of being "hidden not in reality." Just the potential exists for them to be brought into being.

This is the level of Adom Kadmon: "Adom" – the s'firos and soul powers, as they are completely one with "Kadmon" – the simplicity of Hashem's Ein Sof light. Therefore Adom Kadmon is the first level of the Seder Hishtalshelus – for in it is the beginning of the potential of the s'firos and all the other aspects of the Seder Hishtalshelus to be brought into being from the simplicity of Hashem's Ein Sof light.


Or Ein Sof Before the Tzimtzum


From the Adom Kadmon can only come forth the Seder Hishtalshelus as has been pre-designed. 10 s'firos can be brought into being – not 9 and not 11. Adom Kadmon is a level of the simplicity of Hashem's Ein Sof Light – Or Ein Sof – however, the simplicity and unlimitedness is restricted to the potential of the creation of the Seder Hishtalshelus only – nothing else.

Or Ein Sof, however, can bring into being anything. It could bring into being 11 s'firos, or 100, or a million. It is truly unlimited.

The reason only 10 s'firos were brought into being was because this was Hashem's will.

This is the difference between before and after the tzimtzum. After the tzimtzum, only the Seder Hishtalshelus could be brought into being. Before the tzimtzum – anything could be possible. Even though before the tzimtzum, Hashem desired this Seder Hishtalshelus – it was with "hidden desire."

What is "hidden desire?"

Let's say you pass by a nice house, and admired the house. Some time after (and it could be a long time after!) you decide to build a house – just like that one you saw. When you decide to build the house – this is "revealed desire" to build the house. When you saw that house before that you later wanted to build – this was with "hidden desire." Your "hidden desire" – it would have gone nowhere if it hadn't become your "revealed desire." Also, your "revealed desire" may have ended up being for a different kind of house.

When Hashem desired before the tzimtzum to create the Seder Hishtalshelus, it was in a way of "hidden desire" – and through the tzimtzum of His Or Ein Sof did Hashem establish His "revealed desire."


Tzimtzum, Kav & Reshimu


Or Ein Sof is unlimited. Which would mean that it has a limit – lack of limitedness. But, Or Ein Sof does, in fact, contain within it limitedness – only before the tzimtzum – the contraction of the light – this limitedness is absorbed within the unlimitedness.

This revelation of limitedness through the tzimtzum is called rishimu. In other words, rishimu is the power of limitedness.

Now, Hashem desired to create worlds that – while they appear to exist independently of Hashem – without revelation of Him, that it will be possible to reveal G-dliness even within these worlds – down to this physical world, the lowest world of all – for Hashem desires a dwelling down below.

To this end, Hashem made His light shine again after the tzimtzum in a way of Or Hakav – the kav is the revelation of His light that overtakes – to a certain degree – the rishimu. Because the light is now Or Hakav – it can create limited entities. And G-dliness can be revealed in them.

The revelation of G-dliness in the worlds is dependent on the degrees of kav and reshimu in them; the higher worlds consist of more kav and less reshimu. The lower worlds consist of more reshimu and less kav.


Our job, here in the lowest of the worlds, is to make it a dwelling place for Him – Hashem Himself! This we do by elevating the world through keeping Torah and mitzvos, leading to Hashem fully revealing Himself, in the true and complete Geulah!