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Wisdom and the potential to be.



Intermediate Intermediate
Wisdom and the potential to be.

1) The Zohar breaks up the word chochma itself into two words: "koach" and "mah". "Koach" means "potential", and "mah" means "what is". Thus chochma means "the potential of what is", or "the potential to be". This aspect of chochma describes the state of chochma in relation to the sefira of keter. As chochma emanates from keter, it "appears" in an obscure and undefined state. It is only potential being. It is virtually non-being. Thus the verse states, "and chochma emerges from nothingness" (Job 28:12). In other words, it is in a state of constant flux between being and non-being - between revelation, the first point of immanent being, and non-revelation as it returns to its state of potential and merges in its source, keter. Chochma flashes in and out of existence. The Infinite Light thus becomes unified in the world of Atzilut through clothing itself first in the sefira of chochma.

2) The second aspect of the sefira of chochma is that it is the first of the immanent or in-dwelling sefirot. This is why it is called the beginning; Psalms (111:10) states "reishit chochma..." — "chochma is the first, the head", that is to say the first of the immanent sefirot, the beginning and root of immanent being. Keter is the all-encompassing sefira from which all other sefirot are generated, whereas chochma is the first sefira to actually be generated.

…chochma is … highly condensed revelation of G‑dly light

3) The third aspect of chochma is that it is called the life-force of all Creation. The account of the Creation at the beginning of Genesis begins with the word "bereishit", — "in the beginning". One of the Aramaic translations of the Torah, Targum Yonatan renders the word bereishit as b'chuchmata — "with chochma," for this sefira is also the instrument of Creation. That is to say, it permeates all of creation. This is the meaning of the verse "You made everything with chochma" (Psalms 104:24). In this sense Scripture refers to chochma as the life-force of all creation (as opposed to keter which is the expression of purpose and motivation of all of creation), as in the verse "and chochma enlivens (or vitalizes) all that possess it" (Ecclesiastes 7:12). Similarly, "They will die but not with chochma" (Job 4:21), that is to say when they are without chochma. This is the aspect of chochma in its relation to all the other sefirot.

Thus, in brief, chochma is defined as the germinal, highly condensed revelation of G‑dly light in the highest level of immanence that is in the life force of all of creation.

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The Zohar is a basic work of Kabbalah authored by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his students (2nd century CE). English translation of annotated selections by Rabbi Moshe Miller (Morristown, N.J.: Fiftieth Gate Publications, 2000) includes a detailed introduction covering the history and basic concepts of Kabbalah. Volume 1 (36 pp.) covers the first half of the first of the original’s three volumes. It is available online from our store, KabbalaOnline Shop.
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