אך מי הוא הנותן כח ועוז לבחינת מתנים להעמיד ולקיים הראש והזרועות

But what gives the power and strength to the “loins” (i.e., faith) to support and sustain the “head” (i.e., the intellect that contemplates G‑d’s greatness) and the “arms” (i.e., the love and fear of G‑d)?

הוא עסק ולימוד הלכות בתורה שבעל פה

It is one’s involvement in — and study of — the laws of the Oral Torah, for the Torah is the food1 that nourishes the soul’s faith,

שהיא בחינת גילוי רצון העליון

and [the Oral Torah] is the manifestation of the Supreme Will.

Only the Oral Torah manifestly reveals the Supreme Will in all its ramifications; the Written Torah does not elaborate on the detailed laws concerning the performance of the commandments. On the mitzvah of tefillin, for example, the Written Torah merely states that2 “You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall serve as a reminder between your eyes.” It is not at all clear exactly what shall be bound, how it shall serve as a sign, and precisely where it shall be placed “between your eyes.” All these particulars are elaborated upon in the Oral Torah; it is there that G‑d’s specific intentions regarding tefillin are revealed.

So too with the other commandments: the Oral Torah reveals the Supreme Will, as will be explained in more detail below, in Epistle 29.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that Torah may indeed be said to be the revelation of G‑d’s Will, a level that transcends His wisdom, notwithstanding the fact that3 “Torah proceeds from Chochmah,” i.e., from Divine wisdom. This is so because:

דאורייתא מחכמה היא דנפקת

Torah [merely] proceeds i.e., unfolds from Chochmah: it is merely revealed through Divine wisdom;

אבל מקורה ושרשה הוא למעלה מעלה מבחינת חכמה

its source and root, however, surpass by far the rank of Chochmah,

והוא הנקרא בשם רצון העליון, ברוך הוא

being that which is referred to as the Blessed One’s Supreme Will, which encompasses and sustains Chochmah.

וכמו שכתוב: כצנה רצון תעטרנו

Thus it is written, — and the following proof text is cited here to illustrate the effect of Torah upon the soul,4 “As with a shield You crown5 [the righteous man] with favor.” (The word here translated “favor” is ratzon, the same word that has been rendered as “Will”.)

So, too, the study of Torah encompasses and protects the soul of the Torah student,

כעטרה שהיא על המוחין שבראש

like a crown which is placed above the brains which are within the head.

Since the study of the Oral Torah reveals G‑d’s Will (i.e., the “crown” that transcends the level of wisdom), it is therefore able to strengthen the “loins” (i.e., faith), whose purpose it is to support the “head” (i.e., intellect) and the “arms” (i.e., the love and fear of G‑d — the spiritual emotions that are the fruits of intellect).

וכנודע ממה שכתוב על פסוק: אשת חיל עטרת בעלה

[This teaching] parallels the familiar exposition of the verse,6 “A woman of valor is the crown of her husband.”

The Alter Rebbe explains below, in Epistle 29, that “a woman of valor” alludes to the Oral Torah. Its numerous laws serve as a “crown” for her “husband” — the intellective faculty of Chochmah.

וכל השונה הלכות בכל יום כו׳

[This teaching] likewise [recalls the Rabbinic teaching, that]7 “whoever studies Torah laws every day [is assured of life in the World to Come],” for it is the study of the Oral Torah that enables one to be receptive to Divine revelation in the World to Come, as is explained at greater length in Epistle 29.

וזהו: חגרה בעוז מתניה

This, then, is the meaning of the verse, “She girds her loins with strength”:

אין עוז אלא תורה

“There8 is no strength but Torah,”

שהיא נותנת כח ועוז לבחינת מתנים החגורים ומלובשים בה

for it gives power and strength to the “loins”, i.e., the faith of the soul, which are girded and embodied in it,

לחזק ולאמץ זרועותיה, הן דחילו ורחימו שכליים או טבעיים

to strengthen and fortify its “arms”, namely the intellectually-generated or innate awe and love

כל חד לפום שיעורא דיליה

in each man according to his measure.

One individual generates a love or awe of G‑d through his own intellectual endeavor, through study and meditation; another merely draws on his inborn reservoir of love and awe; in all cases, however, these spiritual emotions are strengthened by the study of Torah laws.

In the spirit of the above we can understand the metaphor of the verse, “She girds her loins with strength”: Just as a warrior gathers strength by girding his loins, so does the soul become more powerful by being enveloped with the encompassing radiance of the Divine light, which is drawn down upon it from the Supreme Will that is revealed in the laws of the Torah.

(ועל העמדת וקיום בחינת הראש שבנפש, הוא השכל המתבונן כו׳, אמר: טעמה כי טוב סחרה גו׳, ומבואר במקום אחר)

(9As regards supporting and sustaining the “head” of the soul, i.e., the intellect that contemplates, [Solomon] said:10 “She perceives that her trade is good,” [a metaphor which is] explained elsewhere.)

What mainly concerns the Alter Rebbe here is “girding one’s loins” in order to arouse a love and fear of G‑d; as he will soon explain, the ideal time for this is during prayer. He therefore only briefly notes in passing that the intellect is also strengthened through the study of Torah laws.

אך עת וזמן החיזוק ואימוץ הזרועות והראש היא שעת תפלת השחר

However, the occasion and time for the strengthening and fortification of the “arms” (i.e., the spiritual emotions) and the “head” (i.e., the intellect) is the time of morning prayer,

שהיא שעת רחמים ועת רצון העליון למעלה

for Above, that is a time of compassion, a time at which the Supreme Will is revealed.11

Since the Supreme Will strengthens the “arms” and “head”, it follows that the time of prayer — an hour of favor when the Supreme Will is manifest — is an especially propitious time to strengthen both one’s intellectual grasp of G‑dliness and one’s spiritual emotions. Prayer is thus the ideal opportunity to meditate upon the greatness of G‑d and to create within oneself a feeling of awe and love of Him.

ולזאת אותה אבקש ממבקשי ה׳

Therefore, says the Alter Rebbe, this is what I would ask of those who seek to draw close to G‑d:

יבינו וישכילו יחדיו, ולהיות לזכרון בין עיניהם, כל מה שכתבתי אליהם אשתקד בכלל

Let them both understand and contemplate, and have as a [constant] reminder between their eyes,12 all that I wrote them last year13 in general,

ובפרט מענין כוונת התפלה מעומקא דלבא

and especially with respect to devout concentration during prayer from the depths of their heart.

יום יום ידרשון ה׳ בכל לבם ובכל נפשם

Day after day let them seek G‑d and desire to cleave to Him with all their heart and with all their soul;14

ונפשם תשתפך כמים נוכח פני ה׳

let them pour out their soul like water15 in the presence of G‑d.

וכמאמר רז״ל בספרי: עד מיצוי הנפש כו׳

In this spirit our Sages, of blessed memory, taught in Sifrei, commenting upon the verse, “and with all your soul”16 — that [prayer should be intense] “to the extent of pressing out the soul”; i.e., until the soul bursts forth and expresses itself in an outpouring of love for G‑d.

The wine that is forced out through the cracks of an absolutely full barrel is no more than a trickle. Yet what forces it through is the very fullness of the entire quantity of wine within. So, too, “pressing out the soul” refers to a state in which the entire essence of the soul is bursting forth with its love for G‑d, yet only a trickle of this love is visible externally.

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