Now, in one source10 it is written11 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,

וְהִנֵּה, בְּמָקוֹם אֶחָד כָּתַב שֶׁרַמַ"ח מִצְוֹת עֲשֵׂה – הֵן בְּה' חֲסָדִים

and the 365 prohibitions are [rooted] in the Five Attributes of Severity of za of Atzilut.

וְשַׁסַ"ה לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה בְּה' גְּבוּרוֹת וְכוּ',

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.

Elsewhere, it is written12 that there are 613 paths (i.e., the 613 mitzvot) that derive from one path…,

וּבְמָקוֹם אַחֵר כָּתַב שֶׁהֵן תַּרְיַ"ג אָרְחִין נִמְשָׁכִין מֵחַד אָרְחָא כוּ',

which is the Lavnunit…, the benevolent pristine “whiteness” of the supernal keter.

שֶׁהוּא לַבְנוּנִית וְכוּ'.

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.

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.)

אַךְ הָעִנְיָן, שֶׁכָּל הַמִּצְוֹת לְתַקֵּן רַמַ"ח אֵבְרֵי "זְעֵיר אַנְפִּין", עַל יְדֵי הַמְשָׁכַת אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּמוֹחִין, הַכְּלוּלִין בְּה' חֲסָדִים וְה' גְּבוּרוֹת,

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.

The source of the [Divine] Intellect is the Lavnunit [of keter],

וּמְקוֹר הַמּוֹחִין הוּא לַבְנוּנִית כוּ',

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.”

הוּא הָעֹנֶג וְחֵפֶץ הָעֶלְיוֹן לְהַמְשִׁיךְ הָאוֹר לְמַטָּה לְרַמַ"ח אֵבָרִין דִּ"זְעֵיר אַנְפִּין",

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 whatsoever, for this is the source of mitzvot as they exist in the supreme delight and desire of keter.

The light drawn forth divides into 613 individual streams according to the respective levels of the mitzvot.

וּמִתְחַלֶּקֶת הַהַמְשָׁכָה לְתַרְיַ"ג הַמְשָׁכוֹת פְּרָטִיּוֹת, לְפִי בְּחִינַת עֵרֶךְ הַמִּצְוֹת,

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,

כְּגוֹן בִּצְדָקָה וּגְמִילוּת חֲסָדִים – נִמְשָׁךְ אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא לְחִיצוֹנִיּוּת הַכְּלִי דְּחֶסֶד דִּ"זְעֵיר אַנְפִּין",

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.

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….

וּבְקִיּוּם הַדִּינִין – בְּחִיצוֹנִית גְּבוּרָה, וּבְרַחֲמִים כוּ'.

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,

וְדֶרֶךְ וּמַעֲבַר הַהַמְשָׁכָה, הוּא עַל־יְדֵי פְּנִימִיּוּת הַכֵּלִים וּמוֹחוֹתֵיהֶן,

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.)

שֶׁהֵן דְּחִילוּ וּרְחִימוּ שִׂכְלִיִּים אוֹ טִבְעִיִּים,

These [attributes] correspond, in terms of the supernal sefirot, to the “major” or “minor” [Divine] intellect.

שֶׁהֵן בְּחִינוֹת מוֹחִין דְּקַטְנוּת וְגַדְלוּת.

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.

This is the reason for Moses’ fervent plea to fulfill the active mitzvot that are contingent on the Land,13 i.e., that can be fulfilled only in the Holy Land.

וְלָזֶה בִּיקֵּשׁ מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּינוּ עָלָיו־הַשָּׁלוֹם מְאֹד לְקַיֵּים הַמִּצְוֹת מַעֲשִׂיּוֹת הַתְּלוּיוֹת בָּאָרֶץ,

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—

שֶׁהֵן תַּכְלִית הַהִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת,

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.

לְהַמְשִׁיךְ אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא לְבָרֵר הַכֵּלִים דִּ"זְעֵיר אַנְפִּין" דִּבְרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה, שֶׁבָּהֶן, הֵן הָרַפַּ"ח נִיצוֹצִין,

[And this refinement is effected] exclusively through Torah study and mitzvot requiring action in Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah.

עַל־יְדֵי תּוֹרָה וּמִצְוֹת מַעֲשִׂיּוֹת שֶׁבִּבְרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה דַּוְקָא.

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.