“Facing” backward

After getting my wind back from my flu I reviewed what I’d written so far about Adam Kadmon and I see that it called for clearing up. So I’m going to repeat my remarks with some changes.

We’ll begin this part with a quick statement from Ar”i about the seemingly out-and-out anthropomorphisms we’ll be using to depict Adam Kadmon. “We must speak in (anthropomorphic) metaphors and images in order to ‘soothe the ear’” [1], i.e., to be able to cogently explain and illustrate things in an actually fully abstract realm.

That having been said we need to know that everything “has two aspects: one is its expanding spiritual essence, and the other is its ‘vessels’ and ‘limbs’ into which this spiritual essence expands.” But we must realize also that “there are roots above for these aspects”, and that it’s those roots (which are found in Adam Kadmon and elsewhere) that are the actual the subject at hand.

Leading up to our investigations we’d put forward that Ar”i goes on to say that “there are four fundamental aspects to everything: sight, hearing, smell, and speech, which correspond to the four letters of God’s name (spoken of before)” [2]. That should lead us to our subject at hand. Here’s what Ramchal offers about that.

“In order for this order (i.e., Adam Kadmon) to be perfect,” he says, “it needs to be a complete Partzuf that’s comprised of (both) an interior and an exterior, which is related to the mystical notions of a body and a soul, or ‘lights’ and ‘receptacles’” (Iggerot Pitchei Chochma V’Da’at 3).

Ramchal then offers the following in Petach 32:

The “face” of Adam Kadmon was formulated to irradiate out what was arranged within the “body” of Adam Kadmon. It was in fact Adam Kadmon’s “senses” that irradiate outward.

In fact, four “worlds” emerged (i.e., irradiated outward): those of “vision” centered in Adam Kadmon’s “eyes”, “hearing” centered in Adam Kadmon’s “ears”, “smell” centered in Adam Kadmon’s “nose” and “speech” centered in Adam Kadmon’s “mouth”. And we’re told that the “forehead” likewise emits radiance.

 This largely harkens back to Ari’s depiction of the vision; what’s novel is the introduction of Adam Kadmon’s “forehead” which will come up later, and the idea of the irradiation of phenomena from within Adam Kadmon’s “body” which we’ll discuss shortly.

He adds a couple of things at the end of this Petach which also have great significance to our understanding: the fact that all the worlds that come about afterwards are nothing but the radiance and shine of Adam Kadmon as we’ll see; and the idea that Adam Kadmon itself is more exalted than they and cannot be comprehended whereas the other worlds can be comprehended to one degree or another. We’ll get to this soon enough as well.

We’re going to be citing Ramchal’s Pitchei Chochma v’Da’at in our attempt to follow what happens here– or better yet, what the prophets and other exalted souls were able to envision about the process of creation. Then we’ll touch on the “solution” to all this.

As Ramchal explains it [3], the Sephirot connected with Adam Kadmon “have an inner aspect — and an outer one, which conceals it”. It’s just that, “some of the inner aspect pierce through the outer ones and come into view (to the prophets and great souls) in order to perform some visible function” [4]. “This represents the esoteric idea of the piercing through of (Adam Kadmon’s inner radiance through it’s) ‘ear’, ’nose’, and ‘mouth’”, as he’ll go on to explain.

Put simply, some of Adam Kadmon’s inner radiance pierced through the apertures of its “face” — its “eyes”, “ears”, “nose”, “mouth”, and even its “forehead”. And it did that in order to bring about whatever was needed to build all the intended phenomena, i.e., the worlds of Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah as well as mortal man, as well as to bring about whatever was necessary to actualize what was intended for these phenomena (Petach 35).

Very well: now we know the makeup of Adam Kadmon, but what’s the “solution” to all that as Ramchal understands it; i.e., what’s being indicated by this visual phenomenon? For that we’ll need to turn to his Klallim Rishonim.

In explanation of all this Ramchal cites the two sorts of ways that God interacts with us: either openly, which is referred to his expressing Ha’aret Panim, looking at us “(with) face aglow”; or He interacts with us covertly, which is referred to His expressing Hester Panim, looking at us “(with a) hidden face” [5].

Now, when God interacts via Ha’aret Panim His interactions with us are full and unabated, whereas when He interacts via Hester Panim His interactions are limited and incomplete. And we’re taught that these paradigms play themselves out in the human sphere in terms of the body (which exemplifies Hester Panim) and the soul (which exemplifies Ha’aret Panim) [6]. We’re also taught that these two ways that God interacts with us also touch upon the Trace and the Line, where the former is an example of Hester Panim (since God’s presence is largely hidden there) and that the latter is an example of Ha’aret Panim (since God’s presence is manifest there).

Ramchal’s point here is that Adam Kadmon with its “face” and its “senses” is a representation of the Trace and the Line — of Ha’aret Panim and Hester Panim as well — at work. It’s just that sometimes one mode dominates, and another time the other one does. There’s also a subtle implication that the prophet or exalted soul can not only envision the reality of Adam Kadmon, but that he can likewise know which mode is predominant at the time. But that’s beside the point.

Ramchal offers some rather remarkable statements about the implications of Adam Kadmon in his own comments to Petach 32 [7].

He first puts forward the idea that what a “face” is, is that “part of the body by means of which the individual (literally, ‘the soul’) turns toward (i.e., faces) and keeps an eye on what concerns it in relation to things outside of itself”. That’s to say, a “face” is the center of our interactions with others. He goes on to say that a face uses “the faculties of vision, hearing, smell and speech” (as well as the mind behind it all) to do that, while the individual consciousness behind all that “remains in its sanctuary” assessing what it experiences.

The face is thus the seat of control-central, which hearkens back to what he’d said before about Adam Kadmon representing God’s interactions with us.

Ramchal also understands the face in this instance as being representative of “vessels” as opposed to Lights, and as being elements of “the Trace environment” as opposed to the Line. And he introduces a new element to the mix aside from the face and its apertures: the face’s “radiance” (זיו), which we’d referred to above and promised to explain.

Without taking too many liberties with his ideas we’d offer that he means to say is that the face proper is only the stage for what’s to occur. The actor, if you will, is the Light of the Ein Sof (i.e., the Line) that pierces through the face in the form of the “senses” produced within the apertures (and which like all actors, prod and react to others). These senses perform by governing the Partzufim that will appear after Adam Kadmon serves its function, much the way the soul “performs” upon the “stage” of the human body. And the character produced, if you will, is the face’s radiance — what we’d term an individual’s “character” or “personality”, i.e., what “shines through” when he or she interacts with animation. In fact, it’s the product of the interactions of the senses, the face, with the universe that experiences it.

But let’s go back to the face’s “radiance”. We’ll once again depend on Ramchal’s comments to Petach 32 for his explanations of it.


[1]        See 3:4 and 6:6 above.

[2]       From The Tree of Life pp. 117-118 (with slight changes).

[3]       Pitchei Chochma v’Da’at 29.

[4]       Parenthetically, why would there even need to be outer aspects? Because as Ramchal explains, “if there weren’t outer aspects, the inner aspects would function openly” and at full strength, which would be too overpowering; so “only a part of the inner aspect functions that way”, i.e., at full strength, thanks to that safeguard mechanism.

[5]       This is derived from Klallim Rishonim 8. See Da’at Tevunot 76-81, 84 where Ramchal expounds upon God’s two interactions and related phenomenon.

[6]       Though this isn’t cited it here, Hester Panim is also analogous to receptacles while Ha’aret Panim is analogous to Lights.

[7]       Some of this is reiterated in Iggerot Pitchei Chochma 4 as well.

(c) 2012 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org


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