In Or Torah,1 the Maggid [of Mezritch] raises a question regarding the nesirah. [The conceptual basis for his question and its resolution can be explained on the basis of the following concepts:]2 The Holy One, blessed be He, created the world with the Torah. {As the Zohar states:3 “The Holy One, blessed be He, gazed into the Torah and created the world,” and Midrash Rabbah (Bereishis Rabbah 1:1) states:

It is written:4 “I was a nursemaid (אמון) for him.” אמון, “nursemaid,” should be understood as אומן, “craftsman.” The Torah is saying: I was the craftsman’s tool used by the Holy One, blessed be He [to create the world].

The common practice is that when a mortal king builds a palace, he does not build it on the basis of his own knowledge. Instead, he [consults] an architect and builds the palace according to [the architect’s] knowledge. Similarly, the architect does not build it solely on the basis of his knowledge, rather, he consults blueprints (sheets of non-folding parchment on which are drawn different forms of buildings [Matanos Kehunah]) and notes, and from them he knows how to make the individual rooms and entrances. So too, the Holy One, blessed be He, gazed into the Torah and created the world.

Thus the creation of the world came about through the Torah.}

Similarly, man is a world in microcosm. For the world is like a large body that was created in the form of a man. Thus Midrash Rabbah (Koheles Rabbah, ch. 1) states: “Everything that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in man, He created in the world. For example, man has a head. Similarly, the earth has a head, as it is written (Mishlei 8:26): ‘And the head of the dust of the earth.’ Man has eyes, and the earth has eyes, as it is written (Shmos 10:5): ‘It will cover the eye of the earth.’” The Midrash continues, citing many parallels between [the world and] the human body.

Therefore the world is like a body in macrocosm and a person is like a world in microcosm. Thus Avos DeRabbi Nassan, ch. 31, states: “Everything that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in the world at large, He created in man. In the world, He created forests; so too He created forests in man, his hair….” And Midrash Rabbah states5 [further] that man comprises dimensions of both the higher realms and the lower realms.6

It is possible to say that man is to be considered a microcosm of the world only as he comes into being on this material plane, when the soul is enclothed in the body. [For] only a ray of the soul enclothes itself in the body.7 The essence of the soul, by contrast, cannot be enclothed in the body, because the body is too “small” to contain it.8 As it exists in the spiritual planes above, the soul transcends the world entirely. Indeed, on its essential level, it has no connection to the world at all. As is well known, the soul in essence emanates from the essential levels of Atzilus. In that category itself, there are various levels. [There are aspects of the soul that stem] from the essence of the or (light) [of Atzilus] and [others that stem] from the inner dimension of the k’li (vessel) [of Atzilus]. As is well known,9 the inner dimension of the k’li is the very essence and core of the k’li, a dimension that is above conveying influence or revelation.10 Similar concepts apply with regard to the soul’s source11 above Atzilus, as alluded to in the statement:12Israel arose in [G‑d’s] thought.” This refers to the primeval thought of Adam Kadmon, the inner dimension and essence of Adam Kadmon, extending to its source in the inner dimension and the essence of the Ein Sof, as explained in another source.13

[Indeed,] the root and the source of the soul is even above the source of the Torah, as implied by the verse:14 “He placed the Torah within Israel,” [i.e., Israel existed before the Torah was placed in her,] and from Israel, the Torah is drawn down [into the world]. This concept is reflected by the verse:15 “Israel is holy (קודש) unto G‑d, the first of His crops.” Holy (קודש) is described16 as “something set apart, alone.” This refers to the level of Chochmah, which is set apart, [i.e., fundamentally transcendent]. “Israel is holy (קודש) unto G‑d,” because “Israel arose in G‑d’s thought.” [This leads to a different understanding of the verse.] Israel is called “first,” i.e., it is “first,” [existing] even [before] the Torah, which is referred to as G‑d’s “crops,” as explained at length in the explanation of the maamar entitled Yonasi in Likkutei Torah.17

Similarly, Midrash Rabbah states:18 “[G‑d’s] thought of Israel preceded all matters.” And Tanna DeBei Eliyahu states: “Two entities preceded the world: the Torah and Israel. I do not know which comes first, [but] since the Torah states: ‘Command the Children of Israel,’ ‘Speak to the Children of Israel,’ it can be concluded that Israel came first.”

This, however, refers only to the root and the source of the souls of the Jewish people. The ray of the soul that is enclothed in the body, by contrast, is below the Torah. Concerning this [level of the soul], the Zohar states:19 “Three bonds are connected one to another: Israel is bonded with the Torah and the Torah with the Holy One, blessed be He.” Implied is that it is the Torah that establishes the connection between the [ray of the] soul and G‑dliness.

As the ray of the soul descends to enclothe itself in the body, it contracts itself so that it [descends] to the level [where it relates to the structures and patterns of] the world. Only [after descending to] this level is it called “a world in microcosm,”20 and [concerning this level,] it can be said that it comprises dimensions of the higher realms and of the lower realms. [Moreover,] even with regard to the ray [of the soul that is enclothed in the body], it is possible to say that though it comprises dimensions of the higher realms, i.e., of the angels,21 it is on a higher level than they are, for even this ray [of the soul] is essentially higher than the world.

Therefore, it is specifically regarding the descent of the soul and its enclothement in the body that it is said:22 “He blew into his nostrils a living soul.” On this verse, the Zohar comments:23 “One who blows, blows from within himself,” and the Alter Rebbe explains,24 “from his inwardness and his innermost being.” The investment of such strength [from the depths of G‑d's being, as it were,] is not stated with regard to [the creation of] the angels, as stated in other sources.25 Thus all of the levels of [man’s soul] are higher than the angels.

Now, it can be said that from the perspective of his body and his animal soul, man is lower than all [other created beings], for he can, Heaven forbid, sink to a level lower than that of impure animals.26 And from the perspective of his soul, he is above all the created beings in the higher spiritual realms. It is G‑d’s infinite power that connects and fuses [these two opposite dimensions together. These two dimensions] are connected and fused together [when the soul descends to] the world. It is then that man is called a world in microcosm, i.e., that he includes all of existence.

Therefore when the Torah speaks about the creation of man, it focuses on the creation of his body and the descent of the ray of the soul into the body, concerning which it is said:22 “He blew into his nostrils a living soul.” The creation of the soul itself, [by contrast,] is not mentioned in the Torah, as explained in another source, [because the soul transcends the Torah].

It is possible to say that the ray of the soul [that is enclothed in the body, by contrast,] is below the Torah, as explained above. Since this level of the soul is called a world in microcosm, it is included in the statement: “The Holy One, blessed be He, looked into the Torah and created the world,” for this includes man’s world in microcosm as well.

Regarding the essence of man’s soul, by contrast, the Zohar states:27 “Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, looked into the Torah and created the world, a person looks into the Torah and maintains the world.” For the existence of the world is dependent on the Torah, as [implied by] the verse:28 “Were it not for My covenant, I would not have established the statutes of the heavens and the earth.” [As our Sages comment:]29 “The Holy One, blessed be He, made a stipulation with the Creation. If Israel will carry out My Torah, it is well. If not, I will return you to nothingness and void.” For it is through man’s gazing into the Torah — [studying it and living by its dictates] — that the world is maintained.

It is explained in another source that the Jews’ capacity [to maintain the world through their Torah study] comes about because the source of their souls is above the Torah. Therefore, since their souls are rooted in the inner dimension [of G‑dliness], (in the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself, Who looks into the Torah), their Torah study causes “the Holy One, blessed be He, [to] look into the Torah,” i.e., they draw down the essence of [G‑d’s] infinite light. [This level transcends] the ray of the soul enclothed in the body [which], by contrast, is drawn down through the Torah and is included in the statement: “The Holy One, blessed be He, looked into the Torah and created the world.” Therefore [not only all aspects of the world at large, but also] all aspects of man and the manner in which they come into existence have to be alluded to in the Torah.

Summary

G‑d created the world through the Torah. This also includes man, who is a world in microcosm. The essence of the soul is above the world and even above the Torah. [Nevertheless, the soul’s essence is too lofty to be enclothed in the body; only a ray of the soul descends and gives the body life.] Thus it is [only] the ray of the soul enclothed in the body that is called “a world in microcosm” [and whose existence is dependent on the Torah].