Adam Kadmon’s message

Along the same lines, many of the ancients spoke of the human form as the universal pattern, and of the universe thus being a single entity with many parts [1]. Perhaps the most beautiful depiction of the gist of that was Bachya Ibn Pakudah’s when he said that if you “observe the world as a whole (you’ll notice that) it emerges as a (single) complex composite of (many) parts, not even one of which is expendable. In fact, we experience it as a fully furnished house, with sky overhead as its roof, earth below as its bed, stars set about like lights, a variety of necessities stored away like buried treasure, with mankind in charge of it like a head of the house, making use of it all. There are all sorts of plants there for his sake and all kinds of animals for his use as well… The sun shines and sets to fix the course of day and night, it ascends and descends to furnish the world with heat and cold, so summer and winter can keep to their fixed and best courses without interruption… And the spheres rotate on course, stars and constellations move about in measured, even and immutable courses” (Chovot HaLevovot 1:6).

But these are obviously material (albeit cosmic) parallels to Ari’s Adam Kadmon which probably fed into and triggered his metaphysical understandings of it. Let’s see now what Ramchal said about Adam Kadmon aside from his key remarks cited in the body of Petach 12 [2].

“Everything (in the universe) is part of a single phenomenon that’s comprised of many elements” which is Adam Kadmon, he says; and he offers the following as proof-text, “As it’s written: “Let us make (a) Man in our image, after our likeness’ (Genesis 1:26)”. He then intensifies that with the remark that “this likeness”, Adam Kadmon, “incorporates all of the holy Forces” which refers to all the Sephirot, Olamot (i.e., “Worlds”, to be explained below), and Partzufim that Ari expands upon.

Then he goes on to illustrate how Adam Kadmon is comprised of many interconnected “body-parts”, as we’d cited before, by making use of their Partzuf and Olam (singular of Olamot) elements. As he puts it, “just as each individual Partzuf divides into 613 mystical lights which are its 613 ‘limbs’, the same is true of all of existence which is also comprised of 613 ‘limbs’, all of which constitute a single likeness. For even though each of the worlds is considered to be a world (unto itself), they’re all only limbs of this overall likeness. And all their connections and affiliations are (actually instances of) the connections and affiliations between these limbs”. We’ll explain the details cited here later on.

The final element of his depictions of Adam Kadmon is the fact that it’s said to illustrate God’s governance. We’ll use this theme to address why Ramchal speaks of Adam Kadmon here, so early on in Klach Pitchei Chochma, when he delves into it at length later on — most obviously in Petachim 31-35, which serves as a section unto itself that’s entitled “Adam Kadmon and its Offshoots”, and elsewhere.

As he puts it here, the various phenomena we see in the universe “aren’t separate items created for all sorts of reasons. There’s one single aim for everything”, which is to “allude to (God’s) governance”, given that “everything that occurs in the universe is part of (this) governance”. And he goes on to point out that aim of His governance is to bestow utter goodness upon creation, which is to say, to manifest His Yichud as discussed earlier.

As such, it’s clear that Ramchal’s objective behind citing Adam Kadmon here is to underscore his central theme, which, as stated in Petach 12, is that the whole on-going process of (God’s) governance (of the universe) … which the Emanator instituted was in fact instituted with the (singular) goal of bestowing utter goodness upon creation, which is the revelation of God’s Yichud.

His main point then is that everything in the universe serves its purpose, and each and every thing will illustrate God’s Yichud and play a role in His intentions to bring the universe to perfection.

But he’s also underscoring a couple of other very important things: first, the fact that while the many details of Adam Kadmon — the whole of reality — and its mechanics do indeed matter in our understanding of God’s governance of the cosmos, at bottom what matters most is that we know that the whole of reality has one Divine goal which we’re never to forget. Secondly, that there are only two beings at bottom: God and the universe; and that the two are constantly interacting.


[1]       See Ibn Ezra’s comments to Exodus 25:40, Kuzari (4:3), and Moreh Nevuchim (1:72) for example.

[2]       All the citations here are from Ramchal’s comments to Petach 12.

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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