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I have been reading a little about Ein Sof and the Tzimtzum and other related topics such as Ohr. In these pages we find statements such as these:

  • From the perspective of God's self-knowledge, the emanations remain completely united and nullified to their source.
  • In the Chabad view, the function of the tzimtzum was "to conceal from created beings the activating force within them, enabling them to exist as tangible entities, instead of being utterly nullified within their source".
  • In the absolute Unity of the Ein Sof, "no thing" (no limitation/end) could exist, as all would be nullified.
  • Ohr also refers to the revelation and expression of any particular spiritual level which descends from that level and enclothes itself in a vessel (Kli). This Ohr is typically in a state of "Bittul" ("nullification") vis-a-vis the level from which it stems.
  • The immense revelation of the Divine would nullify them in their source, as the light of the sun inside the sun itself.

They say "The term in Kabbalah and Hasidic philosophy for this nullification is Bittul".

What exactly does this nullification mean in these sorts of contexts? "Nullified to their source", that's a hard to parse phrase. Why would all things be nullified in the Ein Sof? Is it because (using the metaphor of light), the white is everywhere when inside the light and there is no distinguishing its parts, or how do I conceptualize of this?

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The main addition the Chassidic layer adds to these concepts is by viewing them in terms of relationships, which is the right direction to take things (i.e. towards Godliness). So I don't have a specific ma'amar to point as a source, although I could try and find a good one, but Rav Manis Friedman here sums it up pretty well when he describes the Kabbalistic concept of the 4 worlds asiya, yetzira, beriya and atzilut using the Chassidic lens.

Basically, bittul means, there's no me, only you. It's a depth of closeness and intimacy and oneness. "I've lost all interest in myself, I am so into you". Trying to move our all our relationships, big and small, to the level of atzilut is the goal of someone trying to live lifnim mishurat hadin. Really try to become one of those people who finds looking after the needs of others more fascinating and appealing than taking care of one's own wants and needs, is moving in the direction of Godliness.

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  • This is a very interesting perspective, which I will find useful. But in addition, what about the purely abstract notion of nullifying, I still don't get it in the context of those sentences. Why are things nullified, etc..
    – Attribute
    Jan 10, 2023 at 23:45
  • @Attribute thank you and yes, what you wrote above is right. The imagery given (such as in Tanya Shaar Yichud Ve'emuna Ch.3 chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/7989/jewish/…) is that of the sun. Light outside the sun illuminates the world and is an entity of its own, but inside the sun itself, which itself is an entity of light, it is nullified, utterly absorbed in its source so that it is no longer an existence of its own.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 11, 2023 at 13:47
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In addition to what @RabbiKaii writes (very good job!), I've found some material in Chassidus.

The Rebbe Rayatz writes in the maamar Basi LeGani (5711, chapter 4):

By contrast, [physical] created beings not only fail to reveal [their] Creator, they actually hide and conceal their source; moreover, they feel that their being derives from themselves, (and only reason dictates that this cannot possibly be so)).

Although this [perception of a physical creation that its being derives from its own self] is but its own [false] impression, nevertheless, the very fact that it is able to imagine that it derives from its own self results from its being rooted in G‑d's Essence — and His Being derives from His Essence.

The Rebbe in the maamar "Yehudah Atah" (5746, Shabbos Parashas Vayechi, 16 Teves) quotes the Alter Rebbe who says that Yehudah is identified with the quality of bittul. Since it is stated that Yehudah said:

Now will I praise the Lord

In this case, there are two terms that describe Bittul.

  • "Bittul hayeish" - When serving G-d, have in mind nothing but to bring gratification to the Creator, blessed be He, and not the attainment of [high] levels. See Tzava'at Harivash 47 by the Baal Shem Tov.

  • "Bittul bemetzius" - "The state in which one’s entire existence is negate" - See: the maamar U’Shavtem Mayim: Sukkos, section 3.

In "Selections from Likkutei Sichos - Bereishit" (Addendum, p. 702), the Gemara in Sukkos 4a is cited. The Gemara discusses that if a person brings straw or earth in order to increase the height of the floor, if the person has the intention to not remove it, e.g. it was placed there to stay there, it is considered bitlo (see Rashi; Makkos 15a where בטלו is discussed).

In "Selections from Likkutei Sichos - Bereishit" (Addendum, p. 702) it goes on to explain that the wording בטלו in the Gemara in Sukkos, is used because if one has the intention to increase the height of the floor of the Sukkah, and not removing it, it is considered not as "stand-alone earth/straw", but part of the Sukkah itself. Just like this is the case with this Gemara in Sukkos, so too it is the case with Bittul in our Divine Service. Bittul means that we are meant to see ourselves not as an independent entity, but that we are meant to see ourselves as servants of Hashem, and that we recognise that purpose.

I recommend reading "Selections from Likkutei Sichos - Bereishit" (Addendum, p. 702) where the building blocks of Chassidic thought is thouroghly explained. Including the concept of Bittul.

Similary, the Ramak, Rav Moshe Kordovero, writes in his Or Neerav:

[...] that the Creator, may He be blessed, [is found] in all things in actuality, while all things are [found] in Him in potential. He is the beginning and cause of all things. (emphasis mine)

You'll need to have bittul, e.g. realise that you are not an independent entity, but rather, even you are found in Him, since He is the cause of everything.

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    Beautiful. The idea you shared from the Rebbe Rayatz is amazing. The very fact we are made by Hashem means that we are able to not detect our source - only Hashem as a source, who Himself is undefinable, leads to a creation that feels like it has no source or definition.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 11, 2023 at 13:49
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I believe what you are asking is specifically addressed in the Sefer Tanya in chapter three of the Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah. There the Alter Rebbe uses a parable of the suns rays.

If I understand correctly it’s something like this: When on earth the rays of the sun seem to be an identifiable and separate entity, but that light on the orb of the sun itself would be totally nullified in the all encompassing light of the sun. Similarly all existence in this world is a manifestation of G-dliness, but it’s only due to the “distance” or concealment of G-d that it appears to have a separate existence. If G-d were to be fully revealed, all existence would be nullified and be part of G-d.

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