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A definition of 'partzufim' according to the Arizal

Unit of Creation

Unit of Creation

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Unit of Creation
A definition of 'partzufim' according to the Arizal

"Partzufim" are compound structures of the sefirot. A partzuf is a metaphorical figure of human likeness, used to represent the expansion of an individual sefira (or group of sefirot) into an independent configuration with ten sefirot of its own. A partzuf is a metaphorical figure of human likeness, used to represent the expansion of an individual sefira

This is arranged such that each sefira contains within itself aspects of all the ten sefirot, and each aspect is further subdivided into ten again. (See Tikunei Zohar, tikun 47, p. 84a and tikun 69 p. 116b.)

As such, the partzufim represent the rectification of two "flaws" built into the world of Tohu - the immature state of the vessels and their lack of inter-relationship (not being "enclothed" one within the other). Indeed, the two primary features of the partzufim are their fully expanded vessels and their inter-relationship with one another, such that they are even described by names that characterize the way they function as complex structures and the way they interact with other partzufim. For example Abba (literally "father") as the partzuf of chochma, and Imma (literally "mother") as the partzuf of bina, the two of which interact with each other to "give birth" to a "son", Zeir Anpin, and a "daughter", Malchut.

In the universe of partzufim, it may be said that the chief dynamic of Creation is not evolution, but rather interaction. This means that higher strata of reality are constantly impinging upon lower strata, and affecting them like the soul within a body, thereby infusing every element of Creation with an inner force that transcends its own position within the universal hierarchy.

(Adapted from Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh's Gal Einai website.)

Rabbi Moshe Miller was born in South Africa and received his yeshivah education in Israel and America. He is a prolific author and translator, with some twenty books to his name on a wide variety of topics, including an authoritative, annotated translation of the Zohar. He has developed a coaching-type approach to dealing with life's issues based on Chassidism and Kabbalah—a tool for dealing with normal issues that everyone faces as well as issues psychologists usually address, often ineffectively. He also gives free live classes over the Internet.
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