The first subject at hand in this section is how the world of Nikkudim — also known as the world of Tohu, chaos — was produced: in stages, the way a craftsman produces something out of what’s at first an amorphous piece of wood but which shows itself to be something orderly and beautiful when completed (Petach 36).
Ramchal then goes on to the three interrelated major themes of Sh’virat HaKeilim, “The Breaking of the Vessels”; the production of wrong, evil, injustice, and the like from the Divine essence; the subsequent rectifying, correcting, repairing of all wrong, evil, and injustice; and lastly, humankind’s role in all that.
We’re told in fact that the existence of flaws and their repair is rooted in the issue of “The Breaking of the Vessels”, which occurred within the Sephirot of the world of Nikkudim. A form of repair occurred there afterwards. Yet the repair was only partial and only to the degree that would allow human actions to allow the sequence of flaw and repair to continue in the universe in the course of the 6,000 years of Divine services. Nonetheless, in the end everything will be utterly repaired, as a consequence of which there’ll no longer be any flaws (Petach 37), which are ideas he’ll return to below.
We move from there to the makeup of the worlds of Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah that comprise the world of Nikkudim. We’re that the four of them are actually one world, Atzilut, which is over-covered with three “garments”. That breakdown isn’t all that cut and dried, though, given that when we examine these “garments” of Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah individually, each one is termed a world unto itself indeed, since each one of them serves a unique function. As such, when we consider the four of them together, then Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah are only considered Atzilut’s “garments”, while when they’re considered in light of their functions, the three “garments” of Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah are termed and in fact to be treated as separate worlds (Petach 38).
Ramchal then meanders a bit more on the makeup and function of these (three or) four worlds, as well as first addresses the necessity of wrong, evil and injustice, and its eventual role in the revelation of God’s sovereignty to be expanded on later (which we’d referred to early on in this work).
He says that that the entire world of Nikkudim was like a single mass out of which all the details had to come about; as all of existence — both above and below — is a single phenomenon comprised of many details waiting to come about. But this phenomenon is only comprehensive when all its details function together. For in this way, everything in creation exists only for the glory of the Creator, which is the gist of the verse, “God has made everything for His own sake” (Proverbs 16:4). In this are included all created beings — good and bad — as the whole of it is a single system and a single phenomenon of a creation that implements the revelation of the sovereignty and glory of Ein Sof (Petach 39).
He then readdresses the makeup of the (three or) four worlds within Nikkudim, saying that it had to be divided up into its component parts after which there initially came to be the “basic foundation” which is called Atzilut with its three garments, after which control was passed to each garment unto itself. That all had to come about given that Atzilut when fully repaired is the root of everything, while Briah, Yetzirah and Assiyah serve to bring forth the offshoots of Atzilut. It’s also important for us to know that each one, Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah, eventually brings forth its own distinct offshoot, but those all merely offshoots of what already existed in Atzilut (Petach 40).
He then expands upon the notion of the “basic foundation” of Atzilut and its offshoots, and once again alludes to the existence and role of wrong by indicating that Atzilut was to have originally received its light in line with the mystical notion of the joining of the “line” with the “trace” discussed earlier on. His point here is that process of the implementation of the “trace” first had to be completed, given that the Tzimtzum (which we also discussed earlier on) came about in the first place in order to provide a place for wrong which could be rectified and to ultimately have everything become good.
Here’s how wrong started to come about: the light of Atzilut and its offshoots, which is from Ein Sof, had to also wait for its vessel to be complete, since that’s where the root of evil lies. Only afterwards will the light shine within it, i.e. join with it, after which everything will be completed. It’s also explained here that the light wasn’t originally joined with the vessels in the world of Nikkudim, but remained hidden above in Adam Kadmon until the vessels completed their task in order to provide a place for wrong to rule and to complete its rule. The light’s own repair will then come about, which will then return everything to a state of good, when Atzilut and its offshoots’ light will shine within it (Petach 41).
We then return to the notion of the repairing of the vessels subsequent to their breaking. We’re told that it happened step by step and by degrees, and that the light entered into them gradually according to the degree that the vessels had been repaired. Make no mistake about it, though — the vessels’ repair will only be complete in the ultimate future, as will the entry of the light and its joining with them (Petach 42).
Ramchal once again treats the subject of wrong and its rectification in light of the “basic foundation”. We’re told that wrong was in fact rooted in nothing other than in the mystical notion of the “garments” of Atzilut, i.e., Briah, Yetzirah and Assiyah. As such, in order to bring these “garments” to a state of perfection they first had to be separated into all their component elements in such a way that they would first provide an environment for wrong in accordance with what had prepared for them in the course of the breaking of the vessels, and then to eventually return to their original state in order to repair all the harm done by allowing the light to enter (Petach 43).
We then probe a little more deeply into how it could be that wrong could derive from God and Ramchal makes the point that while it did derive from Him, that was only after a very long series of downward and attenuated spirals.
It’s first important to realize that lights of all sorts only produce their offshoots once they reach their appropriate levels. For a great light cannot be termed the direct “cause” of one lone, minor created phenomenon since the latter would never emerge directly from the former. For, God formulated the tenet of things coming about in sequences. That being so, the degree of “judgment” that was revealed in the “trace” in the space formed by the Tzimtzum did not reach the level it would need to in order to be called the direct cause of the other side and wrong until it came to produce a vessel in Nikkudim. For we find nothing that relates in any way to the other side on these higher levels. But something is indeed revealed in Nikkudim that does bear some however slight relation to it, which is the fact of vessels. For there alone in Nikkudim lies the “basic foundation” consisting of the worlds of Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiyah that extend downward to the material level and to the end of all existence including wrong (Petach 44).
Continuing to make the point about how tenuous the connection between God Himself and wrong is (which necessitated the Breaking of the Vessels) Ramchal then says that the aforementioned slender trace of a root for the “other side” only manifested itself in the very lowest aspects of the vessels, i.e., in the lower seven Sephirot of Nikkudim. Thus, the overall light initially entered into the vessels of Nikkudim and continued spreading in accordance with the mystical notion of the “basic foundation” until it reached these lowly aspects. In fact, he offers parenthetically, these encompass the notion of the “garments” we’d spoken of above which are considered the “feet” of Atzilut. Be that as it may, there was thus no breaking of vessels as long as the lights did not reach them; it only occurred when the lights did reach there, after which they i.e., the lights of Nikkudim, then turned around and departed from even the highest aspects of each of the seven lower Sephirot (Petach 45).
We now expand upon the world of Nikkudim and its component parts, and how they all played a role in the formation of wrong. When it became necessary to grant rule to the “garments” themselves, i.e., to the world of Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah, in order for them to repair themselves and to appear as separate and distinct worlds, their most exalted element — their Atzilut aspect — which was contained in Nikkudim, became concealed. And the “garments” then ruled on their own. This rule of the “garments” was considered a relative “descent” for them, since they had descended from having once been incorporated in Atzilut as its mystical “garments” while they were now ruling by themselves as a consequence of the breaking of the vessels albeit not in a state of order and repair but rather in one of damage, and while devoid of all the lights that had separated from them. They were thus always ready to provide a place for wrong to emerge and exist, and to be rectified in the end (Petach 46).
We now consider what Ramchal refers to as “the repair (and purification) of the garments of Nikkudim”, which comes down to the rectification and elimination of wrong on the higher levels and its production on the lower ones, once again denying God’s own direct “responsibility” in the process.
He offers that when God wanted to rectify these “garments”, He first purified each level in turn, so that instead of facing toward wrong they’d turn their visages away from it and avoid it. Then each level left the task of producing wrong to the level below it. The while upper level thus had a share in this, it was in the process of getting away from and being cleansed of it as a consequence of which wrong wasn’t a part of it, and it was then able to receive light. The same process of the elimination of wrong occurred on each successive level in relation to the one below it, until all the levels of Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiyah were purified, as they are now. They then left the task of producing wrong to the lowest of all levels, that of Malchut of Assiyah. They, i.e., the vessels of all levels, were then ready to receive the light except for this last level, because the light can only spread within a vessel that’s cleansed of all wrong.
All this is termed the repair and purification of the garments of Nikkudim. For it’s only to the extent that the vessels were repaired that the light can enter into them in turn. The farther removed the level of a given vessel is from anything that has to do with wrong, the greater the light was it fit to receive. Still and all, the initial Atzilut, i.e., the loftiest light of the world of Nikkudim, was not revealed again, for the repair of all these garments cannot be termed truly complete as long as this lowest level is still facing toward the production of wrong and consequently devoid of the light, and in fact the initial Atzilut will only be revealed in the World to Come, when the Malchut of Assiyah will be purified (Petach 47).
This Petach touches on the final, ultimate rectification and reiterates humanity’s role in all that, as indicated above. As Ramchal puts it, the repairing of this final degree, i.e., of Malchut of Assiyah, depends on human input, for humanity is meant to strengthen the power of holiness within the Sephirot and to purge it of all sin. Once that’s accomplished there’ll no longer be wrong even in Malchut, since there’ll no longer be the need a yetzer harah or free will, and everything will serve only to manifest the glory of the Creator. The “garments” will be completely repaired, and everything will revert to helping to perfect the “basic foundation” that was established so that all of creation would be of one accord, and so that the single rule of perfect repair would lead to the revelation of God’s sovereignty. Atzilut of Nikkudim, which is this basic foundation, will then be revealed. Light will complete its entry into all the vessels as a result, all “garments” will be under the influence of Atzilut, and everything will be in a state of utter repair (Petach 48).
This next-to-last Petach of the section reiterates the need for and the ultimate benefits to be derived from the existence of wrong, evil, and injustice, and to their eventual undoing. Ramchal refers to that all here as the time when “wrong will then be rectified and revert to goodness, things will revert to what they’d been at first, and there will no longer a need for wrong to exist in actuality”.
Accordingly, we’re taught that the fact that these vessels of Nikkudim or ”garments” should be the root of wrong isn’t a flaw; on the contrary, it’s the fulfillment of the underlying intention behind creation, which is the revelation of God’s ultimate sovereignty. It’s just that first there first needed to be a root of wrong, which was truly wrongful, that was to revert to goodness through the repairs carried out by humankind. That itself will be for the glory of the King by means of which humans could earn merit. But in order to actually bring this about, these “garments” had to provide a place for wrong to exist. That was accomplished by the selection and gradation that took place among them, until only the very last level of Malchut of Assiyah was left to produce wrong. Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah will then become Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah. Wrong will then be rectified and revert to goodness, things will revert to what they’d been at first, and there will no longer a need for wrong to exist in actuality, as it will enough for it to have once existed and to have then been rectified. This is the meaning of the verse, “He has consumed death forever” (Isaiah 25:8).
Then Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah will revert to Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah, and the Malchut of Assiyah will become integrated with its whole, i.e., with the world of Yetzirah that would then exist, and the original exalted Atzilut of the general Nikkudim that was removed in the course of the “breaking of the vessels” will be revealed. The “garments” will then remain the root of the wrong that once existed but was rectified and reverted to goodness. Ein Sof will then be said to have completed His task, and He will be exalted unto Himself in His sovereignty (Petach 49).
And the final Petach here speaks to the purposeful, God-driven nature of the process and all of its elements. Since nothing is in vain, we’re told, then when the light first entered the various vessels, then turned back, and departed — couldn’t we make the point that it could have achieved all these steps in the process of rectifying wrong and of cleansing Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah in one move without all of this, i.e., without all these apparently extra moves? But that goes to show that this entire process serves an essential function with a purposeful and specific earthly consequence. Indeed, this entry of the light within the vessels is a specific underpinning of the governance of the world with all of its harm and repair, and its reward and punishment, all in accordance with the exact measure of what’s required for this governance, neither less nor more than necessary (Petach 50).
(c) 2012 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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