What is TsimTsum (TzimTzum) in Kabbalah?
TsimTsum – In Kabbalah, the Tzimtzum (TsimTsum) meaning contraction, is the act by which the Creator removed His Limitlessness from the world so that Creation could occur.
Ein Sof and the Tsimtsum
In the kabbalistic tradition, the Creator is referred to as Ein Sof (or Eyn Sof), meaning “without end”. The Creator exists beyond all space, time, and limitation. The Creator is endless and without limits and is the source of all perfection.
In order to create a “Place” for creation to occur, and a way for apparently separate beings to exist, the Creator had to remove His aspects of limitlessness from one place. This is the Tzimtzum. The Tsim Tsum sustains the realm of boundaries and limitations in being, so that the world, as we know it could come about. It is called the “Place” or “Space” of the world.
Reshimo – The Residue after the TzimTzum
The original “Primordial” light of the Creator is beyond limits and boundaries. It is so great that it cannot be perceived. However, inside the Tsim Tsum, where the Creator limited and contracted His great light, what remained of His light and radiance was limited enough that it could become visible. This remaining, perceivable light is called the Residue Reshimo רשימו of the Primordial light.
Rooted in the light of the Residue Reshimo was everything that is destined to exist. All of the Sefirot, and all of created existence would later come to be from this light that remained.
Outside of the space of the Residue and the Tzimtzum, Ein Sof’s limitlessness continues to exist in every place.
The Line (Kav) within the Residue
Not only does Ein Sof continue to surround the space of the Tsim Tsum on every side, but according to kabbalistic knowledge, a single line (Hebrew קו Kav) was drawn from Ein Sof’s infinite light, like a pipe down into the Residue. This line is the direct government of the Creator inside the created world.
According to kabbalah, through the Line of the Kav, the Creator acts from His own level of complete perfection, unity, and limitlessness, in guiding everything that happens in the creation. The Line, however, remains clothed in the Residue, so the created beings only see the actions of the Residue – the actions of the Creator are concealed within it.
The Residue itself includes all of creation, both the good and the bad. It is built on the laws of choice, reward, and punishment. However, the Residue is ruled by the Line which operates on the level of Unity and complete goodness. Because of this, the laws of reward and punishment continue only for a set time. So it is said that the Residue is like a wheel that turns through just so many degrees until it completes the entire cycle, as Ein Sof brings evil back to good through the revelation of His perfect unity.
In this way, the original ultimate goal of the Creator is realized, which is to bestow perfect good and delight on His creation, by revealing to them His perfection and Unity.
This article is based on information from 138 Openings of Wisdom by famed kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (Ramchal), translation by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum, Openings 24-30, p. 75-110. I highly recommend this amazing book, which contains teachings about this and so many other aspects of kabbalah.