How Ari and Ramchal depicted the Tzimtzum

Here’s how Ari described what he’d envisioned about the state of things before creation, based on his close readings and deep knowledge of the traditional sources and on his own intuitive, prophetic grasp of things: “Before any emanations were emanated or creations were created, a most supreme, simple light filled the whole of existence. There was no vacant place, no aspect of empty space or void, but rather everything was filled by that simple, infinite light …. (But) when it arose in His pure Will to create (the universe) … Ein Sof contracted Itself (i.e., it brought about a Tzimtzum) at its midpoint, in the exact center of its light. And … It left a vacant space — an empty, hollow void” within which everything could be created [1].

Based on his readings and knowledge of Ari’s and others’ statement as well as on his own intuitive, prophetic grasp, Ramchal depicted it in his own terms. Obviously knowing that his readers already knew Ari’s depiction he merely said in his comments to Petach 24 that: “In terms of what was ‘envisioned’ (as opposed to its ‘solution’, to be discussed below), the Tzimtzum appears in one place, while all around it is Ein Sof”. But he expanded on that elsewhere and said, “Before the world was created, (while) ‘He and His name were one’ [2] (and nothing else existed) Ein Sof willed (creation) and (thus) constricted His light in order to create all of the created phenomena, (and thereby) gave them space (i.e., an independent environment in which to exist)… (while) Ein Sof (Itself still) surrounded the space from all sides” (Klallot HaIlan 1:1).


[1]       From The Tree of Life by Donald Wilder Menzi and Zwe Padeh (Arizal Publications, Inc. NY, 2008) pp. 11-13 (with slight changes).

[2]       Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer 3.


(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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