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The focus of the present letter is the distinctive value of studying the halachot, the laws of the Torah. The Sages deem these laws to be the "crown of Torah," because the Supernal Will is most fully revealed within the laws of the Oral Torah, inasmuch as they clearly spell out G‑d's will with regard to the performance of the mitzvot.

In fact, as the Alter Rebbe explains, the Supernal Will as expressed in the mitzvot derives from an even higher level of Divinity than does the Chochmah ("wisdom") of the Torah. Indeed, it is this Divine Will that furnishes the "garments" which enable the soul to absorb the Divine radiance that is manifest in the Garden of Eden.

אשת חיל עטרת בעלה כו'

"A woman of valor is the crown of her husband..."

This verse in the Book of Mishlei1 is a metaphor for the Torah. The Torah is also likened to a wife in another verse:2 "See to live your life with the woman whom you love," which our Sages, of blessed memory, explain3 to mean the Torah.

Here, too, "a woman of valor" refers to the Torah. More specifically, within the Torah itself the Oral Torah is the "wife" and the Written Torah is the "husband". The "woman of valor," which the Alter Rebbe will later explain refers to the halachot of Torah, serves as the "crown" to her husband, the Written Torah.

איתא בגמ' פ"ד דמגילה ודאשתמש בתגא חלף כו' זה המשתמש במי ששונה הלכות כתרה של תורה כו'

The Gemara, in ch. 4 of Megillah,4 [commenting on the teaching of our Sages in Avot5 that] "He who makes use of the crown, passes away [from this world]," states: "This applies to him who makes use of one who studies halachot, which are the crown of the Torah..."

Unlike the text of the Bach, which omits "the crown of the Torah," the Alter Rebbe here accepts the standard printed version as quoted above.

תנא דבי אליהו כל השונה הלכות מובטח לו כו'

The Gemara in Megillah goes on to say: "It was taught in the Academy of Elijah that 'Whoever studies halachot is assured [of a share in Olam Haba - the World to Come]."'

At the conclusion of Tractate Niddah6 the text reads, "Whoever studies halachot daily ...." Rashi explains there that the term halachot refers to Mishnah, Beraita, and Halachah L'Moshe MiSinai. In Epistle XXIII (above), the Alter Rebbe (based on Rashi elsewhere7) defines halachot as "clearly adjudicated laws of practical application."

וצריך להבין למה נקראו ההלכות בשם תגא וכתרה של תורה

Now it needs to be understood why the halachot are referred to as a "crown" or "the crown of the Torah."

וגם למה השונה הלכות דוקא מובטח לו כו' ולא שאר ד"ת

Furthermore, why is it that he who studies specifically halachot is assured [of a share in the World to Come], and not other Torah subjects, such as Scriptures, Midrash and the like?

וכן להבין מארז"ל בפי"א דמנחות אפי' לא שנה אדם אלא פרק אחד שחרית כו' יצא י"ח

One also needs to understand the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory, in ch. 11 of Menachot,8 that "even if one studied only a single chapter in the morning [and a single chapter in the evening], he has fulfilled his obligation to study Torah."

The Gemara states there that the individual has fulfilled the commandment that9 "this book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth." According to a second opinion cited later in the Gemara, that this verse does not constitute an obligation, it is to be understood that according to this opinion it is still obligatory to study Torah at all times; however, if one is unable to do so, he can fulfill his obligation by studying a chapter in the morning and a chapter in the evening.

ולמה אינו יוצא י"ח בשאר ד"ת

Why is one's duty not fulfilled by other Torah subjects?

The expression "one chapter" indicates that the study is of Mishnah, the Oral Torah. Why can one not fulfill his obligation with the study of Scripture, Midrash and the like?

* * *

אך מודעת זאת מ"ש האריז"ל שכל אדם מישראל צריך לבא בגלגולים רבים עד שיקיים כל תרי"ג מצות התורה במחשבה דיבור ומעשה

However, it is well known that R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory, stated10 that [the soul of] every11Jew needs to be reincarnated many times, until he will fulfill all 613 commandments of the Torah in thought, speech and action, i.e., using all three soul-garments with which one performs the commandments.

להשלים לבושי נפשו ולתקנם שלא יהא לבושא דחסרא כו'

This is in order to complete the garments of his soul and to correct them, so that no garment will be incomplete.

As explained in Tanya, ch. 4, the divine soul has three garments - the thought, speech and action of the 613 commandments of the Torah. If the performance of one of these commandments is lacking, the soul's garments are incomplete. It is thus necessary for each soul to perform all of the commandments.

לבד מצות התלויות במלך שהוא מוציא כל ישראל כי הוא כללות כולם כו'

Excepted12 are the commandments incumbent upon a king,13 because he discharges the obligation of all of Israel, as he is a corporate collective of them all.14

All Jews are incorporated within the king. When he performs those commandments that depend upon him, it is therefore considered as if all the Jewish people had performed them. As to the other commandments, however, if in one incarnation an individual did not perform them all, he must be reincarnated so that he will be able to do so.

Why must one have the garments of all 613 commandments?

והטעם הוא כדי להלביש כל תרי"ג בחי' וכחות שבנפשו

The reason is, in order to garb all the 613 aspects and powers of one's soul,

These 613 "organs" of the soul (see Tanya, ch. 4) must all be clothed in the garments of the mitzvot.

אחת מהנה לא נעדרה כו'

so that not one of them - of these 613 aspects and powers of the soul - will be lacking.

וביאור ענין הכרח וצורך לבושים אלו מבואר בזהר ומובן לכל משכיל

An explanation for the indispensability of these garments is given in the Zohar,15 and is understandable by every thinking person.

כי להיות שנפש רוח ונשמה שבאדם הן בחי' נבראים וא"א לשום נברא להשיג שום השגה בבורא ויוצר הכל א"ס ב"ה

For the Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshamah in man, are created entities, and hence inherently limited, and it is impossible for any created being to attain any apprehension of the blessed Creator and Former of all, Who is infinite.

This, of course, is true with respect to Divinity as it totally transcends all worlds.

וגם אחרי אשר האיר ה' מאורו ית' והאציל בבחי' השתלשלות מדרגות רבות מדרגה אחר מדרגה

Moreover, even after G‑d has radiated [a glimmer] of His blessed light, and has caused an emanation in the form of an evolution of numerous [descending] degrees, level beyond level,

בבחי' צמצומים עצומים ולבושים רבים ועצומים

by way of intense contractions and numerous, immense garments that obscure G‑dliness -

הידועים לי"ח

these are familiar to those adept in the Esoteric Wisdom,16

ונקראים באד"ר בשם שערות

and in the Idra Rabba17 these [contracted degrees of divine illumination] are referred to as "hairs".

Because the life-force present in hair is so tenuous that it does not even convey sensation, the subtle glimmers of Divine energy that filter through the above-described contractions are referred to metaphorically as "hairs".

וכדכתיב בדניאל ושער רישיה כעמר נקא כו'

And as is written in Daniel,18 "And the hair of His head is like white wool..." from which we see that certain degrees of spiritual down flow are referred to by the term "hair" –

אעפ"כ לא יכלה הנפש או הרוח ונשמה למסבל האור

nevertheless, even after the screening effected by these mighty contractions, neither the Nefesh nor the Ruach and Neshamah can endure the light.

כי טוב ומתוק האור וכו'

For the light is good and sweet... – so intensely so, in fact, that no created being can receive it without expiring, as will soon be explained.

כמ"ש לחזות בנועם ה' לשון נעימות ועריבות ומתיקות ותענוג עצום לאין קץ

As it is written,19 "to behold the pleasantness (no'am) of G‑d." [The term no'am] denotes pleasantness, agreeableness, and sweetness, and an infinitely intense delight,

כמ"ש אז תתענג על ה'

as it is written,20 "Then you will delight yourself in G‑d,"

והשביע בצחצחות כו'

and21 "He will sate your soul with a pleasurable thirst (tzachtzachot)...."22

לשון צחה צמא

[The word tzachtzachot] is related to23 tzichei tzama "parched with thirst"; it denotes a thirst that cannot be slaked, for the pleasure involved is endless,

כמ"ש בזהר

as stated in the Zohar.24

ואין בכחה לקבל הנעימות ועריבות הצחצחות שלא תצא מנרתקה ותתבטל ממציאותה כנר באבוקה

It is not in [the soul's] power to absorb the pleasantness and agreeableness of the [above] pleasurable thirst without leaving its husk, i.e., its limitation, and becoming wholly nullified, just like a candle-flame [becomes entirely nullified] in a torch.

Just as the light of a candle loses its identity as an independent luminary once it is confronted by the intense diffusion of a fiery torch, so, too, the soul would cease to exist as an independent entity if it were to absorb the radiation emanating from the intense light and sweetness of G‑dliness,

אם לא שמבחי' אור זה עצמו תשתלשל ותמשך ממנו איזו הארה מועטת בדרך השתלשלות מדריגה אחר מדרגה בצמצומים רבים

were it not that from this very light there will evolve and issue forth some minute radiation, by way of an evolution of level after level, with multitudinous contractions,

עד שיברא ממנה לבוש אחד נברא מעין מהות אור זה להלביש הנפש רוח ונשמה

until a single garment is created of [this contracted light],a creation akin to the nature of this light, with which to garb the Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshamah.

ודרך לבוש זה שהוא מעין אור זה תוכל ליהנות מזיו אור זה ולהשיגו ולא תתבטל ממציאותה

By way of this garment, which is akin to this light, [the soul]can derive enjoyment from the ray of this light, and apprehend it, without becoming wholly nullified out of existence.

Since this garment derives from this light, it not only withstands its intensity itself, but also enables the soul to receive the light. Being a created entity, this garment can be "worn" by the soul. And what is this garment? - It is the garment of mitzvot.

וכמשל הרואה בשמש דרך עששית זכה ומאירה וכו'

This is analogous to someone looking at the sun through a fine and lucid speculum.

וכמ"ש ויבא משה בתוך הענן ויעל כו'

Thus it is written,25 "And Moses entered the midst of the cloud, and he ascended [the mountain]";

שנתלבש בענן ועלה וראה דרך הענן וכו'

that is, he vested himself in the cloud and ascended, and saw by way of the cloud.... i.e., the cloud served as a garment by means of which Moses was able to receive the revelations on Sinai.

כמ"ש בזח"ב דר"י ורכ"ט

Thus it is explained in the Zohar, Volume II, pp. 210 and 229.

והנה אור זה הגנוז לצדיקים לע"ל הנק' בשם נועם ה' וצחצחות להתענג על ה'

Now this light, hidden away for the righteous for the Time to Come, is termed (as above) the "pleasantness of G‑d," and the "pleasurable thirst" of "delighting in G‑d,

וד' מאות עלמין דכסופין דמתענגי בהון צדיקייא כו' כמ"ש ארבע מאות שקל כסף כו'

" and also26 "the 400 Worlds of Longing in which the tzaddikim delight..." as it is written,27 "400 shekalim of silver (kesef)..."

The Aramaic phrase translated "Worlds of Longing" is almin dekisufin. The root of the second word (kesef) means not only "silver" but also "longing" (as in the phrase28 nichsof nichsafta). Hence the Kabbalah relates the above reference to "400 shekalim of kesef" to the 400 Worlds of Longing whose spiritual delights are reserved for tzaddikim.

הנה יש בו מעלות ומדרגות רבות מאד גבוה מעל גבוה

This [light] comprises very many rungs and levels, one superior to the other.

אך הארה מועטת היורדת מדרגה אחר מדרגה לברוא לבוש זה היא מבחי' מדרגה האחרונה שבאור זה

But the minute radiation, which descends level after level to create this garment that garbs the soul, belongs to the lowest level of this light.

ונקראת בשם מדרגה החיצונה ואחוריים דרך משל

Metaphorically speaking, it is referred to as the external level, or achorayim,

כמ"ש בזהר דר"ח ע"ב (עיין בס' מק"מ) ור"י ע"ב ומה דאשתאר כו'

as stated in the Zohar, p. 208b (29 cf. the commentary entitled Mikdash Melech30) and 210b: "And that which is left...," meaning that the light which is the source of the garment is of the most external or hindmost level.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain that the external level of this radiance, from which these garments derive, is called the Supernal Will. Will, as is soon to be explained, is the external aspect (i.e., a consequence) of pleasure, or delight.

והנה כמו שבנשמת האדם יש בה כח התענוג שמתענגת ממה שיש לה ענג ממנו כמו מהשכלת שכל חדש וכה"ג

Now, in the soul of man there is a faculty for pleasure: [the soul] takes pleasure in what it finds pleasurable,31as in the conception of a new insight, or the like.

ובחי' חיצוניות ואחוריים של כח ובחי' התענוג שבה היא בחי' כח הרצון שבה שהוא רוצה מה שהוא רוצה דהיינו דבר שאינו צער שהצער היפך התענוג

The external and hindmost aspect of [the soul's] power and state of delight is its faculty of will, willing that which it wills, i.e.,32 something that is not painful, for pain is the opposite of delight.

A person desires something because it gives him pleasure. Thus, pleasure is the "inner" (or motivating) aspect of desire, which is considered "external" (i.e., consequent) to it.

וככה עד"מ באור א"ס ב"ה ג"כ כביכול

Metaphorically speaking, it is the same with the [infinite] EinSof-light, as it were:

הרצון העליון ב"ה היא בחי' חיצוניות ואחוריים לבחי' ענג העליון ונועם ה' וצחצחות ועלמין דכסופין הנ"ל

The Supernal Will is the external and hindmost aspect [i.e.,the resultant chitzoniyut and achorayim] of the above-mentioned Supernal Delight, the "pleasantness of G‑d," the "pleasurable thirst," and the "Worlds of Longing."

Thus, when we state that the garment for the soul derives from the achorayim and chitzoniyut of the Supernal Delight, this means that it derives from the Supernal Will.

הגם שהם מיוחדים בתכלית היחוד שהוא ית' ורצונו אחד

Though these - [the Supernal Delight and the Supernal Will] -are fused in absolute unity, for [G‑d] and His Will are one,

ולא כרצון האדם ח"ו לא מיניה ולא מקצתיה

and not (heaven forfend) like the will of man, neither wholly nor partially,

ואין דמיון ביניהם כלל

there being no similarity whatever between them,

Man's will is not wholly one with the person himself; it is one of the soul-faculties that he possesses. By contrast, G‑d and His Will are one. How, then, can we differentiate Above between Pleasure and Will,saying that G‑d's Pleasure is internal and His Will is external?

אעפ"כ דברה תורה כלשון בנ"א לשכך האזן מה שיכולה לשמוע במשל ומליצה מנשמת האדם הכלולה מכח התענוג והרצון והחכמה והבינה וכו'

nevertheless,33 "the Torah speaks in human idiom" in order34 "to modulate for the ear what it is able to hear," with allegory and metaphor relating to the soul of man, which compounds the faculty of delight, will, wisdom, understanding, and so on.

just as in man pleasure is described as "internal" and will as "external", so too do we describe the corresponding attributes Above.

וכנראה בחוש שכשאדם משכיל איזה שכל חדש נפלא אזי באותה רגע עכ"פ נולד לו תענוג נפלא בשכלו

This is empirically evident, for when a person conceives some wonderful new insight, then at that moment, at least, a wondrous delight is born35 in his mind.

מכלל שהתענוג הוא למעלה מעלה מבחי' השכל והחכמה רק שמלובש בבחי' שכל וחכמה

Thus it follows that the capacity for pleasure surpasses by far the faculty of intellect and wisdom; it merely is vested in the faculty of intellect and wisdom.

וכשהאדם מרגיש השכל וחכמה דהיינו שמשיגה ומבינה היטב אזי מרגיש ג"כ בחי' התענוג המלובש בחכמה

Thus when a man feels [a subject of] intellect and wisdom, that is, he apprehends and understands it well, he then also senses the faculty of pleasure which is vested in the [subject of] wisdom.

ולכן נקראת בחי' בינה בשם עוה"ב בזוה"ק

That is why in the sacred Zohar,36 the faculty of Binah is referred to as "the World to Come."

שהיא בחי' התגלות החכמה עם התענוג המלובש בה שמשיגים הצדיקים בג"ע ומשכילים בפנימיות התורה

For it is the state of manifestation of Chochmah, together with the delight vested in it, which the righteous in the Garden of Eden apprehend, and conceive [new insights] in the pnimiyut[i.e., the innermost, mystical dimension] of the Torah.

דאורייתא מחכמה נפקא ואורייתא וקב"ה כולא חד:

For37 the Torah derives from Chochmah, and38 the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are entirely one.39

Thus, through gaining a perception of pnimiyut in the manner in which the soul apprehends it in the Garden of Eden, where it apprehends the essence of G‑dliness - and "this delight itself (as the Rebbe adds) is utterly inward, as explained above"- the soul gains an apprehension of G‑d's infinite light. And in order for it to be able to absorb this degree of illumination, it must be equipped with the protective and receptive garments of the mitzvot, as previously explained.

* * *

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 Kabbalists40 as Keter Elyon ["the Supreme Crown"]. In it there are 620 pillars of light,41 620 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 house42 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]",43 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 that44 "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 commandments45 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.46 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 up47 "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

48(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,49 "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.

וז"ש בזוה"ק פ' פקודי (דרכ"ט ע"ב) דאינון עובדין טבין דעביד בר נש משכי מנהורא דזיווא עילאה לבושא כו' וחמי כו' בנועם ה' וכו'

This is the meaning of the statement in the sacred Zohar, Parshat Pekudei (p. 229b), that "the good deeds (i.e., the mitzvot) which man does, elicit a garment from the light of the Supernal Splendor... (i.e., from the level of Keter), and they behold ...the 'pleasantness of G‑d...,"' and also, as the Zohar concludes, they experience the "pleasurable thirst" (i.e., the pnimiyut of Keter).

והגם דהתם מיירי בג"ע התחתון שהלבושים שם הם ממצות מעשיות ממש

Though there [the Zohar] speaks of the Lower Garden of Eden, where the garments derive from the truly practical commandments, so that they result not from the Supernal Will, as above, but from the merit of physical action,

אבל בג"ע העליון הלבושים הם מרעותא וכוונה דלבא באורייתא וצלותא כמ"ש בזהר שם (דר"י)

while in the Upper Garden of Eden the garments derive from the love and devotion of the heart with respect to Torah and prayer, as stated in the Zohar ad loc. (p. 210).

The Zohar states that once the soul possesses, while in the Lower Garden of Eden, the garments of the mitzvot that derive from physical actions, it then rises to the upper Garden of Eden.

הרי הכוונה היא כוונת עסקו בתורה לשמה מאהבת ה'

However, this devotion [from whence these garments derive] refers to the devotion of one's occupation with Torah for its own sake, out of one's love for G‑d.

ומצות ת"ת היא ג"כ מכלל מצות מעשיות

The commandment to study Torah also belongs to the class of practical commandments,

דעקימת שפתיו הוי מעשה והרהור לאו כדבור דמי ואינו יוצא י"ח בהרהור לבדו

for50 "the movement of one's lips [in speech] is regarded as an act," and51 "meditation does not count as speech"; thus one does not discharge his duty by meditation alone.52

וכן בתפלה

The same applies to prayer53; here, too, one must actually articulate the words.

Since both Torah study and prayer require action, even the garments that are created by devout Torah and prayer are considered to be derived from the tangible and active aspect of mitzvot; they, too, are garments that derive from the light of Keter].

ומה גם כי מעלת הכוונה על הדבור ומעשה אינה מצד עצמה כו'

And certainly so, considering that the superiority of devotion (kavanah) over speech and action in as much as devotion can create garments for the soul in the Upper Garden of Eden] is not due to its own merits..., as in the loving service of G‑d,

אלא מצד הארת רצון העליון כו'

but because of the radiation from the Supernal Will...,

When a mitzvah is performed, the radiation of the Supernal Willis more manifest in its more spiritual aspect - in its devout and loving intent - than in its tangible and physical aspect.

כמ"ש בלק"א ח"א פל"ח באריכות ע"ש

as explained at length in Likkutei Amarim, Part I, ch. 38; see there.

The Alter Rebbe explains there that the illumination from the Supernal Will that shines within the devotion that accompanies an action, is likened to a "soul", relative to the illumination that shines in the action itself, which is likened to a "body" or garment for the soul.

The difference is thus only in the degree of contraction or emanation of this radiation. From the above it is clear that even the garments for the soul that are created from the devotion and feeling that accompany Torah and prayer, also result only from the radiation of the Supernal Will, which is the Supernal Keter.

* * *

The Alter Rebbe now focuses on the distinctive quality inherent in the halachot of the Oral Torah. It is these halachot that reveal the Supernal Will, by defining what it actually requires of us in the performance of the mitzvot, in order thereby to draw down this lofty level of Divinity.

והנה מודעת זאת כי הנה רצון העליון ב"ה המלובש בתרי"ג מצות שבתורה שבכתב הוא מופלא ומכוסה טמיר ונעלם ואינו מתגלה אלא בתורה שבע"פ

Now, as is known, the Supernal Will as vested in the 613 commandments of the Written Torah, is hidden and covered, secreted and concealed. It is manifest only in the Oral Torah.54

כמו מצות תפילין עד"מ שנאמר בתושב"כ וקשרתם לאות על ידך והיו לטוטפות בין עיניך

For example, the precept of tefillin: In the Written Torah it is stated,55 "And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes."

והוא מאמר סתום ונעלם שלא פירש הכתוב איך ומה לקשור ומהו טוטפות והיכן הוא בין עיניך ועל ידך

This is an indistinct and obscure statement, for Scripture did not explain how and what to bind, nor what frontlets are, nor where is "between your eyes" or "on your hand,"

עד שפירשה תורה שבע"פ שצריך לקשור בית אחד על היד וד' בתים על הראש ובתוכם ד' פרשיות

until the Oral Torah explicates56 that one needs to bind a single box on the hand, and four boxes on the head, containing four Scriptural passages.

והבתים יהיו מעור מעובד ומרובעים דוקא ומקושרים ברצועות של עור שחורות דוקא

Moreover, the boxes are to be made of prepared leather, and necessarily square, and to be tied by means of leather straps which need to be black,57

וכל שאר פרטי הלכות עשיית התפילין שנאמרו בע"פ

with all the other detailed rulings governing the making of tefillin, that were stated orally, i.e., that are found in the Oral Torah.

ועל ידך היא הזרוע דוקא ולא כף היד ובין עיניך זה קדקוד ולא המצח

Also, "on your hand" refers only to the arm, and not to the palm of the hand;58 and "between your eyes" refers to the scalp, and not to the forehead.59

It is thus only the detailed halachot of the Oral Torah that enable us to perform this mitzvah in keeping with the Supernal Will.

וכן כל מצות שבתורה בין מ"ע בין מצות ל"ת אינן גלויות וידועות ומפורשות אלא ע"י תורה שבע"פ

Likewise all the commandments of the Torah, whether they be positive precepts or prohibitory precepts, are not revealed and known and made explicit except through the Oral Torah.

כמצות ל"ת שנאמר בשבת לא תעשה מלאכה ולא פי' מה היא מלאכה

For instance, the prohibitory precept that has been stated with respect to the Sabbath, "You shall do no work":60[the Written Torah] does not specify what constitutes work.

ובתורה שבע"פ נתפרש שהן ל"ט מלאכות הידועות ולא טלטול אבנים וקורות כבידות

In the Oral Torah, however, it is explicated61 to refer to the well-known 39 forms of work, and not (only) to the carrying of stones or heavy beams, which is only Rabbinically prohibited.62

Though carrying rocks and beams is more tiring than some of the39 prohibited forms of work, it does not fall into any of the categories of work that the Torah prohibits on Shabbat.

According to the alternative reading of our text ("and not only to the carrying of stones or heavy beams"), this work is prohibited by the Torah. Thus the Ramban on Parshat Emor63 states that the term Shabbaton ("a day of rest") that is used with regard to Yom Tov- and the same applies with regard to the commandment tishbot ("you shall rest") of Shabbat - refers also to those activities that do not formally fall within the 39 defined categories of prohibited work, but are nevertheless prohibited by the Torah since they rob a person of his rest and tranquillity.

In the first of his comments on this subject, the Maggid Mishneh argues that the Rambam64 also holds that "you shall rest "forbids even strenuous work that does not fall within any of the39 categories governed by the prohibition, "Do not do any work." (Though the Lechem Mishneh refutes this argument, this remains the view of the Maggid Mishneh.)

Others hold65 that both readings are valid. Each corresponds to one side of a debate in the Yerushalmi66 as to whether or not the Torah prohibits certain forms of work during the Sabbatical year (and by extension, during Shabbat as well) because it is a time of rest, even when there is no additional specific prohibition.

וכיוצא בהן הן כל המצות בין מ"ע בין מל"ת הן סתומות ולא מפורשות וגלויות וידועות אלא ע"י תורה שבע"פ

And as it is with these - [with the above examples of tefillin and Shabbat] - so it is with all the commandments, whether they be positive precepts or prohibitory precepts: they are indistinct, and are explicated and revealed and known only through the Oral Torah.

ומשום הכי כתיב על תושבע"פ אל תטוש תורת אמך כמ"ש בזהר

This is why Scripture says67 of the Oral Torah, "And you shall not cast off the teaching of your mother," as stated in theZohar.68

משום שעד"מ כמו שכל אברי הולד כלולים בטיפת האב בהעלם גדול והאם מוציאתו לידי גילוי בלידתה ולד שלם ברמ"ח אברים ושס"ה גידים

Metaphorically speaking, just as all the organs of a child are comprised, very latently, in the sperm of the father, and the mother brings this out into a state of manifestation when giving birth to a child complete with 248 organs and 365 sinews,

This is an instance of the69 "superior measure of Binah that was granted to woman," the power to make latent gifts manifest and corporeal].

ככה ממש כל רמ"ח מ"ע ושס"ה מל"ת באים מההעלם אל הגילוי בתושבע"פ

exactly so, do the 248 positive precepts and the 365 prohibitory precepts emerge from obscurity to manifestation through the Oral Torah, which is therefore called the "teachings of your mother."

ורישי' דקרא שמע בני מוסר אביך קאי אתורה שבכתב דנפקא מחכמה עילאה הנק' בשם אב

Whereas the beginning of the verse, "Heed, my son, the admonitions of your father," alludes to the Written Torah, which derives from the Supernal Chochmah which is called "father".

וז"ש אשת חיל עטרת בעלה כי התורה שבע"פ הנק' אשת חיל המולידה ומעמדת חיילות הרבה

This, then, is the meaning of the verse [quoted at the outsetof the present Epistle], "A woman of valor is the crown of her husband." For the Oral Torah is termed a "woman of valor" who gives birth to, and raises many legions.

כמ"ש ועלמות אין מספר אל תקרי עלמות אלא עולמות אלו הלכות דלית לון חושבנא כמ"ש בתיקונים

As it is written,70 "and alamot ('maidens') without number": Do not read alamot but olamot ('worlds'),"71 [these innumerable worlds] alluding to the halachot that are without number, as stated in the Tikkunim.72

וכולן הן בחי' גילוי רצון העליון ב"ה הנעלם בתושב"כ

All of these [halachot] are manifestations of the Supernal Will which is hidden in the Written Torah.

The Oral Torah is thus called a "woman of valor," for it givesbirth to multitudinous legions of laws.

The Alter Rebbe will now answer one of his opening questions: Why is it that specifically halachot are referred to as the "crown of the Torah"? Also, why is the individual who studies specifically halachot every day assured of a share in the World to Come?

ורצון העליון ב"ה הוא למעלה מעלה ממעלת חכמה עילאה וכמו כתר ועטרה שעל המוחין שבראש

The Supernal Will which belongs to the Sefirah of Keter, lit., "crown" is exceedingly more sublime than the level of the Supernal Chochmah, just as a crown or wreath is higher than the brains in the head.

לכן נקראו ההלכות בשם תגא וכתרה של תורה

This is why the halachot are referred to as a "crown" and the "crown of the Torah," for they reveal the Supernal Will, which is at the level of Keter.

והשונה הלכות מובטח לו שהוא בן עוה"ב

Likewise, "Whoever studies [specifically] halachot is assured ofa share in the World to Come,"

ע"י התלבשות נר"נ שלו ברצון העליון ב"ה

by investing his Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah in the Supernal Will,


as stated above - that the garments for the soul in the World to Come are the mitzvot; these embody the Supernal Will, which is clarified and delineated by the halachot.

Kohelet 9:9.
Cf. Kiddushin 30b.
See Taz, Yoreh Deah 246:2.
Note of the Rebbe: "Sefer HaGilgulim, ch. 4; Shaar HaGilgulim, Hakdamah 11:16. The brevity of the Hakdamah to Shaar HaMitzvot precludes any possible contradiction. See also Shelah, beginning of Torah SheBichtav, p. 264b ff."

Note of the Rebbe: "Note that in the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:4, this subject is cited with a number of differences:

"(a) Here, in Iggeret HaKodesh: 'until he will fulfill'; in the Shulchan Aruch: 'until he fulfills'; preferring actual present performance to future certainty.

The difference may be significant when nonperformance is due to circumstances beyond one's control. See also Shelah, ibid.

"(b) Here, in Iggeret HaKodesh, after 'mitzvot' the Alter Rebbe adds 'of the Torah,' perhaps by way of reinforcing the necessity for reincarnation; in the Shulchan Aruch this is a less relevant consideration.

Moreover, and more importantly, the added phrase distinguishes these mitzvot from the 'seven commandments of the Sages' about to be discussed.

"(c) Here, in Iggeret HaKodesh, the order is 'thought, speech and action'; in the Shulchan Aruch the order is 'action, speech and thought.' The same principle is perhaps common to both: 'Not only this but also the next' (see Tosafot at the beginning of Yevamot).

In the Shulchan Aruch, therefore, where action is all- important, the Alter Rebbe tells us that even if a particular mitzvah was fulfilled in action, yet for the sake of its fulfillment in speech, and so on, the individual still needs to be reincarnated.

Iggeret HaKodesh, however, [embodies the Torah's innermost dimension, viz., Chassidut, and thus] is the soul of Torah. Here, therefore, following the same principle of precedence, the Alter Rebbe tells us that even if a particular mitzvah was performed in thought, nevertheless, for the sake of its performance in speech, and so on, the individual still needs to be reincarnated.

"(d) In the Shulchan Aruch, which is unequivocal law, the Alter Rebbe adds the explanation: 'And speech and thought means the study of their laws; as our Sages taught (Menachot 110) on the verse, 'This is the law of the sin-offering ...,' that 'whoever studies the laws of the sin-offering [is considered to have actually offered the sin-offering].' This may also explain why instead of 'man' (as stated here) the Alter Rebbe there uses the term 'soul.'"

Note of the Rebbe: "An explanation is required as to why in the Shulchan Aruch - which, as mentioned above, should surely have the clearest statement of the law - the Alter Rebbe does not mention this exception concerning the commandments incumbent upon a king."
Note of the Rebbe: "Torah Or, p. 53c, by contrast, expresses this as follows: 'For every Jew must perform all 613 commandments, except for the commandments of the king, for the king discharges all Jews. All the mitzvot must be performed by every individual, and he must be reincarnated or in a state of ibur [lit., "pregnancy", a state wherein the soul of one person attaches itself to the soul of another].' Similarly in Likkutei Torah, Yom HaKippurim, p. 69a: '...and even the mitzvot of the priests or the High Priest, through ibur or reincarnation."'

Note of the Rebbe: "(So, too, in Torah Or, loc cit.:) The Alter Rebbe does not mention the High Priest (Nor does Mishnat Chassidim, Masechet Chiyuv HaNeshamot, beginning of ch. 2.) Likkutei Torah states explicitly that 'every individual is obliged to fulfill ... and even the commandments of priests and the High Priest.' Sefer HaGilgulim, ch. 4, by contrast, groups together 'the commandments ... for the priests ... levites ... kings .. judges and the like.'

"It could perhaps be suggested that the Alter Rebbe's above characterization of a Jewish king as 'a corporate collective of them all' alludes to the state of ibur spoken of in Sefer HaGilgulim, loc. cit. Such an allusion would serve well to explain why the Alter Rebbe chose to explain the function of the king by this phrase ('as he is a corporate collective of them all') rather than by the phrase used by Mishnat Chassidim ('because of his stature')."

II, 210b; ibid. 229.
In the original, Chochma Nisteres "the Kabbalah", commonly abbreviated in Hebrew to the acronym "chein".
Zohar III, 128b ff.
Tehillim 27:4.
Yeshayahu 58:14.
Loc. cit., verse 11.
Note of the Rebbe: "See Torah Or, Megillat Esther, p 98b; Or HaTorah, Parshat Tetzaveh, p. 1606; Pardes, Shaar HaTzachtzachot.".
Yeshayahu 5:13.
II, 210b.
Shmot 24:18.
Cf. Zohar I, 123b.
Bereishit 23:15.
Ibid. 31:30.
Parentheses are in the original text.
To the Zohar, loc. cit.

Note of the Rebbe: "The Alter Rebbe is not informing us of the obvious, as might appear at first glance, but is making a significant statement which must appear here, where he is explaining that will is the external aspect [i.e., the consequence] of pleasure - in order to distinguish this sequence from the alternative sequence discussed in Hemshech 5666, p 65ff., [where will is seen as the source of pleasure]

The conclusion there, on p. 73ff., is as here, [that pleasure is indeed the source of will, and not the contrary].".

Note of the Rebbe: "The addition of this phrase too is explained by the previous footnote."
Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 1:9.
Cf. Rashi on Shmot 19:18, based on Mechilta and Tanchuma ad loc.
Note of the Rebbe: "The feeling of pleasure, by contrast, comes (as is explained below) in the World to Come. And so long as this feeling is lacking, the individual concerned cannot be said to have `received the pleasantness.'"
II, 158a.
Zohar II, 85a.
Op. cit. I, 24a, et al.
Note of the Rebbe: "[The above-described perception enjoyed by the tzaddikim] is similar to the delight that is born and is derived when a concept is first conceived and understood - and this is the above-mentioned `pleasantness of G‑d...'".
Lit., "the scholars of truth.".
Pardes, Shaar 8, ch. 3.
Note of the Rebbe: "The analog to this requires clarification.".
I Melachim 7:16, et al.
Sanhedrin 65a.
Lit., "the commandment."
The phrase "and so on" is a euphemism for "or to evil."
I Shmuel 25:29.
Parentheses are in the original text.
Devarim 13:1.
Sanhedrin 65a.
Berachot 20b.
The Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, Hilchot Talmud Torah 2:12; see also Eruvin 54b.
The Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch 62:3 and 185:3.
In an intricate Kabbalistic analysis (in the Glosses on the Tanya published in Likkutei Levi Yitzchak), R. Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, father of the Rebbe, relates the above four expressions ("hidden and covered, secreted and concealed") to the correspondence between the 613 mitzvot of the Written Torah and the four letters of the Divine Name Havayah. In summary: The Name Havayah is merely written, but not given manifest articulation; it finds expression only through its variant pronunciation of Ad-nai, which, however, contracts it and conceals its Essence. In the Written Torah, the Supreme Will underlying the mitzvot is likewise hidden; it becomes revealed ("pronounced") only insofar as it is contracted in the Oral Torah, which corresponds to the Name Ad-nai.
Devarim 6:8.
See Menachot 34b ff., et al.
Note of the Rebbe: "See Rambam, Hilchot Tefillin 3:14, as well as other codifiers."
Note of the Rebbe: " it means in other places."
Note of the Rebbe: " was [the position of] the headband [of the High Priest]."
Text emended according to Shmot 20:10 and Devarim 16:8
See Shabbat 73a, et al
Rambam, Hilchot Shabbat 24:12
Shmot 23:24
Hilchot Shabbat 21:1
Likkutei Haggahot LeSefer HaTanya on this Epistle, p. 84
Sanhedrin 7:5
Mishlei 1:8
In the Hashmatot to Zohar II, 276b, the phrase "your mother" is related to the Oral Torah, whereas in Kanfei Yonah 1:4 the Written Torah is called the "admonitions of your father" and the Oral Torah is called the "teachings of your mother."
Niddah 45b
Shir HaShirim 6:8
See Shir HaShirim Rabbah 6:12; Avodah Zarah 35b
P. 14b (in the Introduction which begins Patach Eliyahu)
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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