In Tanya chapter 48 it talks about "sovev kol almin", the light it Hashem that "surrounds" all worlds, then it says that the explanation of the term is not that it "surrounds" them from above, because "the concept of space is not relevant regarding the spiritual, chos visholom", then he goes on to explain more about the explanation of "surrounding" etc.

The question is, why does the Alter Rebbe say that it's not relevant to say the idea of space regarding the spiritual, when earlier I'm that same exact chapter, in the context of the same idea it's speaking about there, it talks at length about the different "levels" of the spiritual light that gives life to all of the specific worlds, level after level, which is the same idea as spiritual space, like the Rambam says in hilchos yesodei hatorah chapter 2 (https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/904962/jewish/Yesodei-haTorah-Chapter-Two.htm#v6) , that the different levels of angels are compared to different intellectual levels etc., the idea of spiritual space, which is what it talks about earlier in that same Tanya chapter, so why does it say that space is not relevant in the spiritual when that's what it's talking about?



At the beginning it speaks at length about the different levels and limitations in the spiritual worlds, which is the idea of spiritual space:

... Even the World to Come and the higher level of Gan Eden—the abode of the souls of the great tzaddikim—and the souls themselves, and needless to add, the angels, are all in the realm of bounds and limitation,

וַאֲפִילוּ עוֹלָם הַבָּא וְגַן עֵדֶן הָעֶלְיוֹן, מְדוֹר נִשְׁמוֹת הַצַּדִּיקִים הַגְּדוֹלִים וְהַנְּשָׁמוֹת עַצְמָן, וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר הַמַּלְאָכִים – הֵן בִּבְחִינַת גְּבוּל וְתַכְלִית,

The Rebbe notes: Although it was indicated early in ch. 39 that souls delight in G‑d and derive pleasure from and comprehend the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, this poses no difficulty:

for there is a limit to their apprehension of the light of the blessed Ein Sof, which shines upon them through being clothed in ChaBaD, and so on,

כִּי יֵשׁ גְּבוּל לְהַשָּׂגָתָן בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמֵּאִיר עֲלֵיהֶן בְּהִתְלַבְּשׁוּת חָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת כוּ'. ...

Now, as for the intricate details of the “contractions,” how they achieve their effect and what they actually are—this is not the place for their explanation.

וְהִנֵּה, פְּרָטִיּוּת הַצִּמְצוּמִים, אֵיךְ וּמָה – אֵין כָּאן מְקוֹם בֵּיאוּרָם.

But in general, they are something in the nature of an obscuring and concealment of the flow of light and vitality,

אַךְ דֶּרֶךְ כְּלָל, הֵן הֵם בְּחִינַת הֶסְתֵּר וְהֶעְלֵם הַמְשָׁכַת הָאוֹר וְהַחַיּוּת,

so that [the light and vitality] should illumine and reach the lower creatures in a revealed manner, pervading them and acting in them and animating them in such a way that they exist ex nihilo,

שֶׁלֹּא יָאִיר וְיוּמְשַׁךְ לַתַּחְתּוֹנִים בִּבְחִינַת גִּילּוּי, לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ וּלְהַשְׁפִּיעַ בָּהֶן וּלְהַחֲיוֹתָם לִהְיוֹת יֵשׁ מֵאַיִן –

in only an extremely minute measure so that they be in a state of finitude and limitation.

כִּי אִם, מְעַט מִזְּעֵר אוֹר וְחַיּוּת, בִּכְדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ בִּבְחִינַת גְּבוּל וְתַכְלִית,


But then later in that same chapter he says that space doesn't apply in the spiritual:

The meaning of this is not that it encircles and encompasses from above spatially, G‑d forbid, for in spiritual matters, the category of space is in no way applicable,

וְאֵין הַפֵּירוּשׁ סוֹבֵב וּמַקִּיף מִלְמַעְלָה בִּבְחִינַת מָקוֹם חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, כִּי לֹא שַׁיָּיךְ כְּלָל בְּחִינַת מָקוֹם בְּרוּחָנִיּוּת



If the concept of "space" is "in no way applicable in the spiritual", then why was it being talked about earlier in that same chapter (even though earlier it was discussing mimaleh and here about sovev)? Aren't the spiritual worlds and angels and souls (mimaleh) etc. also spiritual, and not just the sovev kol almin?


In simple terms,

When the Alter Rebbe says "space" is not relevant in the spiritual at all, that implies even spiritual space is not relevant, but then how could that be, if the entire chapter is talking about spiritual space?

  • Can you summarize the question in two short statements at the end of your post?
    – kouty
    Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 9:24
  • @kouty I put stars around the last two sentences to make it more noticeable Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 18:49
  • I agree with Kouty. You have way too much verbiage here to make sense of whatever you are trying to ask. Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 22:47
  • @yaacov the question is summarized in the last two sentences, can you be more specific? Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 0:40

1 Answer 1


He is trying to say exactly what your confused about. That when he says space about something spiritual, he doesn’t mean some sort of aura that fills or surrounds it. Rather any space related term, when used in a spiritual context is meant as an allegory. So what exactly does space mean when used in a spiritual context? My understanding is something like an idea/ paradigm. We could say that an idea is memaleh/inside of you. Meaning you understand it and it’s changed you in some way. Or that the idea is sovev you meaning you are in the midst of trying to understand it and so are focused and busy with the idea. (Both examples are from chapter 5(?) of Tanya.) we could also say someone lives in a particular spiritual world if they think/emote/act in a particular paradigm. So someone is lives in yetzirah if they have changed their basic emotional response to be in line with hashem being the master of everything. Obviously this person also loves in the physical world and those two things aren’t a contradiction. He physically lives in this physical space and mentally/spiritually lives in a particular spiritual “space”.

  • So then if there are multiple concepts of spiritual space, as you mentioned, then why does the alter rebbe say that "space" is not relevant in the spiritual at all, which implies even spiritual space is not? Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 22:28

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