The Beginning of Wisdom – Chapter 9

(Within which is explained the Worlds of Briyah – Creation, Yetzirah – Formation and Asiyah – Action; Palaces and Souls.)

 182.  To this point we have discussed G_d’s conducts, the ways in which He desires to act, as well as His will, providence and names, all of which are discernable through His actions.  All the above constitutes the World of Atzilut – Emanation.  It is called “World” merely to bring it closer to human grasp.  Henceforth, we will discuss the created realms.

183.  The created realms are the worlds of Briyah – Creation, Yetzirah – Formation, and Asiyah – Action.  When Atzilut is enumerated too, they constitute the four general worlds of Atzilut, Briyah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah.

184.  Briyah is the Highest of the created realms and is divided into seven Palaces – Heichalot as follows;

1. The Holy of Holies – Kodshei Kodoshim,

2. Will – Ratzon,

3. Love – Ahavah,

4. Merit – Zechut,

5. Brilliance – Nogah,

6. The Midst of the Heavens – Etzem HaShamayim,

7. The Sapphire Stone – Livnat HaSapir.

These palaces are the abodes of the entities which are called spirits – Roochin, Lights – Nehorin and the Holy Chayot – Chayot HaKodesh, each with its specific function. All this is expounded upon at length in the Zohar and Pardes Rimonim[1].

185.  The components of the created worlds correspond to and function as conduits for the Divine conducts of Atzilut.  As explained in Zohar the seven palaces of the world of Briyah correspond to the ten sefirot as follows;

186.  The first palace in ascending order is The Sapphire Stone – Livnat HaSapir.  It corresponds to the sefirot of Yesod & Malchut.  In this palace are angels who scrutinize ascending souls and prayers, whether to admit or reject them, and who note the special merit of those who study Torah after midnight etc. This is the palace of Yosef HaTzaddik[2].

187.  The second palace is called, The Midst of the Heavens – Etzem HaShamayim.  It corresponds to the sefirah of Hod.  In this palace are angels who comfort the souls of those who died by the hands of the court – Beit Din, since their sins were atoned for through their death, and who engrave the memory of those who died at the hands of the nations, to avenge their blood. Also, they scrutinize the deeds of the righteous to a hair’s breadth. Furthermore, they facilitate the generous reward of those who pursue wisdom and the punishment of those who rebel against their teachers or exploit the sages, etc.  This is the palace of the prophets – Heichal HaNevi’im[3].

188.  The third palace is called Brilliance – Nogah.  It corresponds to the sefirah of Netzach.  In this palace are angels who oversee war & healing.  On the Day of Atonement they facilitate the judgment of all matters, with the exception of “Life” (which is judged in the palace of Merit – Zechut) and seal all judgments after the Minchah service.  Furthermore, they may also impose a spiritual ban on those deserving it[4].  In addition, they implement good reward to those who rise early to attend the morning services and who pray with a proper intent, as well as all matters pertaining to walking, such as running to perform a mitzvah, visiting the sick and drawing them toward G_d and bringing one’s children to Cheder[5], etc.  The second and third palaces are called[6] the palaces of the prophets[7].

189.  The fourth palace is called Merit – Zechut.  It corresponds to the sefirah of Gevurah and is the seat of the supernal court which judges the world – Beit Din Shel Ma’alah.  (It is called Merit – Zechut since in judgment, one’s merits should be considered before his faults.)  In this palace are angels who bless those who sanctify the day of Shabbat and curse those who desecrate it, G_d forbid.  In addition, testimony is given by the angels here concerning man’s deeds.  This is the palace of Yitzchak[8].

190.  The fifth palace is called the Palace of Love – Ahavah corresponding to the conduct of Chessed.  In this palace are angels who teach merit concerning Israel, and initiate love between Israel and G_d.  These angels guard those who serve G_d with love and who perform acts of lovingkindness. They are guardians of the secrets of the Torah. This palace houses souls before they enter the world, and is called The Palace of Avraham[9].

191.  The sixth palace is the palace of Will[10] corresponding to the conduct of Tiferet[11]. In this palace are the four archangels[12]; Michael to the right – south, corresponding to Chessed.  Gavriel to the left – north, corresponding to Judgment.  Rafael, forward – east, and is an intermediate conduct between Chessed & Din.  Uriel backward – west, and is sometimes called Nuriel.  This too is an intermediate conduct, therefore when it inclines toward Chessed it is called Uriel[13], but when it inclines toward Din it is called Nuriel.  The Acronym for these angels is A.R.Ga.Ma.N. (purple).

192.  Each one of these four angels has two additional angels under him totaling twelve, three on each side, corresponding to the encampment of the 12 tribes in the desert.  There are many units of 12 that correspond to these angels, some of which are;

The twelve simple letters[14],

The twelve constellations,

The twelve months of the year,

The twelve hours of the Day etc.[15]

 

193.These four angels are the four faced angels of Yechezkiels Vision as follows;

 

Forward

Face of Man

Raphael (Uriel)

Intermediate Conduct

East

Left

Face of Ox

Gavriel

Gevurah

North

Right

Face of Lion

Michael

Chessed

South

Backward

Face of Eagle

Uriel (Raphael)

Intermediate Conduct

West

This palace contains six additional palaces each of which has its specific angels.  This is the Palace[16] of Yaakov[17].

194.  The seventh palace is called the Holy of Holies – Kodesh Kodoshim.  This palace corresponds to the conducts of Keter, Chochmah and Binah.  This level is extremely hidden and is beyond the grasp of the lower realms.  Here the righteous souls of Gan Eden find delight and pleasure in G_d.  Since the beings of this palace are closer to G_d than any other creatures, it is called The Throne of Glory – Kisseh HaKavod.  The above mentioned six palaces, relative to the palace of Will are called the six steps of the throne.  In general the world of Briyah is called the World of the Throne[18].

195.  The Tabernacle – Mishkan [that Moshe built in the desert] corresponded to the palaces of Will and Holy of Holies.  Within the Tabernacle were ten articles which corresponded to the ten sefirot as follows; The Cherubs, the Ark-cover and the Ark corresponded to Keter, Chochmah and Binah and to the palace of the Holy of Holies.  On the south, was the Candelabra – Menorah, corresponding to Chessed.  On the north was the Table – Shulchan, corresponding to Gevurah.  In the middle was the Golden Alter – Mizbeach Hazahav, corresponding to Tiferet.  The Washstand and its Base corresponded to Netzach and Hod. The Sacrificial Alter – Mizbeach HaOlah, corresponded to Yesod and the Court – Chatzer and Hangings – Kla’im, corresponded to Malchut[19].

196.  All the above mentioned is in regard to the world of Briyah.  The next world, in descending order is the world of Yetzirah – Formation.  This world is comprised of seven abodes.  Within the highest of these, souls reside.  The remaining six are the abode of the angels.  These angels act as messengers in our world.  Similar to the world of Briyah, these abodes correspond to the sefirot. As such, the conduct of these angelic agents is determined by the abode from which they originate[20].

197.  The world of Yetzirah is called the world of Angels.  The chief angel of this world is Metatron – The Prince of the Countenance (Sar HaPanim).  Under him are ten categories of angels as follows;

1.  Chayot

2.  Ophanim

3.  Seraphim

4.  Cherubim

5.  Arelim

6.  Tarshishim

7.  Chashmalim

8.  Elim

9.  Malachim

10. Ishim

As in the world of Briyah, the Chayot HaKodesh, the four faced angels of Yechezkiels vision also exist here, since Yechezkiels vision was perceived on the level of Yetzirah[21].

198.  The fourth world is called the world of Asiyah.  In this world the angels are of a lesser order than in the previous worlds.  The chief angel of Asiyah is Sandalfon. Within this world are 7 firmaments – Raki’im that are mentioned in the Zohar and Talmud as follows[22];

1.  Aravot

2.  Ma’on

3.  Machon

4.  Zevul

5.  Shechakim[23]

6.  Rekiah

7.  Veelon

The Ophanim – Wheels, that are mentioned in Yechezkiel vision, exist on this level.  Furthermore, our physical world and all that exists within it is included as the final [and very lowest] level of Asiyah.

199.  The overseers, angels and firmaments of the world of Asiyah correspond to the ten sefirot as follows;

Aravot corresponds to Keter, Chochmah & Binah

Ma’on corresponds to Chessed

Machon to Gevurah

Zevul to Tiferet

Shechakim to Netzach & Hod

Rekiah to Yesod

& Veelon to Malchut.

Earth is included as the lowest level [of the lowest level] of Malchut.

200.  Rekiah (Yesod) of Asiyah has ten subdivisions which correspond to the sun, moon, constellations and planets[24].

201.  The worlds of Briyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah are actual creations and their components are considered sefirot only in the sense that they correspond to the ten sefirot of Atzilut.  They are, therefore, allegorically referred to as the Ten Sefirot of Briyah, the Ten Sefirot of Yetzirah etc.

202.  G_d relates to His worlds through His Ten Divine conducts.  These conducts are not manifested equally, since each world receives according to its specific qualities and capacity. The apparent differences, therefore, are a result of the receiving levels rather than any change within the Giver, G_d forbid.  The conducts as they relate to each specific level are called accordingly, such as the Ten Sefirot of Briyah, the Ten Sefirot of Yetzirah etc.  However, there are actually only ten general conducts and any subdivisions are merely levels within them. For example, Chessed of Briyah, Chessed of Yetzirah etc. are only levels within the general conduct of Chessed.

Since both the Divine conducts as they relate to each world and the components of the created worlds are termed Sefirot, it is incumbent upon the reader, when studying Kabbalist literature, to discern between them[25].

203.  As stated above, G_d is called according to His actions.  As such, the Divine conducts as they are manifest within each world have specific Divine names[26].  The angels too are named accordingly, as stated in scripture[27], “For my name is within Him”[28].

204.  Generally, the world of Briyah is influenced by the conduct of Binah, corresponding to Ima and the first Hey of the Divine Name (Y–H–V–H).  The world of Yetzirah is primarily influenced by the conduct of the six sefirot (Chessed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod) corresponding to Zeir Anpin and the Vav of the Divine name.  The world of Asiyah is primarily influenced by the conduct of Malchut, corresponding to Nukvah and the last Hey of the Name.

205.  The world of Atzilut, likewise corresponds to Abba and the Yud of the Divine name, so that the four worlds together constitute the Divine name and its corresponding Parzufim – Statures as follows;

 

Abba Atzilut Yud
Ima Briyah Hey
Zeir Anpin Yetzirah Vav
Nukvah Asiyah Hey

 

206.  Actually, all the influence from Atzilut comes to the created worlds through Malchut, its lowest sefirah.  Therefore the above mentioned statement that the world of Briyah is influenced by Binah, refers to Binah of Malchut of Atzilut rather than the general Binah of Atzilut.  The same principle applies to Yetzirah and Asiyah which are influenced by Zeir Anpin of Malchut of Atzilut and Malchut of Malchut of Atzilut.  Accordingly, all the created realms are considered to be within the domain of Malchut.

206b. Everything that exists in the World of Briyah has its corresponding conduct in Atzilut.  Because the concept of twelve exists in Malchut of Atzilut, it also manifests as twelve components within Briyah[29].

207.  As stated previously, the World of Briyah was created with all its components corresponding to the Divine conducts.  As such, Kabbalistic literature allegorically states that the world of Briyah “evolved” from the world of Atzilut, in that it follows the pattern of Atzilut.  For example, since it was G_d’s will to include His kindness in the conduct of the World, He created the Palace of Love – Heichal Ha’Ahava in Briyah, and since it was also His will to include Judgment – Din, He created the Palace of Merit – Heichal Zechut, within which the world is judged.  This principle applies to all the components of Briyah.

207b.  Thus it can be said that the palace of Love “evolved” from the sefirah of Chessed, and the palace of Merit, from that of Gevurah etc.  However, obviously there is no developmental progression of “evolution” between Atzilut and the created realms whatsoever, but rather, all creation was brought in to being ex nihilo (out of nothing).  Any other consideration would be erroneous[30].

208.  The human soul consists of five (5) levels corresponding to the five Partzufim and the letters of G_d’s name as follows;

 

The thorn of the Yod Adam Kadmon Yechidah
Yud Atzilut Chayah
First Hey Briyah Neshamah
Vav Yetzirah Ruach
Last Hey Asiyah Nefesh

 

The GR”A wrote[31] that the levels of the Nefesh and Ruach are predominant in man, especially Ruach which is his essential identity.  It is the Ruach that receives reward and punishment, is cognizant, possesses faculties and is conscious of the senses.  With its departure, death results.  The Neshamah is a higher level which is generally beyond our consciousness.  It is the source of Divine guidance and inspiration.  In this sense it is sometimes referred to as a person’s Mazal or Malach (angel) since it influences him from above.  Occasionally one may experience an inspirational flash from the Neshamah level which guides him and elevates his awareness.  Therefore, the term Ruach refers to man’s essential identity, whereas Neshamah refers to that which guides him from above.[32]

209.  The world of Briyah is on the highest spiritual level of the created realms and is the closest to G_dliness (i.e. Atzilut).  It receives Divine influence directly from Atzilut without any intermediary level.  In Briyah the spiritual entities themselves may be either of the aspects of Ruach or Nefesh.  Those of Ruach are called Ruchin (spirits) and those of Nefesh are called Nehorin (lights).  Since the aspect of Neshamah comes to Briyah directly from Atzilut their Neshamah is considered to be actual G_dliness[33].

210.  The beings in the world of Yetzirah receive their Neshamah through [the filter of] Briyah.  As a result they receive only a minute portion from Atzilut itself.  This portion is called Chayah – Living.

211.  The beings in the world of Asiyah receive their Neshamah through [the additional filter of] Yetzirah.  Due to this, only those individuals who have special merit may receive a minute influence from Briyah.  This influence is called “Chayah”.  Those who are even more meritorious may also receive some influence from Atzilut. This influence is called Yechidah (Unique).

To summarize: the level of G_dliness in Asiyah is called Yechidah, that of Yetzirah is called Chayah, and that of Briyah is called Neshamah, all of which is explained by the GR”A in Sifra D’Tzniuta[34].

212.  The GR”A states[35] in his comments on Zohar Heichalot that in all worlds, the G_dly aspect, (which is received from above, similar to prophetic inspiration) is called Neshamah. This in no way contradicts his above statement.  In Sifra D’Tzniuta he deals with each world specifically, as it relates to other worlds, whereas, here, he is referring to all the created worlds collectively as they relate to Atzilut. Only that which comes from Atzilut (i.e. Chaya of Yetzirah and Yechidah of Asiyah) may truly be considered Neshamah.  All other levels of the created worlds [i.e. Neshamah of Yetzirah & Chayah of Asiyah etc.] come from Ruach and Nefesh of Briyah and thus cannot [truly] be regarded as Neshamah.

213a. The GR”A wrote, “You should know with certainty that Moshe Rabbeinu, perceived only on the level of Briyah in the palace of Will, as stated by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and the Ari”Zal.  The remaining prophets perceived on the level of Yetzirah.  Daniel perceived the pinnacle of Asiyah which is the floor of Yetzirah, since he was on an intermediate level between the prophets and subsequent generations.  Since then, with each generation perception has diminished, until in these latter generations we perceive only on the level of the “heels” of Asiah”.

213b.  Since each world contains within itself aspects of all other worlds, it is possible, through allegory, to comprehend, on our level, matters concerning Adam Kadmon, Atzilut, Briyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, though we have no direct perception of them.  Even the prophet Yechezkiel, who received his prophecy outside of the Land of Israel during the end of the first Temple, spoke in riddles, the depth of which we cannot fathom. So too, the prophecy of Zechariah was in the form of sealed visions. We will not fully understand the meaning of their words until we are Divinely enlightened (in the Messianic era).



[1] Zohar Pekudei, p.245a-262. Zohar Bereshit p.41b-45b. Also see Pardes Rimonim, Shaar HaHeichalot.

[2] Zohar Pekudei , p.245-246.

[3] Zohar Pekudei, p.246-47.

[4] Pardes Rimonim, Shaar Heichalot, chap.3. The spiritual ban takes on three forms: a) His prayers are rejected b) His soul does not ascend heavenward during sleep c) The two angels that usually escort him abandon him.

[5] A TorahSchool for elementary level children is called Cheder.

[6] Zohar Pekudei, p.248-249.

[7] Since the sefirot of Netzach and Hod are both sources of prophetic inspiration.

[8] Zohar Pekudei, p.251-252.

[9] Zohar Pekudei, p.253.

[10] It also is called The Palace of the Scarlet Thread. See Heichalot HaZohar, Bereshit, p.44b.

[11] Here Tiferet is higher than Chesed and Gevurah because since Tiferet is a synthesis of the two, the result is not only that it contains elements of both, but that it is also a novel quality, in and of itself, over and above Chesed and Gevurah. In such a case, the whole is greater than the number of its parts.

[12] Heichalot HaZohar, Pekudei, p. 253-254.

[13] See GR’’A on Heichalot HaZohar, ibid.

[14] See above #97.

[15] Sefer Yetzirah, chap.5. Sometimes the positions of Uriel and Raphael are exchanged, with Uriel in the east and Raphael in the west. See Zohar p.254a and commentary of the GR’’A there.

[16] Zohar Pekudei, p.253b-258.

[17] The Palace Of Yaakov corresponds to Tiferet and is sometimes called The Palace of Moshe. See Heichalot HaZohar Bereshit, p.44 and GR””A there.

[18] Zohar Pekudei, p.258.

[19] GR’’A on Heichalot Pekudei p.255.

[20] Zohar Bereshit p.41a. Also see GR’’A comments on  Zohar Bereshit p.38a.

[21] Etz Chaim, Shaar Klalot Abia, chap.1.

[22] Zohar Vayekhel, p201-202. Also see Talmud Chagiga 12b-13.

[23] Both Aravot and Shechakim are in  the plural form, thus indicatingseveral sefirot each.

[24] GR’’A on Sefer Yetzirah and Heichalot.

[25] See Choker Umekubal p.6-7.

[26] Etz\ Chaim, Shaar HaShemot, chap.5.

[27] Shemot 23:21

[28] See Talmud Sanhedrin p.38.

[29] See Sefer Yetzirah chap.5.

[30] Choker Umekubal, p.7.

[31] Sefer Yetzirah, chap1, mishnah 1.

[32] Nefesh Hachaim, Shaar 1, chap. 15, 17 and 18. For this reason the term Neshamah may often include within it, both Chaya and Yechidah.

[33] GR’’A Heichalot p.41b.

[34] GR’’A\Sifra D’Tzniuta p.1b.

[35] Heichal 1, p.41b.

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