In the beginning, as the Midrash teaches, G‑d “created worlds and destroyed them.” The Kabbalah explains that this refers to spiritual worlds, Supernal Sefirot (“emanations”), that first existed in one state of being and then in another. The Sefirot in the former state of being — called the World of Tohu (lit., “Chaos”) — underwent a “breaking of the vessels.” The World of Tikkun (lit., “Order”) was then built.
The Sefirot comprise orot (“lights”) and kelim (“vessels”) that contain these lights. The crisis in the World of Tohu occurred because the orot were so intense that the kelim were incapable of containing them. As a result of this breakage, sparks of holiness descended within the kelipot. These sparks are to be found in the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah in general, but particularly within the physicality of our world. It is the task of the Jew to sift this materiality by using it properly, in order to extract and refine these sparks, thereby elevating them to their original source in the World of Tohu. This elevation in turn elicits a mighty downflow of Divine energy from Tohu, and from even higher than that level.
(Certain Divine Names, whose respective Kabbalistic meanings are signified by Hebrew letter-combinations, are related to this process of beirurim, the extraction and refinement of the sparks of holiness. Thus the Name known as Ba’n (ב״ן) is the source of the fallen holy sparks; the Name Ma’h (מ״ה) is the power that extracts and elevates them; while the Name Sa’g (ס״ג) is the original source of the World of Tohu. When the extraction and elevation of the sparks deriving from the Name Ba’n is accomplished through the Name Ma’h, a lofty degree of Divine illumination is drawn down from the Name Sa’g, and is vested within the “capacious vessels” of the World of Tikkun.)
This extraction is for the most part accomplished through the performance of action-oriented mitzvot involving physical objects which derive their life-force from kelipat nogah, and which house the sparks of Tohu. Performing a mitzvah with such objects disencumbers the hidden sparks of their corporeal husk and elevates them.
The seeking out of sparks, however, can also be accomplished through the study of Torah, as well as through prayer.
In the present essay the Alter Rebbe will explain the statement of Pri Etz Chayim that nowadays this “extraction” is mainly effected through prayer. For prayer is uniquely able to draw down an infinite degree of G‑dliness; prayer alone can bring about changes within the world, healing the sick and causing rain to fall. In order for such a degree of G‑dliness to be called down, there must first be an arousal initiated from below, an expression of man’s ardent desire to be the recipient of Divine benefactions. And if these benefactions are to flow from an infinitely high source, the plea that requests them must surge from a correspondingly deep source — “with all one’s might,” from the infinite depths of one’s soul.
להבין מה שכתוב בפרי עץ חיים, דבזמן הזה עיקר הבירור על ידי התפלה דוקא
To understand the statement in Pri Etz Chayim, that in the contemporary period the refinement [of the sparks of Tohu] is primarily effected by prayer,
As explained above, the task of sifting the materiality of this world and salvaging its hidden holy sparks is the ongoing mission of Jews living as souls within bodies in this physical world.
This is accomplished either (a) through the performance of the action-oriented mitzvot which entail the use of physical objects whose life-force derives from kelipat nogah; (b) through the audibly-articulated study of Torah subjects that deal with physical matters; (c) through prayer, a form of spiritual service through which the Divine soul influences and refines the animal soul (whose life-force derives from kelipat nogah) to the point that it can attain a love of G‑d.
As stated above, Pri Etz Chayim teaches that in these latter generations the extraction and elevation of sparks is effected primarily through prayer.
אף שתלמוד תורה למעלה מהתפלה
even though Torah study is superior to prayer:
Torah study is “equivalent to them all,” to all the mitzvot, and higher even than “concentration in prayer.” Why, then, is the extraction of the sparks of Tohu mainly accomplished in the present era through prayer?
הענין הוא, שעל ידי תורה ומצות מוסיפין אור באצילות כו׳
The explanation is, that through Torah and mitzvot additional light is drawn forth into Atzilut...
Divine light is drawn forth into the various worlds either in accordance with (a) Sod Shoresh (lit., “the principle of the root”), the degree of revelation originally apportioned, or in accordance with (b) Sod Tosefet (lit., “the principle of addition”), depending on the spiritual service of mortals. This additional measure of revelation is much greater than the base allocation.
Through Torah and mitzvot, as stated above, one draws down an additional measure of Divine illumination into the World of Atzilut.
פירוש: אור אין סוף ברוך הוא בכלים דאצילות, על ידי תלמוד תורה, בפנימית, דהיינו המשכות המוחין
This means that through Torah study the [infinite] Ein Sof-light [is drawn] into the inner aspect of the vessels of [the Sefirot of] Atzilut. This is a drawing down of the Divine Intellect.
Since Torah study involves mortal intellect, its heavenly echo calls forth a corresponding revelation of the Divine Intellect, which is the inward aspect of the Sefirot.
ובקיום המצות, בחיצונית הכלים, שהם בחינת נצח הוד יסוד שבי׳ ספירות ז״א שבאצילות
Through mitzvah observance [the light is drawn] into the external aspect of the vessels, meaning Netzach-Hod-Yesod of the Ten Sefirot of Za (the six emotive attributes) of Atzilut.
Za is a configuration (partzuf, lit., “countenance”) which comprises a full complement of Ten Sefirot. Into Netzach-Hod-Yesod, the lower Sefirot which are “outside of the torso” of Za and thus comprise its external aspect, the [infinite] Ein Sof-light is drawn down, by means of those mitzvot that are performed with man’s power of action. For this power is external to man’s essence, just as Netzach-Hod-Yesod are external to Za.
The infinite lights from Divine Intellect that are drawn down by Torah and mitzvot are thus invested primarily in Atzilut.
רק שמתלבשים בבריאה יצירה עשיה, בתורה ומצות הגשמיים שבעולם הזה
They [later] only clothe themselves with diminished intensity in Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, in the physical Torah and mitzvot in This World.
The Divine Intellect that is drawn down into Atzilut is ultimately vested within the Torah of this world, while the Divine light which is drawn into the externality of the vessels of Za of Atzilut is vested within the mitzvot of this world. The effect is thus strictly within the material aspect of the Torah and mitzvot of this world, but not within the materiality of the world itself.
אבל התפלה היא המשכת אור אין סוף ברוך הוא בבריאה יצירה עשיה דוקא, לא בדרך התלבשות בלבד
Prayer, however, calls forth the [infinite] Ein Sof-light into Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah directly, and not by means of mere enclothement, as is the case with the study of Torah, where the Divine light is garbed in an entity which in turn is drawn down into this world.
רק האור ממש, לשנות הנבראים מכמות שהם
Rather, it is the actual light which modifies the state of created beings,
שיתרפא החולה, וירד הגשם משמים לארץ ויולידה ויצמיחה
so that (for example) the ill will be cured through the petition of “Heal us” in the Shemoneh Esreh, and the rain from heaven will fall to the earth so that it becomes fertile and yields vegetation, in response to the prayer of the “Blessing of the Years.”
These are changes effected within the actual physical world.
מה שאין כן בתורה ומצות, שאין שינוי בקלף התפילין על ידי הנחתן בראש ובזרוע
This is not the case with Torah and mitzvot: no modification in the parchment [on which are inscribed the Biblical passages] of the tefillin results from their being placed upon head and arm, notwithstanding the drawing down of Divine light and the subordination of mind and heart to the Divine Will.
וגם במצות שעשייתן הוא גמר מצותן
Even in the case of those mitzvot that are fulfilled through making [the object],
Examples would be the writing of a Torah scroll or making a sukkah (according to the opinions that the actual construction of a sukkah is a mitzvah). Unlike tefillin, where the mitzvah is performed by wearing them and not by making them, these mitzvot are performed by modifying the relevant object. Nevertheless:
השינוי הוא על ידי אדם, ולא בידי שמים כבתפלה
the change within the object is effected by man, and not by Heaven, as is the case with prayer,
When an individual succeeds in bringing about a change in this world through prayer, e.g., the sick person becomes well, this change is ultimately brought about from above, not by the individual’s prayer,
שהיא המשכת החיות מאין סוף ברוך הוא, שהוא לבדו כל יכול
for this calls forth the vivifying power from the Infinite One, blessed be He, Who alone is all-capable.
It is only G‑d who can effect a change such as this in our world, bringing about the cure or the productive rain.
והלכך, כדי להמשיך אור אין סוף ברוך הוא למטה, אי אפשר בלי העלאת מין נוקבין מלמטה דוקא
Therefore, calling forth the [infinite] Ein Sof-light into the lower world is impossible without the [prior] “elevation of mayin nukvin” specifically from below, whereby the mortal recipient initiates an anticipatory “arousal from below” through his spiritual service during prayer.
As the Alter Rebbe will soon explain, since this entails an infinite degree of service on the part of man it is able to draw down an infinite response from above, reciprocating each individual’s particular “arousal from below.”
מה שאין כן לתלמוד תורה, שבאצילות, המיוחדת בלאו הכי במאציל ברוך הוא
This is not the case with the study of Torah, which [affects] Atzilut, for [the Torah] is united in any case with the Emanator.
Since Torah study thus does not need to be drawn down below, there is no need for an “arousal from below.”
As the Rebbe notes, “The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain how this may be considered mayin nukvin, and what is its connection to the infinite light.”
והעלאת מין נוקבין במוחו ולבו של אדם, היא בחינת רשפי אש בלי גבול
The “elevation of mayin nukvin” in the mind and heart of man is [the love of G‑d] in a state of boundless flames of fire, and being boundless it relates to the infinite light;
it is described as meodecha — loving G‑d “with all your might,” with each individual’s capacity for infinitude,
Though man is inherently limited, and though, moreover, all of one man’s might may be considered less than ultimate in another man, nevertheless, even this limited degree of “limitlessness” suffices:
כדי לעורר בחינת אין סוף
to arouse the [Divine] state of infinity.
For the “arousal from below” need but resemble the response from above that it seeks to elicit. If an “arousal from below” may truly be considered “infinite” relative to the particular individual’s capacities, it suffices to draw down the infinite light from above.
והיינו על ידי גבורות דס״ג, שהן הן הרפ״ח ניצוצין כו׳
This is effected through the Gevurot (the attributes of severity) of [the Divine Name] Sa’g, which constitute the 288 sparks....
The love and longing (ratzo) which a man experiences during prayer to the extent of meodecha (“with all your might”) are aroused by the Gevurot of Sa’g, the Divine Name that is the source of the 288 sparks of Tohu. These sparks derive from the vessels of Tohu, whose Sefirot were originally in a state of infinite longing to become wholly one with G‑d. This longing parallels the soul’s love and longing for G‑d to the point of meodecha.
ולכן נקראת התפלה חיי שעה, היא מלכות היורדת בבריאה יצירה עשיה
For this reason worship is called “life of the moment,” for it is Malchut descending into Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.
As Rashi explains on the straightforward level of pshat, the Talmud calls prayer “life of the moment” (lit., “life of the hour”) because people pray for health, peace and a livelihood — temporal things that are subject to the limitations of the passing moment.
Here the Alter Rebbe speaks of how these matters exist in their source, in the Supernal Sefirot. In the worlds above, the Sefirah of Malchut is the source of time. For it is the Sefirah of Malchut (“sovereignty”) that reflects the relationship of the Infinite One to time — “He reigns, He reigned, He will reign,” in the present, past and future.
This relationship is particularly evident as Malchut descends to animate the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, for these worlds all exist in the category of time.
And because prayer draws down Divine energy into Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah through their source, the time-related Sefirah of Malchut, prayer is called “life of the moment.”
ותורה חיי עולם, הוא ז״א
Torah [by contrast is called] “eternal life,” which (in terms of the Sefirot) is Za,
כי רמ״ח פקודין הן מתחלקין בי׳ כלים דעשר ספירות דז״א כו׳
for the 248 commandments of the Torah divide into the ten vessels of the Ten Sefirot of Za....
For Za comprises Sefirot within the World of Atzilut, and as stated in Torah Or, at the end of Parshat Terumah, Za marks the conclusion of the infinite worlds, utterly transcending the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.
* * *
והנה במקום אחר כתב שרמ״ח מצות עשה הן בה׳ חסדים
Now, in one source it is written that the 248 positive commandments are [rooted] in the Five Attributes of Kindness of Za of Atzilut, for every positive command serves as a vessel to receive an expression of the kindly attributes and a calling forth of Divinity,
ושס״ה לא תעשה בה׳ גבורות וכו׳
and the 365 prohibitions are [rooted] in the Five Attributes of Severity of Za of Atzilut.
The Gevurot (the attributes of severity) reflect a Divine thrust to self-contraction and limitation. The prohibitory commands thus derive from them, since the intent of these commands is to withhold the efflux of holiness from kelipot.
ובמקום אחר כתב שהן תרי״ג ארחין נמשכין מחד ארחא כו׳
Elsewhere it is written that there are 613 paths (i.e., the 613 mitzvot) that derive from one path...,
שהוא לבנונית וכו׳
which is the Lavnunit..., the benevolent pristine “whiteness” of the Supernal Keter.
This level includes no element of severity at all. As the Zohar states there, “There is no ‘left’ in Atik” — i.e., there is no element of Gevurah in the internal level of Keter; there is only Chesed.
We thus seem to have a compound contradiction: We have just stated here that the 248 positive commandments stem from the vessels of the Ten Sefirot of Za; the Zohar states that the 248 positive commandments stem from the Five Chasadim (attributes of kindness) of Za while the 365 prohibitory commandments stem from the Five Gevurot (attributes of severity) of Za; and the Zohar states elsewhere that the commandments derive from the Lavnunit of the Supernal Keter, where attributes of severity do not exist at all.
אך הענין, שכל המצות לתקן רמ״ח אברי ז״א, על ידי המשכת אור אין סוף ברוך הוא במוחין, הכלולין בה׳ חסדים וה׳ גבורות
The explanation is: All the mitzvot are designed to rectify the 248 organs of Za, by drawing the [infinite] Ein Sof-light into the [Divine] Intellect as incorporated within the Five Attributes of Kindness and Five Attributes of Severity. (In mortal man, too, by way of analogy, one’s intellectual decisions are commonly swayed by a natural leaning to kindness or severity.)
Since the purpose of mitzvot is to “repair” the 248 organs of Za, it is true to say that mitzvot are rooted in the vessels of the Sefirot that constitute Za. Since the repair is accomplished through drawing the infinite light into the Divine Intellect that is housed in the Five Attributes of Kindness and the Five Attributes of Severity, it is also sometimes said that the mitzvot themselves are rooted in the Five Attributes of Kindness and the Five Attributes of Severity.
ומקור המוחין הוא לבנונית כו׳
The source of the [Divine] Intellect is the Lavnunit [of Keter],
הוא הענג וחפץ העליון להמשיך אור למטה, לרמ״ח אברין דז״א
which is the supreme delight and desire to draw the light below into the 248 organs of Za, for relative to Keter, Za is deemed “below”.
Thus the Zohar also says elsewhere that the commandments are rooted in the level of Supernal Keter called Lavnunit, where there are no attributes of severity whatever, for this is the source of mitzvot as they exist in the supreme delight and desire of Keter.
ומתחלקת ההמשכה לתרי״ג המשכות פרטיות, לפי בחינת ערך המצות
The light drawn forth divides into 613 individual streams according to the respective levels of the mitzvot.
כגון בצדקה וגמילות חסדים, נמשך אור אין סוף ברוך הוא לחיצוניות הכלי דחסד דז״א
For instance, through charity and kindly deeds the [infinite] Ein Sof-light is drawn into the external aspect of the vessel of the Attribute of Kindness of Za,
Since “Chesed is of the right side” of Za, a kindly act of charity in this world below draws down the infinite light into the corresponding “right side” above — into the Attribute of Kindness of Za. Just as this “arousal from below” sprang from kindness, so too the reciprocal “arousal from above” comes as a direct and similar response, drawing down the infinite light into the Chesed of Za.
ובקיום הדינין, בחיצוניות גבורה ברחמים כו׳
while through observing mitzvot that are in the order of severity, [the infinite light is drawn] into the external aspect of Severity [of Za], with mercy....
ודרך ומעבר ההמשכה הוא על ידי פנימיות הכלים ומוחותיהן
The path and passage of the issuing light that is drawn into the external vessels of Za is through the internal aspect of the vessels and their Intellects,
שהן דחילו ורחימו שכליים או טבעיים
which are, in terms of a Jew’s service, awe and love, either intellectually generated or innate. (Whereas the former is an expression of intellect, the latter is an expression of the spiritual emotions.)
שהן בחינת מוחין דקטנות וגדלות
These [attributes] correspond, in terms of the Supernal Sefirot, to the “major” or “minor” [Divine] Intellect.
The “minor [Divine] Intellect” corresponds to man’s innate love and fear of G‑d, while the “major [Divine] Intellect” corresponds to the love and fear of G‑d that are born of meditation.
ולזה ביקש משה רבינו עליו השלום מאד, לקיים המצות מעשיות התלויות בארץ
This is the reason for Moses’ fervent plea to fulfill the active mitzvot that are contingent on the Land, i.e., that can be fulfilled only in the Holy Land.
שהן תכלית ההשתלשלות
For these [practical mitzvot] are the ultimate purpose of the Hishtalshelut, the chainlike stages of progressive self-screening whereby the Divine light descends from level to level until ultimately this corporeal world is created —
להמשיך אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, לברר הכלים דז״א דבריאה יצירה עשיה, דבהן הן הרפ״ח ניצוצין
to call forth the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, in order to refine the vessels of Za of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, in which are located the 288 sparks.
על ידי תורה ומצות מעשיות שבבריאה יצירה עשיה דוקא
[And this purification is effected] exclusively through Torah study and mitzvot requiring action, in Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.
Since this is the purpose of all of creation, and the mitzvot can be fully performed only in the Holy Land, Moses fervently desired to enter it so that he would be able to perform them in the most complete manner possible.
From all the above we understand why the extraction and refinement of sparks is primarily accomplished through prayer, even though the study of Torah is loftier than prayer. For prayer involves the elevation of the sparks of Tohu to their most supreme source there, and from there even higher to the Ein Sof.
As the Alter Rebbe will soon explain, this is so specifically in contemporary times because the loftier souls of earlier generations could accomplish this speedily, merely by reciting the Shema with its introductory blessings and selections from the Verses of Praise. In our days, however, when such lofty souls are not to be found, the task of beirur must come about through prayer.
* * *
והנה לקיום מצוה שאי אפשר לעשות על ידי אחרים, מבטלין תלמוד תורה, ואפילו מעשה מרכבה
To perform a mitzvah that cannot be delegated to another one forgoes Torah study, even [the study of] maaseh merkavah, the sublime Kabbalistic mysteries of the celestial “Chariot”,
וכל שכן תפלה, שהיא בחינת מוחין ודחילו ורחימו שכליים
and beyond question one forgoes prayer, which is the state of intellect and intellectually-generated awe and love.
The reason is as we have noted; i.e., in order to extract and refine the sparks by means of the practical mitzvot, this being the purpose of creation.
ועוד זאת, שבאמת מאד גדלה וגבהה מעלות המצות מעשיות, וכן לימודם, על מעלת המוחין, שהן דחילו ורחימו שכליים
In addition, indeed, the standing of the practical mitzvot and their study, far transcends the standing of intellect, meaning intellectually-generated awe and love.
The mitzvot requiring action are superior — in their performance and in the study of their laws — not only because they fulfill the ultimate purpose of creation through the extraction of the sparks, but also because they bond the soul with G‑d.
כי הגם דכתיב: ולדבקה בו, על ידי מדותיו
For though the verse declares, “and to cleave to Him,” i.e., through [cleaving to] His attributes (middot),
When one acts in a kindly manner, for example, he cleaves to the Supernal Sefirah of Chesed — and the Sefirot are wholly one with G‑d.
מכל מקום, איננו דבק אפילו במדות העליונות אלא במציאותן, ולא במהותן
still, one does not cleave to the essence (mahut) of the Supernal attributes but only to [the externality of] their existence (metziut),
וכמו שכתוב: ואנכי עפר ואפר
as it is written, “I am dust and ashes.”
This was stated by Abraham with regard to the glimmer of his soul that illuminated his body, in comparing it to its source — an irradiation of Supernal Kindness, as explained above at length in Epistle XV, in the name of the Maggid of Mezritch.
Abraham experienced such an intense degree of love (deriving from the attribute of Chesed) toward G‑d, that he was a “chariot”, a vehicle humbly waiting to be steered by the hands of its Driver. Nevertheless, he declared that his measure of love for G‑d was but “dust and ashes” relative to the Supernal attribute of Chesed.
To appreciate the analogy: A tree, originally composed of the four elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth, is burned. Losing its first three elements in smoke, it is reduced to its fourth element, mere ashes. Yet, though these ashes and the tree itself are of the same element, the ashes can hardly be compared to the original tree that wasa “beautiful to behold and good to eat.”
So, too, the attribute of kindness and love that Abraham possessed while his soul was in his body, cannot be compared to the attribute of Kindness which is one of the Supernal Sefirot.
It is thus to be seen that one does not cleave to the essence of the Supernal attributes but only to their external state, their state of mere existence.
וכל שכן באור אין סוף ברוך הוא, דלית מחשבה תפיסא ביה באורו והתפשטות החיות ממנו יתברך
This is all the more true with regard to the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, for no thought can apprehend Him in His radiance or the diffusion of the life-force issuing from Him.
כי אם במציאותו, שהוא שמחיה את כולם, ולא במהותו
One can only grasp His existence, that He gives life to all, but not His essence.
אפילו לעליונים, כמו שכתוב: קדוש קדוש קדוש ה׳ צבאות כו׳
This applies even to the supernal beings, of [whose praise] it is written, “Holy, holy, holy is the L‑rd of Hosts.”
The above phrase is uttered by the Seraphim, angels of the World of Beriah. They perceive that even as G‑d descends to relate to created beings so that He is called the “L‑rd of Hosts,” He is kadosh (“holy”), a term which implies that He is separate from them.
לבד עלולים נאצלים משיגים כי אם בעילתו
Only emanated “effects” can conceive their “cause”,
The spiritual beings of the World of Atzilut are each an “effect” (alul) brought about by a “cause” (ilah) in the levels higher than themselves. These beings vest themselves in each other in turn, and at each level are able to comprehend the antecedent “cause” that is vested within them,
כפי הסדר שבעץ חיים, בהתלבשות הפרצופים
according to the order recounted in Etz Chayim, concerning the investment of the visages (partzufim).
Etz Chayim explains how the “visages” of the Supernal Sefirot of Atzilut vest themselves in each other. Each “effect” is able to comprehend its “cause” — the “visage” that is garbed within it.
אבל לא לנבראים, אפילו לנשמות דאצילות
This is not the case with created beings, even with souls of Atzilut,
Though the souls of Atzilut are Divinity, still, since they have become sundered from the vessels of the Ten Sefirot (as explained above in Epistle XX), they are termed “created beings” and are unable to apprehend the essence of G‑dliness.
כמו שכתוב במשה רבינו עליו השלום: וראית את אחורי כו׳
Thus it is written regarding Moses, “You will see My hinderpart” — an external manifestation of the mere existence (metziut) of Divinity, but not the essence (mahut).
Thus, through the vision of his soul alone, as the soul gazes upon G‑d without the benefit of mitzvot, even Moses could apprehend no more than externality, not essence.
* * *
The performance of mitzvot, however, as the Alter Rebbe will now explain, connects a Jew with the essence of Divinity. When he holds an etrog together with the other three kinds of vegetation and fulfills the mitzvah of the “Four Species” on Sukkot, he is holding on to the essence of Divinity. And so too with regard to all the practical mitzvot.
מה שאין כן מעשה המצות, מעשה אלקים המה הנה
But as to the performance of mitzvot, these are the works of G‑d, unlike other worldly actions, from which Divinity is utterly concealed. The Alter Rebbe now explains how this comes about:
בדרך השתלשלות מכלים דאצילות לבריאה יצירה עשיה, ממהותן ועצמותן דחיצוניותן
In the process of the chain of descent from the vessels of Atzilut to Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, for the vessels of Atzilut that descend into these worlds are the Divinity of these worlds, from the very nature and essence of their external aspect —
כמו, על דרך משל, אתרוג ומיניו
as, for example, within the etrog and its “kinds” —
הלביש בהן הקב״ה ממהותן ועצמותן דחסדים [פנימית] [פנימים] דז״א
the Holy One, blessed be He, clothed something of the very nature and essence of the [internal] attributes of Kindness of Za,
והיינו מבחינת חיצוניותן
meaning from their outward state, from the external aspect of these internal attributes,
כנודע בכל מצות מעשיות
as is known in the case of all mitzvot requiring action.
מה שאין כן האדם
Man, by contrast, who by means of his intellect or spiritual emotions can attain intellectually-generated love and fear,
אפילו יש לו נשמה דאצילות
even if he possesses a soul of Atzilut,
מאחר שמלובשת בגוף
yet since it is clothed in a body,
לא יוכל למצוא בנפשו ולהשיג מהותן ועצמותן של פנימית החסדים דז״א דאצילות
cannot detect and apprehend through his soul the nature and essence of the inward attributes of Kindness of Za of Atzilut.
(כי האצילות היא בחינת חיה בכללות העולמות, אצילות בריאה יצירה עשיה
(For in general terms Atzilut represents the state of Chayah in the Four Worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah,
Specifically, each of the Four Worlds possesses all four soullevels of Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah and Chayah. In a general sense, however, each of these Four Worlds corresponds to one of these levels. Asiyah corresponds to Nefesh; Yetzirah — to Ruach; Beriah — to Neshamah; and Atzilut corresponds to Chayah.
שהיא בחינת מקיף מלמעלה, ואינה מתלבשת בכלי כלל)
and [Chayah] denotes encompassing transcendence, not being vested within any vessel whatever.)
Unlike the soul-level in man called Neshamah, which reflects his power of comprehension, or Ruach, which reflects his spiritual emotions, and so on, each of these soul-levels having their specific “location” within the body, Chayah is a transcendent soul-level that encompasses the individual from above.
So, too, with regard to the worlds, Chayah (paralleled by the World of Atzilut) is the spiritual level that encompasses from above and does not vest itself at all within a vessel. Thus, a person living within a body cannot possibly apprehend the essence of an entity at the level of Atzilut.
כי אם מציאותן, על ידי דחילו ורחימו שכליים
[With regard to the internal attributes of Kindness of Za, man is able to apprehend] only their existence, through intellectually-generated awe and love.
ומה שכתוב: וראית את אחורי, הוא בדרך נבואה דוקא
As to the statement, “You shall see my hinderpart” — and seeing penetrates to the essence of a matter — this refers only to prophecy.
(שהוא התפשטות הגשמיות, כמו שכתוב ברעיא מהימנא, פרשת משפטים)
(For prophecy entails divestment of the physical, as explained in Ra’aya Mehemna, Parshat Mishpatim.)
Thus, Moses’ apprehension of the essence of Divinity resulted from a state of prophecy that entails divestment from the physical. Through other, non-prophetic means, it is impossible for the soul to apprehend the essence of any of the levels of Atzilut.
והטעם, היינו לפי שאי אפשר לנברא להשיג כלום במהות האלקות, שהוא הבורא
This, then, is the reason: No created being is capable of grasping anything whatsoever of the essence of Divinity, the Creator.
ובלי השגה, אין זו הלבשה ותפיסא ודביקות אמיתית
And without comprehension there is no real investiture, or grasping, or cleaving.
Man is thus incapable of truly cleaving to G‑d’s attributes, i.e., the attributes of Atzilut.
In light of the above it is clear that the love and fear of G‑d that a Jew generates through meditation during prayer, grasps and cleaves to no more than the external aspect of the existence of Divinity, and not His essence.
מה שאין כן האתרוג, על דרך משל, חיותו נמשכה ונשתלשלה ממהות חיצוניות דכלים דנוקבא דז״א דאצילות
However, as to the etrog by way of example, its life is drawn and descends from the very essence of the outer aspect of the vessels of nukva of Za of Atzilut,
שהוא בחינת אלקות
which is truly a state of Divinity,
כמו שכתוב בעץ חיים, שכל הפירות הן באצילות
as stated in Etz Chayim, that all the fruits are [rooted] in Atzilut.
כי למ״ד כלים דאצילות ירדו לבריאה יצירה עשיה
For the thirty vessels of Atzilut descended into Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah in order to become the Divinity of those Worlds
(והן יו״ד מאמרות שבהן נברא העולם
(and these are the Ten Utterances by which the world was created
על ידי התלבשות בנוקבא דעשיה, מהות במהות)
through enclothement in nukva of Asiyah, essence in essence).
The essence of the vessels of Malchut of Atzilut vests itself in the essence of Malchut of Asiyah, which is the source of all created beings of that world. Included among them are the fruits of that world, such as the etrog.
While the G‑dliness found in other physical matters is concealed, in an object used for a mitzvah it is manifest, as explained in Tanya, ch. 23.
כי הכלים דאצילות נעשו נשמה בעשיה, שהיא בחינת אלקות ממש
For the vessels of Atzilut became the soul of Asiyah, which is actually a state of Divinity.
לפי שבאצילות, איהו וגרמוהי חד, המאציל והנאצל
For in Atzilut “He and His vessels are one” — the Emanator (the infinite light) and the emanation (the vessels of Atzilut).
ועל ידי התלבשות מהות הנשמה במהות הכלים דנוקבא דעשיה, נתהוה האתרוג
And through the enclothement of the essence of the soul [of the vessels of Atzilut] in the essence of the vessels of nukva (i.e., Malchut) of Asiyah, the etrog came into being.
נמצא כשתופס האתרוג ומנענעו כהלכתו
The result is that in holding the etrog and waving it as the law requires,
הרי זה תופס ממש חיותו המלובש בו מנוקבא דאצילות
one is actually holding the life-force which is clothed within it and which derives from the nukva (i.e., Malchut) of Atzilut,
המיוחדת באור אין סוף, המאציל ברוך הוא
and [Malchut] is united with the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, the Emanator of Atzilut, blessed be He.
But is this not also the case when one holds any other fruit, where no mitzvah is involved?
The answer is, as previously explained, that in other physical objects the G‑dly life-force is concealed, whereas it is revealed in objects used for a mitzvah, for these are the “works of G‑d.”
מה שאין כן בכוונתו
This is not the case concerning one’s intention while performing the mitzvah of the etrog.
אינו משיג ותופס, אף היודע הסוד, אלא מציאותה ולא מהותה
Here, even if he is familiar with the mystical [Kabbalistic and chassidic] meanings involved, he does not grasp and hold on to the essence (of Malchut of Atzilut, the source of the etrog), but only to the external fact of its mere existence.
This is entirely unlike holding a physical etrog and performing the mitzvah with it, at which time one grasps the essence of the physical etrog together with its source in Divinity.
אך בלימוד הלכות אתרוג, משיג ותופס האתרוג ממש ומצותו כהלכה, בבחינת דבור ומחשבה
However, by studying the laws of the etrog one does attain and grasp the etrog proper and its mitzvah appropriately, by speech and thought.
For here he is articulating or understanding or thinking about the laws of the physical etrog, whose essence he can grasp, and not its spiritual intent in the heavenly realms.
וכל שכן, הלומד הסוד
Even more so, he who studies the esoteric dimension of the mitzvah of the etrog according to the teachings of the Kabbalah and Chassidut.
For here, too, we are speaking of the esoteric dimension of the physical etrog, whose essence he can comprehend, and not of the spiritual intentions of the mitzvah or, yet higher, the relevant configurations of Sefirot in the World of Atzilut.
* * *
אבל דוקא סודות המצוה
This, however, refers only to [the study of] the Kabbalistic mysteries of the mitzvah itself,
דלא גרע מלימוד הלכותיה, ואדרבה כו׳
for this is not inferior to the study of its laws; indeed, quite the contrary...,
אף שאינו משיג המהות
even though he does not apprehend the essence of the spiritual intent of the mitzvah as it applies to the visages of Atzilut.
Moreover, his understanding of the essence of the etrog, the object with which the mitzvah is observed, grants him some comprehension of the essence of the mystical reaches of the subject at large.
מה שאין כן בסדר ההשתלשלות
It does not apply to [the study of] the order of Hishtalshelut, the chainlike stages of progressive self-screening whereby the Divine light descends from level to level until ultimately this corporeal world is created:
אף אם משיג המציאות
Even if one does comprehend the external aspect of the existence of the Sefirot and spiritual levels involved,
לא עדיף מצד עצמו כלימוד המצות, שמשיג ותופס המהות
this is not intrinsically as worthy as the study of the laws of the mitzvot, where one comprehends and grasps their essence.
Knowledge of the various spiritual levels may indeed be superior for an unrelated reason, namely, that it leads to a “complete heart” (lev shalem), a wholehearted awe of G‑d — and this, as the Alter Rebbe will later say, is the purpose of all the mitzvot. Intrinsically, however, gaining this knowledge is not superior to studying the laws governing the performance of the mitzvot, whose essence he can understand.
ומעלה עליו כאילו קיים בפועל ממש
Moreover, this [study] is considered [in certain cases] the equivalent of actual performance,
כמו שכתוב: זאת התורה כו׳
as it is written, “This is the law [of the burnt offering and the meal offering...].”
The Gemara comments on this, “He who occupies himself with these laws is considered as if he had actually offered a burnt offering and a meal offering.”
Mastering the revealed laws of the commandments is thus in one sense superior to delving into the innermost dimension (the pnimiyut) of the Torah, on esoteric subjects such as the order of Hishtalshelut. For the study of the laws relates to the essence of the subject at hand, such as the physical objects with which the commandments are performed.
G‑d’s wisdom, moreover, which is inherent in these laws, descends and permeates the physical objects around which the laws revolve. It is thus the essence of G‑d’s wisdom that the student comprehends, and thereby he becomes involved in the “wondrous union” described in ch. 5 of Tanya, whereby his mortal intellect simultaneously “encompasses and is encompassed by” the Divine wisdom embodied in the Torah which he is studying. This intellectual union in turn unites his soul (which transcends his intellect) with the infinite light that is vested in the wisdom of the Torah.
The above is true only when he understands the essence of his subject. This is the case when he studies (for example) the laws regulating the observance of the commandments. If, by contrast, his subject is the hierarchies of angels in the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, or, yet higher, the configurations of Sefirot within the World of Atzilut, then his grasp is no more than external: he may indeed be aware of his subject’s existence, but he will be unable to know its essence.
* * *
And now, all the above notwithstanding, the Alter Rebbe is about to point out the superior aspect of the study of Hishtalshelut.
אלא שידיעת המציאות מההשתלשלות היא גם כן מצוה רמה ונשאה, ואדרבה, עולה על כולנה
However, the knowledge of the existence of the Hishtalshelut is also a lofty and exalted mitzvah. Indeed, it outweighs them all, all of the mitzvot and the study of the laws of the Torah.
כמו שכתוב: וידעת היום כו׳
Thus it is written, “Know this day [...that the L‑rd is G‑d],”
דע את אלקי אביך כו׳
and “Know the G‑d of your father...”; i.e., there is an obligation to attain a knowledge or apprehension of Divinity.
ומביאה ללב שלם כו׳
Moreover, this leads to a “whole heart,” for the latter verse concludes, “and serve Him with a whole heart”; i.e., a knowledge of G‑d leads one to serve Him with one’s entire being.
As explained in Likkutei Torah, in the discourse beginning VeLo Tashbit, this refers to serving G‑d with awe — and this is the ultimate intent of all the mitzvot, as the Torah states, “G‑d has commanded us to perform all these statutes so that we may fear the L‑rd our G‑d.” And it is the study of the innermost dimensions of the Torah and a knowledge of the various spiritual levels which comprise the order of Hishtalshelut that enable one to fulfill the mitzvah of “knowing G‑d,” which leads in turn to the “whole heart” of “fearing Him.” Thus the Alter Rebbe concludes:
And this is the essential thing: the wholehearted awe of G‑d is the ultimate purpose of all the commandments.
As mentioned above, one can attain this state only through a knowledge of the order of Hishtalshelut, even though this knowledge is merely an awareness of its existence and not a grasp of its essence.
והשגת המציאות הוא להפשיט מגשמיות כו׳
The comprehension of existence entails divesting [this subject] of any physicality....
In other words, one should endeavor to picture its spirituality. Hence, as the Rebbe has often stressed, one should study the innermost and mystical dimension of the Torah in such a way that one “derives sustenance from it” (יתפרנסון מיניה) — viz., the “sustenance” derived from comprehension. And soundly-based comprehension can be secured only when this dimension of the Torah is studied with the intellectual elucidation afforded by the teachings of Chabad.
רק שזו היא מצוה אחת מתרי״ג
However, this mitzvah (of knowing G‑d and apprehending Divinity) is but one mitzvah of the 613,
והאדם צריך לקיים כל תרי״ג
and a man must fulfill all 613,
לפי שהן השתלשלות המהות דחיצוניות דכלים דאצילות
for they descend from the essence of the external aspect of the vessels of Atzilut, a source whose standing was explained above.
לכך צריך להרבות בלימוד כל התרי״ג, וקיומן בפועל ממש, במחשבה דבור ומעשה, שהן בריאה, יצירה, עשיה
Hence, one must extensively study all 613 mitzvot, and [hence] fulfill them in actual practice in thought, speech and deed — which parallel Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah respectively —
לברר בירורין אשר שם
in order to purify whatever needs purification (beirur) there.
As previously explained, the extraction and elevation of the sparks exiled in the various worlds is the ultimate purpose of creation.
The Alter Rebbe will now state that beyond the above-discussed superior quality of mitzvot requiring action (as well as the study of their laws), they are also essentially superior to the source of the soul, by virtue of their source.
Thus, the love and awe experienced by the soul, though spiritual in nature, pale in comparison to these mitzvot (even though they are performed with physical entities), not only because these mitzvot and the extraction of the sparks accomplished thereby are the ultimate purpose of creation, but in essence too they are superior to the source of the soul.
שבאמת הבירורין שבבריאה יצירה עשיה מרפ״ח, על ידי תורה ומצות, במחשבה דבור ומעשה
For the truth is that the purifications in Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah of the 288 [sparks of Tohu] by means of the Torah and mitzvot that man fulfills in thought, speech and deed,
גבוהין בשרשן מנפש רוח נשמה שבאדם
are superior in their source to the Nefesh-Ruach-Neshamah of man that possess the love and fear of G‑d.
כי הן מס״ג שבפנימיות אדם קדמון
For they derive from the Divine Name Sa’g of the internal aspect of Adam Kadmon,
ונפש רוח נשמה שכבר נתקנו על ידי מ״ה הוא יוצא מהמצח, הארה בעלמא
while the Nefesh-Ruach-Neshamah that has already been corrected through the Divine Name Ma’h issues (i.e., this Name issues) from the “forehead” [of Adam Kadmon], being a mere reflection [of it], but not of its essence.
The Divine Names Sa’g and Ma’h are two of the four Names that echo the varying numerical values which result when the names of the four letters that comprise the Name Havayah are spelled out in any of four different ways. For example, one possible spelling entails the repeated use of the letter vav, while another possible spelling entails the repeated use of the letter alef.
When the Hebrew names of the four letters yud and hei and vav and hei are written out with the full complement (milui) of the letter vav, the numerical equivalent of the letters used totals 63 (hence the Divine Name ס״ג). When it is written with the full complement of the letter alef, the numerical equivalent of the letters used totals 45 (hence the Divine Name מ״ה).
The Kabbalah explains how the Name Sa’g is related to the World of Tohu, while the Name Ma’h is related to the World of Tikkun, which is inferior to it.
The Alter Rebbe is thus stating here that the purifications of the action-related mitzvot find their source in the Divine Name Sa’g that derives from the internal aspect of Adam Kadmon, the primal Divine thought of creation that encompasses all subsequent stages and levels of creation.
By contrast, since the souls of Jews derive from the World of Tikkun (lit., “correction”), the Nefesh or Ruach or Neshamah is of a level at which it was already corrected by means of the Divine Name Ma’h. And this Name is but a glimmer that derives from the “forehead” of Adam Kadmon.
וזהו שכתוב: לפני מלך מלך כו׳
Hence it is written, “...before a king ruled [over the Children of Israel].”
The verse reads thus: “These are the kings who ruled in the land of Edom before a king ruled over the Children of Israel.” The Kabbalah understands these “kings” as a reference to the Sefirot in the World of Tohu who reigned before (i.e., on a superior level to) “a king who ruled over the Jews,” i.e., the World of Tikkun, which is the source of their souls. For the World of Tikkun is merely a glimmer of Adam Kadmon, while Tohu (from whence derive the exiled sparks and their purification) stems from the Divine Name Sa’g, which is rooted in the internal level of Adam Kadmon.
והאי טעמא שהאדם חי במזונות דומם צומח חי, ומבררן במ״ה שבו
For this reason man is sustained by food of the inorganic, vegetative, and living classes, and purifies them by the Ma’h within him,
Since the soul derives from the World of Tikkun and incorporates the Divine Name Ma’h, it is thereby able to extract and purify the sparks found within the inorganic, vegetative and living classes.
and lives through them,
Having refined these sparks that are found within the inorganic, vegetative, and living classes, and having drawn Divine energy upon them from their lofty source in Tohu, man in turn is then invigorated by them with an additional measure of spiritual vitality.
לפי שהם מס״ג
because they derive from Sa’g.
But is it not paradoxical that man, who is so far superior to the inorganic, vegetative and living classes, should derive his sustenance from them?
The teachings of Chassidut find the answer in the verse, “Not on bread alone does a man live, but on all that comes forth from G‑d’s mouth does a man live.” It is not the physical, vegetative bread alone that sustains man, but the creative Divine utterance that is found within the bread.
However, since man is provided with his ongoing existence by his own creative Divine utterance, viz., “Let us make man,” why does he need to be sustained by the creative word that sustains vegetative growth (or, for that matter, the inorganic and living classes of existence)?
The answer lies in the fact that the creative utterance that animates bread derives from a loftier source (the World of Tohu) than the source of the creative utterance that animates man (the World of Tikkun). In terms of the Divine Names, Sa’g transcends Ma’h.
Another point in which the mitzvot requiring action are superior to the love and awe experienced by the soul:
The Alter Rebbe will now explain that since love and fear are essentially spiritual in nature, they resemble the mere glimmer (and not the essence) of the master’s own intellectual illumination that he imparts to his disciple. In contrast, a physical seminal drop is capable of creating a child — it imparts the entire essence. So much so, in fact, that it is possible for the “power of the child to outshine the power of his father,” so that gifts dormant within the father can become manifest in the child.
The Alter Rebbe will now use this analogy to explain the difference between love and awe, which are spiritual, and the action-related mitzvot, which are physical. Love and awe are “illuminations” (orot), like the illumination of intellect, while the practical mitzvot are “vessels” (kelim) that give forth the essence, similar to the physical drop that gives forth the entire essence of its source.
שהרי הדבור מדברי חכמה עילאה אינו מוליד
For verbalizing any phrase of the Supreme Wisdom does not procreate — imparting wisdom does not create any being ex nihilo,
והטפה שנמשכה מהכלי דחכמה עילאה, יש בה כח המוליד ומהווה יש מאין
whereas the drop drawn from the vessel of the Supreme Wisdom, like the drop that derives from the father’s brain, has the power to procreate and bring about existence ex nihilo.
וגם המשכת חכמה עילאה כלולה בה
Also, a flow of the Supreme Wisdom — an illumination which is paralleled by a person’s capacity for wisdom — is incorporated within it (i.e., within the drop that derives from the vessel of Supernal Wisdom).
והטעם, מפני שבה נמשך מהותה ועצמותה דחכמה עילאה
The reason is that into it there is drawn the essence and nature of the Supreme Wisdom.
All the above refers to the drop that derives from the vessels of wisdom.
מה שאין כן בדבור ומחשבה
This is not the case with thought and speech, where the intellect they draw forth does not possess the essence of the original wisdom,
ואפילו בהשכלת השכל באיזו חכמה
even in intellectual conception in any field of wisdom,
Though this is a rarefied level of conceptualization, transcending even the subtle articulation sketched by “letters of thought,” nevertheless:
הרי חכמה זו, רק הארה מתפשטת ממהות השכל שבנפש ועצמותו
this wisdom is a mere reflection that extends from the essence of intellect in the soul.
והארה זו היא רק לבוש למהותו ועצמותו של השכל
Then, too, this reflection is a mere garment for the very essence of the intellect,
והשכל הוא הארה ולבוש למהות הנפש
and the intellect in turn is but a reflection and garment for the essence of the soul.
Thus, the soul’s essence is not to be found even within intellectual conception — unlike the drop, which, though physical, comprises within it the essence of the soul, as the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say.
מה שאין כן, הטפה נמשך בה גם ממהות הנפש ועצמותה המלובשת במוחין
In contrast, there is also drawn into the drop something of the very essence of the soul which is clothed within the brain.
ולכן מולידה בדומה לה ממש
Hence it begets offspring precisely similar to itself, to the soul itself.
וזהו ההפרש בין עבודת המלאכים היוצאין מנשיקין
This is the difference between the divine service of angels, which are born of a spiritual kiss, and hence their divine service is likewise spiritual,
להנשמות היוצאין מהכלים
and that of souls, which issue from the “vessels” that contain an element of the “essence”, and which thus resemble the tangible product of the seminal drop which incorporates the entire essence of its source.
According to the above, however, it would seem that within the love and awe of souls as well, there should be an element of essence — whereas we learned above that the love and awe of souls are likened to the mere reflection (and not the essence) of his own illumination which a master imparts to his disciple.
The Alter Rebbe anticipates this query by explaining that since the vessels of Atzilut become a Neshamah to Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, there are therefore two forms of issue from the soul itself: one is a radiation, which is intellectual love and fear; the other is an issue of essence, that finds expression in action-related mitzvot.
אך הכלים דאצילות נעשו נשמה לבריאה יצירה עשיה
But the vessels of Atzilut become the soul of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah — and from this soul emanate two manners of issue.
והלכך, דחילו ורחימו שכליים הן כמלאכים דנשיקין, מהארת חיצוניות דחב״ד בבריאה יצירה עשיה
Therefore intellectual love and awe are comparable to the angels that issue from the spiritual kiss, which irradiates only the external aspect of ChaBaD — Chochmah, Binah and Daat, the three intellective Sefirot — in Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.
Though it derives from the vessels of Atzilut, it is still not of the degree of essence.
והטעם, משום דפנימיות חב״ד ומהותו ועצמותו של אור פנימי אינו יכול להתגלות אלא על ידי הארת הכלים דוקא, היורדים למטה
The reason is that the innermost dimension of ChaBaD and the essential nature of the indwelling light (or pnimi) cannot be revealed except through the radiance of the vessels that descend below,
כטפת האדם ממוחין
as does the seminal drop of man issuing from the brain.
וכמו שכתוב: ופני לא יראו
As it is written, “My Face — My innermost dimension — shall not be seen.”
Not being manifest, it must therefore descend in a concealed manner, similar to the drop.
The Alter Rebbe will now point out the superior quality inherent in the very service of action-related mitzvot in comparison to intellectually-generated love and awe. For the direction of the latter form of divine service is merely elevation (haalaah), which causes a corresponding “elevation of the lights” above. The ultimate intent of creation is fulfilled not by this, but by the practical commandments, for their function is the drawing down (hamshachah) of Divinity to a state of revelation in this world below.
ובר מן כל דין
Besides all the above, i.e., all the above-mentioned ways in which the action-related mitzvot are superior to intellectually-aroused love and fear, there is yet another superior quality to the practical mitzvot:
אפילו בנשמה דאצילות, אף שהיא מכלים דאצילות
Even in the case of a soul of Atzilut, though it derives from the vessels of Atzilut,
וכן בנפש רוח, מכלים דיצירה עשיה
and equally in the case of Nefesh-Ruach which derive from the vessels of Yetzirah-Asiyah,
הנה רחימו אולי צריך לומר: דחילו ורחימו שכליים שלהם מעוררים גם כן בכלים דיצירה עשיה בחינת העלאה ממטה למעלה, באתערותא דלתתא
their intellectual love [this should possibly read: “fear and love”], which themselves are a mode of elevation, also arouse in the vessels of Yetzirah-Asiyah a state of upward elevation, through an arousal initiated from below.
וזהו בחינת הסתלקות לבד, חס ושלום
However, this is a state of departure alone, G‑d forbid.
The effect on the vessels is that they depart upwards and do not fulfill their purpose, just as love and fear that do not descend into expression in mitzvot are also in a state of elevation and departure. When love and fear do descend into mitzvot, they enhance the effect of the mitzvot in drawing down Divine light.
אבל בחינת המשכה מלמעלה למטה, הוא על ידי מצות מעשיות דוקא, להמשיך אור בכלים
But eliciting from above downward is effected only by means of the practical mitzvot, which draw light into the vessels,
ובחיצוניות הכלים דוקא, שחיצוניות העליון יורד למטה, ופנימיות התחתון עולה למעלה
and specifically into the external aspect of the vessels, so that the external aspect of the superior level descends, while the internal aspect of the inferior level rises.
As created beings thus experience an upward-directed longing for the Divine, Divinity descends into this world.
וזהו שכתוב בזהר, פרשת פקודי הנ״ל, דאית סדורא כו׳
This is the intent of the above-quoted Zohar in Parshat Pekudei, that “there is an order [of elevation and an order of descent].”
ושתיהן צורך גבוה, העלאה והמשכה
Both are needed for the Divine purpose, i.e., for man’s spiritual service, the elevation and the elicitation,
על ידי העלאת מין נוקבין מס״ג, בבחינת עובדא ומלולא
by the elevation of mayin nukvin from the Divine Name Sa’g that is accomplished (by the elevation of the sparks) by deed and speech.
וזהו תכלית ההשתלשלות, להתגלות אור עליון למטה
This is the ultimate purpose of the downward progression of all the various worlds — that the supernal light be revealed below,
ולא לעלות התחתון למעלה, שזה אינו אלא לפי שעה
and not that the inferior level be elevated, for this [elevation] can only be momentary, until a further descent.
ואף גם זאת, דוקא עליות הכלים לאורות עליונים
And even so, when an elevation is necessary, this involves — not the ascent of the light, for that would be a move toward departure, but — specifically an elevation of the vessels toward the supernal lights.
היא מעלת השבת ויום הכפורים
This is the specific quality of Shabbat and Yom Kippur, at which time there is an “elevation of the worlds” (aliyat haolamot), where the vessels are in a state of elevation towards the supernal lights,
אבל לא עליות והסתלקות האורות, חס ושלום, כמו שכתוב בפרי עץ חיים
but not the elevation and departure of the lights, G‑d forbid, as is written in Pri Etz Chayim.
ונפש רוח נשמה של האדם, לגבי גופו בעולם הזה, חשיבי כאורות לגבי כלים
The Nefesh-Ruach-Neshamah of man relative to his physical body in This World are considered as lights relative to vessels.
וכן דחילו ורחימו שכליים, לגבי מצות מעשיות
So too are intellectual fear and love, relative to mitzvot of action; they, too, are considered as lights relative to vessels.
ולכן התפלל משה רבנו עליו השלום תפלות כמנין ואתחנן, על קיום מצות מעשיות דוקא
This is why Moses offered  prayers equivalent in number to [the Hebrew word] Vaetchanan, asking that he be privileged to enter the Holy Land, specifically so that he could fulfill the practical mitzvot.
Only in the Holy Land can the practical mitzvot be fulfilled in their entirety — and the fulfillment of the practical mitzvot is the ultimate purpose of the entire Hishtalshelut, for through them Divinity is drawn down to this nether world.
והוא הדין לדבור גשמי של הלכותיהן
So too as regards the physical utterance of their laws.
For by uttering and studying the laws of the mitzvot with physical speech one also draws down the light below.
אך להבין איך האתרוג, שהוא מרפ״ח שלא נבררו עדיין
But let us understand how an etrog, which derives from the 288 sparks that have not yet been purified,
Since this physical fruit derives its life-force from kelipat nogah, it contains some element of the 288 sparks of Tohu which have not yet been elevated to Divinity.
וכן קלף התפילין
and so too the parchment scroll of the tefillin, upon which the Torah passages are inscribed,
ימשיך אור בכלים דזו״ן דאצילות, שכבר נבררו ונתקנו על ידי שם מ״ה, להיות בחינת אלקות
can elicit light into the vessels of Zu”n of Atzilut, that have already been purified and rectified through the [purifying] Name Ma’h, so that they are a state of G‑dliness.
הנה המשל לזה היא הזריעה והנטיעה
The analogy for this is the process of sowing and planting.
שהגרעין מעורר כח הצומח שבארץ
The seed stimulates the power of growth within the soil,
שהוא דבר ה׳: תדשא הארץ כו׳ עץ פרי כו׳
which is G‑d’s command, “Let the earth sprout forth ... fruit trees...”
The actual growth is not from the seed but from the power of growth (as explained above in Epistle XX). The seed merely serves as an “arousal from below,” stimulating the particular aspect of the power of growth that finds expression within it. After the seed decomposes, this particular power becomes incorporated within the universal power of growth that is found in the ground.
It then stimulates the power of growth within the earth to produce the same sort of fruit tree as the seed that was implanted. The essence of the power of growth is the Divine decree, “Let the earth sprout forth...,” which is the ultimate source of all vegetative growth.
The G‑d-given ability of the seed to rouse the power of growth acts:
על ידי העלאת מין נוקבין לשרשו
through the elevation of mayin nukvin to its source.
The seed, whose source is within the power of growth, serves as an “arousal from below,” from the recipient below to the benefactor. Although the seed that is planted can in no way compare to the power of growth, it can nevertheless arouse this power, for this is its source.
ככה מעוררים הקלף והאתרוג עד רום המעלות, שהוא שם ס״ג שלפני השבירה
In this manner the parchment of the tefillin and the etrog of the “Four Species” arouse unto the loftiest of levels; this is the Name Sa’g which precedes (and transcends) the shattering of the vessels,
שהוא מהות ועצמות אורות שבאדם קדמון
and which is the very essence of the lights of Adam Kadmon,
As explained above, Adam Kadmon is the first visage and thought of the infinite light as it encompasses all of creation. Here is to be found the essence of the visage and not merely a radiation. Thus, the Divine Name Sa’g relates to the essence of the illuminations of Adam Kadmon.
ולא הארה בעלמא, כמו שם מ״ה שממצחו
and not merely a reflection, as is the Name Ma’h which issues from the “forehead”.
All this is accomplished through the actual performance of the commandments of the tefillin and the etrog.
וכן בלימוד ועיון הלכותיהן
Similarly the study and careful examination of their laws, the laws regulating these mitzvot,
מעורר בחינת חב״ד שבעשר ספירות דכלים דזו״ן
arouses the Chochmah-Binah-Daat of the Ten Sefirot of the vessels of Zu”n,
ועד רום המעלות, גם כן בחינת חב״ד שבס״ג דפנימיות אדם קדמון, היוצא דרך העיניים כו׳
and so upward to the greatest heights, including Chochmah-Binah-Daat of Sa’g of the inner dimension of Adam Kadmon issuing through the “eyes” [of Adam Kadmon].
“Eyes”, signifying sight, denote an inner and essential level of Divinity, unlike the external aspect denoted by “forehead”.
In summary, practical mitzvot performed with physical objects arouse their source unto the loftiest of levels, unto the Divine Name Sa’g, the level that transcends the “breaking of the vessels.” This is also true with regard to studying the laws of these mitzvot; study likewise effects an elevation to this lofty level, for the study of a mitzvah is likened to its actual performance.
What, however, happens when one studies the laws of prohibitory commands? One cannot say that this study too is regarded “as if he performed them.” Particularly so, with regard to those instances that do not occur in practice at all. For with regard to those that can occur, we at least say that “if one remains passive and does not transgress, he is rewarded as if he had performed a positive command.” However, when the relevant opportunity does not occur at all, this obviously does not apply. Yet despite all this, it was stated above that one should study the laws to an even greater extent than one studies the order of Hishtalshelut, even though a study of the latter leads to a love and fear of G‑d!
The Alter Rebbe now addresses this issue, explaining that there is a certain aspect of Torah study that is common to both positive and negative commandments: Simply studying a subject, even if it has no practical application, binds the individual to Supernal Wisdom, inasmuch as this is the source from which all the detailed laws emanate.
All the foregoing, i.e., as to how through observing the practical mitzvot and studying their laws one attains to the Divine Name Sa’g that transcends the “breaking of the vessels,”
הוא במצות עשה, אבל לא בלימוד פרטי הלכות איסורי לא תעשה לכאורה
concerns positive commandments, but not, it would seem, the study of particulars of the prohibitions,
ובפרט בדלא שכיחי כלל
particularly those that do not occur in practice at all, for in these cases we cannot even state that “if one remains passive and does not transgress, he is rewarded as if he had performed a positive command,”
כמו פרטי הלכות פיגול, וכהאי גוונא
for example the detailed laws of pigul and the like, which presently have no practical application.
Why should these laws too be studied extensively, and in fact even more than one studies the order of Hishtalshelut, which can rouse one to a love and awe of G‑d?
אך עוד זאת השוה בכל
There is yet another common characteristic shared by all the laws of the positive and prohibitory commandments, including those that have no practical application.
כי כל דחילו ורחימו שכליים של המלאכים, הן בחינת נבראים מאין ליש
For (in contradistinction) all intellectually-generated fear and love experienced by the angels are created ex nihilo,
והן בחינת נפש רוח דבריאה יצירה עשיה
and they are the (created levels of) Nefesh and Ruach (and not the G‑dly level of Neshamah) of the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.
Now, if the intellectually-generated awe and love experienced by mortals can likewise not be compared to the study of the laws, why does the Alter Rebbe here choose to speak of angels?
To explain: (a) The love and fear experienced by souls is different from the souls themselves, for souls are not actual created beings; (b) the love and fear experienced by souls is, after all, a mitzvah, while that of the angels is not. Thus the angels’ love and fear better stresses their created aspect, and this enables us to understand that even with regard to souls, the essential aspect of love and fear is a created entity. The laws, by contrast, are G‑dliness.
אבל פרטי ההלכות הן המשכות חכמה עילאה דהמאציל ברוך הוא, המלובשת בגשמיות
However, the detailed laws of the various mitzvot are drawn from the Supreme Wisdom of the Emanator, blessed be He, which is clothed in physicality, within the physical objects to which a particular law applies, such as the law governing the case of “he who exchanges a cow for a donkey,” and the like.
והלבשה זו אינה כהלבשת חכמה עילאה בדחילו ורחימו שכליים
This investment of Supreme Wisdom in the physical aspects of the laws is not similar to the investment of Supreme Wisdom in intellectually-generated fear and love,
Supreme Wisdom is actually vested in all things, as is soon to be explained. This is especially so with regard to the love and awe which are aroused by intellectual activity, for the source of all such activity is Supreme Wisdom. In intellectually-aroused love and awe, however, the vestiture takes on a different form.
דהתם הלבוש הוא מעלים ומסתיר לגמרי
for there the garment conceals and completely obscures the Supreme Wisdom that is vested within it,
כהסתר והעלם הארץ החומריית לגבי חכמה עילאה המלובשת בה
just as the material earth thoroughly conceals the Supreme Wisdom clothed within it;
כמו שכתוב: כולם בחכמה עשית
as it is written concerning all created beings, “All of them You made with Wisdom.”
Supreme Wisdom is thus vested within all physical things as well, even the earth — which, however, completely conceals it, just as intellectually-aroused love and awe conceal the Supreme Wisdom vested in them.
והיינו, חיצוניות דחיצוניות דכלים דמלכות דאצילות שבעשיה, שהיא מסותרת לגמרי ברוח נפש דעשיה
This [Supreme Wisdom] is the externality of the externality of the vessels of Malchut of Atzilut found in Asiyah, that is absolutely hidden in the Ruach-Nefesh of Asiyah.
Malchut of Atzilut with the externality of the externality of its vessels is wholly concealed in Ruach-Nefesh of Asiyah. Malchut of Atzilut itself, even the externality of the externality of its vessels, belongs to the realm of the Neshamah and of Divinity proper — yet it is entirely hidden within Nefesh-Ruach, which belongs to the realm of created beings.
Since Supreme Wisdom is vested in Malchut of Atzilut, and Malchut of Atzilut illumines Asiyah with its Ten Sefirot, containing as they do the element of Wisdom as well, we thus have Supreme Wisdom entirely concealed within the physical earth.
וכן בבריאה היא מסותרת לגמרי ברוח נפש
So too in Beriah it is completely hidden in the Ruach-Nefesh [of Beriah],
שהם בחינת נבראים בהסתר והעלם הבורא מהנברא
which are beings that are created by the concealment and hiding of the Creator from the created.
We thus have here an element of Supreme Wisdom concealed within intellectually-aroused love and fear, the source of which is the World of Beriah, the realm of comprehension.
מה שאין כן ההלכות, הרי הארת החכמה מאירה בהן בגילוי
This is not so, however, with regard to the laws, in which a radiance of Wisdom illuminates them manifestly; they do not conceal it.
ולבוש העשיה הוא דרך מעבר לבד
The garment of Asiyah serves merely as a passage,
Though the laws vested in the physical things of this world (the physical World of Asiyah) are thus subject to the concealment that pervades Asiyah, they are not garbed in it to the point that the garment essentially affects the wearer, for they merely pass through the garment of Asiyah.
כמו ביום טוב, שחסד דאצילות, המלובש לגמרי בחסד דבריאה, מחיה עולם הזה הגשמי
just as on the festivals, when Chesed of Atzilut, which is completely clothed in Chesed of Beriah, vivifies this physical world
על ידי מעבר חסד דיצירה ועשיה
by passing through the Chesed of Yetzirah and of Asiyah,
הנקרא גם כן התלבשות
this [passage] is also called investment,
שאם לא כן, לא היה פועל בגשמיות עולם הזה
for otherwise it would not affect the physicality of This World.
Thus, just as with regard to the festivals, though the animating light first passes through Yetzirah and Asiyah it is still considered to be an illumination of Chesed of Beriah, so too with regard to the laws: The light within the laws merely “passes through” the physicality with which they deal; it always retains a radiation of Supreme Wisdom.
ואף שגשמיות עולם הזה ודאי מסתיר לגמרי אפילו החסד דעשיה
Now though the physicality of This World as discussed in the law unquestionably conceals completely even the Chesed of Asiyah — and surely, then, it conceals the diffusion of Supreme Wisdom,
מכל מקום ההלכה עצמה אינה גשמיות ממש
still the law proper is not actually physical;
שהיא בחינת רצון, הנמשך מחכמה עילאה, להקל או להחמיר
it is the Divine Will, drawn from the Supreme Wisdom, for leniency or severity.
G‑d’s wisdom affirms that it be His will that a particular legal ruling be either lenient or strict.
רק שיורד ומאיר בבחינת גילוי בגשמיות, כמים היורדים ממקום גבוה כו׳
It is only that this [Will] descends and illuminates in revealed fashion in the realm of the physical, just as water descends from a high place, and so on.
It is the very same water that is now to be found in a low place.
והדבר הגשמי עצמו, שבו מדברת ההלכה, באמת הוא מסתיר לגמרי
The physical object itself which the law discusses does, in fact, utterly obscure,
כמו המחליף פרה בחמור, וכן בשר הפיגול, או לא פיגול וכשר
as, for example, in the law of “one who exchanges a cow for a donkey,” or the laws concerning flesh that is pigul, or is not pigul and is kosher.
The actual cow or donkey or flesh do in fact completely conceal the radiance from the Supreme Wisdom.
In contrast, it was stated above that when holding a physical etrog one is grasping the G‑dly essence of Atzilut. The difference lies in the fact that the etrog is part of the mitzvah. As such, it has no identity other than G‑dliness and thus does not conceal it. Since, by contrast, the physical cow or donkey are not part of the law, they can conceal G‑dliness. With regard to the human intellect, however, which studies this law, since the “intellectual” cow and donkey are part of the law, they in fact do not act as a concealment.
רק ההלכה בעצמה, עם הטעם הנגלה, היא מבחינת מלכות דבריאה ויצירה דבחינת נשמה
Only the legal ruling itself with its revealed rationale are from Malchut of Beriah (i.e., the reasoning of the Gemara) and of Yetzirah (i.e., the rulings of the Mishnah), of the state of Neshamah,
שהוא אלקות, המחיה ומהוה נפש רוח דבריאה יצירה עשיה
which is G‑dliness that vivifies and brings into being the Nefesh-Ruach of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah which are in the category of created beings,
שהן דחילו ורחימו של המלאכים והנשמות וחב״ד שלהם, מאין ליש
and which are the awe and love of angels and souls and their ChaBaD, i.e., the contemplation of G‑d’s greatness that leads to love and fear; — all this is created and vivified ex nihilo, as are all created beings.
ולכן הוא מרוה צמאונם
As to this radiation of Supreme Wisdom that descends through Malchut of Beriah and Yetzirah, in the form of Torah as it is found in those worlds prior to its descent below, it therefore slakes [the] thirst of the souls and angels in the Worlds of Beriah and Yetzirah,
קודם שירדה לעולם הזה, כמים היורדים כו׳
before its descent into This World like descending waters....
וגם אחר שירדה לעשיה, היא למעלה מעלה מבחינת חכמה בינה דעת דעשיה, אפילו דבחינת נשמה, שהיא אלקות
Even after it descends into Asiyah, it transcends by far ChaBaD of Asiyah, even of the state of Neshamah, which is G‑dliness.
For this is G‑dliness of Asiyah, while the illumination of Supreme Wisdom within the laws is the G‑dliness of Atzilut.
והטעם: משום דחב״ד דעשיה דבחינת נשמה, הוא מקור החיות דחב״ד דנפש רוח
The reason for this transcendence is that the ChaBaD of Asiyah of the state of Neshamah is the source of life of ChaBaD of Nefesh-Ruach
ותולדותיהן והתהוותן מאין ליש עם תולדותיהן, עד סוף העשיה, היא הארץ וכל צבאה
and their offspring, and their coming into being ex nihilo with their offspring, unto the ultimate stage of Asiyah, namely the earth and all its hosts.
The ChaBaD of Asiyah (in the state of Neshamah) is thus a source for created beings.
אבל חב״ד דהלכות וטעמיהן, שבמלכות דבריאה ויצירה
But as to the ChaBaD of the laws with their rationales, that are in Malchut of Beriah and Yetzirah,
This level of ChaBaD is not a source of created beings; rather:
ענין החכמה היא בתיקון פרצופי האצילות
the function of the Chochmah [within them] is the rectification of the visages of Atzilut,
שבהן תלוין כל טעמי המצות
upon which are dependent all the rationales of the commandments —
מצות עשה בה׳ חסדים, ומצות לא תעשה בה׳ גבורות
[the rationales of] the positive commandments [depend] on the five attributes of Kindness of Za of Atzilut, and [the rationales of] the prohibitions in the five attributes of Severity of Za of Atzilut.
ומשום הכי נמי כשירדו להתלבש בנבראים
Therefore, even when they descended to be clothed in created beings,
Even when the rationales for the laws, that essentially derive from visages of Atzilut, descended to become rationales for laws for created beings, —
הן במלכות דבריאה ויצירה, דבחינת נשמה דוקא, שהוא מכלים דאצילות
they are in Malchut of Beriah and Yetzirah of the specific [G‑dly] state of Neshamah, which is of the vessels of Atzilut — for the thirty vessels of Zu”n of Atzilut become a Neshamah for Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah,
ולא בבחינת נפש רוח
and not of the degree of Ruach and Nefesh; the rationales for the laws did not vest themselves within Ruach and Nefesh, which are created beings.
ואף דחב״ד דבריאה יצירה דבחינת נשמה, שגבהה מאד מעלתן על בחינת מלכות דבריאה יצירה דנשמה
Now though ChaBaD of Beriah-Yetzirah of the state of Neshamah by far transcend Malchut of Beriah-Yetzirah of the state of Neshamah, for ChaBaD is the highest of the Sefirot of the world, while Malchut is the lowest,
ואף על פי כן, הן מקור לחב״ד דבריאה יצירה של בחינת נפש רוח, שהן המלאכים
still, [the ChaBaD of Beriah and Yetzirah] are the source for ChaBaD of Beriah-Yetzirah of the state of Nefesh-Ruach, namely the angels.
How do we then say that Malchut of Beriah and Yetzirah of the state of Neshamah cannot descend to become a source for created beings, when ChaBaD of Beriah and Yetzirah of the state of Neshamah that is far loftier than Malchut does serve as a source for created beings?
לא קשיא מידי
This is not a question at all.
דבאמת המלאכים והנשמות אינן אלא מטפה הנמשכת מחב״ד דנשמה ליסוד ז״א, וניתן לנוקבא
For in truth, the angels and souls that are created of ChaBaD of Beriah and Yetzirah are only of a drop drawn from ChaBaD of the Neshamah to the attribute of Yesod of Za, and then transmitted to nukva, i.e., to Malchut,
ומשם יצאו בבחינת לידה
and from there they (the souls and angels) went forth in a state of “birth” — a new entity resulted.
Thus, this is not a mere emanation from ChaBaD, as is the case with laws, for such an emanation cannot in fact serve as a source of created beings. Rather, it resembles the drop that brings about a birth. For this reason it is possible that created beings should result even from ChaBaD of Beriah and Yetzirah.
כי אף אם תמצי לומר שנבראו מהארת הכלים דנוקבא דאצילות, הרי הם היורדים ונעשים נשמה
For even if it is proposed that they are created from the radiance of the vessels of nukva of Atzilut, nevertheless, they themselves descend into Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah and become Neshamah unto them.
אבל עצמות חב״ד דנשמה מתפשט בו׳ קצוות דזו״ן
But the essence of ChaBaD of Neshamah extends into the “six directions” of Zu”n,
ושם הם שיתא סדרי משנה וגמרא
and there they are the Six Orders of Mishnah and the Gemara — the laws of the Torah.
The essence of ChaBaD thus descends specifically within the laws of the Torah, which are Divinity. Torah, in turn, descends within the level of Neshamah, which is also Divinity.
ומה שכתוב בעץ חיים ושער היחודים שעל ידי הכוונה נעשה לבוש נשמה
As to the statement in Etz Chayim (and in Shaar HaYichudim) that through intention a Neshamah-garment is formed,
ועל ידי התורה: לבוש רוח דרוח דיצירה על ידי משנה, ורוח דנשמה דבריאה על ידי הגמרא
and through Torah study, a Ruach-of-Ruach garment of Yetzirah is formed through [the study of] Mishnah, which derives from Yetzirah, and a Ruach-of-Neshamah [garment] of Beriah [is formed] through Gemara, which derives from Beriah:
It would thus seem that Torah precipitates a garment of Ruach, which is a created being.
יש לומר דהיינו דוקא על ידי תורת האדם בעולם הזה, העולה למעלה
This can be understood as referring only to Torah studied by man in This World as it ascends above; it then becomes a garment of Ruach, since it derives from created man.
אבל התלמוד עצמו, שניתן בסיני, הוא בנשמה
But the Talmud itself that was given at Sinai, i.e., the Torah as it was given from above, is at the level of Neshamah, which is a degree of Divinity.
ולכן הוא מברר הרוח
Therefore it (the study of the Talmud) refines Ruach.
וכן במשנה דיצירה
So too with Mishnah of Yetzirah: as it was given from above at Sinai, it too is of the degree of Neshamah.
ואף אם תמצי לומר שגם הניתן מסיני הוא ברוח דבריאה יצירה
Even if it be suggested that even what was given from above at Sinai is at the level of Ruach of Beriah-Yetzirah,
Even so, it is not like an independent created entity, but rather like an emissary, who merely expresses the power of his principal.
הרי נודע שכל מלאך שהוא שליח מלמעלה, אזי נקרא בשם ה׳ ממש, השוכן בקרבו
it is known that every angel that is an emissary from above, is literally called at that time by the Name of G‑d, which then dwells within him.
מה שאין כן כשאינו שליח, יש לו שם אחר כפי עבודתו
However, when he is not a messenger, he has some other name according to his manner of service.
ואזי קורא: קדוש קדוש קדוש ה׳ כו׳
Then he proclaims, “Holy, holy, holy is G‑d...,”
כלומר ששם ה׳ מובדל ממנו
meaning that the Name of G‑d is separate from him, for the word kadosh (“holy”) implies separateness.
We thus see that it is entirely possible for a created being to be called by the name of actual Divinity.
וכן הוא ממש בבחינת התלבשות התלמוד בבחינת רוח דבריאה, והמשנה ברוח דיצירה
Exactly this is the case with the investment of the Talmud in the Ruach state of Beriah, and the Mishnah in the Ruach of Yetzirah, Ruach being a created being:
הם שלוחי ה׳, דהיינו כלים דנוקבא דאצילות
they are messengers of G‑d, meaning vessels of nukva (Malchut) of Atzilut;
החיצונים בתלמוד, והאמצעים במשנה
the external vessels in Talmud, and the intermediate vessels in Mishnah.
אשר המשנה והתלמוד שבהם נמשכים מיסוד אבא, המקבל מחכמה סתימאה דאריך אנפין, שבו מלובש אור אין סוף ברוך הוא
For the Mishnah and Talmud that are within them (i.e., within the Ruach of Beriah and Yetzirah) issue from Yesod of Abba (i.e., of Chochmah), which receives influence from Chochmah Stimaah of Arich Anpin (i.e., from Chochmah of Keter), in which is clothed the [infinite] Ein Sof-light.
ונמצא שאור אין סוף, הוא שם ה׳, שוכן ברוח דבריאה יצירה עשיה, במקרא ומשנה ותלמוד
The result is that the infinite light, namely the Name of G‑d, abides in the Ruach of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, in Scripture, Mishnah and Talmud.
וכשהאדם לומד, ממשיך אור אין סוף ברוך הוא בעולם הזה
And when a man studies [them], he draws forth the [infinite] Ein Sof-light into This World,
להיות נכלל ובטל באורו יתברך
so that it will be incorporated and nullified in the Divine light.
כי זה כל האדם
For this is all of man.
The entire purpose of man’s creation is to make the world become nullified in G‑d’s light. And this is accomplished through Torah study.
וזאת היתה עבודת רבי שמעון בר יוחאי וכל התנאים ואמוראים בנגלה
This was the spiritual service of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and of all the tannaim and amoraim who studied the revealed aspect of the Torah —
להמשיך אורו יתברך, ולברר בירורי נוגה
to call forth the Divine light within this world, and to effect the purifications of kelipat nogah,
כל משך זמן הגלות, דשלטא אילנא דטוב ורע
throughout the entire period of the exile, the time of dominion of the Tree of Good and Evil, for the life-force of this world derives from kelipat nogah, which is composed of both good and evil;
כמו שכתוב: עת אשר שלט האדם באדם כו׳
as the verse states, “The time that [the evil] man dominates the man [of holiness].”
כי זהו תכלית ההשתלשלות
For this is the ultimate purpose of the chain of descent which brings the worlds into being —
שירד העליון למטה, ויהיה לו דירה בתחתונים
that the One Above descend, and that there be a dwelling for Him among the nethermost creatures,
כדי להעלותן, למהוי אחד באחד
in order to elevate them, so that there be “one in one” — that the “one” of the lower level of Unity (yichuda tata’ah) of the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah be similar to the “one” of the higher level of Unity (yichuda ila’ah).
מה שאין כן עבודת המלאכים, דחילו ורחימו שכליים, אינה בבחינת המשכה כלל וכלל, רק הסתלקות כו׳
In contrast, the spiritual service of the angels with intellectual fear and love does not call forth G‑dliness [within the world] at all; rather it is a mode of departure alone..., for they are in a state of longing and self-nullification to G‑dliness.
The true intention of creation is that G‑dliness be drawn down below, not a state of departure.
ובזה יובן מה שנבראים מלאכים מאין ליש על ידי עסק התורה, אפילו שלא בכוונה
Thus we may understand how angels are created ex nihilo through the study of the Torah, even without proper intent,
שהוא בחינת רוח בלבד, שאינה אלקות כלל
when [such study] is only in a state of Ruach, which is not Divinity at all.
The intended state is Neshamah, which is Divinity. However, when the kavanah is lacking, and one’s study is merely at the level of Ruach, how are angels created ex nihilo, when such creation derives only from Divinity?
אלא לפי שאף על פי כן, שם ה׳ שוכן וכו׳
Still, nevertheless, i.e., even though these words of Torah are studied without proper intent, the Name of G‑d does dwell [within them].
As explained earlier, even a created angel is called by the Divine Name at the time that he is carrying out his mission, because at that time G‑d abides within him. So, too, since G‑d abides within the words of the Torah, angels can be created ex nihilo.
This will suffice for the understanding.