900.12c Divine Contractions and Tsimtsum (pps.127-129)

hard cover page 127

Mankind’s growth requires elements of Divine contraction. This is an extension of the important kabbalistic motif that Divine contraction waslis necessary for the very existence of the world.

The concept of contraction appears in both the Midrash and the Kabbalah. In the voluminous kabbalistic literature it often recurs in many forms. Its principal form is that of tsimtsum.

Tsimtsum originally means “concentration” or “contraction,” but if used in the Kabbalistic parlance it is best translated by “withdrawal” or “retreat.” . . . The Midrash-in sayings originating from third century teachers~occasionally refers to God as having concentrated His Shekhinah, His divine presence, in the holiest of holies, at the place of the Cherubim, as though His whole power were concentrated and contracted in a single point. Here we have the origin of the term Tsimtsum, while the thing itself is the precise opposite of this idea: to the Kabbalist of Luria’s school Tsimtsum does not mean the concentration of God at a point, but his retreat away from a point.

How did He produce and create the world? Like a man who gathers in and contracts (metsamtsem) his breath, so that the smaller might contain the larger, so He contracted His light into a hand’s breadth.
-Sefer ha-Iyyun505

The world becomes possible only through the special act of Divine withdrawal or contraction [tsimtsum]. Such Divine nonBeing or concealment, is thus the elementary condition for the existence of that which is finite.

——————- NOTES ——————-

504 Scholem, Major Trends inJewish Mysticism, p. 260.

505 Sefer ha-Iyyun, cited by G. Scholem in Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 10, col. 588 S.V. “Kabbalah,” as “the basic source of the zimzum doctrine.”

506 Steinsaltz, The Thirteen Petalled Rose, p. 37.


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