In order to “enable” the Ein Sof-light, by definition infinite, to create worlds, which are finite, an intermediary is needed — to bridge the chasm between infinity and finitude. This intermediary, Torah, is alluded to in our opening verse, “He enwraps [Himself with] light as [with] a garment....”
Now any intermediary must itself partake of each of the levels it bridges. Torah thus comprises both “light” and “garment”. The “light” of Torah is its infinite inwardness, “[whose] measure is longer than the earth....”; the “garment” of Torah refers to its finite and revealed exterior, which relates to the finite worlds. In the letter before us, the Alter Rebbe explains how the revealed “garment” (the nigleh) of Torah has concealed within it the inward “light” (the pnimiyut) of Torah. He also clarifies the difference between the comprehension of Torah and prophetic comprehension.
עוטה אור כשלמה וגו׳
”He wraps [Himself with] light as [with] a garment...”
This verse speaks of “light” hidden within a “garment”. The Alter Rebbe will explain here how the “light” of Torah that transcends revelation is vested in a concealing “garment”.
הנה בלקוטי תורה של האריז״ל, פרשת כי תשא ופרשת ויקרא, כתב כי השגת משה רבנו עליו השלום לא היתה בבחינת פנימיות דחכמה עילאה
In Likkutei Torah, by R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory, Parshat Ki Tissa and Parshat Vayikra, it is stated that Moshe Rabbeinu, peace to him, did not apprehend the pnimiyut (i.e., the most inward and profound level) of Supernal Chochmah,
הנקרא אבא דאצילות
which is called “Abba of Atzilut,”
The degree of Divinity called Supernal Chochmah is not limited to the Sefirah of Chochmah in the World of Atzilut: it also possesses a number of levels that transcend it, such as Chochmah of Keter, Chochmah of Adam Kadmon, and so on. The Alter Rebbe is now explaining that not only were these loftier levels of Supernal Chochmah beyond Moses’ apprehension, but so too was even the pnimiyut of the Chochmah of Atzilut (i.e., Abba of Atzilut).
וכל שכן בספירת הכתר שלמעלה ממנה, הנקרא אריך אנפין
and a fortiori, not the Sefirah of Keter, called Arich Anpin, that transcends [Chochmah].
For the very name Arich Anpin (lit., “the Long Countenance”) implies a level of Divinity of infinite extent, and hence beyond the reach of any soul clothed in a body.
כי אם בבחינת אחוריים דחכמה, המתלבשים בבינה
Rather, [Moshe Rabbeinu apprehended as far as] the achorayim (the exterior levels) of Chochmah, which are vested in Binah,
Unlike the internal and essential aspect of Chochmah, the exterior aspect of Chochmah is capable of descending into lower levels of Divinity, such as the Sefirah of Binah.
המתלבשת בז׳ ספירות תחתונות, שנקראות זעיר אנפין
which in turn is vested in the seven lower Sefirot, [collectively] called Z’eir Anpin (lit., the “Small Countenance”) —
This name implies a level of Divinity which is contracted to within finite dimensions. In this spirit, the seven emotive attributes are termed middot, whose singular form מדה translates literally as “measure”, for it refers to the [infinite] Ein Sof-light when it is at the stage of having garbed itself in finitude, in order thereby to become the source for created worlds.
the mystic principle of the Torah.
The manner in which Supernal Chochmah descends through Binah and finds diverse expression within the seven emotive attributes, underlies the divergence of halachic rulings within the Torah. For the laws of the Torah — determining what is kasher (valid) versus pasul (invalid), innocent versus guilty, pure versus impure, and so on — derive from these emotive attributes. Rulings of what is kasher, innocent and pure, derive from Chesed (the attribute of kindness); rulings of what is pasul, guilty and impure, derive from Gevurah (the attribute of severity); and so on.
ומתפשטת עד סוף ד׳ ספירות התחתונות, שהן נצח, הוד, יסוד, מלכות
Moreover, [Supernal Chochmah] extends to the end of the four lowest Sefirot: Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut (in the Hebrew text abbreviated נהי״מ).
These latter four emotive attributes are merely the extrinsic offshoots of the first three basic emotive attributes — Chesed, Gevurah and Tiferet, which they activate and cause to descend.
ושם היתה השגת נבואתו בבחינת פנימיות, דהיינו מבחינת פנימיות דנהי״מ
There [Moshe Rabbeinu’s] prophecy apprehended the pnimiyut, i.e., the inner dimension of Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut, whose function is to bring about the descent of the loftier Sefirot within the worlds that are below Atzilut.
אבל למעלה מנהי״מ לא היתה לו שום השגה בפנימיות, כי אם בבחינת אחוריים דחכמה המלובשים בבינה, המלובשת ומתפשטת תוך פנימיות דנהי״מ
However, his apprehension did not extend to the pnimiyut of the levels [of Divinity] transcending Netzach-Hod-Yesod-Malchut, but only to the achorayim (the external aspect) of Chochmah which is vested in Binah, whichin turn is vested and extended within the pnimiyut of Netzach-Hod-Yesod-Malchut.
In his Glosses and Emendations to this work the Rebbe asks: What does the Alter Rebbe accomplish by repeating that the external aspect of Chochmah vests itself in Binah and in turn in Netzach-Hod-Yesod-Malchut? It will be noted that here the Alter Rebbe does not mention its being clothed in the other attributes as he had done earlier, but only its vestiture in Binah and in Netzach-Hod-Yesod-Malchut.
בסוד נובלות חכמה שלמעלה: תורה
This is the mystic principle underlying the teaching of the Midrash, that “The novlot (withered vestige) of Supernal Chochmah is Torah,”
I.e., the Torah is not the undistilled essence of Supernal Chochmah; only a paler dilution of this can find actual expression in the revealed aspect of the Torah.
שהיא בבחינת זעיר אנפין
on the level of Z’eir Anpin; i.e., diminished and finite, as explained above.
וכדכתיב: וראית את אחורי, ופני לא יראו
Thus it is written that G-d said to Moshe Rabbeinu, “You shall see My back (the Heb. achorai suggesting the hinder or external aspect of Divinity), but My face (the Heb. panai suggesting pnimiyut, the frontal or inward aspect of Divinity) shall not be seen.”
Even Moses could behold no more than the achorayim of Supernal Chochmah, and not its pnimiyut, or essence.
עיין שם, ובשער הנבואה פרק א׳
See there (in Likkutei Torah of the AriZal), and in Shaar HaNevuah, ch. 1.
ולכאורה יש להפליא הרי נאמר: ולא קם עוד נביא בישראל כמשה
Now this seems surprising. After all, it is said, “There rose no other prophet in Israel like Moshe.”
ואיך השיג האריז״ל יותר ממנו, ודרש כמה דרושים בבחינת פנימיות, אפילו בספירות ומדרגות רבות שלמעלה מהחכמה וכתר דאצילות
How then did R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory, apprehend more than he, and expound many themes dealing with the pnimiyut, even of many Sefirot and levels that transcend Chochmah and Keter of Atzilut?
Yet the AriZal writes that Moshe Rabbeinu’s prophecy did not enable him to grasp the pnimiyut of Chochmah of Atzilut!
Likkutei Haggahot (a compilation of glosses to the Tanya) quotes here Chiddushei HaRitva: “The Supernal Chariot [not as it appears in the World of Beriah nor in the World of Atzilut, but at a higher level] was never beheld by the prophets, yet its secrets were known to the mystics of the Kabbalah [lit., ‘to the Masters of Truth’].”