The last two essays explained how the observance of the commandments seeks out the exiled sparks hidden in this world and thereby suffuses it with G‑dliness. They also pointed out that the same is true of the study of their laws. The present essay goes one step further and explains that the laws of the Torah transcend the world beyond any possible comparison.

When David triumphantly brought back the Ark from its captivity in the hands of the Philistines,1 it was placed on a wagon. David had momentarily forgotten the stipulation of the Torah, “On the shoulder shall they carry it.”2 Commenting on this episode, our Sages teach3 that David’s forgetfulness came as a punishment for his having referred to the laws of the Torah as “songs”: “Your statutes were songs for me in my place of terror.”4

Why should this expression be regarded as an offense, and in what way is it related to its punishment?

These are among the questions discussed in the essay before us, and at greater length in Likkutei Torah and Or Hatorah, and in Derech Mitzvotecha, Mitzvat Masa Ha’aron Bakatef.

“David! You call them songs?!”3

"דָּוִד, זְמִירוֹת קָרִית לְהוּ כוּ'".

Because he had referred to the laws of the Torah as “songs,” David was punished by being made to “stumble in a matter that even school children know”3—that the Ark is to be carried on the shoulders.

In the Zohar,5 we find the expression, “the praise of Torah and its song”—the Torah is a hymn and a song to G‑d.

הִנֵּה בַּזֹּהַר: "שְׁבָחָא דְאוֹרַיְיתָא וּרְנָנָה כוּ'".

Let us understand, what is the praise of G‑d when a particular object is forbidden or permitted?6

וּלְהָבִין, מַהוּ הַשֶּׁבַח לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא כְּשֶׁזֶּה אָסוּר אוֹ מוּתָּר?

A similar concept is implicit [in the verse], “How great are Your works, O G‑d, Your thoughts are very deep.”7

הִנֵּה הוּא עַל דֶּרֶךְ: "מַה גָּדְלוּ מַעֲשֶׂיךָ ה', מְאֹד עָמְקוּ מַחְשְׁבוֹתֶיךָ".

Why does the verse make the deed precede the thought? The Alter Rebbe will soon explain that from an appreciation of G‑d’s great works, one begins to understand the depth of His thoughts.

Lessons In Tanya (Kehot Publication Society)

Lessons in Tanya is a well-lit and accessible gateway to the Tanya - the fundamental, classic work upon which all concepts of Chabad Chasidism are based.

As is known, all the worlds, the exalted and the lowly, are dependent on the meticulous performance of a single mitzvah.

כִּי הִנֵּה נוֹדָע, שֶׁכָּל הָעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים – תְּלוּיִם בְּדִקְדּוּק מִצְוָה אַחַת,

For example, if an altar offering is valid, then a supernal union in the sefirot is effected, and all the worlds are elevated to receive their life-force and spiritual sustenance.8

דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל: אִם הַקָּרְבָּן כָּשֵׁר – נַעֲשֶׂה יִחוּד עֶלְיוֹן, וְעוֹלִים כָּל הָעוֹלָמוֹת לְקַבֵּל חַיּוּתָם וְשִׁפְעָם:

However, if [the celebrant] altered the precise requirements of the law—if, for example, he received the blood of the offering with his left hand, or in an invalid vessel, or9 if there was a separation10

וְאִם שִׁינָּה – שֶׁקִּיבֵּל הַדָּם בִּשְׂמֹאלוֹ דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בִּכְלִי שָׁרֵת כָּשֵׁר, אוֹ שֶׁהָיְתָה חֲצִיצָה,

then all the elevations of the worlds that would have been accomplished are nullified, as is the life-force and sustenance that they would have received from the Source of Life, the Ein Sof, blessed be He.

אֲזַי נִתְבַּטְּלָה עֲלִיּוֹת הָעוֹלָמוֹת וְחַיּוּתָם וְשִׁפְעָם מֵחַיֵּי הַחַיִּים אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא.

So, too, through the use of valid tefillin, there is revealed the supernal intellect of z’eyr anpin and nukva, i.e., za and malchut of Atzilut, the source of life for all the worlds.

וְכֵן בִּתְפִלִּין כְּשֵׁרוֹת, מִתְגַּלִּים מוֹחִין עֶלְיוֹנִים דִּזְעֵיר אַנְפִּין וְנוּקְבָא, שֶׁהֵם מְקוֹר הַחַיִּים לְכָל הָעוֹלָמוֹת,

Yet, through [the omission of] one required detail they are invalidated, and the intellect departs.

וּבְדִקְדּוּק אֶחָד נִפְסָלִין וּמִסְתַּלְּקִין הַמּוֹחִין.

The same applies to the detailed requirements of the prohibitory commandments—a single detail affects all the worlds.

וּכְהַאי גַּוְנָא בְּדִקְדּוּקֵי מִצְוֹת לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה.

Let one therefore ponder how great are the works of G‑d in the multiplicity of worlds and all their hosts,

וְהִלְכָךְ, הַמִּתְבּוֹנֵן מַה גָּדְלוּ מַעֲשֵׂי ה' שֶׁבְּרִיבּוּי הָעוֹלָמוֹת וְכָל צְבָאָם,

and how all of these are literally null, relative to any one of the specific requirements of the Torah,

וְאֵיךְ כּוּלָּם בְּטֵלִים בִּמְצִיאוּת לְגַבֵּי דִּקְדּוּק אֶחָד מִדִּקְדּוּקֵי תוֹרָה,

for it is the profundity of the supreme thought and the Divine wisdom.

שֶׁהוּא עוֹמֶק מַחֲשָׁבָה הָעֶלְיוֹנָה וְחָכְמָתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

For through [the observance of] one minor specification, all the worlds ascend and receive their life-force and spiritual sustenance—or the reverse, G‑d forbid.

אֲשֶׁר בְּדִקְדּוּק קַל עוֹלִים כָּל הָעוֹלָמוֹת וּמְקַבְּלִים חַיּוּתָם וְשִׁפְעָם, אוֹ לְהֵיפֶךְ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

In the case of a detailed requirement of a prohibitory commandment, transgression brings about (G‑d forbid) a descent in all the worlds.

From this, we may ponder the prodigious profundity of G‑d’s thought, which is boundless and endless,

וּמִזֶּה נִתְבּוֹנֵן גְּדוּלַּת עוֹמֶק מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, שֶׁהוּא בִּבְחִינַת בְּלִי גְבוּל וְתַכְלִית,

and which infinitely transcends the vitality of all the worlds.

וּמַעֲלָתָהּ לְאֵין קֵץ וְתַכְלִית עַל מַעֲלוֹת חַיּוּת כָּל הָעוֹלָמוֹת,

For their entire vivifying power issues from a minor requirement of [G‑d’s thought],

שֶׁכָּל חַיּוּתָם שׁוֹפֵעַ מִדִּקְדּוּק אֶחָד מִמֶּנָּה,

[this requirement being] drawn from its source, namely the depth of G‑d’s thought that specified it.

שֶׁהוּא נִמְשָׁךְ מִמְּקוֹרוֹ – הוּא עוֹמֶק מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

Analogously, man’s hair issues from his brain,

כְּמוֹ שְׂעַר הָאָדָם הַנִּמְשָׁךְ מִמּוֹחוֹ עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל,

as is known from Tikkunei Zohar and Idra Rabbah.

וְכַנּוֹדָע מֵהַתִּיקּוּנִים וְהָאִדְרָא רַבָּא.

This was the delight of King David, may he rest in peace, as he sang to gladden his heart in his Torah study during his time of anguish.

וְזֹאת הָיְתָה שִׂמְחַת דָּוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ עָלָיו־הַשָּׁלוֹם, שֶׁהָיָה מְזַמֵּר וּמְרַנֵּן לְשַׂמֵּחַ לִבּוֹ בְּעֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה בְּעֵת צָרָתוֹ.

He was overjoyed when he contemplated how the entire world is of no account relative to one minor specific detail of the Torah.

However, for extolling the Torah with this quality, saying, “[Your statutes] were songs for me,”4 he was punished.

אַךְ מַה שֶּׁהָיָה מִשְׁתַּבֵּחַ בִּתְהִלַּת הַתּוֹרָה בְּמַעֲלָתָהּ זוֹ, וְאָמַר: "זְמִירוֹת הָיוּ לִי כוּ'" נֶעֱנַשׁ עַל זֶה,

G‑d reproved him: “You call them songs?!”3

וְאָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא "זְמִירוֹת קָרִית לְהוּ"?!

Indeed, this quality [of the Torah], that all the worlds are nothingness compared to one detail of it,

מִשּׁוּם שֶׁבֶּאֱמֶת, מַעֲלָתָהּ זוֹ – שֶׁכָּל הָעוֹלָמוֹת בְּטֵלִים לְגַבֵּי דִּקְדּוּק אֶחָד מִמֶּנָּה,

is [but] of the hinderpart, the externality, of the profound supernal thought.

הִיא מִבְּחִינַת אֲחוֹרַיִים שֶׁל עוֹמֶק הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה,

This is explained elsewhere11 in the name of the Arizal on the teaching of our Sages, “The Torah is the withered vestige of supernal wisdom.”12

כְּמוֹ שֶּׁכָּתוּב בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר בְּשֵׁם הָאֲרִיזַ"ל עַל מַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "נוֹבְלוֹת חָכְמָה שֶׁלְּמַעְלָה תּוֹרָה".

However, the innermost core of the depth [of supernal thought], which is the innermost core of the Torah, is utterly fused with the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that is vested within the Torah in a perfect unity.

אֲבָל פְּנִימִית שֶׁבָּעוֹמֶק, שֶׁהוּא פְּנִימִית הַתּוֹרָה, הִיא מְיוּחֶדֶת לְגַמְרֵי בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בָּהּ – בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד,

Relative to the Infinite One, all the worlds are as absolute naught, sheer nothingness, nonexistent,

וּלְגַבֵּי אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, כָּל הָעוֹלָמוֹת כְּלֹא מַמָּשׁ וְאַיִן וָאֶפֶס מַמָּשׁ,

for “You were [the same] before the world was created, [You are the same since the world has been created].”13

כִּי "אַתָּה הוּא עַד שֶׁלֹּא נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם וְכוּ'".

Being of absolutely no account relative to G‑d, all the worlds effect no change in Him.

Hence, the internal aspect of the Torah too (which is wholly united with G‑d) is not at all to be lauded as being the animating force of all the worlds, for relative to the internal aspect of the Torah, they are reckoned as nothingness itself.

וְהִלְכָּךְ, גַּם לִפְנִימִיּוּת הַתּוֹרָה – אֵין לְשַׁבְּחָהּ כְּלָל בִּתְהִלַּת חַיּוּת כָּל הָעוֹלָמוֹת, מֵאַחַר דְּלָא מַמָּשׁ חֲשִׁיבֵי,

In this inward aspect of the Torah, there can be no mortal heartfelt joy and delight

וּבִבְחִינַת פְּנִימִיּוּתָהּ אֵינָהּ שִׂמְחַת לְבַב אֱנוֹשׁ וְשַׁעֲשׁוּעָיו,

but rather, in a manner of speaking, the heartfelt joy and pleasure of the King, the Holy One, blessed be He, Who delights in it.

אֶלָּא כִּבְיָכוֹל, שִׂמְחַת לֵב וְשַׁעֲשׁוּעַ הַמֶּלֶךְ הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא שֶׁמִּשְׁתַּעֲשֵׁעַ בָּהּ,

For [only] “G‑d understands its way and knows its station”14 and quality

"כִּי אֱלֹקִים הֵבִין דַּרְכָּהּ וְיָדַע מְקוֹמָהּ" וּמַעֲלָתָהּ,

through His self-knowledge,15 as it were; knowing Himself, he also knows the Torah that is entirely one with Him.

בִּידִיעַת עַצְמוֹ כִּבְיָכוֹל,

This, however, is “concealed from all mortal eyes.”16

אֲבָל "נֶעֶלְמָה מֵעֵינֵי כָל חַי",

As it is written, “My Face—i.e., the innermost dimension of the Torah, its pnimiyut, as implied by the word panimshall not be seen,”17 as is explained there11 in the name of the Arizal.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וּפָנַי לֹא יֵרָאוּ", דְּהַיְינוּ בְּחִינַת פְּנִימִיּוּתָהּ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר שָׁם בְּשֵׁם הָאֲרִיזַ"ל.

Hence, the verse, in which the Torah itself is the speaker, “I was…a delight unto Him,”18

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב: "וָאֶהְיֶה אֶצְלוֹ כוּ' שַׁעֲשׁוּעִים" –

specifically “unto Him.”

אֶצְלוֹ דַוְקָא,

The order of the words in the original makes it clear that the Torah is G‑d’s delight alone.

[Likewise, in the following phrase] which describes the Torah as causing G‑d delight by “playing before Him,”

"מְשַׂחֶקֶת לְפָנָיו" –

the verse specifies the term “before Him”—lefanav, deriving from panim (“face”), which is related to pnimiyut (“inwardness”)—for this refers to the inwardness [of the Torah] that cavorts before the inwardness of the Infinite One.

לְפָנָיו דַּוְקָא, דְּהַיְינוּ בִּבְחִינַת פְּנִימִיּוּתָהּ,

The Alter Rebbe will now explain that this sublime level of Torah in which G‑d alone delights descends to nurture the souls of the Jewish people. For this reason, the Midrash calls the Torah uman (lit., “a craftsman”), one who skillfully nurtures a young child.

Concerning this [innermost level of the Torah], it is written, “I was by Him amon (‘one who is nurtured’),”19 [and the Midrash comments], “Do not read amon but omain (‘one who nurtures’).”20

וְעַל זֶה אָמַר "וָאֶהְיֶה אֶצְלוֹ אָמוֹן" אַל תִּקְרֵי "אָמוֹן" אֶלָּא "אוֹמֵן" כוּ'.

This sublime and innermost level of the Torah descends to nurture Jewish souls, inasmuch as they transcend the world. The world, however, is vitalized not by this level of the Torah but by its externality.

It is with reference to the hinderpart (the external aspect of the Torah) that it is written, (and in this verse, the Torah describes itself as) “Playing in the world, His land; and my delights are with mortal men.”21

וְעַל בְּחִינַת אֲחוֹרַיִים אָמַר: "מְשַׂחֶקֶת בְּתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ, וְשַׁעֲשׁוּעַי אֶת בְּנֵי אָדָם",

It is the external aspect of the Torah that brings delight to the world and to man.

For the Torah was given in states of both inwardness and externality;

כִּי הַתּוֹרָה נִיתְּנָה בִּבְחִינַת פָּנִים וְאָחוֹר,

as it is written concerning the “flying scroll” of Zechariah, “and it was written front and back.”22

כְּדִכְתִיב בִּמְגִילָּה עָפָה דִּזְכַרְיָה: "וְהִיא כְתוּבָה פָּנִים וְאָחוֹר".

Panim (“face” or “front”) is the root of pnimiyut (“inwardness”); achor (“back”) is the root of achorayim (“hinderpart,” i.e., externality).

Since David seized upon [and praised] the hinderpart [of the Torah],

וּלְפִי שֶׁתָּפַס דָּוִד בִּבְחִינַת אֲחוֹרַיִים,

A term such as “songs” relates to the merely external aspect of the Torah that relates to the world and animates it.

he was punished with forgetfulness, which derives from an attitude of externality.

לְכָךְ נֶעֱנַשׁ בְּשִׁכְחָה, הַבָּאָה מִן בְּחִינַת אֲחוֹרַיִים,

A person does not forget things that are truly internalized within him but only things which remain external to him.

He thus became momentarily oblivious to the verse concerning the Ark, “The sacred service is their duty; on the shoulder shall they carry it”2

וְנֶעְלַם מִמֶּנּוּ לְפִי שָׁעָה מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב: "עֲבוֹדַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ עֲלֵיהֶם בַּכָּתֵף יִשָּׂאוּ"

in order to combine and unite the “shoulders,” which are akin to the hinderpart,

לְחַבֵּר וּלְיַחֵד אֶת הַ"כְּתֵפַיִים", שֶׁהֵן בְּחִינַת אֲחוֹרַיִים,

with the sacred service, viz., the supernal wisdom, which is also called “sacred,” in a manner that reflects inwardness,

אֶל "עֲבוֹדַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ", הִיא חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה, בִּבְחִינַת פָּנִים,

for this state [of inwardness] is the source of the Tablets in the Ark,

שֶׁמִּשָּׁם נִמְשְׁכוּ הַלּוּחוֹת שֶׁבָּאָרוֹן,

of which the verse states, “Written on both their sides…”23

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "כְּתוּבִים מִשְּׁנֵי עֶבְרֵיהֶם כוּ'",

and as explained in the Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Shekalim,24 [the Tablets] did not have any front (panim) and back (achor)they were entirely panim, signifying pnimiyut (“inwardness”).

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בִּירוּשַׁלְמִי דִשְׁקָלִים, שֶׁלֹּא הָיְתָה בָּהֶן בְּחִינַת פָּנִים וְאָחוֹר,

The purpose of carrying the Ark on the shoulders was thus to connect the external aspect of man with the inwardness of the Torah.

Study that reference (in the Jerusalem Talmud) well.

עַיֵּין שָׁם: