The emanated is composed of four basic elements: fire, air, water, and earth. They are the four letters of the Holy Ineffable Name (Yud, Hei, Vav, Hei). They are Chochma and Bina, Tiferet and Malchut. They are ta'amim (the canticle musical notes), nekudot (the vowel points), tagin (crowns drawn on the top of certain letters in the Torah) and otiot (letters). They correspond to Atzilut, Beriya, Yetzira and Asiya. They are the four aspects of Man.

The first aspect is the internal Man consisting of his spiritual element of soul - the NaRNaCh (Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya). The second is the body. The third is the clothing on the body. The fourth is the house. The Man and his body and his clothes dwell within the house.

Each of these aspects consists of four aspects, and they are as follows:

The first aspect, which is the spiritual part of Man, consists of: Neshama of the Neshama (i.e., Chaya) Neshama Ruach Nefesh.

The second aspect, which is the body, consists of the bones with the brain marrow that is within them, the sinews, the flesh, the skin.

Concerning this there is a verse (Job 10:11): "You have dressed me with skin and flesh, and with bones and sinews you have covered me."

The third aspect, which is the garments, consists of those four garments that must be worn by the priests when they are serving in the Temple. They are: Shirt, Pants, Hat, Belt.

The additional four that are worn by the High Priest are higher aspects from another world, as the Zohar explained. One set of four are the garments of the holy name AdoNoY, and one set of four are the garments of the holy, Ineffable Name, YHVH. Essentially, there are only four.

The fourth aspect, which is the house, consists of the House, the Courtyard, the Field, the Wilderness.

An Intermediary Aspect

In each of these four cases there is another (a fifth) aspect that includes all of the subsequent particulars; it is an intermediary between one general category and another, and it includes both of them.

For example, the natural philosophers say that intermediary between the Mineral and Plant kingdoms is the coral (also called "almogim"). Coral is rock, but it grows like a plant.

The intermediate between the Plant and Animal kingdoms is a creature called the Adney Sadeh described by the Mishnah Kela'im (8:5). It looks like a dog, but it grows from the ground, and it is rooted in the ground by a sort of umbilical cord from whence it gets its nourishment. If you would cut this cord it would die.

Intermediate between the animal and the human is the monkey.

It may well be that this creature is not known these days to botanists or zoologists. Nevertheless, it is described by the Mishnah, which is a legalistic text and does not deal with mythical creatures. Therefore, it must be assumed that the Adney Sadeh did exist at one time, and the rabbis of the Talmud were familiar with it, even if it has become extinct in our world. Thus, the Mishnah as a source legitimizes the Ari’s exposition here.

Intermediate between the animal and the human is the monkey.

Four Aspects in the Analogy of Man

Similarly, there is an aspect that is an intermediate between the Creator, may His Name be blessed, and the [human] creatures. All the spiritual elements of Man are included in this aspect, about which it is said, "You are children of the Lord your G‑d" (Deut. 11:1), and "I said that you are G‑d" (Psalms 82:6). It has also been said about it (Genesis 17:22 and Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 47): "G‑d arose from upon Abraham", and our sages have said, "The patriarchs were the vehicle". The intention here is to refer to a very small spark that is an aspect of G‑dliness. It derives from the last place in G‑dliness, and it is ensconced within another potency or spark that is a created being, and it is a very, very subtle soul. In this spark, which is called Yechidah, are the roots of the four spiritual elements of NaRNaCh (Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya).

Between the spiritual soul and the body is an aspect that includes elements of both general categories. It is the revi'it dam.

The revi'it dam is, simply, a portion of blood. This portion is called a revi'it, which means a fourth. It is the fourth part of a loge (about 0.125 liter). When this amount of blood spurts forth from an animal that has been slaughtered, then the animal is considered dead. The Ari does not consider the revi'it dam as a mere amount, but as a specific aspect of blood that contains the life force or nefesh of the animal, as is written: "…Because the blood is the nefesh (life-force)" (Deut. 12:23).

It contains the last spark of the Nefesh, which is the fourth part of the Nefesh, or the Nefesh of the Nefesh, and that is why it is called "the fourth". This spark is ensconced within a portion of blood, the revi'it dam, and becomes one with it, as it is written, "The blood is the Nefesh…" which was talking about this specific revi'it dam. It is the choicest of all the four aspects of the body whose every part is subdivided into four. It is the first of the four and the highest aspect of the brain marrow within the bones. Ensconced within it is the life force in the blood that spreads out from there to sustain the body. The roots of all four aspects of the body are contained within this superior revi'it dam. Thus, it is intermediate between the soul and the body, and it is comprised from elements of both of them.

In other words, as we shall soon see more clearly, the intermediate is an extension of the lowest aspect of the higher category (in this case, the soul), and it is the highest aspect of the lower category (the body). Also, it contains the root of all the aspects of the lower category that will come after it.

Similarly, between the second aspect [the body] and the third [the clothing] is an intermediate aspect — the hair and fingernails of Man. As is known, [the fingernails] were the garments of Adam, the First Man, in the beginning. They are joined to the skin [the last aspect of the body], and they are very similar to the body of Man. When hair is removed from the body it can be made into garments, as is done with the wool of sheep and goats, etc. Not only that, but even when they are on the body they are similar to garments, as the hair of animals is their clothing. This is an indication that the garment of Adam, the First Man, was fingernail material. We also find that it was the clothing of Nebuchadnezzar, as it is written: "…Until his hairs were grown like eagle's feathers, and his nails like bird's claws." (Daniel 4:30)

Thus, hair, and according to Chazal, fingernail material as well, is intermediate between the general categories of the body and the garments; and they participate in both categories as well. They are part of the body, and they can be made into garments.

In the same way, between the aspect of garments and the aspect of the house are tents. They are made from wool and flax, which are aspects of garments, and they also serve as aspects of houses. (This aspect of tents needs further inquiry, for there may be another thing involved in it.)

Above Chochma: the huili, Keter

Now, after examining the allegory [of the world of Man], we will return to talk about the supernal worlds, which are the allegorized. They are none other than the four elements, the four Letters of the Tetragrammaton, the four sefirotchochma and bina, tiferet and malchut.

Chochma is the first of the four. It follows, therefore, that chochma is called reishit. The Hebrew word for "the first" is reishit.

Indeed, reishit is the first word of the Torah that starts "In the beginning…" or "At first". In Hebrew the phrase is "be-raysheet". The prefix "be" simply means "in" or "with". Also, the "official" Aramaic translation of the Bible, the Targum Yonatan, written by one of the great rabbis of the Talmudic period, R' Yonatan ben Uziel, translates the Hebrew word "be-raysheet" as "be-chochma", - with chochma, or in chochma.

And the earth was empty and void (tohu ve-bohu)...

Now, since chochma is reishit, the first…

You can understand why keter is a supernal aspect and yet not really part of the world to which it is the crown, similar to the crown of a king that is above his head and not part of his head. Accordingly, keter is not included as a sefira of the world, and in its place we count daat-knowledge, as stated in the Sefer Yetzira. Nevertheless, there are times when we do count keter as one of the ten sefirot. The entire matter may be understood from what has been explained beforehand in the name of the natural philosophers. There is an intermediary between each of the aspects.

The same idea was introduced by Ramban (R’ Moshe ben Nachman) in his commentary to the beginning of the verse, "And the earth was empty and void (tohu ve-bohu)..." (Genesis 1:2). He wrote, in the name of Sefer Habahir, that before the four elements were created there was created a primal matter called [in Greek] the "huili". It is something that is prepared to take on the shapes of the four elements afterwards, but at first it is without any shape or distinction whatsoever. Since it is before the tohu (emptiness) it is called efes (zero), or nothingness, as it is written, "…They are accounted to him less than nothing and emptiness" (Isaiah 40:17).

We see from the verse that "nothing", the efes, comes before "emptiness", the tohu.

Furthermore, the Hebrew word for "grasping" (nitfas) is always used for intellectual comprehension and perception. According to the Ari, the word efes - zero - nothing is derived from the same root because nothing can grasp it, as it says in the Zohar, "No thought can take hold whatsoever of You".

The idea is as follows. The Infinite is also called Nothing (Efes-Zero) because nothing can grasp it. It has no substance and no shape whatsoever. After it there came into existence the tohu (emptiness), which is keter. After that there came into existence the bohu (void), which included the four elements, chochma and bina, tiferet and malchut.

However, the Bohu is not yet raysheet, Chochma. As we will soon see, it is the second aspect of Keter. It is not the four elements in actuality, but only in potential.

It has also been taught about the Bohu that the word is a combination of two other words: Bo, which means “in it,” and Hu, which means, “it is.” Thus, the word itself means “It is in it,” which is an indication that it is the first to assume the shape of the four elements, at least potentially, and within it, so to speak, is the Infinite Himself.

The Intermediary is Keter

How could one shine upon the other and how could one create the other since they are polar opposites if it were not for an intermediary?

It is absolutely necessary that there should be an intermediate level between the Emanator and the emanated because they are distant from each other as far as can be, more than between heaven to earth. How could one shine upon the other and how could one create the other since they are polar opposites if it were not for an intermediary that is close to the Emanator and close to the emanated, and joins them. This intermediary is keter, which is called tohu-emptiness. There is no element within it, and it is only indicated in the Holy Ineffable Name (YHVH) by the crown on the top of the first letter, Yod. It is the intermediary.

When the scribe begins to draw he first puts the pen down on the blank parchment and makes a dot. This dot is the crown of the first letter of the Ineffable Name, Yod. As such, it is intermediary between the blank parchment and the beginning of the writing.

Comparable to keter is the primal matter called the huili that contains the root of the four elements in potential and not in actuality. That is why it is called tohu….

Another meaning of the word Tohu derives from the root tavha, which means "astonishment".

It astonishes the mind of human beings because it does not contain any shape or form whatsoever. Nevertheless, it is an emanation and contains the potential of the four elemental shapes. Indeed, it is possible to call it Infinite and Emanator; and some of the kabbalists did say that keter is the Infinite. It is also possible to call it emanated because the Infinite is certainly greater than it. Consequently, the sages have warned us, "In things that are wondrous beyond you, do not investigate" (Chagigah 13a).

Nevertheless, what can be said about it, ultimately, is that the keter is the intermediate aspect between the Emanator and the emanated. It is the last possible aspect of the Infinite. It emanated another aspect that contains the root of the ten sefirot greatly hidden and in great subtlety, and in such a way that there can be among the emanated no greater subtlety than it. Above it, besides the tohu, there is only the Absolute Nothingness.

Two Aspects of KeterAtik Yomin and Arich Anpin

Consequently, there are really two levels to this aspect. [The first] is the lowest aspect of the Infinite, if it were possible to say such a thing. It is like the malchut of malchut (of the Ein Sof — Infinite), although such a thing cannot really be said because there is no image or sefira whatsoever in that place, and we only say so in order to use words that can reach the ear. This level, the lowest of the Ein Sof, includes all of what exists above it by receiving from all of them, as it is known in general, that every aspect of malchut receives from all the levels that are above it. This level, the lowest of the Ein Sof, emanates another aspect that is the highest of all the emanated. It contains the root of all the emanated, and it influences all of them. Thus, the smallest aspect of the Emanator has emanated the greatest aspect of the emanated, and there is nothing else between them. After this aspect of the Emanator there is no other aspect of the emanated closer to it or more similar to it [than the second, lower aspect of keter].

Keter has an aspect that is applicable to the Ein Sof, and it has an aspect that is applicable to the emanated. These two aspects are called, respectively, Atik Yomin and Arich Anpin, and both together are called keter.

Both of these levels, together, are really one aspect called keter. By virtue of one of its aspects, some kabbalists have called it Ein Sof, but other kabbalists, because of its second aspect, have called it keter and accounted it in the number of the ten sefirot. Our opinion is like neither of them. Rather, we consider it an intermediate aspect between the Ein Sof and the emanated. It has an aspect that is applicable to the Ein Sof, and it has an aspect that is applicable to the emanated. These two aspects are called, respectively, Atik Yomin and Arich Anpin, and both together are called keter. Understand this well.

Along these lines it has been said in another place that within the "head", which is the keter, or Arich Anpin, of Beriya, there is ensconced the malchut of the malchut of Atzilut. It is the Atik Yomin of Beriya. Understand this well.

The word for 'I' is Ani whose letters are the same as those for the word Ayin, which means 'nothing'.

The rule is that the emanated has only four levels. They are the four letters of the Ineffable Holy Name (YHVH). They are ABY''A (Atzilut, Beriya, Yetzira, Asiya), and they are chochmaand bina, tiferet and malchut. That is why the Torah begins from "be-reishit", from "the beginning", and [the sages said] "there is no reishit except chochma".

It was not said, "reishit is always chochma", but it was said in a negative way, "there is no reishit except chochma".

The sages said it in a negative way to specifically exclude keter. There is an intermediary that includes aspects of both the Emanator and the emanated. It is called keter. This keter includes all of what was above it even though it is the smallest aspect of all of them and receives nourishment from all of them. In turn, it is the root of all the ten sefirot of the emanated, and it influences all of them.

Do not be surprised if we sometimes say that the ten sefirot of Atzilut divide into the four letters of YHVH, and sometimes we say that they divide into five partzufim [arrangements of particular configurations of sefirot]. When we say that they are four, we are counting only the actual emanations, but when we say that they are five we are counting their root in the Emanator, together with the emanated themselves.

You should also know that it is exactly the same with all the ten sefirot of each and every world, and it is also the same in the details of each and every partzuf. Every higher aspect is called Emanator relative to the aspect lower than it, which is called emanated. And the emanated is always divisible into four letters, even in any one of its ten sefirot, or in any one of the ten sefirot of any one of them. In each particular [no matter how detailed] there is an intermediate aspect called keter. Understand this well; it is a key to understanding all the lessons.

It is also the meaning of the verse, "I am the first, and I am the last". Keter is the first, and it is the last.

The word for "I" is Ani whose letters are the same as those for the word Ayin, which means "nothing".

It is Ani, and it is Ayin. The malchut of the Emanator is its last aspect; it is called Ani, as is always the case with malchut. In the aspect of root of the emanated it is keter, which is the first, and it is called Ayin whose letters are the same as Ani.

[Adapted from Etz Chaim by Shabtai Teicher.]