It was explained above with regard to yichuda ila’ah and yichuda tata’ah, that yichuda tata’ah must also include [a taste of] yichuda ila’ah. If not, [yichuda tata’ah] is considered as “the place of death,” because the external forces have a hold [from where they can derive nurture] and a person will fall from his spiritual rung, heaven forbid.

Similar concepts apply with regard to the study of the Oral Law which is compared to a fig tree. [For,] as stated by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the Midrash Rabbah and Rabbi Nechemiah in the Talmud, the Tree of Knowledge was a fig tree.

This is a baffling statement: How can the Oral Law be described as the Tree of Knowledge? Nevertheless, [we do find that] the Raya Mehemna, Parshas Naso (p. 124b), explains that the Oral Law is the Tree [of the Knowledge] of Good and Evil. [The intent,] however, 1 is not that the Torah itself is the Tree [of the Knowledge] of Good and Evil, heaven forbid. Instead, [the intent is] that it enclothes itself [in that framework].

These concepts are explained in [Tanya,] Iggeres HaKodesh, [Epistle 26,] which focuses on that passage from the Raya Mehemna, stating that the laws of the Torah are enclothed in material concerns, [e.g.,] “one who exchanges a cow for a donkey...,” 2 and “two people are holding on to a garment....” 3 Similarly, [all other concepts in] Torah law involve material concerns.

When a person studies these laws, he is thus involved in material entities, and it is possible for him to remain a yesh, a [self-concerned] entity, and for him to forget G‑d, the Giver of the Torah, and to forget [that the Torah] is G‑d’s wisdom and will.

For [the Oral Law] does not resemble the Written Law in which the G‑dly light is more cogently felt. The Written Law has not enclothed itself that thoroughly in material garments, as reflected in the passages that state “And G‑d spoke...,” and “And G‑d said....” And many of the passages conclude: “I am G‑d.”

The Oral Law, by contrast, is enclothed in material concerns which veil and conceal the [G‑dly] light. While studying, a person feels only the material object with which he is involved and the material wisdom that is involved with it. [As such,] he is very far from G‑dliness. In particular, [this is true,] because the entire purpose of the Oral Law is to refine [the material world. For that reason,] all of Rabbi Yehudah’s study was in the Order of Nezikin [Damages], 4 and it was enclothed in false arguments5 to refine the truth from falsehood. Similarly, with regard to the laws of permitted and forbidden articles, [our challenge is] to make a distinction between the forbidden and the permitted, and between the impure and the pure. Thus [the Oral Law] actually enclothes itself in the garments of good and evil. Therefore it is called the Tree [of Knowledge] of Good and Evil, because one who brings about the refinement enclothes himself in the garments of the substance being refined. [Indeed,] it is for this reason that it is referred to as “the one who brings about the refinement.”

For the above reasons, it is necessary that one’s involvement in Torah study [be motivated] by love and fear [of G‑d]. As the Tikkunei Zohar states: 6 “Torah study that is not [motivated] by love and fear does not fly upward, and it cannot arise and come before G‑d.”

On the surface, [this statement] is puzzling. Why can’t this Torah study “arise and come before G‑d”? It is absolute holiness, [for it is G‑d’s] wisdom and His will. Why can it not rise up before Him? Because it is enclothed in material matters and matters that concern good and evil. Thus when a person studies [this subject matter] without the love and fear [of G‑d], the garments of good and evil become attached to his Torah study and are drawn after it. For this reason, [the Torah study] cannot rise up to G‑d, and instead, remains in this material realm.

[To avoid this difficulty,] the study of the Torah should be permeated with the love and fear of G‑d, as explained in Tanya, ch. 39. [When this is accomplished,] the person will study the Torah lishmah as explained in Tanya there. [Lishmah literally means “for its own sake.” Within the context of this discussion,] the term means performing the mitzvah to fulfill G‑d’s will. More particularly, as explained in Tanya, chs. 5 and 41, the intent is to connect one’s soul [to G‑d] and establish unity through [the knowledge of] the Torah. To quote ch. 41:

This is the reason why at the beginning of the morning blessings, our Sages ordained the recitation of the phrase “O my G‑d, the soul You gave me is pure... You will ultimately take it from me....” Therefore, I will now give it over and return it to You, to unite with Your oneness, as it is written: 7 “To You, O G‑d, I lift up my soul,” by connecting my thought with Your thought and my speech with Your speech through the letters of the Torah and the prayers.

Through this process, he unites the root and source of his soul, the level of Malchus, and makes it one with G‑d, as it is stated in Tanya, ch. 45: “Moreover, there is another direct path before a person, to occupy himself with the Torah and mitzvos lishmah by [utilizing] the attribute of Yaakov our Patriarch.” And as that chapter concludes:

To arouse and to draw down from there abundant mercies on all the souls and on the source of Knesset Yisrael to lift them up from their exile, and to unite them within the sublime oneness, Or Ein Sof, on the level of kisses... i.e., the connection of the speech of man with “‘the word of G‑d,’ i.e., the Halachah,8 and similarly, binding [our] thought to [His] thought.”

This also brings about the refinement and the elevation of the halachos themselves from the garments of the Tree of [the] Knowledge of Good and Evil. [This same motif is reflected in the statements of Tanya,] Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 26, on the statement of the Raya Mehemna cited above [which emphasizes] that a person’s primary service and the essence of his involvement in the Torah and its mitzvos is to elevate sparks of G‑dliness, as it concludes the discussion of this concept:

Every word of Torah, in particular, a word of halachah, is a spark of the Shechinah, which is G‑d’s speech, 9 as the Gemara states:6 “‘the word of G‑d,’ i.e., the Halachah.” [This reflects] the mystic secret of MalKchus of Atzilus which enclothes the Chochmah of Atzilus. [They are both] enclothed within Malchus of Yetzirah, and, because of the breaking of the vessels [of Tohu], they descended into kelipas nogah.

[When a person clarifies a halachah, he elevates these sparks. This is reflected in] the statement of the Gemara: 10“The Holy One, blessed be He, says: ‘Whenever anyone occupies himself with [the study of] the Torah, I consider it as if He redeemed Me and My children from among the nations of the world.’”

All this applies with regard to the study of the Torah lishmah, i.e., that one studies with love and fear in which instance, one’s study of the Torah will be lishmah, in order to fulfill G‑d’s will and elevate the attribute of Malchus. For [Malchus]is the actual word of Halachah which the person studies which was enclothed in the garments of [kelipas] nogah. [Similarly, this intent involves aspiring] to elevate the spark of one’s G‑dly soul and to elevate them both and to unite them in G‑d’s oneness.

When, however, a person studies the Torah without love and fear of G‑d, and as a result, his study is not lishmah - and as [Tanya,] ch. 39, states, that the intent in “not lishmah” is not only when one studies with an undesirable intent, 11 but when one studies without any intent 12 - [one’s study] cannot ascend and stand [before G‑d], because the garments of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil are attached to it, causing it to remain on this plane.

Synopsis: [In this chapter,] the question [asked at the outset] is resolved. For the Oral Law [described by the analogy of] a fig tree, is called the Tree of Good and Evil, because it is enclothed in material entities and its purpose is to carry out the task of refinement. Therefore, without the love and fear of G‑d, [one’s Torah study] cannot ascend. This applies even when his intent is not undesirable.