The Alter Rebbe explained in the previous chapter that since the light and life drawn down from G‑d is infinite — Ein Sof, as its name indicates — therefore in order for this finite world to be created, the Divine light had to undergo a multitude of contractions (tzimtzumim). This was the only way that finite creation could proceed from the infinite light of Ein Sof; were it to have been drawn down in an orderly progression, finitude would have never resulted.

As will be explained later in this chapter, all these contractions were a result of G‑d’s love of the Jewish people and His desire that they have the opportunity to fulfill Torah and the mitzvot.

The Alter Rebbe will now describe these contractions in a general manner, and will conclude that just as G‑d “overcame all obstacles” because of His love for the Jews and created finite worlds and creatures, so, too, “as water mirrors the reflection of a face,” should every Jew overcome all obstacles and come to experience a love of G‑d. Moreover, just as G‑d brought forth His light into this world in a manner that transcended orderly and limited progression, so, too, should every Jew seek to serve G‑d not only in an orderly and limited fashion, but without limit, renouncing everything for the sake of his love of Him. Even limitations foisted upon him by the world’s very nature should not act as an impediment to his service of G‑d.

והנה אף כי פרטי בחינות ההסתר והעלם אור אין סוף ברוך הוא בהשתלשלות העולמות, עד שנברא עולם הזה הגשמי, עצמו מספר ומינים ממינים שונים

Even though the particular aspects of the nature of the obscuring and concealment of the [infinite] light of the blessed Ein Sof in the descent of the worlds, descending as they do ever lower until this material world was created, are too numerous to count and are of many diverse kinds,

כידוע לטועמים מעץ החיים

as is known to those who have tasted of the “Tree of Life,” the Kabbalah,

אך דרך כלל הם שלשה מיני צמצומים עצומים כלליים, לשלשה מיני עולמות כלליים, ובכל כלל יש רבוא רבבות פרטים, והם שלשה עולמות: בריאה, יצירה, עשיה, כי עולם האצילות הוא אלקות ממש

yet in general there are three levels of powerful and comprehensive “contractions” giving rise to three comprehensive Worlds, each category consisting of myriads upon myriads of particulars. These are the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah — for the World of Atzilut is G‑dliness itself.

Since Atzilut is G‑dliness itself it is not considered to be created ex nihilo, but rather is called Atzilut, which means an emanation from and an extension of G‑dliness — an illumination which comes from G‑d liness itself.

וכדי לברוא עולם הבריאה, שהן נשמות ומלאכים עליונים, אשר עבודתם לה׳ בבחינת חב״ד המתלבשים בהם

In order to create the World of Beriah, which consists of the higher souls and angels whose service to G‑d is in the sphere of the intellectual faculties of ChaBaD which are clothed in them — i.e., G‑dliness is revealed to them in an intellectual manner, through the three intellectual faculties of Chochmah, Binah and Daat,

והם משיגים ומקבלים מהם

and they i.e., the souls and angels apprehend them and receive [influence] from them — from ChaBaD which illumines them,

In order to create a world whose creations are not wholly nullified to G‑d — as is the case in Atzilut — but are only capable of knowledge and comprehension (and it will be noted that comprehension entails an awareness of one’s own being, in that comprehension presupposes an entity who is comprehending),

היה תחלה צמצום עצום כנ״ל

there necessarily preceded a powerful “contraction”, as mentioned above.

A mighty “contraction” was necessary in order to ensure that the light of G‑dliness manifest in Atzilut should be hidden, and that only a “contracted” form of light should illuminate and create creatures of the World of Beriah, which are on a level of creation ex nihilo.

וכן מבריאה ליצירה

So, too, from Beriah to Yetzirah,

In order for the World of Yetzirah — a World far lower than Beriah — to be created, there again had to be a powerful contraction.

כי אור מעט מזער המתלבש בעולם הבריאה, עדיין הוא בבחינת אין סוף לגבי עולם היצירה

for the minute portion of light (“minute”, that is, in relation to the light found in Atzilut) which clothes itself in the World of Beriah is still in a category of infinity in relation to the World of Yetzirah, so that the light of Beriah had to undergo a powerful “contraction” before it was able to descend into Yetzirah,

ואי אפשר להתלבש בו אלא על ידי צמצום והעלם, וכן מיצירה לעשיה

and it is unable to clothe itself in the latter except through contraction and obscuration. So, too, from Yetzirah to Asiyah.

There, too, the light of the World of Yetzirah had to be considerably limited to enable it to descend into the World of Asiyah.

וכמו שנתבאר במקום אחר ביאור שלשה צמצומים אלו באריכות, לקרב אל שכלינו הדל

(1An elaborate explanation of these three “contractions” is given elsewhere, in order to make them more accessible to our poor intellect.)

ותכלית כל הצמצומים הוא כדי לברוא גוף האדם החומרי, ולאכפייא לסטרא אחרא, ולהיות יתרון האור מן החושך

The purpose of all the “contractions” is the creation of the material human body and the subjugation by man of the sitra achra, to bring about the preeminence of light supplanting darkness — by having light replace darkness, and even more so when the darkness itself is transformed into light, at which time the preeminence of light is felt to an even greater degree. This is accomplished:

בהעלות האדם את נפשו האלקית והחיונית ולבושיהן, וכל כחות הגוף כולן, לה׳ לבדו, כנ״ל באריכות

when a person elevates his divine soul and his vivifying soul (a soul which receives its nourishment from kelipot, but through man’s service in Torah and mitzvot is elevated and incorporated into holiness, thereby elevating the souls) together with their garments of thought, speech and action, and all the powers of the body, to G‑d alone, as has been discussed earlier at length,

כי זה תכלית השתלשלות העולמות

for this is the purpose of the progressive descent of the Worlds.

The ultimate purpose of all the descents from level to level and World to World is this physical world. It is here that a Jew is able, through his divine service, to effect the subjugation of evil and the preeminence of light supplanting darkness.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that just as G‑d’s love for the Jews “overcame all obstacles” that (as it were) stood in the way of creating this physical world, contracting His infinite light so that finite beings could be created, so, too, should every Jew respond in kind by overcoming all obstacles that hinder him from serving G‑d. Furthermore, his level of service too should not be finite but infinite.

והנה כמים הפנים לפנים

And “as water mirrors the reflection of a face”:

Just as water reflects an exact replica of one’s face, so, too, with regard to the “heart of man to his fellow man,” the love of one person to another results in the other person’s loving him as well:

כמו שהקב״ה כביכול הניח וסילק לצדדין דרך משל את אורו הגדול הבלתי תכלית וגנזו והסתירו בג׳ מיני צמצומים שונים, והכל בשביל אהבת האדם התחתון, להעלותו לה׳

As G‑d has (as it were) laid down and set aside, figuratively speaking, His great infinite light, and has stored it away and concealed it by means of three different kinds of “contractions” — and all this because of His love for lowly man, in order to raise him up to G‑d,

This means to say that G‑d created a world in which man may serve Him, and by doing so man is uplifted to G‑d. But how is it possible for love to bring about “contraction”, when love signifies kindness and expansiveness, while contraction and concealment characterize severity? The Alter Rebbe answers this implied question by pointing out that we find that love, too, can bring about contraction, as in the Gemara now quoted:

כי אהבה דוחקת את הבשר

for2 “love impels the flesh,” so that the flesh will not impede it. Thus, because of G‑d’s love for His people, He (figuratively speaking) set aside His great light and concealed it through many contractions, and so on. This being so:

על אחת כמה וכמה, בכפלי כפליים לאין קץ, כי ראוי לאדם גם כן להניח ולעזוב כל אשר לו מנפש ועד בשר, ולהפקיר הכל

how much more, and an infinite number of times more, is it fitting that a man also should relinquish and set aside all he possesses, both spiritually and physically, and renounce everything,

בשביל לדבקה בו יתברך בדביקה חשיקה וחפיצה, ולא יהיה שום מונע מבית ומחוץ, לא גוף ולא נפש ולא ממון ולא אשה ובנים

in order to cleave to Him, with attachment, desire and longing, without any hindrance, within or without, neither of body nor soul — hindrances from “within”, nor money, nor wife and children — hindrances from “without”. None of these things should hinder him from cleaving to G‑d. By renouncing them all he sets aside even his most important needs for the sake of his love of G‑d.

ובזה יובן טוב טעם ודעת לתקנת חכמים, שתקנו ברכות קריאת שמע: שתים לפניה כו׳, דלכאורה אין להן שייכות כלל עם קריאת שמע, כמו שכתבו הרשב״א ושאר פוסקים

This will enable one to understand the eminently reasonable explanation of the Rabbinic enactment (Mishnah, Berachot 1:4) ordaining the recitation of the blessings of the Shema: two blessings preceding it, and so on.3 For at first glance it would appear that they have no connection whatever with the recital of the Shema, as Rashba4 and other halachic authorities have stated.

In this, they are unlike other Rabbinic blessings pronounced over mitzvot, where each such blessing refers explicitly to the mitzvah itself (as for example the blessing “...to put on the tefillin”).

ולמה קראו אותן ברכות קריאת שמע, ולמה תקנו אותן לפניה דווקא

Why, then, were they termed “Blessings of the Shema?” And why was it ordained that they be recited specifically before it when they are in no apparent way connected to it?

The Alter Rebbe explains that the purpose of these blessings is to serve as a preparation to the Shema. The main objective of the Shema is attaining a “love of G‑d with both one’s inclinations” — so that not only the divine soul, but the animal soul and Yetzer Hara also come to love G‑d. And for this one must first meditate on the contents of the blessings of the Shema, which describe the self-nullification of the angels and other creatures.

Thus, the blessings preceding the Shema are indeed similar to other blessings. Just as the Sages instituted blessings to be recited before performing any other particular mitzvah in order to make the person a fit receptacle for the beneficent flow he receives from its performance, so, too, did they institute the blessings preceding the Shema in order for one to properly perform that mitzvah.

אלא משום שעיקר קריאת שמע: לקיים בכל לבבך כו׳, בשני יצריך כו׳

But the reason is that the essence of the recital of the Shema is to fulfill the injunction, “with all your heart...,” that is,5 “with both inclinations...” — that a Jew should love G‑d with the whole of his heart, even with his animal soul and evil inclination,

דהיינו לעמוד נגד כל מונע מאהבת ה׳

that is to say, to withstand anything that hinders [him] from the love of G‑d.

ולבבך: הן האשה וילדיה, שלבבו של אדם קשורה בהן בטבעו, כמו שאמרו רז״ל על פסוק: הוא אמר ויהי, זו אשה, הוא צוה ויעמוד, אלו בנים

For “your heart” alludes to one’s wife and her children, to whom a man’s heart is, by his very nature, bound. So have the Sages, of blessed memory, commented6 on the verse:7 “For He spoke and it came to pass,” that this refers to one’s wife; “He commanded, and it stood fast,” that this refers to the children,

I.e., it is G‑d’s command that imbues a man’s nature with the bond to his wife and children. These are “your heart,” the things to which his heart is bound — and they are not to hinder his divine service.

ונפשך ומאדך: כמשמעו, חיי ומזוני

and by “your soul and might” is understood, literally, your life and sustenance; they, too, should not act as an impediment to spiritual service;

להפקיר הכל בשביל אהבת ה׳

all are renounced for the love of G‑d.

Thus, neither the things found “within” — the animal soul and evil inclination, nor those things “without” — one’s wife, children and sustenance, should hinder a person from those matters which lead to the love of G‑d.

ואיך יבא האדם החומרי למדה זו

But how can physical man attain this level? — of G‑dly love that nothing can obstruct.

לכך סידרו תחלה ברכת יוצר אור, ושם נאמר ונשנה באריכות ענין וסדר המלאכים העומדים ברום עולם

It is to this end, therefore, that the blessing of Yotzer Or was introduced to be recited first, for in this blessing there is stated and repeated at length — and this meditation must indeed be a lengthy one, taking into account all the specific details — the account and order of the angels “standing at the world’s summit,”

להודיע גדולתו של הקב״ה, איך שכולם בטלים לאורו יתברך, ומשמיעים ביראה כו׳ ומקדישים כו׳ ואומרים ביראה: קדוש כו׳, כלומר שהוא מובדל מהם ואינו מתלבש בהם בבחינת גילוי

in order to proclaim the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He — how they are all nullified in His blessed light and “pronounce in fear...” “and sanctify...” G‑d’s Name, and “declare in fear, ‘Holy’,”... meaning8 by saying “Holy...” that He is apart from them, and does not clothe Himself in them in a revealed state,

אלא מלא כל הארץ כבודו, היא כנסת ישראל למעלה, וישראל למטה, כנ״ל

but where is G‑d revealed? — “The whole earth is full of His glory,” namely, the Community of Israel above i.e., Malchut of Atzilut, the source of Jewish souls, which is called “earth”, and Israel on this earth below, wherein Jews perform Torah and mitzvot, for which reason specifically is this world filled with His glory: it is here that G‑d clothes and reveals Himself, as has been explained earlier.

All the above refers to the comprehension of the supernal angels, the serafim, who are able to comprehend how G‑d is apart from them and that only the earth is charged with His glory.

וכן האופנים וחיות הקודש ברעש גדול וכו׳: ברוך כבוד ה׳ ממקומו, לפי שאין יודעים ומשיגים מקומו

So, too, we find related in the9 blessing of Yotzer Or, regarding other categories of angels, whose place is in a lower world than the serafim, and who are therefore unable to comprehend how G‑dliness is separate and apart, that “the ofanim and the holy chayyot with a mighty sound” declare:10 ‘Blessed be the glory of the L‑rd and may it be drawn down from its place,’" for they neither know, nor do they apprehend His place — the place from which G‑dliness is revealed, for which reason they say ”from its place,“ wherever that place may be,

וכמו שאומרים: כי הוא לבדו מרום וקדוש

as we say a few lines later, “For He alone is exalted and holy.”

The various degrees of nullification of these angels are thus spoken of in the first of the two blessings preceding the Shema. When a person meditates on this matter he will begin to understand G‑d’s greatness, for all the lofty angels are nullified to Him.

ואחר כך ברכה שניה

Then follows the second blessing, which declares G‑d’s great love of the Jewish people.

Notwithstanding the lofty service and the subjugation of all the heavenly angels, G‑d saw fit to set them all aside, as it were, choosing instead to delight in the service of His people below. This blessing begins:

אהבת עולם אהבתנו ה׳ אלקינו, כלומר, שהניח כל צבא מעלה הקדושים

“L‑rd our G‑d, You have loved us with everlasting love.” That is to say, that He set aside all the supernal, holy hosts — the heavenly angels, for they are not the ultimate intent of creation,

והשרה שכינתו עלינו, להיות נקרא אלקינו, כמו: אלקי אברהם כו׳, כנ״ל

and caused His Shechinah to dwell upon us, the Jewish people, so that He be called “our G‑d” in the same sense that He is called11 “the G‑d of Abraham,...” as explained earlier.12

Abraham was completely nullified to G‑d. To the same degree that G‑d is called “the G‑d of Abraham,” He is also called “our G‑d.” This is accomplished, as explained earlier, through the performance of Torah and mitzvot.

והיינו כי אהבה דוחקת את הבשר

This is because “love impels the flesh.”

Love effects concealment and contraction. So, too, did G‑d’s love for His people bring about a certain contraction, in that He chose the service of Jewish souls in the state in which they are found here below — enclothed in physical bodies, and in the finite world.

ולכן נקראת אהבת עולם, שהיא בחינת צמצום אורו הגדול הבלתי תכלית, להתלבש בבחינת גבול הנקרא עולם

Therefore this love on G‑d’s part is called ahavat olam, literally, “a love of the world,” for it refers to the “contraction” of His great and infinite light, by assuming the garb of finitude, which is called olam (“world”) — the concept of “world” signifying the finitude of space and time. G‑d brought about this “contraction”:

בעבור אהבת עמו ישראל, כדי לקרבם אליו, ליכלל ביחודו ואחדותו יתברך

for the sake of His love for His people Israel, in order to bring them near to Him, that they might be absorbed into His blessed Unity and Oneness through Torah and mitzvot.

וזהו שאומרים: חמלה גדולה ויתירה

This is also the meaning of what we say a little later on in the same blessing of Ahavat Olam, and in connection thereto: “Exceedingly abounding compassion,” i.e., more than You have bestowed upon others, “have You bestowed upon us,”

פירוש: יתירה על קרבת אלקים שבכל צבא מעלה

namely, [a compassion] exceeding the nearness of G‑d toward all the hosts above.

G‑d’s nearness to them comes out of His sense of compassion for them. This can in no way compare to the compassion G‑d feels for us, for which reason He draws us closer to Him. The same blessing of Ahavat Olam then goes on to say:

ובנו בחרת מכל עם ולשון, הוא הגוף החומרי הנדמה בחומריותו לגופי אומות העולם

“And You have chosen us from among all nations and tongues”: this refers to the material body which, in its corporeal aspects, is similar to the bodies of the gentiles of the world.

True freedom of choice can only come about when one has two completely equal choices. When two things, however, are unequal, one does not freely choose one over the other — the qualities found in one and lacking in the other compel the choice.

It is therefore impossible to say that “You have chosen us” refers to Jewish souls, for there can be no comparison between Jewish and non-Jewish souls, inasmuch as a Jew’s soul13 “is truly part of G‑d Above.” Rather, “You have chosen us” refers to the Jew’s material body, which in its corporeality is similar to the bodies of non-Jews.

G‑d freely chose Jewish bodies to be the proper receptacle for Jewish souls, desiring that through the deeds performed by the body (for all physical mitzvot demand bodily participation) the Jew should become united with Him. This the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain, first continuing to quote from Ahavat Olam:

וקרבתנו וכו׳ להודות וכו׳, ופירוש הודאה יתבאר במקום אחר, וליחדך כו׳, ליכלל ביחודו יתברך כנ״ל

“And you have brought us near...to give thanks...” (the interpretation of “thanks” will be given elsewhere, where the quality of abnegation found in thanksgiving will be explained), “...and proclaim your Oneness...,” which means to be absorbed in His blessed Unity, as has been explained above.

The Alter Rebbe will soon conclude that meditating on the concepts appearing in the blessings of the Shema leads a Jew to the proper realization of the Shema — attaining an ardent love for G‑d.

והנה כאשר ישים המשכיל אלה הדברים אל עומקא דלבא ומוחא, אזי ממילא כמים הפנים לפנים

When the thinking person will reflect on these matters in the depths of his heart and brain, then as surely as water mirrors the image of a face,

When the love likened to “water mirroring the image of a face” takes effect in a person, so that G‑d’s manifest love for His people arouses in him a corresponding love towards Him, then:

תתלהט נפשו ותתלבש ברוח נדיבה, להתנדב להניח ולעזוב כל אשר לו מנגד, ורק לדבקה בו יתברך, וליכלל באורו בדביקה חשיקה וכו׳, בבחינת נשיקין ואתדבקות רוחא ברוחא כנ״ל

his soul will spontaneously be kindled with love for G‑d, and it will clothe itself in a spirit of benevolence, willingly to lay down and resolutely to abandon all he possesses, for it will no longer be of major importance to him, in order only to cleave unto Him, and to be absorbed into His light with an attachment and longing, and so forth, in a manner of “kissing”, and with an attachment of spirit to Spirit, as has been explained earlier.

Just as kissing involves not only the cleaving of mouths but also a communion of breaths, so too does spiritual unity involve the union of man’s spirit with G‑d’s: man’s spirit becomes one with G‑d’s.

אך איך היא בחינת אתדבקות רוחא ברוחא

But how does the attachment of spirit to Spirit take place? I.e., what measures are to be taken if one seeks to desire to “only cleave to Him”?

לזה אמר: והיו הדברים האלה גו׳ על לבבך, ודברת בם גו׳

To this end it is stated, soon after the phrase, “with all your heart,” and so on:14 “And these words shall be... upon your heart.... And you shall speak of them....” As will soon be explained, this refers to immersing oneself in the study of Torah and speaking words of Torah.

וכמו שכתוב בעץ חיים, שיחוד הנשיקין עיקרו הוא יחוד חב״ד בחב״ד, והוא עיון התורה

As is explained in Etz Chayim, the union of “kissing” which incorporates the union of the “attachment of spirit to Spirit” is essentially the union of ChaBaD with ChaBaD — the union of man’s Chochmah, Binah and Daat with G‑d’s; that is, concentration in the Torah, which unites man’s ChaBaD with the intellect of above, i.e., Torah,

והפה הוא מוצא הרוח וגילויו בבחינת גילוי, והיינו בחינת הדבור בדברי תורה

while the mouth, as the outlet of the breath and its emergence into a revealed state, represents the category of speech engaged in words of the Torah,

By speaking words of Torah — as it is written, “And you shall speak of them” — the spirit emerges into a revealed state. Thus, the union of “spirit with Spirit” is mainly brought about by one’s immersion in Torah study. The reason for this follows:

כי על מוצא פי ה׳ יחיה האדם

for,15 “By every word that proceeds from G‑d’s mouth does man live.”

The mouth is thus the outlet of the breath. However, since what is crucial is understanding Torah, for through this the union of “spirit with Spirit” is effected, why must one utter the words in order to arrive at this love?

The Alter Rebbe now addresses himself to this question and says, that while it is true that for “man” himself — i.e., the divine soul — cleaving to G‑d is attained chiefly through understanding Torah, yet this only suffices for the divine soul. In order for the divine plan to be realized, i.e., that G‑dliness be drawn down upon the animal soul as well and into the world as a whole, one must speak words of Torah. This is because physical words are uttered by the animal soul, which in turn is affected by them.

Since a person has the strength to speak because he receives physical nourishment, it follows that when he utters words of Torah, G‑d’s ultimate intent of drawing down holiness into this physical world is realized, and the “whole world is filled with His glory.”

(Understandably, this selfsame reason applies not only to speaking words of Torah, but also explains why mitzvot are to be performed with the physical body and utilizing objects of the material world, for it is through them that G‑dliness is manifest in the animal soul and in the material world as a whole. Here, however, the matter under discussion is Torah knowledge. In this instance, although nothing can unite the divine soul with its Source more completely than the contemplation of Torah, it is nevertheless necessary for one to utter the words of Torah as well, in order to draw down G‑dliness into one’s animal soul and, indeed, into the whole material world.)

ומכל מקום לא יצא ידי חובתו בהרהור ועיון לבדו

However, one does not fulfill one’s obligation by meditation and deliberation alone,

I.e., one’s obligation is not fulfilled thereby, even though such deliberation leads to the lofty union of his soul with G‑d in a manner of the cleaving of “spirit with Spirit.”

עד שיוציא בשפתיו, כדי להמשיך אור אין סוף ברוך הוא למטה עד נפש החיונית השוכנת בדם האדם, המתהוה מדומם צומח חי

unless one expresses the words with his lips, in order to draw the [infinite] light of the blessed Ein Sof downwards even unto the vivifying soul which dwells in the blood of man, which in turn is produced by the intake of food from the mineral, vegetable and animal [worlds].

That is to say: Eating and drinking produce the blood in which the vivifying soul is clothed, and G‑dliness is drawn down into all the above-mentioned worlds when one speaks words of Torah.

כדי להעלות כולן לה׳ עם כל העולם כולו, ולכללן ביחודו ואורו יתברך, אשר יאיר לארץ ולדרים עליה בבחינת גילוי, ונגלה כבוד ה׳ וראו כל בשר וגו׳

One thereby elevates them all — the vivifying soul, and the mineral, vegetable and animal worlds — to G‑d, together with the entire universe, and causes them to be absorbed in His blessed Unity and light, which will illumine the world and its inhabitants in a revealed manner, in the spirit of the verse that says:16 “And the glory of G‑d shall be revealed” — so much so, indeed, that “all flesh shall see it....”

שזהו תכלית השתלשלות כל העולמות, להיות כבוד ה׳ מלא כל הארץ הלזו דוקא בבחינת גילוי, לאהפכא חשוכא לנהורא ומרירא למיתקא, כנ״ל באריכות

For this is the purpose of the progressive descent of all the worlds — that the glory of G‑d may pervade this physical world especially, in a revealed manner, to change the darkness of kelipot into the light of holiness, and the bitterness of the world, whose life-force is from kelipat nogah, into the sweetness of goodness and holiness, as has been explained above in ch. 36 at length.

וזהו תכלית כוונת האדם בעבודתו: להמשיך אור אין סוף ברוך הוא למטה

And this is the essence of the intent of man’s service: to draw the [infinite] light of the blessed Ein Sof down below.

Therefore, although man’s spiritual service and deep understanding of Torah are able (through thought alone) to fulfill the objective of his love — to cleave to G‑d in a manner of the cleaving of “spirit with Spirit,” yet the intent of his service should not only be for the sake of his divine soul. It must also be in keeping with G‑d’s desire of drawing down G‑dliness into this material world. And this is accomplished through speaking words of Torah.

Now before commanding us to place “these words [of the Torah] upon your heart,” and continuing by saying that “you shall speak in them,” the Torah says: “You shall love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” For before G‑dliness is drawn down through Torah, man must first initiate an arousal of love on his part. Only then will G‑dliness be drawn down through Torah and mitzvot. This is what the Alter Rebbe now says:

רק שצריך תחלה העלאת מ״ן

However, the initiative must come through the “elevation of mahn (מן — an acronym of the words mayin nukvin, lit., “female waters,” which in Kabbalistic terminology signifies the arousal and elevation of the “female”, i.e., the recipient),

למסור לו נפשו ומאודו כנ״ל

surrendering to Him one’s soul and one’s all, as has been explained above.

In order for G‑dliness to be properly drawn down through Torah and mitzvot, it is first necessary that there be the “elevation of mahn,” emanating from man’s love of G‑d to the degree that he is ready to forgo everything for His sake.

* * *

With this the Alter Rebbe concludes the theme beginning in ch. 46 regarding the love likened to “water mirroring the image of a face,” and concerning which he had said that the Shema and its introductory blessings are especially effective in awakening it.

Commentary of the Rebbe

On the Conclusion of Chapter Forty-Nine

“But how does... while the mouth.... However, one does not fulfill.... For this is the purpose....”

The Rebbe here asks six questions:

(1) What, in general terms, is the Alter Rebbe’s intent in introducing the passage that begins, “But how does the attachment of spirit to Spirit take place”?

(2) The section from “while the mouth” to “does man live” seems to be superfluous. Since the Alter Rebbe goes on to say that in Torah study deliberation alone does not suffice, and one must also express the words with his lips in order to draw down the light of Ein Sof into the world, nothing appears to be gained by adding, “while the mouth... does man live.”

(3) When the Alter Rebbe quotes the verse, “By every word that proceeds from G‑d’s mouth does man live,” and does not expound on it at all, he is evidently referring to the simple meaning of the text (and not as some would say, that it refers to ChaBaD, the source of Divine speech). What connection, then, is there between the simple textual meaning and the context?

(4) What is the meaning of the words “and its emergence into a revealed state” in the phrase, “as the outlet of the breath and its emergence into a revealed state?” Indeed, the Hebrew original here would appear to be repetitious.

(5) How is this all connected to what is being discussed at the end of ch. 49?

(6) Moreover: “For this is the purpose of the progressive descent of all the worlds” surely belongs in ch. 36, where this matter is discussed at length. Indeed, the Alter Rebbe refers here to that chapter when he says, “as has been explained above at length.” Here, it would seem, is not the place to treat this subject at all, even briefly.

* * *

In order to better understand the answers of the Rebbe to these questions, a brief introduction is in order.

The concept called the “unity of kissing” bespeaks the revelation of a level of love so inward that it cannot be revealed in speech. Thus, too, the verse that says, “He shall kiss me with the kisses of His mouth,” which alludes to Torah, indicates that through Torah a Jew is united with G‑d in a manner of “kissing”; i.e., there is revealed within him a manifestation of G‑dliness which is essentially removed from the realm of revelation. Only because of this inward love is it revealed at all.

This revelation comes about only through spirit and breath, and begins in “intelligence”; i.e., the revelation is drawn down to the Supernal ChaBaD. When the soul of a Jew understands the intellect of Torah, which is the Supernal ChaBaD, his spirit (intellect) is unified with the Spirit and Intellect Above. This unification of mortal ChaBaD with the Supernal ChaBaD is the highest existing form of unity (as explained in ch. 5).

Intellect itself, however, especially when it is involved in the stage of scholarly polemics, is found within a person in a concealed manner. Even after a debate crystallizes into a final halachic decision it is still concealed, when considered in relation to his soul at large, and especially in relation to his animal soul and body.

However, when the concept in question or its legal outcome is verbalized (and speech after all belongs to “the world of revelation”), then not only is there a revelation of the profound thinking that was involved in the stage of intellectual give and take, but even relative to the revelation of intellect as expressed in the final halachic decision, the Torah student’s speech constitutes a revelation.

From the above it becomes clear that the unity of “kissing” is effected chiefly at the level of ChaBaD; there it is able to reveal that which is essentially beyond revelation. This is also the meaning of the expression of the Sages, that “HaKadosh Baruch Hu sits and studies Torah.” This means that He who is essentially Kadosh — Holy, separate and apart — “sits” at (i.e., lowers Himself into) the level of Torah. And through Torah study it is granted to an individual to absorb this level within himself.

Nevertheless, the complete revelation of this connection both Above and below is accomplished through speech. When it is revealed in Supernal Speech and echoed in man’s speech, then it truly illuminates man’s soul.

* * *

Following this introduction, the commentary of the Rebbe will be better understood:

Until this point it has been explained that as a result of the blessings preceding the Shema and of the Shema itself, “the intelligent person will reflect on these matters in the depth of his heart and brain,” and then “his soul will be kindled” and he will desire to cleave to G‑d. The direction taken by this form of divine service is elevation “from below to above,” i.e., the individual desires to leave the bounds and limitations of the world, and become one with G‑d.

This feeling can find expression in the “expiry of the soul” (klot hanefesh) in its love for G‑d. (This surely does not result in any obligation to study Torah or the like in order to draw G‑dliness down below. On the contrary, a person in this situation is in a state of longing and “expiry of his soul” in order to become united with G‑d as He is Above.)

The Alter Rebbe therefore begins this passage by saying, “But how does the attachment of spirit to Spirit take place?” — Not as we may have expected, as described above, but: “To this end it is stated, ‘And these words shall be... upon your heart.’*

The Alter Rebbe is telling us something completely new: the cleaving of “spirit to Spirit” is accomplished not through the “expiry of the soul,” but through fulfilling the commandment that “these words shall be... upon your heart” — through applying one’s intellect to the study of Torah.

Moreover, it is accomplished through fulfilling the commandment that “you shall speak of them,” through speaking words of Torah — and the direction taken by this form of divine service is contrary to elevation “from below to above,” for speech signifies drawing down, and revelation.

Since there must be a “cleaving of spirit to Spirit,” and Supernal Spirit is Supernal Wisdom, i.e., Torah, concentration in Torah therefore effects (as explained in ch. 5) the ultimate unity of man’s ChaBaD with G‑d’s — and this is the “cleaving of spirit to Spirit.”

However, one might think that uttering the words of Torah on which a person had already been deliberating only reveals the unification of ChaBaD with ChaBaD, and no more than this is accomplished by fulfilling the commandment that “you shall speak of them.” (In other words, we might think that speech merely relates that which has transpired in one’s intellect, namely, that his intellect is united with the Supernal Intellect.)

If this were so, it would contradict statements appearing in chs. 45 and 46, and also contradict the meaning of the verse, “He shall kiss me with the kisses of His mouth,” which as explained earlier signifies the unification of man’s speech with G‑d’s speech, G‑d’s speech being the Halachah.

The Alter Rebbe therefore goes on to state: “while the mouth,” i.e., the Supernal mouth as well as man’s mouth (kissing being from mouth to mouth), “is the outlet of the breath and its emergence into a revealed state.” He does not provide any additional explanation since he speaks of the simple meaning of these words, namely that the mouth emits the spirit and wisdom on which the person has previously concentrated. This is “its revelation,” the revelation of the spirit, which is the revelation of the thinking process and of its conclusion. All this is emitted by the mouth in a manner of revelation.

(This means the following: The “spirit” refers to intellectual concentration. Then there is “its revelation,” the revelation of the “spirit” being the intellectual conclusion. All this is emitted by the mouth in a manner of revelation. Before the words are uttered by the mouth, the conclusion existed only in the mind. Through speech, however, both the thinking process and its conceptual conclusion are revealed into actuality.)

The Alter Rebbe therefore concludes that “the mouth... represents the category of speech engaged in words of Torah.” It is necessary for the Torah concepts and conclusions of one’s study to be revealed within the spoken word. The reason for this is given in his next phrase: “for by every word that proceeds from G‑d’s mouth does man live.” The word that ultimately proceeds from G‑d’s mouth is not the preliminary stage of scholarly concentration and debate, but “the word of Halachah,” the final ruling on the question discussed. And on this does man live.

Yet, something still requires clarification: The need for “attachment of spirit to Spirit” through concentration in Torah is understandable. However, what impels us to say that the resulting desire to be absorbed in G‑d’s light must find expression in speaking words of Torah? — For speech draws downward: its direction in divine service is exactly opposite to the desire of being absorbed in G‑d.

The Alter Rebbe therefore says that were it only a matter of a person’s desire to be absorbed in G‑d, then it really would not be necessary for him to speak words of Torah; meditation would suffice. However, were he not to speak words of Torah he would be shirking an obligation. As the Alter Rebbe goes on to say: “However, one does not fulfill one’s obligation by meditation and deliberation alone.”

A Jew is obliged to draw down the infinite light of the Ein Sof even unto the vivifying soul and the world as a whole. This obligation cannot be fulfilled through meditation and contemplation, but only through speaking words of Torah.

It would seem, however, that this is a distinct and separate obligation, quite unconnected with the love which results in the cleaving of “spirit to Spirit,” a level attained through the divine service involved in the blessings preceding the Shema as well as through the Shema itself.

The Alter Rebbe therefore explains that there indeed does exist a connection between the two. By speaking words of Torah and thereby causing G‑dliness to descend upon his vivifying soul and the mineral, vegetable and animal worlds, the individual will thereby also cause their elevation; they will all be raised to G‑d, and absorbed in His light. Thus, the selfsame thing the person effects within himself through meditating on Torah, he also effects in his vivifying soul and in the world at large by speaking words of Torah.

There still remains to be understood the connection between (a) elevating the world to G‑dliness and (b) the contents of the blessings preceding the Shema, as well as the beginning of the Shema itself (until “And these words...”). Seemingly they are separate and distinct manners of service.

Even the purpose of uniting man’s speech with G‑d’s lies not in his being “kindled with love,” but is rather intended to achieve an opposite effect (as mentioned previously). All the more so with regard to the elevation of the material world to G‑d. How is this connected with the blessings preceding the Shema, the Shema itself, and its resulting love?

This is explained by the Alter Rebbe when he goes on to say: “For this is the purpose of the progressive descent of all the worlds...,” and “this is the essence of the intent of man’s service.” Man’s purpose is to serve G‑d, and the purpose of all worlds is for G‑d’s glory to pervade them. This is the general content and the ultimate conclusion of the blessings preceding the Shema (for the purpose of the divine service of Jewish souls and indeed the purpose of all the Worlds is to draw down G‑dliness below, as mentioned in the previous chapters regarding the meditation that should accompany the recitation of these blessings).

Thus there is a strong and direct connection between the ultimate purpose of these blessings and the elevation of the vivifying soul and the whole world to G‑dliness.

But how is this connected to the love of G‑d through the “cleaving of spirit to Spirit”? The Alter Rebbe explains this connection by concluding: “However, [one must take the step of] surrendering to Him his soul and his all.” This means to say that unless one first takes the initiative of surrendering himself to G‑d, G‑dliness will not be manifest in the world.

* * *

According to the exposition of the Rebbe, all six above-mentioned questions are now answered; we understand the need for each and every phrase in the text. Additionally, many points found in other chapters of Tanya are now understood as well.

In ch. 5, for example, the Alter Rebbe speaks of the union of man’s ChaBaD with G‑d’s through a deep comprehension of the Torah. He begins the chapter by giving an example of a person who understands a halachah. At the end of that chapter, however, when he is not intent on stressing the kind of unity that exists “from every side and angle,” he speaks of the knowledge of Torah in general, not specifically of the Halachah.

The reason for this is that in order to achieve unity “from every side and angle” through understanding Torah, it is necessary that this knowledge be revealed within one’s soul. This revelation is achieved specifically through the final decision of the Halachah, and is lacking in the intellectual give and take which precedes it, as has been explained earlier.

In chs. 45 and 46, likewise, where the Alter Rebbe speaks of the unity of “kissing”, he emphasizes “the Word of G‑d, which is the Halachah,” and not the intellectual debate preceding it. For only within the “Word of G‑d,” the halachic ruling, is there to be found the intense degree of revelation which is called the “kisses of His mouth.” This serves to explain other sections of Tanya as well.

The Rebbe here solves an additional knotty problem: In chs. 45 and 46 the Alter Rebbe explains that “kissing” means speaking words of Torah. This is puzzling, for the distinctive quality of the degree of union called “kissing” lies in the fact that it transcends speech: it cannot be distilled in speech.

However, this will be understood in light of a statement of the Alter Rebbe in Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim (p. 1d), where he explains that the love described in the verse, “He shall kiss me with the kisses of His mouth,” which refers to Torah, is similar to the love of a father for his only child. The love felt by the father for his child is so great that it cannot be expressed in any spiritual manner, but must be contracted, ultimately finding expression in the form of a physical kiss. The same is true with regard to Torah.

It is thus evident that the extremely exalted revelation of the love called “kissing” can find expression only when it is contracted and condensed in the breath, spirit and speech of Torah.

The concept alluded to there (in Likkutei Torah), and discussed more elaborately by the Alter Rebbe in the maamar on Shir HaShirim in Sefer HaMaamarim: Hanachot HaRap zal (p. 142), enables us to appreciate more fully what is actually achieved by fulfilling the commandment that “you shall speak of them.” For we see from the discourses cited above, that speaking words of Torah is no mere verbal description of what is occurring in the person’s ChaBaD (namely, that his ChaBaD is connected to G‑d’s); rather, the very contraction represented by the descent of Torah into his speech is the vehicle through which the intense divine love termed “kissing” is expressed.

We also understand from those discourses why the union of “kissing” must be preceded by the person loving G‑d through giving Him “his all.”

When the mode of divine illumination that does not normally descend to the point of revelation, leaps over the bounds of divine self-limitation, and is in fact revealed by means of tzimtzum (“contraction”, “condensation”), this transcending revelation is called dilug (lit., a “leap”). In order to trigger off such a “leap” in the Worlds Above, it is necessary for the individual below to make a corresponding leap — by loving G‑d to the point of giving Him “his all.”

It now also becomes clear that the great merit of speech notwithstanding, “kissing” is primarily expressed in the unification of ChaBaD with ChaBaD. To borrow the phrase of the Sages: G‑d, who is essentially transcendent, i.e., HaKadosh Baruch Hu — the Holy (lit., separate) One, blessed be He — “*’sits‘ (i.e., descends) and studies Torah”: the illumination descends below.

The Rebbe also answers another vexing question. Generally, whenever unification of the level of “kissing” is discussed in Chassidut, the explanation is given that “kissing” results from the great love of the one who gives the “kiss”. This being so, what connection can this possibly have to ChaBaD, which is, after all, a manifestation of intellect, not of love?

According to the explanations in the above-mentioned discourses, this too becomes clear. The inner love transforms or creates the faculties of ChaBaD, so that by virtue of this inner love an illumination which is essentially beyond revelation is drawn down into ChaBaD. As this is expressed in Tanya: “His great Name” is drawn down to the Jewish people because of His great love for them. In similar vein, the Rebbe cites the Siddur of the Alter Rebbe, Derushei Chanukah, p. 273a, which states that “kissing” derives from the “internal aspect of heart and mind,” for it is by virtue of the inward love of the heart that revelation occurs in the mind.

To sum up: According to the commentary of the Rebbe on the explanation given in ch. 49 by the Alter Rebbe about the level of unification called “kissing”, we come to understand that it denotes the revelation of an illumination which essentially is beyond the pale of revelation. This love is “holy” (i.e., apart), and is revealed only because of G‑d’s great inner love for the Jewish people. Concerning this love it is written, “He shall kiss me with the kisses of His mouth,” which refers to Torah.

Through studying Torah, a Jew is united with G‑d in a manner of “kissing”, and of the “cleaving of spirit to Spirit.” This love is first manifested in the intellectual faculties of ChaBaD, the illumination first descending into Supernal Intellect. The Rabbis express it thus: “The Holy One sits and studies Torah” — G‑d Who is “holy” (i.e., detached) “sits” and descends into Torah.

The intellect of Torah — Supernal Intellect — is the “Spirit” as it is found above. When a Jew thoroughly comprehends the Supernal Intellect that is vested in the Torah, then his spirit — his intellect — is united with the Supernal Intellect and Spirit, this being the “cleaving of spirit to Spirit.”

“Kissing”, however, takes place from mouth to mouth, for it is through one’s mouth that the inner spirit and breath is revealed, and it is through the mouth that the inner love is expressed. So, too, regarding Torah. When someone fulfills the commandment that “you shall speak of them,” this not only tells us that his ChaBaD (intellect) is unified with the Supernal ChaBaD and Intellect, but it also serves to reveal the halachic conclusion, the “spirit”, of Torah.

When one’s intellect is immersed in the depths of debate, the “spirit” is in a state of concealment. Only when it is fully revealed, when one articulates the crystallized halachah, does it reach its most complete state — the “kisses of the mouth.”