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.

ועם כל הנ״ל יובן ויבואר היטב בתוספת ביאור מה שאמרו בזהר, דאורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא כולא חד

In light of all that has been said above, we can better under­stand and more fully and clearly elucidate the statement in the Zohar1 that “The Torah and G‑d are entirely one,”

ובתיקונים פירשו דרמ״ח פיקודין אינון רמ״ח אברין דמלכא

and the commentary in the Tikkunei Zohar2 that “The 248 commandments are the 248 ‘organs’ of the [Divine] King.”

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.

לפי שהמצות הן פנימיות רצון העליון וחפצו האמיתי, המלובש בכל העולמות העליונים ותחתונים להחיותם

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.

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.

כי כל חיותם ושפעם תלוי במעשה המצות של התחתונים כנודע

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.

ונמצא שמעשה המצות וקיומן הוא לבוש הפנימי לפנימית רצון העליון

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

שממעשה זה נמשך אור וחיות רצון העליון להתלבש בעולמות

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 —

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.

ולכן נקראות אברי דמלכא, דרך משל, כמו שאברי גוף האדם הם לבוש לנפשו, ובטלים לגמרי אליה מכל וכל

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,

כי מיד שעולה ברצונו של אדם לפשוט ידו או רגלו הן נשמעות לרצונו תכף ומיד, בלי שום צווי ואמירה להן, ובלי שום שהייה כלל

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 whatever,

אלא כרגע ממש כשעלה ברצונו

but at the very instant that it entered his will.

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.

כך דרך משל החיות של מעשה המצות וקיומן הוא בטל לגמרי לגבי רצון העליון המלובש בו, ונעשה לו ממש כגוף לנשמה

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.

וכן הלבוש החיצון של נפש האלקית שבאדם המקיים ועושה המצוה, שהוא כח ובחינת המעשה שלה

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

הוא מתלבש בחיות של מעשה המצוה, ונעשה גם כן כגוף לנשמה לרצון העליון, ובטל אליו לגמרי

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; 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, and is completely surrendered to the Divine Will.

ועל כן גם אברי גוף האדם המקיימים המצוה, שכח ובחינת המעשה של נפש האלקית מלובש בהם בשעת מעשה וקיום המצוה, הם נעשו מרכבה ממש לרצון העליון

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

כגון היד המחלקת צדקה לעניים או עושה מצוה אחרת

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.

ורגלים המהלכות לדבר מצוה, וכן הפה ולשון שמדברים דברי תורה, והמוח שמהרהר בדברי תורה ויראת שמים ובגדולת ה‘ ברוך הוא

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.

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.

וזהו שאמרו רז״ל: האבות הן הן המרכבה

This is what the Sages meant when they said that3 “The Patriarchs are truly the [Divine] chariot,”

שכל אבריהם כולם היו קדושים ומובדלים מענייני עולם הזה, ולא נעשו מרכבה רק לרצון העליון לבדו כל ימיהם

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.

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.

אך המחשבה וההרהור בדברי תורה שבמוח, וכח הדבור בדברי תורה שבפה, שהם לבושים הפנימים של נפש האלקית

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,

וכל שכן נפש האלקית עצמה המלובשת בהם

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

כולם מיוחדים ממש ביחוד גמור ברצון העליון, ולא מרכבה לבד

all of them are fused in perfect unity with the Divine Will, and are not merely a vehicle, a “chariot” for it4, as are the mouth and brain in which the thought and speech of Torah study take place.

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 of matters of Torah.

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

כי רצון העליון הוא הוא הדבר הלכה עצמה שמהרהר ומדבר בה, שכל ההלכות הן פרטי המשכות פנימיות רצון העליון עצמו

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;

שכך עלה ברצונו יתברך, שדבר זה מותר או כשר, או פטור או זכאי, או להפך

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.

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.

וכן כל צרופי אותיות תנ״ך הן המשכת רצונו וחכמתו המיוחדות באין סוף ברוך הוא בתכלית היחוד, שהוא היודע והוא המדע כו’

Similarly, all the letter combinations of the Pentateuch, Prophets and the Holy Writings (Ketuvim), 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.

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.

וזהו שכתוב דאורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא כולא חד, ולא אברין דמלכא לחוד כפיקודין

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.

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.

ומאחר שרצון העליון המיוחד באין סוף ברוך הוא בתכלית היחוד, הוא בגילוי לגמרי ולא בהסתר פנים כלל וכלל בנפש האלקית ולבושיה הפנימים, שהם מחשבתה ודבורה, באותה שעה שהאדם עוסק בדברי תורה

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,

הרי גם הנפש ולבושיה אלו מיוחדים ממש באין סוף ברוך הוא באותה שעה בתכלית היחוד

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

כיחוד דבורו ומחשבתו של הקב״ה במהותו ועצמותו כנ״ל

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

כי אין שום דבר נפרד כי אם בהסתר פנים כנ״ל

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

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.

ולא עוד אלא שיחודם הוא ביתר שאת ויתר עז מיחוד אור אין סוף ברוך הוא בעולמות עליונים

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.

מאחר שרצון העליון הוא בגילוי ממש בנפש ולבושיה העוסקים בתורה, שהרי הוא הוא התורה עצמה

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.

וכל העולמות העליונים מקבלים חיותם מאור וחיות הנמשך מהתורה שהיא רצונו וחכמתו יתברך, כדכתיב: כולם בחכמה עשית

All the 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, 6 “Through wisdom You have made them all.”

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

ואם כן החכמה, שהיא התורה, למעלה מכולם

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

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

והיא היא רצונו יתברך הנקרא סובב כל עלמין, שהיא בחינת מה שאינו יכול להתלבש בתוך עלמין, רק מחיה ומאיר למעלה בבחינת מקיף

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

והיא היא המתלבשת בנפש ולבושיה בבחינת גילוי ממש כשעוסקים בדברי תורה

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,

ואף על גב דאיהו לא חזי כו‘ [ומשום הכי יכול לסבול משום דלא חזי, מה שאין כן בעליונים]

even although 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.)

ובזה יובן למה גדלה מאד מעלת העסק בתורה יותר מכל המצות, ואפילו מתפלה שהיא יחוד עולמות עליונים

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.

והא דמי שאין תורתו אומנתו צריך להפסיק, היינו מאחר דמפסיק ומבטל בלאו הכי

(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.)

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

ומזה יוכל המשכיל להמשיך עליו יראה גדולה בעסקו בתורה

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

כשיתבונן איך שנפשו ולבושיה שבמוחו ובפיו הם מיוחדים ממש בתכלית היחוד ברצון העליון ואור אין סוף ברוך הוא ממש המתגלה בהם

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 Ein Sof that is manifest in them i.e., in the soul and its garments when he studies Torah.

מה שכל העולמות עליונים ותחתונים כלא חשיבי קמיה וכאין ואפס ממש, עד שאינו מתלבש בתוכם ממש, אלא סובב כל עלמין בבחינת מקיף להחיותם עיקר חיותם, רק איזו הארה מתלבשת בתוכם מה שיכולים לסבול שלא יתבטלו במציאות לגמרי

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; 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.

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.

וזהו שכתוב: ויצונו ה’ את כל החוקים האלה ליראה את ה‘ וגו’

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

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.

ועל יראה גדולה זו אמרו: אם אין חכמה אין יראה, והתורה נקראת אצלה תרעא לדרתא, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

(Regarding this great fear our Sages said, 15 “If there is no wisdom there is no fear.” 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 called16 “a gateway to the dwelling,” i.e., the sole means of entering the dwelling, viz., the higher level of fear, as is explained elsewhere.)

אלא דלאו כל מוחא סביל דא יראה כזו. אך גם מאן דלא סביל מוחו כלל יראה זו, לא מינה ולא מקצתה, מפני פחיתות ערך נפשו בשרשה ומקורה במדרגות תחתונות דעשר ספירות דעשיה, אין יראה זו מעכבת בו למעשה, כמו שיתבאר לקמן

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. 17