Creation effected absolutely no change in the Creator, neither in His Unity nor in His knowledge. This we learn from the verse, “I, Havayah, have not changed,” as the Alter Rebbe explained in the preceding chapter. Though one might assume that by bringing created beings into existence G‑d’s knowledge was supplemented — in that only after their creation did he become aware of them, so to speak — this in fact is not so, for G‑d’s knowledge is wholly one with G‑d Himself.

G‑d’s knowledge is thus entirely unlike man’s. Acquired knowledge constitutes an addition to a mortal soul, which is a compound, not a simple and perfect unity. G‑d’s Unity, by contrast, is perfect, without any superaddition. Accordingly, His unique manner of knowledge is such that by knowing Himself He knows all of creation, which derives from Him.

This knowledge of self existed before G‑d brought created beings into existence. By knowing them, therefore, nothing at all was added to His previous knowledge. And such a manner of knowledge, concluded the Alter Rebbe, is beyond the comprehension of man.

In the chapter before us, the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain that Maimonides‘ statement that “He is the Knowledge” applies not only to G‑d’s knowledge, but also to all His other attributes and Names, including His Chochmah and will. They are all completely united with G‑d Himself.

והנה מה שכתב הרמב״ם ז״ל, שהקב״ה, מהותו ועצמותו ודעתו, הכל אחד ממש, אחדות פשוטה ולא מורכבת כלל

Now, what Maimonides (of blessed memory) has said1 — that the Holy One, blessed be He, His Essence and Being, and His knowledge are completely one, a perfect unity and not a composite at all, —

כן הענין ממש בכל מדותיו של הקב״ה, ובכל שמותיו הקדושים, והכנויים שכינו לו הנביאים וחז״ל, כגון: חנון ורחום וחסיד וכיוצא בהן

this applies equally to all the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He, and to all His holy Names, and the designations which the Prophets and Sages, of blessed memory have ascribed to Him, such as Gracious, Merciful, Beneficent, and the like.

וכן מה שנקרא חכם, דכתיב: וגם הוא חכם וגו׳

This is also true with respect to His being called Wise, as it is written,2 “And He is also wise,...”;

וכן רצונו: כי רוצה ה׳ את יראיו, וחפץ חסד הוא, ורוצה בתשובתם של רשעים ואינו חפץ במיתתם וברשעתם, וטהור עינים מראות ברע

and likewise with respect to His will, [as it is written,3] “G‑d desires those who fear Him,” and4 “He wishes to do kindness,” and5 “He desires the repentance of the wicked and does not desire their death and wickedness,” — thus we have verses indicating both what He finds desirable and undesirable; [so, too,6] “Your eyes are too pure to behold evil” — yet another thing that He does not desire.

From the above verses, then, we see that emotions, wisdom and will are all ascribed to G‑d. Nevertheless:

אין רצונו וחכמתו ומדת חסדו ורחמנותו ושאר מדותיו מוסיפים בו ריבוי והרכבה חס ושלום במהותו ועצמותו

His will and His wisdom and His attribute of kindness and His mercy and His other attributes do not add plurality and composition (G‑d forbid) to His Essence and Being,

אלא עצמותו ומהותו ורצונו וחכמתו ובינתו ודעתו, ומדת חסדו וגבורתו ורחמנותו ותפארתו הכלולה מחסדו וגבורתו

but His Being and Essence and His will and wisdom and understanding and knowledge, and His attribute of kindness and His might and mercy and beauty, [the last of] which is composed of His kindness and might,

וכן שאר מדותיו הקדושות, הכל אחדות פשוטה ממש, שהיא היא עצמותו ומהותו

and likewise His other holy attributes, — all the above, comprising his Being and Essence, and his will, and the Sefirot of ChaBaD and the middot, constitute an absolutely perfect unity, which is His very Being and Essence.

וכמו שכתב הרמב״ם ז״ל, שדבר זה אין כח בפה לאמרו, ולא באזן לשמעו, ולא בלב האדם להכירו על בוריו

And as Maimonides (of blessed memory) stated,7 “This [form of unity] wherein G‑d’s knowledge and so on is one with G‑d Himself is beyond the capacity of the mouth to express, beyond the capacity of the ear to hear, and beyond the capacity of the heart of man to apprehend clearly.”

כי האדם מצייר בשכלו כל המושכלות שרוצה להשכיל ולהבין, הכל כמות שהם בו

For man visualizes in his mind all the concepts which he wishes to conceive and understand — all as they are within himself.

כגון שרוצה לצייר בשכלו מהות הרצון, או מהות חכמה או בינה או דעת, או מהות מדת חסד ורחמים, וכיוצא בהן

For instance, if he wishes to envisage the essence of will, or the essence of wisdom or of understanding or of knowledge, or the essence of the attribute of kindness and mercy and the like,

הוא מצייר כולן כמות שהן בו

he visualizes them all as they are within himself.

Just as this is so with regard to envisaging one’s own intellect and emotions, so, too, regarding an individual’s desire to apprehend Divine Intellect and emotions: he endeavors to do so by envisaging intellect and emotion as they are found within himself.

אבל באמת, הקב״ה הוא רם ונשא וקדוש שמו

But in truth, the Holy One, blessed be He, is8 “high and exalted” and “holy is His Name”; i.e., His Name, too, is “holy” and set apart (for this is implied by the root קדש ).

כלומר, שהוא קדוש ומובדל ריבוא רבבות עד אין קץ ותכלית מדרגות הבדלות למעלה מעלה מערך וסוג ומין כל התשבחות והמעלות שיוכלו הנבראים להשיג ולצייר בשכלם

That is to say, He is Holy and separated many myriads of degrees of separations ad infinitum, above the quality, type or kind of praises and exaltation which creatures could grasp and conceive in their minds.

It is for this reason that G‑d is called the Holy One, blessed be He, for the degree to which He transcends the created universe defies mortal conception.

כי המעלה ומדרגה הראשונה אצל הנבראים היא החכמה, שלכן נקראת ראשית

For the first i.e., supreme quality and rank with regard to created beings is wisdom, for which reason it is called “the beginning,” as in the phrase,9 “the beginning of wisdom.”

So, too, Targum Yonatan interprets בראשית (in the verse, “In the beginning G‑d created...”) to mean “with wisdom.” Thus, “wisdom” also connotes that which is first in quality, and the source of all other attributes.

כי באמת היא ראשית ומקור כל החיות בנבראים

For it is indeed the beginning and fountainhead of all the life-force in creatures,

כי מהחכמה נמשכות בינה ודעת

for from wisdom are derived understanding and knowledge,

ומהן נמשכות כל המדות שבנפש המשכלת, כמו אהבה וחסד ורחמים וכיוצא בהן

and from them flow all the emotive attributes of the rational soul, such as love and kindness and mercy and the like; all of these derive from the intellectual attributes.

וכנראה בחוש, שהקטן שאין בו דעת הוא בכעס תמיד ואכזרי, וגם אהבתו היא לדברים קטנים שאין ראוי לאהבם

This is seen vividly — that a child, having no wisdom, is always angry and unkind, and even his love is for trivial things which are unworthy of being loved,

מפני שאין בו דעת לאהוב דברים הראויים לאהבם, שהאהבה כפי הדעת

because he lacks the understanding to love things which are worthy of love, for love varies with [the level of one’s] understanding.

Thus, the emotions are dependent on the intellect and understanding, inasmuch as they derive from them.

ומהמדות שבנפש, נמשכות בה תיבות ואותיות המחשבה

From the emotive attributes of the soul, words and letters of thought issue forth,

שהנפש מחשבת בדבר שאוהבת, או איך לפעול החסד והרחמים

for the soul thinks of that which it loves or of how to perform deeds of kindness and mercy.

וכן בשאר מדות

And so it is with the other emotive attributes: they all serve as a source for the words and letters of thought.

ובכל מחשבה שבעולם, מלובשת בה איזו מדה המביאה לחשוב מחשבה זו,ומדה זו היא חיותה של מחשבה זו

Within every thought in the world, there is clothed some emotive attribute that causes one to think that thought, and this attribute is the vivifying force of that thought.

ומאותיות המחשבה נמשכות אותיות הדבור, והן חיותן ממש

From the letters of [a man’s] thought proceed the letters of [his] speech, and they — the letters of thought — are their actual vivifying force.

והדבור מביא לידי מעשה הצדקה וחסד, כגון המלך שמצוה לעבדיו ליתן

Speech [in turn] gives rise to action, [such as] of charity and kindness, as in the case of a king who orders his servants to give [charity].

I.e., his speech causes his charitable thought to result in action.

וגם כשהאדם עושה בעצמו איזה דבר

And even when a man himself does some deed which he had thought of doing,

In this instance no speech is involved: his thought leads directly to action. Nevertheless — the Alter Rebbe goes on to say — here, too, in order for the life-force to descend from thought to action, it must pass through an intermediary stage which resembles speech.

הרי כח הנפש וחיותה, המתלבש בעשיה זו, הוא כאין ממש לגבי כח הנפש וחיותה המתלבש בדבור האדם

the power of the soul and its life-force, which clothes itself in this deed, is as absolute nothingness in relation to the power of the soul and its life-force which clothes itself in the speech of man;

וכערך ומשל הגוף לנשמה

[they are to each other] as the relation and comparison of the body to the soul.

To the same degree is there no comparison between the power of the soul and its life-force which clothes itself in the speech of man, and the power of the soul and its life-force which clothes itself in man’s actions. Therefore, when this power and life-force has descended so far that it is able to clothe itself in action, it has already undergone contractions and condensations which are far below the power of speech.

וכן ערך אותיות הדבור לאותיות המחשבה

Likewise — like the distance of body from soul — is the relation of the letters of speech to the letters of thought,

וכן ערך אותיות המחשבה למהות המדה המלובשת בה ומחיה אותה

and likewise is the relation of the letters of thought to the essence of the emotive attribute which is clothed in it and animates it;

I.e., the thought that derives from an emotion is in no way comparable to the emotion itself.

וכן ערך מהות וחיות המדה, לגבי החכמה בינה ודעת שכללותן הוא השכל, שממנו נמשכה מדה זו

and likewise the relation of the essence and life-force of the emotive attribute in comparison with the wisdom, understanding and knowledge which together constitute the intellect from which this attribute was derived.

We thus see that in the chain of descent from level to level — beginning with wisdom and culminating with action — each level bears no comparison at all even to the level that immediately precedes it; emotions cannot be compared to intellect, thought cannot be compared to emotions, and so on. Surely, then, there can be no comparison whatsoever between the lowest degree of action and the highest degree of wisdom.

וכל זה בנפש האדם ונפש כל הברואים שבכל העולמות עליונים ותחתונים, שבכולם החכמה היא ראשית ומקור החיות

All this applies to the soul of man and the soul of all the created beings in all the higher and lower worlds. In all of them, wisdom is the beginning and source of the life-force.

G‑d, however, as will soon be concluded, is as distant from the degree of wisdom as He is from that of action; from the Divine perspective, action and wisdom are humble equals