After greetings of life and peace,

אַחַר דְּרִישַׁת שְׁלוֹמָם וְחַיִּים,

may my opening words rouse “the ear that hears the life-giving admonition”1

פֶּתַח דְּבָרַי יָעִיר אֹזֶן שׁוֹמַעַת תּוֹכַחַת חַיִּים,

that the Living G-d admonished through His prophet,2 saying:

אֲשֶׁר הוֹכִיחַ ה' חַיִּים עַל־יְדֵי נְבִיאוֹ, וְאָמַר:

“The kindnesses of G-d have surely not ended….”3

"חַסְדֵי ה' כִּי לֹא תָמְנוּ וְגוֹ'",

Surprisingly, the Hebrew verb used here is tamnu (in the first person plural), which would make the phrase mean, “we have not been brought to an end.” If the verse sought to say that the kindnesses “have not ended,” rather than “because of G-d’s kindnesses, we have not been brought to an end,” it should surely have used the verb tamu (in the third person plural), as the Alter Rebbe goes on to point out.

Now, it should really have said ki lo tamu,

וַהֲוָה־לֵיהּ־לְמֵימַר "כִּי לֹא תָמּוּ",

as in the phrase, “For your kindnesses have not ended….”4

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאוֹמְרִים: "כִּי לֹא תַמּוּ חֲסָדֶיךָ וְגוֹ'".

The Alter Rebbe answers that our verse indeed implies two ideas: (a) the kindnesses have not ended; (b) we stand in need of חַסְדֵי ה' (G-d’s kindnesses), כִּי לֹא תָמְנוּbecause we are not “perfect” or “complete.” (In the second interpretation, tamnu means “we are not tamim,” as shall soon be explained.)

This [anomaly] will be understood in the light of a statement in the sacred Zohar: “There are [two] different types of chesed:5

וְיוּבַן עַל פִּי מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ: "אִית חֶסֶד וְאִית חֶסֶד,

there is chesed olam…, literally, “a world-like chesed,” a degree of kindness which is limited by temporal bounds,

אִית חֶסֶד עוֹלָם כוּ'

and there is a superior form of kindness, i.e., rav chesed (“boundless kindness”)….

וְאִית חֶסֶד עִילָּאָה דְּהוּא רַב חֶסֶד כוּ'".

Since it is man’s spiritual service that draws down Divine beneficence, the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain what manner of service elicits a downflow of the “chesed of the world” and what manner of service draws down the boundless degree of rav chesed.

Now, it is well known that the Torah is called oz (“strength”),

כִּי הִנֵּה מוּדַעַת זֹאת, הַתּוֹרָה נִקְרֵאת "עוֹז",

Thus, on the verse, “G-d grants strength to His people,”6 the Gemara in Tractate Zevachim comments, “‘Strength’ alludes to the Torah.”7

which is an expression of gevurah.

שֶׁהוּא לְשׁוֹן גְּבוּרָה,

Literally, gevurah means “might,” but more specifically, as the name of one of the sefirot, it signifies (in contradistinction to chesed) the withholding of beneficence, as regulated by the Divine attribute of stern justice.

As our Sages, of blessed memory, taught: “The 613 commandments were declared unto Moses at Sinai from the Mouth of the gevurah.”8

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ חֲכָמֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "תַּרְיַ"ג מִצְוֹת נֶאֶמְרוּ לְמֹשֶׁה מִסִּינַי מִפִּי הַגְּבוּרָה";

I.e., the 613 commandments were uttered by G-d as He manifested Himself in the attribute of gevurah, for which reason He Himself is here referred to by the name of this attribute.

It is likewise written: “From His right Hand, a Torah of fire [was given] unto them”9; i.e., it was written in fire, which is an expression of the attribute of gevurah.

וּכְדִכְתִיב: "מִימִינוֹ אֵשׁ דָּת לָמוֹ",

This means:

פֵּירוּשׁ,

The Alter Rebbe here introduces an explanation which anticipates the following question: Since the Torah of G-d was given “from His right Hand,” which always connotes kindness and benevolence (and indeed, the Torah has been called Torat Chesed—“a Torah of kindness”10), how then can the above-quoted verse proceed to say that the Torah is an expression of fire and gevurah?

The source and root of the Torah is solely “G-d’s kindnesses,” that are referred to as “the right side.”11

שֶׁהַתּוֹרָה מְקוֹרָהּ וְשָׁרְשָׁהּ הוּא רַק חַסְדֵי ה', הַמְכוּנִּים בְּשֵׁם "יָמִין",

That is: The elicitation of His Divinity and of radiance from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light,

דְּהַיְינוּ, הַמְשָׁכַת בְּחִינַת אֱלֹהוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ וְהֶאָרָה מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא

to the upper and lower worlds,

אֶל הָעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים,

[is effected] by man, who draws down the light upon himself,

עַל־יְדֵי הָאָדָם הַמַּמְשִׁיךְ הָאוֹר עַל עַצְמוֹ,

by the fulfillment of the 248 positive commandments,

בְּקִיּוּם רַמַ"ח מִצְוֹת עֲשֵׂה,

which are “the 248 organs of the King”12;

שֶׁהֵן רַמַ"ח אֵבָרִים דְּמַלְכָּא,

i.e., they are the 248 vessels and garments for the radiance from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that is vested in them.

פֵּירוּשׁ רַמַ"ח כֵּלִים וּלְבוּשִׁים לְהֶאָרָה [נראה דצריך להיות: לְהַהֶאָרָה] מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בָּהֶן

Each of the commandments serves as a receptor or vehicle for the particular Divine illumination that vests itself within it, just as each organ of the body is a vehicle or receptor for a particular faculty of the soul—the eye for the power of sight, the ear for the power of hearing, and so on.

(13And, as is known, from this light, awe and love are drawn down upon [a person as he performs] each command.)

(וּמֵאוֹר זֶה יוּמְשַׁךְ לוֹ דְּחִילוּ וּרְחִימוּ בְּכָל מִצְוָה כַּנּוֹדָע).

The Torah and its commandments are thus a downflow of G-dliness, springing from His attribute of kindness.

However, this downflow was first vested in G-d’s attribute of gevurah, which is referred to as “fire,”

רַק שֶׁהַמְשָׁכָה זוֹ נִתְלַבְּשָׁה תְּחִלָּה בְּמִדַּת גְּבוּרָתוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, הַמְכוּנָּה בְּשֵׁם "אֵשׁ",

and which reflects a contraction (tzimtzum) of the light and life-force that issue from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light,

שֶׁהִיא בְּחִינַת צִמְצוּם הָאוֹר וְהַחַיּוּת הַנִּמְשָׁכוֹת מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

thus enabling it to become vested in the performance of the commandments,

כְּדֵי שֶׁתּוּכַל לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּמַעֲשֵׂה הַמִּצְוֹת,

practically all of which involve material things,

שֶׁרוּבָּן כְּכוּלָּן הֵם בִּדְבָרִים חוּמְרִיִּים,

such as tzitzit (which are made of wool), tefillin (made of leather and parchment), sacrifices (offered from animals, plants, and minerals), and charity (that involves money or other material objects).

כְּצִיצִית וּתְפִילִּין וְקָרְבָּנוֹת וּצְדָקָה.

Even commandments that involve a man’s spirit, such as awe and love [of G-d],

וְאַף מִצְוֹת שֶׁהֵן בְּרוּחָנִיּוּת הָאָדָם, כְּמוֹ יִרְאָה וְאַהֲבָה,

are also of limited measure14 and by no means of infinite extent.

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, הֵן בִּבְחִינַת גְּבוּל וּמִדָּה – וְלֹא בִּבְחִינַת אֵין־סוֹף כְּלָל,

For not even for a moment could man sustain in his heart so intense a love of G-d as is without end and limitation and still remain in existence in his body.

כִּי אַהֲבָה רַבָּה לַה' בְּלִי קֵץ וּגְבוּל וּמִדָּה אֵין הָאָדָם יָכוֹל לְסוֹבְלָהּ בְּלִבּוֹ וְלִהְיוֹת קַיָּים בְּגוּפוֹ אֲפִילוּ רֶגַע,

Indeed, so intense a love would surely cause the soul to take flight.

So it was taught by our Sages, of blessed memory,15 that at the time of the Giving of the Torah, when G-d’s Divinity, and the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, were manifested [to the Jews at Sinai] at the [direct] level of revealed speech, “their souls took flight” from their bodies.

וּכְמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה, שֶׁבִּשְׁעַת מַתַּן תּוֹרָה, שֶׁהָיְתָה הִתְגַּלּוּת אֱלֹהוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ וְאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בִּבְחִינַת דִּיבּוּר וְהִתְגַּלּוּת – "פָּרְחָה נִשְׁמָתָן כוּ'";

At that time, G-d restored their souls with the dew that He will use to revive the dead in the Time to Come. We see, however, that the illumination in itself was so intense that their souls could not remain within their bodies for even one moment.

Since the love presently experienced by a soul within a body does not cause it to flee, it follows that this love is inherently limited. This also applies to the awe and love which are experienced as a result of the Divinity that is revealed in the mitzvot, as mentioned earlier. This is the case because the flow of G-dliness which descends through the Torah and its finite commandments is restrained by the attribute of gevurah.

We can now understand the two stages implied in the above-quoted verse: Initially, the Torah indeed proceeds “from His right Hand,” from the boundless kindness of the attribute of chesed—but it is then communicated to us “from the Mouth of the gevurah” as “a Torah of fire,” as a law which is delimited and restricted through the Divine attribute of gevurah, so that it will be able to find expression in the finitude of the mitzvot.