As for the Second Temple, in which the Ark and the Tablets did not repose, these being among the five things found in the First Temple and lacking in the Second,

וּבְבַיִת שֵׁנִי שֶׁלֹּא הָיָה בוֹ הָאָרוֹן וְהַלּוּחוֹת,

our Rabbis, of blessed memory, said5 that the Shechinah did not abide there. This means not that, G-d forbid, the Shechinah did not abide there at all; rather, it speaks of the category of the Shechinah, which used to abide in the First Temple—which was not in the manner of the ordinary descent of the Worlds.

אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה, שֶׁלֹּא הָיְתָה שְׁכִינָה שׁוֹרָה בּוֹ, פֵּירוּשׁ, מַדְרֵגַת שְׁכִינָה שֶׁהָיְתָה שׁוֹרָה בְּבַיִת רִאשׁוֹן שֶׁלֹּא כְּדֶרֶךְ הִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת הָעוֹלָמוֹת.

It was this level of Shechinah that did not abide in the Second Temple but only a far lesser level.

But in the Second Temple, it abided according to the order of gradual descent, of malchut of Atzilut vested in malchut of Beriah, and the latter in malchut of Yetzirah, and the latter in the shrine of the Holy of Holies of Asiyah, that shrine being ChaBaD of Asiyah.

אֶלָּא, בְּבַיִת שֵׁנִי, הָיְתָה שׁוֹרָה כְּדֶרֶךְ הִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת וְהִתְלַבְּשׁוּת מַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת בְּמַלְכוּת דִּבְרִיאָה, וְדִבְרִיאָה בְּמַלְכוּת דִּיצִירָה, וְדִיצִירָה בְּהֵיכַל קָדְשֵׁי קָדָשִׁים דַּעֲשִׂיָּה,

And the Holy of Holies of Asiyah was clothed in the Holy of Holies of the Temple below. In it rested the Shechinah, i.e., malchut of Yetzirah, which was clothed in the Holy of Holies of Asiyah.

וְקָדְשֵׁי קָדָשִׁים דַּעֲשִׂיָּה הָיָה מִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּקָדְשֵׁי קָדָשִׁים שֶׁבְּבֵית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ שֶׁלְּמַטָּה, וְשָׁרְתָה בּוֹ הַשְּׁכִינָה – מַלְכוּת דִּיצִירָה הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בְּקָדְשֵׁי קָדָשִׁים דַּעֲשִׂיָּה,

Therefore, because the Shechinah resided in the Temple’s Holy of Holies, no man was permitted to enter there, except the High Priest on Yom Kippur.

וְלָכֵן לֹא הָיָה רַשַּׁאי שׁוּם אָדָם לִיכָּנֵס שָׁם, לְבַד כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים. –

And since the destruction of the Temple, of which the Sanctuary was a part, G-d resides in the shrine of Holy of Holies of Torah and the mitzvot, for as mentioned earlier, the Shechinah must reside in the Holy of Holies: "Hakadosh Baruch Hu (the Holy One, blessed be He) has but the four cubits of Halachah alone.”6

וּ"מִשֶּׁחָרַב בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ אֵין לוֹ לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּעוֹלָמוֹ אֶלָּא ד' אַמּוֹת שֶׁל הֲלָכָה בִּלְבָד",

Torah is the shrine of the Holy of Holies that connects G-d with the world so that Hakadosh (the illumination of the Shechinah, which is Kadosh, i.e., separated and apart from the world) should become Baruch (from the Hebrew root meaning “to draw down”)—drawn down into the world.

And even if one Jew sits and engages in Torah study, the Shechinah is with him, as is stated in the first chapter of Berachot. The phrase “the Shechinah is with him”7 means that although he is a being of this material world, the Shechinah is nevertheless with him.

וַ"אֲפִילוּ אֶחָד שֶׁיּוֹשֵׁב וְעוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה – שְׁכִינָה עִמּוֹ", כִּדְאִיתָא בִּבְרָכוֹת פֶּרֶק קַמָּא, פֵּירוּשׁ "שְׁכִינָה עִמּוֹ" –

The level of Shechinah that is with him is:

in order of the gradual descent and investment of malchut of Atzilut in malchut of Beriah and Yetzirah and Asiyah.

כְּדֶרֶךְ הִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת וְהִתְלַבְּשׁוּת מַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת בְּמַלְכוּת דִּבְרִיאָה וִיצִירָה וַעֲשִׂיָּה.

It is thus inferior even to the indwelling of the Shechinah in the Second Temple, an indwelling that did not require the vestment in malchut of Asiyah.

It differs from the drawing down of the Shechinah in the world in general, in which case the identical progressive descent occurs, in that the Shechinah which resides in the world passes through the additional “garment” of kelipat nogah, while Torah and the mitzvot do not.

The reason that it must go through malchut of Asiyah is that the overwhelming majority of the mitzvot of the Torah involve physical action. The Shechinah therefore descends into the level of action—Asiyah, as shall now be explained.

For the 613 commandments of the Torah are by and large precepts which involve action, including even those mitzvot which are fulfilled by word and thought, such as Torah study, the Blessing after Meals, the recital of the Shema, and prayer,

כִּי תַּרְיַ"ג מִצְוֹת הַתּוֹרָה, רוּבָּן כְּכוּלָּן הֵן מִצְוֹת מַעֲשִׂיּוֹת, וְגַם הַתְּלוּיוֹת בְּדִבּוּר וּמַחֲשָׁבָה, כְּמוֹ תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה וּבִרְכַּת הַמָּזוֹן וּקְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּתְפִלָּה –

This is so even though these mitzvot involve thought—seeking to grasp the concepts in one’s studies and to experience the kavanot of the Shema and prayer—and as such, they are not bound up with action,

for it has been ruled that meditation has not the validity of speech, and one does not fulfill one’s obligation by meditation [in a manner of hirhur] and kavanah alone, even when his manner of meditation is close to speech, as is the case when one thinks about the way in which he will utter certain words, which is called hirhur, until he gives it utterance with his lips;

הָא קַיְּימָא לָן, דְּ"הִרְהוּר – לָאו כְּדִבּוּר דָּמֵי", וְאֵינוֹ יוֹצֵא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ בְּהִרְהוּר וְכַוָּונָה לְבַד, עַד שֶׁיּוֹצִיא בִּשְׂפָתָיו,

moreover, it has been ruled that the motion of the lips while one is speaking is considered an “action”—in which case, all these mitzvot involve a form of action.

וְקַיְּימָא לָן דַּ"עֲקִימַת שְׂפָתָיו הָוֵי מַעֲשֶׂה".

The Rebbe explains that the Alter Rebbe will now anticipate the following question: It still remains to be understood why specifically the four cubits of Halachah take the place of the Holy of Holies; why should this be not so when a Jew studies a subject in Torah which is not Halachah, for there too the Shechinah is with him? The Alter Rebbe therefore explains that Halachah possesses the especial merit of expressing the Divine will (as explained at length in Iggeret Hakodesh, Epistle 29).

And the 613 commandments of the Torah, together with the seven commandments of our Rabbis, combine to total the numerical equivalent of keter (“crown”), which is the supernal will,

וְתַרְיַ"ג מִצְוֹת הַתּוֹרָה עִם שֶׁבַע מִצְוֹת דְּרַבָּנָן – בְּגִימַטְרִיָּא "כֶּתֶ"ר", שֶׁהוּא רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן בָּרוּךְ הוּא

Will is called a crown, for like a crown, it encompasses the head and brain; Iggeret Hakodesh, loc. cit., where this is discussed at length.

which is clothed in His wisdom,

הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בְּחָכְמָתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

Thus, in addition to the fact that Torah is G-d’s wisdom, which in its descent in the downward progression of Worlds becomes the shrine of the Holy of Holies for the Shechinah, there is the additional quality of its being the supernal will, which is even loftier than wisdom. This is uniquely found in the Halachah and the mitzvot, as they are expressions of the supernal will.

and they (G-d’s will and wisdom) are united with the light of the Ein Sof in a perfect union.

הַמְיוּחָדוֹת בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד.

Further to an earlier statement that Torah derives from supernal wisdom, the Alter Rebbe will now say that the Oral Law also emanates from that source.

“G-d founded the earth with wisdom.”8 This refers to the Oral Law that is derived from supernal wisdom, as it is written in the Zohar, “The father (chochmah) begat the daughter” (i.e., malchut, the Oral Law, as it is written, “malchut—the mouth, which we call the Oral Law”).

וַ"ה' בְּחָכְמָה יָסַד אָרֶץ" הִיא תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה דְּנָפְקָא מֵחָכְמָה עִילָּאָה, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזֹּהַר דְּ"אַבָּא יָסַד בְּרַתָּא".