Tohu and Tikun
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The implications of Tohu-Tikun underlie the origin of free will and the realm of Kelipah (evil), caused by Shevirat HaKelim/Shevirah (Hebrew: שבירת הכלים "Shattering of the Vessels" of Tohu), the processes of spiritual and physical exile and redemption, the meaning of the 613 mitzvot (Jewish observances), and the messianic rectification of existence. Through this Tikun/Tikkun (תיקון) also has an active meaning, the esoteric Birur/Beirur/Birurim (Hebrew: בירור "Sifting/Clarification") of concealed Nitzot/Nitzutzei Kodesh/Nitzutzot (Hebrew: ניצוצות "Sparks" of Holiness) exiled in physical creation. This new paradigm in kabbalah replaced the previous linear description of descent with a dynamic process of spiritual enclothement, where higher "souls" invest inwardly in lower "vessels". Related to the primordial cosmic realms of Tohu-Tikun are two associated spiritual states for interpreting existence, psychological temprements, or stages in the spiritual development of the individual.
The cosmic drama of Tikun in Lurianic Kabbalah inspired the 16th-18th century popular Jewish imagination, explaining contemporary oppression and supporting messiah claimants. The revivalist Hasidic movement, from the 18th century onwards, internalised esoteric Lurianism through its own concern with experiencing Divine Omnipresence amidst daily material life. The terminology of the modern Jewish ideal of Tikkun Olam ("Fixing the World"), popularised by Reform Judaism, is taken from the Lurianic concept, but applied more widely to ethical activism in contemporary society.
 Overview of Lurianic KabbalahIsaac Luria reinterpreted the whole scheme of Kabbalah in the 16th century, essentially making the second of two different versions of theoretical Kabbalah: the Medieval/Classic/Zoharic (later systemised by Moshe Cordovero directly prior to Luria in Safed), and the Lurianic. However, he understood his new doctrinal revelation as no more than the true meaning and deeper systemisation of the Zohar. Lurianic Kabbalah became the dominant system in Jewish mysticism, displacing Cordovero's, and afterwards the Zohar was read by Jewish Kabbalists in its light.
Medieval Kabbalah depicts a linear descending hierarchy of Divine vitality, the 10 sephirot (Divine attributes) emerging from concealment in the Ein Sof (unknowable simple Divine Infinity) to enact Creation, with the Five Worlds unfolding sequentially until physical creation. Lurianic Kabbalah in contrast, describes a dynamic enclothing processes of exile and redemption in the Divine flow, where higher levels descend into lower states, as souls to spiritual bodies. This process introduces or interprets new Kabbalistic doctrines and concepts.
In the Lurianic scheme, Creation is initiated by a primordial radical Divine "self-withdrawal" (Tzimtzum), forming a figurative "empty space/vacuum" (Khalal) in which only an "imprint" (Reshimu) remains of the withdrawn Ein Sof. Subsequent to this, a thin, diminished new emanation "ray/line" (Kav), able to create finitude, extends from the withdrawn infinite light into the vacuum. This represents the latently finite potentials in the Ein Sof. The new emanation is the fountainhead for all subsequent creation, but instead leads to a catastrophe in the emerging spiritual Worlds. As the vitality pours into the sephirot "vessels" (Keilim), they are unstable ("chaotic"-Tohu) and "shatter" (Shevirah). Their Divine light reascends, while the broken vessel fragments descend, still animated by "sparks" (Nitzot) of light. The fragments become the absorbed, animating source of the subsequent Four spiritual Worlds in stable Creation (called the realms of "rectification"-Tikun). As the fragments are animated by exiled Divine sparks, a consciousness unaware of its Divine dependence, so resulting Creation is able to exist independently, rather than being nullified by its source. This process, however, overspills into the realms of evil ("shells"-Kelipah). Tikun is supremely embodied in the highest of the Four Worlds, the Divine Unity perfected world of Atzilut ("emanation"), through the sephirot reconfiguring as Partzufim (harmonised Divine "configurations"). Rectification of the independent lower three worlds of Beri'ah ("creation"), Yetzirah ("formation") and Assiah ("action") is the task of man. Biblical Adam incorporated the collective souls of humanity before eating from the Tree of Knowledge (a manifestation in Kabbalah of the sephirot). His sin introduced new Shevirah dispersal of Divine vitality into exile in Creation, as well as shedding soul sparks from his being. The election of Israel through receiving the Torah at Sinai, recollected the 600,000 root souls from Adam. The 613 Mitzvot Jewish observances redeem ("sift"-Birur) the exiled sparks of holiness from Tohu, embedded below in physical creation. The messianic era for all peoples is inagurated when the collective souls of Israel complete the esoteric cosmic Tikun. National and individual spiritual failures in Jewish history delay redemption, by introducing further exile of Divine vitality to the realms of impurity. Each root soul subdivides into soul sparks that reincarnate (Gilgulim) to complete cosmic and personal Tikun, as in Lurianism higher levels return dynamically in lower vessels. The messianic redemption combines both advantages of the supreme Divine lights of Tohu, in mature rectified vessels of Tikun, the unity of God and Creation.
 The supernal worlds of Tohu and Tikun
 Emergence of the sephirot - Akudim, Nekudim, BerudimCordovero, in his comprehensive systemisation of Medieval Kabbalah, had reconciled previous Kabbalists' opinions of the sephirot by describing each as Divine ohr ("light") invested in 10 spiritual keilim ("vessels"). This overcame the philosophical difficulty of Divine attributes, as in the Infinite Ein Sof prior to Creation, the sephirot were entirely nullified into non-existence in the simple unity of endless Divinity. They emerge as Divine attributes only from the perspective of creation, by combining two aspects of lights and vessels. The spiritual vitality, denoted as "light", similarly manifests in two levels of Ohr Sovev (transcendent) and Ohr Mimalei (immanent). First the light creates the the vessels, then animates (fills) them. Only the vessels differ in each of their natures, while the light remains unified.
Isaac Luria accepted this, but adapted it to his new scheme. As the Kav ("ray") of Divine illumination shines into the Khalal (primordial "vacuum"), beginning Creation, it first forms the pristine realm of Adam Kadmon ("Primordial Man"), described in previous Kabbalah, first of the comprehensive Five spiritual Worlds. Adam Kadmon is the realm of Keter ("crown"), supra-conscious Divine Will. Due to its supreme transcendence, it is often excluded from listing with the other Four Worlds. Medieval Kabbalists listed Keter as the first Sephirah, but debated its relationship with the Ein Sof Limitless Divine. Luria described Keter as an intermediary to the sephirot, not identified with the Ein Sof, but transcending the sephirot. He excludes it from their usual listing, substituting Daat ("knowledge") instead. If the sephirot are listed in relation to their vessels, Chokhmah ("wisdom") becomes the first principle. Adam Kadmon is all light with no vessels, before the emergence of the sephirot, bound only by its future potential to create vessels, and in the Lurianic scheme by a limiting effect from the Reshima ("impression" left in the empty vacuum). Adam Kadmon is the specific Divine will (Keter) and plan (the latent Chokhmah within Keter) for all subsequent detailed creation in potential. Its anthropomorphic name figuratively denotes that man is both the purpose of creation below, as well as the embodiment on high of the sephirot Divine attributes, not yet manifest.
The sephirot manifest in two general figurative descriptions, as Iggulim (concentric "circles") and Yosher (three-column "upright" configuration). As Iggulim, they act sequentially and independently, from Keter in closest proximity to the Ein Sof, to Malkhut at the extremity. As Yosher, they act as a harmonised configuration of related powers in the scheme of man. As in the soul of man, and represented in his bodily form, each sephirah fulfils its particular function, while co-relating as a whole arrangement. As Adam Kadmon is before the emergence of the sephirot, it relates to the Yosher scheme only in latent ("transcendent") potential. As the Kav shines into the vacuum, it first metaphorically proceeds to describe the 10 potential Iggulim, then is "enclothed" by the Yosher scheme as Adam Kadmon.
From Adam Kadmon emanate five lights. As the Yosher scheme relates to the figure of man, and Adam Kadmon embodies Keter (Will-"crown") and its latent Chokhmah (intellectual plan-"wisdom"), so these five lights figuratively emanate from the "head" of Adam Kadmon: from the "eyes, ears, nose, mouth and forehead". These interact with each other to form three specific olamot (worlds) after Adam Kadmon, three evolving stages in the first manifestation of the sephirot, systemised by Luria:
- Akudim (world of "Binding/Ringed") 10 lights in one vessel - stable Tohu Chaos
- Nekudim (world of "Points/Spotted") 10 isolated lights in 10 vessels - unstable Tohu Chaos (Olam HaTohu-the "World of Chaos")
- Berudim (world of "Connection/Flecked") 10 inter-relating lights in 10 vessels - beginning of Tikun ("Rectification")
In the Lurianic scheme, Akudim is the first emergence of the sephirot in undifferentiated unity, 10 lights encompassed in one vessel. In this supreme abundance of Divinity, there is no distinction between each sephirah, all Creation being included in potential. Luria read this as Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth", the initial vital source from which all would unfold. Nekudim is Olam HaTohu (the "World of Chaos"), which precipitates the catastrophe of Shevirat HaKeilim ("shattering" of the sephirot "vessels"). Berudim begins Tikun ("rectification"), as it is reconstituted enough to exist stabily. However, supernal rectification is only completed later in Atzilut (world of "emanation"), first of the comprehensive Four spiritual Worlds after the Shevirah, through the sephirot transforming into Partzufim (Divine "Personas"). Atzilut, therefore, is called Olam HaTikun (the "World of Rectification").
 Tohu-Chaos and the Shevirah-Shattering of the sephirot vesselsIn Nekudim ("Points"), the sephirot exist in separation and differentiation from each other, 10 distinct points through 10 vessels without harmony. This state, the World of Tohu ("Chaos") was read by Luria as Genesis 1:2 "And the earth was Chaos (Tohu) and Void (Vohu), with darkness over the surface of the deep..." Here, each sephirah is an independent principle, so that intellect does not mediate the absolute emotional expressions; kindness, severity and so forth are opposing principles. This "flaw" emerges because the sephirot are in the mode of Iggulim, the metaphorical paradigm of "Circles" described in earlier Kabbalah. Like successively smaller concentric circles that emanate sequentially, Lurianic explanation sees no harmony in this, making the sephirot a "domain of pluralism" (the esoteric meaning of the Talmudic Sabbath Public Domain) rather than sharing bond. As a result, the Divine light was very high, but the vessels were weak. This caused the cosmic catastrophe, called the "Shattering of the Vessels" (Shevirat HaKeilim).
The light created each sephirah sequentially, first vessel, then the illumination within. Each sephirah's light contained also the subsequent diminishing lights to form the following lower sephirot. As the light of the Ein Sof radiated to form Keter, the vessel of Keter could absorb the life force. In turn, the vessels of Chochmah and Binah could absorb most of their flow, as their proximity to Keter made them strong enough, Keter extending enough relationship to them, as their motivating Will. Their excesses of light were able to encompass each as an Ohr Makif ("Surrounding light"). However, as the light proceeded to Daat, the root of the emotional sephirot, its vessel could not absorb the abundant radiance for the totality of the emotions, and shattered. This caused the total light to proceed downwards, shattering each vessel in turn. The succession was altered in Yesod, the channel of connection to Malchut-purpose. Initially, it received only the light for Malchut, which it projected on. It then also shattered under its own light. However, this enabled Malchut to partially absorb its light before collapsing; the lower, external aspects of Malchut were strengthened, so the collapse in Malchut was only partial.
This doctrine is the Lurianic esoteric meaning of Genesis 36:31 and I Chronicles 1:43:
"These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before there reigned any king over the children of Israel..."Edom is described in Genesis as the descendents of Esau. In the Kabbalistic scheme, the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob embodied respectively Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet. Chesed and Gevurah are imbalanced, while Tiferet is harmony between the two. Consequently, while Jacob fathered the 12 tribes of Israel, Abraham gave birth to Ishmael, while Isaac gave birth to Esau. Esau and Ishmael are seen as the two spiritual roots for the Nations of the World. They are identified with unrectified Chesed and unrectified Gevurah respectively, Kindness and Severity of the World of Tohu-Chaos. In the Kabbalistic scheme they are rectified in the universal Messianic era, when all peoples will "go up to the mountain of the Lord" to follow the 7 Laws of Noah. The eight kings listed who reigned in Edom before any king of Israel, embodied the eight sephirot of Daat to Malchut in the World of Tohu, the vessels that shattered. Of each it says they lived and died, death connoting the soul-light of the sephirot ascending back to its source, while the body-vessel descends-shatters. Attached to the broken vessels are residues of the light, Nitzot-"Sparks" of holiness, as all Creation only continues to exist from non-existence by the Divine flow of Will. The sparks are the creative force of the Sephirot down the Four Worlds, giving life to the broken vessels, that become the descending beings of each realm. As they descend, they subdivide innumerable times. As the fragments contain only sparks of holiness, this allows them to become self-aware creations, rather than being nullified in Divine light. The unabsorbed residue of the broken vessels in our physical, lowest World Assiah becomes the realm of impurity and evil. To Kabbalah, as Creation is enacted through Divine "speech" as in Genesis 1, so gematria (numerical value of Hebrew letters) has spiritual meaning. In the supernal World of Atziluth-Emanation, the origin of our spiritual Order of Worlds, the sparks of holiness are said to subdivide into 288 general-root sparks, read out from the rest of Genesis 1:2, "...And the Spirit of God hovered over the waters." Merachepet-"hovered" splits into the number "288 died", the divided Divine sparks within the broken fragments.
 Supernal Tikun-Rectification in Atzilut through Partzufim-PersonasThe comprehensive Four Worlds of our created existence are together collectively the realms of Tikun ("Fixing"). Atzilut, the highest, is called specifically Olam HaTikun (the "World of Rectification"). In Atzilut, the Sephirot evolve into new partzufim arrangements, where they can unite together. The different realms of Tikun are characterised in comparison to Tohu as lower lights and stronger vessels.
Subsequent to the interinclusion of the 10 Sephirot within each other, in Lurianic Kabbalah they then develop into "Partsufim" ("Personas"). Wide discussion of the Partsufim is found in the Medieval Kabbalah of the Zohar, before Isaac Luria. In the Zohar, Shimon bar Yochai expounds upon the spiritual roles of the Parsufim, by talking about them as independent spiritual manifestations. "The Holy Ancient of Days", or "The Long Visage", two of the different Parsufim, are not just alternative adjectives for God, but are particular spiritual manifestations, levels and natures. Lurianic Kabbalah focused on the role of the Parsufim as the fully evolved stage of the primordial evolution of the Sephirot, in the beginning of Creation. Instead of each of the 10 Sephirot merely including a full subset of 10 Sephirot as latent potential forces, the first stage of their evolution, in the Parsufim the Sephirot become fully autonomous and interrelated. The name of each Partsuf denotes that the Sephirah from which it derived, has now become an independent scheme of 10 fully functioning Sephirot in the "Upright" (Yosher) form of "Man". This reconfiguration is essential in Lurianic Kabbalah to enable the opposing spiritual forces of the Sephirot to work together in harmony. Each Parsuf now operates independently, and unites with the other Parsufim. So, for example, "The Long Visage" is said to descend, and become enclothed within the lower Parsufim. The Sephirot now harmonise, to enable the Lurianic scheme of Tikkun (Rectification) to begin.
Supernal Tikun is completed in Atzilut through the sephirot evolving into the further stage of Partzufim (Divine "Configurations"). In the partzufim, rather than each sephirah partially inter-relating by latently incorporating the other powers, as in Berudim, instead all harmonise fully around one of their number, as complete autonomous Yosher schemes. The partzufim then interact and enclothe within each other through anthropomorphic relationships in Atzilut, channeling Divine vitality to lower worlds.
 Rectification below through Birur-Sifting of the sparks of holiness
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 Personal redemption of materiality in Hasidism
 Parallel enclothement of soul sparks in Gilgul-Reincarnation
 Tohu and Tikun as psychological-spiritual states
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 Eschatological Divinity in Jewish mysticism
 Influence of Lurianism in contemporary ethical Tikun Olam
 Photo gallery
 See also
- Lurianic Kabbalah
- Generational ascent in Kabbalah
- Tohu wa-bohu
- Related meanings of Tikun
- Parallel Gilgul sparks
- Collective Tzadik souls
- Tikkun Olam
- Isaiah 2:3