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The Ten Sefirot of the World of Atzilut
Errol D. Feldman, 33°

"Atzilut" (ahtseeloot, 'Emanation'), "Beriah" (breeah, 'Creation'), "Yetzirah" (yehtseerah, 'Formation'), and "Asiyah" "" (A'hseeyah, 'action') are the four worlds ("Arba'ah Olamot," ahrba'ah ohlahmoht) that emerge out of G-d's infinite light and culminate in our finite, physical, and material universe. Atzilut is the first and highest of the four worlds.

The Ten Sefirot (Sfeeroht, 'Countings' or 'Divine Emanations') of the World of Atzilut and of the other worlds, is a fundament of the Kabbalah.

All the worlds are both created and conducted by means of the Sefirot, the emanations by which the various attributes of Divinity become manifest. Thus we find in the discourse beginning Patah Eliyahu, (1) "You are He Who has brought forth ten 'garments', and we call them ten Sefirot, through which to direct hidden worlds which are not revealed, and revealed worlds."

The Ten Sefirot demonstrate both G-d's infinite power ("Ko-ah HaBli-Gvul," koh-ah' hah-blee-gvool) and His finite power ("Ko-ah HaGvul," koh-ah' hah-gvool) ). For, as is pointed out by the author of Avodat HaKodesh, (2) "The Or Ein Sof ('the [infinite] Ein Sof-light') is Shlemutha DeKula ('the completeness of everything,' or: 'the most complete entity of all'): hence, just as He has infinite power, so too does He have finite power. For if you were to say that He possesses infinite power but lacks finite power then you minimize His completeness — and He is the most complete entity of all."

It is within the Sefirot that infinity and the finite first coalesce, as it were, in order for worlds to be created and directed. For the Sefirot are composed of both "orot" (ohroht, 'lights') and "kelim" (kehleem, 'vessels').

The orot of the Sefirot are simple and formless. Since they are not limited by specific characteristics (such as Hochmah or Hesed — Wisdom or Understanding), they reflect G-d's infinite power as revealed within the Sefirot.

The kelim, by contrast, do have specific characteristics, and thereby reveal G-d's power of limitation and finitude. It is thus through the Sefirot that the Ein Sof-light, which is by definition infinite, creates and conducts the finite worlds.

Since both the orot and the kelim which together comprise the Sefirot are utterly united with the Ein Sof-light, for (3) "He and His orot are One; He and His kelim are One," it is possible for the worlds to be created and animated by the Ein Sof and still be finite — for, as explained above, the Sefirot are infused with a capability for finitude.

The garbing of the Ein Sof-light within the Sefirot is known as "man," as in the verse, (4) "And upon the likeness of the throne there was a likeness of man," for "man" denotes a visage comprising ten Sefirot.

The Kabbalah deals mainly with the Sefirot as they exist in the Supernal worlds, as in the World of Atzilut. In addition to the above, Hassidut gives closer attention to the Sefirot insofar as they appear as the ten corresponding faculties of one's soul, which derive and evolve from them. (5) Thus, on the one hand, the middah (the mortal attribute or spiritual emotion) of Hesed, for example, derives from the Supernal Sefirah of Hesed, and so on. But conversely, too, when one utilizes the ten soul-powers within him in his divine service here below, he is able to affect their source, the Sefirot of the higher worlds.

The knowledge and understanding of the Ten Sefirot Above as well as the knowledge of the evolvement of the worlds, is in itself "a great and lofty mitzvah," as the Alter Rebbe writes below in Kuntres Acharon. (6) This understanding leads to a love and fear of G-d, which are the source and root that motivate the performance of all mitzvot, as explained in Likkutei Torah. (7) Moreover, a comprehension of the Sefirot and their corresponding soul-powers inspires one's spiritual service with vitality, and elevates it.]

"To understand the allegory and metaphor, the words of the wise and their riddles, (8) with respect to the Sefirot:

[The commentaries note that "allegory and metaphor" refers to the Written Torah, which includes allegorical passages which are true at both the allusive and the literal levels. An example would be, (9) "Seek life with the woman whom you love." Although in this context "woman" is a metaphor for the wisdom of the Torah, the verse retains its simple meaning as well.

The commentaries note further that "the words of the wise and their riddles" refers to the Oral Torah: "the words of the wise" refers to those things that are revealed to all, while "their riddles" refers to those things which need to be revealed and solved.

It is known (10) "throughout the land" from the mouth of heavenly saints, may their souls rest in Eden, enabling us to somewhat comprehend the verse, (11) "And from my flesh shall I behold G-d," that [this verse] speaks of a partial understanding of G-d's blessed Divinity from [a consideration of] the soul which is vested in the flesh of man.

[This refers only to the dimension of the soul that animates the body, the essence of the soul, like the spirituality that transcends this world at large, remains incomprehensible to man.]

This [correspondence between the soul and its Creator] accords with the teaching of our Sages, (12) of blessed memory, on the verse, (13) Give praise, my soul, [to G-d]: "Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, [permeates the world,] so does the soul [permeate the body]."

[Since the Sages go on to enumerate other similarities between the soul and G-d, it is clear that from the soul we are able to catch a glimpse of things as they exist Above.

But how, indeed, can we possibly compare the soul to G-d?

As written in the Zohar: The soul derives from the innermost aspect of G-dliness, thus sharing characteristics with the Supernal Sefirot and with Divinity itself. We are therefore able to understand G-dliness through the analogy of the soul.

[This correspondence likewise] accords with the teaching of the Zohar (14) on the verse, (15) "And He blew into his nostrils a soul of life": "He who blows, blows from within him," [i.e., from his inwardness and his innermost being.

Unlike speech, which utilizes only the external aspect of the speaker's breath, blowing emits the innermost breath. Thus, when Scripture states that "He blew into his nostrils a soul of life," it means to indicate that the soul derives from the innermost aspects of G-dliness, as explained in Iggeret HaTeshuvah, ch. 4.]

For even a "Nefesh" (nehfehsh) [i.e., a soul of the lowest grade] of Asiyah [i.e., the lowest world] derives from the union of Za [the initials of Ze-er Anpin, i.e., the bracket of six masculine middot, or emotive attributes] with nukva [i.e., the feminine attribute called Malchut] of Asiyah, [i.e., a Nefesh in the World of Asiyah is born of the union of the above masculine and feminine middot (this union being called the yihud (or zivug) of zun, which is an acronym for za venukva], and of [the union of] their Mohin [i.e., HaBaD, an acronym for the intellective soul-faculties of Hochmah, Binah, and Daat, together constituting the Mohin of Za-and-nukva in the World of Asiyah], which are the Hayah and Neshamah of Za-and-nukva.

[Foreshadowing the above-mentioned union at the level of the lower (emotive) Sefirot, the union which first brings a Nefesh to the stage of potential creation is that which takes place at the level of the higher (intellective) Sefirot. The two partners to this union are the soul-level called "Hayah" (h'ahyah), representing the level of Hochmah (16) (the masculine element), and the soul-level called "Neshamah" (nehshahmah), representing the level of Binah (17) (the feminine element).

Thus, even a soul that is merely of the level called Nefesh comprises all the Sefirot of the World of Asiyah — Hochmah, Binah, Za (the six emotive attributes), and nukva (Malchut).]

These, in turn, are the external aspect of the kelim of Za-and-nukva of Atzilut.

[For the kelim of Za-and-nukva of Atzilut illuminate and are infused within the Sefirot of the World of Asiyah. (18) The Sefirot of Asiyah are thus the external aspect of the kelim of Za-and-nukva of Atzilut.]

And they [the kelim of Atzilut] are truly Divine, for in them radiates the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, which is vested and concealed in the Hochmah of Atzilut, [for reasons explained in the Alter Rebbe's Note to ch. 35; indeed, the infinite light vested in Hochmah illuminates all the kelim of the Sefirot of Atzilut: (19) "The Supernal Father 'nests' in Atzilut,"] and "He [the infinite Ein Sof-light] and His kelim are one in Atzilut."

[Since the Sefirot of Atzilut are the internal aspect of the Sefirot of Asiyah, the infinite Ein Sof-light is thus vested within the Sefirot of Asiyah.]

Hence, [since the soul derives from these Sefirot], it follows that the [infinite] Ein Sof-light radiates in the soul of man as well, vested and concealed in the light of its Hochmah, in order to animate man.

And from it [the soul], man is enabled to understand something of the Supernal Sefirot, for they all radiate in his soul, which comprises them.

[Since the soul derives from the Ten Sefirot and hence comprises ten corresponding faculties, man can arrive at an understanding of the Supernal Sefirot through contemplating the dynamics within his own soul.

The Sefirot are, however, infinitely higher than the corresponding faculties within the soul. Indeed, even the Patriarch Abraham's attribute of Hesed could in no way compare to the Hesed of the Sefirot, notwithstanding the fact that Abraham was considered a "chariot" to G-d, (20) i.e., a self-effacing vehicle with no direction or desire other than that of his Rider.]

But it is necessary to state first what I heard from my master, R. Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, peace be to him, on the verse, (21) "And I am dust and ashes." Our father Abraham, peace be to him, said this of the illumination from his soul which radiated in his body from the light of the Supreme Hesed.

And that is his attribute: the attribute of "ahavah rabbah" (ahahvah rahbah, 'magnanimous love'), that derived from the parent Sefirah called Hesed of Atzilut, for he loved (an alternative reading: "with which he loved") the Holy One, blessed be He, with a love so great and sublime, that he became a chariot unto the Holy One, blessed be He.

[Abraham's degree of nullification to G-d was that of a vehicle to its driver, having no independent will whatever. This is even greater than the subservience of a slave to his master, for the slave retains a will of his own.]

Now one might possibly assume that the type of Hesed and love as it exists above in the Supernal Sefirot is of a similar nature to the attribute of abundant love [exemplified by] our father Abraham, peace be to him, though surpassing it infinitely.

For it is known of the Supernal middot ("attributes"), that [though their mode of emanation is finite,] they themselves are essentially without end or limit, because the [infinite] Ein Sof-light actually radiates and is vested within them, and "He and his middot [i.e., the kelim of the Sefirot] are One";] i.e., just as He is infinite, so too are they.]

As regards the soul of man, however, which is vested in corporeality, [in man's body,] its attributes are finite and limited.

[Thus, to revert to the above example, it is abundantly clear that the Supernal Sefirah of Hesed is infinitely loftier and more wondrous than its worldly counterpart — the attribute of Hesed and love in Abraham's soul, which was vested within his body.]

Nevertheless, one might possibly assume that its attributes are of the same type as the Supernal attributes.

The Supernal Sefirah of Hesed is infinitely higher than Abraham's attribute of love in this world. Now, in order to negate a comparison from any perspective whatever; Abraham's attribute of love is infinitely lower than the Supernal Sefirah of Hesed.]

This is why he said, "I am dust and ashes," that is, like ashes, which are the essence and substance of the burned wood; for [the wood] was previously composed of the four basic elements — Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, [of which all matter is compounded,] (22) and the three elements of Fire, Water, and Air passed away and were consumed in the smoke that came into being through their combination, as is known.

As to the fourth element of the wood, namely its component of Earth, which goes downward, [and does not ascend with the smoke,] and over which the fire has no dominion, it is this that remains in existence, and constitutes the ashes.

Now the whole of the essence of the wood, with its tangible substantiality, [which does not result from the Fire, Water, and Air within it,] its matter, and its form in terms of length, width and density, which were visible to the eye before it was burned, derived basically from the element of Earth within it, except that the Fire, Water, and Air were also compounded in it.

For Earth is the most material of them all, of all the elements, having [dimensions of] length, width and density, which is not the case with Fire and Air. And even Water, [that does contain these dimensions,] appears only sparingly in wood.

Thus, as to all the dimensions [in wood] of length, width and density, (23) "All is of the earth, and all returns to earth," i.e., to the ashes that remain after the Fire, Water and Air have been separated from it.

[Thus, the ash that remains is what was formerly the essence of the wood.] Now, just as there is neither a quantitative nor a qualitative resemblance or proportion between [on the one hand] the ashes and [on the other hand] the essence of the tree which, before being burned, had sizeable dimensions of length, width and density, even though it [the wood] is its very essence and substance, and from it [the wood] did it [the ash] come into being, precisely so, metaphorically speaking, did our father Abraham, peace be to him, speak of his distinctive attribute, the attribute of kindness and love, which radiated within him and was vested in his body.

For though it was this very attribute of the love and Supreme Hesed of Atzilut that radiated in his soul, which was a chariot to [the will of] heaven, nevertheless, as it descended downwards to vest itself in the body, by means of the evolution of the worlds from one level to another, by means of many contractions, there was no semblance or proportion between the essence of the light of the love that radiated within him, and the essence of the light of the love and Supreme Hesed of Atzilut, except of the sort of proportion and semblance that exists [metaphorically speaking] between the essence of the element of Earth which became ashes, and its essence and quality in its original state as a tree, (24) "pleasant to the sight and good for food."

Indeed, [the incomparability of Abraham's Hesed and the Hesed of Atzilut] exceeds [the incomparability of the ash and the tree] by thousands of degrees of separation. Nevertheless, the Torah speaks in human phraseology, by way of allegory and metaphor; [hence its use of the analogy of the tree, despite its inherent disproportion.

Surely, then, the attributes and soul-powers of an ordinary person in this world bear absolutely no comparable relation to the Sefirot from which they derive. Nonetheless, since his soul-powers do after all derive from the Sefirot and are illuminated by them, he can attain some degree of understanding of G-dliness from that dimension of the soul that animates his body. And this is the meaning of the verse, "From my flesh shall I behold G-d."

Now, as regards the totality of the Ten Sefirot [as they appear] in the soul of man, It is known to all (25) that the emotive attributes divide into seven general categories, (26) and each of the particular attributes in man derives from one of these seven attributes.

For they are the root of all the attributes and their generality, namely: the attribute of Hesed ["lovingkindness", [which is a thrust] to diffuse benevolence [to all] without limit; the attribute of Gevurah ["stern limitation and contraction", [which seeks] to restrain such a degree of diffusion, or to withhold diffusion altogether (27) [from certain individuals]; and the attribute of Rahamim ["compassion", [which seeks] to pity a person to whom compassion is appropriate (28) [and to extend benevolence to him as well, although he may be unworthy of it.]

[Rahamim] is the mediating attribute between Gevurah and Hesed, the latter of which would diffuse benevolence to all, even to a person to whom compassion is not at all appropriate, (28) inasmuch as he lacks nothing and is in no state of trouble whatever. (29)

[Because the attribute of Hesed is unlimited it desires to benefit even someone who lacks nothing. The attribute of Rahamim, by contrast, being also compounded of Gevurah, will not seek to diffuse indiscriminately. At the same time, Rahamim pleads the cause of any individual who is in a pitiable state, however unworthy he may be.]

Because [the attribute of Rahamim] is the mediating attribute, it is called Tiferet ["beauty"], by analogy with beautiful garments which are (30) dyed with many colors blended (31) in a way that gives rise to beauty and decoration.

To a garment dyed in one color, however, one cannot apply the term Tiferet, [which implies the beauty of harmony. And since the attribute of Rahamim is compounded of Hesed and Gevurah, the term Tiferet is appropriate.]

Afterwards, [once the attribute of either Hesed, Gevurah or Tiferet is aroused to dispense benevolence], as the diffusion is realized, that is, at the time of the actual diffusion, it is necessary to deliberate how to diffuse in such a way that the recipient will be able to absorb the effusion. (32)

For example, when one wishes — [and this is a powerful desire] — to convey and teach an intellectual subject to his son: If he will tell it to him in its totality, just as it appears in his own mind, the son will be unable to understand and to absorb it.

[This could happen either (a) because the concept as understood by the father is too abstract and subtle for the son, and needs to be lent a more tangible garb, such as a parable; or (b) because the concept is too comprehensive and too diverse, and needs to be broken down into digestible segments, only some of which will be presented to the son.]

Rather, one needs to arrange [it] for him in a different order and context, [such as by providing an example from an alternative context] "every word fitly spoken," (33) [presenting first one side of the issue at hand and then the other,] little by little, [a little of the concept at a time.

The concept thus needs to contracted with regard to its "length", by lowering its stature until it is within the grasp of the recipient, and with regard to its "breadth", by reducing its manifold details to match the capacity of the son or student.]

This deliberation, [regarding how best to present the concept], is referred to [by the terms] Netzah and Hod. These [attributes] are (34) "the kidneys that advise," [in a manner similar to their physical counterpart,] and they are also [in spiritual terms] the two testicles that prepare the spermatozoa, (35) [Like their physical counterpart, the attributes of Netzah and Hod adapt the effusion of the concept.] i.e., the drop that issues from the brain. (36)

That is, [they adapt] an intellectual subject deriving from the father's mind in such a way that it will not issue unmodified, i.e., as a very subtle concept in his brain and intellect, but that it change somewhat from the subtlety of his intelligence and become a somewhat less subtle concept, so that the son will be able to absorb [it] in his mind and understanding.

This is truly analogous to the seminal drop which descends from the brain; it is extremely tenuous, and, through the kidneys and the two testicles, it becomes truly concrete and corporeal. [This process parallels the progressive concretization of a concept, as it descends to match the capacity of the recipient.

There is yet another function of the attributes of Netzah and Hod, separating a concept into its various components.

Netzah and Hod are also referred to as "grinders" and "millstones", because they "grind the mannah for the righteous," (37) [like the heaven which is named [Shehakim] for it "grinds [Shohakim] the mannah for the righteous."]

Just as, by way of example, a person who grinds [wheat] (38) with millstones crumbles it into very fine parts, so too does the father need to taper the insight or the intellectual subject he wishes to convey to his son, and to divide them into many parts, relating [them] to him gradually, with devices and discernment.

[Dividing a concept in this way so as to be able to determine what should be presented and what should be withheld is a contraction of the concept's depth. Thus, Netzah and Hod serve to contract its length, breadth, and depth — the concept in all its dimensions.]

The category of Netzah also comprises prevailing (39) and standing up against anything, from within or from without, that withholds from his son the transmission of beneficial influence or learning.

"From within" means firmly resisting the attribute of Gevurah and "tzimtzum" (tseemtsoom) within the father himself, for it arouses [within his will] contentions against his son, arguing that he is not yet fit for this [profound knowledge].

[There now follows a parenthetical note in the text which states:]

(A note in the manuscripts: Omission.)

[I.e., according to some of the manuscripts which were compared to the previous printed editions of Iggeret HaKodesh when the current edition was being prepared for publication, (40) there is an omission here in the text.

The Rebbe Shlita notes that prevailing over influences "from without" is even more important to explain than prevailing over influences "from within." The fact that this explanation is lacking points to an omission in the text.

In addition: According to the translation offered above that "The category of Netzah also comprises ...," there is nothing amiss in the Alter Rebbe's failure to explain a corresponding aspect within Hod, for Hod comprises no such corresponding aspect. However, the translation may also be rendered: "In general, the category of Netzah also entails ..." If this is indeed the proper rendition, then the question arises, why was there no corresponding statement as to the general function of Hod? Its absence likewise demonstrates that there is an omission in the text.

The category of Yesod is, by way of example, the bond by which the father binds his intellect to the intellect of his son while teaching him with love and willingness, for he wishes his son to understand.

Without this [bond], even if the son would hear the very same words from the mouth of his father [(41) as he speaks and studies to himself], he would not understand [them] as well as now, when his father binds his intellect to him and speaks with him face to face (42) with love and desire, because he desires very much that his son understand.

[The father does not merely want to enlighten his son; his desire stemming from Yesod is powerful because it is driven by pleasure.]

{(41) In the holy handwriting of the Tzemah Tzedek, of blessed memory, (in the discourse entitled Ki Yedaativ, sec. 13, (43) where this passage is quoted,) the above words ("as he speaks and studies to himself") are not to be found.}

[The reason for this omission: Not only is there a difference between (a) what the son passively absorbs when he hears his father studying independently, and (b) what he absorbs when his father actively teaches him; but even when the father is actually teaching, the presence or absence of the quality of Yesod will determine whether or not his son's mind will be ignited by the fire of his own desire to communicate.]

And the greater the desire and delight of the father, the greater is the influence and the learning, (44) because then the son is able to absorb more and the father communicates more, [proportionally].

For through the desire and delight, and with a contented disposition, his own insight is heightened and amplified, so that he can bestow enlightenment upon his son and teach him.

( (45) This parallels, to draw a metaphor from [the attribute of Yesod in] the sphere of the truly physical, the profusion of spermatozoa that results from heightened desire and delight, through which much is elicited from the brain, [which is its source].

This is why the Kabbalists, [seeking to illustrate the imparting of knowledge out of a sense of pleasure], used the analogy of a physical union, [for there are a number of similarities between these two expressions of the attribute of Yesod], as will be explained. ) (46)

Now, these emotive attributes — [those involved in imparting enlightenment, and the like] — are the external aspects of the soul.

Within them are vested the inner attributes, [which bring about the external attributes involved in the actual imparting of knowledge,] i.e., the faculties of love and awe, and so on.

This may be compared to the case of a father who bestows enlightenment upon his son because of his love for him, [The internal aspect of the attribute involved is love and its external aspect is kindness.] and withholds his influence because of his dread and fear lest [his son] come to some downfall, heaven forfend.

[The father's fear and dread are thus the internal aspect of his Gevurah, the attribute that completely or partially witholds the flow of instruction.

The remaining emotive attributes are all offshoots of love and fear (as explained in Part I, ch. 3, above), and accordingly they too possess internal and external aspects.

The source and root of these internal and external emotive attributes, is the HaBaD — [an acronym for the intellectual faculties of Hochmah, Binah, and Daat] — of one's soul, for a person's emotive traits are in proportion to his intellect.

This is empirically evident; with a child, for example, whose HaBaD are in a state of pettiness, all his emotive traits, too, relate to insignificant things, [and as he matures in age and understanding, his emotive traits correspondingly aspire to worthier goals.]

With adults, too, [the emotive traits develop in proportion to the intellect, for (47) "According to his intelligence is a man praised."

[Since the term "man" (Ish) (eesh,) is an appelative for the emotive traits (cf. the verse, (48) "As is a man, so is his Gevurah"), the previously quoted verse is teaching us that a person's emotive traits are praiseworthy in proportion to the stature of his HaBaD.

For the extent of his love and kindness corresponds to the extent of his wisdom, and all his other internal and external traits likewise have their source in his HaBaD.

Most important to the development of the spiritual emotions is one's Daat, which derives from one's Hochmah and Binah.

[A thinker first grasps the essence of a concept through the seminal flash of illumination afforded by his faculty of Hochmah; he next understands it fully by means of the analysis and amplification which are the function of his faculty of Binah; ultimately, he must immerse himself in concentration on the concept, binding and unifying himself with it to the point that — beyond mere intellective comprehension — he also senses and experiences it with his faculty of Daat.

It is this faculty that is critical to the development of his middot, such as the spiritual emotions of love and awe of G-d, for Daat provides them with their substance and vitality, as explained in Part I, ch. 3.]

This is readily observable, for the differences between the emotive traits of various people corresponds to the differences in their respective degrees of Daat.

Now all this — [the above-mentioned effect of the emotive traits upon the resultant teaching or influence] — is only by way of allegory, [and does not provide a completely true picture of the Sefirot as they exist within man's soul], for all this applies to the rational soul, which is the lower one in man, and derives from "kelipat nogah" (kleepaht nohgah).

[This "lower soul" naturally inclines to "lower" (i.e., corporeal) matters, so that even its intellect goes only as far as understanding the composition and so on, of mundane things. For although the kelipah which is the source of this soul is kelipat nogah, a kelipah whose darkness is relieved by a ray of good, nevertheless it is wholly bound up with mundanity.]

But in true fact, with regard to [the Sefirot in] the higher, divine soul, which is a "part of G-d above," (49) all the internal and external attributes are [directed] to G-d alone: [the divine soul is concerned with spiritual things alone, so that both its (internal) love and (external) Hesed are concentrated purely on G-dliness.]

For because of one's love of G-d and because of one's great desire to cleave unto Him, he desires [with all his being to practice] Hesed, in order to cleave to His attributes.

This accords with the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory, on the verse, (50) "And to cleave unto Him": "Cleave unto His attributes." (51)

[Just as G-d is compassionate so should mortal man be compassionate; just as G-d has an innate desire to practice kindness, so should a person's inner desire to practice kindness be motivated by a desire to cleave to G-d.

As to the attribute of Hesed, then, both its internal aspect (love) and its external aspect (kindness) are directly purely to G-dly things.]

It is likewise with the attribute of Gevurah, [whose internal aspect is fear; it, too, is experienced only for G-dly causes:] for example, to punish and chastise the wicked with the punishments of the Torah; and also, to prevail over one's [evil] inclination and to (52) "Sanctify himself in that which is permitted to him," and to (53) put up a fence and a hedge around the Torah, because of the dread and fear of G-d, lest he might come to sin, heaven forfend.

[In order to ensure that he will not come to sin, a person may thus choose to sanctify himself and refrain from (54) "one hundred portals of the permissible, so as not to transgress in one portal of the prohibited."

To summarize the above conclusions regarding the first two of the seven middot, or spiritual emotions: Not only is a man's attribute of Hesed directed to G-dly matters, but so too is his attribute of Gevurah — both in its internal aspect, viz., the fear of G-d, and in its external manifestations in his rigorous observance of the Torah and its mitzvot.]

Likewise, [by exercising the attribute of Tiferet (lit., "beauty"), a man seeks] to glorify G-d and His Torah in all ways possible, [such as by possessing a beautiful sefer Torah, beautiful tefillin and the like,] and to cleave to His praises [by praising G-d] with all the faculties of his soul: that is, by intellectual and thoughtful meditation [on the greatness of G-d, which blossoms into the singing of His praises;] and likewise when he speaks, [his praises are not empty words, but grow out of his preparatory meditation.

"Praising G-d with all the faculties of his soul" thus means that the worshiper utilizes his intellect and emotions as well as all three "garments" of his soul (i.e., the soul's media of self-expression), viz., thought, speech and action (for speech constitutes (55) "mini-action"). Alternatively, "praising G-d with all the faculties of his soul" may mean: all those aspects of the soul that relate to praise, i.e., intellect, thought, and speech.]

Likewise, [by exercising the attribute of Netzah, a man seeks] to prevail triumphantly against anything that would restrain [him] from the service of G-d and from cleaving unto Him, and against anything that would restrain [the state of revelation in which] (56) the entire earth is filled with the glory of G-d, like the wars for G-d fought by King David, peace to him, [which derived from his attribute of Netzah.]

Likewise, [by exercising the attribute of Hod,] (57) [which implies self-abnegation, and acknowledging the transcendence of that which defies his mortal understanding, a man seeks] to prostrate himself and to [self-effacingly] praise G-d Who animates and creates everything, and before Whom everything is essentially non-existent and esteemed as truly nothing and null.

Though we cannot apprehend just how everything is truly as null before Him, nevertheless, we acknowledge and genuinely concede that in absolute truth such is the case.

[From the very depths of his soul one acknowledges that G-d's "Supernal Daat" and knowledge that everything is essentially non-existent before Him is true, and that the mortal understanding of our "inferior Daat" — that creation does indeed exist, except that it is nullified to Him — results from the limited compass of our earthbound perspective. (58) This acknowledgement results from the self-abnegation expressed by the attribute of Hod.]

This [attribute] also includes the expression of gratitude to G-d for all the favors that He has bestowed upon us, so that [we] should not be ungrateful, G-d forbid.

This [attribute of Hod] also includes the offering of thanks to G-d for all His praiseworthy [deeds], and His attributes and His workings in the emanation and creation of the upper and lower worlds, for they are praiseworthy to no end, (59) and are becoming and befitting Him, blessed and exalted be He.

The term [Hod is here to be understood] as in the phrase, (60) Hod vehadar ["majesty and splendor"]. And likewise [engaged in one's divine service is] the attribute of [Yesod — lit., "foundation"], as in the phrase], (61) "The tzaddik is the foundation of the world."

[In the above analogy, it was by means of the attribute of Yesod that the father communicated with his son and disciple through bonds of desire and pleasure. So, too, in the realm of divine service, the attribute of Yesod involves cleaving to G-d with intense desire and pleasure,] so that one's soul is bound up with G-d, the Fountain-head of Life, cleaving to Him with an attachment and a desire, out of a wondrous love and delight, [all of which are expressions of the attribute of Yesod.]

And as for the [divine soul's] attribute of Malchut, [the worshiper seeks thereby] to accept upon himself the yoke of G-d's sovereignty and of His service, like the service of any servant to his master, i.e., out of awe and fear.

Now, the source and root of all the attributes are in the HaBaD. That is: Hochmah is the source of the intellect which apprehends G-d and His wisdom, His greatness, and the holy attributes wherewith He conducts and animates all the higher and lower worlds;

Binah is the contemplation of this apprehension [of G-d's greatness and His holy attributes] in the length, breadth, and depth of one's understanding, in order (62) "to understand [or deduce] one matter out of another, (63) and from this apprehension to beget its offspring, which are the attributes of love and awe,

[The "length" of a particular concept — in this case, the greatness of the Creator — entails drawing it down from its lofty abstraction (by way of a parable, for example) to a level of intelligibility. The "breadth" of the concept refers to the multitudinous components and ramifications that await one's mastery. Its "depth" refers to the challenge of plumbing its seemingly limitless profundity.

The thinker's understanding of the greatness of G-d gives birth to emotions — a love and a fear of Him.] And the other attributes born in the divine soul which contemplates and meditates upon G-d's greatness, as to how (64) "His greatness is unfathomable."

One aspect of G-d's greatness is such that the divine soul, when contemplating it, is overwhelmed by a fear and dread. This is yirah tataah ["the lower level of fear"], which is an aspect of Malchut.

There is another aspect of the greatness of G-d from [the contemplation of] which derives yirah ilaah ["the superior level of fear"], in which one is awed out of bashfulness.

There is also an aspect [of G-d's greatness] from [the contemplation of] which derives ahavah rabbah ["the great love"], and still another aspect [of G-d's greatness], from [the contemplation of] which derives ahavah zutta ["the lesser love". All these levels of ahavah and yirah are internal emotive attributes that are fathered by HaBaD.]

The same applies to the external attributes, i.e., Hesed and so on; [they, too, emanate from HaBaD.]

Now, the faculty of Daat must be vested within all these [emotive attributes], for it represents the bond with which the soul is bound and embedded in this apprehension as it apprehends some aspect of G-d's greatness, from which one of these attributes is born within it.

[Once the soul has apprehended some aspect of G-d's greatness it must bind itself to this comprehension through the faculty of Daat.]

For by a momentary removal of Daat from this apprehension, the emotion born of it is also withdrawn from its [prior] state of manifestation in the soul [back] into concealment [within the soul], to exist there in potentia but not in actuality.

[It is the faculty of Daat — a prolonged and constant involvement in the subject being contemplated — that reveals and actualizes the emotive experience of love or fear.]

That is why the term Daat is applied to coition, (65) for it signifies a bond [that results in issue, just as out of Daat are born the emotions.]

This is the faculty of Daat Tahton, the lower level of Daat, which extends into the attributes and vests itself in them to animate and sustain them.

There is also a faculty of Daat Elyon, a superior level of Daat, through which the source of the intellect that apprehends the profundity of a concept is bound and connected [to it] — like a point or a flash of lightning that flashes over one's mind — so that [the concept] will extend downward.

The profundity of the apprehended concept will thereby come to be understood with extensive clarification, in length and breadth, this stage being the function of the faculty of Binah, which is known as rehovot hanahar [lit., "the expanses of the river"], as will be explained in its place. (66)

[The faculty of Daat Elyon unifies Hochmah with Binah. For Hochmah is the intuitive flash of illumination that would vanish as quickly as it appeared, if it were not anchored by Daat in the comprehension of Binah, whereby this seminal point assumes length and breadth.

Hochmah is thus likened to a wellspring whose waters issue forth drop by drop, while Binah is likened to a broad and deep river. It is the function of Daat Elyon to draw the wellsprings of Hochmah into the river of Binah.

The function of Daat Tahton, by contrast, is that of binding the intellective faculties of HaBaD with their resultant emotions, so that one's intellectual activity will illuminate them, and provide them with vitality and continuity.

In summary, this discourse demonstrates how all the ten faculties of the divine soul engage in an ongoing relationship with their G-dly source. Indeed, to recall the Alter Rebbe's opening lines, an understanding of this dynamic within oneself, enables one to experience the truth of the verse, "From my flesh shall I behold G-d," and to gain some measure of understanding of the Supernal Sefirot.]


1.  Introduction II to Tikkunei Zohar, reproduced in Siddur Tehillat HaShem, pp. 125-6.
2.  Part I, beginning of ch. 8.
3.  Introduction to Tikkunei Zohar, p. 3b; Etz Hayim, Shaar 47, ch. 2 et al.; and see Epistle 20, below.
4.  Yehezkel (Ezekiel) 1:26.
5.  See Tanya, Part I, ch. 3.
6.  P. 156b.
7.  Discourse entitled Lo Tashbit.
8.  Mishlei (Proverbs) 1:6.
9.  Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 9:9.
10.  Cf. Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 12:5.
11.  Iyov (Job) 19:26.
12.  Berachot 10a.
13.  Tehillim (Psalms) 103:1.
14.  Quoted above — in Part I, beginning of ch. 2, and in Part III (Iggeret HaTeshuvah), ch. 4 — in the name of the Zohar.
15.  Bereishit (Genesis) 2:7.
16.  This connection is hinted at in the phrase, "HaHochma Tehaye," Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 7:12.
17.  For this connection, cf. the phrase, "Nishmat Sha-kai Tevinem," Iyov (Job) 32:8.
18.  See Etz Hayim, Shaar 47, ch. 2.
19.  Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 6.
20.  Bereishit Rabbah 47:8, et al.; explained in Tanya, Part I, chs. 18, 23 et al.
21.  Bereishit (Genesis) 18:27.
22.  Rambam (Maimonides), Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, beginning of ch. 4.
23.  Cf. Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 3:20.
24.  Bereishit (Genesis) 2:9.
25.  An alternative reading, which does not appear in the ms. versions: "It is known, in a general way, ..."
26.  The Alter Rebbe first deals with the seven middot, or emotive attributes, and towards the end of this letter proceeds to explain the three intellective attributes which give birth to them. (See the passage below that begins, "Having dealt with the middot ...")
27.  In place of Klall ("altogether"), an alternative reading has Kol Ikar, which is a more emphatic phrase.
28.  The word Lashon, which appears in the Hebrew text before Rahmanut ("compassion"), is left untranslated for, as the Rebbe Shlita notes, it is evidently a superfluous interpolation.
29.  Note of the Rebbe Shlita: This is a departure from the usual explanation — that Hesed extends its benevolence even to an individual whom the attribute of compassion would disqualify (despite his need), or to an individual whom one should not pity.
30.  The corresponding Hebrew phrase, whose singular form is apparently anomalous, is rendered in the plural in one of the early editions of this letter (Lemberg, 1860).
31.  An alternative reading, which does not appear in the ms. versions, interpolates the word Bo after Meuravim; the meaning of the sentence is virtually unaffected.
32.  Note of the Rebbe Shlita: This is [the function of the attributes of] Malchut and Yesod, as will soon be explained.
33.  Mishlei (Proverbs) 25:11.
34.  Berachot 61a.
35.  Zohar III, 296a.
36.  Cf. Tanya, Part I, ch. 2.
37.  Note of the Rebbe Shlita: As above, conclusion of Shaar HaYihud VehaEmunah, quoting Hagigah 12b.
38.  Brackets are in the original text.
39.  The Hebrew root of Netzah comprises three meanings — to prevail, to be enduring, to be victorious.
40.  Note of the Rebbe Shlita: As noted in the Introduction of R. Avraham Shu"b, the [previously] printed letters of Iggeret HaKodesh were compared to copyists' manuscripts (and not to the Alter Rebbe's original letters).
41.  Brackets are in the original text.
42.  Note of the Rebbe Shlita: Though it is possible to understand the acronym Peh Alef Peh as meaning Peh el Peh ("mouth to mouth") — i.e., without an intermediary; cf. Ibn Ezra on Parshat Behaalotcha 12:8), the phrase Panim el Panim ("face to face") describes a higher level [of communication, and is therefore the preferred rendition], for here the Alter Rebbe is speaking of the highest qualities of Yesod, to the degree that the father 'desires greatly.' Moreover, it is specifically this phrase ('face to face') that is the antithesis of the contrasting situation described above, in which the father 'speaks to himself.'
43.  Printed in Or HaTorah, Vayeira 98b.
44.  Note of the Rebbe Shlita: Perhaps this should read Go-dail [with a kamatz and tzeirei, so that the sentence would mean, 'And the more the desire and delight of the father grow, the more do the influence and the learning grow'], instead of Gadol [with a kamatz and holam, as translated above].
45.  Parentheses are in the original text.
46.  In his Hebrew annotations to the original Yiddish text of the present work, the Rebbe Shlita explains why the Alter Rebbe does not discuss the attribute of Malchut. The learned explanation, which hinges on the comparative dynamics of the various Sefirot, is not readily translatable.
47.  Mishlei (Proverbs) 12:8.
48.  Shoftim (Judges) 8:21.
49.  See Tanya, Part I, beginning of ch. 2.
50.  Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:22.
51.  Sifri (sec. 49) on the above verse; Sotah 14a.
52.  Cf. Yevamot 20a.
53.  Cf. Avot 1:1.
54.  Reishit Hochmah, Shaar HaKedushah, ch. 15, et al.
55.  Sanhedrin 65a.
56.  Cf. Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 6:3.
57.  The Hebrew root of this word comprises three meanings — to praise, to thank, and to acknowledge.
58.  Note of the Rebbe Shlita: See Likkutei Torah, Vaethanan, p. 4a ff.
59.  According to an alternative reading, "... beyond searching."
60.  Tehillim (Psalms) 104:1.
61.  Mishlei (Proverbs) 10:25.
62.  Hagigah 14a.
63.  Note of the Rebbe Shlita: Two explanations (Or HaTorah, Bereishit, p. 2048 ff.).
64.  Tehillim (Psalms) 145:3.
65.  Note of the Rebbe Shlita: See [Tanya,] Part I, conclusion of ch. 3.
66.  Note of the Rebbe Shlita: The intent of 'in its place' is problematic. Possibly this refers to the relevant places in [Tanya,] Part I (see its indexes), and likewise in Likkutei Torah, etc.