What’s the first sources that speak about Tzimtzum? Someone told me that it talks about this in Sefer Yetzirah. If so, where?

  • pretty sure the Arizal invented it. or "discovered it", depending on what your affiliation is ;)
    – bondonk
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 7:23
  • 3
    @bondonk The word you're looking for is "introduced"
    – shmosel
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 7:33
  • insidechassidus.org/tzimtzum-kipshuto-vs-lo-kipshuto-1 this is part one. There is also a part two to this segment
    – Dude
    Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 10:13

1 Answer 1


The word "Tzimtzum" does not appear in Sefer Yetzira, as it is a word borrowed (and derived) by the later Kabbalists to explain what the Sefer Yetzira teaches in 1:1:

בשלשים ושתים נתיבות פליאות חכמה חקק יה...את עולמו

With 32 wonderful paths of wisdom Hashem engraved...His world

The word is "engraved". Why that word? The point is that His Divine Essence, the Ohr Ein Sof, was all that there was. It was out of this that Hashem "carved out" or engraved a Chalal, a Vacated Space1. This process took place before creation, as this is the order of the words in this passage of Sefer Yetzira. The Zohar says on this (1:15a):

הורמנותא דמלכא
גליף גלופי
בטהירו עלאה בוצינא דקרדינותא

In the beginning of the desire of the King
The Lamp of Darkness, in the Supernal Light

The later Kabbalists2 referred to this process of engraving as "tzimtzum"3, a word that had been used to describe Hashem constricting Himself, so to speak, in many Midrashim in many places e.g. Vayikra Rabbah 29

מה הקדוש ברוך הוא עושה מניח סנקליטין שלו מלמעלן ויורד ומצמצם שכינתו ביניהם מלמטן

What does the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He leaves His court above and descends and contracts His Divine Presence among them below.

And Shir HaShirim Rabba 3:

ואם את עושה לזה של מעלה למטה אני מניח סנקליטון שלי של מעלה ויורד ומצמצם שכינתי ביניכם למטה

If you craft below that is like that which is On High, I will abandon My heavenly council and descend and restrict My Divine Presence in your midst below.

1 - Note, this is not referring to geographic space, but conceptual space (see R Aryeh Kaplan's 'Sefer Yetzira - In Theory and In Practice' p.14 and the footnote there, which have contributed to this answer; see also 'The Bahir' p.xxiii, citing Shomer Emunim 2:43 and Kalach Pitchei Chochma 24). More deeply, it is referring to "living" space, i.e. room for someone else, see this shiur.
2 - Shefa Tal 6, Emek Hamelech 6b, Likutei Torah Bechukotai 46b. See Razial 11a, R' Chananel on Chagiga 13a describing the same concept as the later Kabbalists including "Vacated Space", but much much earlier, Cf. Likutei Moharan 64
3 - Zohar HaRakia by R. Yaakov Tzemach based on the Arizal, Mikdash Melech, ad loc

  • 1
    The reference is to the letter transformation which results in "Tzimtzum" (צמצם) like is explained by Rabbi Moshe Zacuto in his notes to Mevo Sha'arim, note 5. The first word of the Torah (בראשית) is referring to the 6 letter name of G-d (אהיהוה) which is the union of אהיה and יהוה. That יה-יה becomes צמ-צמ. This is the point of union between husband and wife. The At-Bash transformation found and taught in the Talmud is where this concept arises from. Our tradition is that this transformation originated from Yaacov Avinu. Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 17:37
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    Check this out...judaism.stackexchange.com/a/137056/7303 Commented Sep 21, 2023 at 22:49
  • @YaacovDeane I don't understand you. you shouldn't write out Hashems name. you write G-d with a dash but write out י"ק - ו"ק without dishing. I'm not saying to use a ק instead of a ה but to (as least) dash it.
    – shmuel
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 5:47
  • @shmuel There is no problem with writing G-d's name, especially when learning Torah. Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 15:49

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