Likutei Amarim Chapter 2, Class # 1

Likutei Amarim, beginning of  Chapter 2

ונפש השנית בישראל היא חלק אלו-ה ממעל ממש

The second, uniquely Jewish, soul is truly “a part of G-d above,”

“A part of G-d above” is a quotation from Scripture (Iyov 31:2). The Alter Rebbe adds the word “truly” to stress the literal meaning of these words. For, as is known,1 some verses employ hyperbolic language. For example, the verse2describing “great and fortified cities reaching into the heavens” is clearly meant to be taken figuratively, not literally. In order that we should not interpret the phrase “a part of G-d above” in a similar manner, the Alter Rebbe adds the word “truly”, thus emphasizing that the Jewish soul is quite literally a part of G-d above.

כמו שכתוב: ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים

as it is written3 concerning Adam (whose soul was a comprehensive one, aneshamah klalit, in that it contained all the particular souls of subsequent generations): “And He (G-d) blew into his nostrils a soul of life”;

ואתה נפחת בי

and as we say in prayer concerning the soul of every individual Jew,4 “You blew it into me.”

The significance of the verb “to blow” as it relates to the infusion of the Jewish soul is now explained.

וכמו שכתוב בזוהר: מאן דנפח מתוכיה נפח, פירוש מתוכיותו ומפנימיותו

It is written in the Zohar,5 “He who blows, blows from within him,” that is to say, from his inwardness and his innermost being.

שתוכיות ופנימיות החיות שבאדם מוציא בנפיחתו בכח

For it is of his inward and innermost vitality that a man emits through blowing with force.

Blowing tires a person much more quickly than speaking, as is readily observed, for it requires a greater exertion of effort and vitality. Hence, the fact that the metaphor of blowing is used to describe G-d’s implanting the Jew’s soul in his body signifies that this soul originates in the “innermost” aspect of G-dliness.

That the Jew is rooted in G-d’s innermost and essential being is indicated further by the designation of the Jewish people as G-d’s “children”, whose souls originate in His “thought” just as a child stems from his father’s brain, as the Alter Rebbe explains presently.

כך על דרך משל נשמות ישראל עלו במחשבה

So, too, allegorically speaking, have Jewish souls risen in the [Divine] thought,6

The Jew has his source in Divine “thought” — the innermost level of G-dliness. All other created beings, even angels, are rooted in and created by Divine “speech”. Speech is external in comparison with thought.

כדכתיב: בני בכורי ישראל

as it is written7 regarding the Jewish nation, “Israel is My firstborn son”;

בנים אתם לה׳ אלקיכם

and concerning Jews as individuals,8 “You are children unto G-d your L-rd.”

פירוש: כמו שהבן נמשך ממוח האב

That is to say, i.e., the significance of the Jew’s being called G-d’s child is thatjust as a child is derived from its father’s brain — his inner and essential being,

כך כביכול נשמת כל איש ישראל נמשכה ממחשבתו וחכמתו יתברך

so too (to use an anthropomorphism) is the soul of every Jew derived from G-d’s thought and wisdom.

The Alter Rebbe now takes this concept a step further. Deriving from G-d’s thought and wisdom actually implies that it derives form G-d Himself, as he goes on to explain.

דאיהו חכים ולא בחכמה ידיעא, אלא הוא וחכמתו אחד

For9 “He is wise — G-d possesses the quality of wisdom — but not with a wisdom that is known to us created beings,” because He and His wisdom are one,

וכמו שכתב הרמב״ם שהוא המדע והוא היודע כו׳

and as Maimonides writes,10 “He is Knowledge and simultaneously the Knower… Who knows and comprehends — throughthe ”Knowledge“…; [and He is that which is Known]” — G-d is also the subject of knowledge and comprehension, as Maimonides concludes.

This means that G-d’s wisdom and comprehension are totally different from man’s. In human comprehension there are three separate and distinct components: (a) the person’s soul, the “knower” and possessor of knowledge; (b) the power of intellect and comprehension — the “knowledge” — by which the person knows; (c) the subject of the knowledge — the “known” — such as a law in the Mishnahor a discussion in the Gemara which is apprehended and known.

Concerning G-d’s wisdom, however, Maimonides states: “He is the ‘Knowledge’, the ‘Knower’, and the ‘Known’.” G-d is the means of comprehension — the “Knowledge,” and at the same time is He Who understands — the “Knower”, and is also that which is understood — the “Known”.

ודבר זה אין ביכולת האדם להבינו על בוריו כו׳

Maimonides continues: “And this is not within the power of any man to comprehend clearly”;

כדכתיב: החקר אלו-ה תמצא, וכתיב: כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם וגו׳

as it is written,11 “Can you find and understand G-d by searching?” And it is also written,12 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,” [says G-d]; and consequently “your” [human] thoughts cannot possibly comprehend “My” thoughts.

Since His wisdom is one with G-d Himself, as has been shown, it follows that the Jewish soul, which stems from Divine wisdom (as stated above), actually derives from G-d Himself.

Many Jewish philosophers13 rejected Maimonides‘ description of G-d as “the Knower, the Knowledge and the Known.” In fact they considered it erroneous to ascribe to G-d a description of any sort — even of the lofty level of intellect of which Maimonides writes — inasmuch as description implies limitation, and G-d is inherently limitless.

The Alter Rebbe therefore points out in this note that the Kabbalists agreed with Maimonides, with the qualification that his concept does not apply to G-d’s essence. For His essence is truly infinite — even higher than the inscrutable level of “Knowledge” that Maimonides refers to. Regarding His essence, those who disagree with Maimonides are correct in maintaining that G-d cannot be defined in terms of “knowledge”, since He transcends it infinitely. Only after G-d limits the infinite light of His essence through the process of tzimtzum (progressive contractions), and thereby assumes the attribute of Chochmah (“Wisdom”), — only then can it be said of G-d that He is the “Knower, Knowledge and Known.”


והודו לו חכמי הקבלה כמ”ש בפרדס מהרמ”ק וגם לפי קבלת האר”י ז”ל


The Kabbalists have agreed with him (that G-d can be described as “Knower, Knowledge and Known”), as stated in Pardes of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero.14

Even according to the Kabbalah of the AriZal (Rabbi Isaac Luria, of blessed memory), Maimonides‘ statement stands.

The Kabbalah of the AriZal provides an even deeper insight into the limitlessness of G-d’s essence, higher than even that level of “knowledge” to which Maimonides refers. Still, even according to the teachings of the AriZal, Maimonides‘ statement is acceptable — with one proviso, however.

בסוד התלבשות אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, על ידי צמצומים רבים, בכלים דחב״ד דאצילות

This is so only when applied to the mystic principle of the clothing of the Ein Sof-light — by means of numerous “contractions” (tzimtzumim) — in the vessels of the Sefirot of CHaBaD (חב”ד — an acronym of Chochmah, Binah and Daat — “wisdom”, “understanding”, and “knowledge”, respectively; the triad of Sefirotwhich represent Divine “intellect”) of the world of Atzilut (“Emanation”).

Through a process of self-limitation called tzimtzum (“contraction”), G-d manifests (or, in kabbalistic terminology, “clothes”) His infinite essence (referred to by the Kabbalists as Ein Sof— “the endless, infinite One”) in the Sefirot, which are His attributes. This manifestation occurs first in Atzilut; specifically, in CHaBaD of Atzilut — Divine Intellect. Thus, at the level ofAtzilut, G-d can indeed be defined in Maimonides‘ terms of “Knower, Knowledge and Known,” i.e., intellect,

אך לא למעלה מהאצילות

but not higher than Atzilut.

Above the World of Atzilut the Unknowable G-d cannot be defined. Accordingly, in terms of the kabbalistic scale, Maimonides had nothing to say about G-d except from the World ofAtzilut and “down”.

וכמו שכתוב במקום אחר, שאין סוף ברוך הוא מרומם ומתנשא רוממות אין ק׳ למעלה מעלה ממהות ובחינת חב״ד עד שמהות ובחי’ חב”ד נחשבת כעשייה גופניית אצלו ית’ כמ”ש כולם בחכמה עשית

As explained elsewhere,15 the Ein Sof, blessed be He, is infinitely exalted over, and transcends, the essence and level of ChaBad.

In fact, the level of ChaBad is regarded as being equally inferior as material action in relation to Him.

Thus it is written,16 “You have made them all with wisdom.”

“You have conceived them all with wisdom” would seem more appropriate: conceiving, not “making”, is surely the proper function of G-d’s wisdom. “You have made them all withwisdom” indicates however that to G-d, “wisdom” — the highest level within the Worlds — is as lowly as Asiyah, the lowest level.


The Alter Rebbe now addresses a difficulty arising from his previous statement that every soul emanates from Divine wisdom. Since all souls emanate from one source — Supernal Wisdom — it should follow that all souls are of the same level and rank. How then do the various levels and ranks found in Jewish souls come about?

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