Rabbi Azriel of Gerona's Text

QUESTION: About this the inquirer persists: How can we possibly say that He is One and the multiplicity of ten unites within Him? By this we may preserve the truth in our hearts but certainly not in our statements.

ANSWER: I have already informed you that the One is the foundation of the many and that in the many no power is innovated -- only in Him. He is more than them and each of them is superior to its antecedent, and the potency of one is in the other. Nevertheless, the first is the dynamic of all the others. Through this first is the dynamic of the other, it is not so specifically but only generally. The metaphor for this is the fire, the flame, the sparks, and the aura. They are all of one essence even though they are different one from the other and divisible into separate components.

Reb Yakov Leib's Commentary

If, as Judaism is the first religion to assert, "God is One," how can He also be "ten?" Does not the proposition of the Ten Sefirot contradict Judaism's central tenet of monotheism, and thereby invalidate itself? (It should be recalled that R. Azriel considered this question at the same time the Catholic Church was grappling with the comparable issue of polytheism in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.)

R. Azriel resolves this problem by stating that each Sefiroth contains the other nine within itself. In this way, God can be likened to a hologram or fractal, each part of which contains and duplicates the whole. (This also bears a striking resemblance to the dictum of modern Gestalt Psychology that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.") Of its similarity to the Christian Trinity, the 19th Century scholar of Kabbalah and Jewish convert to Christianity, Christian Ginsburg wrote:

"As to the relation of the Kabbalah to Christianity, it is maintained that this theosophy propounds the doctrine of the trinity and the sufferings of Messiah." (The Kabbalah: Its Doctrines, Development, and Literature, London: Longmans Green & Company, 1863, p. 138)

Similarly, Jung later wrote to my mentor, James Kirsch, in 1952:

"I can call your attention to the extraordinary development in the Kabbalah. I am rather certain that the sefiroth tree contains the whole symbolism of Jewish development parallel to the Christian idea . . . I am pretty certain that the extraordinary and venomous response of the orthodox rabbis against the Kabbalah is based upon the undeniable fact of this most remarkable Judeo-Christian parallelism." (Collected Letters: Vol. 2, page 92)

Finally, we see an allusion to Isaac Luria's later doctrine of the Nitzotzot ("Holy Sparks") in R. Azriel's statement, "The metaphor for this is the fire, the flame, the sparks, and the aura. They are all of one essence even though they are different one from the other and divisible into separate components." This metaphor answers the question, sometimes posed by our Chaverim, as to whether the Holy Sparks are "reflections" of, or the "substance" of God. Clearly, according to R. Azriel, they are the latter. Therefore, since all "things" (including "man") contain a Holy Spark waiting to be released (i.e., brought into consciousness), they also are already in a state of union with God.

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