Creation - The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism - Daniel Chanan Matt

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



God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light.
God saw how good the light was
and God separated the light from the darkness.

Rabbi Isaac said,
“The light created by God in the act of Creation
flared from one end of the universe to the other
and was hidden away,
reserved for the righteous in the world that is coming,
as it is written:
‘Light is sown for the righteous.’
Then the worlds will be fragrant, and all will be one.
But until the world that is coming arrives,
it is stored and hidden away.”

Rabbi Judah responded,
“If the light were completely hidden,
the world would not exist for even a moment!
Rather, it is hidden and sown like a seed
that gives birth to seeds and fruit.
Thereby the world is sustained.
Every single day, a ray of that light shines into the world,
keeping everything alive;
with that ray God feeds the world.
And everywhere that Torah is studied at night
one thread-thin ray appears from that hidden light
and flows down upon those absorbed in her.
Since the first day, the light has never been fully revealed,
but it is vital to the world,
renewing each day the act of Creation.”


WHEN POWERFUL LIGHT is concealed and clothed in a garment, it is revealed. Though concealed, the light is actually revealed, for were it not concealed, it could not be revealed. This is like wishing to gaze at the dazzling sun. Its dazzle conceals it, for you cannot look at its overwhelming brilliance. Yet when you conceal it—looking at it through screens—you can see and not be harmed. So it is with emanation: by concealing and clothing itself, it reveals itself.

WITH THE APPEARANCE of the light, the universe expanded.
With the concealment of the light, the things that exist were created in all their variety.
This is the secret of the act of Creation.
One who understands will understand.


WHEN A giassblower wants to produce glassware, he takes an iron blowpipe, hollow as a reed from one end to the other, and dips it into molten glass in a crucible. Then he places the tip of the pipe in his mouth and blows, and his breath passes through the pipe to the molten glass attached to the other end. From the power of his blowing, the glass expands and turns into a vessel—large or small, long or wide, spherical or rectangular, whatever the artisan desires.

So God, great, mighty, and awesome, powerfully breathed out a breath, and cosmic space expanded to the boundary determined by divine wisdom, until God said, “Enough!”

HOW DID God create the world? Like a person taking a deep breath and holding it, so that the small contains the large. Similarly God contracted his light to a divine hand-breadth, and the world was left in darkness. In the darkness God carved cliffs and hewed rocks to clear wondrous paths of wisdom.


WISDOM IS the end of what you can ponder in thought, for Keter, the highest sefirah, fills more than the mind can conceive. It contracted the essence of its presence into a handbreadth, and darkness appeared over everything, for the absence of light is darkness. Then from the source of all, it emanated the bright light of Wisdom in thirty-two paths, each path penetrating the darkness. With them the engraver engraved the darkness.

BEFORE THE creation of the world, Ein Sof withdrew itself into its essence, from itself to itself within itself. It left an empty space within its essence, in which it could emanate and create.


WHEN THE supernal emanator wished to create this material universe, it withdrew its presence. At first Ein Sof filled everything. Now, still, even an inanimate stone is illuminated by it; otherwise the stone could not exist at all—it would disintegrate. The illumination of Ein Sof clothes itself in garment upon garment.

At the beginning of creation, when Ein Sof withdrew its presence all around in every direction, it left a vacuum in the middle, surrounded on all sides by the light of Ein Sof, empty precisely in the middle. The light withdrew like water in a pond displaced by a stone. When a stone is dropped in a pond, the water at that spot does not disappear—it merges with the rest. So the withdrawn light converged beyond, and in the middle remained a vacuum. Then all the opacity and density of judgment within the light of Ein Sof—like a drop in the ocean—was extracted. Descending into the vacuum, it transformed into an amorphous mass, surrounded in every direction by the light of Ein Sof. Out of this mass emanated the four worlds: emanation, creation, formation, and actualization. For in its simple desire to realize its intention, the emanator relumined the mass with a ray of the light withdrawn at first—not all of the light, because if it had all returned, the original state would have been restored, which was not the intention.

To fashion pottery, the potter first takes an unformed mass of clay and then puts his hand inside the mass to shape it. So the supernal emanator put its hand into the amorphous mass, that is, a ray of light returned from above. As this light began to enter the mass, vessels were formed. From the purest light, Keter; next, Hokhmah; then, Binah; and so on through all ten sefirot. Since Keter was the purest and clearest of all the vessels, it could bear the light within it, but Hokhmah and Binah, though more translucent than those below, were not like Keter. Not having its capacity, their backs broke, and they fell from their position. As the light descended further, six points appeared—six fragments of what had been one point of light. Thus the vessels shattered. Their spiritual essence—the light—ascended back to the mother’s womb, while the shattered vessels fell to the world of creation.

When the light emanated once again—regenerated, arrayed anew— it extended only to the end of the world of emanation. “Emanation” denotes this extension of the light of Ein Sof during the time of regeneration. Emanation consists of five visages. These visages are reconfigurations of the points of light, capable now of receiving the light, so that no shattering occur, as at first. Below these visages the light of Ein Sof appears only through a screen. As when you sit in the shade: though the sun does not shine on you directly, it illuminates the shaded area. In a similar manner, the light of Ein Sof illuminates the world of creation through a screen, indirectly.


THE SUPERNAL vacuum is like a field, in which are sown ten points of light. Just as each grain of seed grows according to its fertile power, so does each of these points. And just as a seed cannot grow to perfection as long as it maintains its original form—growth coming only through decomposition—so these points could not become perfect configurations as long as they maintained their original form but only by shattering.


TRACES OF the light adhered to the shards of the shattered vessels. This may be compared to a vessel full of oil. If it breaks and the oil spills out, a bit of the liquid adheres to the shards in the form of drops. Likewise in our case, a few sparks of light adhered. When the shards descended to the bottom of the world of actualization, they were transformed into the four elements—fire, air, water, and earth—from which evolved the stages of mineral, vegetable, animal, and human. When these materialized, some of the sparks remained hidden within the varieties of existence. You should aim to raise those sparks hidden throughout the world, elevating them to holiness by the power of your soul.


THE WORLD could be created only by virtue of the action of the righteous, the arousal of those below. So God contemplated the good deeds of the righteous—yet to be created—and this act of thinking was enough to actualize the thought. God drew forth light from within himself and delighted himself with holy people, like those who would eventually be. This joy engendered undulation, greater delight. In the bliss of contemplating the righteous, of imagining holy people—in this fluctuation, the power to create was born.


AN EPIPHANY enables you to sense creation not as something completed, but as constantly becoming, evolving, ascending. This transports you from a place where there is nothing new to a place where there is nothing old, where everything renews itself, where heaven and earth rejoice as at the moment of Creation.