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Ein Sof (or Ayn Sof) (Hebrew אין סוף), in the Kabbalah, is understood as the Deity prior to His self-manifestation in the production of the world, probably derived from Ibn Gabirol's term, "the Endless One" (she-en lo tiklah). Ein Sof may be translated as "no end," "unending," "there is no end," or Infinite.

Ein Sof is the divine origin of all created existence, in contrast to the Ein (or Ayn), which is infinite no-thingness. It was first used by Azriel ben Menahem, who, sharing the Neoplatonic view that God can have no desire, thought, word, or action, emphasized by it the negation of any attribute.

Contents

Explanation

The Zohar explains the term "Ein Sof" as follows:

Before He gave any shape to the world, before He produced any form, He was alone, without form and without resemblance to anything else. Who then can comprehend how He was before the Creation? Hence it is forbidden to lend Him any form or similitude, or even to call Him by His sacred name, or to indicate Him by a single letter or a single point. . . . But after He created the form of the Heavenly Man, He used him as a chariot wherein to descend, and He wishes to be called after His form, which is the sacred name 'YHWH'.[1]

In other words, "Ein Sof" signifies "the nameless being." In another passage the Zohar reduces the term to "Ein" (non-existent), because God so transcends human understanding as to be practically non-existent.[2]

In addition to the Sefer Yetzirah and the Zohar, other well-known explications of the relation between Ein Sof and all other realities and levels of reality have been formulated by the Jewish mystical thinkers of the Middle Ages, such as Isaac the Blind and Azriel.[3] Judah Ḥayyaṭ, in his commentary Minḥat Yehudah on the Ma'areket Elahut, gives the following explanation of the term "Ein Sof":

Any name of God which is found in the Bible can not be applied to the Deity prior to His self-manifestation in the Creation, because the letters of those names were produced only after the emanation. . . . Moreover, a name implies a limitation in its bearer; and this is impossible in connection with the 'En Sof.'

The Ten Sefirot

According to Gershom Scholem, Ein Sof is the emanator of the Sefirot. Sefirot are energy emanations found on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.[3] Ein Sof, the Ancient of All Ancients, emanates the Sefirot into the cosmic womb of the Ein in a manner that results in the created universe. The three letters composing the word "Ein" indicate the first three purely spiritual Sefirot.[4]

The ten aspects of the Divine, with the relation to its precursor states of nonexistence, its self-realization stage called Tzimtzum, and their immediate manifest reflection in the top three aspects with the gap between those exalted states of being and the lower more mundane types, along with Da'at, the 11th or uncounted aspect of the divine which is a path that is forbidden, can be described as:

000. Ain (Nothing; אין)
00. Ain Soph (Limitlessness;אין סוף )
0. Ain Soph Aur (Endless Light; אין סוף אוֹר)
-.Tzimtzum (Contraction; צמצום)
  1. Keter (Crown; כתר)
  2. Chokhmah (Wisdom; חכמה)
  3. Binah (Understanding; בינה)
-.Daat (Knowledge; דעת)
  1. Chesed or Gedulah (Loving Kindness or Mercy; חסד)
  2. Gevurah or Din (Power or Judgement; גבורה)
  3. Tiferet (Beauty or Compassion; תפארת)
  4. Netzach (Triumph or Endurance; נצח)
  5. Hod (Majesty or Splendor; הוד)
  6. Yesod (Foundation; יסוד)
  7. Malchut (Realm; מלכות)

See also

References

  1. ^ Zohar, part ii., section "Bo," 42b
  2. ^ Zohar, ib. part iii. 288b
  3. ^ a b Scholem, Gershom (1974). Kabbalah. Jewish Publication Society. pp. 88 and ff.  
  4. ^ Shoshan Sodot, 1b

Bibliography

  • This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Ehrenpreis (1895). Die Entwickelung der Emanationslehre in der Kabbala des XIII. Jahrhunderts. Frankfort-on-the-Main. p. 26.  
  • Franck (1889). La Kabbale. Paris. p. 136.  
  • Ginsburg, Christian David (1865). The Ḳabbalah. London. p. 105.  
  • Joël (1849). Die Religionsphilosophie des Sohar. Leipsic.  
  • Karppe (1901). Etude sur les Origines et la Nature du Zohar. Paris. p. 344.  
  • Myer (1888). Qabbalah. Philadelphia. pp. 251 et seq.  
  • Scholem, Gershom (1974). Kabbalah. Jewish Publication Society.  
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