The Alter Rebbe will now point out that a careful reading of the passage from Raaya Mehemna reveals that it is not the laws themselves nor the study of them that are termed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Rather, this term is applied to the actual food or other things which are prohibited or permitted and which derive their life-force from kelipat nogah—for this is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, as will soon be explained.

But in truth, if you examine closely the above-quoted text of Raaya Mehemna—

אַךְ בֶּאֱמֶת, כְּשֶׁתְּדַקְדֵּק בִּלְשׁוֹן רַעְיָא מְהֵימְנָא דִלְעֵיל,

“And the Tree of [Knowledge of] Good and Evil, i.e., prohibition and permission…”—

"וְאִילָנָא דְּטוֹב וָרָע דְּאִיהוּ אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר כוּ'",

[you will note that] it does not say “the teachings (i.e., studying the subjects) of prohibition and permission” nor “the laws of prohibition and permission,” which would suggest that they are (G-d forbid) the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

וְלֹא אָמַר "תּוֹרַת אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר" אוֹ "הִלְכוֹת אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר",

Rather, it means to say that the actual thing which is prohibited, or the thing which is permitted, is of the Tree of Good and Evil,

אֶלָּא רוֹצֶה לוֹמַר, דְּגוּף דָּבָר הָאָסוּר וְדָבָר הַמּוּתָּר – הוּא מֵאִילָנָא דְטוֹב וָרָע,

i.e., of kelipat nogah, as stated in Etz Chaim.47

שֶׁהוּא קְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּעֵץ חַיִּים.

This, in fact, is the root of “assur” (meaning “forbidden”; lit., “bound”): the kelipah hovers over [the forbidden thing] so that it cannot rise aloft to holiness like that which is “muttar” (meaning “permitted”; lit., “unbound”);

וְזֶהוּ לְשׁוֹן "אָסוּר", שֶׁהַקְּלִיפָּה שׁוֹרָה עָלָיו וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לַעֲלוֹת לְמַעְלָה כְּדָבָר הַ"מּוּתָּר",

[while “muttar”] means that [a permitted object] is not tied and bound (“assur”) to the kelipah that would anchor it,

דְּהַיְינוּ – שֶׁאֵינוֹ קָשׁוּר וְאָסוּר בִּקְלִיפָּה,

and is [therefore] able to ascend by means of the person eating it with his mind on G-d, e.g., in order to have the strength to serve Him.

וְיוּכַל לַעֲלוֹת עַל־יְדֵי הָאָדָם הָאוֹכְלוֹ בְּכַוָּונָה לַה',

The same applies when there is no specific intent,

וְגַם בִּסְתָם,

with any person who serves G-d, who studies [Torah] and prays to G-d with the energy derived from this eating,

כָּל אָדָם הָעוֹבֵד ה' שֶׁבְּכֹחַ הָאֲכִילָה הַהִיא לוֹמֵד וּמִתְפַּלֵּל לַה',

so that the letters of Torah and of prayer which ascend to G-d are formed out of the energy distilled from that food.

וְנִמְצָא שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה אוֹתִיּוֹת הַתּוֹרָה וְהַתְּפִלָּה הָעוֹלָה לַה' – מִכֹּחַ הַנִּבְרָר מֵהַמַּאֲכָל הַהוּא.

In other words, the life-force that derives from kelipat nogah is thereby elevated to G-d.

This is so during the week: In order for the food eaten on weekdays to be elevated, it must be utilized for Torah or prayer.

וְזֶהוּ בְּחוֹל,

But on the Shabbat, the kelipat nogah itself is elevated, together with the external aspect of all the worlds, for the Shabbat is characterized by the “elevation of the worlds” (aliyat haolamot).48

אֲבָל בְּשַׁבָּת שֶׁיֵּשׁ עֲלִיָּה לִקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ בְּעַצְמָהּ עִם הַחִיצוֹנִיּוּת שֶׁבְּכָל הָעוֹלָמוֹת,

It is therefore a mitzvah to eat all kinds of pleasurable things on the Shabbat for the sake of oneg Shabbat (“enjoying the Shabbat”), irrespective of the fact that it gives one the strength to serve G-d,

לָכֵן, מִצְוָה לֶאֱכוֹל כָּל תַּעֲנוּגִים בְּשַׁבָּת

and to partake of more meat and wine than usual,

וּלְהַרְבּוֹת בְּבָשָׂר וְיַיִן,

even though on a weekday, one would be called a glutton and a drunkard.

אַף שֶׁבְּחוֹל נִקְרָא זוֹלֵל וְסוֹבֵא.

It is otherwise with a forbidden thing.

מַה־שֶּׁאֵין־כֵּן בִּדְבַר אִיסּוּר,

It cannot ascend [to holiness,] neither on the Shabbat nor on a weekday, even if one were to pray and study with that energy, i.e., with the energy derived from eating it49

שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לַעֲלוֹת לֹא בְּשַׁבָּת וְלֹא בְּחוֹל, גַּם כְּשֶׁמִּתְפַּלֵּל וְלוֹמֵד בַּכֹּחַ הַהוּא,

unless one ate in order to save an endangered life, which is permitted by our Sages, of blessed memory, so that [the food] becomes [entirely]50 permissible.

אִם לֹא שֶׁאָכַל לְפִיקּוּחַ נֶפֶשׁ שֶׁהִתִּירוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה וְנַעֲשָׂה הֶיתֵּר [גָּמוּר].

But the study of Torah, even the laws of issur and hetter, impurity and purity, i.e., not the objects but the laws concerning them,

אֲבָל הַלִּימּוּד בַּתּוֹרָה, אַף הִלְכוֹת אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר טוּמְאָה וְטָהֳרָה,

those being the Mishnayot and the Baraitot in the Gemara that address these issues,

שֶׁהֵם הַמִּשְׁנָיוֹת וּבָרַיְיתוֹת שֶׁבַּגְּמָרָא

and the codifiers who explain and clarify their words for practical application,

וּפוֹסְקִים, הַמְבָאֲרִים וּמְבָרְרִים דִּבְרֵיהֶם לַהֲלָכָה לְמַעֲשֶׂה,

these constitute the body of the Oral Torah,

הֵן הֵן גּוּפֵי תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל־פֶּה,

which is the sefirah of malchut in [the World of] Atzilut, as stated in innumerable places in the sacred Zohar.

שֶׁהִיא סְפִירַת מַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת, כִּדְאִיתָא בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בִּמְקוֹמוֹת אֵין מִסְפָּר,

It is likewise written at the beginning of the Tikkunim,51malchut (lit., ‘sovereignty’)—that is the Mouth, which we call the Oral Torah.”

וּבְרֵישׁ תִּיקּוּנִים: "מַלְכוּת – פֶּה, תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה קָרִינָן לָהּ",

And in Atzilut, “He and His causations (garmohi; lit., ‘organs’) are one in them.” I.e., the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, and the vessels (kelim) which emanate from Him, and so, too, His attributes, are all one with Him—in the sefirot.52

וּבַאֲצִילוּת – "אִיהוּ וְגַרְמוֹהִי חַד בְּהוֹן",

That is, the [infinite] Ein Sof-light unites itself in Atzilut in an absolute unity so that He and His will and wisdom—vested in His speech, which is called malchut—are entirely one.

דְּהַיְינוּ, שֶׁאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מִתְיַיחֵד בַּאֲצִילוּת בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד, שֶׁהוּא וּרְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ הַמְלוּבָּשִׁים בְּדִבּוּרוֹ שֶׁנִּקְרָא "מַלְכוּת" – הַכֹּל אֶחָד:

This indivisible level of Divinity can thus not be described in compound terms as the Tree of Knowledge of [both] Good and Evil. And the laws of the Oral Torah—in the Mishnayot, the Baraitot, and the legal codes—which relate to the sefirah of malchut in the World of Atzilut partake of the same indivisible unity. These laws can thus not be described in terms of the Tree of Knowledge of [both] Good and Evil.