In the letter that follows, the Alter Rebbe urges Chasidim to devote the daily interval between Minchah and Maariv to the group study of Ein Yaakov and to the laws in the Shulchan Aruch that have frequent and practical application. He introduces this appeal by explaining how sublime is the Divine Presence that dwells within Jews when they study Torah publicly. Indeed, only in the World to Come can this lofty level of Divinity be manifestly received as a reward—except when it abides over Jews and within Jews when, in this world, they study Torah together.

“This statement is made by decree of the wakeful [angels] and by the word of [those] holy ones,”

"בִּגְזֵירַת עִירִין פִּתְגָמָא וּמַאֲמַר קַדִּישִׁין",

This phrase1 is used by the Sages2 (and here by the Alter Rebbe) to denote eminent Torah scholars, who are likened to ministering angels;3 specifically—

the Mishnaic Sages, peace be upon them,

חַכְמֵי הַמִּשְׁנָה עֲלֵיהֶם־הַשָּׁלוֹם,

who taught in their Mishnah: “If ten people sit together and engage in the study of the Torah, the Divine Presence (the Shechinah) rests among them.”4

שֶׁשָּׁנוּ בְּמִשְׁנָתָם: "עֲשָׂרָה שֶׁיּוֹשְׁבִין וְעוֹסְקִין בַּתּוֹרָה שְׁכִינָה שְׁרוּיָה בֵינֵיהֶם",

A similar teaching—“The Shechinah hovers over every gathering of ten Jews”5—means only that the Divine Presence hovers over them in a transcendent (lit., “encompassing”) manner, as explained at the end of the Tanya, Part I, ch. 11. In this instance, however, where ten Jews are studying Torah together, the Shechinah rests “among them”—in an internalized manner.

“For this is the whole [purpose] of man.”6 As the Gemara interprets this verse: “The entire world was created solely for this purpose.”7

"כִּי זֶה כָּל הָאָדָם".

Moreover, [the soul’s] very descent to this world was for the purpose of this ascent, which is accomplished through public Torah study,

וְאַף גַּם זֹאת הָיְתָה כָּל יְרִידָתוֹ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה לְצוֹרֶךְ עֲלִיָּה זוֹ,

and no [possible] ascent is higher than this.

אֲשֶׁר אֵין עֲלִיָּה לְמַעְלָה הֵימֶנָּה.

The ultimate ascent of the soul, the reason for which the soul initially descended, is attained not only after it completes its descent, after it leaves the body; rather, through public Torah study, while the soul is still within the body, it causes the Shechinah to rest in this nether world and is thereby elevated more than by any other means.

For the Shechinah of [G‑d’s] might, which is in the supernal heights and Whose awesomeness “the heavens and the heavens of the heavens cannot contain,”8

כִּי שְׁכִינַת עוּזּוֹ אֲשֶׁר בְּגָבְהֵי מְרוֹמִים, וְ"הַשָּׁמַיִם וּשְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם לֹא יְכַלְכְּלוּ" אֵימָתָהּ –

dwells and becomes magnified among the Children of Israel, as it is written, “For I, G‑d, dwell among (תּוֹךְ) the Children of Israel,”9

תִּשְׁכּוֹן וְתִתְגַּדֵּל בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "כִּי אֲנִי ה' שׁוֹכֵן בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל",

as a result of [their] study of the Torah and observance of the commandments in groups of [at least] ten, for ten Jews constitute a congregation.

עַל־יְדֵי עֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת בַּעֲשָׂרָה דַוְקָא,

For, as our Sages, of blessed memory, said, “We infer a conclusion from [two appearances of] the word toch.”10

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אַתְיָא תּוֹךְ תּוֹךְ כוּ'".

In certain specified cases, the Sages draw an analogy from one expression in the Torah to the identical expression in a different context. A comparison of this kind (a gezeirah shavah) is made between two appearances of the above word. One verse states, “I will become sanctified in the midst (toch) of the Children of Israel”11 while another verse, referring to ten of the spies dispatched by Moses, states, “…from the midst (toch) of this congregation.”12 From this, we learn that the congregational recital of a davar shebikedushah, a text involving the sanctification of G‑d’s Name, requires a quorum of ten.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, asks: Of all the possible contexts, why do our Sages derive this rule from the evil assemblage of the spies, concerning whom the above-quoted verse in fact states, “Separate yourselves from the midst of this congregation”?13

Answering his own question, the Rebbe explains that with these words, Moses sought to insulate the people from the makif of evil, from the transcendent [and most intense] dimension of evil. (As far as the pnimi of evil was concerned, the permeating [but less intense] dimension of evil, Moses was able to rectify it.) Now, since everything in the realm of holiness has its counterpart in kelipah, in the forces of evil,14 it follows that the level of holiness referred to here is the transcendent level. Thus, when a congregation of at least ten participants engages collectively in prayer or in Torah study or in the observance of a mitzvah, they elicit a response from a transcendent level of Divine light, from an or makif, that is utterly superior to the light called forth by a group of fewer than ten.

Concerning this, it is written, “The Holy One is within you.”15

וְעַל זֶה נֶאֱמַר: "בְּקִרְבְּךָ קָדוֹשׁ",

This means to say that a level of Divinity which is holy in the sense that it is initially distinct from this world is thereby drawn down and integrated within the ten or more people involved.

As the Rebbe explains in the abovementioned talk, the Alter Rebbe had spoken earlier of the transcendent degree of illumination that merely encompasses one; at this point, he cites the phrase “The Holy One is within you” to indicate that this encompassing illumination can also become internalized within a Jew.

Likewise, “[the congregational recital of] a davar shebikedushah, a text involving the sanctification of G‑d’s Name, requires a quorum of ten,” as quoted above.16

וְ"אֵין דָּבָר שֶׁבִּקְּדוּשָּׁה בְּפָחוֹת מֵעֲשָׂרָה".

Thus, in order that the holiness be “within you,” it is necessary that the Torah be studied in groups of at least ten.

This also explains why our Sages, of blessed memory, had to derive from Scripture [an answer to their question], “From where do we know that even one person who sits and engages in the study of the Torah, [the Holy One, blessed be He, sets a reward for him]?”17

וּמִשּׁוּם הָכֵי נַמֵי, אִצְטְרִיךְ לְהוּ לְרַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה לְמֵילַף מִקְּרָא: "מִנַּיִן שֶׁאֲפִילוּ אֶחָד שֶׁיּוֹשֵׁב וְעוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה כוּ'".

The Mishnah derives its answer from the verse, “He sits alone and [studies] in stillness; indeed, he takes [the reward] unto himself.”18 Evidently, then, a proof text was needed to show that even individual study is rewarded.

And even so [the Sages] did not find in Scripture support for that, i.e., they did not find support for the proposition that an individual can bring about the previously mentioned indwelling of G‑d’s holiness but only for the allotment of a reward to the individual, proportionate to himself [and]19 in proportion to the many.

וְאַף גַּם זֹאת, לֹא מָצְאוּ לוֹ סְמַךְ מִן הַמִּקְרָא אֶלָּא לִקְבִיעַת שָׂכָר בִּלְבַד, לְיָחִיד לְפִי עֶרְכּוֹ לְפִי [נוסח אחר: וּלְפִי] עֵרֶךְ הַמְרוּבִּים,

If there are fewer than ten individuals, the reward is divided equally among them. According to the version “[and] in proportion…,” the more individuals who participate, the greater the reward for each of them.

But as to causing an indwelling of G‑d’s holiness,20 [the individual] cannot be compared to [the congregation] at all.

אֲבָל לְעִנְיַן הַשְׁרָאַת קְדוּשַּׁת הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא – אֵין לוֹ עֵרֶךְ אֲלֵיהֶם כְּלָל.

The sanctity drawn down through group study of the Torah is immeasurably more sublime.

The distinction between [causing a Divine] indwelling (by collective study) and the allotment of a reward (to an individual student) is understood by discerning thinkers.

וְהַהֶפְרֵשׁ שֶׁבֵּין הַשְׁרָאָה לִקְבִיעוּת שָׂכָר מוּבָן לִמְבִינֵי מַדָּע,

For the allotment of a reward is what takes place when G‑d illuminates “the soul that seeks Him”21 with the light of His Torah, which is truly the covering in which G‑d garbs Himself.

כִּי, קְבִיעַת שָׂכָר הוּא – שֶׁמֵּאִיר ה' "לְנֶפֶשׁ תִּדְרְשֶׁנּוּ", בְּאוֹר תּוֹרָתוֹ, שֶׁהוּא מַעֲטֵה לְבוּשׁוֹ מַמָּשׁ,

Through this garment, i.e., through the Torah, G‑d illuminates the soul of the Jew who seeks Him. This search for Him can take place either during the service of prayer that precedes one’s study of Torah or during one’s actual study. As explained at the conclusion of ch. 37 of the Tanya, the Talmudic phrase קוֹרֵא בַּתּוֹרָה can mean not only “reading (i.e., studying) the Torah” but also “calling [G‑d] through the Torah.” In this sense, when one studies Torah, one resembles a child who calls his father, asking him to come and be with him.

For this reason, the Torah is called “light,” as it is written,22 “He garbs Himself in light, as with a garment.”23

וְלָכֵן נִקְרֵאת הַתּוֹרָה "אוֹר", שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: "עוֹטֶה אוֹר כַּשַּׂלְמָה",

This verse refers to the degree of illumination (diffused by the Torah) which, like a garment, is finite.

Likewise, the faculties of the soul are inherently limited, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Since the light that emanates to the soul must be integrated within its faculties, this illumination itself must also be limited. In the words of the Alter Rebbe:

Now, the soul is limited and finite in all its faculties.

וְהַנֶּפֶשׁ הִיא בַּעֲלַת גְּבוּל וְתַכְלִית בְּכָל כֹּחוֹתֶיהָ,

Therefore, the light of G‑d that radiates in it is also limited and contracted and vests itself within it.

לָכֵן גַּם אוֹר ה' הַמֵּאִיר בָּהּ הוּא גְבוּלִי, מְצוּמְצָם, וּמִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּתוֹכָהּ,

This is why the hearts of those who seek G‑d are ecstatically aroused at the time of prayer and the like.

וְעַל כֵּן יִתְפָּעֵל לֵב מְבַקְשֵׁי ה' בִּשְׁעַת הַתְּפִלָּה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָהּ,

For their hearts rejoice in Him and exult “even with exultation and song,”24

כִּי בוֹ יִשְׂמַח לִבָּם, וְיָגִיל "אַף גִּילַת וְרַנֵּן",

and their souls delight in the pleasantness of G‑d25 and His light

וְתִתְעַנֵּג נַפְשָׁם בְּנוֹעַם ה' [נוסח אחר: עַל ה'] וְאוֹרוֹ,

as it becomes revealed through the covering in which [G‑d] garbs Himself, which is the Torah;

בְּהִגָּלוֹתוֹ מִמַּעֲטֵה לְבוּשׁוֹ שֶׁהִיא הַתּוֹרָה,

“and His arrow comes forth like lightning”26: from this garment, this illumination initially emanates to the soul with all the vigor of a lightning bolt.27

וְיָצָא כַבָּרָק חִצּוֹ,

This is the allotment of the reward for the [study of] Torah, which is always fixed in the soul that labors in it.

וְזוֹ הִיא קְבִיעַת שְׂכַר הַתּוֹרָה, הַקְּבוּעָה תָּמִיד בְּנֶפֶשׁ עֲמֵלָה בָּהּ.

Being fixed within the soul constantly, this reward is received by the soul not only in the World to Come—when the soul is enabled to apprehend rewards that are not to be obtained in this world28—but in this world as well. And since this kind of reward consists of a finite degree of illumination, it can be received by the soul even as the soul finds itself within the body.

This is why it is written that a reward awaits even one individual who studies Torah.

Indwelling, however, i.e., that degree of indwelling of which it is written that “the Shechinah dwells among them,”

אֲבָל הַהַשְׁרָאָה –

is an intense radiance from the light of G‑d that radiates in it—within the soul itself and not within its inherently limited faculties—without limit or end.

הִיא הֶאָרָה עֲצוּמָה מֵאוֹר ה' הַמֵּאִיר בָּהּ בְּלִי גְבוּל וְתַכְלִית,

It cannot become vested (i.e., integrated and internalized) within a finite soul but encompasses it from above, like a transcendent (makif) light, “from its head to its foot,” so that all the levels and faculties of the soul, from the highest to the lowest, are surrounded by this infinite Divine light.

וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּנֶפֶשׁ גְּבוּלִית, כִּי אִם מַקִּיף עָלֶיהָ מִלְמַעְלָה – מֵרֹאשָׁהּ וְעַד רַגְלָהּ,

As our Sages, of blessed memory, taught, “The Shechinah hovers over every gathering of ten Jews”29—over them, from above.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ חֲכָמֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אַכָּל בֵּי עֲשָׂרָה שְׁכִינְתָּא שַׁרְיָא", כְּלוֹמַר – עֲלֵיהֶם מִלְמַעְלָה,

Just as the Shechinah hovers over all Jews in an encompassing manner even when they are not studying Torah, so, too, even with regard to the indwelling of the Shechinah that is brought about by congregational Torah study: this illumination of the soul, being infinite, must be primarily transcendent.

Thus, it is written, “May the pleasantness of the L-rd our G‑d be upon us; establish upon us the work of our hands”30;

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וִיהִי נוֹעַם ה' עָלֵינוּ, וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנָה עָלֵינוּ",

i.e., [we ask] that the pleasantness of G‑d which has appeared through the work of our hands, in [our] involvement in the Torah and the commandments31

כְּלוֹמַר, כִּי "נוֹעַם ה'" אֲשֶׁר הוֹפִיעַ בְּ"מַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ", בְּעֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת,

for “the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are entirely one”32

דְּ"אוֹרַיְיתָא וְקוּדְשָׁא־בְּרִיךְ־הוּא כּוּלָּא חַד" –

become established and rest upon us from above, in an encompassing manner,

יִתְכּוֹנֵן וְיִשְׁרֶה עָלֵינוּ מִלְמַעְלָה,

for it is without limit and end and does not become vested within our [finite] soul and intellect.

לִהְיוֹתוֹ בְּלִי גְבוּל וְתַכְלִית וְאֵינוֹ מִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּנַפְשֵׁנוּ וְשִׂכְלֵנוּ,

This is why we do not apprehend with our intellect the delightfulness and sweetness of “the pleasantness of G‑d” and the unlimited splendor of the Shechinah,

וְעַל כֵּן, אֵין אָנוּ מַשִּׂיגִים בְּשִׂכְלֵנוּ הַנְּעִימוּת וְהָעֲרֵיבוּת מִ"נּוֹעַם ה'" וְזִיו הַשְּׁכִינָה בְּלִי גְבוּל וְתַכְלִית,

that is established and rests upon us through the work of our hands in [our] joint study of the Torah and [our] joint fulfillment of the commandments.

אֲשֶׁר מִתְכּוֹנֵן וְשׁוֹרֶה עָלֵינוּ בְּ"מַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ", בְּתוֹרָה וּמִצְוֹת בָּרַבִּים דַּוְקָא.

An infinite order of illumination is elicited only by collective Torah study and performance of mitzvot.

And of this our Sages, of blessed memory, said, “In this world, there is no reward for the [performance of the] commandments.”33

וְעַל זֶה אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "שְׂכַר מִצְוָה בְּהַאי עָלְמָא לֵיכָּא",

Since this world is finite, it cannot be a receptor for the infinite revelation of Divine radiance that is called forth by the performance of the mitzvot.

For it is impossible for the world to attain it (i.e., the reward of infinite light) except when the soul is divested from the body and unencumbered by it,

כִּי אִי אֶפְשָׁר לָעוֹלָם לְהַשִּׂיגוֹ, כִּי אִם – בְּהִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת הַנֶּפֶשׁ מֵהַגּוּף.

and even then, [the soul is able to receive this light only] by way of grace, as it is written,34 “Kindness, O G‑d, is Yours, for You render to every man according to his work.”35 I.e., granting every man an infinite degree of illumination according to his work in Torah and mitzvot‎ is an act of kindness on G‑d’s part.

וְאַף גַּם זֹאת – עַל דֶּרֶךְ הַחֶסֶד, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וּלְךָ ה' חָסֶד, כִּי אַתָּה תְּשַׁלֵּם לְאִישׁ כְּמַעֲשֵׂהוּ"

Thus, our Sages, of blessed memory, taught36 that the Holy One, blessed be He, gives the righteous the capacity [to receive their reward in the World to Come].

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה, שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא נוֹתֵן כֹּחַ בַּצַּדִּיקִים כוּ'.

Even then this gift is needed, for even after the soul divests itself of its body, it is finite, while the reward that it receives is infinite.

This is not so, however, with the angels,37 which are incapable of receiving an infinite degree of revelation;

מַה־שֶּׁאֵין־כֵּן בַּמַּלְאָכִים

as I heard from my masters, viz., the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch, that if one38 angel39 were to stand in the presence of a gathering of ten Jews, even if there were no words of Torah between them, still, since the Shechinah rests upon every gathering of ten Jews,

כְּמוֹ שֶׁשָּׁמַעְתִּי מֵרַבּוֹתַי: כִּי אִילּוּ נִמְצָא מַלְאָךְ אֶחָד עוֹמֵד בְּמַעֲמַד עֲשָׂרָה מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל בְּיַחַד, אַף שֶׁאֵינָם מְדַבְּרִים בְּדִבְרֵי תוֹרָה –

such a boundless and infinite terror and dread would then befall him on account of the Shechinah that abides over them, that he would become utterly nullified.

תִּפּוֹל עָלָיו אֵימָתָה וָפַחַד בְּלִי גְבוּל וְתַכְלִית, מִשְּׁכִינְתָּא דְּשַׁרְיָא עֲלַיְיהוּ, עַד שֶׁהָיָה מִתְבַּטֵּל מִמְּצִיאוּתוֹ לְגַמְרֵי.

The sanctity of ten Jews congregating together, even if they are not engaged in Torah study, is so intense that an angel would become utterly nullified when confronting the indwelling of the Shechinah that abides in the presence of ten Jews.40

In Sefer Hasichot 5704,41 Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak relates that when his father taught him this letter for the second time and they came to the above theme of the superiority of souls over angels, he noted that “as I heard from my masters” refers to both the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch; the phrase “I heard from my teacher” (in the gloss to ch. 35) refers to the Maggid of Mezritch.

Rabbi Shalom DovBer went on to tell him that this theme is one of the laws that are studied in Gan Eden.

Then, having shared with him eight narratives regarding the laws studied in Gan Eden, he concluded: “And all this is discussed in the Tanya in order to [encourage] the establishment of daily study groups in Ein Yaakov, concerning which the Alter Rebbe states that most of the secrets of the Torah are concealed in it and that moreover, it atones for man’s sins.”

At that time, too, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak relates,42 his father told him that Chasidim of old used to include as part of their indispensable daily study sessions—in addition to Mishnayot, a page of Gemara, and the Tanya—a passage of Ein Yaakov and at least one law (of two paragraphs) in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.43 If a paragraph was long, it was studied as one law though usually, one law is divided there into two paragraphs.

Therefore, evil in my eyes is “the conduct that takes place under the sun”44 in general,

וְעַל כֵּן, רַע בְּעֵינַי הַ"מַּעֲשֶׂה אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשָׂה תַּחַת הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ" בִּכְלָל,

The Alter Rebbe is referring here to those who engage in business or labor—temporal occupations that are “under the sun,” in contrast to Torah, that is “above the sun.” To them, too, his forthcoming words of rebuke are addressed, and he finds it “evil in his eyes” that before or after prayer, they devote their time to lightminded talk instead of to Torah study.

especially among my brethren and friends who draw near to G‑d45—and46 “drawing near means prayer,” for prayer, particularly when accompanied by the avodah of measured meditation, constitutes a “drawing near” to G‑d,

וּבִפְרָט בֵּין אַחַיי וְרֵעַיי הַנִּגָּשִׁים אֶל ה', "הַגָּשָׁה – זוֹ תְּפִלָּה"

when after prayer or before it, [the gathering] becomes a “company of scoffers,” heaven forfend.

וְאַחַר הַתְּפִלָּה אוֹ לְפָנֶיהָ – נַעֲשֶׂה "מוֹשַׁב לֵצִים" רַחֲמָנָא לִצְּלָן,

As our Sages, of blessed memory, said, “If two people sit together and no words of Torah are exchanged between them, [this is a company of scoffers].”47

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "שְׁנַיִם שֶׁיּוֹשְׁבִין וְאֵין בֵּינֵיהֶם דִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה כוּ'",

Now, if a “company of scoffers” is constituted by ten people over whom the Shechinah abides, there is no greater insult and shaming of the Shechinah than that, heaven forfend.

וְאִם נַעֲשָׂה "מוֹשַׁב לֵצִים" בַּעֲשָׂרָה, דִּשְׁכִינְתָּא שַׁרְיָא עֲלַיְיהוּ אֵין לְךָ עֶלְבּוֹנָא וּקְלָנָא דִשְׁכִינְתָּא גָּדוֹל מִזֶּה רַחֲמָנָא־לִיצְּלָן,

And if our Sages, of blessed memory, said48 of him who commits a transgression in secret that “he repulses the feet of the Shechinah,” heaven forfend,

וְאִם אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה עַל הָעוֹבֵר עֲבֵירָה בַּסֵּתֶר שֶׁ"דּוֹחֵק רַגְלֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה" חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

then he who commits a transgression in public repulses the whole measure of the stature of the Creator, as it were.49

הָעוֹבֵר עֲבֵירָה בָּרַבִּים – דּוֹחֵק כָּל שִׁיעוּר קוֹמָה שֶׁל יוֹצֵר בְּרֵאשִׁית כִּבְיָכוֹל,

As our Sages, of blessed memory, said, “It is impossible for Me and him [to live together in the world].”50

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אֵין אֲנִי וְהוּא וְכוּ'",

However, repulsing the Shechinah does not mean that the actions of the transgressor cause it to be utterly absent, for the above passage speaks of shaming the Shechinah while it is present.

Rather, “The51 King is held captive in the gutters”52 [“of the mind”53]. This is indeed a humiliation of the Shechinah.

אֶלָּא שֶׁ"מֶּלֶךְ אָסוּר בָּרְהָטִים" כוּ'.

But “Woe54 unto those who repulse the Shechinah, when G‑d will raise her (the Shechinah) and say to her,55 ‘Awake, arise from the dust….’”

אֲבָל "וַוי לְמַאן דְּדָחֲקִין לִשְׁכִינְתָּא כַּד יוֹקִים לָהּ קוּדְשָׁא־בְּרִיךְ־הוּא, וְיֵימָא לָהּ: "הִתְנַעֲרִי מֵעָפָר קוּמִי וְגוֹ'",

So, too, “On account of three things are the Jewish people detained in exile—because they repulse the Shechinah, and because they shame the Shechinah,” and so on, as stated in the sacred Zohar.56

וְעַל תְּלַת מִילִּין מִתְעַכְּבֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּגָלוּתָא: עַל דְּדָחֲקִין לִשְׁכִינְתָּא, וְעַל דְּעָבְדִין קְלָנָא בִּשְׁכִינְתָּא וְכוּ'", כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ.

Therefore, my beloved ones, my brethren and friends: do not commit this great evil—of turning a gathering of worshippers before or after prayers into a “company of scoffers,”

עַל כֵּן, אֲהוּבַיי אַחַיי וְרֵעַיי, אַל נָא תָּרֵעוּ הָרָעָה הַגְּדוֹלָה הַזֹּאת,

and “give glory unto the L-rd your G‑d before it grows dark,”57 i.e., between Minchah and Maariv every weekday,58

וּתְנוּ כָבוֹד לַה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם בְּטֶרֶם יֶחְשַׁךְ, דְּהַיְינוּ, בֵּין מִנְחָה לְמַעֲרִיב כָּל יְמוֹת הַחוֹל,

by studying in groups of [at least] ten the innermost (i.e., the mystical) dimension of the Torah, i.e., the Aggadah contained in Ein Yaakov,

לִלְמוֹד בַּעֲשָׂרָה פְּנִימִיּוּת הַתּוֹרָה, שֶׁהִיא אַגָּדָה שֶׁבְּסֵפֶר "עֵין יַעֲקֹב",

for most of the secrets of the Torah are concealed in it (i.e., in the Aggadah);

שֶׁרוֹב סוֹדוֹת הַתּוֹרָה גְּנוּזִין בָּהּ,

moreover, it atones for man’s sins,

וּמְכַפֶּרֶת עֲוֹנוֹתָיו שֶׁל אָדָם,

as explained in the writings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory.59

כִּמְבוֹאָר בְּכִתְבֵי הָאֲרִיזַ"ל,

As to the revealed (nonmystical) passages in [the Aggadah],

וְהַנִּגְלוֹת שֶׁבָּהּ –

these are the ways of G‑d in which a man ought to walk,

הֵן דַּרְכֵי ה' שֶׁיֵּלֵךְ בָּהֶם הָאָדָם

and [they enable him] to take counsel in his soul in heavenly matters (such as Torah and mitzvot) and in worldly matters, as is known to all the wise of heart.

וְיָשִׁית עֵצוֹת בְּנַפְשׁוֹ בְּמִילֵּי דִשְׁמַיָּא וּבְמִילֵּי דְעִלְמָא, וְכַיָּדוּעַ לְכָל חַכְמֵי לֵב.

In addition, between Minchah and Maariv, [people] should study a little—out of the Shulchan Aruch, in [the section called] Orach Chaim—the laws that are essential for every person to know.

וְגַם, לִלְמוֹד מְעַט בְּ"שׁוּלְחָן עָרוּךְ" "אוֹרַח־חַיִּים" הֲלָכוֹת הַצְּרִיכוֹת לְכָל אָדָם,

Of this, our Sages, of blessed memory, said: “Whoever studies Torah laws (halachot) every day [is assured of life in the World to Come].”60

וְעַל זֶה אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "כָּל הַשּׁוֹנֶה הֲלָכוֹת בְּכָל יוֹם כוּ'",

This refers to clear and definitive rulings that are of practical relevance,

שֶׁהֵן הֲלָכוֹת בְּרוּרוֹת וּפְסוּקוֹת הֲלָכָה לְמַעֲשֶׂה,

as explained in the commentary of Rashi ad loc.61that the term halachot refers to final rulings, without the surrounding debates and argumentation.

כִּמְבוֹאָר בְּפֵירוּשׁ רַשִׁ"י זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה שָׁם.

This is actually explained by Rashi a little earlier in Tractate Megillah, not on the teaching about “Whoever studies halachot…,” but in connection with a eulogy for someone who used to “study halachot.”

In Tractate Niddah, commenting on this teaching, Rashi states that the term halachot refers to Mishnayot, Baraitot, and Halachah leMoshe miSinai, none of which include the discussions of the Gemara. This is also the case with regard to the Shulchan Aruch.

On the holy Shabbat, moreover, toward the time of Minchah, [people] should occupy themselves with the laws of the Shabbat, for “the law of Shabbat is a weighty law,”62 with many details to be mastered.

וּבְשַׁבָּת קֹדֶשׁ בַּעֲלוֹת הַמִּנְחָה יַעַסְקוּ בְּהִלְכוֹת שַׁבָּת, כִּי "הִלְכְתָא רַבְּתָא לְשַׁבְּתָא",

A person can easily stumble in it, heaven forfend, even in a prohibition punishable by extirpation or stoning, because of ignorance [of these laws],

וּבְקַל – יָכוֹל הָאָדָם לִיכָּשֵׁל בָּהּ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, אֲפִילוּ בְּאִיסּוּר כָּרֵת וּסְקִילָה מֵחֶסְרוֹן יְדִיעָה,

and “an unwitting error in [observance due to insufficient] study is accounted as an intentional transgression,”63 heaven forfend.

וְ"שִׁגְגַת תַּלְמוּד – עוֹלָה זָדוֹן" חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

It goes without saying [that the same applies to] the Rabbinic injunctions which are ever so numerous, and especially so with respect to the prohibitions of muktzeh that occur frequently;

וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר בְּאִיסּוּרֵי דִּבְרֵי־סוֹפְרִים, שֶׁרַבּוּ כְּמוֹ רַבּוּ לְמַעְלָה, וּבִפְרָט בְּאִיסּוּרֵי מוּקְצֶה דִּשְׁכִיחֵי טוּבָא,

and “[infringements of] the words of the Sofrim (i.e., the Rabbinic injunctions) are more serious than [infringements of] the words of the Torah (i.e., explicit Scriptural commandments).”64

וַ"חֲמוּרִים דִּבְרֵי־סוֹפְרִים יוֹתֵר מִדִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה",

As our Sages, of blessed memory, said: “Whoever transgresses the words of the Sages,”65 even a minor prohibition of theirs—as, for instance, he who eats before the evening prayer, and the like—“is liable to the death penalty,” just like one who transgresses grave prohibitions [explicit] in the Torah.66

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה, שֶׁ"כָּל הָעוֹבֵר עַל דִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים" אֲפִילוּ בְּאִיסּוּר קַל שֶׁל דִּבְרֵיהֶם, כְּמוֹ הָאוֹכֵל קוֹדֶם תְּפִלַּת עַרְבִית וּכְהַאי גַּוְנָא – "חַיָּיב מִיתָה" כְּעוֹבֵר עַל חֲמוּרוֹת שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה.

At any rate, since we see from the above that it is vital that one study and know the laws of the Shabbat, they should be studied in public as the time for Minchah draws near.

And let no individual separate himself from the congregation when they are studying Ein Yaakov, Shulchan Aruch, and the like, even in order to study something else;

וְכָל יָחִיד אַל יִפְרוֹשׁ עַצְמוֹ מִן הַצִּיבּוּר אֲפִילוּ לִלְמוֹד עִנְיָן אַחֵר,

rather, [every individual should participate only] in whatever the congregation is busy with.

כִּי אִם בַּדָּבָר שֶׁהַצִּיבּוּר עֲסוּקִין בּוֹ,

It goes without saying that one should not leave if there are not ten without him;

וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר שֶׁלֹּא יֵצֵא הַחוּצָה אִם לֹא יִהְיוּ עֲשָׂרָה מִבִּלְעָדוֹ,

to him [who does leave], I apply the verse, “And those who forsake G‑d (i.e., who forsake the study of His Torah) shall be consumed…,”67

וְעָלָיו אֲנִי קוֹרֵא הַפָּסוּק: "וְעוֹזְבֵי ה' יִכְלוּ כוּ'",

as our Sages, of blessed memory, have said68 with respect to every sacred matter.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה עַל כָּל דָּבָר שֶׁבִּקְדוּשָּׁה.

For there is no holiness like the holiness of the Torah,

כִּי אֵין קְדוּשָּׁה כִּקְדוּשַּׁת הַתּוֹרָה,

since “the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are entirely one.”69

דְּ"אוֹרַיְיתָא וְקוּדְשָׁא־בְּרִיךְ־הוּא כּוּלָּא חַד".

Strictly speaking, our Sages applied the above verse (“and those who forsake G‑d shall be consumed”) only to a person whose leaving bars the congregational recital of a davar shebikedushah, a text involving the sanctification of G‑d’s Name, which cannot be done without a quorum of ten. By contrast, though the quality of Torah study is enhanced by a quorum of ten, this is not a prerequisite condition.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that there is “no holiness like the holiness of the Torah”: when ten Jews study together, they draw down a most exalted degree of holiness and an intense indwelling of the Shechinah, as explained above. In this sense, then, an individual whose leaving disrupts a study group of ten may be likened to one whose leaving prevents a minyan from reciting Kedushah or the like.

Moreover, “Whoever separates himself from the community [will not merit to witness (and participate in) the community’s consolation].”70

וְ"כָל הַפּוֹרֵשׁ מִן הַצִּיבּוּר כוּ'".

The Alter Rebbe concludes: “But he who listens to me shall dwell securely,”71 and72 in his days and in ours, Judah shall be saved and Jerusalem shall dwell securely.73

וְשׁוֹמֵעַ לִי יִשְׁכּוֹן בֶּטַח, וּבְיָמָיו וּבְיָמֵינוּ תִּוָּשַׁע יְהוּדָה, וִירוּשָׁלַיִם תִּשְׁכּוֹן לָבֶטַח,

Amen, may this be His will.

אָמֵן כֵּן יְהִי רָצוֹן: