Printed from chabad.org
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
TheRebbe.org
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
News
Kabbalah Online
JewishWoman.org
Kids Zone
Tanya
Tanya Navigator
E-mail

Part (i)

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,1 is alluded to in our opening verse,2 “He enwraps [Himself with] light as [with] a garment....”

Now any intermediary must itself partake of each of the levels it bridges.3 Torah thus comprises both “light” and “garment”. The “light” of Torah is its infinite inwardness, “[whose] measure is longer than the earth....”;4 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 stated5 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 Anpin6 (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 Anpin7 (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.

סוד התורה

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,8 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,9 “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,10 “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)11 quotes here Chiddushei HaRitva:12 “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’].”

אך הענין הוא פשוט ומובן לכל

But it is plain and clear to all,

שיש הפרש גדול בין השגת חכמי האמת, כרשב״י והאריז״ל, שהיא השגת חכמה ודעת

that there is a great difference between the apprehension of the Kabbalists, such as R. Shimon bar Yochai and R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory, which is an apprehension through wisdom and knowledge,

ובין השגת משה רבנו עליו השלום ושאר הנביאים, בנבואה

and the prophetic apprehension13 of Moshe Rabbeinu, peace to him, and the other prophets,

המכונה בכתוב בשם ראיה ממש

to which Scripture refers as actual vision.

Seeing something grasps its essence; comprehension merely grasps its externality.

וראית את אחורי

In these terms Scripture describes Moshe Rabbeinu’s prophetic apprehension:14 “You shall see My back.”

ואראה את ה׳

Likewise even with Isaiah, a lesser prophet than Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the greatest of prophets:15 “And I saw G‑d.”

וירא אליו ה׳

Furthermore, even before G‑d gave the Torah we find Abraham’s prophecy referred to in these terms:16 “And G‑d appeared to him.”

ואף שזהו דרך משל, ואינה ראיית עין בשר גשמי ממש

Now, though the term [“seeing” with regard to prophecy] is used in a metaphorical sense and does not denote actual sight by the physical, fleshly eye,

מכל מקום, הנמשל צריך להיות דומה למשל

nevertheless, the analogue needs to resemble the analogy.

Just as the analogy of physical sight means that the viewer beholds the essence of a thing, so too the analogue — prophetic vision — must refer to a spiritual kind of seeing that grasps the essence of the spiritual level that is beheld through prophecy.

וכתרגום, וירא אליו ה׳: ואתגלי ליה וכו׳, שהוא בחינת התגלות

Thus too the Targum translates the above-quoted “vayeira eilav HaShem”: “And G‑d became revealed17 to him...,” indicating revelation,

שנגלה אליו הוי׳ הנעלם ברוך הוא, בבחינת התגלות

meaning that G‑d,18 blessed be He, being hidden, became manifest to [Abraham].

In this direct mode of revelation, the recipient of the Divine manifestation is able to absorb and internalize it, just as with visual sense-perception. The above-described manner of spiritually “seeing” a revelation is thus quite different from “hearing”, an inferior level of perception which leaves the recipient with a less tangible impression.

מה שאין כן בהשגת חכמי האמת, שלא נגלה אליהם הוי׳ הנעלם ברוך הוא בבחינת התגלות

It is different, though, with the apprehension of the Kabbalists. G‑d, blessed be He, Who is hidden, did not become revealed to them in a manifest mode;

רק שהם משיגים תעלומות חכמה, הנעלם (נוסח אחר: בנעלם) ומופלא מהם

rather, they apprehend the secrets of wisdom in a manner19 which is hidden and removed from them.

They merely “hear” about these matters rather than truly “see” them.

ולכן אמרו: חכם עדיף מנביא, שיכול להשיג בחכמתו למעלה מעלה ממדרגות שיוכלו לירד למטה בבחינת התגלות לנביאים, במראה נבואתם

[Our Sages] therefore taught that20 “A wise man is superior to a prophet,” because through his wisdom he can apprehend levels [of Divinity] far higher than those that can descend by means of revelation to prophets in their prophetic vision.21

Since the revelation of prophecy is “visual”, the most sublime levels such as Supernal Chochmah cannot possibly be revealed and “seen” below.

כי לא יוכלו לירד ולהתגלות אליהם רק מדרגות התחתונות, שהן נהי״מ

For only the lowest levels can descend and become revealed to [the prophets], namely, the levels of Netzach-Hod-Yesod-Malchut,

שהן הן היורדות תמיד, ומתגלות מהמשפיע להמקבל, בבחינת מוחין וחיות

for it is they that always descend and become revealed from the Emanator to the recipient, in the form of intellectual perception and [creative] life-force.

כידוע ליודעי חכמה נסתרת, שהנהי״מ של העליון מתלבשים בתחתון להחיותו

Thus it is known to the students of Kabbalah22 that the Netzach-Hod-Yesod-Malchut (i.e., the lowest levels) of the higher [realm] vest themselves in the lower [realm], in order to animate it.

שהן הן כלי ההשפעה והורדת החיות מהעליון לתחתון, בכל העולמות והמדרגות

For they are the conduits of the beneficent flow that bring down the life-force from the higher level to the lower, with respect to all the worlds and levels.

ולכן גם כן הן הן המתגלות לנביאים, בבחינת התגלות ממש

Hence they also become revealed to the prophets as an actual revelation, i.e., as prophecy.

ובתוכן מלובש אור הבינה, שהיא בחינת הבנת האלקות מאור נוסח אחר: ואור אין סוף ברוך הוא

Within these [four Sefirot] is vested the light of Binah, the attribute which relates to understanding the G‑dliness [that emanates] from23 the light of the blessed Ein Sof.

ובתוכה מלובשים אחוריים דחכמה, שהיא מדרגה שלמעלה מהשכל וההבנה באלקות ברוך הוא

And within [Binah] are vested the external aspects of Chochmah, which are a level that transcends the conception and comprehension of Divinity,

כי שם חכמה מורה על מקור השכל וההבנה

for the term Chochmah denotes the source of conception and comprehension.

As explained in Tanya, Part I, ch. 18, the word Chochmah comprises two words: כח מה — “the faculty of the unknown,”24 for it is a faculty that cannot be grasped intellectually.

ולכן אמרו בזהר, דאורייתא מחכמה נפקת

This is why it is stated in the Zohar25 that “The Torah derives from Chochmah.”

כי טעמי מצות לא נתגלו, והם למעלה מהשכל וההבנה

For the reasons for the commandments have not been revealed26 in rational terms; they transcend conception and comprehension, i.e., Chochmah.

וגם באיזהו מקומן שנתגלה ונתפרש איזה טעם המובן לנו לכאורה

And even in the occasional places where some apparently intelligible reason has been revealed and explained,

אין זה הטעם, המובן לנו, לבדו תכלית הטעם וגבולו

this reason alone, which is understandable to us, is not the ultimate and full reason; we have not yet plummeted its depths;

אלא בתוכו מלובש פנימיות ותעלומות חכמה, שלמעלה מהשכל וההבנה

rather, within [this reason] is vested the innermost core (the pnimiyut) and mystic principle of Chochmah that transcends comprehension and understanding.

In a public address27 the Rebbe once explained why the Alter Rebbe makes the point that even when we have some intelligible reason for a mitzvah, this is not תכלית הטעם. This phrase, rendered above as “the ultimate reason,” would more literally mean “the end of the reason”; i.e., the explanation given for a commandment is not the last word in the reason for performing it. Not only does the mitzvah remain in some measure unexplained: even the reason remains in some measure unexplained. For in essence, a mitzvah is a superrational expression of the Divine Will, which is fulfilled through its performance.

At the very beginning of Derech Mitzvotecha (subtitled Sefer Taamei HaMitzvot — “A Book on the Reasons for the Mitzvot”), the Tzemach Tzedek writes similarly28 that what one should chiefly keep in mind during the performance of a commandment is the intent of doing it because G‑d has so commanded us. The fact that we may not understand just why G‑d desired this particular action done, is immaterial.

The Tzemach Tzedek goes on to say that whatever modest insight we may have about the purpose of the mitzvot — according to the Kabbalah and Chassidut, or according to Jewish philosophy (chakirah) and homiletics (derush) — is not even a glimmer of their true intent. It is a finite drop in an infinite ocean. For no human being, clothed as he is within a corporeal body, can possibly comprehend the infinite domain of spirituality. Even Moshe Rabbeinu, who has experienced more than three thousand years of constant elevation in Gan Eden, advances constantly in his understanding of the rationale underlying the mitzvot.

Concerning these successive levels of comprehension the verse states,29 “To every yearning, even to the point of expiry, I have seen an end; Your mitzvah is very wide.” I.e., the comprehension and yearning experienced in Gan Eden are finite, whereas a mitzvah defies limitation: the extent of its inner content is endless.30

One outstanding question: Why, though, does the Alter Rebbe write that intelligible reasons have been given only for “occasional” mitzvot, whereas in fact this would appear to apply to a multitude of commandments (of the categories of mishpatim and eduyot), if not to a majority?

Likkutei Biurim on Tanya (by R. Yehoshua Korf) quotes the Rebbe as answering this question in the following manner:

In most cases only a general reason is provided, while the details remain unexplained. For example, while the general reason for the mitzvah of tefillin is stated — that it be31 “a sign upon your hand...,” no revealed explanation is provided for the myriad details relating to this commandment, such as: why the tefillin must be square; why the four scrolls in the tefillin of the head must be housed in four separate compartments while the Biblical passages in the tefillin of the hand must be inscribed together on one scroll; why the straps of the tefillin must be black; and so on and on.

וכן בכל דיבור ודיבור שיצא מפי הקב״ה לנביאים, הכתובים בתנ״ך

The same is true with respect to every word uttered by the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, to the prophets, as recorded in the Tanach

Every word of prophecy found in the Tanach is applicable not only to the generation that first heard them, but to all future generations as well.32

הן דברי תוכחה, והן סיפורי מעשיות

whether they be words of admonition, as transmitted by the prophets, or narratives of incidents.

An incident is recorded in the Tanach not only as history but also as an eternal message for all generations.

מלובש בתוכם בחינת חכמת אלקות, שלמעלה מהשכל וההבנה

Vested in them — in these words of rebuke or narrative — is an aspect of the Divine Chochmah that transcends conception and comprehension.

כנראה בחוש, מענין הקרי והכתיב

This is empirically evident from the principle of kri, the Scriptural text as read, and ktiv, the Scriptural text as written, the two not always being identical.

כי הקרי הוא לפי ההבנה הנגלית לנו, והכתיב הוא למעלה מהשכל וההבנה

The kri reflects the comprehension [of the text] as revealed to us. The ktiv transcends conception and comprehension.

שתיבה זו ככתיבתה, אין לה לבוש בבחינת ההבנה, ובקריאתה בפה יש לה לבוש

That is, a particular word in its written form has no comprehensible “garment”, though as read aloud it does have such a “garment”, i.e., it is readily comprehensible.

An example of this would be the verse,33 “Know that the L‑rd is G‑d; He has made us, velo anachnu, His people and the sheep of His pasture.” The ktiv form of the word velo ends with an alef ולא, while the kri form of the word ends with a vav ולו. According to the latter form the verse is readily comprehensible: “Know that the L‑rd is G‑d; He has made us, velo anachnu — and we are His....” In the ktiv form, however, the verse reads, “He has made us and not us....” While this has meaning on a more sublime level,34 in the simple sense the ktiv of this verse seems exceedingly difficult to comprehend.35

וכן הענין באותיות גדולות שבתנ״ך, שהן מעלמא עילאה, ומאירות משם בגילוי, בלי שום לבוש כשאר האותיות

The same applies to the large letters that are occasionally found in the Tanach; they derive from a sublime world — from the Sefirah of Binah and radiate from there openly, and not through a garment like the other letters.

והנה בחינת חכמת אלקות ברוך הוא, המלובשת בתרי״ג מצות התורה, נקראת בשם בחינת אחוריים דחכמה

Now, the aspect of the blessed Divine Chochmah that is vested in the 613 commandments of the Torah, is referred to as the hindmost aspect of Chochmah.

The Alter Rebbe had previously said that (a) Moses’ prophetic comprehension of the Sefirah of Chochmah consisted merely of the achorayim (the hindmost aspect) of Chochmah. He then went on to say that (b) the source of the Torah in Chochmah is the same, for it too transcends reason. The Alter Rebbe is now saying that (c) even the Chochmah vested in the 613 commandments is referred to as no more than the achorayim of Chochmah.

כי כל אחוריים שבספירות, הן מדרגות החיצונות והתחתונות במעלה שבספירה זו, מה שיוכלו לירד ולהתפשט למטה, להתלבש בברואים להחיותם

For the achorayim of any one of the Sefirot are the external and lower levels within that Sefirah, which are capable of descending and extending downwards, to become vested in created beings in order to animate them.

ובחינת הפנים היא הספירה עצמה, המיוחדת במאצילה, אין סוף ברוך הוא, בתכלית היחוד

The aspect of the panim (the “face” or inner dimension) of the Sefirah is the Sefirah itself as it is united with its Emanator, the blessed Ein Sof, in an absolute union.

כגון, דרך משל, ספירת חכמה, שהיא מיוחדת במאצילה, אין סוף ברוך הוא, בתכלית היחוד, כי הקב״ה וחכמתו אחד כמו שכתוב לעיל

As, for example, the Sefirah of Chochmah, the Sefirah now under discussion: It is united with its Emanator, the blessed Ein Sof, in absolute unity, for the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Wisdom, are One (36as explained above) — evidently in reference to Part I, chs. 2 and 52.

ומה שמאיר ומתפשט מחכמתו יתברך למטה בתחתונים, שהם בעלי גבול ותכלית

But that which radiates and extends from His blessed Chochmah to the limited and finite nether beings below,

ומתלבש בהם

and becomes vested in them,

Light that merely “radiates” and “extends” does not necessarily contract according to the limitations of the recipient of the light; it may “radiate” and “extend” in an encompassing manner (makkif) and thus not be subject to them. However, when the illumination is “vested” within a receptor, this implies adjustment to its limitations.

Hence, a light that becomes vested within finite created beings cannot possibly be infinite, as would be the case if the actual Sefirah as united with its Emanator — and thus as infinite as its Emanator — would descend into created beings. Therefore, the life-giving force which is vested within creation —

נקרא אחוריים

is called achorayim: it is the external aspect of the Sefirah and not the Sefirah itself,

ונקרא גם כן בחינת עשיה שבאצילות

and it is also called the aspect of Asiyah within Atzilut.

The external aspect of Chochmah — Chochmah here being an allusion to the World of Atzilut — is termed the level of Asiyah within Atzilut,37 i.e., that level of Atzilut that is capable of descending below.

פירוש, על דרך משל, כמו שבאדם התחתון, שיש בנשמתו ה׳ מדרגות, זו למטה מזו

The meaning of this will be understood by way of analogy with terrestrial man, whose soul spans five ranks, one lower than the other.

שהן בחינת השכל והמדות ומחשבה ודבור ומעשה, והמעשה היא התחתונה שבכולם

These are the faculties of the intellect, the emotive attributes, thought, speech, and action, with action the lowest of them all.

I.e., the soul manifests itself in action to a much lesser degree than it does in the other four levels.

שהחיות המתפשט מהנשמה ומלובש בכח המעשה, הוא כאין לגבי החיות המתפשט ממנה ומלובש בכח הדבור

For the life-force that extends from the soul and is vested in the faculty of action, is as nothing compared to the life-force that extends from it and is vested in the faculty of speech.

שהוא כאין לגבי החיות המתפשט ממנה, ומלובש במחשבה ומדות ושכל

The latter in turn is as nothing compared to the life-force that extends from [the soul] and is vested in thought, in the emotive attributes, and in the intellect.

The latter three faculties are always united with the soul. Even the faculty of thought, which is merely a “garment” of the soul (i.e., one of its means of expression), is always united with it, and therefore, like the soul itself, always in a manifest state. Speech and action, however, are “garments” that are separate from the soul. Thus, insofar as speech is concerned, there is38 “A time to speak and a time to refrain from speech,” while action is even more distant from the soul than speech.

כן על דרך זה ממש, היא בחינת חכמתו יתברך, מה שיוכל להתפשט ממנה להתלבש בתחתונים כולם

In a precisely like manner with respect to the Divine Chochmah, to the extent that can be diffused from it39 to become vested in all the nether beings:

Since40 “You have made them all through Chochmah,” it follows that this Sefirah must be vested in all nether beings. However, this is merely the external level of Chochmah.

הוא כאין לגבי בחינת פנים, המיוחד במאציל ברוך הוא

it41 is as nothing compared to the panim (the inward or frontal aspect) of Chochmah, which is at one with the blessed Emanator.

דכולא קמיה כלא חשיב

For42 “All that is before Him (i.e., close and united with Him) is esteemed as naught.”

וההשפעה לכל הנבראים כולם, שהם בעלי גבול ותכלית, נחשבת ירידה וצמצום כביכול, לגבי המאציל, אין סוף ברוך הוא

The life-giving flow to all created beings, which are limited and finite, is regarded as a descent and a contraction, so to speak, with respect to the Emanator, the blessed Ein Sof,

על דרך משל, כמו שנחשבת ירידה וצמצום לשכל האדם המשכיל, המצומצם באיזו עשיה גשמית וחומרית ממש

just as, metaphorically speaking, it would be regarded as a descent and contraction for the intellect of an intelligent person to be contracted to some purely physical and material activity.43

ולכן משה רבינו עליו השלום, שהשיג עד אחוריים דחכמה, זכה שתנתן על ידו התורה

Moshe Rabbeinu, peace to him, who apprehended as high as the level [of Divinity] called the hindmost aspect of Chochmah, therefore merited that the Torah was given through him —

שהיא נובלות חכמה שלמעלה

the Torah being the novlot, the withered vestige, of Supernal Chochmah,

פירוש: מה שנובל ממנה ויורד למטה, ומתלבש בתורה גשמית שלנו

i.e., that which is sloughed off from it and descends below, and becomes vested in our physical Torah.44

שעיקרה ותכליתה הוא קיום המצות לא תעשה ועשה, בפועל ומעשה ממש

For [the Torah’s] core and ultimate object is the observance of the positive and prohibitory commandments, in actual deed and performance,

כמאמר: היום לעשותם

in the spirit of the verse,45 “To do them this day,” and, more specifically, in the spirit of the comment of our Sages on this phrase:46 “They are to be done today and not tomorrow” — in this world, and not in the World to Come.

וגדול תלמוד, שמביא לידי מעשה

Our Sages likewise taught,47 “The study of Torah is greater [than the observance of the commandments] because it leads to [their] performance.”

והלומד שלא לעשות, נוח לו שנהפכה שלייתו וכו׳

Similarly,48 “As to him who learns with the intent of not doing, it would have been better for him if his afterbirth had turned over....”

I.e., better had he never been born.

וכל אדם מוכרח להתגלגל עד שיקיים כל התרי״ג מצות בפועל ממש, כנודע מהאריז״ל

Indeed, every individual needs to become reincarnated until he has actually observed all the 613 commandments, as is known from R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory.49

The Tzemach Tzedek makes the following comment50 on the above Epistle:

Although the Alter Rebbe opens this letter with the verse, “He wraps [Himself with] light as [with] a garment...,” he does not explain it here. However, it can be understood from his introduction that the achorayim of Chochmah, also known as the novlot of the Supernal Chochmah, which is Torah, is the “garment” (i.e., the revealed aspect) of Torah, while the pnimiyut of Abba, the inward aspect of Chochmah, is the esoteric depths of Torah.

(The latter aspect of Torah will be revealed mainly by Mashiach, as Rashi notes in his comment on the verse,51 “He kisses me with the kisses of His mouth.” Even now, however, a foretaste of the innermost dimensions of the Torah may be savored in the teachings of Chassidut. The present revelation of its insights serves as a preparation for the coming of Mashiach, in the spirit of the Friday afternoon custom52 of sampling the delicacies prepared for Shabbat, since the time of Mashiach is known as53 “a day that is entirely Shabbat.”)

The Tzemach Tzedek concludes: This is the “light” that is vested within the “garment”: it was created on the First Day and later hidden in the Torah — ultimately to be revealed to the righteous.54

Part (ii)

The Epistle that follows, beginning “The Letters that are Revealed,” is one of the Epistles that was appended to the edition of Tanya published in Vilna in the year 5660 (1900), these additions being noted by R. Asher of Nikolayev in his introductory declaration there.55

This relevance of this Epistle to the previous one may be found in the following parallel: The previous Epistle explains how only the Netzach-Hod-Yesod-Malchut (i.e., the lower Sefirot) of the Emanator extend to the recipient. The conclusion of the present Epistle likewise explains56 that only the hindmost aspect and externality of the Netzach-Hod-Yesod of the higher realm enter the lower one.

האותיות הנגלות לנו, הן במעשה, דיבור ומחשבה

The letters57 that are revealed to us exist in action, speech, and thought.

דמעשה, הן תמונות האותיות שבכתב אשורי שבספר תורה

Pertaining to the plane of action are the visual forms58 of the letters in the Assyrian script of the Torah scroll.59

The very validity of the scroll depends on the scrupulous observance of the numerous detailed laws governing the writing of these twenty-two letters. As is explained in the Note to ch. 12 of Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, each letter reflects the flow of a unique life-force and spiritual energy: its distinct shape suggests the form taken by the flow of light and energy revealed in that letter.

ואותיות הדבור נחקקות בהבל וקול, המתחלק לכ״ב חלקים, שונים זה מזה בצורתן

The letters pertaining to speech are engraved in the breath and voice, which is divided into twenty-two parts, one differing from the other with respect to their form,

שהיא הברת ומבטא הכ״ב אותיות בכל לשון

i.e., the enunciation and utterance of the twenty-two letters in any language.60

כי אין הפרש בין לשון הקודש ובין שאר לשונות במהות הברת האותיות, כי אם בצירופן

For there is no difference between the Holy Tongue and the other languages with respect to the nature of the letters’ enunciation, only with respect to their combinations.61

ואותיות המחשבה הן, גם כן בכל לשון שאדם מחשב, תיבות ואותיות הלשון

The letters of thought are — again, in any language that a person may think in — the words and letters of that language and its letters,

שהן כ״ב לבד

which number twenty-two only.

רק שבמחשבה, יש בה ג׳ מיני בחינות אותיות

Now in thought there are three kinds of letters.

שהרי כשרואה בספר תורה תמונות האותיות, הן מצטיירות במחשבתו

For when one sees the visual forms of the letters in the Torah-scroll they are pictured in his thought.

וזה נקרא בחינת עשיה שבמחשבה

This is called the “action in thought,” i.e., the manner in which thought envisions the letters of actual handwritten script. In terms of the spiritual Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, “action in thought” relates to the lowest World — Asiyah, the World of Action.

וכן כאשר שומע אותיות הדבור, הן נרשמות במחשבתו, ומהרהר בהן

Likewise, when one hears the letters of speech, they become inscribed in his thought and he meditates upon them.

וזה נקרא בחינת דבור שבמחשבה, ובחינת יצירה

This is called the “speech in thought,”i.e., thinking about the letters of speech, and it relates to Yetzirah.

ואותיות המחשבה לבדה, בלי הרהור אותיות הדבור, נקראות מחשבה שבמחשבה, בחינת בריאה

The letters of thought alone, without any meditation on the letters of speech, are called the “thought in thought,” and relate to Beriah.

In general terms, thought, speech and action correspond to Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, respectively. More particularly, “action in thought” corresponds to “Asiyah within Beriah,” “speech in thought” to “Yetzirah within Beriah,” and “thought in thought” to “Beriah within Beriah.”

והנה אותיות הדבור ממש, הן מתהוות ומקבלות חיותן מאותיות אלו עצמן שבמחשבה

Now, the letters of actual speech come into being and receive their life-force from those very same letters that are in thought.

ואף שלפעמים מדבר אדם, ומהרהר בדבר אחר

Though sometimes a person may speak [of one thing] while thinking of another,

This would tend to indicate that the letters of speech do not receive their life-force from the letters of thought.

הרי אינו יכול לדבר כי אם אותן דבורים וצירופים שכבר דברם, והיו במחשבתו פעמים רבות מאד

in such an instance he can speak only such words and combinations that he has already spoken previously and that were in his thought a great many times.

ונשאר בדבורים וצירופים אלו הרשימו מהמחשבה, שנכנסה בהם פעמים רבות

Thus in those words and combinations there remains the vestige of the thought that entered into them many times, and this serves as the life-force of the letters of his speech.

וזהו בחינת אחוריים וחיצוניות נה״י מפרצוף העליון שנכנס בתחתון, להיות לו בחינת מוחין וחיות כנודע

And this, in terms of the Sefirot, is the hindmost aspect and the externality of the Netzach-Hod-Yesod of the Visage of the higher realm that enters into the lower one, serving it as the intellective faculty of mochin (lit., “brains”) and life-force, as is known.

FOOTNOTES
1. See Yahel Or (Glosses of the Tzemach Tzedek) on this verse.
2. Tehillim 104:2.
3. See Likkutei Sichot, Vol. XIX, p. 11ff., and references there.
4. Iyov 11:9.
5. Note of the Rebbe: A close examination of Likkutei Torah shows how all that appears here in this letter is derived from it, and specifically, by combining the passage in Ki Tissa with that in Vayikra.
6. Aramaic; in the original text, abbreviated as א״א.
7. Aramaic; in the original text, abbreviated as ז״א.
8. Bereishit Rabbah 17:7.
9. Shmot 33:23.
10. Devarim 34:10.
11. Kehot, 5733.
12. In his commentary to Sukkah 28a.
13. Note of the Rebbe: “In contrast, by means of their [non-prophetic] ‘apprehension through wisdom and knowledge’ they comprehended [higher levels, such as] Keter, and so on.”
14. Shmot 33:23.
15. Yeshayahu 6:11.
16. Bereishit 18:1.
17. Heb. text emended above according to the Glosses and Emendations of the Rebbe.
18. Heb. text emended above according to the Glosses and Emendations of the Rebbe.
19. The above reading הנעלם could imply that the manner of their apprehension is hidden from them; the variant reading בנעלם would imply that the subject of their apprehension is hidden from them.
20. Bava Batra 12a.
21. Note of the Rebbe: “This is not the case with their comprehension, as [in footnote 13] above.”
22.

Lit., “to those versed in the Hidden Wisdom.” In the original text, the three Heb. words are abbreviated to לי״ח, which is an abbreviation for ליודעי חן (the letter chet being read as if vocalized with a tzeirei). The letters ח״ן in turn are an abbreviation for חכמה נסתרת.

23. According to the variant parenthetical text, “...understanding the G‑dliness and the light of the blessed Ein Sof”; i.e., the [infinite] Ein Sof-light too can filter down to the level of mortal understanding.
24. Zohar III, 28a.
25. Parshat Beshalach, 62a; cf. Parshat Chukat, 182a and Parshat Vaetchanan, 261a; et al.
26. Cf. Sanhedrin 21a.
27. Shabbat Parshat Vayeishev, 5724.
28. P. 4b.
29. Tehillim 119:96, explained in Epistle 17, above.
30. As an instance of this, consider the commandment involving the nesting bird (Devarim 22:6-7), chosen by the Sages (Berachot 5:3) as a classic example of a mitzvah which one should not assume one knows the reason for. The Rebbe points out that in Moreh Nevuchim (Vol. III, sec. 48) the Rambam offers an explanation for this mitzvah, yet in his Commentary on the Mishnayot the Rambam himself writes that this is a mitzvah “which has no explanation”!
31. Devarim 6:8.
32. See Megillah 14a.
33. Tehillim 100:3. See also Bereishit Rabbah, beginning of ch. 1.
34. Note of the Rebbe: “Zohar I, 120b; Or HaTorah (Yahel Or) of the Tzemach Tzedek on this verse in Tehillim (and see further references there).”
35. Note of the Rebbe: “But see commentary of Rashi there.”
36. Parentheses appear in the original text.
37.

Note of the Rebbe: “So it is written in the editions that I have seen. It would seem, however, that the text should have stated ‘Asiyah of Chochmah.’ Possibly, however, since the Alter Rebbe is speaking here of the difference between the finite and the infinite — the Torah at the level of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, as compared to the Torah at the level of Atzilut (where תורתך — ‘Your Torah,’ refers to the Torah of Atzilut, while שלמדתנו — ‘that You have taught us’ refers to the Torah of Beriah) — he therefore stresses ‘of Atzilut’.“

As to the relevance of this subject to our text: The infinity of the World of Atzilut lies in its correspondence to the Sefirah of Chochmah (i.e., the letter yud of the Four-Letter Name), while the Worlds of Beriah-Yetzirah-Asiyah correspond to the other [lower] Sefirot.”

38. See Kohelet 3:7.
39. In the original Heb. text, parentheses around the word להשפיע indicate that it should be substituted by the bracketed word להתלבש.
40. Tehillim 104:24.
41. Heb. text emended above according to the Glosses and Emendations of the Rebbe.
42. Zohar I, 11b.
43. Heb. text emended above according to the Glosses and Emendations of the Rebbe.
44. Heb. text emended above according to the Glosses and Emendations of the Rebbe.
45. Devarim 7:11.
46. Eruvin 22a.
47. Kiddushin 40b.
48. Vayikra Rabbah 35:7.
49. See the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:4, and the sources cited in the glosses there.
50. In Yahel Or on Tehillim, p. 369.
51. Shir HaShirim 1:2.
52. See Likkutei Sichot, Vol. XV, p. 282, and sources cited in the footnotes there.
53. Conclusion of Tractate Tamid.
54. Likkutei Sichot, Vol. X, p. 10, and sources cited in the footnotes there.
55. Note of the Rebbe: “It will have been noted that the Alter Rebbe himself added letters to Iggeret HaKodesh (Sefer HaMaamarim 5708, p. 170, et al.).”
56. Note of the Rebbe: “For example: In keeping with the teaching that ‘from my flesh do I behold G‑dliness,’ [the above levels are here discussed] as found within man — in thought, speech and action.”
57. Note of the Rebbe: “In all that follows, cf. Imrei Binah, Shaar HaKriyat Shema, sec. 32; the slight differences in the mode of explanation may be resolved without great difficulty.”
58. Heb. text emended above according to the Glosses and Emendations of the Rebbe.
59. Cf. Sanhedrin 21b.
60. Note of the Rebbe: “In this respect, ‘letters of speech’ and ‘letters of thought’ are superior (to ‘letters of action,’ whose visual forms vanish [when depicted in another language], as they are superseded by its differing visual forms).”
61. Note of the Rebbe: “What possible connection between the combinations and the enunciations [of the letters] prompted [the Alter Rebbe] to negate it? Possibly he is here anticipating the assumption that since [the letters of other languages] are not holy, they must perforce be on a lower level than those of the Holy Tongue (and surely — different). Hence he explains that the [difference between the letters of the Holy Tongue and those of other languages lies only] in their combinations.”
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.
E-mail
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
FEATURED ON CHABAD.ORG