Tzimtzum: the solution (part 2)

Ramchal then moves on to its import, by depicting the Tzimtzum of the Ein Sof as the act by which the Ein Sof purposefully set aside His infinitude and adopted the mode of finite action i.e., of finitude, instead (Petach 24). That’s to say that Ramchal understands the Tzimtzum as a purposeful act of Self-suppression on God’s part, rather than a stepping aside or an act of physical diminution of some sort: he saw it as an act of God’s only functioning out of one aspect of His Being rather than the whole of It.

That’s to say that if, as we indicated above, God was and is “certainly capable of (creating or doing) much more (than He did); (but) He (simply) didn’t want to”, then the Tzimtzum was simply the sign that He indeed chose not to create more than He did.

For, God wanted the universe to function on a relative basis — relative to His intentions for us and our reality — not on an absolute, God-based basis. So (as Ramchal said in his comments to Petach 24), “His act of Tzimtzum prepared the way for the creation to come into being in a way that’s suited to the nature of the created realms and beings” rather than His own infinite nature.

He then adds a couple of other points in his comments there: first, that “the Tzimtzum isn’t only a matter of the absence of infinitude” and thus just a negative phenomenon. He underscores the fact that it serves a very positive role, in that it sustains the relative universe that we experience and “maintains the boundaries and limitations in being” that define our world.

Second, he adds that by having allowed for this human-centered relative universe the Tzimtzum manifested “the roots of Din (judgment)”. In short (because this is a very loaded statement that touches on many themes including reward and punishment which we’ll discuss below, and more), having chosen to limit His capabilities to create the universe God introduced the entire phenomenon of limitation, which is the heart of Din. For, while Chessed (loving-kindness), its polar opposite, is exemplified by expansion and bypassing boundaries, Din is exemplified by restriction and staying within boundaries. The point of the matter is that while God is inherently expansive, He stifled that, and thus allowed for Din which functions in our boundary-laden universe alone for good reasons.

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org

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4 responses to “Tzimtzum: the solution (part 2)

  1. I always understood this to be implicit in the phrase “chok ha’tov l’heitiv” because the term chok itself implies the asserting of rule our boundary/limitation. But would that not indicate that din should come before chessed in the order of the sephirot?

  2. Please get back to me after Yom Tov

  3. Just wanted to follow up on this

  4. Thanks for reminding me about this. Nice question. Din — in the form of Binah — did come before Chessed, literally.

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