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I've begun learning the sefer Kedushas Levi and I keep coming across the concept of nitzotzos. I don't have much of a background in Hasidism, so I don't quite understand what it is.

As far as I can tell, it's something like holy sparks that have fallen to earth. It seems to symbolize more than that, though - e.g. see here in the beginning of Parshat Behaalotcha where he discusses putting nitzotzos onto the menora, and here in Parshat Shelach where he says that nitzotzos can become embarrassed.

Does anybody have further explanation? I'm looking specifically for a primary source.

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    you can read about shvirat hakeilim (the shattering of vessels) and the sparks the fell to this creation and need to be elevated here: chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/380568/jewish/… -- It is a kabbalistic concept mentioned in the zohar and elucidated by the arizal. It is one of the kabbalistic foundations of creation. – Menachem Jun 25 at 3:44
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So here it brings the following which will serve as a good introduction:

In line with the kabbalistic tradition, R. Israel Ba'al Shem Tov (the Besht), the founder of Hasidism, perceived everything to be infused with Divine sparks: "It is a great principle that there are holy sparks in all there is in the world. Nothing is void of sparks, even trees and stones." (As related in Besht, Zava'at ha-Rivash, photocopy (Brooklyn: Otsar Hahasidim, 1991), section 141, p. 54 (Hebrew). Many of the sayings in this book are probably not attributable to the Besht but to R. Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch, his main disciple.) He further taught that such sparks are also in "all of man's actions. Even in man's sins there are sparks resulting from the breaking of the vessels." This panentheistic worldview, which sees elements of the Divine in everything, should not be confused with the panthe-istic doctrine that G-d and nature are identical.

So it would seem that a fundamental tenet of Chasidus is the notion that every being retains some spark of the Divine and the challenge of a Jew's existence is to unlock and access these sparks through the 'breaking of the klipot' which essentially means shrugging off the weight of materialism to pursue a more spiritually aware life. This breaking is done through our mitzvah performance which refines us with each one that we do. Rabbi Norman Lamm notes that through these acts it serves to create a 'tikkun' bringing us back to a more perfect state as seen when the world was first created. (Rabbi Norman Lamm provides a good breakdown here refer to footnote 4). Also look here for a good outline.

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I’d encourage you to look at the Sefer שפתי חן. It is a contemporary Sefer that serves As an introduction to learning chassidus and explains many Kabbalistic concepts in an understandable fashion.

In chapter 3 he explains that during the first stage of tzimtzum (contraction) the lower 7 sefiros (vessels) broke due to the overwhelming light being filtered through them, resulting in kelipos (shells) from the shards of the vessels and nitzotzos (sparks) which are a remnant of the light that was being filtered through the vessels. There is an idea in kabbala/chassidus that we are tasked with gathering together these sparks of holiness that have fallen.

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