ובבית שני, שלא היה בו הארון והלוחות

As for the Second Temple, in which the Ark and the Tablets did not repose, these being among the five things found in the First Temple and lacking in the Second,

אמרו רז״ל שלא היתה שכינה שורה בו, פירוש: מדרגת שכינה שהיתה שורה בבית ראשון, שלא כדרך השתלשלות העולמות

our Rabbis, of blessed memory, said1 that the Shechinah did not abide there. This means not that, G‑d forbid, the Shechinah did not abide there at all, rather it speaks of the category of the Shechinah which used to abide in the First Temple — which was not in the manner of the ordinary descent of the Worlds.

It was this level of Shechinah that did not abide in the Second Temple, but only a far lesser level.

אלא בבית שני היתה שורה כדרך השתלשלות והתלבשות: מלכות דאצילות במלכות דבריאה, ודבריאה במלכות דיצירה, ודיצירה בהיכל קדשי קדשים דעשיה

But in the Second Temple it abided according to the order of gradual descent, of Malchut of Atzilut vested in Malchut of Beriah and the latter in Malchut of Yetzirah, and the latter in the shrine of the Holy of Holies of Asiyah, that shrine being ChaBaD of Asiyah.

וקדשי קדשים דעשיה היה מתלבש בקדשי קדשים שבבית המקדש שלמטה, ושרתה בו השכינה: מלכות דיצירה, המלובשת בקדשי קדשים דעשיה

And the Holy of Holies of Asiyah was clothed in the Holy of Holies of the Temple below. In it rested the Shechinah, i.e., Malchut of Yetzirah, which was clothed in the Holy of Holies of Asiyah.

ולכן לא היה רשאי שום אדם ליכנס שם, לבד כהן גדול ביום הכפורים. ומשחרב בית המקדש

Therefore, because the Shechinah resided in the Temple’s Holy of Holies, no man was permitted to enter there, except the High Priest on Yom Kippur. And since the destruction of the Temple,

of which the Sanctuary was a part, G‑d resides in the shrine of Holy of Holies of Torah and the mitzvot, for as mentioned earlier, the Shechinah must reside in the Holy of Holies:

אין לו להקב״ה בעולמו אלא ד׳ אמות של הלכה בלבד

HaKadosh Baruch Hu (the Holy One, blessed be He) has but the four cubits of Halachah alone.”2

Torah is the shrine of the Holy of Holies that connects G‑d with the world, so that HaKadosh (the illumination of the Shechinah, which is Kadosh, i.e., separated and apart from the world) should become Baruch (from the Hebrew root meaning “to draw down”) — drawn down into the world.

ואפילו אחד שיושב ועוסק בתורה, שכינה עמו, כדאיתא בברכות, פרק קמא. פירוש שכינה עמו

And even if one Jew sits and engages in Torah study, the Shechinah is with him, as is stated in the first chapter of Berachot.3 The phrase, “the Shechinah is with him” means that although he is a being of this material world, the Shechinah is nevertheless with him.

The level of Shechinah that is with him is:

כדרך השתלשלות והתלבשות מלכות דאצילות במלכות דבריאה ויצירה ועשיה

in order of the gradual descent and investment of Malchut of Atzilut in Malchut of Beriah and Yetzirah and Asiyah.

It is thus inferior even to the indwelling of the Shechinah in the Second Temple, an indwelling that did not require the vestment in Malchut of Asiyah.

It differs from the drawing down of the Shechinah in the world in general, in which case the identical progressive descent occurs, in that the Shechinah which resides in the world passes through the additional “garment” of kelipat nogah, while Torah and the mitzvot do not.

The reason that it must go through Malchut of Asiyah is that the overwhelming majority of the mitzvot of the Torah involve physical action. The Shechinah therefore descends into the level of action — Asiyah, as shall now be explained.

כי תרי״ג מצות התורה רובן ככולן הן מצות מעשיות, וגם התלויות בדבור ומחשבה, כמו תלמוד תורה, ברכת המזון, קריאת שמע ותפלה

For the 613 commandments of the Torah are by and large precepts which involve action, including even those mitzvot which are fulfilled by word and thought, such as Torah study, the Grace after Meals, the recital of the Shema, and prayer,

This is so even though these mitzvot involve thought — seeking to grasp the concepts in one’s studies, and to experience the kavanot of the Shema and prayer — and as such they are not bound up with action,

הא קיימא לן דהרהור לאו כדבור דמי, ואינו יוצא ידי חובתו בהרהור וכוונה לבד, עד שיוציא בשפתיו

for it has been ruled that meditation has not the validity of speech, and one does not fulfill one’s obligation by meditation [in a manner of hirhur] and kavanah alone, even when his manner of meditation is close to speech, as is the case when one thinks about the way in which he will utter certain words, which is called hirhur, until he gives it utterance with his lips;

וקיימא לן דעקימת שפתיו הוי מעשה

moreover, it has been ruled that the motion of the lips while one is speaking is considered an “action” — in which case all these mitzvot involve a form of action.

The Rebbe explains that the Alter Rebbe will now anticipate the following question: It still remains to be understood why specifically the four cubits of Halachah take the place of the Holy of Holies; why should this be not so when a Jew studies a subject in Torah which is not Halachah, for there too the Shechinah is with him? The Alter Rebbe therefore explains that Halachah possesses the especial merit of expressing the Divine Will (as explained at length in Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 29).

ותרי״ג מצות התורה, עם שבע מצות דרבנן, בגימטריא כת״ר, שהוא רצון העליון ברוך הוא

And the 613 commandments of the Torah, together with the seven commandments of our Rabbis, combine to total the numerical equivalent of Keter (“crown”), which is the Supernal Will,

Will is called a crown, for like a crown it encompasses the head and brain; Iggeret HaKodesh, loc. cit., where this is discussed at length.

המלובש בחכמתו יתברך

which is clothed in His wisdom,

Thus, in addition to the fact that Torah is G‑d’s wisdom, which in its descent in the downward progression of Worlds becomes the shrine of the Holy of Holies for the Shechinah, there is the additional quality of its being the Supernal Will, which is even loftier than wisdom. This is uniquely found in the Halachah and the mitzvot, as they are expressions of the Supernal Will.

המיוחדות באור אין סוף ברוך הוא בתכלית היחוד

and they (G‑d’s Will and wisdom) are united with the light of the Ein Sof in a perfect union.

Further to an earlier statement that Torah derives from Supernal Wisdom, the Alter Rebbe will now say that the Oral Law also emanates from that source.

וה׳ בחכמה יסד ארץ, היא תורה שבעל פה דנפקא מחכמה עילאה, כמו שכתוב בזהר, דאבא יסד ברתא

“G‑d founded the earth with wisdom.”4 This refers to the Oral Law that is derived from Supernal Wisdom, as it is written in the Zohar, “The father (Chochmah) begat the daughter” (i.e., Malchut, the Oral Law; as it is written, “Malchut — the mouth, which we call the Oral Law”).

* * *