Building a fire, one sephira after another

“The first principal (to consider) regarding the (system of) … structure of the Sephirot” Ramchal offers in Petach 14,is (a consideration of) the makeup of the structure and its gradations, the makeup of the gradations themselves, and the makeup of their parts, properties, and of their interactions”.

So he offers in his comments there that we’d need to know that the entire structure is comprised of “613 lights which parallel the (248) limbs (and 365 organs) of the human form”; that they function in ways that “parallel the natural laws that govern humanity” and the natural world, though of course they only seem to do that in the eyes of the prophet, since they’re not material in fact; and that they interact by assuming different relative positions as when they’re “encased” (i.e., subsumed) one within the other when one’s functions are overt while another’s is covert, as we saw in Section 3 and will discuss later on [1].

The other important thing to keep in mind, he insists, is the fact that the “recipe” needs to be exact, with neither too much nor too little of anything, which it is in fact, since God “knew just what was needed, no less and no more, to bring about the full system of governance that would achieve His goal for creation” and so that humans would be free-willed enough to make their own moral and spiritual choices.

And he compares God’s purposeful setting-up of the components of this structure to our building a fire. For just as the fire needs to be made just-so to function, with neither too much nor too little wood or else the fire will extinguish, this structure likewise needs to be made just-so in order for it, too, to function.

What’s interesting about his analogy is that one would obviously need to be making a very small fire for it to be affected by such subtle variations in its fuel-source. That’s obviously a reference, then, to the tininess of the cosmos from God’s own perspective.


[1]       See 3:4 and note 39 there.

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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