Each of us faces an age-old struggle: How do we overcome our fundamental material tendencies and live a life of spiritual purpose?

In the following maamar, a classic chassidictexttaken from Torah Or, the Alter Rebbe offers a resolution, explaining that Torah study empowers a person’s spiritual sensitivities and weakens his orientation to physicality.

Historically, the Giving of the Torah represented the culmination of the exodus from Egypt, as it is written:1 “When you take the people out of Egypt, you will serve G‑d on this mountain.” As frequently explained in chassidic thought,2 the Hebrew name for Egypt, Mitzrayim (מצרים), is virtually identical to the word meitzarim (מיצרים), which means “straits” or “limitations.” In other words, our personal exodus from Egypt involves self-transcendence; lifting ourselves out of our natural limitations. Torah study epitomizes this inner journey, for it lifts one out of the boundaries and constraints of the body and animal soul and initiates a deeper and stronger relationship with G‑d.

Man Speaking G‑d’s Word

The Torah we study concerns itself with material matters — containing laws governing our crops, our business affairs, and the like. Nevertheless, even as it descends from the spiritual peaks to relate to our day-to-day reality, it is, in essence, one with G‑d. When a man or woman studies the Torah, the words being recited are not his or her own. Every word uttered is G‑d’s word, as it were. The thunder and lightning of Sinai is lacking, but the core of that revelation — that G‑d’s word is being drawn down to this material world — remains the same.

The Sinai experience overwhelmed the Jewish people, imbuing them with “fear, awe, and trembling.” When a person realizes that by studying the Torah, he draws down essential G‑dliness, similar feelings will be evoked.3 He will be overcome by bittul, stepping beyond self-consciousness and self-concern, and, as a consequence, will devote himself to carrying out G‑d’s will. In such a state, the changes mentioned above — the weakening of his physical desires and the highlighting of his spiritual potential — will flow as a matter of course.

* * *

In several sichos in the month of Sivan, 5748, the Rebbe emphasized the importance of studying this maamar as a preparation for the holiday of Shavuos, asking that it be studied by men, women, and children as a catalyst that enables us to receive the Torah with happiness and inner feeling.4