Nevertheless, notwithstanding the superior level of unity with G-dliness attained only by Torah, our Sages have said: “The essential thing is not study but deed.”17

וְאַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "לֹא הַמִּדְרָשׁ עִיקָּר אֶלָּא הַמַּעֲשֶׂה",

It is also written: “This day, i.e., during our life in this world, the all-important thing is to do them”18 (the mitzvot). And the Halachah rules that one must interrupt Torah study to perform a mitzvah of action when it cannot be fulfilled by others,

וְ"הַיּוֹם לַעֲשׂוֹתָם" כְּתִיב, וּמְבַטְּלִין תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה לְקִיּוּם מִצְוָה מַעֲשִׂיית כְּשֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לַעֲשׂוֹתָהּ עַל יְדֵי אֲחֵרִים,

for “this (the active performance of mitzvot) is man’s entire purpose,”19 the purpose for which he was created and for which [his soul] descended to this world,

מִשּׁוּם, "כִּי זֶה כָּל הָאָדָם" וְתַכְלִית בְּרִיאָתוֹ וִירִידָתוֹ לָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה,

so that G-d may have an abode precisely in the lowest realms, to turn the darkness of this world into light of holiness,

לִהְיוֹת לוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ דִּירָה בַּתַּחְתּוֹנִים דַּוְקָא, לְאַהֲפָכָא חֲשׁוֹכָא לִנְהוֹרָא,

so that G-d’s glory fill specifically the entire physical world, and “all flesh will behold [G-dliness] together,” as was discussed above (ch. 36).

"וְיִמָּלֵא כְבוֹד ה' אֶת כָּל הָאָרֶץ" הַגַּשְׁמִית דַּיְיקָא, "וְרָאוּ כָל בָּשָׂר יַחְדָּיו", כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

Thus, the goal of making this world an abode for G-d is achieved primarily through mitzvot of action. Therefore, when presented with the opportunity of performing a mitzvah that others cannot fulfill, one must fulfill this mitzvah even at the cost of interrupting his Torah studies so that G-d’s desire for “an abode in the lower realms” be realized.

If, however, the mitzvah that clashes with one’s Torah study can be fulfilled by others, the choice is no longer between respecting or ignoring G-d’s desire for “an abode…,” whether he suspends his Torah study to perform the mitzvah or continues his studies and leaves the mitzvah to others, this objective will be realized regardless. The choice is now between studying Torah and actively performing a mitzvah, and here, Torah study prevails because of the superior level of unity that it effects between the Torah student’s soul and G-d.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

On the other hand, if [the mitzvah] can be performed by others, one does not interrupt Torah study to perform it, even though the whole Torah is, after all, only an explanation of the mitzvot of action.

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן כְּשֶׁאֶפְשָׁר לַעֲשׂוֹתָהּ עַל יְדֵי אֲחֵרִים – אֵין מְבַטְּלִין תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה, אַף שֶׁכָּל הַתּוֹרָה אֵינָהּ אֶלָּא פֵּירוּשׁ הַמִּצְוֹת מַעֲשִׂיּוֹת,

This is because the Torah is the level of ChaBaD of the blessed Ein Sof, and hence, when one is engaged in [studying] it, he draws upon himself an infinitely greater illumination of the blessed Ein Sof-light—greater both in its illuminative power and in its higher quality—than the illumination and influence that one draws upon his soul through mitzvot, which are [merely] “organs” of the King.

וְהַיְינוּ, מִשּׁוּם שֶׁהִיא בְּחִינַת חָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת שֶׁל אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, וּבְעָסְקוֹ בָּהּ – מַמְשִׁיךְ עָלָיו אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת וְהֶאָרָה גְדוֹלָה לְאֵין קֵץ מֵהֶאָרָה וְהַמְשָׁכָה עַל יְדֵי פִּקּוּדִין, שֶׁהֵן אֵבָרִין דְּמַלְכָּא.

What emerges from this discussion is that the effect of mitzvot consists primarily of the elevation of one’s body and the physical world in general; the effect of Torah study, on the other hand, is to unite the soul with G-d. Accordingly, the Alter Rebbe explains the following Talmudic statement:

This is what Rav Sheshet meant when he said, “Rejoice, my soul! For you do I study Scripture; for you do I study Mishnah,”20

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמַר רַב שֵׁשֶׁת: "חֲדָאִי נַפְשָׁאִי, לָךְ קָרָאִי לָךְ תָּנָאִי",

For the soul, the unity with G-d attained through Torah (Scripture and Mishnah) is greater than that attained through mitzvot; he therefore addressed these words to it: “For your sake I learn….”

as is explained elsewhere at length.21

כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר בַּאֲרִיכוּת: