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Tanya Navigator

The last two Essays explained how the observance of the commandments seeks out the exiled sparks hidden in this world and thereby suffuses it with G‑dliness. They also pointed out that the same is true of the study of their laws. The present Essay goes one step further, and explains that the laws of the Torah transcend the world beyond any possible comparison.

When David triumphantly brought back the Ark from its captivity in the hands of the Philistines,1 it was placed on a wagon. David had momentarily forgotten the stipulation of the Torah,2 “On the shoulder shall they carry it.” Commenting on this episode, our Sages3 teach that David’s forgetfulness came as a punishment for his having referred to the laws of the Torah as “songs”:4 “Your statutes were songs for me in my place of terror.”

Why should this expression be regarded as an offense? And in what way is it related to its punishment?

These are among the questions discussed in the Essay before us, and at greater length in Likkutei Torah and Or HaTorah, and in Derech Mitzvotecha, Mitzvat Masa HaAron BaKatef.

דוד, זמירות קרית להו כו׳

“David! You call them songs?!”5

Because he had referred to the laws of the Torah as “songs”, David was punished by being made to6 “stumble in a matter that even schoolchildren know” — that the Ark is to be carried on the shoulders.

הנה בזהר: שבחא דאורייתא ורננה כו׳

In the Zohar7 we find the expression, “the praise of Torah and its song” — the Torah is a hymn and a song to G‑d.

ולהבין מהו השבח להקב״ה, כשזה אסור או מותר

Let us understand, what is the praise of G‑d when a particular object is forbidden or permitted.8

הנה הוא על דרך: מה גדלו מעשיך ה׳, מאד עמקו מחשבותיך

A similar concept is implicit [in the verse],9 “How great are Your works, O G‑d, Your thoughts are very deep.”

Why does the verse make the deed precede the thought? The Alter Rebbe will soon explain that from an appreciation of G‑d’s great works one begins to understand the depth of His thoughts.

כי הנה נודע שכל העולמות, עליונים ותחתונים, תלוים בדקדוק מצוה אחת

As is known, all the worlds, the exalted and the lowly, are dependent on the meticulous performance of a single mitzvah.

דרך משל: אם הקרבן כשר, נעשה יחוד עליון, ועולים כל העולמות לקבל חיותם ושפעם

For example, if an altar offering is valid then a Supernal Union in the Sefirot is effected, and all the worlds are elevated to receive their life-force and spiritual sustenance.10

ואם שינה, שקיבל הדם בשמאלו, דרך משל, או שלא בכלי שרת כשר, או שהיתה חציצה

However, if [the celebrant] altered the precise requirements of the law — if, for example, he received the blood of the offering with his left hand, or in an invalid vessel, or11 if there was a separation12

אזי נתבטלה עליות העולמות, וחיותם ושפעם מחיי החיים, אין סוף ברוך הוא

then all the elevations of the worlds that would have been accomplished are nullified, as is the life-force and sustenance that they would have received from the Source of Life, the Ein Sof, blessed be He.

וכן בתפילין כשרות, מתגלים מוחין עליונים דזו״נ, שהם מקור החיים לכל העולמות

So, too, through the use of valid tefillin there is revealed the Supernal Intellect of Zu”n, Za and Malchut of Atzilut, the source of life for all the worlds.

ובדקדוק אחד נפסלין, ומסתלקין המוחין

Yet through [the omission of] one required detail they are invalidated, and the Intellect departs.

וכהאי גוונא בדקדוקי מצות לא תעשה

The same applies to the detailed requirements of the prohibitory commandments — a single detail affects all the worlds.

והלכך המתבונן מה גדלו מעשי ה׳ שבריבוי העולמות וכל צבאם

Let one therefore ponder how great are the works of G‑d in the multiplicity of worlds and all their hosts,

ואיך כולם בטלים במציאות, לגבי דקדוק אחד מדקדוקי התורה

and how all of these are literally null, relative to any one of the specific requirements of the Torah,

שהוא עומק מחשבה העליונה וחכמתו יתברך

for it is the profundity of the Supreme thought and the Divine wisdom.

אשר בדקדוק קל, עולים כל העולמות ומקבלים חיותם ושפעם, או להיפך, חס ושלום

For through [the observance of] one minor specification, all the worlds ascend and receive their life-force and spiritual sustenance — or the reverse, G‑d forbid.

In the case of a detailed requirement of a prohibitory commandment, transgression brings about (G‑d forbid) a descent in all the worlds.

ומזה נתבונן גדולת עומק מחשבתו יתברך, שהוא בבחינת בלי גבול ותכלית

From this we may ponder the prodigious profundity of G‑d’s thought, which is boundless and endless,

ומעלתה לאין קץ ותכלית על מעלות חיות כל העולמות

and which infinitely transcends the vitality of all the worlds.

שכל חיותם שופע מדקדוק אחד ממנה

For their entire vivifying power issues from a minor requirement of [G‑d’s thought],

שהוא נמשך ממקורו, הוא עומק מחשבתו יתברך

[this requirement being] drawn from its source, namely the depth of G‑d’s thought that specified it.

כמו שער האדם הנמשך ממוחו, על דרך משל

Analogously, man’s hair issues from his brain,

וכנודע מהתיקונים והאידרא רבה

as is known from Tikkunei Zohar and Idra Rabbah.

וזאת היתה שמחת דוד המלך, עליו השלום, שהיה מזמר ומרנן לשמח לבו בעסק התורה בעת צרתו

This was the delight of King David, may he rest in peace, as he sang to gladden his heart in his Torah study during his time of anguish.

He was overjoyed when he contemplated how the entire world is of no account, relative to one minor specific detail of the Torah.

אך מה שהיה משתבח בתהלת התורה במעלתה זו, ואמר: זמירות היו לי כו׳, נענש על זה

However, for extolling the Torah with this quality, saying,13 “[Your statutes] were songs for me,” he was punished.

ואמר לו הקב״ה: זמירות קרית להו

G‑d reproved him:14 “You call them songs?!”

משום שבאמת, מעלתה זו, שכל העולמות בטלים לגבי דקדוק אחד ממנה

For indeed, this quality [of the Torah], that all the worlds are nothingness compared to one detail of it,

היא מבחינת אחוריים של עומק המחשבה

is [but] of the hinderpart, the externality, of the profound Supernal Thought.

כמו שכתוב במקום אחר בשם האריז״ל על מאמר רז״ל: נובלות חכמה שלמעלה, תורה

This is explained elsewhere15 in the name of the AriZal, on the teaching of our Sages,16 “Torah is [merely] a shade of Supernal Wisdom.”

אבל פנימית שבעומק, שהוא פנימית התורה, היא מיוחדת לגמרי באור אין סוף ברוך הוא, המלובש בה בתכלית היחוד

However, the innermost core of the depth [of Supernal Thought], which is the innermost core of the Torah, is utterly fused with the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that is vested within the Torah in a perfect unity.

ולגבי אין סוף ברוך הוא, כל העולמות כלא ממש, ואין ואפס ממש

Relative to the Infinite One, all the worlds are as absolute naught, sheer nothingness, nonexistent.

כי אתה הוא עד שלא נברא העולם וכו׳

For17 “You were [the same] before the world was created, [You are the same since the world has been created].”

Being of absolutely no account relative to G‑d, all the worlds effect no change in Him.

והלכך גם לפנימיות התורה אין לשבחה כלל בתהלת חיות כל העולמות, מאחר דלא ממש חשיבי

Hence, the internal aspect of the Torah too (which is wholly united with G‑d) is not at all to be lauded as being the animating force of all the worlds, for relative to the internal aspect of the Torah they are reckoned as nothingness itself.

ובבחינת פנימיותה, אינה שמחת לבב אנוש ושעשועיו

In this inward aspect of the Torah there can be no mortal heartfelt joy and delight,

אלא, כביכול, שמחת לב ושעשוע המלך, הקב״ה, שמשתעשע בה

but rather, in a manner of speaking, the heartfelt joy and pleasure of the King, the Holy One, blessed be He, Who delights in it.

כי אלקים הבין דרכה, וידע מקומה ומעלתה

For [only]18 “G‑d understands its way, and knows its station” and quality

בידיעת עצמו, כביכול

through His self-knowledge,19 as it were; knowing Himself, he also knows the Torah that is entirely one with Him.

אבל נעלמה מעיני כל חי

This, however, is20 “concealed from all mortal eyes.”

כמו שכתוב: ופני לא יראו, דהיינו בחינת פנימיותה, כמו שכתוב שם בשם האריז״ל

As it is written,21 “My Face — i.e., the innermost dimension of the Torah, its pnimiyut, as implied by the word panim shall not be seen,” as is explained there22 in the name of the AriZal.

וזהו שאמר הכתוב: ואהיה אצלו כו׳ שעשועים

Hence the verse,23 in which the Torah itself is the speaker, “I was... a delight unto Him,”

אצלו דוקא

specifically “unto Him.”

The order of the words in the original makes it clear that the Torah is G‑d’s delight alone.

משחקת לפניו

[Likewise, in the following phrase] which describes the Torah as causing G‑d delight by “playing before Him,”

לפניו דוקא, דהיינו בבחינת פנימיותה

the verse specifies the term “before Him” — lefanav, deriving from panim (“face”), which is related to pnimiyut (“inwardness”) — for this refers to the inwardness [of the Torah] that cavorts before the inwardness of the Infinite One.

* * *

The Alter Rebbe will now explain that this sublime level of Torah in which G‑d alone delights, descends to nurture the souls of the Jewish people. For this reason the Midrash calls the Torah uman (lit., “a craftsman”), one who skillfully nurtures a young child.

ועל זה אמר: ואהיה אצלו אמון, אל תקרי אמון, אלא אומן כו׳

Concerning this [innermost level of the Torah] it is written,24 “I was by Him amon (‘one who is nurtured’),” [and the Midrash comments],25 “Do not read amon, but uman (‘one who nurtures’).”

This sublime and innermost level of the Torah descends to nurture Jewish souls, inasmuch as they transcend the world. The world, however, is vitalized not by this level of the Torah but by its externality.

ועל בחינת אחוריים אמר: משחקת בתבל ארצו, ושעשועי את בני אדם

It is with reference to the hinderpart (the external aspect of the Torah) that it is written,26 (and in this verse the Torah describes itself as) “Playing in the world, His land; and my delights are with mortal men.”

It is the external aspect of the Torah that brings delight to the world and to man.

כי התורה ניתנה בבחינת פנים ואחור

For the Torah was given in states of both inwardness and externality;

כדכתיב במגילה עפה דזכריה: והיא כתובה פנים ואחור

as it is written concerning the “flying scroll” of Zechariah,27 “and it was written front and back.”

Panim (“face” or “front”) is the root of pnimiyut (“inwardness”); achor (“back”) is the root of achorayim (“hinderpart”, i.e., externality).

ולפי שתפס דוד בבחינת אחוריים

Since David seized upon [and praised] the hinderpart [of the Torah],

A term such as “songs” relates to the merely external aspect of the Torah that relates to the world and animates it.

לכך נענש בשכחה, הבאה מן בחינת אחוריים

he was punished with forgetfulness, which derives from an attitude of externality.

A person does not forget things that are truly internalized within him, but only things which remain external to him.

ונעלם ממנו לפי שעה מה שכתוב: עבודת הקדש עליהם, בכתף ישאו

He thus became momentarily oblivious to the verse concerning the Ark,28 “The sacred service is their duty; on the shoulder shall they carry it” —

לחבר וליחד את הכתפיים, שהן בחינת אחוריים

in order to combine and unite the “shoulders”, which are akin to the hinderpart,

אל עבודת הקדש, היא חכמה עילאה, בבחינת פנים

with the sacred service, viz., the Supernal Wisdom, which is also called “sacred”, in a manner that reflects inwardness.

שמשם נמשכו הלוחות שבארון

For this state [of inwardness] is the source of the Tablets in the Ark,

כמו שכתוב: כתובים משני עבריהם כו׳

of which the verse states,29 “Written on both their sides....”

וכמו שכתוב בירושלמי דשקלים, שלא היתה בהן בחינת פנים ואחור

And as explained in the Yerushalmi, Tractate Shekalim,30 [the Tablets] did not have any front (panim) and back (achor) — they were entirely panim, signifying pnimiyut (“inwardness”).

The purpose of carrying the Ark on the shoulders was thus to connect the external aspect of man with the inwardness of the Torah.

עיין שם

Study that reference (in the Yerushalmi) well.

II Shmuel 6; I Divrei HaYamim 13.
Bamidbar 7:9.
Sotah 35a.
Tehillim 119:54.
Sotah 35a.
Sotah 35a.
III, 8b.
Note of the Rebbe: “As is explicit in many sources, including Tanya, there are in fact six specific categories — mutar [‘permitted’], kasher [‘fit for use’], tahor [‘pure’], (and also, as in Tanya, end of ch. 52, patur [‘exempt’]?), and their respective opposites. It seems to me that the Alter Rebbe chose just these two categories [‘forbidden’ and ‘permitted’] because they embody a principle common to them all: assur [lit., ‘bound’] implies that something is held in the clutches of the sitra achra [and hence cannot be elevated to G‑d], while mutar [lit., ‘unbound’] is so called (as in Tanya [ch. 7; see also ch. 8]) because a permitted thing is free to be elevated.”
Tehillim 92:10.
Note of the Rebbe: “Cf. the end of Iggeret HaTeshuvah.
The Rebbe notes that the first example is a change that relates to the person; the second is a change that relates to the vessel; while with regard to “there was a separation” the Rebbe notes that “both of the preceding stages were done without any change.”
“Separation” (chatzitzah) can denote (e.g.) the intervention of a foreign body between the Kohen and (i) the vessel (Zevachim 24a, in the mishnah) or (ii) the floor (the Gemara there, 15b) or (iii) his vestments (ibid., 19a).
Tehillim 119:54.
Sotah 35a.
Note of the Rebbe: “See Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle XIX.”
Note of the Rebbe (in Likkutei Biurim, Vol. I, p. 485): “Bereishit Rabbah 17:5 and 44:17; explained in Etz Chayim, Shaar HaKlalim, end of ch. 1, et al.”
Text of the morning prayers, cf. Tanna Dvei Eliyahu Rabbah, sec. 21.
Cf. Iyov 28:23.
Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2:10.
Iyov 28:21.
Shmot 30:23.
Note of the Rebbe: “See Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle XIX.”
Mishlei 8:30.
Mishlei 8:30.
Beginning of Bereishit Rabbah.
Mishlei 8:31.
The scroll referred to in Zechariah 5:1-2 is the same (see Rashi there) as that referred to — earlier in the Tanach — in Yechezkel 2:9-10, from which the above quotation is drawn. The Rebbe notes that an explanation is needed as to why the later reference is quoted.
Bamidbar 7:9.
Shmot 32:15.
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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