"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Monday, September 20, 2010

Seraphim: Passionate Love for Hashem

Seraphim: Passionate Love for Hashem

Rabbi Y. Oliver

There are different types of angels, but the highest is the saraph (pl. seraphim). What are the seraphim?

The word saraph is etymologically related to the Hebrew word sereipha, burning up, for the seraphim are composed primarily of the element of fire. This means that their divine service involves becoming so heated up and passionate in their expression of love for Hashem that they burn up completely and cease to exist.

The reason that only the seraphim behave in this way is that they reside in the world of Beriah. Since in this world the Sefirah of Binah of Atzilus shines openly, all the levels in this world experience very profound Binah—intellectual grasp of Hashem’s greatness. This is also felt by the seraphim, and this causes them to become so excited that they burn up.

What do the seraphim comprehend, and why does it excite them? They grasp two levels, one after the other: The first is the divine light that shines into them in a way that they directly apprehend (“Hasogas HaMehus”). This light descends to their level, bringing them great pleasure, excitement, and joy, and sustains their existence, much as food sustains a person.

However, once the seraphim have enjoyed this divine revelation, they come to recognize that it is in fact severely limited and utterly incomparable to its source in Atzilus, which they comprehend in an indirect, abstract manner (“Yedias HaMetzius”).

The worlds of B’ya (Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, the three spiritual “worlds” below Atzilus) are created from Malchus of Atzilus, the lowest of the Sefiros of Atzilus. However, the light that shines from there into B’ya undergoes tremendous contractions (“tzimtzumim”) before it descends into B’ya, such that it morphs into a fundamentally different and inferior state.

One analogy for this radical change is from a name. A person only needs a name so that other people can refer to him or call to him. But when a person is alone, a name is useless. On a deeper level, the superficiality of one’s name stems from the fact that it is related to the more external part of his soul, the part vested in a body. The essence of the soul, however, transcends the level of one’s name. This is also the reason that one soul can descend into the world in multiple incarnations, each time vested in a different body with a correspondingly different name.

This analogy is associated with the Sefirah of Malchus because the word Malchus literally means royalty, and the quality of royalty is closely associated with the monarch’s name. The reason for this is that the bond between a king and his subjects depends upon the king’s name. Even if the nation has never seen the king, and they often haven’t, they identify themselves as his subjects, and are even willing to give up their lives for him, all on account of their identifying with his name.

Likewise, the light that emerges from the Sefirah of Malchus of Atzilus is similar to a name in that it is only an external light, which is incomparable to the intensity of the light of Atzilus in its own right.

The seraphim comprehend, albeit on an abstract level, the sublime loftiness of the light of Atzilus, and the abject inferiority of the diminished light that they receive. They grasp it so well that they become so intensely consumed with a desire to attach themselves to the superior light of Atzilus that they become burnt up and cease to exist.

By reflecting upon the seraphim (and all the angels)particularly during the blessings of Kerias Shema, in which the angels and their worship of Hashem is discussedwe are able to imitate their feelings of love for Hashem, albeit on our incomparably inferior level.

Based on the Rebbe Rashab’s Sefer HaMa’amarim 5670, p. 232 
Cf. Etz Chaim, Sha’ar Penimiyus v’Chitzoniyus 13, and Malbim on Yechezkel 1:1.


  1. Good Afternoon

    This post was interesting, how long did it take you to write?

  2. Including research time, perhaps 5 hrs. Glad you enjoyed it!


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