This discussion of the exalted unity with G-d attained through Torah study, which is even greater than that accomplished by performing the mitzvot, explains why Torah study is so much loftier than all the other commandments, including even prayer, which effects unity within the supernal worlds.

וּבָזֶה יוּבַן לָמָּה גָּדְלָה מְאֹד מַעֲלַת הָעֵסֶק בַּתּוֹרָה יוֹתֵר מִכָּל הַמִּצְוֹת, וַאֲפִילוּ מִתְּפִלָּה – שֶׁהִיא יִחוּד עוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים

(10Although the law requires of anyone whose Torah study is not his entire occupation that he interrupt his study for prayer,11 which would seem to indicate that prayer surpasses Torah study, this is so only because he would in any case pause and interrupt his studies.)

[וְהָא דְּמִי שֶׁאֵין תּוֹרָתוֹ אוּמָנוּתוֹ צָרִיךְ לְהַפְסִיק, הַיְינוּ מֵאַחַר דְּמַפְסִיק וּמְבַטֵּל בְּלָאו הָכֵי].

Thus, it is not the law which causes him to interrupt. The law merely states that the interruption, which he would have made regardless, be made at the time designated for prayer, and as soon as he interrupts his studies, he is automatically obliged to pray.12

From this explanation of the lofty stature of Torah study, the wise man will be able to draw upon himself a sense of great awe as he engages in the study of the Torah,13

וּמִזֶּה יוּכַל הַמַּשְׂכִּיל לְהַמְשִׁיךְ עָלָיו יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה בְּעָסְקוֹ בַּתּוֹרָה,

when he considers how his soul and its “garments” of thought and speech that are found in his brain and mouth are truly fused in perfect unity with the Divine will and the infinite light of the Ein Sof that is manifest in them i.e., in the soul and its garments, when he studies Torah.

כְּשֶׁיִּתְבּוֹנֵן אֵיךְ שֶׁנַּפְשׁוֹ וּלְבוּשֶׁיהָ שֶׁבְּמוֹחוֹ וּבְפִיו, הֵם מְיוּחָדִים מַמָּשׁ בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד בָּרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן וְאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מַמָּשׁ הַמִּתְגַּלֶּה בָּהֶם,

This infinite light manifest in one’s Torah study is of such a lofty level that all the upper and lower worlds are truly as naught in comparison with it and are in fact as absolutely nothing at all, so much so that they can only bear to have a minute glow of it clothed in them without their reverting to nothingness altogether. Their main life-force which they receive from it, however, is not clothed within them but animates them from the outside, so to speak, in a transcendent, encompassing manner.

מַה שֶּׁכָּל הָעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים – כְּלָא חֲשִׁיבֵי קַמֵּיהּ וּכְאַיִן וָאֶפֶס מַמָּשׁ, עַד שֶׁאֵינוֹ מִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּתוֹכָם מַמָּשׁ, אֶלָּא, סוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין, בִּבְחִינַת מַקִּיף – לְהַחֲיוֹתָם עִיקַּר חַיּוּתָם, רַק אֵיזוֹ הֶאָרָה מִתְלַבֶּשֶׁת בְּתוֹכָם, מַה שֶּׁיְּכוֹלִים לִסְבּוֹל, שֶׁלֹּא יִתְבַּטְּלוּ בִּמְצִיאוּת לְגַמְרֵי.

When he considers that the very same Divine light that is completely beyond the capacity of all the worlds manifests itself openly in his Torah study, the thinking man will naturally experience a sense of awe when he studies Torah.

This is the meaning of the verse, “And G-d commanded us [to fulfill] all these statutes in order to fear G-d.”14

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וַיְצַוֵּנוּ ה' אֶת כָּל הַחוּקִּים הָאֵלֶּה לְיִרְאָה אֶת ה' וְגוֹ'"

According to this verse, observing the mitzvot would appear to be the first step, and this leads to the fear of G-d. Logically, however, the performance of G-d’s commandments would seem to be a result of one’s fear of Him and not vice versa. The Alter Rebbe therefore explains that the above verse speaks of a higher level of awe than that which is a prerequisite for performing the commandments. This level can only be attained as a result of one’s observance of the commandments.

Now if the commandments lead one to a higher level in the fear of G-d, surely the study of the Torah leads one to a still higher level. This the Alter Rebbe now discusses.

(15Regarding this great fear, our Sages said, “If there is no wisdom, there is no fear.”16 In this context, “wisdom” represents Torah study and “fear” the higher level of the awe of G-d, which can be reached only by way of the Torah. By contrast, the statement “If there is no fear, there is no wisdom” refers to the lower level of fear, which is a prerequisite for Torah study, as stated above. In relation to this level of fear, the Torah is called “a gateway to the courtyard,”17 i.e., the sole means of entering the courtyard, viz., the higher level of fear, as is explained elsewhere.)

[וְעַל יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה זוֹ אָמְרוּ: "אִם אֵין חָכְמָה, אֵין יִרְאָה", וְהַתּוֹרָה נִקְרֵאת אֶצְלָהּ "תַּרְעָא לְדַרְתָּא", כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר],

Not every mind, however, can sustain such a fear. Yet even he whose mind cannot bear such a fear, nor even a minute part of it, because the root and source of his soul derives from an inferior level—the lower gradations of the ten sefirot of the World of Asiyah—even he should not be deterred from the actual performance of the Torah and the mitzvot for want of this fear, as will be explained further.18

אֶלָּא, דְּלָאו כָּל מוֹחָא סָבִיל דָּא – יִרְאָה כָּזוֹ. אַךְ גַּם מַאן דְּלָא סָבִיל מוֹחוֹ כְּלָל יִרְאָה זוֹ, לֹא מִינָּהּ וְלֹא מִקְצָתָהּ, מִפְּנֵי פְּחִיתוּת עֵרֶךְ נַפְשׁוֹ בְּשָׁרְשָׁהּ וּמְקוֹרָהּ – בְּמַדְרֵגוֹת תַּחְתּוֹנוֹת דְּעֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת דַּעֲשִׂיָּה, אֵין יִרְאָה זוֹ מְעַכֶּבֶת בּוֹ לְמַעֲשֶׂה, כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר לְקַמָּן: