Printed from
A level so sublime that it is almost imperceptible.

Chaos and the Primordial

Chaos and the Primordial

Beginner Beginner
Chaos and the Primordial
A level so sublime that it is almost imperceptible.

The highest, or most exalted, of the five worlds is called Adam Kadmon. Adam means "in the likeness of" or "in the image of," from the Hebrew word domeh. Kadmon means "primordial", or "primary", from the Hebrew root kadam. So, Adam Kadmon is the primordial world which is "in the likeness of" the Infinite Light which preceded it and which was concealed in the process of creation. This means that even though Adam Kadmon is a world, meaning that it comes into being through the concealment of the Infinite Light, it is such an elevated plane of reality that it is "in the likeness of" the Infinite Light (which, by nature, "precedes" the world of Adam Kadmon).

Adam Kadmon...mirrors the original Infinite Light...

Thus, although the world of Adam Kadmon is a world, it is a level so sublime, pure and transcendent that that it is almost imperceptible. It cleaves to and mirrors the original Infinite Light.

In Kabbala, the world of Adam Kadmon represents the transcendent will of G‑d. G‑d's desire for the Creation and how it is manifest are planned out in one broad, all-encompassing overview, without separation into specific details. This is called the machshava kedumah, or "primordial thought" of Adam Kadmon. The primordial thought functions as the blueprint for all of Creation.

In the world of Adam Kadmon everything is seen in one broad overview, but the exact details are not yet separated and ordered into the categories of reality. All the details of Creation, from the beginning of space to the end of space and from the beginning of time to the end of time, are all superimposed in this one thought, for, in Adam Kadmon, there is no concept of space and time whatsoever. There is as yet no inside and no outside, no up and no down, no before and no after. There is only a potential for these limitations. Everything is undefined, unified, and simultaneous. Here lies the root and source of all the other planes of reality, which descend from Adam Kadmon.

As the light descends from Adam Kadmon, it breaks up into ten individual qualities...

It is clear that the succeeding levels of Creation, i.e. the series of worlds which descend from Adam Kadmon, particularly the lowest world, cannot possibly exist within the parameters of the existence of Adam Kadmon. Everything in Adam Kadmon is undefined, unified, and simultaneous, superimposed in a single primordial thought, which contradicts the very idea of worlds in the sense that we understand them, as limited being which presupposes separation and division. Subjectively, in terms of our awareness of G‑d, the world of Adam Kadmon parallels the highest source of consciousness in man. It is the awareness of total unity with the Infinite Light.

The first step in bringing about the separation and division necessary for creating the lower worlds, is by "breaking" the unity of the light as it is in Adam Kadmon. As the light descends from Adam Kadmon, it breaks up into ten individual qualities or attributes (sefirot, sefira in the singular), which act as separate independent points of light. Each of these points is an extremely powerful concentration of light as it descends from Adam Kadmon. These are called the sefirot of Tohu, which means "chaos" or "disorder". The world of Tohu is not included in the scheme of the five worlds mentioned previously, by virtue of the fact that it shattered and does not exist as a stable plane of reality.

The Sefirot of Tohu

It will be explained later that sefirot generally constitute the inner structure of each of the worlds, somewhat like the bones give shape and form to the body; however, in Tohu ("chaos" in Hebrew) this is precisely what is absent. The sefirot of Tohu are absolutely independent of each other and form no inter-relationships with each other. Thus there is no order and no structure. Moreover, each sefira in Tohu is the manifestation of only one absolute and quintessential aspect of the light of Adam Kadmon, and therefore it does not interact with the other sefirot, since they have nothing in common.

A consequence of this lack of interaction is that none of the sefirot of Tohu are able to limit the activity and expansion of any of the other sefirot to a level in which all the sefirot can function together. Therefore none of the sefirot can endure the activity of any of the other sefirot. This results in the disintegration, or "shattering" of the sefirot of Tohu.

The separateness brought about by the shattering of Tohu is rectified in Tikun...

Scripture hints at this process in describing the succeeding kings of Edom:

"These are the kings who ruled in the land of Edom before any king ruled over the Israelites [representing the rectification of Tohu as will be explained shortly]. Bela son of Beor became king…died and was succeeded as king by Yoav…Yoav died, and he was succeeded as king by Chusham….Chusham died, and he was succeeded…" (Gen. 36:31-39)

Rabbi Yitzchak Luria explains that this refers to the sefirot of Tohu, each of which rules exclusively, and then shatters and "dies".

Nevertheless, the shattering of the sefirot of Tohu is no coincidence, nor does it signify a flaw in the creative process. On the contrary, it serves a very specific and important purpose: to bring about a state of separation or partitioning of the light into distinct qualities and attributes and thus introduce diversity in creation. However, because the ultimate purpose of creation is not to remain in a state of separation and diversity but rather to achieve unity and harmony, the separateness brought about by the shattering of Tohu is rectified in Tikun, meaning "rectification", "restitution", or "reformation". Tikun signifies the syntheses and re-unification of the diversity and fragmentation introduced by the shattering of the vessels of Tohu. The nature and specifics of the rectification that takes place in Tikun will be discussed more fully below.

Click here to find out what the Kabbalah for Beginners Tutorial is all about.

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.
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.
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
1000 characters remaining
Sara Southfield, MI via February 4, 2015

What an awesome God There is so many parts to God, yet he is the sum total of it all. Of everything! It might seem like God has all these separate parts, but everything is moving together in devine order. Reply

doreet Eugene, Oregon December 30, 2014

Chaos & the Primordial Yes,I read that you need a teacher for Kabbalah. Yes,you do need a good teacher.However,its not often most of us are in a position to even be near one.There are books,but,hey,you muddle thru the world, just keep on muddling!!I know,the older,& more experienced you get,& hurt,suffered,struggled, the more you'll understand & be able to SEE CLEARLY thru all the worldly gook; just let yourself see & feel it, cause it is there. Even I can see that. A little at a time. ;) Reply

Sara Southfield, MI via October 10, 2011

Very deep After studying Kabbala for several years now I understand this article fully. Although I had to take my time and read it twice. It takes you on a deeper level of creation, a level that the average person would find it hard to understand. You have to let it transport your mind back before time and understand the deeper meaning of every word. Reply

Anonymous Mtl, Ca August 17, 2011

Hybrid Soul Interesting Article and it certainly requires a degree of imagination/ contemplation of Creation to understand or at least to try to understand such concepts Reply

Hany MTL, Ca August 10, 2011

Very Interesting From what i heard, Moschiah soul is a sort of hybrid combining both the intensity of Tohu and The orderly way of Tikkun. Reply

Anonymous November 22, 2009

? I am a Yeshiva student, I learn a lot of chassidus but this I can't get this through my brain. Besides chassidus there is no such thing for Kabbalah for beginners. I think you need to take this part of the web site off. Kabbalah can be only really understood through a teacher. Reply

Anonymous via October 15, 2009

to benyamin tzeon It certainly does take you to the next article. See the last line. Reply

benyamin tzeon beersheva, israel via October 13, 2009

Bereshit This article invites a new perspective on the Torah's description of the process of creation. But why does it not take you to the next article in the series? Reply

The larger, bold text is the direct translation of the classic text source.

The smaller, plain text is the explanation of the translator/editor.
Text with broken underline will provide a popup explanation when rolled over with a mouse.