The Alter Rebbe explained in the previous chapter that the light of the Shechinah, an illumination utterly transcending the realm of the world, must have a “garment” which enables it to radiate there. The “garment” of the Shechinah is Torah.

In every World, there is found the “intelligence” of that particular World, namely, the sefirot of chochmah, binah, and daat of that World. They constitute the shrine of the Holy of Holies, in which the Shechinah resides. After the levels of ChaBaD (in which resides the Shechinah) descend into the level of malchut of a particular World, the creatures of that World are then created.

By vesting itself in malchut, moreover, the light of the Shechinah is then able to descend into the shrine of the Holy of Holies of the next lower World. The Alter Rebbe explained this process as it applies to all Worlds down to and including the spiritual World of Asiyah.

In ch. 53, he will go on to explain how the light of the Shechinah descends and illuminates this physical world. During the times of the First and Second Temple, the Shechinah was housed in the Holy of Holies. Today, it finds its abode in a Jew’s study of Torah and performance of the mitzvot.

He will also explain the difference between the level of the illumination of the Shechinah in the First and Second Beit Hamikdash, on one hand, and the level of Shechinah, which is drawn down through the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot, on the other.

At the time the First Temple stood, in which the Ark and the Tablets were housed in the Holy of Holies,

וְהִנֵּה, כְּשֶׁהָיָה בַּיִת רִאשׁוֹן קַיָּים, שֶׁבּוֹ הָיָה הָאָרוֹן וְהַלּוּחוֹת בְּבֵית קָדְשֵׁי קָדָשִׁים –

the Shechinah—which is malchut of Atzilut, that is, the revealed light of the Ein Sof, a light which intrinsically is infinite and transcends all Worlds and which nevertheless was revealed in them

הָיְתָה הַשְּׁכִינָה, שֶׁהִיא מַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת, שֶׁהִיא בְּחִינַת גִּילּוּי אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

dwelled there and was clothed in the Ten Commandments, which were engraved upon the Tablets found in the Ark in the Holy of Holies,

שׁוֹרָה שָׁם, וּמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בַּעֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת,

far more intensely, and with a greater and mightier revelation, than its revelation in the shrines of the Holy of Holies above in the upper Worlds.

בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת וְיֶתֶר עֹז, בְּגִילּוּי רַב וְעָצוּם יוֹתֵר מִגִּילּוּיָהּ בְּהֵיכְלוֹת קָדְשֵׁי קָדָשִׁים שֶׁלְּמַעְלָה בְּעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים.

This refers to the Worlds of Asiyah and Yetzirah.1 For even in the World of Yetzirah, the Shechinah illumines only insofar as it has previously clothed itself in the shrine of the Holy of Holies of the World of Beriah. The level of Shechinah manifest in the First Temple, however, though it too was manifest only through having first been enclothed in malchut of Beriah, was less completely concealed. Even after this concealment, therefore, the illumination in the First Temple was still on the level of the World of Beriah and not of Yetzirah.

The Alter Rebbe now answers the following question: Inasmuch as the Temple was located in this physical world, how was it possible for the Shechinah to be found there to a higher degree than in the upper Worlds? He answers:

For the Ten Commandments are the all-embracing principles of the whole Torah,

כִּי עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת הֵן כְּלָלוּת הַתּוֹרָה כוּלָּהּ,

As explained in the Azharot of R. Saadya Gaon, the Ten Commandments incorporate all 613 mitzvot of the Torah. See also beginning of the Tanya, ch. 20.

which derives from the level of supernal chochmah, i.e., chochmah of Atzilut, that is far higher than the “world of manifestation.”

דְּנָפְקָא מִגּוֹ חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה, דִּלְעֵילָּא לְעֵילָּא מֵעָלְמָא דְאִתְגַּלְיָא,

It is far higher than malchut of Atzilut, which is called the “world of manifestation” because it reveals the light of the Ein Sof to the Worlds.

As explained earlier, for this reason, the Torah is able to act as a “garment” that does not become nullified in the light of the Shechinah which garbs itself in it since its source is higher than the Shechinah. However, in order for Torah to act as a concealing “garment,” it must descend lower than the level of the Shechinah, thereby enabling the light of the Shechinah to be received by created beings.

However, as Torah descended into the Ten Commandments engraved on the Tablets, it did not do so in a manner that would make it similar to other physical things. Rather, as will soon be explained, it remained on a level which is higher than the previously mentioned upper Worlds.

In order to engrave them on material tablets of stone, it (supernal chochmah, which is Torah) did not descend degree by degree, parallel to the order of descent of the Worlds, which descend by stages from a higher world to a lower world, until it reached this material world.

וּכְדֵי לְחָקְקָן בְּלוּחוֹת אֲבָנִים גַּשְׁמִיִּים – לֹא יָרְדָה מִמַּדְרֵגָה לְמַדְרֵגָה, כְּדֶרֶךְ הִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת הָעוֹלָמוֹת עַד עוֹלָם הַזֶּה הַגַּשְׁמִי,

Generally, in order for a flow of Divine light to arrive at this physical world, it must first descend from World to World, coming down through the Worlds of Yetzirah and spiritual Asiyah, both of which are higher than its ultimate destination, this world. This, however, was not the case with the Tablets.

For this material world functions through the garb of material nature,

כִּי עוֹלָם הַזֶּה הַגַּשְׁמִי – מִתְנַהֵג בְּהִתְלַבְּשׁוּת הַטֶּבַע הַגַּשְׁמִי,

while the Tablets are “the work of G-d,”2 a Divine creation, in which G-dliness—not nature—is revealed,

"וְהַלּוּחוֹת – מַעֲשֵׂה אֱלֹהִים הֵמָּה,

“and the writing is the writing of G-d,’’2 writing in which G-dliness is perceived,

וְהַמִּכְתָּב – מִכְתַּב אֱלֹהִים הוּא",

beyond the nature of this material world which is derived from the radiance of the Shechinah in the shrine of the Holy of Holies of Asiyah, from which light and vitality issue to the World of Asiyah, in which this physical world is also included.

לְמַעְלָה מֵהַטֶּבַע שֶׁל עוֹלָם הַזֶּה הַגַּשְׁמִי, הַנִּשְׁפָּע מֵהֶאָרַת הַשְּׁכִינָה שֶׁבְּהֵיכַל קָדְשֵׁי קָדָשִׁים דַּעֲשִׂיָּה, שֶׁמִּמֶּנָּה נִמְשָׁךְ אוֹר וְחַיּוּת לְעוֹלַם הָעֲשִׂיָּה, שֶׁגַּם עוֹלָם הַזֶּה בִּכְלָלוֹ,

The ray of the Shechinah, which is in the shrine of the Holy of Holies of Asiyah, gives this physical world its vitality after first being garbed in malchut of Asiyah, as explained earlier. This was not the case with the Tablets.

But the level of the supernal chochmah of Atzilut, consisting of the totality of the Torah as it is encapsulated in the Ten Commandments, clothed itself in malchut of Atzilut and of Beriah alone and did not clothe itself further in the lower Worlds,

אֶלָּא, בְּחִינַת חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה דַאֲצִילוּת, שֶׁהִיא כְּלָלוּת הַתּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּי' הַדִּבְּרוֹת, נִתְלַבְּשָׁה בְּמַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת וְדִבְרִיאָה לְבַדָּן,

and they alone (chochmah of Atzilut as it is garbed in malchut of Atzilut and malchut of Beriah without further vestment), united as they are with the [infinite] light of the Ein Sof that is within them,

וְהֵן לְבַדָּן הַמְיוּחָדוֹת בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף שֶׁבְּתוֹכָן –

are referred to as the Shechinah, which rested in the Holy of Holies of the First Temple, through its being vested in the Ten Commandments, which were engraved by miraculous means in the Tablets reposing in the Ark.

הֵן הַנִּקְרָאוֹת בְּשֵׁם "שְׁכִינָה", הַשּׁוֹרָה בְּקָדְשֵׁי קָדָשִׁים דְּבַיִת רִאשׁוֹן, עַל יְדֵי הִתְלַבְּשׁוּתָהּ בְּי' הַדִּבְּרוֹת הַחֲקוּקוֹת בַּלּוּחוֹת שֶׁבָּאָרוֹן בְּנֵס

As the Sages tell us,3 the letters mem and samach, circular letters hewn through the entire thickness of the stone, stood in their place miraculously.

Moreover, the Ten Commandments upon the Tablets were the work of the Living G-d—Elokim Chaim,

וּמַעֲשֵׂה אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים

(4this being, in terms of the sefirot, binah of Atzilut, which is known as “the concealed world” which nests in the World of Beriah, as is known to the students of the Kabbalah).

[הוּא "עָלְמָא דְאִתְכַּסְיָא", הַמְקַנֵּן בְּעוֹלַם הַבְּרִיאָה, כַּנּוֹדָע לְיוֹדְעֵי חֵן],

Those familiar with the Kabbalah know that binah of Atzilut radiates into the World of Beriah, a world which still remains in the category of “a concealed world”—i.e., it is categorized as a World but not a World whose independent being is revealed, in that the World of Beriah is aware of how it is wholly dependent on G-d.