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ha-Olamot (Worlds)

The Sefirot are thought to provide the structural elements for each of the Kabbalist's "Worlds." The Olamot comprise a second stage in God's creative process. In this stage the Sefirot are organized into a series of four (and in some schemes five) basic "World,s" which are thought to be progressively distinct from God's primordial essence or light. Each of the Olamot serves to conceal aspects of the divine presence.

The very term "olam" (world), is etymologically related to (and occasionally even spelled the same as) the word "alam" (meaning "hidden"), and thus gives expression to the Kabbalistic doctrine, first intimated in Sefer ha-Bahir, that the "Worlds" are like divine garments in which God clothes and hides Himself. It is through the multiplication of such garments or screens that God ultimately creates the material world within which we live. Our physical world is the one most hidden from God's light. It receives only a fraction of the divine revelation, accounting for the prophet's reference to God as "the Most Hidden of All Hidden" (Isaiah 45:12). It is, as the doctrine of Tzimtzum affirms, part of the logic of creation that God should remain essentially hidden from man.

The five worlds are distinguished from one another via their relative proximity to their source, but also via the relative "admixture" of the contained within them. While each of the Sefirot are considered operative in each of the Worlds, each World is dominated by a particular Sefirah, with Adam Kadmon (Primordial Man) the highest of the five worlds being dominated by the Sefirah Keter. Atziluth ("Nearness"), dominated by Chochmah (Wisdom), Beriah (Creation) dominated by Binah (Understanding), Yetzirah (Formation) dominated by the six Sefirot from Chesed to Yesod and Assiyah (Action or Making), the lowest of worlds, dominated by the lowest Sefirah, Malchut (Kingship).

Worlds, like the Sefirot of which they are comprised, are regarded as metaphorical ideas that have reality relative to man, but no reality relative to God Himself.

Another important distinction is made by the Lurianic Kabbalists between the so-called "World of Points" and the "World of Restoration (Tikkun)". According to Vital, the "World of Points", is one of the myriad worlds that exists in the space between the worlds of Adam Kadmon and Atzilut. The Sefirot in this world are completely independent and disunified and were thus subject to being shattered during the cosmic catastrophe known as the Breaking of the Vessels. It is only subsequent to the Breaking of the Vessels that these shattered Sefirot of the original World of Points are restored, united with one another and thereby strengthened to form the World of Restoration.

Vital tells us that it is only after the Breaking of the Vessels and the subsequent reconstruction of the sefirotic fragments from the World of Points that the four worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah, and the six Partzufim or divine personalities are fully formed and created.

The Kabbalistic doctrine of ha-Olamot is the subject of Symbols of the Kabbalah, Chapter 6, pp. 263-293.

The Lurianic Kabbalah is treated in detail in Sanford Drob's Symbols of the Kabbalah and Kabbalistic Metaphors .

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All material on New Kabbalah website (c) Sanford L. Drob, 2001.

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Home | Lurianic Kabbalah | Books | Articles | Interviews | Dialog | New Projects
Jung and the Kabbalah | Jewish Review | Author Bio | Links | Tikkun/Tzedakah