והנה בחינת חכמת אלקות ברוך הוא, המלובשת בתרי״ג מצות התורה, נקראת בשם בחינת אחוריים דחכמה

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.

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.

כי כל אחוריים שבספירות, הן מדרגות החיצונות והתחתונות במעלה שבספירה זו, מה שיוכלו לירד ולהתפשט למטה, להתלבש בברואים להחיותם

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 downwards, to become vested in created beings in order to animate them.

ובחינת הפנים היא הספירה עצמה, המיוחדת במאצילה, אין סוף ברוך הוא, בתכלית היחוד

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.

כגון, דרך משל, ספירת חכמה, שהיא מיוחדת במאצילה, אין סוף ברוך הוא, בתכלית היחוד, כי הקב״ה וחכמתו אחד כמו שכתוב לעיל

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 (1as explained above) — evidently in reference to Part I, chs. 2 and 52.

ומה שמאיר ומתפשט מחכמתו יתברך למטה בתחתונים, שהם בעלי גבול ותכלית

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

ומתלבש בהם

and becomes vested in them,

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 (makkif) 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 —

נקרא אחוריים

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

ונקרא גם כן בחינת עשיה שבאצילות

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

The external aspect of Chochmah — Chochmah here being an allusion to the World of Atzilut — is termed the level of Asiyah within Atzilut,2 i.e., that level of Atzilut that is capable of descending below.

פירוש, על דרך משל, כמו שבאדם התחתון, שיש בנשמתו ה׳ מדרגות, זו למטה מזו

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

שהן בחינת השכל והמדות ומחשבה ודבור ומעשה, והמעשה היא התחתונה שבכולם

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

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

שהחיות המתפשט מהנשמה ומלובש בכח המעשה, הוא כאין לגבי החיות המתפשט ממנה ומלובש בכח הדבור

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.

שהוא כאין לגבי החיות המתפשט ממנה, ומלובש במחשבה ומדות ושכל

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.

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 is3 “A time to speak and a time to refrain from speech,” while action is even more distant from the soul than speech.

כן על דרך זה ממש, היא בחינת חכמתו יתברך, מה שיוכל להתפשט ממנה להתלבש בתחתונים כולם

In a precisely like manner with respect to the Divine Chochmah, to the extent that can be diffused from it4 to become vested in all the nether beings:

Since5 “You have made them all through Chochmah,” it follows that this Sefirah must be vested in all nether beings. However, this is merely the external level of Chochmah.

הוא כאין לגבי בחינת פנים, המיוחד במאציל ברוך הוא

it6 is as nothing compared to the panim (the inward or frontal aspect) of Chochmah, which is at one with the blessed Emanator.

דכולא קמיה כלא חשיב

For7 “All that is before Him (i.e., close and united with Him) is esteemed as naught.”

וההשפעה לכל הנבראים כולם, שהם בעלי גבול ותכלית, נחשבת ירידה וצמצום כביכול, לגבי המאציל, אין סוף ברוך הוא

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,

על דרך משל, כמו שנחשבת ירידה וצמצום לשכל האדם המשכיל, המצומצם באיזו עשיה גשמית וחומרית ממש

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.8

ולכן משה רבינו עליו השלום, שהשיג עד אחוריים דחכמה, זכה שתנתן על ידו התורה

Moshe Rabbeinu, 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 —

שהיא נובלות חכמה שלמעלה

the Torah being the novlot, the withered vestige, of Supernal Chochmah,

פירוש: מה שנובל ממנה ויורד למטה, ומתלבש בתורה גשמית שלנו

i.e., that which is sloughed off from it and descends below, and becomes vested in our physical Torah.9

שעיקרה ותכליתה הוא קיום המצות לא תעשה ועשה, בפועל ומעשה ממש

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

כמאמר: היום לעשותם

in the spirit of the verse,10 “To do them this day,” and, more specifically, in the spirit of the comment of our Sages on this phrase:11 “They are to be done today and not tomorrow” — in this world, and not in the World to Come.

וגדול תלמוד, שמביא לידי מעשה

Our Sages likewise taught,12 “The study of Torah is greater [than the observance of the commandments] because it leads to [their] performance.”

והלומד שלא לעשות, נוח לו שנהפכה שלייתו וכו׳

Similarly,13 “As to him who learns with the intent of not doing, it would have been better for him if his afterbirth had turned over....”

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

וכל אדם מוכרח להתגלגל עד שיקיים כל התרי״ג מצות בפועל ממש, כנודע מהאריז״ל

Indeed, every individual needs to become reincarnated until he has actually observed all the 613 commandments, as is known from R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory.14

The Tzemach Tzedek makes the following comment15 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 Torah, while the pnimiyut of Abba, the inward aspect of Chochmah, is the esoteric depths of Torah.

(The latter aspect of Torah will be revealed mainly by Mashiach, as Rashi notes in his comment on the verse,16 “He kisses me with the kisses of His mouth.” Even now, however, a foretaste of the innermost dimensions of the Torah may be savored in the teachings of Chassidut. The present revelation of its insights serves as a preparation for the coming of Mashiach, in the spirit of the Friday afternoon custom17 of sampling the delicacies prepared for Shabbat, since the time of Mashiach is known as18 “a day that is entirely Shabbat.”)

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.19