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Ain Soph

A General Introduction

By Shlomo Phillips © February 11, 2014

According to the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) the God is Israel is echad: completely, indivisibly, One. This Oneness is sometimes referred to Ain Soph. There exists nothing but Ain Soph: the Eternal One: the No-Thing (i.e. no definable thing, not this, not that). Ain Soph is the ONE beyond all conception. There is no second to compare with the Holy One (Isaiah46:5). As the Shema informs us:

שמע ישראל ה 'הוא האלוהים שלנו הוא אחד

Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohaynu Adonai Echad
"Hear Israel, HaShem is our God, HaShem is One"

The Eternal One is echad: absolutely One. This Oneness is absolute and unchanging. This truth reveals that Ain Soph is not part of a trinity (or a pantheon of gods), and that everything that exists arose from the Will of the Eternal One. Therefore, Ain Soph is not a cosmic unconsciousness (like the Force in Star Wars) since the Eternal One manifests desire and demonstrates concern for the creation.

According to the sages, the creation began with the bringing forth of ten sephirot. These can be thought of as the building blocks or divine energy emanations. This conception led to some confusion. Trying to grasp the inconceivable some people determined the ten sephirot to be gods or manifestations like the ba'als or demigods, but this is not so. There is no god with God (Deuteronomy 32:39). This is an example of how easily one can be led into error. One must properly understand Torah to avoid confusion.

With the creation, "in the beginning," Ain Soph is partially revealed as Elohim (i.e. the conceivable God over all 'gods'). From Elohim the Creator comes all existence - other than Ain Soph of course. Creation emerges from the Oneness of Ain Soph (from within the Void established for this purpose) without in any way infringing on the echad - singular - nature of the Eternal One. This is difficult to conceive.

This calling forth produces Adam Kadmon: the Tree of Existence or Life/Primordial Man. Don't be confused, this is not Adam from the Garden of Eden but a sort of prototype of existence within which resides all potentiality. Through this coming into existence the ten sephirot or emanations of the One manifest.

With the coming of these ten emanations the creation takes form within the boundaries of time and space. It is infused with independent life. In truth however there is nothing except Ain Soph. What is created as separate existence can, through emuna (active faith) and humility, attain spiritual harmony with the Holy One.

This is another area where confusion easily develops. This Hasidic concept of the oneness of the creation with the Creator is not the same idea as the Eastern concept of nirguna brahman, wherein the diverse parts collectively form the totality of the whole (and hence "tat tvam asi": "Thou art That"). Because Ain Soph exists completely independent of the creation, the creation has no impact on the Holy One whatsoever (although the Eternal chooses to interact with the created beings). Destroy everything that has been created if you can and Elohim would remain untouched. Destroy the Creator and nothing would remain. Anything we might say about Ain Soph is therefore only partially accurate at best. Ain Soph is utterly transcendent.

Adam Kadmon (i.e. independent existence) is called forth by the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, by the Words of Torah and Elohim, that arise ultimately from Ain Soph. This Word (elohim amar hayah) is the conceivable Source. From this it is understood that utterance of the Sacred Language 'draws forth' from the emanations as one draws water from a well. Each Hebrew letter therefore possesses an intrinsic existence arising from and ultimately returning to Ain Soph. The Hebrew alphabet contains and manifests His Torah for the creation. Therefore Hebrew is the most exalted of the languages and will, in the Olam Haba (the future age), be the language of all creation. Each Hebrew letter likewise has a numeric value that can, for those with understanding, further reveal the divine wisdom. Because light and color are definable through numeric sequences they also manifest sacred attributes that reveal deeper understanding. Through the emanations, Ain Soph surrounds and indwells all at each and every moment. And yet remains eternal distinct. For more information on this topic see my study here.

There is only God.

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