Let My People Know

"It is only too easy for the mind to make pictures and diagrams"

All creatures, earthly and Heavenly, can bear only so much of Divinity and no more.

To be sure, the Divine light given to higher beings is so far beyond our capacity to conceive it that we tend to think of it as measureless.

Nevertheless, like all else that exists, it is limited and finite.

This is the necessary conclusion from the Kabbalistic interpretation of Creation as a Divine contraction, a process whereby God deliberately hides Himself, retracts His infinite radiance to allow finite worlds of all sorts to come into existence.

The essence of this contraction is that the transition between prime cause and that which is brought into being, between giver and receiver of plenty, is not direct.

There is no direct transmission.

The receiver does not get more than he is able to absorb, and, of course, this is very little, infinitesimally little, no matter what the size or the nature of the created being.

The point is that the transition from infinite light to finite existence is accomplished by contraction, by a Divine withdrawal.

In order for a created thing to have meaning, it has to be separated from the origin of creation.

Just as in our capacity to imagine quantities, the number one can have a value in relation to a thousand or a million.

It gets obscured as one proceeds into hundreds of millions or trillions, and it has no meaning at all when related to infinity.

Indeed, any number divided by infinity equals zero.

Infinite light is thus beyond reality because it is not revealed in reality.

That is, reality draws its existence from a limited or contracted light, and there can be no relation at all between this light — which is the essence of all worlds and things — and God, because the Infinite nullifies anything that is particular, no matter how big or marvelous it may be, and it is impossible to make any connection with it.

Nevertheless, we do relate to it.

The infinite light that surrounds and contains all reality is known as that which "encompasses all worlds."

To be sure, this term should not be taken literally as something that spatially circumscribes all reality.

It is simply the opposite of that which "pervades all worlds," a term that indicates that God is within reality in all its minutest detail, while the transcendental essence of God, being beyond reality as we know it, is called that which "encompasses all worlds."

For it is only too easy for the mind to make pictures and diagrams of anything that is close.

And only something explicitly outside – far beyond the idea of some Divine being in the heavens at such and such a removal from the earth – can be expected to check this impulse.

 —Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From The Long Shorter Way by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz