Issa B'Midrash Tehillim1

In the Midrash T[eh]illim,2  it is written:

Rabbi Eliezer declared: "Israel told the Holy One, blessed be He, 'Master of the world, we want to labor in the study of Torah during the day and at 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 during the day and at night.'"

[The fact that our Sages state that wearing tefillin can compensate for the inability to study shows that there is a relationship between the two mitzvos. Nevertheless,] we must understand [the nature of] that relationship. How can the fulfillment of the mitzvah of tefillin free the Jewish people from the study of Torah? How are these mitzvos connected with each other?

[To understand this concept, we must first explain another idea:] It is written:3 " He tells His words to Yaakov, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel." {On this verse, the Midrash comments:4 }

There are those who give commands to others to fulfill, but do not fulfill them themselves. However, what G‑d fulfills Himself, He commands to others, as the verse declares: He tells His words to Yaakov, His statutes and His ordinances....

[The verse implies that the "words, ordinances, and statutes" which G‑d commands to others, are "His," i.e., G‑d observes them Himself.]

This 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, this causes G‑d to put on tefillin.

[What is meant by the statement, "G‑d puts on tefillin"? Surely, the intent is not that He wears tefillin that resemble our own. Instead, His tefillin are spiritual. To explain:] Our sages declare:5

What is written in the tefillin of the Master of the universe? "And who is like Your people, like Israel, one nation on earth."6

Thus, when G‑d puts on tefillin, He raises up the stature of the Jewish people.

To explain this concept,7  [it is necessary to first elaborate on the deeper meaning of] the verse,8  "Look down from Your holy abode, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel." Behold it is written:9  "G‑d is high above all nations." [Here also the intent is not] that He is uplifted [in a physical sense, but that He is on a spiritual plane that far surpasses ours].

[For this reason, our limited human actions cannot, in and of themselves, relate to the exalted nature] of His essence, as implied by the verse:10  If you have sinned, what have you done against Him? If you are righteous, what do you give Him or what does He receive from your hand? [G‑d's essence does not only transcend the nature of man,] all the higher and lower realms are considered as nothing before Him.

This concept is [alluded to] in the verse:11  "for His Name is exalted unto itself," i.e., [His Name] is above all existence. Only "its glory," i.e., its radiance and reflection," [shines] on the earth and heaven." [The verse does not mention G‑d's essence at all. Even "His Name," a lower level, is "exalted," and] only" its glory," a mere radiance and a reflection of that lower level, can be revealed within earth and heaven.

[In this context, we can understand the expression used by the Zohar12  in regard to the exile,] "When the Holy One, blessed be He, rose to the heights"; i.e. 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].

[G‑d's ascent to this level leads to exile, for] at this level, the worlds are of no importance. [And therefore, G‑d's control over them is not manifest. He does not, however, abandon them entirely. To explain by analogy,] He controls the world as if in a state of sleep, as it were.13

[What is meant by this analogy?] 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 trace of [the mind's original] power. [Similarly, in the era of exile, "when G‑d rises to the heights," His presence is not openly revealed in the world and a mere trace of His power is felt within the world.]

[Conversely, in reference to the Redemption,] we find expressions like "And G‑d awoke as one out of sleep"14  and, "Awake, why are You sleeping, O G‑d."15  For [when G‑d "awakes,"] there will be a revelation of Or Ein Sof, [G‑d's in­finite light] in the Sefiros of Chochmah [wisdom] and Chesed [kindness]. [Through these mediums, it will be expressed in the world at large]. "His countenance will shine"16  i.e., He will reveal His essence and His nature in its glory, as it truly is, through the inner aspects of His will.

[How will this Divine influence be conveyed to the world?] Through drawing down the Torah and its mitzvos.

In this context, we can understand the verse:17  Look from heaven and behold and the verse:18 " Look down from Your holy abode, from heaven." [The Hebrew word shamayim, heaven is a combination of two words,] shom and mayim meaning "There is water there."19

This refers to the Torah which is described using the analogy of water. {[As in the verse,20 ]: "Behold all who are thirsty, go to the water," [in which the Prophet Yeshayahu] refers to the Torah.21 } Through the Torah, [we will merit fulfillment of the verse,] "bless Your people Israel," [blessing will be drawn down to the Jewish people].

[Why does the Torah generate blessing?] Because the Torah causes G‑d to view the Jewish nation as an important entity. For all the essential appreciation and revelation [of G‑dliness] comes about through the medium of the Torah, and the Torah is revealed to us. [Previously, it was explained that all the worlds, in and of themselves, are of no importance. Nevertheless, when the Jews study and observe the Torah, they become important entities. Therefore, they are worthy of blessing.]

This concept is [alluded to in] the verse:22  "The heavens opened and I saw Divine visions." The heavens [i.e., the Torah] are compared to a shining mirror through which we are seen by G‑d, as it were. A fine, shining glass mirror improves the image of the object it reflects, making it seem greater and more praiseworthy than it would appear without the mirror. In a similar manner, the Torah makes the Jewish people who fulfill it seem greater and more praiseworthy.

Through the Torah, [added meaning is given to] the verse [which, as mentioned above, is written in G‑d's tefillin]: "And who is like Your people, Israel, one nation on earth." This can be interpreted to mean that the Jewish people draw down oneness into the earth. They reveal the aspects of "G‑d is one" in this lowly earth.