By way of illustration, the Alter Rebbe will now draw an analogy from the physical earth which is composed of the inanimate and vegetable worlds. These two categories are the least significant of the four categories — man, animal, the vegetative and the inanimate — and the divine life-force found within them is contracted to a greater degree than the life-force found within animal and man. Nevertheless, Scripture attests that the whole world is full of G‑d’s glory — because it encompasses these two categories, and does not pervade them.

והמשל בזה, הנה הארץ הלזו הגשמית, אף שמלא כל הארץ כבודו

To illustrate this point, consider this material world. Even though “The whole world is full of His glory,”

והיינו אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, כמו שכתוב: הלא את השמים ואת הארץ אני מלא, נאם ה׳

namely, not only with a minute glimmer of G‑dliness, but with the [infinite] light of the blessed Ein Sof, as it is written:1 “‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the L‑rd,”

אף על פי כן, אין מתלבשת בתוכה בבחינת גילוי ההשפעה רק חיות מעט מזער, בחינת דומם וצומח לבד

nevertheless only very limited vitality, of no more than the category of what is revealed in the inanimate and vegetable worlds, is clothed within [this world] in the form of “revealed” influence,

וכל אור אין סוף ברוך הוא נקרא סובב עליה, אף שהוא בתוכה ממש

while all the light of the blessed Ein Sof which fills the world itself in a concealed manner is described as “encompassing” it, even though it actually pervades it,

מאחר שאין השפעתו מתגלית בה יותר, רק משפיעה בה בבחינת הסתר והעלם

since its influence is no more revealed in it than it is revealed within the inanimate and vegetable worlds, but affects it in a hidden and concealed manner;

וכל השפעה שבבחינת הסתר נקרא מקיף מלמעלה

and any influence of a concealed nature is referred to as “encircling from above,”

כי עלמא דאתכסיא הוא למעלה במדרגה מעלמא דאתגליא

for alma d‘itkasya, the “hidden world,” is on a higher plane than alma d’itgalya, the “revealed world.”

G‑dliness drawn down in a concealed manner (“from the hidden world”) is on a higher plane than that which is drawn down in a revealed manner (“from the revealed world”). Emanating as it does from a higher level, this mode of divine influence is said to be “encircling from above.”

ולקרב אל השכל יותר הוא בדרך משל

Let us make this more intelligible by means of an example.

A further example is needed in order to clarify this paradox — how G‑dliness simultaneously pervades the world and yet remains aloof from it, encircling and encompassing it (as it were) from above, and not being revealed within it.

כמו האדם שמצייר בדעתו איזה דבר שראה או שרואה

When a person forms an image in his mind of something that he has seen or sees,

הנה אף שכל גוף עצם הדבר ההוא, וגבו ותוכו ותוך תוכו, כולו מצוייר בדעתו ומחשבתו, מפני שראהו כולו או שרואהו

even though the entire body and essence of that thing, both its exterior and interior and its very core, are completely mirrored in his mind and thought, for he has seen it or is seeing it in its entirety,

הנה נקראת דעתו מקפת הדבר ההוא כולו

this is expressed by saying that his mind encompasses that object completely, and, just as in the mind’s frame of reference, so, too, regarding the perspective of the visualized object:

והדבר ההוא מוקף בדעתו ומחשבתו

and that thing is enveloped by his mind and thought.

רק שאינו מוקף בפועל ממש, רק בדמיון מחשבת האדם ודעתו

But it is not encompassed in actual fact, only in the imagination of the man’s thought and mind.

Since man’s thought is limited, he cannot actually encompass the object itself; he only encompasses its image as it exists within his mind.

אבל הקב״ה, דכתיב ביה: כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם גו׳

G‑d, however, of Whom it is written:2 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,...” so that it is utterly impossible for us to grasp His thought process, —

הרי מחשבתו ודעתו, שיודע כל הנבראים, מקפת כל נברא ונברא מראשו ועד תחתיתו, ותוכו ותוך תוכו, הכל בפועל ממש

His Thoughts and His Mind, which knows all created beings, encompasses each and every created thing, from its head i.e., from its highest level to its end i.e., to its lowest level, and its inside and very core, all in actual reality, and not as with the thought of mortal man.

The Alter Rebbe now gives an example of G‑d’s thought and knowledge encompassing a specific object.