In the beginning, God made the Heaven and the Earth. (Bereishis 1:1)
The words are so incredibly simple, and yet, of course, conceal the most
remarkable secrets of Creation. Indeed, each of the Hebrew words can be and
are dissected and explained in so many ways, so many Kabbalistic ways. In
fact, the Tikunei Zohar does exactly that with only the first word,
Bereishis, revealing 70 different explanations for this word alone.
The point of "Perceptions" all through the years has been to provide a
unique perspective on already well-known ideas. It has been to open the mind
of the reader to nuances in the parshah, and how they might apply to
everyday life. And, above all, to show how the Torah is really the blueprint
for Creation of all of history, by revealing how its seemingly simple words
incorporate all that has ever occurred, and will occur.
For example, the Zohar teaches that the first verse of the parshah should
actually be the second verse (Zohar, Bereishis 16a). In other words, the
proper chronological order of the verses is as follows:
The earth was null and void, and there was darkness upon the face of
the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered above the water. (Bereishis 1:2)
In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the earth. (Bereishis 1:1)
God said, "Let there be light!" and there was light. (Bereishis 1:3)
The obvious question that arises makes it clear as to why the verses are not
actually written that way: If the earth was not created until the second
verse, then which earth was null and void in the first verse? What, if
anything, existed prior to the creation of Heaven and Earth? What was
"bereishis" the beginning of, if not of everything that exists?
To the seasoned Kabbalist, that is not a question, or at least, not a
difficult one, for Kabbalah, in essence, is only about that: The process of
Creation up until physical creation as recorded in the Torah. From a
Kabbalistic point of view, the Written Torah picks up the story in the
middle, long after far more spectacular things have occurred just to make
physical Creation possible. For the first time in this parshah sheet, we
will discuss some of them briefly, very briefly.
STEP 1: OHR AIN SOF
In the beginning, there was Ohr Ain Sof, only Ohr Ain Sof. The Kabbalists
are quick to point out that this light, literally "Light of Without End," is
not the Essence of God, just a revelation of His light on an extremely
sublime level. It was, and is, an expression of God's desire to reveal
Himself, eventually, to beings that will be able to recognize and appreciate
such a revelation.
However, at this point in the creation process, nothing else existed but
this infinite light, emanating out in all directions, infinitely, something
that is much easier to say than to imagine. On this level of revelation, the
existence of anything else would be a contradiction of the very nature of
the light, since the existence of something else could only be possible if
the light ceased to be infinite on such a level of revelation.
STEP 2: TZIMTZUM
Therefore, the first thing that had to happen to the Ohr Ain Sof in order to
make Creation possible, any of it-the spiritual and physical aspects of
it-was a lessening of its infiniteness somewhere, just enough to allow other
things to exist. This lessening of the infiniteness of the Ohr Ain Sof is
called, in Kabbalah, "Tzimtzum," or "Constriction," and its creation is
considered to be one of the largest and most important "miracles" of all
Hence, at what is technically called the "Center of the Ohr Ain Sof" (or the
Malchus of the Ohr Ain Sof, but how do you find the center of infinity?),
tzimtzum occurred. And, it kept occurring in a spherical fashion outward
from that point, expanding the size of the spiritual void, until there
existed a Divinely-specified ball-like hollow called the "Challal," or
"Hollow," because that is exactly what resulted: a large-trillions of times
larger than our physical universe, at least-hollow that was devoid of Ohr
Ain Sof, or at least enough of it to begin the process of Creation.
STEP 3: THE CHALLAL
It is basically impossible to accurately imagine what the Challal is, but to
get a very rough idea, imagine a room filled with light, with a basketball
suspended in the middle of it. Even though light surrounds the entire ball
on all sides, the rubber skin of the ball, kept in spherical shape by the
air pressure inside of it, keeps the light from entering the ball, leaving
the inside of the ball completely void of light.
In reality, there is no room, just Ohr Ain Sof emanating infinitely in all
directions. The ball is the Challal, except that it is not physical, but
completely spiritually, and the light is held back not by air proof rubber,
but by the will of God, resulting in a spiritual void into which the Ohr Ain
Sof is not allowed to penetrate-at least not yet-and in a reality of
finiteness within the reality of infiniteness. This will be crucial for
making possible a free-will being.
STEP 4: KAV OHR AIN SOF
When they build a house, they first dig a hole and remove all the dirt. What
is left is a big hole, a challal. After that, they begin to refill the hole,
except this time with building materials and in a very orderly fashion, from
the bottom up. New materials are only added as they are needed to further
the building process, until completion.
Likewise, after the Challal was complete, it became time to allow light to
re-enter it the spiritual void, Ohr Ain Sof, but in a very measured,
methodical, and orderly manner. Relatively speaking, a thin line of light
was allowed to penetrate the darkness, what the Kabbalists refer to as the
Kav Ohr Ain Sof-the Line of the Light of Ain Sof. All of spiritual and
physical Creation will be constructed from this light.
As the Kav Ohr Ain Sof enters the Challal, it moves further away from its
Source, which has the effect of weakening the light, or of filtering it,
increasing the effect of tzimztum. And, as the light becomes less spiritual,
it also becomes more "physical," so-to-speak, eventually making possible the
existence of actual physical elements of Creation, including man.
Hence, unlike the actual Ohr Ain Sof beyond the Challal, which is infinite
and equal in intensity everywhere, the Kav Ohr Ain Sof is comprised of
levels, making possible the concept of measurement-middos-of "up" and
"down," "good" and "evil," and therefore, of positive and negative growth.
It is this that gives man's free-will meaning, for it provides him with a
stage on which to act out his free-will decisions with real and measured impact.
STEP FIVE: SEFIROS
What is Creation made of? Light, Divine Light. That, of course, is hard to
accept, since our notion of light is that it is something that can never
result in something material, and the Ohr Ain Sof itself is not the least
bit physical. That's like saying that the same light that makes up the
spiritual soul is the same light that results in a physical body.
Well, that happens to be true. It's just that the light that creates body
has become far more constricted than the light of the soul, resulting in a
physical container for the light of the soul. It is like pouring water into
a glass that is made from ice: they are both the result of water molecules,
except that the water molecules of ice move slower as a result of freezing
But it is the glass that gives form to the water, just as the body gives
form to the soul, so-to-speak. Likewise, infinite light (Ohr Ain Sof)
requires a finite vessel (Challal) to hold it, if it is to be
distinguishable from the rest of the infinite light, and make possible a
world in which man can exist and use freewill choice in a meaningful way.
Such vessels are called, in Kabbalah, the Sefiros.
And, just as everything in the physical world is a composite of molecules of
different combinations, likewise is everything in Creation a function of
Sefiros, or subsets of the Sefiros, over subsets of the subsets of the
Sefiros, etc., until there is a sefirah, or set of sefiros, for everything
STEP SIX: PARTZUFIM
Literally, a partzuf is a face, and represents the revelation of inner
existence, just as a human face reveals the inner reality of a person. There
are generally 10 sefiros in any given system within all of Creation:
Therefore, each of the above sefiros also consists of their own set of 10
sefiros, and when considered in this fashion, they are called a "partzuf,"
or world, a unique reality unto itself within the larger reality and system.
For example, the timber used to build the walls of a room in a house are
like the sefiros, whereas the room that results, which is the sum total of
all the materials used, is like a partzuf, a world unto itself.
Having created the Challal, the Kav Ohr Ain Sof, the Sefiros, and the
Partzufim, all the necessary ingredients to make all of Creation exist. It
just becomes a question of levels, of filtering, of tzimtzum, of
combinations, etc., when it comes to determining what is created, and how.
It also becomes a question of many processes along the way, such as Sheviras
HaKeilim-the Breaking of the Vessels-in order to assure that Creation
results in the perfect environment for a free-will being, much of which is
discussed extensively in the holiest of Kabbalistic works.
But at least we now have an inkling that something existed prior to Ma'aseh
Bereishis-the Work of Creation-as we know it, and what it was, is.
In Hebrew, the word "sefirah" comes from the word "to count," since the
Sefiros represent measured amounts of Divine Light, which is also why they
are called "middos," or "measurements." However, each sefirah is perfectly
round, echoing the shape of the Challal and a symbol of Divine perfection,
which is probably why the English word for a ball is "sphere."