Until now it has been explained that the divine soul has three garments in which it clothes itself: the thought, speech and action of Torah and the commandments. The Alter Rebbe now goes on to state that, unlike physical garments, which are less important than their wearer, the garments of the divine soul are even loftier than the soul which “wears” them. Thus, “wearing” its garments — i.e., thinking and speaking words of Torah, and acting in performance of the commandments — elevates the soul to a higher level. For, since Torah and the commandments are one with G-d, the Jew, by donning the garments of Torah and the commandments, also becomes united with him. In the Alter Rebbe’s words:
והנה שלשה לבושים אלו מהתורה ומצותיה, אף שנקראים לבושים לנפש רוח ונשמה
Now these three “garments” deriving from the Torah and its commandments, though they are called [merely] “garments” of the Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah,
עם כל זה גבהה וגדלה מעלתם לאין קץ וסוף על מעלת נפש רוח ונשמה עצמן
nevertheless, their quality (the quality of the garments of the Torah and its commandments) is infinitely higher and greater than that of the Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah themselves,
כמו שכתוב בזהר, דאורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא כולא חד
[for] as explained in the Zohar, Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are truly one.
פירוש: דאורייתא, היא חכמתו ורצונו של הקדוש ברוך הוא, והקדוש ברוך הוא בכבודו ובעצמו, כולא חד
This means: Since Torah is the wisdom and Will of the Holy One, blessed be He (i.e., the wisdom of Torah expresses G-d’s wisdom; its practical application and laws — e.g., whether or not a particular object is kosher — expresses His Will), it is one with His glory and essence,
כי הוא היודע והוא המדע וכו׳ כמו שכתוב לעיל בשם הרמב״ם
since He is the Knower, the Knowledge... and the Known, as explained above in ch. 2 in the name of Maimonides (— that these three aspects, separate and distinct in terms of human intellect, are, as they relate to G-d, one and the same entity: they are all G-dliness).
The Torah, being G-d’s intellect, is thus one with G-d Himself, and when a Jew understands and unites himself with it, he is united with G-d Himself.
From the above we understand that since the garments of thought and speech of Torah study and the active performance of the commandments are united with G-d, they are even higher than the soul itself.
However, a question presents itself: How can it be said that in understanding Torah one comprehends G-d’s wisdom and Will, when G-d’s wisdom — like G-d Himself — is infinitely beyond man’s limited comprehension? This will now be explained:
ואף דהקדוש ברוך הוא נקרא אין סוף, ולגדולתו אין חקר, ולית מחשבה תפיסא ביה כלל
Although the Holy One, blessed be He, is called Ein Sof (“Infinite”), and “His greatness can never be fathomed,” and “No thought can apprehend him at all,”
וכן ברצונו וחכמתו
and so are also His Will and His wisdom (infinite and unfathomable),
כדכתיב: אין חקר לתבונתו, וכתיב: החקר אלוקה תמצא, וכתיב: כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם
as it is written, “There is no searching of His understanding”; and it is also written, “When you will search (to understand) G-d, will you find?”; and it is further written, “For My thoughts are not like your thoughts,” says G-d to man;
Thus human thought is incapable of grasping Divine “thought”. How, then, can it be said that in understanding Torah man grasps G-d’s wisdom?
To this the Alter Rebbe answers that G-d “compressed” and “lowered” His wisdom, clothing it in the physical terms and objects of Torah and its commandments, so that it might be accessible to human intelligence, in order that man may thereby be united with G-d.
הנה על זה אמרו: במקום שאתה מוצא גדולתו של הקדוש ברוך הוא, שם אתה מוצא ענותנותו
concerning this disparity between human intelligence and Divine wisdom, our Sages have said, “Where you find the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He, there you find His humility.”
I.e., how can we approach G-d’s greatness, to “find” it and be united with it? — Through His “humility”, by His lowering Himself to our level.
וצמצם הקדוש ברוך הוא רצונו וחכמתו בתרי״ג מצות התורה ובהלכותיהן
G-d compressed His Will and wisdom in the 613 commandments of the Torah and in their laws,
As mentioned above, the logic of the law represents Divine wisdom, and the ruling, Divine Will —
ובצרופי אותיות תורה נביאים וכתובים
and in the letter-combinations of Scripture (Torah, Nevi‘im and Ketuvim),
The very letters and words of Scripture contain G-d’s Will and wisdom; wherefore even one who is ignorant of their meaning fulfills the precept of Torah study by merely reciting them —
ודרשותיהן שבאגדות ומדרשי חכמינו ז״ל
and G-d’s Will and wisdom are also contained in the exposition of these verses found in the Aggadot and Midrashim of our Sages, of blessed memory.
בכדי שכל הנשמה או רוח ונפש שבגוף האדם תוכל להשיגן בדעתה
In all of these did G-d “compress” His Will and wisdom in order that every Neshamah or even the lower soul-levels of Ruach and Nefesh, situated as they are in the human body, will be able to grasp them with its intellect,
ולקיימן כל מה שאפשר לקיים מהן במעשה דבור ומחשבה
and [in order] that it (the Nefesh or Ruach or Neshamah) fulfill them, as far as they can be fulfilled, in action, speech and thought;
ועל ידי זה תתלבש בכל עשר בחינותיה בשלשה לבושים אלו
thereby clothing itself with all its ten faculties in these three garments (of the thought, speech and action of Torah and mitzvot).
ולכן נמשלה התורה למים: מה מים יורדים ממקום גבוה למקום נמוך
Therefore has the Torah been compared to water, for just as water descends from a higher level to a lower level,
The water which reaches the lower level is the same water that left its source within the higher level; unlike light, for example, which also travels from its source, but in whose case it is not the source (the luminous body) itself that is transmitted, but only a ray of it; and unlike intellect which can also be communicated from one person to another, but in whose case, too, it is not the source (the teacher’s mind) itself that transmits itself to the lower level (the student’s mind), but only the idea, a product of the source.
כך התורה ירדה ממקום כבודה
Just as we find in the analogy of water, so has Torah descended from its place of glory, i.e., the lofty spiritual plane which is its source.
שהיא רצונו וחכמתו יתברך, ואורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא כולא חד, ולית מחשבה תפיסא ביה כלל
In its original state it is G-d’s Will and wisdom, and “Torah is one and the same with G-d,” Whom no thought can apprehend at all — on that plane, Torah is incomprehensible to man, as is G-d Himself.
ומשם נסעה וירדה בסתר המדריגות ממדרגה למדרגה בהשתלשלות העולמות
From there the Torah has journeyed in a descent through hidden stages, stage after stage, in the Hishtalshelut of the Worlds (i.e., the chain-like order of interconnected spiritual “Worlds”, explained more fully in ch. 2; Torah descended through all these levels —)
עד שנתלבשה בדברים גשמיים ועניני עולם הזה, שהן רוב מצות התורה ככולן והלכותיהן
until it clothed itself in material matters and things of this corporeal world, which comprise nearly all the Torah’s commandments and their laws.
Nearly all the mitzvot involve material objects: tzitzit are made of wool, tefillin of leather, and so on. Even the “spiritual” mitzvot involve material objects in their halachot — the laws governing their practical application. For example, the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow, although essentially a “spiritual” mitzvah, as it consists of an emotion — love, demands that one aid his fellow-Jew materially, financially, etc.; these being concrete, material expressions of a “spiritual” mitzvah.
ובצרופי אותיות גשמיות בדיו על הספר, עשרים וארבעה ספרים שבתורה נביאים וכתובים
Thus, the Torah clothed itself in the material objects with which the mitzvot are performed and also in the physical letter combinations written with ink in a book, namely the twenty-four books of Torah, Nevi‘im, and Ketuvim.
(As mentioned above, the letters and words contain the holiness of G-d’s Will and wisdom.)
כדי שתהא כל מחשבה תפיסא בהן, ואפילו בחינת דבור ומעשה שלמטה ממדרגת מחשבה תפיסא בהן ומתלבשת בהן
Torah underwent this great descent so that every human thought be able to grasp them, and so that even speech and action, which are on a level lower than thought, be able to grasp them (— G-d’s Will and wisdom) and clothe themselves in them — by performing the commandments in speech and action.