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Summary: Shevirat ha-Kelim

As Ein Sof attempted to fill the vessel it had created with its light, catastrophe struck, and the vessel shattered. Shevirat ha-kelim is the name for the breaking of the vessel. The breaking of the vessel destroyed the ordered universe that Ein Sof had begun to create. Tiny pieces of the vessel, like shards of glass, scattered and brought chaos to the universe. The masculine and feminine aspects of Ein Sof divided. Even Adam Kadmon split into parts.

When the shards of the vessel began to fall, they brought with them sparks of Ein Sof’s light, called netzutzot. Together, the shards and the sparks fell into what would become material reality, or the human world. In place of a harmonious world made from the perfectly balanced ten sefirot, human beings entered a broken world filled with scattered sparks of divine light, which came to be called klippot, meaning “husks.” Lurianic Kabbalah requires every human being to liberate the sparks of light from these husks through righteous study of Kabbalah. Only when all the sparks are freed will Ein Sof become whole again, ushering in the perfect world that Ein Sof designed at the moment of creation.

Analysis

Luria’s theory of creation presents a bold revision of the traditional concept of divinity. Most religions portray God as omnipotent, a force that guides the actions of all human beings and depends on nothing but itself. Ein Sof is a dependent God, not an all-knowing God. It’s a God that needs human beings in order to understand its scope and purpose, and also to restore it to wholeness. Luria’s idea has inspired kabbalists to speak of God becoming, not being. As the world develops, sparks are liberated, people are born, and Ein Sof evolves to become more and more true to itself. The God of Kabbalah is not a static, unchanging force with one aspect or face, but an ever-evolving source of energy that thrives on the actions of human beings.

Many religions describe the creation of the world as an act of God’s love, but Luria viewed it as a sign of God’s self-sacrifice. The Bible’s account of creation makes it sound like a harmonious simple affair: God simply spoke, creating light and life. But Luria describes creation as a disaster, a catastrophic descent into chaos. The world and human beings form not according to God’s perfect plan, but as a result of destruction—the fragments of Adam Kadmon and the ruin of Ein Sof’s perfect plan. Yet because human beings can liberate the sparks from the material world and help to restore God, the universe becomes filled with good deeds and the hope for redemption.

Summary: Klippot

Every human being must liberate the sparks of divine light from the klippot. Luria described the klippot as shells in which the light is trapped, existing everywhere. Not all of the light trapped within klippot can be freed, nor should it be. Luria believed some klippot are like demons, incapable of being redeemed.

Among the most famous of all klippot is a female demon named Lilith. Lilith was initially associated with female vengeance: she attacked newborn infants and pregnant women and tried to kill mothers in labor. Kabbalah followers now believe that Lilith was Adam’s first wife, the predecessor of Eve. The Bible says Eve arose from Adam’s rib, but Lilith was supposed to have been created from earth, just like Adam. Since Lilith had the same origin as Adam, she considered herself his equal and refused to be subservient to him, especially when it came to sex. Adam and Lilith fought, and three angels chased Lilith from the Garden of Eden. Eve was then created in Lilith’s place, this time from one of Adam’s ribs, so she would know she was not equal. Lilith herself became a klippa (the singular form of klippot).