Now, the aspect of the blessed Divine chochmah that is vested in the 613 commandments of the Torah is referred to as the hindmost aspect of chochmah.

וְהִנֵּה, בְּחִינַת חָכְמַת אֱלֹהוּת בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בְּתַרְיַ"ג מִצְוֹת הַתּוֹרָה נִקְרֵאת בְּשֵׁם "בְּחִינַת אֲחוֹרַיִים דְּחָכְמָה",

The Alter Rebbe had previously said that (a) Moses’ prophetic comprehension of the sefirah of chochmah consisted merely of the achorayim (the hindmost aspect) of chochmah. He then went on to say that (b) the source of the Torah in chochmah is the same, for it too transcends reason. The Alter Rebbe is now saying that (c) even the chochmah vested in the 613 commandments is referred to as no more than the achorayim of chochmah.

For the achorayim of any one of the sefirot are the external and lower levels within that sefirah, which are capable of descending and extending downward, to become vested in created beings in order to animate them.

כִּי כָּל אֲחוֹרַיִים שֶׁבַּסְּפִירוֹת הֵן מַדְרֵגוֹת הַחִיצוֹנוֹת וְהַתַּחְתּוֹנוֹת בְּמַעֲלָה שֶׁבִּסְפִירָה זוֹ, מַה שֶּׁיּוּכְלוּ לֵירֵד וּלְהִתְפַּשֵּׁט לְמַטָּה לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בַּבְּרוּאִים לְהַחֲיוֹתָם;

The aspect of the panim (the “face” or inner dimension) of the sefirah is the sefirah itself as it is united with its Emanator, the blessed Ein Sof, in an absolute union.

וּבְחִינַת הַפָּנִים, הִיא הַסְּפִירָה עַצְמָהּ הַמְיוּחֶדֶת בְּמַאֲצִילָהּ אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד.

As, for example, the sefirah of chochmah, the sefirah now under discussion: It is united with its Emanator, the blessed Ein Sof, in absolute unity, for the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Wisdom, are One (34as explained above)—evidently in reference to Part I, chs. 2 and 52.

כְּגוֹן דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, סְפִירַת חָכְמָה שֶׁהִיא מְיוּחֶדֶת בְּמַאֲצִילָהּ אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד, כִּי הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא וְחָכְמָתוֹ אֶחָד (כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר לְעֵיל),

But that which radiates and extends from His blessed chochmah to the limited and finite nether beings below,

וּמַה שֶּׁמֵּאִיר וּמִתְפַּשֵּׁט מֵחָכְמָתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ לְמַטָּה בַּתַּחְתּוֹנִים, שֶׁהֵם בַּעֲלֵי גְבוּל וְתַכְלִית,

and becomes vested in them,

וּמִתְלַבֵּשׁ בָּהֶם –

Light that merely “radiates” and “extends” does not necessarily contract according to the limitations of the recipient of the light; it may “radiate” and “extend” in an encompassing manner (makif) and thus not be subject to them. However, when the illumination is “vested” within a receptor, this implies adjustment to its limitations.

Hence, a light that becomes vested within finite created beings cannot possibly be infinite, as would be the case if the actual sefirah as united with its Emanator—and thus as infinite as its Emanator—would descend into created beings. Therefore, the life-giving force which is vested within creation—

is called achorayim: it is the external aspect of the sefirah and not the sefirah itself,

נִקְרָא "אֲחוֹרַיִים",

and it is also called the aspect of Asiyah within Atzilut.

וְנִקְרָא גַם כֵּן בְּחִינַת "עֲשִׂיָּה שֶׁבַּאֲצִילוּת".

The external aspect of chochmahchochmah here being an allusion to the World of Atzilut—is termed the level of Asiyah within Atzilut,35 i.e., that level of Atzilut that is capable of descending below.

The meaning of this will be understood by way of analogy with terrestrial man, whose soul spans five ranks, one lower than the other.

פֵּירוּשׁ, עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, כְּמוֹ שֶׁבָּאָדָם הַתַּחְתּוֹן שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּנִשְׁמָתוֹ ה' מַדְרֵגוֹת, זוֹ לְמַטָּה מִזּוֹ,

These are the faculties of the intellect, the emotive attributes, thought, speech, and action, with action the lowest of them all.

שֶׁהֵן בְּחִינוֹת הַשֵּׂכֶל וְהַמִּדּוֹת וּמַחֲשָׁבָה וְדִבּוּר וּמַעֲשֶׂה, וְהַמַּעֲשֶׂה – הִיא הַתַּחְתּוֹנָה שֶׁבְּכוּלָּם,

I.e., the soul manifests itself in action to a much lesser degree than it does in the other four levels.

For the life-force that extends from the soul and is vested in the faculty of action is as nothing compared to the life-force that extends from it and is vested in the faculty of speech.

שֶׁהַחַיּוּת הַמִּתְפַּשֵּׁט מֵהַנְּשָׁמָה וּמְלוּבָּשׁ בְּכֹחַ הַמַּעֲשֶׂה, הוּא כְּאַיִן לְגַבֵּי הַחַיּוּת הַמִּתְפַּשֵּׁט מִמֶּנָּה וּמְלוּבָּשׁ בְּכֹחַ הַדִּבּוּר,

The latter in turn is as nothing compared to the life-force that extends from [the soul] and is vested in thought, in the emotive attributes, and in the intellect.

שֶׁהוּא כְּאַיִן לְגַבֵּי הַחַיּוּת הַמִּתְפַּשֵּׁט מִמֶּנָּה וּמְלוּבָּשׁ בְּמַחֲשָׁבָה וּמִדּוֹת וְשֵׂכֶל.

The latter three faculties are always united with the soul. Even the faculty of thought, which is merely a “garment” of the soul (i.e., one of its means of expression), is always united with it, and therefore, like the soul itself, always in a manifest state. Speech and action, however, are “garments” that are separate from the soul. Thus, insofar as speech is concerned, there is “A time to speak and a time to refrain from speech,”36 while action is even more distant from the soul than speech.

In a precisely like manner with respect to the Divine chochmah, to the extent that can be diffused from it37 to become vested in all the nether beings:

כֵּן עַל דֶּרֶךְ זֶה מַמָּשׁ – הִיא בְּחִינַת חָכְמָתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, מַה שֶּׁיּוּכַל לְהִתְפַּשֵּׁט מִמֶּנָּה (לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ) [לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ] בַּתַּחְתּוֹנִים כּוּלָּם,

Since “You have made them all through chochmah,”38 it follows that this sefirah must be vested in all nether beings. However, this is merely the external level of chochmah.

it39 is as nothing compared to the panim (the inward or frontal aspect) of chochmah, which is at one with the blessed Emanator,

הֵם כְּאַיִן לְגַבֵּי בְּחִינַת פָּנִים הַמְיוּחָד בַּמַּאֲצִיל בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

for “All that is before Him (i.e., close and united with Him) is esteemed as naught.”40

דְּ"כוּלָּא קַמֵּיהּ כְּלָא חֲשִׁיב",

The life-giving flow to all created beings, which are limited and finite, is regarded as a descent and a contraction, so to speak, with respect to the Emanator, the blessed Ein Sof,

וְהַהַשְׁפָּעָה לְכָל הַנִּבְרָאִים כּוּלָּם שֶׁהֵם בַּעֲלֵי גְבוּל וְתַכְלִית – נֶחְשֶׁבֶת יְרִידָה וְצִמְצוּם כִּבְיָכוֹל לְגַבֵּי הַמַּאֲצִיל אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

just as, metaphorically speaking, it would be regarded as a descent and contraction for the intellect of an intelligent person to be contracted to some purely physical and material activity.41

עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנֶּחְשֶׁבֶת יְרִידָה וְצִמְצוּם לְשֵׂכֶל הָאָדָם הַמַּשְׂכִּיל הַמְצוּמְצָם בְּאֵיזֶה עֲשִׂיָּה גַּשְׁמִיּוּת וְחוּמְרִית מַמָּשׁ.

Moses our Master, peace to him, who apprehended as high as the level [of Divinity] called the hindmost aspect of chochmah, therefore merited that the Torah was given through him—

וְלָכֵן מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּינוּ עָלָיו־הַשָּׁלוֹם, שֶׁהִשִּׂיג עַד אֲחוֹרַיִים דְּחָכְמָה, זָכָה שֶׁתִּנָּתֵן עַל יָדוֹ הַתּוֹרָה,

the Torah being the novlot, the withered vestige, of supernal chochmah,

שֶׁהִיא "נוֹבְלוֹת חָכְמָה שֶׁלְּמַעְלָה",

i.e., that which is sloughed off from it and descends below, and becomes vested in our physical Torah.42

פֵּירוּשׁ, מַה שֶּׁנּוֹבֵל מִמֶּנָּה וְיוֹרֵד לְמַטָּה וּמִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּתוֹרָה גַשְׁמִיּוּת שֶׁלָּנוּ,

For [the Torah’s] core and ultimate object is the observance of the prohibitory and positive commandments, in actual deed and performance,

שֶׁעִיקָּרָהּ וְתַכְלִיתָהּ הוּא קִיּוּם הַמִּצְוֹת לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה וַעֲשֵׂה בְּפוֹעַל וּמַעֲשֶׂה מַמָּשׁ,

in the spirit of the verse, “To do them this day,”43 and, more specifically, in the spirit of the comment of our Sages on this phrase: “They are to be done today and not tomorrow44—in this world and not in the World to Come.

כַּמַּאֲמָר: "הַיּוֹם לַעֲשׂוֹתָם",

Our Sages likewise taught, “The study of the Torah is greater [than the observance of the commandments] because it leads to [their] performance.”45

וְ"גָדוֹל תַּלְמוּד שֶׁמֵּבִיא לִידֵי מַעֲשֶׂה",

Similarly, “As to he who learns with the intent of not doing, it would have been better for him if his afterbirth had turned over….”46

וְ"הַלּוֹמֵד שֶׁלֹּא לַעֲשׂוֹת נוֹחַ לוֹ שֶׁנֶּהֶפְכָה שִׁלְיָיתוֹ וְכוּ'",

I.e., better had he never been born.

Indeed, every individual needs to become reincarnated until he has actually observed all the 613 commandments, as is known from R. Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory.47

וְכָל אָדָם מוּכְרָח לְהִתְגַּלְגֵּל עַד שֶׁיְּקַיֵּים כָּל הַתַּרְיַ"ג מִצְוֹת בְּפוֹעַל מַמָּשׁ, כַּנּוֹדָע מֵהָאֲרִיזַ"ל:

The Tzemach Tzedek makes the following comment48 on the above epistle:

Although the Alter Rebbe opens this letter with the verse, “He wraps [Himself with] light as [with] a garment…,” he does not explain it here. However, it can be understood from his introduction that the achorayim of chochmah, also known as the novlot of the supernal chochmah, which is Torah, is the “garment” (i.e., the revealed aspect) of the Torah while the pnimiyut of abba, the inward aspect of chochmah, is the esoteric depths of the Torah.

(The latter aspect of the Torah will be revealed mainly by Mashiach, as Rashi notes in his comment on the verse, “He kisses me with the kisses of His mouth.”49 Even now, however, a foretaste of the innermost dimensions of the Torah may be savored in the teachings of Chasidut. The present revelation of its insights serves as a preparation for the coming of Mashiach, in the spirit of the Friday afternoon custom of sampling the delicacies prepared for Shabbat,50 since the time of Mashiach is known as “a day that is entirely Shabbat.”51)

The Tzemach Tzedek concludes: This is the “light” that is vested within the “garment”: it was created on the First Day and later hidden in the Torah—ultimately to be revealed to the righteous.52