“Fortunate are we. How good is our portion, how pleasant is our lot….”1

"אַשְׁרֵינוּ מַה טּוֹב חֶלְקֵנוּ וּמַה נָּעִים גּוֹרָלֵנוּ כוּ'",

In this prayer, which is recited as part of the introductory morning prayers preceding Hodu, we offer thanks to G‑d for our “portion” and “lot”—His self-revelation to every individual Jew. These same terms appear together in a similar context in the following two successive verses:2

G‑d is the allotment3 of my portion and of my cup; [You support my lot]. The tracts [apportioned by lot] have fallen unto me pleasantly; [indeed, I have a goodly heritage].”

"ה' מְנָת חֶלְקִי וְכוֹסִי וְגוֹ'", "חֲבָלִים נָפְלוּ לִי וְגוֹ'".

These verses together indicate that the Jews’ pleasant portion and lot is a radiance of G‑dly light. A question, however, arises: Why is the G‑dliness that illumines our souls referred to by both terms, both as “our portion” and as “our lot” when “portion” can refer to any one of several identical benefactions, while “lot” indicates something which is granted exclusively to a particular individual who wins a lottery, for example, having been chosen by “lot”?

In order to understand the terms “our portion” and “our lot,”

לְהָבִין לְשׁוֹן "חֶלְקֵנוּ" וְ"גוֹרָלֵנוּ"

one must properly explain a common4 expression in the teachings of our Sages, of blessed memory, viz.: “He has no part in the G‑d of Israel.”

צָרִיךְ לְבָאֵר הֵיטֵב לָשׁוֹן הַשָּׁגוּר בְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אֵין לוֹ חֵלֶק בֵּאלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל",

Now it would seem that a term like “part” cannot possibly be applied to G‑d,

כִּי הֲגַם דְּלִכְאוֹרָה לֹא שַׁיָּיךְ לְשׁוֹן "חֵלֶק" כְּלָל בֵּאלֹקוּת יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

because He is not divisible into parts, Heaven forfend.

שֶׁאֵינוֹ מִתְחַלֵּק לַחֲלָקִים חַס וְשָׁלוֹם.

G‑d is the ultimate in simple and uncompounded unity, the very antithesis of divisibility; nevertheless, we find that our Sages here use the term “part” in relation to G‑d. How can this be?

We must perforce conclude that though G‑d Himself is indivisible, the G‑dly illumination that descends into Jewish souls can be described with the word “part,” inasmuch as it is revealed in parts, so to speak, as shall soon be explained.

This concept can be understood by considering a verse concerning Jacob: “And he called Him ‘E-l, G‑d of Israel.’”5

אַךְ הָעִנְיָן, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּיַעֲקֹב: "וַיִּקְרָא לוֹ אֵל אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל",

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain the meaning of the verse in order to answer a number of simple questions: (a) Until this verse, the name “Jacob” is used consistently; why does this verse suddenly change to “Israel”? (b) How does this conclusion of the verse relate to its beginning, “And he set up an altar”? (c) What is novel about the epithet “E-l, G‑d of Israel”?

The meaning [of this verse is as follows]:

פֵּירוּשׁ,

In truth, the Holy One, blessed is He, is true to His Name.

כִּי הִנֵּה בֶּאֱמֶת הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא כִּשְׁמוֹ כֵּן הוּא,

On one hand, the phrase “Holy One” (in the Hebrew original, קָּדוֹשׁ) implies that G‑d stands above and apart from creation while “blessed be He” (where the Hebrew בָּרוּךְ, lit., “blessed,” also means to descend and be revealed) implies that the level of G‑dliness which previously was “holy” and “apart”—the indirect “He” in the phrase quoted—is drawn down into the world in a revealed manner, as will soon be explained.

Though He permeates all the upper and lower worlds,

כִּי אַף דְּאִיהוּ מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים

from the peak of all levels to this lowly corporeal world,

מֵרוּם הַמַּעֲלוֹת עַד מִתַּחַת לָאָרֶץ הַלֵּזוּ הַחוּמְרִית,

G‑d permeates and is present to an equal degree in all worlds. It should be noted that the term “permeates all worlds” used here does not refer to the degree of contracted G‑dliness that is generally said to “fill all worlds” according to their individual capacity to retain it. Rather, here, the Alter Rebbe refers to G‑d’s permeating all worlds to an equal degree.

as it is written, “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth”6

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "הֲלֹא אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ אֲנִי מָלֵא" –

i.e., “I, My very self,”

"אֲנִי" מַמָּשׁ,

meaning G‑d’s very Being and Essence, as it were, and not only His glory—

דְּהַיְינוּ מַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ כִּבְיָכוֹל וְלֹא כְּבוֹדוֹ לְבַד,

In another verse we find, “The earth is filled with His glory.”7 That verse alludes merely to the “glory” and radiance of G‑dliness. Here, however, the words “I fill” refer to G‑d’s very Essence, permeating all worlds.

Now, although G‑d Himself permeates and is to be found in all worlds:

He is nevertheless “holy” in the sense of “apart from” the upper and lower worlds and is not at all contained in them, Heaven forfend,

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן הוּא קָדוֹשׁ וּמוּבְדָּל מֵעֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים, וְאֵינוֹ נִתְפָּס כְּלָל בְּתוֹכָם חַס וְשָׁלוֹם

in the way, by analogy, that the soul of man is contained in his body and is affected by the changes within it. Unlike the soul, G‑d is not at all affected by the worlds in which He is to be found,

כִּתְפִיסַת נִשְׁמַת הָאָדָם בְּגוּפוֹ עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל,

as explained elsewhere at length.8

כְּמוֹ שֶׁמְּבוֹאָר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר בַּאֲרִיכוּת.

For this reason, i.e., since G‑d is entirely distinct and apart from all worlds,

וְלָזֹאת,

they could not receive their life-force from His Being and Essence in itself, as it were.

לֹא הָיוּ יְכוֹלִים לְקַבֵּל חַיּוּתָם מִמַּהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ לְבַדּוֹ כִּבְיָכוֹל,

Rather, the diffusion of the life-force whereby the Holy One, blessed be He, animates the upper and lower worlds

רַק הִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת הַחַיּוּת אֲשֶׁר הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מְחַיֶּה עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים,

is, metaphorically speaking, like radiance shining forth from His Name,

הוּא עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, כְּמוֹ הֶאָרָה מְאִירָה מִשְּׁמוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

G‑d’s Name is itself merely a radiance; from it, there emanates yet another radiance.

for He and His Name are One—for which reason a ray that emanates from His Name is able to animate the various worlds.

שֶׁהוּא וּשְׁמוֹ אֶחָד,

Thus, it is written, “For [even] His Name alone is exalted”9; i.e., G‑d’s Name is exalted “alone,” standing apart from all the worlds which it transcends,

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "כִּי נִשְׂגָּב שְׁמוֹ לְבַדּוֹ",

while only His reflection and “His splendor are on the earth and the heavens.”10

רַק זִיווֹ וְ"הוֹדוֹ עַל אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם וְגוֹ'".

Thus, all of creation exists from but a radiance of G‑d’s Name, which, as previously mentioned, is itself merely a radiance.

This radiance actually vests itself in the upper and lower worlds in order to animate them.

וְהֶאָרָה זוֹ מִתְלַבֶּשֶׁת מַמָּשׁ בָּעֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים לְהַחֲיוֹתָם,

At this level, the G‑dly life-force is not merely present in created beings and worlds but actually vests itself in them: it contracts and adapts to the spiritual capacity of each particular world in which it is vested and is integrated within it.

It is contained in them by means of many intermediaries, i.e., levels that are related both to the levels above and below them, thereby enabling them to serve as conduits for the transference of the radiance,

וְנִתְפֶּסֶת בְּתוֹכָם עַל־יְדֵי מְמוּצָּעִים רַבִּים,

and by means of numerous and intense contractions,

וְצִמְצוּמִים רַבִּים וַעֲצוּמִים,

“Numerous” describes the quantitative diminution of Divine light and life-force; “intense” alludes to their qualitative diminution, whereby the light that emerges after the contraction is entirely different from the light that originally emanated before being screened and contracted.

in a downward, chainlike progression through the levels of the various worlds, in a sequence of cause and effect, and so on.

בְּהִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת הַמַּדְרֵגוֹת דֶּרֶךְ עִלָּה וְעָלוּל וְכוּ'.

Within every world, the lower level develops from the higher level by way of cause and effect, the higher level serving as the cause and source of the lower.

After all these contractions and descents, then, the light manifests itself within the various worlds by becoming vested in them.

Now although above, in the lofty worlds of infinitude, this illumination shines and extends itself in unlimited and infinite fashion,

וְהִנֵּה, הֶאָרָה זוֹ, אַף שֶׁלְּמַעְלָה הִיא מְאִירָה וּמִתְפַּשֶּׁטֶת בִּבְחִינַת בְּלִי גְבוּל וְתַכְלִית,

to animate worlds that are infinitely concealed,

לְהַחֲיוֹת עוֹלָמוֹת נֶעְלָמִים לְאֵין קֵץ וְתַכְלִית,

I.e., there are infinite kinds of worlds, each of which is of infinite degree,

as is written in the Idra Rabba;11

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּאִדְרָא רַבָּא,

nevertheless, as [this radiance] descends by means of numerous contractions,

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, בְּרִדְתָּהּ לְמַטָּה עַל־יְדֵי צִמְצוּמִים רַבִּים

to animate the beings that have been created, formed, and made,

לְהַחֲיוֹת הַנִּבְרָאִים וְהַיְצוּרִים וְהַנַּעֲשִׂים,

In their Hebrew original, these three verbs allude respectively to the beings that inhabit the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah. Accordingly, we understand that previously, reference was being made to the World of Atzilut and to those infinite worlds that are “higher” than Atzilut.

it is divided primarily into 613 [rays], corresponding to the 613 commandments of the Torah.

הִיא נֶחְלֶקֶת דֶּרֶךְ כְּלָל לְמִסְפַּר תַּרְיַ"ג, כְּנֶגֶד תַּרְיַ"ג מִצְוֹת הַתּוֹרָה,

These [commandments] are in fact 613 kinds of conduits which transmit this radiance from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light,

שֶׁהֵן הֵן תַּרְיַ"ג מִינֵי הַמְשָׁכוֹת הֶאָרָה זוֹ מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

[whose function is] to illumine man’s soul, which comprises 248 “organs” and 365 “sinews,” totaling 613 elements,

לְהָאִיר לְנִשְׁמַת הָאָדָם הַכְּלוּלָה מֵרַמַ"ח אֵבָרִים וְשַׁסַ"ה גִידִים,

for it was mainly for the sake of [man’s soul] that this radiance was caused to flow down below,

אֲשֶׁר בַּעֲבוּרָהּ הוּא עִיקַּר תַּכְלִית יְרִידַת וְהַמְשָׁכַת הֶאָרָה זוֹ לְמַטָּה

to all those beings which have been created, formed, and made, their respective locations in the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah being “below” the loftier worlds of infinite degree,

לְכָל הַנִּבְרָאִים וְהַיְצוּרִים וְהַנַּעֲשִׂים,

since the ultimate purpose of all these [beings], as is known, is man.

שֶׁתַּכְלִית כּוּלָּן הוּא הָאָדָם, כַּנּוֹדָע:

Thus, G‑d’s Being is indeed utterly uncompounded so that there cannot possibly be any division into “parts.” Nevertheless, with regard to the radiance that descends below, (whose main purpose is that it permeate the Jewish soul,) the concept of “parts” does apply.

The abovementioned rays are the 613 basic “parts” into which the radiance is diffused. More specifically, as the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say, each of these general “parts” subdivides into an infinite number of smaller “parts.”

Now, this number—i.e., the above division of the Divine radiance into 613 “parts,” corresponding to the 613 commandments—is the primary, basic division.

וְהִנֵּה, מִסְפָּר זֶה הוּא בְּדֶרֶךְ כְּלָל,

More specifically, however, every single commandment subdivides into infinite details.

אֲבָל בְּדֶרֶךְ פְּרָט, הִנֵּה כָּל מִצְוָה וּמִצְוָה מִתְחַלֶּקֶת לִפְרָטִים רַבִּים לְאֵין קֵץ וְתַכְלִית,

These are the essentials of the detailed rulings of every commandment, which are without number,

וְהֵן הֵן גּוּפֵי הֲלָכוֹת פְּרָטִיּוֹת שֶׁבְּכָל מִצְוָה – שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם מִסְפָּר,

as it is written, “Sixty are the queens,”12 which [as our Sages comment13] alludes to the sixty tractates….

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "שִׁשִּׁים הֵמָּה מְלָכוֹת" הֵן ס' מַסֶּכְתּוֹת כוּ',

[The same verse continues:] “…and maidens without number,” which [as our Sages comment] alludes to the innumerable rulings of the individual laws,

"וַעֲלָמוֹת אֵין מִסְפָּר" הֵן הַהֲלָכוֹת כוּ',

for they are a downward flow from the supreme will…, which is infinite.

שֶׁהֵן הַמְשָׁכַת רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן כוּ'.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that just as the soul is made up of 248 “organs” and 365 “sinews” so that it may absorb the luminosity of the 613 general rays, so, too, are souls further divisible so that they may absorb the infinite degrees of the more differentiated rays.

It is precisely so with man’s soul, which has the means to absorb the innumerable details of the downward flow of Divine radiance,

וְכֵן הוּא מַמָּשׁ בְּנִשְׁמַת הָאָדָם,

for all the souls in the world were comprised in Adam.14

כִּי הִנֵּה, כָּל הַנְּשָׁמוֹת שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם הָיוּ כְּלוּלוֹת בְּאָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן,

Basically, his soul was divisible into 613 elements, consisting of 248 “organs” and 365 “sinews.”

וְדֶרֶךְ כְּלָל, הָיְתָה נִשְׁמָתוֹ נֶחְלֶקֶת לְמִסְפַּר תַּרְיַ"ג: רַמַ"ח אֵבָרִים וְשַׁסַ"ה גִידִים,

More specifically, however, his soul was divisible into innumerable sparks,

אַךְ דֶּרֶךְ פְּרָט, נֶחְלֶקֶת לְנִיצוֹצוֹת אֵין מִסְפָּר,

which are the souls of all of Israel from the days of the Patriarchs and the [founders of the Twelve] Tribes, up to and including the time of the coming of Mashiach,

שֶׁהֵן נִשְׁמוֹת כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל מִימוֹת הָאָבוֹת וְהַשְּׁבָטִים עַד בִּיאַת הַמָּשִׁיחַ וְעַד בִּכְלָל,

when [the promise of] Scripture will be fulfilled: “And the number of the Children of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, that cannot be measured nor counted,”15 “because of its great quantity.”16

שֶׁיְּקוּיַּם אָז מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב: "וְהָיָה מִסְפַּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּחוֹל הַיָּם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִמַּד וְלֹא יִסָּפֵר" מֵרוֹב.

We understand from the above that Adam’s soul (which comprised the innumerable sparks of individual souls) was capable of receiving the infinitely numerous detailed emanations from the radiance of the supreme will, which ultimately animates all of the individual Jewish souls.

At this point, the Alter Rebbe resumes the thought begun earlier, where it was pointed out that Jacob referred to G‑d as “E-l, G‑d of Israel,” for the soul of Jacob (otherwise known as Israel) was illumined with all the aspects of the Divine radiance, just as was the soul of Adam.

Now, “The consummate beauty of Jacob resembles the consummate beauty of Adam,”17

וְהִנֵּה, "שׁוּפְרֵיהּ דְּיַעֲקֹב מֵעֵין שׁוּפְרֵיהּ דְּאָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן",

for he rectified the sin of Adam.18

שֶׁתִּיקֵּן חֵטְא אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן,

His soul, too, comprised all the souls of Israel, “from world to world,” i.e., both those of the “Revealed World” as well as the “Concealed World.”

וְהָיְתָה נִשְׁמָתוֹ גַם כֵּן כְּלוּלָה מִכָּל הַנְּשָׁמוֹת שֶׁבְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵעוֹלָם וְעַד עוֹלָם,

Moreover, he was a vehicle for the Torah in its heavenly state, which is referred to as Adam,

וְהָיָה מֶרְכָּבָה לַתּוֹרָה שֶׁלְּמַעְלָה, שֶׁנִּקְרֵאת בְּשֵׁם "אָדָם",

This phrase reflects the wording of a verse which begins with the words זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה אָדָם—“This is the law: A man….” Interpreted on the level of derush, these words have been taken literally to mean: “This is the Torah—Adam.”19

as it is written, “And on the likeness of the throne, there was a likeness as the appearance of Adam”20 [lit., “of a man”], and the latter term, as is explained in the Kabbalah,21 refers to the Torah.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וְעַל דְּמוּת הַכִּסֵּא דְּמוּת כְּמַרְאֵה אָדָם וְכוּ'",

It is likewise written: “And this (זֹאת) was the custom in former times in Israel…,”22

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וְזֹאת לְפָנִים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל כוּ'" –

That, at least, is the plain meaning of the phrase quoted. On the interpretative level of derush, however, each of the three Hebrew words is here construed as follows: זֹאת (as taught in the Zohar) connotes “Torah”; לְפָנִים—“within”; בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל—“in Israel the Patriarch.” At this level, the quoted phrase thus means that “the Torah is [implanted] within, in Israel the Patriarch.”

and “זֹאת refers only to the Torah.”23

"אֵין זֹאת אֶלָּא תּוֹרָה כוּ'",

For the Torah was contained and vested within the soul of “Israel the Patriarch,” which compounded all the souls. (The quoted phrase refers both to Jacob in the mortal world and to his supernal source, which is also known by this name.)

שֶׁהָיְתָה כְּלוּלָה וּמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בְּנִשְׁמַת "יִשְׂרָאֵל סָבָא", הַכְּלוּלָה מִכָּל הַנְּשָׁמוֹת.

Now in addition, Jacob, or “Israel the Patriarch,” was a vessel capable of receiving the radiance of the Torah. Hence:

This is the meaning [of the above-quoted phrase], “And he called Him E-l, G‑d of Israel”:

וְזֶהוּ "וַיִּקְרָא לוֹ אֵל אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל" –

Since the Name E-l denotes the Divine attribute of chesed, which finds expression in G-d’s desire to communicate His hidden light, [Jacob’s use of] the Name E-l signifies [man’s] calling forth the radiance from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, which is clothed in the Torah, from concealment to manifestation,

"אֵל" לְשׁוֹן הַמְשָׁכַת הַהֶאָרָה מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מֵהַהֶעְלֵם אֶל הַגִּילּוּי,

so that it should illumine manifestly in man’s soul.

לְהָאִיר בִּבְחִינַת גִּילּוּי בְּנִשְׁמָתוֹ,

Thus, too, it is written: “E-l is the L-rd, and He has given us light,”24 indicating likewise that the Divine Name E-l connotes illumination.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "אֵל ה' וַיָאֶר לָנוּ";

Thus, when we say that Jacob called G‑d “E-l,” we imply that he called forth and drew down into his soul an all-encompassing revelation of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that comprises all the particular details of the Torah and its mitzvot.

and after [Jacob], the [infinite] Ein Sof-light shines openly into the souls of all the upright of heart who engage in the Torah and the mitzvot.

וְאַחֲרָיו כָּל יִשְׁרֵי לֵב, הָעוֹסְקִים בַּתּוֹרָה וּבַמִּצְוֹת, מֵאִיר אוֹר ה' אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בִּבְחִינַת גִּילּוּי בְּנִשְׁמָתָם,

“The upright of heart”25 alludes to those individuals within whom the G‑dly illumination found in the intellect descends to the heart, where it inspires them with a love and an awe of G‑d. These spiritual emotions in turn add vitality to their study of the Torah and their performance of the mitzvot.

The Divine radiance felt by these individuals is termed “our portion” (חֶלְקֵנוּ, as in the quotation with which this epistle opened). This is the particular G‑dly illumination which permeates a Jew’s soul through his performance of each and every commandment and which is a portion and part of the all-encompassing illumination comprising 613 “parts.”

The most elevating and most powerful26 manifestation of this [Divine] radiance in their mind and heart

וּזְמַן גִּילּוּי זֶה בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת וְיֶתֶר עֹז הַהֶאָרָה בְּמוֹחָם וְלִבָּם

occurs at the time of prayer, as is explained elsewhere.27

הוּא בִּשְׁעַת הַתְּפִלָּה, כְּמוֹ שֶׁמְּבוֹאָר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר.

It is by means of the ladder of prayer that all of a man’s mitzvot ascend; this same ladder also serves as the conduit through which the resultant Divine radiance and revelation descend to this world.

Until now, the Alter Rebbe has explained the term “our portion.” He now goes on to explain the term “our lot” (in the above-quoted verse, וּמַה נָעִים גוֹרָלֵנוּ—“and how pleasant is our lot”), signifying something bestowed exclusively and merited only by lot.

Though this manifestation [of light] through a person’s involvement in the Torah and the commandments is, generally, equal in every individual Jew,

וְהִנֵּה, אַף שֶׁגִּילּוּי זֶה עַל־יְדֵי עֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת הוּא שָׁוֶה לְכָל נֶפֶשׁ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל בְּדֶרֶךְ כְּלָל,

for we all have “one Torah and one law,”28

כִּי תּוֹרָה אַחַת וּמִשְׁפָּט אֶחָד לְכוּלָּנוּ,

All Jews are equally obliged to study the Torah and to observe its mitzvot; generally speaking, the resultant illumination from Above is likewise drawn down equally to them all.

nevertheless, in a more specific way, in regard to this manifestation of light that radiates through the study of the Torah and the performance of the commandments, not every nefesh (the lowest level of the soul) and ruach (“spirit,” a higher level of the soul) and neshamah (a yet higher level of the soul) is equal,

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, בְּדֶרֶךְ פְּרָט, אֵין כָּל הַנְּפָשׁוֹת אוֹ הָרוּחוֹת וְהַנְּשָׁמוֹת שָׁווֹת בְּעִנְיָן זֶה

for this depends on the period and time of their reincarnation and their coming into this world.

לְפִי עֵת וּזְמַן גִּלְגּוּלָם וּבוֹאָם בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה

Most souls of present generations are incarnations of souls that had descended into this world in earlier times; they descended once again in order to rectify some aspect of their previous incarnation. The degree of radiance the soul receives from Above through the performance of a particular mitzvah depends upon the era in which the soul finds itself in this world.

Our Sages, of blessed memory, quote the question: “With what [commandment] was your father most careful?”29 To which the answer was, “With [the commandment of] tzitzit.”

וּכְמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אֲבוּךְ בְּמַאי הֲוֵי זָהִיר טְפֵי, אָמַר לֵיהּ בְּצִיצִית כוּ'".

This means that the performance of this commandment kindled within this man a particularly luminous revelation, and it was this G‑dly light that inspired his scrupulous performance. In the spirit of this teaching, and in view of the fact that the three root letters of the word זָהִיר (translated above as “careful”) also mean “luminous,” the above-quoted question has been understood [by the Mitteler Rebbe] as follows:30 “As a result of which commandment was your father most luminous?”

Likewise, not all the generations31 are the same.

וְכֵן, אֵין כָּל הַדּוֹרוֹת שָׁוִין.

Not only do souls differ: generations differ as well. There have been generations whose primary spiritual challenge was the study of the Torah; in other generations, it was charity;32 and so on.

The reason for this is that the souls of those generations were especially illuminated by the performance of those specific commandments.

For just as with the organs of man, each organ has its particular and distinctive function,

כִּי כְּמוֹ שֶׁאֵבְרֵי הָאָדָם, כָּל אֵבֶר יֵשׁ לוֹ פְּעוּלָּה פְּרָטִית וּמְיוּחֶדֶת,

the eye to see and the ear to hear,

הָעַיִן לִרְאוֹת וְהָאֹזֶן לִשְׁמוֹעַ,

so, too, through each commandment—the commandments being known as the “Organs of the King”33—there radiates a particular and distinctive light from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light.

כָּךְ בְּכָל מִצְוָה מֵאִיר אוֹר פְּרָטִי וּמְיוּחָד מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא.

And although every Jewish soul needs to be reincarnated in order to fulfill all 613 commandments,

וְאַף שֶׁכָּל נֶפֶשׁ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל צְרִיכָה לָבוֹא בְּגִלְגּוּל לְקַיֵּים כָּל תַּרְיַ"ג מִצְוֹת,

How, then, can we say that a soul that descends to this world in a given period will receive its G‑dly illumination as an individualized bequest, thereby necessitating particular scrupulousness in specific commands?

this [heightened attention focused on a particular commandment] is necessary only for the sake of an additional measure of vigilance and zeal,

מִכָּל מָקוֹם לֹא נִצְרְכָה אֶלָּא לְהַעֲדָפָה וּזְהִירוּת וּזְרִיזוּת יְתֵירָה,

[a zeal] doubly and exceedingly elevated and powerful,

בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת וְיֶתֶר עֹז, כְּפוּלָה וּמְכוּפֶּלֶת,

far surpassing one’s zeal in [the fulfillment of] the other commandments.

לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה מִזְּהִירוּת שְׁאָר הַמִּצְוֹת.

Hence, the word “most” used by the above-quoted individual when he asked, “With what [commandment] was [your father] most careful?”

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמַר "בְּמַאי הֲוֵי זָהִיר טְפֵי" – "טְפֵי" דַיְיקָא.

Scrupulous observance indeed applies to all commandments: the question was only which command earned his keenest attention.

Now, the superiority of this individual light [that is bestowed] upon individual souls through the performance of a particular commandment

וְהִנֵּה, יִתְרוֹן הָאוֹר הַזֶּה הַפְּרָטִי לִנְשָׁמוֹת פְּרָטִיּוֹת

is not in the category of apprehensible reason,

אֵינוֹ בִּבְחִינַת טַעַם וָדַעַת מוּשָּׂג,

but transcends it.

אֶלָּא לְמַעְלָה מִבְּחִינַת הַדַּעַת,

For thus it arose in G‑d’s thought, so to speak—that certain souls be granted additional illumination through the performance of particular commandments.

שֶׁכָּךְ עָלָה בְּמַחֲשָׁבָה לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

And its model below is truly the concept of a “lot.”

וְדוּגְמָתוֹ לְמַטָּה הוּא בְּחִינַת הַגּוֹרָל מַמָּשׁ:

The fact that one person wins a “lot” while others do not is likewise not in the category of apprehensible reason. Rather, so has it been deemed from Above, as the verse indicates, “The lot is cast into the lap, and from G‑d is its disposition.”34

This, then, is the meaning of “how pleasant is our lot.” The disposition of a particular degree of G‑dly illumination to a specific soul through the performance of a select command is wholly dependent upon a consideration that transcends logic: it is a “lot” determined from Above.