The Maamar Issa B’Midrash Tehillim was recited by the Rebbe Rashab (the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe) on the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah. It was also one of the discourses recited by the Previous Rebbe on his Bar Mitzvah. It is customary among Lubavitcher families for the Bar Mitzvah boy to recite this Maamar.

The Maamar was originally translated into English by Rabbi E. Touger. In this printing, explanatory notes have been added. Much of the explanatory material has been gleaned from the book, “Tefillin B’Mishnas Chabad” of Rabbi Y. Green, (Kfar Chabad 5757).

It is our hope that this Maamar will now become more accessible both to the Bar Mitzvah boy and to his audience. Most important is that the theme of the Maamar—the cosmic importance of the Mitzvah of tefillin—should bring blessing on the Jewish people.

1. In the Midrash Tehillim it is written:

In the first chapter of Tehillim 1:2, Dovid HaMelech writes: “Praised is the man who does not go in the counsel of the wicked, and in the ways of the sinners he does not stand, and in the company of scoffers he does not sit, for only the Torah of Hashem is his desire and in his Torah he labors day and night.” On this verse, the Midrash comments.

Rabbi Eliezer declared: Israel said to the Holy One, blessed be He — “Master of the world, we want to labor in the study of Torah by day and by night, but we lack the opportunity.”1 The Holy One blessed be He replied, “Fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin, and I will consider it as if you had labored in Torah study by day and night.”

The mandate to study day and night is first mentioned by Yehoshua 1:8, “This Book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth; rather you should contemplate it day and night in order to observe and do according to all that is written in it,” and is reiterated by Dovid Hamelech.

On the opening verse of the Torah, “Bereishis boro Elokim,” Rashi comments that the word “Bereishis” may be read, “Beis-Reishis” meaning — for two things was the world created; for Israel and Torah. Israel’s study of Torah and his desire to study day and night therefore represents the fulfillment of the purpose of creation.

Although there is a mandate to labor in the study of Torah by day and night, the Shulchan Aruch explains that this mandate depends on the circumstances of the individual. There are those who must comply with this literally, and there are others who must go out to work for a living, and who must therefore have fixed times for study by day and by night. In circumstances of extreme difficulty, one can fulfill this obligation by learning “one chapter by day and one by night.”2

When the Midrash quotes the words of those who say that we do not have the opportunity to study, it speaks not of those who do not wish to study, rather it speaks of those who do wish to study but who must go to work. It is to such a person that the Midrash addresses the words: “Fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin and I will consider it as if you had labored in Torah study by day and night.”

We must understand how the fulfillment of the mitzvah of tefillin can exempt the Jewish people from the study of Torah. How are these mitzvos connected with each other?

Obviously, if one mitzvah can be substituted for another, an intrinsic relationship between them must exist.

To understand this concept, we must first appreciate another principle. It is written: “He tells His words to Yaakov, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel.” On this verse, the Midrash3 comments: “There are those who give commands to others to fulfill, but do not fulfill them themselves. However, what G‑d commands to others He fulfils Himself, as the verse declares: “He tells His words to Yaakov, His statutes and His ordinances...”

that is to say, the word “His” implies that He Himself fulfills Torah equally. Hashem is unlike a king of flesh and blood. A mortal king gives commands to others but does not carry them out himself, whereas, Hashem what He tells others to do, He does Himself.4

Chassidus5 explains that there are two ways in which Hashem may perform a mitzvah.

a) First Hashem keeps the mitzvah, and only then does He tell Israel to do it. The fact that He keeps the mitzvah creates the potential for Israel to keep it. This may be compared to an arousal from above that precedes an arousal from below.

b) By keeping their mitzvos, Israel cause Hashem to keep it. This may be compared to an arousal from below that precedes an arousal from Above.

The Midrash can be interpreted to mean: Who causes G‑d to fulfill the mitzvos? — The Jewish people. The Jewish people’s performance of mitzvos causes G‑d to observe those same mitzvos. Hence, when the Jewish people put on tefillin, G‑d is caused to put on tefillin.

In this Maamar,6 what is being stressed is the second way, that is to say, through Israel keeping a mitzvah, Hashem is caused to keep a mitzvah. Therefore the laying of tefillin by Israel causes Hashem to lay tefillin.

This explanation is consonant with the teaching of the Maggid of Mezritch on the Mishnah,7 “Know what is above you.” The Maggid explains that the Mishnah may be understood in the sense that “what is above you” is “from you” that is to say, engendered by you. All that transpires in the Supernal realms originates from a person below.8

A person must always bear this in mind. His actions have cosmic significance. How great are Israel that they can have such an effect!9

Our Sages declare: “What is written in the tefillin of the Master of the universe? “And who is like Your people, like Israel, one nation on earth.” Thus, when G‑d puts on tefillin, He raises the stature of the Jewish people.

The fact that Hashem lays tefillin is already quoted in the Talmud Berachos 6a:

R. Abin, son of R. Ada, in the name of R. Isaac says: How do you know that Hashem puts on tefillin? For it is said,10 “Hashem has sworn by His right hand, and by the arm of His strength.” “By His right hand”, this is the Torah, for it is said,11 “At His right hand was a fiery law unto them.” “And by the arm of His strength,” this is the tefillin, as it is said,12 “Hashem will give strength to His people....”

R. Nachman ben Isaac said to R. Hiya ben Abin: What is written in the tefillin of Hashem? He replied to him: “And who is like Your people Israel, a nation one in the earth.”13 Does then Hashem sing the praises of Israel? — Yes, for it is written,14 “You have avouched the L‑rd this day... and the L‑rd has avouched you this day.” Hashem said to Israel, “You have made Me a unique entity in the world, and I shall make you a unique entity in the world.”

The Maharsha15 explains that when a Jew puts on tefillin, he causes that Hashem should praise and be proud of Israel. Just as a crown worn on the head adorns the head, so too the tefillin are the crown of the Jew. This crown brings beauty to the wearer of the crown. It therefore follows that when Hashem puts on tefillin, that is, sings the praises of His people, He then raises the stature of the people.16

This concept can be explained17 in terms of the verse,18 “Look down from Your holy abode, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel.”

The Maamar will soon explain that this looking down from the perspective of “heaven” allows Hashem to view the people in a favorable light and bless them.

Now it is written:19 “G‑d is high above all nations” “He is uplifted”, and in relation to His essence, the verse20 declares, “If you have sinned how have you affected Him? If you are righteous what do you give Him or what does He receive from your hand?” All the higher and lower realms are considered as nothing before Him.

When Hashem created the world, He created a “Seder Hishtalshelus” — a chain order of creation” higher worlds and lower worlds. The Hebrew word “olam” which means a world has its root in the word “he’elem” meaning a concealment. Any “olam” may be defined as an area of Hashem’s concealment. In the higher worlds, there is only a very slight concealment, Hashem’s presence is manifest. Whereas in the lower worlds, Hashem’s presence is more strongly concealed. In this world, the lowest of all worlds, which is to say that it is the place of greatest concealment, Hashem’s presence is almost totally concealed. We can only “see” Him through the wonders of nature and the Torah. The terms “higher” and “lower” worlds denote a spiritual level rather than any physical entity.21

Compared to the essence of Hashem — in Chassidus called Atzmus — all the worlds are considered as nothing, for in truth the only true and real existence is Hashem Himself. The concealment of the worlds is only from the perspective of the creations.22

This concept is alluded to in the verse:23 “for His name is sublimely transcendent,” only its glory, its radiance and reflection shine on the earth and heaven. [In this context, we can understand the Zohar’s expression,] “when G‑d rose to the heights;” that is, when the G‑dly life-energy rose up from the [limited] radiance, that shines “on the earth and heaven,” level after level upward, to its source [in G‑d’s essence]. At that level the worlds are of no importance [and therefore G‑d’s control over the worlds is not manifest].

The revealed part of Hashem that is manifest in the worlds is called a “ziv” or “ha’oroh” — meaning a ray of light. A single ray of light that goes out of the sun is nothing compared to the sun itself. So too, the ray of G‑dliness that illuminates the worlds is nothing compared to Atzmus. This ray is called in Chassidus “His name.”

To go one step further, the level of G‑dliness felt in the lower worlds is only a “ray of a ray” in other words, only a fraction of the G‑dliness of “His name.” “His name” represents a truly exalted level, “for His name is sublimely transcendent.”

If this world is created from a “ray of a ray” and “His name” is an exalted level of G‑dliness, and the level of “His name” is in turn nothing compared to Atzmus, it follows that Atzmus itself is infinitely higher and more removed from all the worlds, and all the worlds are considered as naught in relation to Atzmus.24

Now, in the case of a king of flesh and blood, there are times when he is fully aware of every single detail — no matter how small in the kingdom. But there are other times when the King is closed off for himself and aloof from his subjects.

In Mishlei (30:28) it states, “The spider seizes (its prey) with its handiwork, though it dwells in the Kings palace.” The spider, even though it is not difficult to catch and throw away, spins its web on the walls of a house. When the King is in a detached frame of mind, the spider can even spin its web on the wall of his palace — the King will neither notice nor be bothered. He is absorbed in himself, and the spider makes no difference to him.

So too is it with Hashem. Sometimes Hashem is totally absorbed with “matters of state” — even down to the minutest detail. However, on occasion, “G‑d is high above all nations,” He is totally absorbed in Himself. At such a time, He “pays not attention” to the goings on in the worlds (although at the very same moment He is creating all the worlds, creation from nothing every single second — and if He were, G‑d forbid, even for one moment to suspend this creative energy the world would cease to exist — nonetheless, this is only an external motion — internally Hashem is absorbed in His own essence.) On this level, it matters not to Him whether the creations are doing His will or sinning against Him. This is the meaning of the verse, “If you have sinned, how have you affected him.”25

He does not however abandon the worlds entirely; rather, as the Maamar explains by means of analogy, He controls the worlds as if in a state of sleep.

The state of sleep is used as a metaphor to describe this aspect. When a person sleeps, his mind rises above its vessel, his body, and ascends to its source. All that remains is the power of fantasy, a mere glimmer of the mind’s original power.

Similarly, in the era of exile “when G‑d rose to the heights,” His presence is not openly revealed, and only a vestige of His power is felt within the world. Whereas, in reference to the redemption, the converse is the case.

We find expressions like, “And G‑d awoke as one awaking out of sleep”26 and, “Awake, why are You sleeping, O’ G‑d.”27 For [when G‑d “awakes,”] G‑d’s essence and nature will be revealed in the Sefiros of Chochmah (wisdom) and Chessed (kindness) [and through them in the world at large]. “His countenance will shine”28 that is, He will reveal His essence and His nature in all its glory, as it truly is, through the inner aspects of His will.

This state of Hashem, as He is when absorbed in Himself, can be compared to the state of sleep. When a person is awake, all his faculties are revealed, he thinks, sees and feels. When a person sleeps, all his soul powers ascend to their source leaving only a trace in the body.29

Although being physically asleep, or awake, are only human attributes, and are not applicable to the Divine, nonetheless, they function metaphorically. When we say that Hashem is awake, we mean that Hashem is revealed to the creations; whereas, when Hashem appears to be asleep, He is concealed, and is oblivious to the actions of the creations.

We find the perfect example of Hashem “sleeping” in the Megillah. The Sages comment on the verse30 “On that night, the sleep of the King was disturbed” that this is a reference to the King of the world — Hashem. But does Hashem sleep? When Israel sins, He appears to be sleeping, as it says, “Why do you sleep, Hashem?” And when Israel do His will — then the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.31

From this Midrash we see that whether Hashem is asleep or awake is dependent on our actions. This is what the Maamar means by saying that we can “awaken” Hashem by doing Torah and mitzvos. For although “He renews every day the works of creation,” and indeed, every second of the day Divine energy pulsates into and gives life to the creation, it is Israel who, by keeping Torah and mitzvos, reveal that light.

How is this Divine influence to be conveyed to the world?—through drawing down the Torah and its mitzvos.

Torah and mitzvos are the inner will of G‑d. We may distinguish between the inner and outer will of G‑d by analogy with a man’s employment. When a person goes out to work, his inner will is to provide for his family. Any action that will facilitate this provision is only motivated by outer will. So it is with Hashem. His inner will is Torah and mitzvos. All the worlds are created with Hashem’s outer will and only facilitate Torah and mitzvos, the revelation of His inner will.

When Hashem’s inner will is fulfilled, His countenance shines. This has a very deep meaning. When a Jew keeps Torah and mitzvosHashem’s inner will — the light of the Ein Sof becomes revealed without any constraints or concealments. Keeping Torah and mitzvos awakens Hashem and His presence is openly revealed.32

In this context we can understand the verse,33 “Look from heaven and behold,” and the verse, “Look down from Your holy abode, from heaven.”34 The Hebrew word “Shomayim” — heaven — is a combination of two words, “Shom” “Mayim” — meaning “There is water there.”35

In Hebrew the word Re’iyah denotes “seeing something.” The words “Habet” and “Hashkafah” denote looking with concentration from above at what is below.36

In this case — in the days of creation, the verse in Bereishis37 states, “And G‑d made the firmament and He divided between the waters which were under the firmament and the waters above the firmament and He called the firmament Shomayim. The firmament when seen from below is a place of water and is therefore termed Shomayim, meaning shom (there), mayim (water).

Water is a metaphor for Torah. [When the prophet Yeshayahu38 ] declared: “Behold, all who are thirsty, go to the water,” he was referring to Torah.39

Torah is compared to water, for water is the essence of all life — nothing can survive without it. Shomayim — there is water — also means, there is Torah. “Look from Shomayim etc.,” may be translated as “Look from Torah.”40

[Thus,] through Torah [we will merit fulfillment of the verse, “Look down from Your holy abode, from heaven] and bless Your people Israel.” Torah causes G‑d to view the Jewish nation as an important entity. All the essential appreciation and revelation of G‑dliness comes about through the medium of the Torah, and the Torah is revealed to us.

The above verse now takes on a new meaning, “Look down from Heaven” now means — look at us from the perspective of Torah. As Hashem is wrapped up in His essence, nothing exists before Him. As Hashem looks through Torah, Israel takes on a significance, and when Hashem sees Israel keeping the Torah, this draws His blessing, “and bless Your people Israel.”41

Torah is the wisdom of Hashem. Furthermore, Torah is the embodiment of the wisdom of Hashem presented in a manner that people can grasp — as the verse states, “for Torah is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations” Since our entire appreciation of Hashem comes through Torah, it follows that when Israel keeps the Torah, and Hashem’s presence is revealed to them, they are worthy of Hashem’s blessing.42

This blessing extends itself to all Israel.43 However, within Israel itself, the blessing is primarily focused upon those who toil and immerse themselves in Torah, those who support their effort and those who send their children to learn Torah from G‑d-fearing teachers.44 The wording in the verse, “Amcha” also suggests that the blessing is not limited to those who are very knowledgeable in Torah, but also extends itself to “Amcha” — ordinary people who keep Torah and mitzvos in a simple and faithful way.45

This concept is alluded to in the verse,46 “The heavens opened and I saw Divine visions.” The heavens [that is, the Torah] are compared to a magnifying glass,47 through which we are seen by G‑d. Just as a lens enhances the image of the object, making it seem greater and more praiseworthy than it would appear without the lens, similarly the Torah makes the Jewish people who fulfill it seem greater and more praiseworthy.

Glass is used to view images in a number of ways. The first — a mirror — is a piece of glass coated with a silver film that simply reflects the image. Glass is also used in the lens of a telescope to magnify an image. A distant object now becomes a near reality. What is seen is not only an image (as in the case of a mirror) but the object itself.

The Talmud likens the difference between the prophecy of Moshe and the other prophets to that between a mirror and a magnifying glass. Other prophets only reflected in their visions the Supernal image they were viewing. Moshe beheld a magnified image “face to face” with Hashem.

The way Hashem views the creation may also be through either a magnifying glass or through a mirror. This is the meaning of the verse, “the heavens opened and I saw Divine visions.” As previously mentioned, “heavens” in this context refers to Torah. When Hashem views us from the perspective of Torah the vision is clear, magnified and praiseworthy. Therefore we request, “Look from heaven and behold,” — a request to Hashem to look at us through the perspective of Torah, thus magnifying our image.

Furthermore, what may seem to us an insignificant action, is of huge importance when seen through Hashem’s magnifying glass. For example, when a small donation is given to a poor man, the donor may attach little importance to his action, whereas the heavenly storm created by this small act is immense.

The glass, however, also possesses a converse effect. Those actions which are not in tune with Hashem’s will are also magnified and viewed with disdain.

And this is the meaning of the verse, “And who is like Your people Israel, one nation on earth.”

As mentioned above, these words are written in Hashem’s tefillin. This can be interpreted to mean that,

The Jewish people draw down oneness onto the earth. They make manifest the aspects of “G‑d is one” in this lowly earth.

The above explanation on the verse, “Look down from heaven” has given us a deeper understanding as to how Hashem perceives us differently through the medium of the magnifying glass of Torah. This is similarly effected through our laying tefillin, which, as previously mentioned causes Hashem to lay tefillin.

In Hashem’s tefillin it is written, “And who is like Your people Israel, one nation on earth.”

Hashem’s laying tefillin brings about great praise for the Jewish people. What aspect of Israel particularly magnifies their image and effects Hashem’s praise for them? It is their being “one nation on earth” that is, revealing the Oneness of G‑d on earth. It is specifically the Jew who is charged with the mission of revealing the essence of G‑d, here, in the lowest of all realms.

The term “Hashem Echad in Chassidus represents not only a statement of monotheism that is, there is only one G‑d and no other G‑d, but more than that it emphasizes that Hashem is in all four corners of the earth (the daled) in the seven heavens and the earth (the “ches” 7+1=8) which are all created ex nihilo, out of nothing, every single second, by one G‑d. In other words “Ain Od Milvado” — there is nothing else besides Him. It is the purpose of the Jew, through deep contemplation and observance of the mitzvos to demonstrate on all levels of his experience, be it in thought speech or action that it is only the Divine energy of the one G‑d that brings everything into existence.48

II. The unique quality of Torah can be understood [from a deeper perspective] in terms of our Sages’ statement, “Torah preceded the world by two thousand years.”49 That statement does not refer to chronological precedence. Both time and space are creations, and before the creation of the world, time did not exist either. Here the concept of precedence refers to a higher spiritual level. [The Torah reflects a spiritual level higher than that vested in creation.]

Upon creation, Hashem created the concept of time. Before creation time as we know it did not exist. This raises a problem in understanding the words of the Sages “Torah preceded the world by 2000 years,” which suggests that there was a concept of time before creation. In order to resolve this problem, the Maamar explains that this precedence refers not to time as we know it, but to spiritual precedence, that is, the 2000 year period refers to a spiritual advantage that Torah has over the world.50

G‑d’s emotional attributes are the source for the world, as alluded to in the verse,51 “For in six days G‑d made [the heavens and the earth]. The Hebrew which reads “Shaishes Yamim Assah” — is literally translated as “six days made” The prefix Beis which means “in” was omitted. The six days refer to G‑d’s six emotional attributes as they underwent a great descent into the realm of Asiyah, the realm of action.

In order to understand this spiritual superiority and level of the Torah over the world, we must first understand that the world itself has as its source Hashem’s emotional attributes, His “middos.

What is meant by Hashem’s middos? “From my flesh I see G‑d.” Chassidus teaches that Hashem’s attributes are reflected in the human soul. Just as human emotions express feelings towards another for example, kindness to another, and so on, so too Hashem’s middos are Hashem’s expression of emotion vis-a-vis His creation.

The Zohar52 explains that this concept is alluded to in the account of creation. “For in six days Hashem made the heaven and the earth.” If the intent was to relate that Hashem created the world in six days, then grammatically it should have said “B’Shaishes” “in” six days etc. However, the wording “Shaishes Yamim” suggests that Hashem made 6 days (middos) which facilitated the creation.

The original level of the six emotional attributes is the realm of Atzilus, the realm of emanation. However, to bring about the creation of a physical world, these potentials descended into the realm of Asiyah.

On that basis, we can understand another statement of the Zohar.53

The word “Bereishis,” the first of the ten statements of creation; is a combination of two words “Borah Shis” — “He created six” [a reference to G‑d’s six emotional attributes.]

The Sages tell us that Hashem created the world with Ten Utterances.54 Hashem has no body or form of body, speech is only used as a metaphor for creation. When a teacher explains a concept, the number of his spoken words is small in comparison to the number of thoughts that went into his understanding of the subject. The act of speaking may therefore be analogous to a contraction of the thought process and its crystallization in words. When Hashem created the world it was necessary to contract His infinite power and concentrate His creative power in a limited manner. This process is analogous to speech, where each word is a combination of letters, each letter embodying a certain Divine power the combinations of which creates the diverse world visible to the eyes.

It must be noted that the Ten Utterances were not a one-time thing. As the Baal Shem Tov explains on the verse, “Continually Hashem, Your words stand in the heavens,” — the Ten Utterances continually pulsate with creative energy, and if for one moment the flow of that creative energy were to stop, the world would cease to exist.55

The first of these utterances is “Bereishis.” On the face of it, this is somewhat surprising, because in the case of the other utterances the verse states, “And G‑d said...” whereas in the word Bereishis no act of speech is mentioned. The Zohar explains that Bereishis means “Borah Shis,” He created six middos, with which He created the rest of creation. The creation therefore took place in two stages

1) The creation of six middos.

2) The other utterances, acts of creation by means of the middos.

These two stages are also alluded to in the interpretation of the verse, “The world shall be built with kindness.”

This concept can further be understood in terms of the interpretation of the verse,56 “The world shall be built with kindness.” There are two ways to explain this verse:57

a) The attribute of kindness was necessary for the “building” of the worlds.

Kindness is the first of the six emotional attributes. It motivates the expression of every other attribute necessary for creation. To cite an example in the personal realm: The very connection with others expressed by the other emotional qualities is an expression of kindness and love. Accordingly, the Etz Chaim58 explains:

the first day, which is symbolic of the attribute of kindness, “proceeds together with all the other days.”

In essence, all the middos — even that of Gevurah (severity) — are motivated by Hashem’s innate desire to do good. Therefore the middah of Chessed is often singled out as the predominant middah.59

b) The attribute of kindness must itself be built.

In this context, the above expression would be read: “For the sake of the world, kindness was built.”

In a similar vein, the above expression “He created six” describes the building of the six emotional attributes in order that they, in turn, may become the source for the lower worlds, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah.

The above explains how Hashem’s emotional attributes are related to the lower worlds. They were brought into being to function as the creative agents to form those realms. The Torah by contrast reflects Hashem’s intellectual attributes, and exists independent of the existence of the lower realms. As mentioned above,

“The Torah preceded the world.”

Similarly, the Zohar60 states:

The Torah emanates from wisdom. [That is, G‑d’s] intellectual attributes, which transcend the [lower] worlds entirely.

The difference between G‑d’s attributes of intellect and emotion can be discovered through analysis of the functioning of these potentials in the human realm.

The working of the intellect does not require the presence of another person. Even when one is alone, without a second person with whom to share an idea, it is possible to think intellectually. The emotions, by contrast, require an object. The attribute of kindness, for example, requires a recipient of one’s generosity and kindness. If there is no recipient, the emotion itself disappears as if it never existed. This principle is reflected in a story the Torah relates concerning Avraham. He “sat at the tent door in the heat of the day”61 looking for wayfarers. He wanted to find someone to show kindness to, for without a recipient the giver loses this expressive potential.62

In this way we are helped to understand the statement that Torah preceded the world by 2000 years (and as explained above, this precedence is in spiritual level). The Torah possesses spiritual superiority even over the Divine source of the worlds. The Divine creative energy that creates the worlds only emanates from the middos of Hashem, in contrast to Torah, which emanates from Hashem’s wisdom.

Similarly, this principle can be understood in regard to the spiritual realms.

Hashem’s emotional attributes require, as it were, the existence of an entity that feels itself as separate from Him. Thus,

It is written:63 “Remember Your mercies and kindnesses, for they have existed for all time.”

As Rashi explains — Hashem displayed His kindness to Adam. Originally, he had been warned, “On the day you eat (from the forbidden fruit) you will die.” Hashem granted Adam a full day — which in Hashem’s reckoning is a thousand years.

Chassidus64 however focuses on the Hebrew word “Meolam” translated as “for all time”, which can also mean “from the world.”

G‑d’s mercies and kindnesses are related to the worlds. As explained in the [second] interpretation of the verse, “the world shall be built with kindness,” that kindness was built, brought into being, for the sake of creation. If there had not been a creation, the attribute of kindness would not have been required, for who would there have been to receive that kindness?

Hashem’s mercy and kindness are therefore only active in the world where they find expression. A person is only called “merciful” or “kind” not because he has the potential to be kind or merciful but because he puts these attributes into practice. Often these terms are used by a potential recipient to draw forth kindness or mercy.65

The implication here is that the revelation of Hashem’s middos was conditioned upon creation. Had the world not been created, there would have been no revelation of the middos. Not so mochin which is unrelated to the worlds.66

These concepts explain the opening statement of the Etz
Chaim,
“when it arose in His simple will to be generous to
His creations.... [His Will was aroused] because G‑d is good
and it is the nature of the good to be bountiful.

Such will is not forced — it is an inner will in which He takes great pleasure. It stems from the fact that Hashem desires and has great pleasure in doing good.67

This kindness is drawn down from the level of, “He who desires kindness.”68 It reflects the kindness that exists in G‑d’s Will.

This potential for kindness exists only at the level of G‑dliness that relates to the creation of the worlds.

G‑d’s intellectual attributes, by contrast, were not drawn down in the creation of the worlds.

From everything that has been said until now, it appears that the world was created by the middos but the mochin were not involved. This seemingly contradicts two quotations from the Sages that suggest that mochin were used in the creation.

We do, however, find references to G‑d’s use of intellect in the creation. For example, our Sages declared,69 “G‑d created the world with ten qualities: with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.”

The Talmud Chagigah 12a enumerates ten attributes that were employed in the creation — the first three of which are Chochmah, Binah and Daas. The Maharsha comments that the ten attributes mentioned in the Talmud correspond to the ten Sefiros and the ten utterances.

In a similar vein, the Sefer Yetzirah 1:1 states, “The world [was created] by three Seforim, Sefer, Sofer and Sippur. The Maamar U’Shavtem70 explains that the level Sofer (scribe)71 refers to the level of wisdom and the level of Sefer (book) refers to the level of understanding,72 just as a scribe writes a book, [understanding is a product of wisdom.]

Sefer” refers to Binah. The book contains the words that explain the concept. “Sofer” refers to Chochmah — for the scribe is the source of the wisdom written in the book. “Sippur” the story refers to Daas — for the Sippur links the Sofer and the Sefer. Initially Daas links chochmah and binah, and ultimately the purpose is to translate the entire concept into the middos that are the recipients of the intellect.

From both the Talmud and Sefer Yetzirah it is clear that intellect was employed in the creation, contradicting what was said before.73

In order to resolve this difficulty, the Maamar explains that there are two levels of intellect. The “essence of intellect” and intellect related to the emotions. The intellect related to the emotions refers to intellectual powers that aid the emotions. They tell the emotions what to love, how to help another, and so on. The essence of intellect is pure intellect, without any relation or connection to the emotions.74

Nevertheless, the intellectual aspects that were drawn down to the emotions [and thus into the creation] reflect a [lower] level of intellect than that which is related to the emotions.

Therefore when the Talmud Chagigah or Sefer Yetzirah refer to intellect that is employed in the act of creation, they refer to the level of intellect related to the emotions, but not to the essential intellect.

The essence of intellect, by contrast, stands above [the emotions and above creation].

From all the aforementioned, we may now fully appreciate the advantage and spiritual precedence of Torah — which stems from pure intellect — over the worlds — which stem from the middos. This difference is further accentuated by analyzing the number 2,000.

Torah, however, emanates from wisdom, the essence of G‑d’s intellect. Therefore, Torah preceded the world by 2,000 years. The number 2,000 is also significant. The Hebrew word for thousand Aleph is etymologically related to the word “A’alefcha” translated as “I will teach you.” Two thousand can mean two types of teaching [as stated in Chassidus] “I will teach you wisdom, I will teach you understanding.”75 This further expresses how Torah represents the realm of intellect that precedes the world which is related to the realm of emotions.

The word “Aleph” has three meanings:

a) Aleph is the first letter of the alphabet.

b) “Elef” — meaning a thousand. The plural “Alpayim” means 2,000.

c) “Ulpana” — meaning learning.

Combining all meanings, the word “Alpayim” meaning 2,000, may also mean two types of Aleph, two types of learning. Based on the verse in Iyov, these two areas of learning are Chochmah and Binah.76 The phrase, “Torah preceded the world by 2,000 years,” may now be understood to mean — the two levels of Chochmah and Binah preceded the world (whose source is middos). This explanation also resolves the difficulty posed at the onset, namely, that there was no concept of time before the creation. The word “Alpayim” does not denote time but refers to Chochmah and Binah.

III. Through the above, we can understand the original concept: “Rabbi Eliezer declared: “Israel said to the Holy One, blessed be He, ‘we want to labor in Torah study,’ for through Torah study we draw G‑d’s intellectual attributes into His emotional attributes. This reflects a great and wondrous level.

Torah and mitzvos are not just a set of rules by which we live. In truth they are the mechanism by means of which a Jew draws the Divine light into the world. This is the main difference between the Seven Noachide laws and the 613 mitzvos. A non-Jew must keep the Noachide laws in order to create a stable and viable society. They are social laws. At Sinai, Hashem gave Israel the gift that they could draw G‑dliness into the world.77 This Divine light may be drawn into his G‑dly soul, his animal soul, and into his portion in the world. It also affects the supernal realms. Each mitzvah has its unique effect in all these areas.

Torah learning has a unique effect. The source of Torah — as discussed above — is the level of essential intellect. When one learns Torah one causes even this level of intellect to be drawn into the middos. One cannot compare the Divine influx into the worlds as it is when emanating from the middos to when it also has the extra dimension of essential intellect. When essential intellect illuminates the middos, it has a great effect on the creation — what is described in the Maamar as a “great and wondrous level.”

The Tzemach Tzedek in Derech Mitzvosecha, p. 35 gives us a deeper understanding of the affect essential intellect has on the middos. He quotes the Talmudic78 dictum, “If you meet this lowlife (meaning one’s own evil inclination), drag him to the House of Study.” It may be that in the Beis HaMidrash the subject being studied is of no direct relevance to the disciplining of that particular inclination, however, the all-pervading aura of Torah has the effect of refining the person. So too, in cosmic terms, when Torah — Hashem’s essential intellect — is drawn into the world (whose source is middos) it affects it in a most unusual way: by refining and elevating the world with its aura.

An example may be taken from the effect of Shabbos on the weekdays. In the account of creation, the name of Hashem used during the six days is Elokim (which, as explained in Chassidus, is synonymous with nature and concealment). On Shabbos, “Elokim was finished” — the concealment of Elokim was finished and Shabbos is a day for Hashem. Shabbos gives direction, focus and purpose to the six days of the week. In relation to this Maamar, Shabbos may be seen as Chochmah and the week as the middos. The effect Shabbos has on the week is comparable to the drawing of essential intellect into middos.79

It is this great effect that Torah learning has on the creation that explains the desire of Israel to toil in Torah day and night.

“But we don’t have the opportunity.” The Holy One, blessed be He, replied: “Fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin and I will consider it as if you had labored in Torah study day and night.” This is possible, for through performing the mitzvah of tefillin, we cause the Holy One, blessed be He, to put on tefillin, as mentioned above.

From Hashem’s reply — fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin etc., — we infer that there is a direct connection between learning Torah and laying tefillin, in that both have a similar effect on the creation. As previously mentioned, when a Jew lays tefillin, he causes Hashem to lay tefillin. Just as when a Jew lays tefillin he draws upon himself a Divine light, so too, when Hashem lays tefillin, He draws down into the world a special Divine light — which the maamar defines as the drawing of the essence of intellect into the emotions — the same effect as Torah learning. Therefore Hashem replies — keep the mitzvah of tefillin — whose effect is the drawing of the essence of intellect into the emotions — and I will consider it as if you labored in Torah day and night.

The union of Hashem’s intellectual attributes with His emotional attributes is also alluded to in the particular wording of the Sages, “Israel said before HaKadosh Boruch Hu.” The Maamar now explains why particularly this comment of the Sages uses the word HaKadosh Boruch Hu for Hashem. Hashem has many names — each name reflecting a different attribute. The use here of the name HaKadosh Baruch Hu is deliberate.

HaKodosh Boruch Hu — refers to the male and female aspects of the realm of Atzilus. The male aspects: Ze’er Anpin, G‑d’s emotional attributes, are alluded to by the word Kadosh; and the feminine aspects, Malchus, the power of royalty, by the word Boruch.80 These allusions are reflected in our Sages’ comment:81 They asked how Moshe kept track of time when he was on Mt. Sinai and answered: “When [the angels] said Kadosh, he knew it was day; when they said Boruch, he knew it was night.” [Day and night refer to Ze’er Anpin and Malchus respectively.]

As explained above, the six days of creation correspond to the middos of Hashem. There are, in fact, seven middos, Chessed, Gevurah, Tiferes, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchus. Malchus is different than the rest of the middos in the sense that Malchus has no essential character of its own — rather it receives from all the other middos and channels their effect to the lower realms. In Kabbalistic terms, the six middos are called Ze’er Anpin, or in short “Za”. Malchus is called Nukva. The union of Za and Nekaiva ‘procreates’ — rather like a father and a mother who create a child.

Now, the word Kadosh means ‘holy’ — ‘holy’ means separate or higher. In contrast, Boruch means blessed, which may be translated as “drawn down” or revealed.82

The middos of Atzilus — the six middos are called Kadosh, for they are somewhat separated from the worlds. Malchus receives from the six middos and transmits further to the lower worlds and is therefore called Boruch.83 The entire term HaKadosh Boruch Hu therefore denotes the precipitation of the six middos into Malchus and their combined effect on the lower worlds. The wording of the Sages is therefore exact.

G‑d’s putting on tefillin [represents a higher level. By putting on tefillin] He draws the essence of intellect into the realm of emotion.

The connection between tefillin and intellect is illustrated by the fact that a child below the age of thirteen is not obligated to put on tefillin.84 He is not called a man, and possesses only a small degree of intellect. At the age of thirteen he becomes a man.85 Then, through his act of putting on tefillin, he causes G‑d to put on tefillin.

Since the effect of laying tefillin is to cause Hashem to lay tefillin, it follows that only one who can cause that effect is obligated to lay tefillin. This explains why a child is not obligated to lay tefillin. What exactly happens when a boy turns thirteen? At this age, there is a natural change in both the child’s intellectual and emotional qualities. Intellectually — a child has mochin d’katnus, a small aspect of intellect — much of his intellect is used only to direct his middos but he does not yet have mochin d’gadlus (essential intellect). Emotionally — his emotions are no longer merely natural and impulsive but he has now reached an age where the intellect can control the emotion and, with avoda, can attain a level where his intellect directs his emotions.

We have explained above that laying tefillin has the effect of drawing the essential intellect into the emotions. This is only possible after Bar Mitzvah, for a child before that time does not have essential intellect and can therefore not draw upon it. This is why a child is exempt from tefillin.

Thus we see that the spiritual aspect of tefillin is the drawing down of the essence of intellect. Thus, tefillin and the study of Torah represent the same level. Therefore, through the fulfillment of the mitzvah of tefillin, Hashem will consider it as if we had labored in Torah study day and night. The word, “as if” is used, for the two [Torah and tefillin] are not entirely similar. Through Torah study G‑d’s intellectual attributes are actually drawn down within the world. Through tefillin, by contrast, intellect is drawn down only within the source for the creation of the world. Nevertheless, G‑d considers the fulfillment of the mitzvah of tefillin equal to the study of Torah day and night. [Day and night] refer to this lowly world.

This implies that, although the two are not entirely analogous, Hashem causes our fulfillment of the mitzvah of tefillin to affect this world in the same manner as does that of Torah study.

Although laying tefillin and learning Torah have a similar effect, there does, nevertheless, exist a difference between them. This explains why, in the first instance, Israel wishes to labor in the study of Torah day and night, and why it is only as a second position that Hashem considers laying tefillin “as if” we studied.

What exactly is the difference between them?

a) The mochin drawn by Torah into the world effects a change in the world’s spiritual atmosphere. Although of tefillin it says, “And all the people of the earth shall see the name of Hashem upon you, and they shall fear you,” this fear remains peripheral and does not represent an essential change.

b) Torah has a direct effect on the world, whereas tefillin only has an effect on the “small world of man” and, through him, an effect on the world.

Laying tefillin has, therefore, a similar effect on the world to Torah, but on a much reduced scale. In the first instance, we should learn Torah day and night. As a second position, at the very least, the subjugation of mind and heart through the tefillin at the beginning of the day (this condition lasting through the day) will suffice. The Midrash assures us that if we do keep the mitzvah of tefillin, Hashem will consider it as though we studied day and night.86