The performance of mitzvot, however, as the Alter Rebbe will now explain, connects a Jew with the essence of Divinity. When he holds an etrog together with the other three kinds of vegetation and fulfills the mitzvah of the “Four Species” on Sukkot, he is holding on to the essence of Divinity. And so too with regard to all the practical mitzvot.

מה שאין כן מעשה המצות, מעשה אלקים המה הנה

But as to the performance of mitzvot, these are the works of G‑d, unlike other worldly actions, from which Divinity is utterly concealed. The Alter Rebbe now explains how this comes about:

בדרך השתלשלות מכלים דאצילות לבריאה יצירה עשיה, ממהותן ועצמותן דחיצוניותן

In the process of the chain of descent from the vessels of Atzilut to Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, for the vessels of Atzilut that descend into these worlds are the Divinity of these worlds, from the very nature and essence of their external aspect —

כמו, על דרך משל, אתרוג ומיניו

as, for example, within the etrog and its “kinds” —

הלביש בהן הקב״ה ממהותן ועצמותן דחסדים [פנימית] [פנימים] דז״א

the Holy One, blessed be He, clothed something of the very nature and essence of the [1internal] attributes of Kindness of Za,

והיינו מבחינת חיצוניותן

meaning from their outward state, from the external aspect of these internal attributes,

כנודע בכל מצות מעשיות

as is known in the case of all mitzvot requiring action.

מה שאין כן האדם

Man, by contrast, who by means of his intellect or spiritual emotions can attain intellectually-generated love and fear,

אפילו יש לו נשמה דאצילות

even if he possesses a soul of Atzilut,

מאחר שמלובשת בגוף

yet since it is clothed in a body,

לא יוכל למצוא בנפשו ולהשיג מהותן ועצמותן של פנימית החסדים דז״א דאצילות

cannot detect and apprehend through2 his soul the nature and essence of the inward attributes of Kindness of Za of Atzilut.

(כי האצילות היא בחינת חיה בכללות העולמות, אצילות בריאה יצירה עשיה

(3For in general terms Atzilut represents the state of Chayah in the Four Worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah,

Specifically, each of the Four Worlds possesses all four soullevels of Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah and Chayah. In a general sense, however, each of these Four Worlds corresponds to one of these levels. Asiyah corresponds to Nefesh; Yetzirah — to Ruach; Beriah — to Neshamah; and Atzilut corresponds to Chayah.

שהיא בחינת מקיף מלמעלה, ואינה מתלבשת בכלי כלל)

and [Chayah] denotes encompassing transcendence, not being vested within any vessel whatever.)

Unlike the soul-level in man called Neshamah, which reflects his power of comprehension, or Ruach, which reflects his spiritual emotions, and so on, each of these soul-levels having their specific “location” within the body, Chayah is a transcendent soul-level that encompasses the individual from above.

So, too, with regard to the worlds, Chayah (paralleled by the World of Atzilut) is the spiritual level that encompasses from above and does not vest itself at all within a vessel. Thus, a person living within a body cannot possibly apprehend the essence of an entity at the level of Atzilut.

כי אם מציאותן, על ידי דחילו ורחימו שכליים

[With regard to the internal attributes of Kindness of Za, man is able to apprehend] only their existence, through intellectually-generated awe and love.

ומה שכתוב: וראית את אחורי, הוא בדרך נבואה דוקא

As to the statement,4 “You shall see my hinderpart” — and seeing penetrates to the essence of a matter — this refers only to prophecy.

(שהוא התפשטות הגשמיות, כמו שכתוב ברעיא מהימנא, פרשת משפטים)

(5For prophecy entails divestment of the physical,6 as explained in Ra’aya Mehemna, Parshat Mishpatim.7)

Thus, Moses’ apprehension of the essence of Divinity resulted from a state of prophecy that entails divestment from the physical. Through other, non-prophetic means, it is impossible for the soul to apprehend the essence of any of the levels of Atzilut.

והטעם, היינו לפי שאי אפשר לנברא להשיג כלום במהות האלקות, שהוא הבורא

This, then, is the reason: No created being is capable of grasping anything whatsoever of the essence of Divinity, the Creator.

ובלי השגה, אין זו הלבשה ותפיסא ודביקות אמיתית

And without comprehension there is no real investiture, or grasping, or cleaving.

Man is thus incapable of truly cleaving to G‑d’s attributes, i.e., the attributes of Atzilut.

In light of the above it is clear that the love and fear of G‑d that a Jew generates through meditation during prayer, grasps and cleaves to no more than the external aspect of the existence of Divinity, and not His essence.

מה שאין כן האתרוג, על דרך משל, חיותו נמשכה ונשתלשלה ממהות חיצוניות דכלים דנוקבא דז״א דאצילות

However, as to the etrog by way of example, its life is drawn and descends from the very essence of the outer aspect of the vessels of nukva of Za of Atzilut,

שהוא בחינת אלקות

which is truly a state of Divinity,

כמו שכתוב בעץ חיים, שכל הפירות הן באצילות

as stated in Etz Chayim,8 that all the fruits are [rooted] in Atzilut.

כי למ״ד כלים דאצילות ירדו לבריאה יצירה עשיה

For the thirty vessels of Atzilut descended into Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah in order to become the Divinity of those Worlds

(והן יו״ד מאמרות שבהן נברא העולם

(9and these are the Ten Utterances10 by which the world was created

על ידי התלבשות בנוקבא דעשיה, מהות במהות)

through enclothement in nukva of Asiyah, essence in essence).11

The essence of the vessels of Malchut of Atzilut vests itself in the essence of Malchut of Asiyah, which is the source of all created beings of that world. Included among them are the fruits of that world, such as the etrog.

While the G‑dliness found in other physical matters is concealed, in an object used for a mitzvah it is manifest, as explained in Tanya, ch. 23.

כי הכלים דאצילות נעשו נשמה בעשיה, שהיא בחינת אלקות ממש

For the vessels of Atzilut became the soul of Asiyah, which is actually a state of Divinity.

לפי שבאצילות, איהו וגרמוהי חד, המאציל והנאצל

For in Atzilut12 “He and His vessels are one” — the Emanator (the infinite light) and the emanation (the vessels of Atzilut).

ועל ידי התלבשות מהות הנשמה במהות הכלים דנוקבא דעשיה, נתהוה האתרוג

And through the enclothement of the essence of the soul [of the vessels of Atzilut] in the essence of the vessels of nukva (i.e., Malchut) of Asiyah, the etrog came into being.

נמצא כשתופס האתרוג ומנענעו כהלכתו

The result is that in holding the etrog and waving it as the law requires,

הרי זה תופס ממש חיותו המלובש בו מנוקבא דאצילות

one is actually holding the life-force which is clothed within it and which derives from the nukva (i.e., Malchut) of Atzilut,

המיוחדת באור אין סוף, המאציל ברוך הוא

and [Malchut] is united with the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, the Emanator of Atzilut, blessed be He.

But is this not also the case when one holds any other fruit, where no mitzvah is involved?

The answer is, as previously explained, that in other physical objects the G‑dly life-force is concealed, whereas it is revealed in objects used for a mitzvah, for these are the “works of G‑d.”

מה שאין כן בכוונתו

This is not the case concerning one’s intention while performing the mitzvah of the etrog.

אינו משיג ותופס, אף היודע הסוד, אלא מציאותה ולא מהותה

Here, even if he is familiar with the mystical [Kabbalistic and chassidic] meanings involved, he does not grasp and hold on to the essence (of Malchut of Atzilut, the source of the etrog), but only to the external fact of its mere existence.

This is entirely unlike holding a physical etrog and performing the mitzvah with it, at which time one grasps the essence of the physical etrog together with its source in Divinity.

אך בלימוד הלכות אתרוג, משיג ותופס האתרוג ממש ומצותו כהלכה, בבחינת דבור ומחשבה

However, by studying the laws of the etrog one does attain and grasp the etrog proper and its mitzvah appropriately, by speech and thought.

For here he is articulating or understanding or thinking about the laws of the physical etrog, whose essence he can grasp, and not its spiritual intent in the heavenly realms.

וכל שכן, הלומד הסוד

Even more so, he who studies the esoteric dimension of the mitzvah of the etrog according to the teachings of the Kabbalah and Chassidut.

For here, too, we are speaking of the esoteric dimension of the physical etrog, whose essence he can comprehend, and not of the spiritual intentions of the mitzvah or, yet higher, the relevant configurations of Sefirot in the World of Atzilut.

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