Chapter 23

פרק כג

In the previous chapters, the Alter Rebbe explained that from G‑d’s perspective, nothing is ever separate from Him, for the Divine “Word,” which creates everything, is unlike a word spoken by a human being. The latter becomes separated from the speaker, while the former remains always within its source—G‑d. It is only from the subjective viewpoint of the created beings that they are considered as separate, independent entities. They are able to regard themselves as such because they receive the Divine life-force, which animates them by way of many tzimtzumim and through the concealment of the Divine “Countenance,” i.e., the concealment of the inner, ultimate aspect of G‑d’s will.

The logical corollary to this idea is that anything in which the Divine will stands revealed is completely nullified before G‑d and absolutely one with Him. In this chapter, the Alter Rebbe applies this idea to the Torah and the mitzvot, in which G‑d’s will is manifest. He demonstrates how one can unite with G‑d’s will and wisdom, and thereby with G‑d Himself, through study of the Torah and observance of the mitzvot.

In light of all that has been said above, we can better understand and more fully and clearly elucidate the statement in the Zohar that “The Torah and G‑d are entirely one,”1

וְעִם כָּל הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל, יוּבַן וִיבוֹאַר הֵיטֵב בְּתוֹסֶפֶת בֵּיאוּר מַה שֶּׁאָמְרוּ בַּזֹּהַר דְּ"אוֹרַיְיתָא וְקוּדְשָׁא־בְּרִיךְ־הוּא כּוּלָּא חַד",

and the commentary in the Tikkunei Zohar that “The 248 commandments are the 248 ‘organs’ of the [Divine] King.”2

וּבַתִּיקוּנִים פֵּירְשׁוּ דְּ"רַמַ"ח פִּיקּוּדִין אִינּוּן רַמַ"ח אֵבָרִין דְּמַלְכָּא".

Just as every organ in the human body is a repository for the particular faculty of the soul that is vested in that organ (e.g., the eye is the receptacle for the faculty of sight and the ear for the faculty of hearing), so, too, is every commandment a channel and a repository for the Divine will that is vested and expressed in that particular commandment. (The commandments in general represent G‑d’s will, and each individual mitzvah is an expression of a particular aspect of this will.)

It should be noted, however, that according to this analogy, the mitzvot are no more than G‑d’s “organs.” An organ of the body is not one with the soul. True, when any particular soul-power is vested in its corresponding organ, they function together as one, but they remain two separate entities that have been joined together. By the same token, the mitzvot are not actually one with G‑d: they are merely (as it were) joined to Him. Yet the Torah, whose whole purpose is to explain the mitzvot, is “entirely one with G‑d,” as quoted earlier from the Zohar. What is the meaning of this greater unity with G‑d found in the Torah (and in the act of Torah study) that surpasses even the unity in the mitzvot and in their fulfillment? This the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain.

For the mitzvot constitute G‑d’s innermost will and His true desire, which is clothed in all the upper and lower worlds, thereby giving them life.

לְפִי שֶׁהַמִּצְוֹת הֵן פְּנִימִיּוּת רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן וְחֶפְצוֹ הָאֲמִיתִּי, הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בְּכָל הָעוֹלָמוֹת הָעֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים לְהַחֲיוֹתָם,

All the worlds are a product of G‑d’s will. He desired that they exist, and this desire is what brought them into being. However, this desire is but an external manifestation of His underlying, internal will—the desire for mitzvot. Why, in fact, does G‑d desire that the worlds exist? Because He desires that the mitzvot be performed—and this is possible only when there is someone to perform them and when there are objects with which to perform them. To this end, G‑d created all the worlds.

This can be illustrated by the analogy of a man who travels abroad on business. Naturally, he travels because he wishes to do so. But his “internal” (i.e., ultimate) desire in the journey, his underlying motive, lies in the profit he expects to reap. When we probe still deeper, we find that the desire for profit is itself an external expression of an even more “internal” desire—the desire for the things which he will be able to buy with the proceeds of his business. Here lies the true object of his pleasure. It is this desire which creates the desire for profit, which leads in turn to his desire to travel. So, too, in the case of the worlds and the mitzvot. G‑d’s external will, His desire that the worlds exist, is motivated by His desire for the true object of His pleasure—the mitzvot. Thus, the mitzvot represent His innermost will. It is for their sake that G‑d gives life to all the worlds.

The very life and sustenance of all the worlds is dependent upon the performance of the mitzvot by the creatures of the lower worlds, as is known—that performing a mitzvah draws G‑dly life and sustenance into all the worlds.

כִּי כָּל חַיּוּתָם וְשִׁפְעָם תָּלוּי בְּמַעֲשֵׂה הַמִּצְוֹת שֶׁל הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים, כַּנּוֹדָע,

It follows that the performance and fulfillment of the mitzvot is the innermost garment for the innermost aspect of G‑d’s will,

וְנִמְצָא שֶׁמַּעֲשֵׂה הַמִּצְוֹת וְקִיּוּמָן הוּא לְבוּשׁ הַפְּנִימִי לִפְנִימִית רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן,

since it is due to this performance of the mitzvot that the light and life of the worlds issues forth from the Divine will to be clothed in them—

שֶׁמִּמַּעֲשֶׂה זֶה נִמְשָׁךְ אוֹר וְחַיּוּת רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בָּעוֹלָמוֹת.

I.e., since G‑d desires the worlds only as a vehicle for the performance of the mitzvot, as explained above, and it is only for this reason that He animates the worlds—

hence, the mitzvot are figuratively described as “organs of the King.” For just as the organs of the human body are a garment for its soul and are completely and utterly surrendered to it,

וְלָכֵן נִקְרָאִים "אֵבְרֵי דְמַלְכָּא", דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל; כְּמוֹ שֶׁאֵבְרֵי גּוּף הָאָדָם הֵם לְבוּשׁ לְנַפְשׁוֹ וּבְטֵלִים לְגַמְרֵי אֵלֶיהָ מִכֹּל וָכֹל,

as is evident from the fact that as soon as a person desires to stretch out his hand or foot, they obey his will immediately, without any command or instruction to them and with no delay whatsoever,

כִּי מִיָּד שֶׁעוֹלֶה בִּרְצוֹנוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם לִפְשׁוֹט יָדוֹ אוֹ רַגְלוֹ, הֵן נִשְׁמָעוֹת לִרְצוֹנוֹ תֵּכֶף וּמִיָּד בְּלִי שׁוּם צִוּוּי וַאֲמִירָה לָהֶן, וּבְלִי שׁוּם שְׁהִיָּיה כְּלָל,

but at the very instant that it entered his will [to do so].

אֶלָּא כְּרֶגַע מַמָּשׁ כְּשֶׁעָלָה בִּרְצוֹנוֹ,

The response of his organs is automatic; one need not consciously occupy himself with activating his hand. As to the phrase, “without any command or instruction”: When one must exert effort in activating his faculties (e.g., when one dislikes a particular task but forces himself to do it on the strength of logic), this effort is spoken of as an internal command from one faculty to another. However, when one’s will activates the organs of his body, there is no such command involved.

Just as the organs of the human body are completely united with one’s soul and are surrendered to it, so, too, is the life-force animating the performance and fulfillment of the commandments completely surrendered to the Divine will which is clothed therein, and this life-force becomes, in relation to the Divine will, like a body to a soul.

כָּךְ דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, הַחַיּוּת שֶׁל מַעֲשֵׂה הַמִּצְוֹת וְקִיּוּמָן, הוּא בָּטֵל לְגַמְרֵי לְגַבֵּי רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בּוֹ, וְנַעֲשֶׂה לוֹ מַמָּשׁ כְּגוּף לִנְשָׁמָה.

Likewise, the external garment of the divine soul of the person fulfilling and practicing the commandment, i.e., its faculty of action, which is external compared to the faculties of speech and thought, since it functions outside oneself,

וְכֵן הַלְּבוּשׁ הַחִיצוֹן שֶׁל נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית שֶׁבָּאָדָם הַמְקַיֵּם וְעוֹשֶׂה הַמִּצְוָה, שֶׁהוּא כֹּחַ וּבְחִינַת הַמַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁלָּהּ,

clothes itself in the vitality of the performance of the mitzvah, and thus, it, too, becomes like a body to a soul in relation to the Divine will and is completely surrendered to the Divine will; i.e., the soul’s power of action becomes united with the Divine will in the same way as one’s body is united with his soul.

הוּא מִתְלַבֵּשׁ בַּחַיּוּת שֶׁל מַעֲשֵׂה הַמִּצְוָה, וְנַעֲשֶׂה גַּם כֵּן כְּגוּף לִנְשָׁמָה לָרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן וּבָטֵל אֵלָיו לְגַמְרֵי.

In this way, those organs of the human body which perform the mitzvah

וְעַל כֵּן, גַּם אֵבְרֵי גּוּף הָאָדָם הַמְקַיְּימִים הַמִּצְוָה,

—i.e., those organs in which the divine soul’s faculty of action is clothed during the performance and fulfillment of the mitzvah—they, too, become a veritable vehicle (lit., merkavah—a “chariot”) for the Divine will.

שֶׁכֹּחַ וּבְחִינַת הַמַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁל נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית מְלוּבָּשׁ בָּהֶם בִּשְׁעַת מַעֲשֵׂה וְקִיּוּם הַמִּצְוָה, הֵם נַעֲשׂוּ מֶרְכָּבָה מַמָּשׁ לָרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן,

For example, the hand which distributes charity to the poor or performs another commandment becomes, in the act of performing the mitzvah, a “chariot” for the Divine will.

כְּגוֹן: הַיָּד הַמְחַלֶּקֶת צְדָקָה לַעֲנִיִּים, אוֹ עוֹשָׂה מִצְוָה אַחֶרֶת,

Similarly, the feet which walk for the purpose of fulfilling a mitzvah, or the mouth and tongue which speak words of Torah, or the brain reflecting on the Torah or on the fear of heaven or on the greatness of G‑d, blessed be He.

וְרַגְלַיִם הַמְהַלְּכוֹת לִדְבַר מִצְוָה, וְכֵן הַפֶּה וְלָשׁוֹן שֶׁמְּדַבְּרִים דִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה, וְהַמּוֹחַ שֶׁמְּהַרְהֵר בְּדִבְרֵי תוֹרָה וְיִרְאַת שָׁמַיִם וּבִגְדוּלַּת ה' בָּרוּךְ־הוּא.

When these organs are occupied with the mitzvot, they are totally surrendered, like a chariot, to the Divine will clothed in these mitzvot.

Note that a physical organ becomes merely a chariot for the Divine will. It does not become surrendered to and unified with the Divine will to the same extent as the divine soul’s faculty of action, whose unity the Alter Rebbe previously compared to the unity of body and soul. The unity of body and soul surpasses that of the chariot with its rider. Body and soul, although originally two separate, disparate entities, one physical and the other spiritual, become one entity when united. No part of the body is devoid of the soul; conversely, the soul completely adapts itself to the body, becoming transformed into a corporeal life-force. The divine soul’s faculty of action, being a G‑dly power, can achieve this level of unity with G‑d when it is employed in the performance of a mitzvah.

The organs of the body, on the other hand, although they too are involved in fulfilling the mitzvah, can reach no higher than the level illustrated in the analogy of the chariot. A chariot, having no will of its own, is indeed completely subservient to its rider—yet it is not united with him.

This is what the Sages meant when they said that “The Patriarchs are truly the [Divine] chariot,”3

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "הָאָבוֹת הֵן הֵן הַמֶּרְכָּבָה",

for all their organs were completely holy and detached from mundane matters, and throughout their lives, they served as a vehicle for nothing but the Divine will.

שֶׁכָּל אֵבְרֵיהֶם כּוּלָּם הָיוּ קְדוֹשִׁים וּמוּבְדָּלִים מֵעִנְיְינֵי עוֹלָם הַזֶּה, וְלֹא נַעֲשׂוּ מֶרְכָּבָה, רַק לָרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן לְבַדּוֹ כָּל יְמֵיהֶם:

The reason for the Sages’ designating specifically the Patriarchs as G‑d’s chariot, although every Jew’s body becomes a “chariot” when he performs a mitzvah, is that the Patriarchs’ submission to the Divine will was unique in its power, its scope, and its consistency. All their organs were totally surrendered to the Divine will throughout their lives—whereas with other Jews, only those organs which perform a mitzvah are a “chariot,” and then only during the act. In fact, the same organ which today served as a “chariot” to G‑d’s will might conceivably serve the opposite purpose tomorrow.

The Alter Rebbe has thus far discussed two levels of union with the Divine will, one analogous to the chariot and its rider and the second to the unity of body and soul. Both these levels of unity are achieved by performing the mitzvot. He now goes on to describe a third and higher level of unity that is achieved through the study of the Torah.

But the thought and meditation on the words of Torah, which is accomplished in the brain, and the power of speech engaged in the words of Torah, which is in the mouth—these being the innermost garments of the divine soul and thus closer to the soul itself than the faculty of action, the “external” garment,

אַךְ הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה וְהַהִרְהוּר בְּדִבְרֵי תוֹרָה שֶׁבַּמּוֹחַ, וְכֹחַ הַדִּבּוּר בְּדִבְרֵי תוֹרָה שֶׁבַּפֶּה, שֶׁהֵם לְבוּשִׁים הַפְּנִימִים שֶׁל נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית,

and surely the divine soul itself, which is clothed in them i.e., in the thought and speech engaged in Torah study,

וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית עַצְמָהּ הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בָּהֶם,

all of them are fused in perfect unity with the Divine will and are not merely a vehicle, a “chariot” for it,4 as are the mouth and brain, in which the thought and speech of Torah study take place.

כּוּלָּם מְיוּחָדִים מַמָּשׁ בְּיִחוּד גָּמוּר בָּרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן, וְלֹא מֶרְכָּבָה לְבַד,

The term “perfect unity” indicates that the two become one and the same, unlike, for example, the unity of body and soul, which retain their separate identities even when they are joined together and form one unit. An example of a “perfect” unity can be found in the unity of the soul with its faculties, which are a part of it, and are thus completely united with it. In the same way, the divine soul and its faculties of speech and thought are united with the Divine will when one thinks or speaks matters of Torah.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain how Torah study is able to effect this level of unity.

For the Divine will is identical with the halachic subject of which one thinks and speaks, inasmuch as all the laws of the Halachah are particular expressions of the innermost Divine will itself,

כִּי רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן הוּא הוּא הַדְּבַר הֲלָכָה עַצְמָהּ שֶׁמְּהַרְהֵר וּמְדַבֵּר בָּהּ, שֶׁכָּל הַהֲלָכוֹת הֵן פְּרָטֵי הַמְשָׁכוֹת פְּנִימִיּוּת רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן עַצְמוֹ,

for G‑d willed it thus—that a particular thing be deemed permissible or kosher or that this person be found exempt and another innocent or the reverse.

שֶׁכָּךְ עָלָה בִּרְצוֹנוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, שֶׁדָּבָר זֶה מוּתָּר אוֹ כָּשֵׁר אוֹ פָּטוּר אוֹ זַכַּאי אוֹ לְהֵפֶךְ;

Since every Halachah expresses the Divine will, the unity which the study of the Halachah effects between the soul and the Divine will surpasses even the unity of body and soul.

Similarly, all the letter combinations of the Pentateuch, Prophets, and the Writings are also expressions of G‑d’s will and wisdom, which are united with the blessed Ein Sof in a perfect unity—since He is the Knower, the Knowledge…[and the subject Known].

וְכֵן כָּל צֵרוּפֵי אוֹתִיּוֹת תּוֹרָה־נְבִיאִים־כְּתוּבִים הֵן הַמְשָׁכַת רְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ הַמְיוּחָדוֹת בְּאֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד, שֶׁהוּא הַיּוֹדֵעַ וְהוּא הַמַּדָּע כוּ'.

Thus, when one studies the Torah, Prophets, and the Writings, he becomes united with the Divine will and wisdom, which are absolutely one with G‑d Himself.

The difference between the two levels of unity with G‑d achieved through Torah and mitzvot, respectively, may be clarified by the following analogy:

A king orders his servants to build a palace for him and draws up a detailed blueprint for it. When they carry out his wishes, they are united with his desire as expressed in the palace. However, the palace walls themselves do not represent the king’s will and wisdom. But the blueprint does, and the architects who study it are actually involved in the study of the king’s will and wisdom.

So, too, in our case. The actual performance of the mitzvot, although dictated by G‑d’s will, does not actually constitute this will. Not so the wisdom of Torah, which is itself G‑d’s wisdom, and the halachic rulings are actually expressions of His will, and thus, when one speaks or thinks words of Torah, he attains the greatest possible level of union with G‑d, Who is one with His will and wisdom.

This is what is meant by the statement that “The Torah and G‑d are absolutely one”—they are not merely “organs of the King,” as are the mitzvot.

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב דְּ"אוֹרַיְיתָא וְקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא – כּוּלָּא חַד", וְלֹא "אֵבָרִין דְּמַלְכָּא" לְחוּד כְּפִיקּוּדִין.

For, as explained above, the unity of the mitzvot with G‑d is like that of body and soul, where two separate entities are joined, whereas Torah is entirely one with G‑d.

Now, since the Divine will, which is in perfect unity with G‑d Himself, stands completely revealed in the divine soul and in its inner garments—i.e., its thought and speech—while a person occupies himself with words of Torah, and there is nothing obscuring the Divine will at that time, for when one studies Torah, the Divine will and wisdom contained in it come into full expression in one’s soul and its faculties of thought and speech,

וּמֵאַחַר שֶׁרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן הַמְיוּחָד בְּאֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד, הוּא בְּגִילּוּי לְגַמְרֵי, וְלֹא בְּהֶסְתֵּר פָּנִים כְּלָל וּכְלָל, בַּנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית וּלְבוּשֶׁיהָ הַפְּנִימִים, שֶׁהֵם מַחֲשַׁבְתָּהּ וְדִבּוּרָהּ, בְּאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה שֶׁהָאָדָם עוֹסֵק בְּדִבְרֵי תוֹרָה,

it follows that at that time, the soul and these garments of thought and speech are also truly united with G‑d,

הֲרֵי גַּם הַנֶּפֶשׁ וּלְבוּשֶׁיהָ אֵלּוּ – מְיוּחָדִים מַמָּשׁ בְּאֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד,

with a unity comparable to that of G‑d’s speech and thought with His essence and being as explained above,5

כְּיִחוּד דִּבּוּרוֹ וּמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּמַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

for nothing is separate from G‑d, except insofar as His Countenance is concealed.

כִּי אֵין שׁוּם דָּבָר נִפְרָד, כִּי אִם בְּהֶסְתֵּר פָּנִים כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

Only then can created beings perceive themselves as distinct entities (as explained in ch. 22). Since there is no such concealment when one studies the Torah, one attains thereby a perfect unity with G‑d—a unity comparable to that of G‑d’s speech and thought with Himself prior to their revelation as “speech” and “thought” but as they are contained within Himself.

Moreover, their unity, i.e., the unity of the divine soul and its faculties with G‑d that is attained through Torah study, is even more exalted and more powerful than the unity of G‑d’s infinite light with the upper (spiritual) worlds.

וְלֹא עוֹד, אֶלָּא שֶׁיִּחוּדָם הוּא בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת וְיֶתֶר עֹז מִיִּחוּד אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים,

For the Divine will is actually manifest in the soul and its garments that are engaged in Torah study, since it is identical with the Torah being studied.

מֵאַחַר שֶׁרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן הוּא בְּגִילּוּי מַמָּשׁ בַּנֶּפֶשׁ וּלְבוּשֶׁיהָ הָעוֹסְקִים בַּתּוֹרָה, שֶׁהֲרֵי הוּא הוּא הַתּוֹרָה עַצְמָהּ,

All the supernal worlds receive their vitality by way of the light and life derived from the Torah, which is G‑d’s will and wisdom, as it is written, “You have made them all with wisdom.”6

וְכָל הָעוֹלָמוֹת הָעֶלְיוֹנִים מְקַבְּלִים חַיּוּתָם מֵאוֹר וְחַיּוּת הַנִּמְשָׁךְ מֵהַתּוֹרָה, שֶׁהִיא רְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, כְּדִכְתִיב: "כּוּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ",

G‑d’s wisdom is thus the source of vitality for all the worlds.

Thus it follows that G‑d’s wisdom, i.e., the Torah, transcends them all.

וְאִם כֵּן, הַחָכְמָה – שֶׁהִיא הַתּוֹרָה – לְמַעְלָה מִכּוּלָּם,

It must be above all the worlds, since it is their source.

In fact, the Torah, G‑d’s will, is described as “encompassing” all the worlds, meaning that it is at a level that cannot become clothed within the worlds but rather animates and illuminates them as if from a distance, from above, in a transcending and “encompassing” manner,7

וְהִיא הִיא רְצוֹנוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ הַנִּקְרָא "סוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין", שֶׁהִיא בְּחִינַת מַה שֶּׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּתוֹךְ עָלְמִין, רַק מְחַיֶּה וּמֵאִיר לְמַעְלָה בִּבְחִינַת מַקִּיף,

and it is this level which transcends all the worlds that is clothed in a truly revealed form in one’s soul and his soul-garments when he studies Torah,

וְהִיא הִיא הַמִּתְלַבֶּשֶׁת בַּנֶּפֶשׁ וּלְבוּשֶׁיהָ בִּבְחִינַת גִּילּוּי מַמָּשׁ – כְּשֶׁעוֹסְקִים בְּדִבְרֵי תוֹרָה,

even though he does not see it.8 I.e., when one studies Torah, he is unable to consciously experience the unity of his soul with G‑d which is attained thereby, yet his soul feels it. (9In fact, this is precisely why he can endure such a unity with G‑d, precisely because he cannot feel it—unlike the supernal worlds, where G‑dliness is not obscured as it is in this world, and they cannot therefore endure such a unity with G‑d without becoming completely nullified and losing their identities entirely.)

"וְאַף־עַל־גַּב דְּאִיהוּ לָא חָזֵי כוּ'" [וּמִשּׁוּם הָכֵי יָכוֹל לִסְבּוֹל, מִשּׁוּם דְּלָא חָזֵי, מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן בָּעֶלְיוֹנִים].

This discussion of the exalted unity with G‑d attained through Torah study, which is even greater than that accomplished by performing the mitzvot, explains why Torah study is so much loftier than all the other commandments, including even prayer, which effects unity within the supernal worlds.

וּבָזֶה יוּבַן לָמָּה גָּדְלָה מְאֹד מַעֲלַת הָעֵסֶק בַּתּוֹרָה יוֹתֵר מִכָּל הַמִּצְוֹת, וַאֲפִילוּ מִתְּפִלָּה – שֶׁהִיא יִחוּד עוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים

(10Although the law requires of anyone whose Torah study is not his entire occupation that he interrupt his study for prayer,11 which would seem to indicate that prayer surpasses Torah study, this is so only because he would in any case pause and interrupt his studies.)

[וְהָא דְּמִי שֶׁאֵין תּוֹרָתוֹ אוּמָנוּתוֹ צָרִיךְ לְהַפְסִיק, הַיְינוּ מֵאַחַר דְּמַפְסִיק וּמְבַטֵּל בְּלָאו הָכֵי].

Thus, it is not the law which causes him to interrupt. The law merely states that the interruption, which he would have made regardless, be made at the time designated for prayer, and as soon as he interrupts his studies, he is automatically obliged to pray.12

From this explanation of the lofty stature of Torah study, the wise man will be able to draw upon himself a sense of great awe as he engages in the study of the Torah,13

וּמִזֶּה יוּכַל הַמַּשְׂכִּיל לְהַמְשִׁיךְ עָלָיו יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה בְּעָסְקוֹ בַּתּוֹרָה,

when he considers how his soul and its “garments” of thought and speech that are found in his brain and mouth are truly fused in perfect unity with the Divine will and the infinite light of the Ein Sof that is manifest in them i.e., in the soul and its garments, when he studies Torah.

כְּשֶׁיִּתְבּוֹנֵן אֵיךְ שֶׁנַּפְשׁוֹ וּלְבוּשֶׁיהָ שֶׁבְּמוֹחוֹ וּבְפִיו, הֵם מְיוּחָדִים מַמָּשׁ בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד בָּרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן וְאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מַמָּשׁ הַמִּתְגַּלֶּה בָּהֶם,

This infinite light manifest in one’s Torah study is of such a lofty level that all the upper and lower worlds are truly as naught in comparison with it and are in fact as absolutely nothing at all, so much so that they can only bear to have a minute glow of it clothed in them without their reverting to nothingness altogether. Their main life-force which they receive from it, however, is not clothed within them but animates them from the outside, so to speak, in a transcendent, encompassing manner.

מַה שֶּׁכָּל הָעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים – כְּלָא חֲשִׁיבֵי קַמֵּיהּ וּכְאַיִן וָאֶפֶס מַמָּשׁ, עַד שֶׁאֵינוֹ מִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּתוֹכָם מַמָּשׁ, אֶלָּא, סוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין, בִּבְחִינַת מַקִּיף – לְהַחֲיוֹתָם עִיקַּר חַיּוּתָם, רַק אֵיזוֹ הֶאָרָה מִתְלַבֶּשֶׁת בְּתוֹכָם, מַה שֶּׁיְּכוֹלִים לִסְבּוֹל, שֶׁלֹּא יִתְבַּטְּלוּ בִּמְצִיאוּת לְגַמְרֵי.

When he considers that the very same Divine light that is completely beyond the capacity of all the worlds manifests itself openly in his Torah study, the thinking man will naturally experience a sense of awe when he studies Torah.

This is the meaning of the verse, “And G‑d commanded us [to fulfill] all these statutes in order to fear G‑d.”14

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וַיְצַוֵּנוּ ה' אֶת כָּל הַחוּקִּים הָאֵלֶּה לְיִרְאָה אֶת ה' וְגוֹ'"

According to this verse, observing the mitzvot would appear to be the first step, and this leads to the fear of G‑d. Logically, however, the performance of G‑d’s commandments would seem to be a result of one’s fear of Him and not vice versa. The Alter Rebbe therefore explains that the above verse speaks of a higher level of awe than that which is a prerequisite for performing the commandments. This level can only be attained as a result of one’s observance of the commandments.

Now if the commandments lead one to a higher level in the fear of G‑d, surely the study of the Torah leads one to a still higher level. This the Alter Rebbe now discusses.

(15Regarding this great fear, our Sages said, “If there is no wisdom, there is no fear.”16 In this context, “wisdom” represents Torah study and “fear” the higher level of the awe of G‑d, which can be reached only by way of the Torah. By contrast, the statement “If there is no fear, there is no wisdom” refers to the lower level of fear, which is a prerequisite for Torah study, as stated above. In relation to this level of fear, the Torah is called “a gateway to the courtyard,”17 i.e., the sole means of entering the courtyard, viz., the higher level of fear, as is explained elsewhere.)

[וְעַל יִרְאָה גְדוֹלָה זוֹ אָמְרוּ: "אִם אֵין חָכְמָה, אֵין יִרְאָה", וְהַתּוֹרָה נִקְרֵאת אֶצְלָהּ "תַּרְעָא לְדַרְתָּא", כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר],

Not every mind, however, can sustain such a fear. Yet even he whose mind cannot bear such a fear, nor even a minute part of it, because the root and source of his soul derives from an inferior level—the lower gradations of the ten sefirot of the World of Asiyah—even he should not be deterred from the actual performance of the Torah and the mitzvot for want of this fear, as will be explained further.18

אֶלָּא, דְּלָאו כָּל מוֹחָא סָבִיל דָּא – יִרְאָה כָּזוֹ. אַךְ גַּם מַאן דְּלָא סָבִיל מוֹחוֹ כְּלָל יִרְאָה זוֹ, לֹא מִינָּהּ וְלֹא מִקְצָתָהּ, מִפְּנֵי פְּחִיתוּת עֵרֶךְ נַפְשׁוֹ בְּשָׁרְשָׁהּ וּמְקוֹרָהּ – בְּמַדְרֵגוֹת תַּחְתּוֹנוֹת דְּעֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת דַּעֲשִׂיָּה, אֵין יִרְאָה זוֹ מְעַכֶּבֶת בּוֹ לְמַעֲשֶׂה, כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר לְקַמָּן: