3. Tzimtzum and Différance 65
Chapter Three Tzimtzum and Différance any of the major themes of Derrida’s thought emerge in his 1968 paper on “Différance.” In this chapter I will provide a reading of this paper and related writings, and will compare Derrida’s notions of “différance,” the “trace” and “Khora” with comparable Kabbalistic notions, including Tzimtzum (contraction), Ein-sof (the Infinite) and Din (distinction and judgment). In the process I hope to both deepen our understanding of these Kabbalistic symbols and their relation to contemporary theology. In order to gain insight into the relationship between Derrida’s ideas and the Lurianic metaphors, a considerable foundation must be laid regarding both the Kabbalistic doctrine of Tzimtzum and Derrida’s notion of “différance.” Only then différance’s relation to (and difference from) Tzimtzum and other Kabbalistic symbols can be adequately appreciated. The Doctrine of Tzimtzum In the Lurianic Kabbalah, the doctrine of Tzimtzum gives expression to the view that the fundamental act of creation is a negative one, a withdrawal, contraction and concealment of the divine presence. The concept or symbol of Tzimtzum is clearest in the writings of the disciples of Isaac Luria (1534- 72). However, earlier Kabbalists anticipated the basic idea. For example, Nachmanides, Rabbi Moses Ben Nachman (1194-1270), held that the divine wisdom (Chochmah) was created as a result of a Tzimtzum or contraction of M Kabbalah and Postmodernism 66 the divine light or will in the highest Sefirah. 1 The Zohar anticipated the notion of Tzimtzum in its doctrine that the light...
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