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Friday, 21 Cheshvan 5778 / November 10, 2017
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Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 29

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Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 29

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain that in addition to this function of mitzvot as garments for the soul, they also serve to unite the sublime spiritual level of Keter, with the physical objects with which the commandments are performed. As such, they resemble pillars that connect the highest part of a house with the lowest.

והנה רצון העליון ב"ה מכונה ונקרא בפי חכמי האמת בשם כתר עליון ובו תר"ך עמודי אור וכו'

Now the Supernal Will is termed and referred to by the Kabbalists1 as Keter Elyon ["the Supreme Crown"]. In it there are 620 pillars of light,2 620 being the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word Keter.

פי' דרך משל כמו שיש עמודים בבית חומה גדול נצבים בארץ וראשם מחובר בתקרה

That is, by way of analogy, just as in a large brick house3 there are pillars standing in the ground and their apex is connected with the ceiling,thereby connecting the lowest part of the house with the highest,

ככה ממש עד"מ כתר עליון ב"ה הוא למעלה מבחי' מדרגת החכמה

precisely so, metaphorically speaking, the Supernal Keter transcends the level of Chochmah,which is the first and highest of the inner Sefirot.

והוא מלשון כותרת שהוא מכתיר ומקיף על המוחין שבראש שהם בחי' חב"ד

[The word Keter] is related to koteret "[capital]",4 for it surrounds and encompasses over the brains in the head, i.e.,the faculties of ChaBaDthe faculties of Chochmah, Binah and Daat.

ורצון זה נתלבש בתרי"ג מצות התורה וז' מצות דרבנן שרובם ככולם הן מצות מעשיות

This [Supernal] Will is vested in the 613 commandments of theTorah and the seven precepts of the Sages, practically all of which are operative commandments.I.e., their performance involves physical action, which represents the lower or corporeal aspect of the lowest of the four spiritual "worlds", the World of Asiyah ("the World of Action".

וגם התלויות בדבור

And even those commandments [such as verbalized Torah study]that depend upon speech, nevertheless, even though speech is more spiritual than physical action, they too belong to the category of practical action,

הא קיי"ל דעקימת שפתיו הוי מעשה

for we have an accepted halachic principle that5 "the movement of one's lips [in speech] is regarded as an act."

וגם התלויות במחשבה או בלב

And even those commandments relating to thought or to the heart, such as the commandments regarding the love and awe of G-d, are also considered as physical acts.

הרי המצוה ניתנה לאדם הגשמי שבעוה"ז דוקא

For the commandments6 were given only to physical man in this [physical] world,

שהוא בעל בחירה להטות לבבו לטוב וכו'. משא"כ הנשמה בלא גוף א"צ לצותה ע"ז

because he has the choice to turn his heart to good, and so on.7 The soul without a body, however, need not be commanded about this.

ונמצא שהמצות הן עד"מ כמו העמודים נצבים מרום המעלות הוא רצון העליון ב"ה עד הארץ הלזו החומרית

Thus it follows that the commandments, metaphorically speaking, are like pillars that stand [and connect] from the highest of levels, viz., the Supernal Will, to this material world.

והן עד"מ כמו העמודים חלולין שמקיפין ומלבישין נשמת האדם או רוחו או נפשו כשמקיים המצות

Metaphorically speaking, they are like hollow pillars that encompass and garb [with the garment of mitzvot] man's Neshamah,or Ruach, or Nefesh, when he fulfills the commandments.

ודרך עמודים אלו עולין הנר"ן שלו עד רום המעלות לצרור בצרור החיים את ה'. פי' להיות צרורות ומלובשות באור הכתר הוא רצון העליון ב"ה

By way of these pillars [of the mitzvot], his Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah [abbreviated naran] ascend to the highest of levels, to be bound up8 "in the bond of life with G-d," that is, to be bound up and vested in the light of Keter, which is the Supernal Will, the highest level of all the worlds.

וע"י לבוש זה יוכלו לחזות בנועם ה' וצחצחות שלמעלה ממעלת הכתר והן פנימיותו עד"מ

And by means of this garment they are able to behold the "pleasantness of G-d" and the "pleasurable thirst" which transcend the level of Keter and, metaphorically speaking, are its pnimiyut.I.e., the "pleasantness of G-d" and the "pleasurable thirst "are the inner core of the light of Keter, which transcends all worlds.

(והגם שנתבאר במ"א שהמצות הן פנימיות רצון העליון ב"ה

9(Though it is explained elsewhere that the commandments are the pnimiyut i.e., the innermost element] of the Supernal Will, while here it is explained that they are merely the external aspect of Keter, i.e., the external aspect of the Supernal Will,

הנה מודעת זאת לי"ח ריבוי בחי' ומדרגות שיש בכל בחי' ומדרגה ממדרגות הקדושה

those adept in the Hidden Wisdom [i.e., Kabbalah] are well acquainted with the multitude of aspects and levels within every aspect and level among the various levels of holiness.

כמה בחי' פנים לפנים וכמה בחי' אחוריים לאחוריים לאין קץ וכו')

There are numerous aspects of "face to face," meaning (since panim is related to pnimiyut) that relative to a particular spiritual level, another level is even more "internal", or nearer to the Essence], and there are numerous aspects of "externality to externality," meaning the reverse, without end....)

Thus, relative to the internal level of the Supernal Will spoken about here, mitzvot are only termed "external", whereas in another context, when compared to a lower level, they are deemed the "internal" aspect of the Supernal Will.

* * *

The Alter Rebbe above called the commandments the 620 pillars of light of Keter. How does this agree with his previous statement, that the 613 garments of the mitzvot correspond to the 613 soul-powers?

The Alter Rebbe now answers that the seven commandments of the Sages (which bring the total to 620) are not self-sufficient mitzvot, but are branches of the Scriptural commandments from which they respectively derive. The soul thus has 613 garments that derive from the 613commandments, the Rabbinic mitzvot included. These garments garb the 613 powers of the soul.

והנה ז' מצות דרבנן אינן נחשבות מצות בפני עצמן שהרי כבר נאמר לא תוסף

Now, the seven precepts of the Sages are not counted as commandments in themselves, for it has been said,10 "You shall not add [to the commandments]."

אלא הן יוצאות ונמשכות ממצות התורה וכלולות בהן במספר תרי"ג להלביש תרי"ג בחי' וכחות שבנר"ן האדם

Rather, they derive and issue from the commandments of the Torah, and are included in them in the sum of 613 [commandments], which garb the 613 aspects and powers in the Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshamah of man.

It was previously stated that the mitzvot are like 613 hollow pillars that encompass and garb the Neshamah, or Ruach, or Nefesh of the individual who performs the commandments. It is through these pillars that the soul rises to the greatest of heights, and is bound up in the radiance of Keter. Additionally, it is through the garment of the mitzvot that the soul is able to behold "the pleasantness of G-d" and to experience the "pleasurable thirst" that transcend even the pnimiyut of Keter.

Footnotes
1.
Lit., "the scholars of truth.".
2.
Pardes, Shaar 8, ch. 3.
3.
Note of the Rebbe: "The analog to this requires clarification.".
4.
I Melachim 7:16, et al.
5.
Sanhedrin 65a.
6.
Lit., "the commandment."
7.
The phrase "and so on" is a euphemism for "or to evil."
8.
I Shmuel 25:29.
9.
Parentheses are in the original text.
10.
Devarim 13:1.


Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, all rights reserved.
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