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ועוד יש לכל נפש אלקית שלשה לבושים

In addition [to its ten faculties — discussed in ch. 3], every divine soul (nefesh elokit) possesses three garments.

The soul possesses three auxiliary powers, which are its instruments of expression. Like garments, they can be donned or shed at will. When the soul utilizes any of these three powers it is “clothed” in them; when it does not use them, it is “divested” of them. Also, just as garments give expression to their wearer’s beauty and importance, so, too, when the soul dons and utilizes these “garments”, its intellect and emotion find expression.

שהם מחשבה דבור ומעשה של תרי״ג מצות התורה

They (the garments) are: thought, speech and action as they find expression in the 613 commandments of the Torah.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain how the divine soul expresses itself through these three garments.

שכשהאדם מקיים במעשה כל מצות מעשיות

For, when a person actively fulfills all the precepts which require physical action (e.g., when he dons the tefillin or fulfills the commandment of tzitzit, etc.),

ובדיבור הוא עוסק בפירוש כל תרי״ג מצות והלכותיהן

and with his power of speech he occupies himself in expounding all the 613 commandments and the laws governing their fulfillments,

i.e., the person’s speech is immersed in the study of Torah which includes the exposition of the commandments. For example, Tractate Berachot deals with the commandments and the laws of blessings; Tractate Shabbat deals with the commandments and laws of Shabbat observance, etc.,

ובמחשבה הוא משיג כל מה שאפשר לו להשיג בפרד״ס התורה

and with his power of thought he comprehends all that he is capable of understanding in the Pardes (i.e., the four levels) of Torah,

The word Pardes (פרדס), whose literal meaning is “orchard”, is here used as an acronym of the four Hebrew words, Pshat, Remez, Derush and Sod, meaning, respectively: plain sense, intimation, homiletical exposition and esoteric meaning — the four levels of Scriptural interpretation.

הרי כללות תרי״ג אברי נפשו מלובשים בתרי״ג מצות התורה

then all of his soul’s 613 “organs” are clothed in the 613 commandments of the Torah.

Just as the human body consists of 248 organs and 365 blood vessels, corresponding to the Torah’s 248 positive commandments and 365 prohibitive commandments (613 in all), the soul similarly comprises 613 “organs” — the spiritual counterpart of the 613 bodily organs — each “organ” corresponding to a specific commandment. When, through its three “garments” (thought, speech and action), the soul embraces all 613 commandments, then all 613 “organs” of the soul are enclothed in all 613 commandments — each “organ” of the soul in its related commandment.

(Note the Alter Rebbe’s emphasis of the word “all” (“all the precepts which require physical action,” “in expounding all the 613 commandments,” “all that he is capable of understanding”). Should his “garments” fail to include all 613 commandments — were he to omit one specific commandment — then the corresponding “organ” of the soul will remain bereft of its mitzvah-“garment”.)

Thus we see, in a general sense, how fulfillment of all the commandments with one’s thought, speech and action, “clothes” the entire soul in all 613 commandments of the Torah. The Alter Rebbe now goes on to specify which components of the soul are “clothed” by which particular garment.

ובפרטות: בחינות חב״ד שבנפשו מלובשות בהשגת התורה שהוא משיג בפרד״ס, כפי יכולת השגתו ושרש נפשו למעלה

Specifically: the CHaBaD of his soul (i.e., his intellectual faculties) are clothed in the comprehension of the Torah, which he comprehends in [the four levels of] Pardes of the Torah, to the extent of his mental capacity and according to the supernal root of his soul.

One’s mental capacity determines how much he may understand; the root of his soul determines the area in Torah for which he will have the greatest aptitude. For example, one whose soul is related to the level of Pshat is more likely to comprehend the straightforward meaning of the words of Torah; a soul related to Remez will delve to the stratum of implied meaning underlying the words; and so on. When the person comprehends Torah to the extent of his mental capacity then the CHaBaD components of his soul are clothed in the garment of thought of Torah, i.e., thought as it is related to Torah.

והמדות, שהן יראה ואהבה וענפיהן ותולדותיהן, מלובשות בקיום המצות במעשה ובדיבור שהוא תלמוד תורה שכנגד כולן

And the middot, namely the emotions of fear and love (of the Almighty) together with their offshoots and ramifications, are clothed in the fulfillment of the commandments in deed and in word, (“in word”) meaning in the study of Torah, which is1 “the equivalent of all the commandments.”

The Alter Rebbe’s previous statement, that in comprehending Torah the soul’s faculty of intellect clothes itself in thought, requires no further elaboration; it goes without saying that the intellect can comprehend Torah only through the vehicle of thought.

His latter statement, however (that the middot are clothed in the fulfillment of the commandments in deed or in word), requires further amplification. What connection do the middot of fear and love have with action and speech? The seat of the emotions is in the heart; how do they come to clothe themselves in actions which are done with one’s hand (in donning tefillin, for example), or in speech where one uses his mouth (such as in oral Torah study)?

In answer to this question, the Alter Rebbe explains that completeness in the performance of the commandments demands love and fear of G‑d; one can bring to his fulfillment of the commandments the fullness generated by vitality and depth of feeling only when he is imbued with fear and love of the Almighty.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

כי האהבה היא שרש כל רמ״ח מצות עשה וממנה הן נמשכות, ובלעדה אין להם קיום אמיתי

For love is the root of a Jew’s observance of all the 248 positive commands; from it they issue forth, and without it they have no true substance.

כי המקיימן באמת הוא האוהב את שם ה׳ וחפץ לדבקה בו באמת

For he who fulfills them in truth, is he who loves G‑d’s Name and who truly desires to cleave to Him.

ואי אפשר לדבקה בו באמת כי אם בקיום רמ״ח פקודין

Now, one cannot truly cleave to Him except through the fulfillment of the 248 positive commandments,

Thus, one’s love of G‑d and desire to cleave to Him dictate that he observe the commandments. Why is it possible to cleave to G‑d only by fulfilling the commandments?

שהן רמ״ח אברין דמלכא כביכול, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

for they are the 2482 “organs of the King” (of G‑d, King of the universe), as it were, as is explained elsewhere.3

Just as each of the organs of a human being is a vessel for the particular soul power that clothes itself in it (e.g., the eye is a vessel for the power of sight, the ear for hearing, and so on), so is each commandment a vessel for the specific aspect of G‑d’s Will (the “Supernal Will”) which clothes itself in that particular commandment. Each commandment expresses not only the Supernal Will that a specific act be carried out, but also the particulars of its observance. Thus it is understood that by performing the commandments one achieves unity with G‑d, Whose Will they express.

It follows, then, that love of G‑d clothes (or expresses) itself in one’s performance of the 248 positive commandments; it is their root and life-force, which leads one to observe them with the totality of one’s being. For when one loves G‑d and desires to cleave to Him, he will perform His commandments as he would perform a task for a dear friend — with delight and zest, and with all of his being.

והיראה היא שרש לשס״ה לא תעשה, כי ירא למרוד במלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא

Fear is the root of one’s observance of the 365 prohibitive commands, for he (the G‑d-fearing person) will fear to rebel against the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He (by acting in defiance of His Will; he will therefore refrain from anything that G‑d forbade).

At this level, the word “fear” is taken in its simple sense — trepidation before the severity of G‑d’s command.

או יראה פנימית מזו, שמתבושש מגדולתו, למרות עיני כבודו ולעשות הרע בעיניו

Or a deeper level of fear — that he feels ashamed before G‑d’s greatness, so that he will not rebel against the all-seeing eyes of His glory by doing what is evil in His eyes,

כל תועבת ה׳ אשר שנא, הם הקליפות וסטרא אחרא

namely, any of the abominable things hated by G‑d, which are the kelipot and sitra achra (the “other side” — that which is the opposite of holiness),

אשר יניקתם מהאדם התחתון, ואחיזתם בו הוא בשס״ה מצות לא תעשה

which draw their nurture from man below (in this world) and have their hold in him so that they be able to derive their nurture and life through him through his violation of the 365 prohibitive commandments.

When a person transgresses a prohibitive commandment, G‑d forbid, he provides the kelipot with additional strength and vitality. Since kelipot and the sitra achra are entities which conceal G‑dliness and holiness and are as such despised by G‑d, the Jew therefore guards himself against transgressing. He is “ashamed” to transgress and give the kelipot strength and life. Thus, fear of G‑d clothes itself in the observance of prohibitive commandments; for one’s fear of G‑d enables him to withstand temptation and refrain from transgression.

We now understand clearly how fear and love of G‑d are related to the fulfillment of the commandments, and how the middot are the root and life-force in the performance of commandments in both action and speech.

* * *

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,4 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”), and5 “His greatness can never be fathomed,” and6 “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,7 “There is no searching of His understanding”; and it is also written,8 “When you will search (to understand) G‑d, will you find?”; and it is further written,9 “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,10 “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,11 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.

ומאחר שהתורה ומצותיה מלבישים כל עשר בחינות הנפש וכל תרי״ג אבריה מראשה ועד רגלה

Now, since Torah and its commandments clothe all ten faculties of the soul, and all of the soul’s 613 “organs”, from head to foot, i.e, from its highest level — its “head” — to its lowest level,

הרי כולה צרורה בצרור החיים את הוי׳ ממש, ואור הוי׳ ממש מקיפה ומלבישה מראשה ועד רגלה

it the soul is truly completely bound up with G‑d in the12 “bond of life,” and the very light of G‑d envelops and clothes it from head to foot.

כמו שכתוב: צורי אחסה בו, וכתיב: כצנה רצון תעטרנו

So it is written:13 “G‑d is my Rock, in whom I take refuge” (and naturally, only that which surrounds a person can protect him); and it is further written,14 “As with a shield G‑d’s Will surrounds him,”

שהוא רצונו וחכמתו יתברך, המלובשים בתורתו ומצותיה

meaning His Will and wisdom that are clothed in Torah and its commandments.

We see, at any rate, that although G‑d’s wisdom and Will are beyond man’s reach, they are made accessible to him because the Torah is clothed in physical terms, and its commandments are vested in physical objects.

ולכן אמרו: יפה שעה אחת בתשובה ומעשים טובים בעולם הזה מכל חיי עולם הבא

For this reason, it has been said:15 “One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than the whole life of the World to Come.”

כי עולם הבא הוא שנהנין מזיו השכינה, שהוא תענוג ההשגה

For the reward in the World to Come consists of enjoying the radiance of the Divine Presence;16 it is the pleasure derived from comprehension of G‑dliness.

ואי אפשר לשום נברא, אפילו מהעליונים, להשיג כי אם איזו הארה מאור הוי׳

Now no created being, even a spiritual being of the higher realms such as angels or souls, can comprehend any more than a glimmer of the Divine light,

ולכן נקרא בשם זיו השכינה

for which reason the reward of the souls in the World to Come is referred to as “the radiance of the Divine Presence,” since it is no more than a remote gleam of the Divine light.

אבל הקדוש ברוך הוא בכבודו ובעצמו לית מחשבה תפיסא ביה כלל

But as for the essence and glory of the Holy One, blessed be He, no thought can apprehend Him at all.

כי אם כאשר תפיסא ומתלבשת בתורה ומצותיה, אזי היא תפיסא ומתלבשת בהקדוש ברוך הוא ממש

Only when it apprehends and clothes itself in Torah and its mitzvot does it grasp and clothe itself in G‑d Himself,

דאורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא כולא חד

for “Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one and the same.”

Hence the superiority of Torah and mitzvot in this world over the life of the World to Come. In the World to Come the soul grasps only a glimmer of G‑dliness; in this world, through Torah and mitzvot, it is united with G‑d Himself.

ואף שהתורה נתלבשה בדברים תחתונים גשמיים

For, although the Torah has been clothed in lowly material things, and it is only these material things that man’s intellect grasps when studying Torah, not the essence of G‑d’s Will and wisdom, yet —

הרי זה כמחבק את המלך, דרך משל

it is, by way of illustration, like one who embraces a king.

שאין הפרש במעלת התקרבותו ודביקותו במלך, בין מחבקו כשהוא לבוש לבוש אחד, בין שהוא לבוש כמה לבושים

There is no difference in the degree of his closeness and attachment to the king whether he embraces him when the king is wearing one robe or many robes,

מאחר שגוף המלך בתוכם

since the king’s body is in them.

Similarly, when a Jew “embraces” G‑d’s wisdom in Torah study, the fact that His wisdom is clothed in material “robes” is irrelevant.

Another point understood from this analogy: in the study of Torah, man is also “embraced”, enveloped and encompassed by, G‑d’s wisdom that the Torah contains (as will be explained further in ch. 5) — as the Alter Rebbe continues:

וכן אם המלך מחבקו בזרועו גם שהיא מלובשת תוך מלבושיו

Similarly, when the king embraces one with his arm, though it be dressed in his robes.

To illustrate that Torah is analogous to a royal embrace, the Alter Rebbe quotes:

כמו שכתוב: וימינו תחבקני

As it is written,17 “His (G‑d’s) right hand embraces me,”

שהיא התורה, שנתנה מימין

which refers to Torah, called “the right hand” because Torah was given by G‑d’s18 “right hand,”

שהיא בחינת חסד ומים

for [Torah] is related to the attribute of Chesed (“kindness”), and “water”.

As explained in the Kabbalah, the right hand represents both Chesed and water (and, as said earlier, Torah is compared to water), and the left hand represents Gevurah (“severity”) and fire. When the verse states that G‑d’s right hand “embraces me,” the intention is that G‑d “embraces” and envelops the soul through Torah — G‑d’s “right hand.”

Thus, the bond that Torah study creates between the soul and G‑d is two-fold: The soul “embraces” G‑d and is “embraced” by G‑d. In this, Torah study is superior to other mitzvot, as discussed in the following chapter.

——— ● ———

Mishnah, Peah 1:1.
Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 30.
See further, ch. 23.
Part I, 24a; II, 60a.
Tehillim 145:3.
Introduction to Tikkunei Zohar.
Yeshayahu 40:28.
Iyov 11:7.
Yeshayahu 55:8.
Megillah 31a.
Bava Kama 17a.
I Shmuel 25:29.
Tehillim 18:3.
Ibid. 5:13.
Avot 4:17.
Berachot 17a.
Shir HaShirim 8:3.
Devarim 33:2.
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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Anonymous dfw March 1, 2016

So the objects of each Mitzvoth are to be taken as allegory like Plato's dividing line? The object of the Mitzvoth being a shadow and G-d intended wisdom the object from which its cast? Reply

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