Shvirat hakeilim seems to be a Kabbalistic concept denoting how the light was created within the Genesis account. However, I cannot seem to find information regarding it. Can someone please explain to me what it is and back it up with sources.

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    It seems to me one would have to have a mastery of Kabbalah to understand this; to summarize such a concept seems futile. I could be wrong.
    – Seth J
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


Try this article at Chabad.org, which quotes (in translation) the classic sources on the subject.

Briefly, it's the idea that Hashem first created the ten sefiros as the "world of Tohu," as independent entities, where each one is is exclusively "thus and no other way" - i.e., chesed ("kindness") is pure chesed, gevurah ("severity") is pure gevurah, etc.; each one was so intense that it left no room for any of the others. This intensity caused them to "shatter" the "vessels" containing them, in much the same way that an intense light can damage one's eyes (which are the human "vessels" for the power of sight), or a loud noise the ear, etc.

The fragments of these spiritual "vessels," each of which was an expression of G-d's power and energy, are scattered throughout our world; these are the "sparks of holiness" often spoken of in Kabbalah and Chassidus, which it is our job to elevate by using for holy purposes the resources containing those "sparks."

Afterwards Hashem re-created the sefiros as the "world of Tikkun," in which each of them connects to and contains aspects of the others, much as atoms of different kinds combine to form the types of matter that we're familiar with.

The article cited above ends with this point:

The shattering of the sefirot of Tohu is not a coincidence, nor does it signify a flaw in the creative process. On the contrary, it serves a very specific and important purpose, which is to bring about a state of separation or partition of the light into distinct qualities and attributes, and thereby introduce diversity and multiplicity into creation, as explained above. In addition, the shattering of the vessels of Tohu allows for the possibility of evil, and gives man the opportunity to choose between good (for which he gains reward) and evil (for which he is punished). Thus G-d's attributes of chesed and gevura - the attributes from which reward and punishment derive - are revealed in the world, which is one of the primary purposes of creation.

  • Beat me to it! I was just about to submit my answer with the same article, with a slightly different summary. :D
    – HodofHod
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 20:40
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    +1, not because the answer is comprehensible, but because it's probably about as comprehensible as possible in this format. Nicely done.
    – msh210
    Commented May 31, 2012 at 0:45

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