“Fortunate are we. How good is our portion, how pleasant is our lot….”1

"אַשְׁרֵינוּ מַה טּוֹב חֶלְקֵנוּ וּמַה נָּעִים גּוֹרָלֵנוּ כוּ'",

In this prayer, which is recited as part of the introductory morning prayers preceding Hodu, we offer thanks to G-d for our “portion” and “lot”—His self-revelation to every individual Jew. These same terms appear together in a similar context in the following two successive verses:2

“G-d is the allotment3 of my portion and of my cup; [You support my lot]. The tracts [apportioned by lot] have fallen unto me pleasantly; [indeed, I have a goodly heritage].”

"ה' מְנָת חֶלְקִי וְכוֹסִי וְגוֹ'", "חֲבָלִים נָפְלוּ לִי וְגוֹ'".

These verses together indicate that the Jews’ pleasant portion and lot is a radiance of G-dly light. A question, however, arises: Why is the G-dliness that illumines our souls referred to by both terms, both as “our portion” and as “our lot” when “portion” can refer to any one of several identical benefactions, while “lot” indicates something which is granted exclusively to a particular individual who wins a lottery, for example, having been chosen by “lot”?

In order to understand the terms “our portion” and “our lot,”

לְהָבִין לְשׁוֹן "חֶלְקֵנוּ" וְ"גוֹרָלֵנוּ"

one must properly explain a common4 expression in the teachings of our Sages, of blessed memory, viz.: “He has no part in the G-d of Israel.”

צָרִיךְ לְבָאֵר הֵיטֵב לָשׁוֹן הַשָּׁגוּר בְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אֵין לוֹ חֵלֶק בֵּאלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל",

Now it would seem that a term like “part” cannot possibly be applied to G-d,

כִּי הֲגַם דְּלִכְאוֹרָה לֹא שַׁיָּיךְ לְשׁוֹן "חֵלֶק" כְּלָל בֵּאלֹקוּת יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

because He is not divisible into parts, Heaven forfend.

שֶׁאֵינוֹ מִתְחַלֵּק לַחֲלָקִים חַס וְשָׁלוֹם.

G-d is the ultimate in simple and uncompounded unity, the very antithesis of divisibility; nevertheless, we find that our Sages here use the term “part” in relation to G-d. How can this be?

We must perforce conclude that though G-d Himself is indivisible, the G-dly illumination that descends into Jewish souls can be described with the word “part,” inasmuch as it is revealed in parts, so to speak, as shall soon be explained.

This concept can be understood by considering a verse concerning Jacob: “And he called Him ‘E-l, G-d of Israel.’”5

אַךְ הָעִנְיָן, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּיַעֲקֹב: "וַיִּקְרָא לוֹ אֵל אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל",

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain the meaning of the verse in order to answer a number of simple questions: (a) Until this verse, the name “Jacob” is used consistently; why does this verse suddenly change to “Israel”? (b) How does this conclusion of the verse relate to its beginning, “And he set up an altar”? (c) What is novel about the epithet “E-l, G-d of Israel”?

The meaning [of this verse is as follows]:

פֵּירוּשׁ,

In truth, the Holy One, blessed is He, is true to His Name.

כִּי הִנֵּה בֶּאֱמֶת הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא כִּשְׁמוֹ כֵּן הוּא,

On one hand, the phrase “Holy One” (in the Hebrew original, קָּדוֹשׁ) implies that G-d stands above and apart from creation while “blessed be He” (where the Hebrew בָּרוּךְ, lit., “blessed,” also means to descend and be revealed) implies that the level of G-dliness which previously was “holy” and “apart”—the indirect “He” in the phrase quoted—is drawn down into the world in a revealed manner, as will soon be explained.

Though He permeates all the upper and lower worlds,

כִּי אַף דְּאִיהוּ מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים

from the peak of all levels to this lowly corporeal world,

מֵרוּם הַמַּעֲלוֹת עַד מִתַּחַת לָאָרֶץ הַלֵּזוּ הַחוּמְרִית,

G-d permeates and is present to an equal degree in all worlds. It should be noted that the term “permeates all worlds” used here does not refer to the degree of contracted G-dliness that is generally said to “fill all worlds” according to their individual capacity to retain it. Rather, here, the Alter Rebbe refers to G-d’s permeating all worlds to an equal degree.

as it is written, “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth”6

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "הֲלֹא אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ אֲנִי מָלֵא" –

i.e., “I, My very self,”

"אֲנִי" מַמָּשׁ,

meaning G-d’s very Being and Essence, as it were, and not only His glory—

דְּהַיְינוּ מַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ כִּבְיָכוֹל וְלֹא כְּבוֹדוֹ לְבַד,

In another verse we find, “The earth is filled with His glory.”7 That verse alludes merely to the “glory” and radiance of G-dliness. Here, however, the words “I fill” refer to G-d’s very Essence, permeating all worlds.

Now, although G-d Himself permeates and is to be found in all worlds:

He is nevertheless “holy” in the sense of “apart from” the upper and lower worlds and is not at all contained in them, Heaven forfend,

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן הוּא קָדוֹשׁ וּמוּבְדָּל מֵעֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים, וְאֵינוֹ נִתְפָּס כְּלָל בְּתוֹכָם חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

in the way, by analogy, that the soul of man is contained in his body and is affected by the changes within it. Unlike the soul, G-d is not at all affected by the worlds in which He is to be found,

כִּתְפִיסַת נִשְׁמַת הָאָדָם בְּגוּפוֹ עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל,

as explained elsewhere at length.8

כְּמוֹ שֶׁמְּבוֹאָר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר בַּאֲרִיכוּת.

For this reason, i.e., since G-d is entirely distinct and apart from all worlds,

וְלָזֹאת,

they could not receive their life-force from His Being and Essence in itself, as it were.

לֹא הָיוּ יְכוֹלִים לְקַבֵּל חַיּוּתָם מִמַּהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ לְבַדּוֹ כִּבְיָכוֹל,

Rather, the diffusion of the life-force whereby the Holy One, blessed be He, animates the upper and lower worlds

רַק הִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת הַחַיּוּת אֲשֶׁר הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מְחַיֶּה עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים,

is, metaphorically speaking, like radiance shining forth from His Name,

הוּא עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, כְּמוֹ הֶאָרָה מְאִירָה מִשְּׁמוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

G-d’s Name is itself merely a radiance; from it, there emanates yet another radiance.

for He and His Name are One—for which reason a ray that emanates from His Name is able to animate the various worlds.

שֶׁהוּא וּשְׁמוֹ אֶחָד,

Thus, it is written, “For [even] His Name alone is exalted”9; i.e., G-d’s Name is exalted “alone,” standing apart from all the worlds which it transcends,

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "כִּי נִשְׂגָּב שְׁמוֹ לְבַדּוֹ",

while only His reflection and “His splendor are on the earth and the heavens.”10

רַק זִיווֹ וְ"הוֹדוֹ עַל אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם וְגוֹ'".

Thus, all of creation exists from but a radiance of G-d’s Name, which, as previously mentioned, is itself merely a radiance.

This radiance actually vests itself in the upper and lower worlds in order to animate them.

וְהֶאָרָה זוֹ מִתְלַבֶּשֶׁת מַמָּשׁ בָּעֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים לְהַחֲיוֹתָם,

At this level, the G-dly life-force is not merely present in created beings and worlds but actually vests itself in them: it contracts and adapts to the spiritual capacity of each particular world in which it is vested and is integrated within it.

It is contained in them by means of many intermediaries, i.e., levels that are related both to the levels above and below them, thereby enabling them to serve as conduits for the transference of the radiance,

וְנִתְפֶּסֶת בְּתוֹכָם עַל־יְדֵי מְמוּצָּעִים רַבִּים,

and by means of numerous and intense contractions,

וְצִמְצוּמִים רַבִּים וַעֲצוּמִים,

“Numerous” describes the quantitative diminution of Divine light and life-force; “intense” alludes to their qualitative diminution, whereby the light that emerges after the contraction is entirely different from the light that originally emanated before being screened and contracted.

in a downward, chainlike progression through the levels of the various worlds, in a sequence of cause and effect, and so on.

בְּהִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת הַמַּדְרֵגוֹת דֶּרֶךְ עִלָּה וְעָלוּל וְכוּ'.

Within every world, the lower level develops from the higher level by way of cause and effect, the higher level serving as the cause and source of the lower.

After all these contractions and descents, then, the light manifests itself within the various worlds by becoming vested in them.