Ein Sof: God as Infinity - The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism - Daniel Chanan Matt

The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism - Daniel Chanan Matt (1996)

Ein Sof: God as Infinity


THE ESSENCE of divinity is found in every single thing—nothing but it exists. Since it causes every thing to be, no thing can live by anything else. It enlivens them; its existence exists in each existent.

Do not attribute duality to God. Let God be solely God. If you suppose that Ein Sof emanates until a certain point, and that from that point on is outside of it, you have dualized. Realize, rather, that Ein Sof exists in each existent. Do not say, “This is a stone and not God.” Rather, all existence is God, and the stone is a thing pervaded by divinity.

BEFORE ANYTHING emanated, there was only Ein Sof. Ein Sof was all that existed. Similarly, after it brought into being that which exists, there is nothing but it. You cannot find anything that exists apart from it. There is nothing that is not pervaded by the power of divinity. If there were, Ein Sof would be limited, subject to duality. Rather, God is everything that exists, though everything that exists is not God. It is present in everything, and everything comes into being from it. Nothing is devoid of its divinity. Everything is within it; it is within everything and outside of everything. There is nothing but it.


WHEN YOU contemplate the Creator, realize that his encampment extends beyond, infinitely beyond, and so, too, in front of you and behind you, east and west, north and south, above and below, infinitely everywhere. Be aware that God fashioned everything and is within everything. There is nothing else.


GOD IS unified oneness—one without two, inestimable. Genuine divine existence engenders the existence of all of creation. The sublime, inner essences secretly constitute a chain linking everything from the highest to the lowest, extending from the upper pool to the edge of the universe.

There is nothing—not even the tiniest thing—that is not fastened to the links of this chain. Everything is catenated in its mystery, caught in its oneness. God is one, God’s secret is one, all the worlds below and above are all mysteriously one. Divine existence is indivisible.

The entire chain is one. Down to the last link, everything is linked with everything else; so divine essence is below as well as above, in heaven and on earth. There is nothing else.


EACH OF US emerges from Ein Sof and is included in it. We live through its dissemination. It is the perpetuation of existence. The fact that we sustain ourselves on vegetation and animal life does not mean that we are nourished on something outside of it. This process is like a revolving wheel, first descending, then ascending. It is all one and the same, nothing is separate from it. Though life branches out further and further, everything is joined to Ein Sof, included and abiding in it.

Delve into this. Flashes of intuition will come and go, and you will discover a secret here. If you are deserving, you will understand the mystery of God on your own.


THERE MUST be a contraction of God’s presence. For if we believe that Ein Sof emanated the emanation and does not clothe itself within, then everything that emanated is outside of it, and it is outside of everything. Then there are two. So we must conclude that nothing is outside of God. This applies not only to the sefirot but to everything that exists, large and small—they exist solely through the divine energy that flows to them and clothes itself in them. If God’s gaze were withdrawn for even a moment, all existence would be nullified. This is the secret meaning of the verse: “You enliven everything.” So divinity flows and inheres in each thing that exists. This is the secret meaning of the verse: “God’s presence fills the entire world.” Contemplating this, you are humbled, your thoughts purified.


ANYTHING VISIBLE, and anything that can be grasped by thought, is bounded. Anything bounded is finite. Anything finite is not undifferentiated. Conversely, the boundless is called Ein Sof, Infinite. It is absolute undifferentiation in perfect, changeless oneness. Since it is boundless, there is nothing outside of it. Since it transcends and conceals itself, it is the essence of everything hidden and revealed. Since it is concealed, it is the root of faith and the root of rebellion. As it is written, “One who is righteous lives by his faith.” The philosophers acknowledge that we comprehend it only by way of no.

Emanating from Ein Sof are the ten sefirot. They constitute the process by which all things come into being and pass away. They energize every existent thing that can be quantified. Since all things come into being by means of the sefirot, they differ from one another; yet they all derive from one root. Everything is from Ein Sof; there is nothing outside of it.

One should avoid fashioning metaphors regarding Ein Sof, but in order to help you understand, you can compare Ein Sof to a candle from which hundreds of millions of other candles are kindled. Though some shine brighter than others, compared to the first light they are all the same, all deriving from that one source. The first light and all the others are, in effect, incomparable. Nor can their priority compare with its, for it surpasses them; their energy emanates from it. No change takes place in it—the energy of emanation simply manifests through differentiation.

Ein Sof cannot be conceived, certainly not expressed, though it is intimated in every thing, for there is nothing outside of it. No letter, no name, no writing, no thing can confine it. The witness testifying in writing that there is nothing outside of it is: “I am that I am.” Ein Sof has no will, no intention, no desire, no thought, no speech, no action—yet there is nothing outside of it.


IN THE FLOW of the holy spirit, one feels the divine life force coursing the pathways of existence, through all desires, all worlds, all thoughts, all nations, all creatures.


THE THEORY of evolution accords with the secrets of Kabbalah better than any other theory. Evolution follows a path of ascent and thus provides the world with a basis for optimism. How can one despair, seeing that everything evolves and ascends? When we penetrate the inner nature of evolution, we find divinity illuminated in perfect clarity. Ein Sof generates, actualizes potential infinity.


ALL CONCEPTUAL entanglements among human beings and all the inner, mental conflicts suffered by each individual result solely from our cloudy concept of the divine. All thoughts, whether practical or theoretical, flow out of the endless divine ocean and return there.

Constantly clarify the mind, so that it be free of the dross of deceptive fantasies, groundless fears, bad habits, and deficiencies. By cleaving in love and full awareness to the source of life, the soul shines from the supernal light, and all feelings, thoughts, and actions are refined. As this fundamental awareness becomes clearer in the recesses of the soul, the sensation and excitement of cleaving to the divine is activated, conducting the entire course of your life.

The essence of faith is an awareness of the vastness of Infinity. Whatever conception of it enters the mind is an absolutely negligible speck in comparison to what should be conceived, and what should be conceived is no less negligible compared to what it really is. One may speak of goodness, of love, of justice, of power, of beauty, of life in all its glory, of faith, of the divine—all of these convey the yearning of the soul’s original nature for what lies beyond everything. All the divine names, whether in Hebrew or any other language, provide merely a tiny, dim spark of the hidden light for which the soul yearns when it says “God.” Every definition of God leads to heresy; definition is spiritual idolatry. Even attributing mind and will to God, even attributing divinity itself, and the name “God”—these, too, are definitions. Were it not for the subtle awareness that all these are just sparkling flashes of that which transcends definition—these, too, would engender heresy.

If consciousness is torn from its source it becomes impoverished, without value. The only remedy for it to shine vibrantly is to be joined to the illumination of faith, which transcends all specific values, thereby establishing all values. Everything attributed to God other than the vastness of Infinity is simply an explanation by which to attain the source of faith. One must draw a distinction between the essence of faith and its explanatory aids, as well as between the various levels of explanation.

From learning and knowing too little, the mind becomes desolate, which leads to much thinking about the essence of God. The deeper one sinks into the stupidity of this mental insolence, the more one imagines that one is approaching the sublime knowledge of God, for which all the world’s great spirits yearn. When this habit persists over many generations, numerous false notions are woven, leading to tragic consequences, until eventually the individual, stumbling in darkness, loses material and spiritual vitality. The greatest impediment to the human spirit results from the fact that the conception of God is fixed in a particular form, due to childish habit and imagination. This is a spark of the defect of idolatry, of which we must always beware.

All the troubles of the world, especially spiritual troubles such as impatience, hopelessness, and despair, derive from the failure to see the grandeur of God clearly. It is natural for each individual creature to be humble in the presence of God, to nullify itself in the presence of the whole—all the more so in the presence of the source of all being, which one senses as infinitely beyond the whole. There is no sadness or depression in this act, but rather delight and a feeling of being uplifted, a sense of inner power. But when is it natural? When the grandeur of God is well portrayed in the soul, with clear awareness, beyond any notion of divine essence.

We avoid studying the true nature of the divine, and as a result, the concept of God has dimmed. The innermost point of the awareness of God has become so faint that the essence of God is conceived only as a stern power from whom you cannot escape, to whom you must suhjugate yourself. If you submit to the service of God on this empty basis, you gradually lose your radiance by constricting your consciousness. The divine splendor is plucked from your soul.

Every sensitive spirit feels compelled to discard such a conception of God. This denial is the heresy that paves the way for the Messiah, when the knowledge of God runs dry throughout the world. The crude complacency of imagining divinity as embodied in words and letters alone puts humanity to shame. Heresy arises as a pained outcry to liberate us from this strange, narrow pit, to raise us from the darkness of letters and platitudes to the light of thought and feeling. Such heresy eventually takes its stand in the center of morality. It has a temporary legitimacy, for it must consume the filthy froth clinging to mindless faith. The real purpose of heresy is to remove the particular forms from the thought of the essence of all life, the root of every single thought. When this condition persists over several generations, heresy inevitably emerges as cultural expression, uprooting the memory of God and all religious institutions. But what type of uprooting is intended by divine providence? Removing the dross that separates us from genuine divine light. On the desolate ruins wrought by heresy, the sublime knowledge of God will build her temple. Utter heresy arises to purify the air of the wicked, insolent filth of thinking about the essence of divinity—an act of peeping that leads to idolatry. In itself this heresy is no better than what it attacks, but it is absolutely opposed to it, and out of the clash of these two opposites, humanity is aided immensely in approaching an enlightened awareness of God, which draws it toward temporal and eternal bliss. Instead of wasting one’s thought trying to break through to the essence of divinity, the mind will be illumined by pure morality and sublime power, which sparkle from the divine light and chart the paths of life.

Pure belief in the oneness of God has been blurred by corporeality. From time to time, this confusion is exposed. Whenever a corporeal aspect falls away, it seems as if faith itself has fallen, but afterward it turns out that, in fact, faith has been clarified. As the human spirit verges on complete clarity of faith, the final subtle shell of corporeality falls away—attributing existence to God. For truly, existence, however we define it, is immeasurably remote from God. The silhouette of this denial resembles heresy but when clarified is actually the highest level of faith. Then the human spirit becomes aware that the divine emanates existence and is itself beyond existence. What appeared to be heresy, now purified, is restored to purest faith. But this denial of existence in God—this return to the source of all being, to the essential vibrancy of all existence—requires exquisite insight. Each day one must trace it back to its authentic purity.

The infinite transcends every particular content of faith.