Ch. 36, Class # 2

Continuation of Chapter 36

וזהו ענין השתלשלות העולמות וירידתם ממדרגה למדרגה

This concealment is the subject of the Hishtalshelut (the chain-like, graded and downward succession) of the worlds, and their descent from level to level,

על ידי ריבוי הלבושים המסתירים האור והחיות שממנו יתברך

through the many “garments” that conceal the light and the life-force emanating from Him (— the more concealment, the lower the descent);

עד שנברא עולם הזה הגשמי והחומרי ממש

culminating in the creation of this physical, gross world.

This world is not only physical — so that the truth of G‑d’s creative power is not in evidence; it is also gross, in that the lie is held up as a truth.

והוא התחתון במדרגה, שאין תחתון למטה ממנו בענין הסתר אורו יתברך, וחושך כפול ומכופל

[This world] is the lowest in degree; there is none lower than it in terms of concealment of His light and no world compares with it for doubled and redoubled darkness; nowhere is G‑d’s light hidden as in this world.

עד שהוא מלא קליפות וסטרא אחרא שהן נגד ה׳ ממש, לומר אני ואפסי עוד

So much so, that it is filled with kelipot and sitra achra which actually oppose G‑d, saying: “I am, and there is nothing else besides me.”

It is thus clear that the term “lower realms” refers to this physical world, the very lowest in degree of divine revelation.

Since there is but one “order of Hishtalshelut,” a question arises: Does its ultimate purpose lie in the higher worlds, where G‑dliness is revealed to a greater degree, while the lower worlds serve only to emphasize the revelation found in those higher than them (since light is distinguishable only where darkness exists)? Or, on the contrary, does its purpose lie in the lower realms (but in order to create them an order of Hishtalshelut is necessary, entailing the creation of the higher realms)?

Obviously, concealment of G‑dliness is not an end in itself; thus, if we assume the second position, it follows that these lower realms were created so that the darkness pervading them be transformed to light.

The statement that “G‑d desired an abode in the lower realms” shows the latter position to be the true one; and the “abode” is built by the revelation of His Presence in this lowest of worlds to a degree surpassing even that in the highest. This, in brief, is the subject of the following paragraphs in the text.

והנה תכלית השתלשלות העולמות וירידתם ממדרגה למדרגה אינו בשביל עולמות העליונים

The purpose of the Hishtalshelut of the worlds, and of their descent from level to level, is not for the sake of the higher worlds,

הואיל ולהם ירידה מאור פניו יתברך

since for them this constitutes a descent from the light of His Countenance.

The very word “world” (עולם) in Hebrew denotes concealment. Thus, even the highest worlds constitute, by their very existence, a descent from the pervading level of G‑dliness that preceded their creation. It is illogical, then, to say that the revelation which these higher worlds represent is the purpose of the Hishtalshelut, since their revelation is actually concealment — and the ultimate purpose of creation lies in revelation, not concealment.

אלא התכלית הוא עולם הזה התחתון

Rather, the purpose of Hishtalshelut is this lowest world.

All the higher worlds are merely steps in the descent of the divine creative power; in each of them the light is veiled yet further, until it is finally reduced to the minute degree of revelation that this physical world is capable of receiving.

שכך עלה ברצונו יתברך, להיות נחת רוח לפניו יתברך כד אתכפיא סטרא אחרא ואתהפך חשוכא לנהורא

Thus, the purpose of the Hishtalshelut is this world, for such was His will — that He find it pleasurable when the sitra achra is subjugated to holiness, and the darkness of kelipah is transformed into holy light,

שיאיר אור ה׳ אין סוף ברוך הוא במקום החשך והסטרא אחרא של כל עולם הזה כולו

so that in the place of the darkness and sitra achra prevailing throughout this world, the Ein Sof-light of G‑d will shine forth

ביתר שאת ויתר עז, ויתרון אור מן החשך, מהארתו בעולמות עליונים

with greater strength and intensity, and with the superior quality of light that emerges from the darkness i.e., when darkness is transformed into light, the resulting light is superior to ordinary light; it will thus shine with greater intensity than its radiance in the higher worlds.4

שמאיר שם על ידי לבושים והסתר פנים, המסתירים ומעלימים אור אין סוף ברוך הוא

There, in the higher worlds, it shines through garments and [through] concealment of the Countenance (a concealment of the pnimiyut — i.e., the internal aspect — of the light) which conceal and screen the Ein Sof-light,

שלא יבטלו במציאות

so that [the worlds] do not dissolve out of existence.

For were the Ein Sof-light not screened by garments, the worlds could not bear it, and would dissolve. Thus, the revelation wrought by subjugation of thekelipot in this world, is greater than that of the higher worlds; there the Ein Sof-light is hidden, whereas here in this world it is revealed in all its strength.

A question arises, however. How is it possible (even upon subjugating thekelipot and transforming them into holiness) that we in this world should experience a revelation of the Ein Sof-light without veil or concealment, when even the higher worlds cannot receive such revelation without dissolving into nothingness?

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Footnotes

4. The Rebbe explains why the Alter Rebbe adds the words, “than its radiance in the higher worlds,” and is not satisfied with simply stating that the ultimate purpose of creation is this world, “for such was His will — that He find it pleasurable….”

In doing so the Alter Rebbe answers a well-known question. How can we possibly say that the higher worlds, which are illuminated with such a revelation of G‑dliness, exist for the purpose of this world, where G‑dliness is so concealed? One does not create a significant thing to serve something insignificant. The Alter Rebbe therefore explains that through the transformation of darkness into light — a form of divine service which can be achieved only in this world — the world becomes so holy that it is illuminated with a degree of G‑dliness far superior to that which is manifest in the higher worlds.

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