Now, when malchut of Atzilut is vested in kelipat nogah in order to extract and refine the sparks that fell with the sin of Adam,

וְהִנֵּה, כְּשֶׁהַמַּלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת מִתְלַבֶּשֶׁת בִּקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ, כְּדֵי לְבָרֵר הַנִּיצוֹצוֹת שֶׁנָּפְלוּ בְּחֵטְא אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן

as well as the 288 sparks that fell with the “breaking of the vessels,”

וְגַם הָרַפַּ"ח נִיצוֹצִין שֶׁנָּפְלוּ בִּשְׁבִירַת הַכֵּלִים,

The concept of shevirat hakelim (the primordial “breaking of the vessels”) and the elevation of the 288 sparks of holiness hidden in the material world is explained at length elsewhere in the literature of Chasidut.

Malchut of Atzilut, too, is then referred to as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, relative to z’eyr anpin of Atzilut

אֲזַי, גַּם הַמַּלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת נִקְרָא בְּשֵׁם "עֵץ הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע" לְגַבֵּי "זְעֵיר אַנְפִּין" דַּאֲצִילוּת,

which does not descend there and which is referred to as the Tree of Life.

שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹרֵד שָׁם, וְנִקְרָא "עֵץ חַיִּים".

And the investiture of [the sefirah of] malchut in kelipat nogah is the Kabbalistic principle of the exile of the Shechinah,

וְהִנֵּה, הִתְלַבְּשׁוּת הַמַּלְכוּת בִּקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ הוּא סוֹד גָּלוּת הַשְּׁכִינָה –

whereby “man rules over man, to his detriment.”55

"אֲשֶׁר שָׁלַט הָאָדָם בְּאָדָם כוּ'".

In Epistle 25 (above), the Alter Rebbe quotes the exposition of this verse in Sefer Hagilgulim. During the time of exile, the “evil man” (of kelipah) rules over the “sacred man” (i.e., the holy “side” of the universe). At this time, the Divine Presence is in a state of exile within the universe. However, this temporary dominion of evil is “to his [ultimate] detriment,” for its underlying intent is that the sparks of holiness that are embedded within evil be extracted and elevated.

The Alter Rebbe will now answer another question which he himself had posed earlier.

The Raaya Mehemna had stated that so long as the bipolar influence of the Tree of Knowledge of [both] Good and Evil is dominant in the world, Torah scholars (who are likened to the Shabbat and festivals) are supported only by their unlettered (“weekday”) brethren, whose food is sometimes pure but sometimes not. This is why the scholars engage in the study of the correspondingly bipolar laws of issur vs. hetter (ritual prohibition vs. permission), and the like.

Concerning this statement, the Alter Rebbe asked above: Even though the Sages in Second Temple times tilled their own fields and vineyards, did they not mainly study the very same laws of issur and hetter, and the like?

In reply, the Alter Rebbe now explains the meaning of this passage from Raaya Mehemna.

During the present era of exile, when the world is dominated by the influence of the Tree of Knowledge of [both] Good and Evil, the Divine Presence grants life-force to the chitzonim. These negative forces belong to the ambivalent realm of kelipat nogah, which veils the holy potential embedded in the material things of this world. (Torah scholars are nourished only by the distilled essence of the Divinely endowed life-force.)

In order to extract and refine the sparks of holiness hidden in this material world during this era of exile, scholars study the laws of prohibition and permission, and the like. Through painstaking debate and deliberation, they isolate and salvage that which is permitted from that which is prohibited and that which is pure from that which is impure. Ultimately, their Torah study removes the Divinely imposed veil so that a clear adjudication of the law results.

This is what the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say:

And this is the meaning of the statement in Raaya Mehemna: “While the Tree of Good and Evil dominates [the world]…, these [Sages, who are likened to the Shabbat and festivals, have nothing except what is given to them by those who are called ‘unsanctified ones’…].”

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּרַעְיָא מְהֵימְנָא: "וּבְזִמְנָא דְּאִילָנָא דְּטוֹב וָרָע שָׁלְטָא כוּ' אִינּוּן כוּ'",

This means that at the time of the exile of the Shechinah—which grants life-force to the chitzonim that belong in the realm of kelipat nogah, from which the “mixed multitude”56 derive their life-force,

דְּהַיְינוּ, בִּזְמַן גָּלוּת הַשְּׁכִינָה שֶׁמַּשְׁפַּעַת לַחִיצוֹנִים שֶׁהֵם בִּקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ, שֶׁהָ"עֵרֶב רַב" יוֹנְקִים מִשָּׁם,

and from whose distilled essence the Torah scholars are nourished during the exile—

וּמִתַּמְצִיתָן נִיזּוֹנִין תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים בַּגָּלוּת,

at this time, the main spiritual task of man, and the main purpose of being engaged in Torah and the commandments, is to disencumber and elevate the sparks, as is known from the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory.

וְאָז, עִיקַּר עֲבוֹדַת הָאָדָם וְעִיקַּר עֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת – הוּא לְבָרֵר הַנִּיצוֹצוֹת כַּנּוֹדָע מֵהָאֲרִיזַ"ל,

For this reason, study chiefly involves deliberation and argumentation on the laws of issur and hetter, impurity and purity,

לָכֵן, עִיקַּר עִנְיַן הַלִּימּוּד הוּא בְּעִיּוּן וּפִלְפּוּל הֲלָכָה, בְּאִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר טוּמְאָה וְטָהֳרָה,

in order to disencumber the permitted and the pure from the forbidden and the impure by means of deliberation and argumentation on the law—with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, with all the three intellective faculties of the soul that clarify the law.

לְבָרֵר הַמּוּתָּר וְהַטָּהוֹר מֵהָאָסוּר וְהַטָּמֵא – עַל־יְדֵי עִיּוּן וּפִלְפּוּל הֲלָכָה בְּחָכְמָה בִּינָה וָדַעַת,

For as is known, the Torah derives from chochmah.57 Hence, [the sparks of holiness hidden in a legal question] can be extracted and elevated only through chochmah.58

כַּנּוֹדָע דְּ"אוֹרַיְיתָא מֵחָכְמָה נָפְקַת", וּבְחָכְמָה דַיְיקָא אִתְבְּרִירוּ,

Specifically: the supernal chochmah of Atzilut which is vested in malchut of Atzilut

וְהַיְינוּ חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה דַּאֲצִילוּת, הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בְּמַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת,

this being the Kabbalistic principle of the Oral Torah

סוֹד תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל־פֶּה

(59according to the Kabbalistic principle by which “the ‘father’ (i.e., chochmah of Atzilut) begat (lit., ‘founded’) the ‘daughter’ (i.e., malchut of Atzilut)60)—

(בְּסוֹד "אַבָּא יָסַד בְּרַתָּא"),

which, in turn, is vested in malchut of Yetzirah.

הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בְּמַלְכוּת דִּיצִירָה,

This accords with the Kabbalistic principle of] the Mishnayot (and the Baraitot that are vested in the kelipat nogah, which corresponds to the World of Yetzirah,

(וְסוֹד) [סוֹד] הַמִּשְׁנָיוֹת וּבָרַיְיתוֹת הַמְלוּבָּשׁוֹת בִּקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ שֶׁכְּנֶגֶד עוֹלַם הַיְצִירָה,

for there begins the Knowledge [of Good and Evil] [59or: “[for there begins] the evil”] inherent in nogah), for the kelipat nogah in the World of Yetzirah is equally good and evil.

שֶׁשָּׁם מַתְחִיל בְּחִינַת הַדַּעַת [נוסח אחר: הָרַע] שֶׁבְּנוֹגַהּ

[59A variant reading [of the above]: “and the Baraitot that are vested in the kelipat nogah which corresponds to the World of Asiyah, for there begins the evil inherent in nogah”], for the kelipat nogah of Asiyah is mostly evil and minimally good.

[נוסח אחר: וְהַבָּרַיְיתוֹת, הַמְלוּבָּשׁוֹת בִּקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ שֶׁכְּנֶגֶד עוֹלַם הָעֲשִׂיָּה, שֶׁשָּׁם מַתְחִיל בְּחִינַת הָרַע שֶׁבְּנוֹגַהּ],

The above is known from the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory.

כַּנּוֹדָע מֵהָאֲרִיזַ"ל.