According to Rabbi Luria (as presented by Hayyim Vital in the beginning of his Magnum Opus, Etz Hayyim ("The Tree of Life")), originally there was only the En Sof or Infinite Light. This veiled or contracted (tzimtzum) its Light, in order to create a "space" (tehiru) for Creation. Into this spherical Space there emanated successive Worlds, which constitute finite existence.
Since they were contained in the Tehiru or primordal Space, all these worlds were finite, and thus radically different in nature from the Absolute. Gershom Scholem suggests that the whole idea of the Tzimtzum in Luria's thought was as a counterpole to any pantheistic tendencies, by emphasising the great gulf between "God" (the En Sof) and Creation. Be that as it may be, "God" was not the En Sof but the various Persona (partzufim) of the World of Atzilut.
The Tree of Life (Etz Hayyim) chapter 1 - an on-line translation of a book about the creation of the universe, written by Hayyim Vital, but usually (as with this site here) attributed to Luria himself.
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page historypage uploaded 12 November 1998
revised 8 February 1999