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

hard cover page 128

Thus our formulation is predicated on a parallel Divine tsimtsum to carry forward the potential of creation. Metaphorically, the All-Potential Face and the All-Mercy Face of the Divine force a contraction of the All-Power (Gevurah) Face and the AllKnowledge Face of the Divine.

Kabbalistic doctrine is far from limited to one version of tsimtsum, particularly with regard to creation. There is considerable discussion, including whether or not tsimtsum is to be taken literally and whether or not tsimtsum is even unitary. (For instance, Aaron ha-Levi of Staroselye bases his system in his work Avodat ha-Levi on the premise of a “double tsimtsum.”507)

The Midrash applies the concept of Divine contractionldecontraction to the postcreation world, as well.

Originally God’s home manifested in earth’s nether sphere; when Adam sinned, it ascended to the first rakia’ [firmament]; when Cain sinned, it ascended to the second rakia’; when the generation of Enosh sinned, it ascended to the third; when the generation of the Flood sinned, to the fourth; with the generation of the separation [of tongues], to the fifth; with the Sodomites, to the sixth, with the Egyptians in the days of Abraham, to the seventh. But as against these there arose seven righteous men: Abraham, Isaac. Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Moses, and they brought it down again to earth. Abraham brought it down to the sixth, Isaac to the fifth, Jacob to the fourth. Levi to the third, Kohath to the second, Amram to the first, while Moses brought God’s presence down below to earth.
-Bereshit Rabbah508

A present-day allusion to another of the many kabbalistic modes of contraction can be found in the writings of Joseph B. Soloveitchik (and Eliezer Berkovits), among others.

Judaism explains the concept of holiness from the perspective of the secret of “contraction.” Holiness is the descent of divinity into the midst of our concrete world-“For the Lord thy God

——————- NOTES ——————-

507 See Scholem in Encyclopaedia Judaica, S.V. “Kabbalah,” vol. 10, col. 594.

508 Midrash Genesis Rabbah 19: 13, as cited in Luban, “The Kaddish.” p. 23 1, fn.
Cf. Scholem in Encyclopaedia Judaica, S.V. “Kabbalah,” vol. 10, col. 587.
Cf. Berg, Kabbalah for the Layman, p. 84. “The creator veils his Or Ein Sof (Eternal Light) in order to allow this world to exist in its present form.”


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