וכאשר When a person grasps the idea and comprehends with his soul how the careful analysis of the laws of the Torah elevates his soul and enables it to ascend to [G‑d’s] infinite light,

As explained in the previous section,

then, as a natural consequence, he will rejoice and be happy, [experiencing] the joy of G‑d, [G‑d’s] infinite light, the source of life and the source of pleasure. [This will] surpass the abundance of all [material goodness], and even the life of the World to Come — the higher Gan Eden and the lower Gan Eden

Lit., “the Garden of Eden.” In this context, the term refers to the afterlife, the spiritual realm where the souls enjoy the rewards for their observance of the Torah and its mitzvos. There are myriad levels within this general category. In general, two fundamental divisions are made: the lower Gan Eden, into which enter those souls whose primary motivation for Divine service was emotional, and the higher Gan Eden, into which enter the souls whose primary motivation was intellectual

for they represent merely a ray [of G‑d’s light].

I.e., since the souls in Gan Eden appreciate G‑d’s light, by definition, they can appreciate only a ray of His light and not the light itself, for the essence of His light is above comprehension.

The spiritual pleasures of Gan Eden are immensely superior to any of the material pleasures available in this world. Nevertheless, even they relate only to a ray of G‑dliness and not His Essence. Through Torah study, by contrast, a person establishes an inner bond with G‑d’s very Essence. The realization of this connection should inspire a person to deep and genuine satisfaction and pleasure in his study.

Now, even with regard to this ray, it was said concerning Acher:1 “It is preferable that he be judged... [and {ultimately be allowed to} enter the World-to-Come]....”

Acher (Rabbi Elisha ben Avuya) was a great scholar but had committed many severe transgressions. Hence, after his death, a Heavenly voice declared that rather than undergo the harsh punishments of Gehinnom necessary to purify himself before he could receive a portion of the World to Come, it would be preferable for him to forgo both the punishments and that eternal reward. Rabbi Meir, his colleague and student, however, maintained that it was preferable for him to be judged so that he would ultimately receive these pleasures.

Chassidus (Torah Or, p. 32d, et al.) explains that from Rabbi Meir’s words, it can be inferred that the pleasures of even the lower Gan Eden are so great that it is worth undergoing all of the suffering in Gehinnom to receive them.

How much more so should one take his soul in his hand and focus all of his hopes and desires on the occupation with Torah study, to actually delight in G‑d, for He is the source of life and the source of pleasure.

The Alter Rebbe is employing the technique of Talmudic reasoning known as kal vechomer, a fortiori reasoning, i.e.,an inference drawn from a less severe situation to a more serious one, and vice versa. If it was preferable for Acher to suffer all the intense punishments of Gehinnom to enter Gan Eden, certainly a person should sacrifice all worldly desires for the sake of Torah study, for it surpasses Gan Eden.

ואף True, this delight is not evident and apparent in a revealed manner [in the present era]. For the power of this delight is so great that it cannot be contained by the worlds. Therefore, it cannot come into revelation within the comprehension of the created beings.

And thus, in the present era, it cannot be perceived by a person on this material plane.

This should, however,

The lack of revelation should not lead to depression, but instead should

lead to an even greater rejoicing in G‑d, when one’s soul meditates that there surely rests upon him the revelation of [G‑d’s] sublime pleasure that cannot be grasped or absorbed by any [mortal] comprehension, [for] “No thought can grasp it.”2 Similar [concepts apply] regarding the involvement with Torah study about which it was said: “His garments were like white snow,” [as will be explained].

הנה It is well known that a person’s thought and speech are garments [for his soul].3

The point of the analogy is that garments are external entities in which a person garbs himself and in that way projects an image. Similarly, thought and speech are not elements of a person’s character (but merely external entities), and yet, through them, the soul expresses itself.

Thought is an inner garment, and speech, an intermediate garment.

For thought involves the person himself, while speech is projected outward to another person.

Now, when a person’s soul is enclothed in the thought and speech of the Torah, it is being enclothed in the garments of the Holy One, blessed be He, of which it is said: “His garments were like white snow.” There is no greater closeness to G‑d than this. It is like two people who are wrapped in one tallis.4 ,ix

For when a person comprehends the Torah, his mind becomes one with G‑d’s thought (Tanya, ch. 5). It is as if he and G‑d are thinking the same thought simultaneously. Thus using the above analogy, G‑d and man are wrapped in the same garment.

ובזה On this basis, we can understand why, in the second passage of the Shema, we say:5 “I will grant rain for your land... I will grant grass for your field,” as if speaking in the first person, when in truth, it is the Holy One, blessed be He, Who is the One Who gives. [Now] Moshe our teacher made these statements because: “The Divine presence speaks from the throat of Moshe.”6 Thus it was the Divine presence speaking from [Moshe’s] throat that said: “I will give.” However, our saying “I will give” is difficult to comprehend.

For seemingly, we are speaking as limited humans beings.

אלא In resolution, it can be explained that first we speak of “lov[ing] G‑d with all your heart and with all your soul,”7 [i.e., a commitment of] mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice).8

The Shema, the prayer in which these verses are included, is recited when sacrificing one’s life for G‑d.

[Now, in a complete sense, mesirus nefesh] does not [only] entail [sacrificing one’s life] rather than actually denying G‑d, but [also living in affirmation of Him by] nullifying man’s consciousness of self and haughtiness. [For a self-centered existence is equivalent to the worship of other gods, as] our Sages say:9 ,x “Anyone who has a haughty spirit is fit to be cut down like an asherah tree.”

A tree that was worshiped by pagans, as was the practice of both the Canaanites and the Greeks. See Devarim 7:5, 12:3.

שהוא He is actually an asherah, for he makes himself a significant entity, something separate from G‑d’s oneness. Instead, he should [live] with bittul to and mesirus nefesh for G‑d.

According to Chassidus, the true concept of bittul, nullifying oneself before G‑d, is not only for a person to negate his will and carry out G‑d’s will, but to comprehend that there is no true existence outside of Him and to see all existence is an expression of Him. The very fact that he considers his own self as a significant entity implies that he feels there is something else — his ego — that exists apart from G‑d. This is equivalent to the worship of false gods.

והיינו [Now, the latter is not a human being’s natural approach. It involves a reversal of one’s natural thinking and an acceptance of G‑d’s conception of the world, as implied by the statement:10 ] “We acknowledge You.”

The term modim can refer to thankful acknowledgment and that is its literal meaning within the context of the blessing. Nevertheless, as mentioned here and explained in greater depth in the maamar entitled Tziyon BeMishpat, sec. 1 (Likkutei Torah, Devarim,p. 1a ff., also translated in Vol. II of this series), the term “acknowledgment” also implies the acceptance of a position that one does not totally understand. One appreciates the truth of another person’s position even though that position is above one’s ordinary level of comprehension and cannot be internalized.

For example, we find the expression (Bava Kama 29a): “The Sages acknowledge Rabbi Meir’s [position]”; i.e., originally, they differed with him, and afterwards, they acknowledged the validity of his approach. Now, Rabbi Meir’s understanding surpassed that of the other Sages, as Eruvin 13b states: “The Sages were not able to comprehend his ultimate intent.” Therefore, they were not capable of fully understanding Rabbi Meir’s perspective. Nevertheless, they acknowledged that it was correct.

Similarly, with regard to our relationship with G‑d, there is, as the Alter Rebbe explains here, a difference of opinion between our perspective and His, as it were. We view ordinary material existence as our fundamental reality (yesh) and G‑dliness as something above us that we cannot comprehend (ayin). He, by contrast, appreciates all material existence as of no substance or importance. Acknowledging His position (modim) implies that even though we cannot fully comprehend how our existence is nothingness, we accept this to be true.

[Implied is that man] acknowledges [the truth of] G‑d’s [perspective,] that “everything is of no significance before Him” and that the lower [one’s level of existence], the less significant one is. This is not our [inborn perspective. On the contrary, our natural approach is] that the creation involves bringing something into existence from nothingness

And thus from our perspective, the less spiritual an entity is, the more substantial and important it appears to us.

and, to our eyes, the material [dimensions of] the world appear as significant entities and [thus] separate [from G‑d], as explained in another source.11 [In our Divine service, however, we acknowledge that G‑d’s approach is correct and that our natural approach stems from our mortal limitations.]

Thus our statement implies a commitment of bittul, negating our understanding and accepting His perspective.

וע"י Through the bittul [which we accept upon ourselves], the unity of [G‑d’s] infinite light is drawn down and revealed in our souls. Thus we can also say: “I will give...,” [speaking in G‑d’s name, as it were]. For [G‑d’s] infinite light is being revealed within the person; it is the one speaking.xi

The person is thus not speaking in his own name. Instead, he is identified with G‑d.

והוא This relates to the concept [implied by the phrase]:12 “My words that I placed in your mouth”; that [the words of Torah] we speak are actually “the word of G‑d.” As we find in the words of our Sages:13 “These and these are the words of the living G‑d.”

The passage refers to the differing opinions of the School of Shammai and the School of Hillel. As the Alter Rebbe proceeds to state, by extension, the concept applies to the words of any two differing Sages. It is not, as would seem according to a superficial understanding, that one opinion is correct and the other an error. Instead, both views are “the words of G‑d.” Similarly, whenever a person studies with bittul, the words of Torah he speaks are “the words of G‑d.”

[Implied is] that the words of the School of Shammai and those of the School of Hillel — and similarly, the words of Abbaye and Rava — are not their own words but the word of G‑d, [placed] in their mouths, as R. Yosef [Caro] was told by his heavenly instructor:14 “I am the mishnah that is being spoken by your mouth.”

R. Yosef Caro was tutored by an angel and the angel made this statement to him.

וזהו The [above] reflects the concept of Torah study. The mitzvos, by contrast, reflect the observance of the commands of the King.

As mentioned above, Torah study is G‑d’s thought, identified with Him as He is on His own level. Mitzvos, by contrast, are commands to the Jewish people to fulfill within the context of worldly existence.

Now, G‑d’s Kingship represents the vitality of all the worlds that are limited by the framework of space and time.

As the Alter Rebbe proceeds to state, there are realms of existence that do not have these limitations, even in an abstract, spiritual sense. Their vitality comes from levels of G‑dliness above Malchus, His attribute of Kingship.

[This is alluded to by the verse:] “Your Kingship is kingship over all the worlds and Your dominion is in every generation.”

See the explanation in sec. 2 of this maamar.

“All the worlds” refers to the dimension of space, and “every generation,” to the dimension of time. Now the dimensions of time and space are only relevant to [G‑d’s] attribute of Kingship, as [we say in our prayers:15 “G‑d] reigns, He has reigned, and He will reign.” But with regard to G‑d in His infinite Essence, time and space are not relevant at all.16 ,xii

והנה [When] occupied with Torah study, [a person is identified with] “Our form,”17 a level above time.

That verse states: “Let us make man in Our form and Our image.” Now it is also written (Bamidbar 19:14, see the interpretation of the Zohar, Vol. II, p. 117b; Vol. III, 29b): “This is the Torah, man,” i.e., that a parallel is established between man and the Torah, as it were. Thus there exists a dimension in the Torah that resembles “Our form” and one that resembles “Our image.”

It is explained (see Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar, p. 88c, Devarim, p. 42b; Toras Chayim, Shmos, p. 141c) that “form” refers to an entity’s nature and being, while “image” implies that it is not the entity itself, but merely a ray of it. Through Torah study, a person identifies with G‑d’s “form”; i.e., how He exists on His own level, above the limits of natural existence. Mitzvos, by contrast, relate to “G‑d’s image,” how He projects Himself into the realm of worldly existence.

In contrast, the mitzvos are identified with the attribute of Kingship,

For, as above, they are “the commands of the King.” Just as Kingship (Malchus) is the source of time and space, so too, the mitzvos can be fulfilled only within such a context.

which is called “Our image,” and thus the concept of time is relevant to them. Therefore the observance of the mitzvos is dependent on time and the sacrifices are dependent on the era of the Beis HaMikdash. In contrast, involvement with the study of the Torah is not dependent on the Beis HaMikdash, a kohen, or the priestly garments at all. Even though the Torah is the explanation of the mitzvos, nevertheless, on the level of thought and speech, it is still [involved with] the spiritual realms. The mitzvos, by contrast, involve the deeds of the body in actual practice.

With this explanation, the Alter Rebbe is resolving one of the questions raised in the beginning of the maamar: How is it possible for a person who studies the laws of a sacrifice to be considered as if he offered it, even though he is studying at night and is outside the Beis HaMikdash? The resolution is that the study of Torah enables man to bond with G‑d’s will as it exists within His thought, above time and space, while mitzvos involve fulfillment of G‑d’s will within those limits.


When a person appreciates the oneness he can achieve with G‑d through Torah study, he will derive great satisfaction from that study. For he will comprehend how through that study, all of his potentials become identified with G‑d. This identification is underscored in the Shema when we declare, “I will give...,” speaking in G‑d’s name, as it were.

For that to occur, one’s Torah study must be characterized by bittul. In contrast, there are those whose lives are controlled by self-concern. This is equivalent to the worship of false gods. When, however, a person abandons self-concern and devotes himself to G‑d, he can identify with the Divine to the extent that the words of Torah which he speaks are “the word of G‑d.”

Study on this level lifts a person above all the limits of worldly existence. In contrast, the observance of the mitzvos is dependent on those limits, for mitzvos must be fulfilled within the limits of time and space.

On this basis, we can resolve one of the questions mentioned in sec. I: How is it possible for a person who studies the laws of a sacrifice to be considered as if he offered it, even though he is studying at night and is outside the Beis HaMikdash? For the study of Torah enables man to bond with G‑d’s will as it exists within His thought, above time and space, while mitzvos involve the fulfillment of G‑d’s will within those limits.