Was it a void or wasn’t it?

Ramchal moves on from the Tzimtzum to explain the next few steps in the creation process [1]. While Ari seems to indicate that an utter void was left behind when God’s presence was withdrawn in the course of the Tzimtzum process, Ramchal (and others) explained that what’s said to be a trace or remnant of the original light, i.e., of God’s presence, remained behind there (Petach 26).

It’s “said to be” a remnant of God’s presence, but it’s not exactly that, as Ramchal explains in his comments there. Since “a ‘trace’ is a remnant of something that’s of the same order (as itself) only greater….  But, the (original) light that was removed” was of a whole other order: it is an element of God Himself as He is apart from creation, while the trace is an aspect of Him that’s already connected to creation, “thus they’re not in the same order”. But saying it’s a trace is accurate-enough for our purposes since it enables us to understand the whole notion, so we use it so as “to soothe the ear (i.e., to make some sort of sense) so that a person will be able to understand lofty and spiritual things” (Eitz Chaim p. 14c). The point to be made, though, is that while the most arcane and utterly transcendent aspects of the Source cannot be detected in the space left after the Tzimtzum, a bit of It can –a remnant of it, which, while of a whole other order is still and all a sign of It.

Now, not all Kabbalists spoke of this trace in their scheme of things; in fact Ari himself didn’t use the term at this stage of his depiction, though he did cite the notion of spiritual phenomena leaving remnants of themselves behind after they went elsewhere [2]. The notion of the Reshimu has been attributed to the writings of R’ Yoseph Ibn Tabul (late 16th and early 17th centuries) [3].


[1]       Understand that none of this happened in space and time, which hadn’t yet been created, so the idea of the “next few steps” isn’t to be taken literally in regard to the process itself so much as in Ramchal’s presentation of it.

[2]       See Eitz Chaim 6:5 and 19:1, for example.

[3]       See his Sefer HaDerushim 1; but also see his Peirush Iddrah Rabbah p. 136 where he omits the Reshimu.

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org


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