Shaar Hayichud V’haEmunahh Chapter 5, Class 1

Tanya/Shaar Hayichud V’haEmunah, Chapter 5, Class 1.

Thanks to G‑d’s attribute of Gevurah and His capacity for tzimtzum — so the Alter Rebbe explained in the foregoing chapter — created beings live in the illusion that they possess an independent and tangible existence: they are unaware of the Divine life-force continuously found within them.

Being thus insensitive to the force that animates them, they are able to think of themselves as existing independently of their source. They fail to perceive that in truth they are but a diffusion of the rays of their source, like the diffusion of the sun’s rays as they are found within the sun.

והנה על זה אמרו רז״ל

Concerning this i.e., concerning the concept that all of creation came about through the process of tzimtzum, which enables created beings to believe that they enjoy an independent form of existence, our Sages, of blessed memory, said:1

בתחלה עלה במחשבה לברוא את העולם במדת הדין

“Originally it arose in [G‑d’s] thought to create the world through the attribute of stern judgment, through the attribute of tzimtzum and Gevurah;

ראה שאין העולם מתקיים

He saw, however, that in this manner the world could not endure,

שתף בו מדת רחמים

so He associated the attribute of mercy in it[s creation].“

At first glance this is incomprehensible: G‑d “desires to act with goodness,” to treat His creatures benevolently. Why, then, did He first plan to create the world through the attribute of strict justice?

According to what has been explained above, this is entirely understandable: In order for created beings to believe that they possess independent existence there must be the process of tzimtzum, which is an expression of the stern attribute of Gevurah. Without it, all of creation would be completely nullified within its source.

G‑d, however, desired that created beings maintain that they possess independent existence, in order for them to be able to serve Him and ultimately be rewarded for their service. Thus, it is specifically Gevurah and tzimtzum that enable them to realize the ultimate purpose of creation.

The original plan for creation, therefore, was that it should be dominated by the attribute of stern judgment. When, however, G‑d saw that if He created the world in this manner it could not endure, He tempered it by the attribute of mercy.

Why, indeed, would the world not be able to endure otherwise? — Because if creation had come about under such auspices alone, the life-force of holiness would have been utterly hidden. Accordingly, the spiritual task of revealing G‑dliness in such a world would have been inordinately arduous. G‑d therefore involved the attribute of mercy in the creation of the world, so that holiness and G‑dliness could be revealed within it.

דהיינו: התגלות אלקות על ידי צדיקים, ואותות ומופתים שבתורה

That is, i.e., “He combined with it the attribute of mercy” means: the revelation within the world of G‑dliness and of supernatural power through the tzaddikim, and through the signs and miracles recorded in the Torah.

It was stated in the previous chapter that both the expansive and creative attribute of Chesed and the concealing and constrictive attribute of Gevurah transcend the grasp of created beings. Here the Alter Rebbe adds that these attributes transcend even the comprehension of those souls that proceed from the level of Atzilut. Even so lofty a soul as Moses‘, which is a soul of the World of Atzilut, cannot fathom the Supernal attributes which are One with G‑d Himself.




1.  See Rashi on Bereishit 1:1; Bereishit Rabbah 12:15.

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