Weekly Tanya video\lecture: The Gate to Faith

The Tanya compacts four millennia of Jewish wisdom to answer the great personal and existential questions of life.

Rabbi Shimon Eisenbach ,

Chabad Rebbes
Chabad Rebbes
INN: Chabad
For an introduction to what Tanya is about, click here.

Note: Previous lectures can be accessed by means of the link below, but each lecture stands on its own.

Tanya/Shaar Hayichud V’haEmunah, Chapter 4, Class 3.


Since the capacity for tzimtzum emanates from the Divine attribute of Gevurah, one might erroneously infer that it actually serves to create an independently existing entity; i.e., not only does the created being regard itself as such, but the Creator views it so as well.

For inasmuch as G‑d causes this concealment, and His attribute of Gevurah, the ability to conceal, is as real and as effective as His attribute of Gedulah, His ability to reveal, we may mistakenly liken creation to the sun’s rays insofar as they exist beyond the confines of the sun-globe.

Forestalling this possible error, the Alter Rebbe now explains that G‑d’s power to reveal and His power to conceal are truly one and the same. For revelation and concealment are respectively “light” (or) and its “vessels” (kelim), which are fused in complete and total unity. Moreover, in the state in which they exist in their supernal source, they are not only united: they are one and the same.

Now it is axiomatic that “No entity can conceal itself from itself.”

An illustration of this concept is found in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, where it is stated that covering one’s head with one’s hand does not serve as a valid head-covering, because head and hand are part of the selfsame individual; the hand cannot be said to conceal that which the head itself reveals.

The same is true here too: Since the power to reveal and the power to conceal are essentially one and the same power, which is a manifestation of G‑d’s limitless ability, it is impossible for tzimtzum to bring about a real concealment that will be so regarded when viewed from the Divine perspective. Tzimtzum only enables created beings to perceive themselves as independently existing entities; G‑d does not view them this way at all.

(והנה בחינת הצמצום והסתר החיות נקרא בשם כלים, והחיות עצמו נקרא בשם אור

10(The tzimtzum and concealing of the life-force is called in kabbalistic terminology kelim (“vessels”), and the life-force itself is called or (“light”),11 which signifies revelation.

שכמו שהכלי מכסה על מה שבתוכו, כך בחינת הצמצום מכסה ומסתיר האור והחיות השופע

For just as a vessel covers that which is within it, so does the tzimtzum cover and conceal the light and the life-force that flows into created beings, and this tzimtzum makes it impossible for them to perceive the G‑dliness that is vested within them.

והכלים הן הן האותיות

The kelim are verily the letters of the Ten Divine Utterances (or their substitutions and transpositions, etc.) which are the life-force of created beings,

ששרשן ה׳ אותיות מנצפ״ך

and [all these letters] are rooted in the five letters12 מנצפ״ך

It is explained in the Kabbalah that these are the source of all letters, —

שהן ה׳ גבורות המחלקות ומפרידות ההבל והקול בה׳ מוצאות הפה, להתהוות כ״ב אותיות

since they represent five degrees of Gevurah i.e., five restraining forces that divide and separate the breath and voice in the five organs of speech, thus enabling the twenty-two letters to be formed.

Just as the five physical organs of speech divide sounds and letters into five separate categories (labial, guttural, etc.), so too do the five spiritual levels of Gevurah give rise to the twenty-two supernal letters.

ושרש הה׳ גבורות הוא בוצינא דקרדוניתא

The source of the five levels of Gevurah is termed in the Kabbalah Butzina deKardunita, which is Aramaic for (lit.) “light out of darkness,” signifying a level of concealment that transcends light.

שהיא גבורה עילאה דעתיק יומין

This is the supernal Gevurah of Atik Yomin, the spiritual level of Keter that transcends all Worlds, including Atzilut;

ושרש החסדים הוא גם כן חסד דעתיק יומין

and, correspondingly, the source of [the various levels of Divine] kindness is Chesed of Atik Yomin,

כידוע ליודעי ח״ן)

as is known to those well versed in the Esoteric Wisdom,)13 i.e., the Kabbalah.

Since the tzimtzum and the letters (on the one hand) and the revelation of the Divine light and life-force (on the other hand) both emanate from the level of Atik Yomin, it follows that the tzimtzum does not effect an objective concealment, as viewed from their common source Above. For, as previously explained, “No entity can conceal itself from itself.”

Thus, tzimtzum affects and is only felt by created beings, who because of this concealment are unable to perceive the Divine life-force that continuously creates them. This is necessary in order for them to think of themselves as independently existing — a state which must be felt by them if they are to “tangibly exist.”

In truth, however, they are utterly nullified within their source Above.




10. The parenthesis is in the original text.

11. The Sefirot are comprised of both “lights” and “vessels”, which are, respectively, the infinite and the finite aspects of the Sefirot. The function of the “lights” is to reveal; the function of the “vessels” is to conceal, i.e., to allow “light” to be revealed in proportion to the capacity of the finite beings.

12. These five letters have two alternative forms, one of which is used (e.g., ך instead of כ) when it terminates a word. Since their use in this way restricts the appearance of any other further letters, it is an act of limitation, and hence an expression of the attribute of Gevurah.

13. The closing parenthesis is missing in many editions ofTanya. See the commentary of the Rebbe, which appears below, following ch. 5.