Beyond Comprehension

We cannot grasp the essence of Adam Kadmon; it is only the radiance of Adam Kadmon that can be understood, and this contains all the levels and teachings of the Kabbalah.

4 min

Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Posted on 22.11.23

Part 58 of “138 Openings of Wisdom” by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato

Opening 32, part 4
Part 2: Thus all the worlds are nothing but the radiant splendor… As already stated in the commentary on the first part of the proposition, all the worlds discussed in the Kabbalah are levels of this radiant splendor. …and shine of Adam Kadmon… Shine and radiation are the appropriate terms for that which is not the essence of a thing itself but which shines and radiates from the essence. The radiation is on a lower level than the essence itself. These worlds are thus a mere radiation that emerges from Adam Kadmon. They do not reveal all that is revealed in Adam Kadmon in itself but much less.
Here lies the answer to an apparent difficulty about these worlds of Vision, Hearing, Smell and Speech, which appear not to follow the order of the rest of the Tree. The world of Beriyah, for example, emerges from Atzilut in the sense of being a single continuation of it, emerging like a seal stamped with all the Sefirot of Atzilut, which pass through a screen. Each Sefirah in Atzilut actually brings forth the corresponding Sefirah in Beriyah. Yetzirah emerges from Beriyah in the same way, and similarly Asiyah from Yetzirah. It is therefore fair to say that they are one under the other, for they emerge one from the other. Similarly in the case of the Partzufim: Abba and Imma emerge from Arich Anpin through the process of internal coupling (zivug) within, while Zeir Anpin and Nukva emerge from Abba and Imma through their coupling. This is not the way in which the worlds of Vision, Hearing, Smell and Speech emerge from Adam Kadmon. Rather, these emerge from within through the sensory organs.
This gives rise to two difficulties. The first is that we cannot say that the worlds of Vision, Hearing, Smell and Speech are under Adam Kadmon in the way that Abba and Imma, Zeir Anpin and Nukva are under Arich Anpin, as mentioned elsewhere. For the former do not emerge from Adam Kadmon in same the way that the latter emerge from Arich Anpin through the process of coupling whereby the higher Partzuf brings forth the lower one. The second difficulty is that the emergence of the worlds of Vision, Hearing, Smell and Speech from Adam Kadmon seems inconsistent with the developmental mode (hishtalshelut). This requires that first one world should be completed, after which another world should emerge from it on the next level and with a power less than that of the higher world. This is the pathway visible in the Sefirot from after the Tzimtzum onwards, but the emergence of the worlds of Vision, Hearing, Smell and Speech seems to follow a different pathway that is inconsistent with this order. 
The question immediately arises as to why these worlds did not emerge from and come under Adam Kadmon in exactly the same way as the other worlds emerge one from another. Or if these emerged in this way, why did others not emerge from Adam Kadmon in the way that Beriyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah emerged from Atzilut? In short, we do not see here a direct continuation as would have been appropriate in accordance with the developmental pathway. Rather it seems like a jump from one pathway to another and from one aspect to another. We do not see a single, complete, consistent order binding everything together in this way at all.
These difficulties may be resolved in the light of our earlier discussion. It is true that contained within the Empty Space formed through the Tzimtzum is only one overall existence: this is Adam Kadmon complete in all aspects — soul, body and radiant splendor. This constitutes the entire government of the Name of HaVaYaH, blessed be He, besides which nothing else exists. However, inasmuch as this government is very deep, we cannot understand it, and only a glimmer is revealed to us. (This answers the first objection — that the worlds of Vision, Hearing, Smell and Speech are not “under” Adam Kadmon — for they are a part of Adam Kadmon.) This glimmer is the smallest, most concise picture of this government. This alone is what we can speak about in Adam Kadmon. It is here that we can distinguish the different levels, one under the other, in a developmental chain. These are the different aspects of the revealed government. However the revealed government does not emerge as a continuous gradation that develops out of Adam Kadmon. Rather, this is all that can be revealed of Adam Kadmon, and we must consider this to be also part of Adam Kadmon. (This answers the second difficulty — that these worlds do not develop out of Adam Kadmon but rather are of and in Adam Kadmon.) We can only say that Adam Kadmon constitutes all that exists in accordance with the order of the Name of HaVaYaH, blessed be He. The intrinsic essence of Adam Kadmon cannot be apprehended. It is only the radiation of Adam Kadmon that can be apprehended, and this contains all the levels and aspects discussed in the teachings of the Kabbalah.
…while Adam Kadmon is more elevated than them and cannot be apprehended. This explains why we do not occupy ourselves with the intrinsic essence of Adam Kadmon but instead speak in terms of these worlds. What this means, as disc above, is that Adam Kadmon is the concealed source of the government, while the radiant splendor is what is revealed of Adam Kadmon. This is not a confused order, nor does it jump from path to path. On the contrary, it is a fitting order and one that is properly arranged.
The way this appears in the prophetic vision is as written in the kabbalistic texts: there is a single Partzuf or visage (that of Adam Kadmon) whose face radiates. Emerging from it are all these lights in the order given in the texts.
To be continued.
(Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum is the director of Azamra ( The 138 Openings of Wisdom is available for purchase online at

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