Rabbi Azriel of Gerona's Text

QUESTION: If the inquirer continues: Now you must answer me -- these sefirot, when did they come into existence? If you now answer me that they were almost contemporaneous with the creation of the world, then it may be countered: Why did He intend their emanation in that precise moment and not at some earlier point -- would this not be a change of mind in Perfection? And if you answer that they are His eternality, then they would subsist in His undifferentiatedness; and if such were the case, what would be the difference between God and the Sefirot?

ANSWER: Some of the sefirot existed in potentia within Eyn-Sof before they became actualized, like the first sefirah [Keter] which is equal to all the others. There were some that were intelligible that were then emanated, like the second sefirah [Hokmah] from which the pre-existent Torah came forth. There were some that were perceived and some that were innate, such as those sefirot which were needed for this world and which were emanated almost contemporaneously with the creation of the world. And since in the existentiation of the first two sefirot the hidden and intelligible powers of the two were totally intermingled, their reality nourished the other sefirot. As the Sages, may their memory be blessed, said, "Could not the world have been created with one statement?

As for your other question, "that they would subsist in His undifferentiatedlness" -- Even though we should avoid coining metaphors regarding Eyn-Sof, in order to help you understand let us compare the matter to a candle. The candle lights a myriad of other candles. Each lit candle shines more, yet they are all equal in comparison to the first candle and they all derive from one principle. But one must not like the latter to the former. Their phylogenesis should not be compared to His ontogenesis, for He is greater than them and their energy is brought forth from Him, because of His supra-preeminence. Furthermore, no change takes place in Him. Rather, the dynamic of emanation becomes revealed through the division of their existence. Thus, one cannot say that there was a change of mind in Him, even though nothing exists outside of Him.

Reb Yakov Leib's Commentary

Contrary to popular perception -- even among those who should know better -- the Ten Sefirot are not a "drawing" or even a "diagram." They are, in fact, the Supernal Image and Form of God. For example, in another Kabbalistic text, written some three centuries after R. Azriel's "Explanations", Rabbi Moses Cordovero brings down:

"It is proper for man to imitate his Creator, resembling Him in both likeness and image according to the secret of the Supernal Form." (Rabbi Moses Cordovero, Tomer Devorah ("The Palm Tree of Deborah"), Sepher-Hermon Edition, 1974, p. 46)

Notice (possibly to your surprise) that this ancient Jewish text -- this "Orthodox" Jewish text, if you will -- tells us, without hesitation or equivocation, that contrary to Jewish conventional wisdom, God has both an image and form, but that this "image" and "form" are not corporeal as in man, but "supernal," which is to say spiritual -- that is, they are the "image" and "form" of Adam Kadmon, which is itself comprised of the ethereal Ten Sefirot:

Figure 1

Now, within this context, R. Azriel tells us that just as the brain of the fetus is created first and the rest of the body emerges from the brain, so too some of the Sefirot are "innate" and others "potentiated." As he says, the first Sefirah, Keter (which is actually likened to the brain in Kabbalistic hermeneutics) is "equal to all the others," by which he means that all the other Sefirot ultimately emerge out of, Keter.

Furthermore, this "birthing" of the Ten Sefirot out of Keter is realized by the "intermingling" of what R. Azriel calls "the first two sefirot" (by which he means the "first two" after Keter) -- Hokmah (which tops and defines the right-hand column of the Sefirotic configuration) and Binah (which tops and defines its left-hand column). Importantly, Hokmah has the partsuf (hidden identity) of Abba ("Father") and Binah the partsuf of Imma ("Mother"), so that what is being described here is the differentiation of the undifferentiated Keter (which, itself, is the mirror reflection of Eyn-Sof) into is male and female aspects, the subsequent "intermingling" of which gives birth to the remaining seven Sefirot, as shown by the relationships of the top three circles, and the "paths" connecting them, in the following diagram:

Figure 2

Now, these first three Sefirot form the first of four "realms" -- Atziluth ("Supernal"), Beriah ("Remaking"), Yetzirah ("Forming"), and Assiya ("World") -- and it is to these that R. Azriel is alluding when he says, "There were some [sefirot] that were perceived and some that were innate, such as those sefirot which were needed for this world and which were emanated almost contemporaneously with the creation of the world." That is, the "innate" Sefirot were those in the upper realms while those "which were emanated almost contemporaneously with the creation of the world" were of the lower realms.

Finally, we cannot leave this Kabbalistic description of the Ten Sefirot and their origins without pointing out their remarkable parallels in Tantric Hinduism. For example, the "body" of Adam Kadmon in Figure 1 corresponds directly to that of the Primordial Man of Tantra in Figure 3:

Figure 3

Notice that with the exception of irrelevant stylistic differences, these "Jewish" and "Hindu" conceptions are represented in virtually the identical way. Furthermore, notice that the "center column" of Adam Kadmon in Fig. 1 corresponds directly to the Sushumna (center channel) of the drawing in Fig. 3. And even more is this: the mythos of the creation of the Seven Chakras in Fig. 3 is virtually identical to that of the Ten Sefirot in Fig. 1. That is, in Kabbalah, the Sefirot are said to be birthed by the "Fallen Bride" leaving Her "Supernal Groom" and descending down the center column until she comes to rest in the lowest Sefirah, Malkuth -- waiting there to be awakened and raised back up to and reunited with her masculine aspect in Keter, or the "Crown." Likewise, in Tantra we see that the feminine Shakti leaves Her masculine Shiva and descends down the Sushumna, creating the Seven Chakras as She goes, until She comes to rest in the very lowest Muladhara Chakra (corresponding to Sefirah Malkuth) where She, like Her corresponding "Fallen Bride" in Kabbalah, comes to rest -- waiting to be awakened and raised back up to and reunited with Her masculine aspect in the highest, or "Crown" Chakra, thereby returning to unity that which was formerly One, but became many by the act of creation.

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