A prevalent theme in many of the Rebbe’s essays and talks is how the two aspects of Torah outlined above—Torah as a divine revelation and gift, and Torah as the product of human study and understanding—are reflected in another duality which Torah incorporates: the duality of multiplicity and diversity on the one hand, and singularity and unity on the other.

The Torah’s function is to particularize and differentiate, but also to 'make peace in the world’

As our comprehensive guide to a just, moral and G‑dly life, the Torah’s function is to particularize and differentiate: to distinguish right from wrong, the permissible from the forbidden, the sacred from the profane. In each of these categories, the Torah differentiates many sub-categories and nuances of distinction—including extremely subtle distinctions which a material eye and mind would not discern.1 In the language of Kabalah and Chasidism, Torah guides and empowers our life-mission of avodath ha-birurim (“the work of refinement”)—the process of extracting the sparks of divine potential which are buried and enmeshed within the material world.2

And the Torah is itself a paragon of diversity. It is a composite of many genres of wisdom: historical narrative, ritual law, jurisprudence, ethics, philosophy, mysticism. In the words of the Zohar:

One who toils in Torah, what is said of him? “For only in the Torah of G‑d is his desire, and in his Torah he utters day and night. He shall be as a tree…”3 Just as a tree has roots, and it has husks, and it has marrow, and it has branches, and it has leaves, and it has blooms, and it has fruits… so, too, the words of the Torah: they have the plain meaning of the verse; exegesis; allusions…; hidden secrets…4

In addition to the four levels of interpretation enumerated by Zohar—plain meaning, allusion, exegesis and mystical; or peshat, remez, derush and sod—the sages teach that there are “seventy faces to the Torah,”5 and that every aspect of Torah has 600,000 meanings, corresponding to the 600,000 souls of Israel.6 And as we have seen, the multiplicity within Torah incorporates not only different but even opposing interpretations, deriving from the fact that each law has “forty-nine sides of purity” and “forty-nine sides of impurity.”7

On the other hand, Torah is the ultimate unifier. Maimonides writes:

The whole of Torah was given to make peace in the world, as it is written:8 “Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its pathways are peace.”9

The Rebbe explains: We experience our own personality, our everyday lives and the world in which we live as a jumble of diverse forces, motivations and entities, each with its own nature and character, each pursuing its own goals and strivings. Torah, as the divine “blueprint for creation,”10 brings unity to our fragmented self and world, assigning to each element, force and phenomenon its role and purpose in the Creator’s overall goal in creation.11

In another essay, the Rebbe writes:

This is what the Torah and its commandments accomplish: they dissolve the veil and concealment of the natural reality, which presents a face of multiplicity and divisiveness, and transform the world from a “multiplicitous domain” (reshuth ha-rabim) into a “singular domain” (reshuth ha-yachid) that reveals the divine unity.12

And as the harbinger of the divine unity in the world, the Torah itself is a 613 mitzvoth were said to Moses at Sinai… The prophet Habakkuk established them as a single principleparadigm of unity. We have already touched on the Torah’s inclusiveness—how a single verse, word, letter, or even “tittle” in the Written Torah enfolds the “mounds and mounds of laws” extracted from it by the Oral Torah.13 But also the particulars of the Written Torah, with its thousands of verses and hundreds of mitzvoth (divine commandments), are seen as the details of a more primal and inclusive unity. In the words of R. Simla’i in the Talmud:14

Six hundred and thirteen mitzvoth were said to Moses at Sinai… King David came and established them as eleven…15 Isaiah came and established them as six…16 Micah came and established them as three…17 Isaiah came back and established them as two…18 Habakkuk came and established them as a single principle.19

In the same vein, the sages teach that the entire Torah is included within the Ten Commandments.20 These, in turn, are included within the first two commandments,21 which are included within the first commandment,22 which is included within its opening word, אנכי (Anochi, “I Am”),23 which is contained within the א of אנכי, which is contained within the י that forms the first stroke of that א.24

Mechilta teaches:

G‑d spoke all Ten Commandments as a single utterance—something that is impossible for a human being to articulate—as it is written: “G‑d spoke all these words, to say.”25 If so, what is the meaning of the verses “I am G‑d your G‑d…,” etc.? These come to teach us that G‑d first spoke the Ten Commandments as a single utterance, and then He came back to specify them, each as a separate utterance.26

Maharsha explains:

G‑d gave us 613 mitzvoth, consisting of 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commandments. But this plurality is from the side of the recipient. From the side of the Giver, blessed be He, they are all as a single precept.

This is why it says that we heard only the first two commandments, “I am…” and “You shall not have…,” from the mouth of the Almighty (and the other 611 commandments through Moses).27 This is also why it says in the Midrash that G‑d spoke all Ten Commandments as a single utterance… For G‑d is one and His commandments are one; from His side, there is no plurality. In the declaration “I am,” which expresses the singular existence of G‑d, and its counterpart, “You shall not have…,” which is the principle that one must not attribute to any plurality to Him, are included all prohibitions and positive commandments. However, this is “impossible for a human being to articulate” since, as a physical and time-bound being, man receives this singular truth in the form of a multiplicity of precepts.28

The Rebbe expands on this theme, demonstrating how both the “inclusiveness” and the “particularity” of Torah are integral to its role in uniting creation with its Creator. The divine reality is singular, whereas we inhabit a reality that is characterized by multiplicity and diversity; Torah, however, embraces both realities. That is why G‑d communicated the Torah to us in both forms: first He spoke the entirety of Torah as a “single utterance,” and then He re-communicated it to us in the form of multiple laws, precepts and teachings. For in truth, one might ask: Since G‑d, in any case, repeated His communication at Sinai as ten distinct precepts, what was the purpose of initially speaking them as a “single utterance”? But G‑d desired that we should relate to and implement the Torah not only on our human terms, but also on His terms. He desired that through Torah we should connect to, and reveal within creation, the divine singularity that transcends the bifurcations and fragmentations of a physical existence defined by the particularizations of time and space. For this purpose, even a most inclusive communication of Torah as the two precepts “I am G‑d your G‑d” and “You shall have no other gods before Me” would not suffice. Rather, at Sinai we were given the Torah also as a “single utterance” within which even the most fundamental plurality of them all—the difference between “yes” and “no”—exists as a singular truth.29

G d desired that we reveal the divine singularity that transcends the bifurcations of a physical existence

These two paradigms run as countercurrents through every field of Torah study. A fundamental principle of Talmudic dialectic is the principle of tzerichutha (“it is needed”). If two similar laws are cited, the Talmud searches for the differences between them; otherwise, why would both be needed? A seemingly extra clause or more elaborate wording in the text of a law is also seen as “needed,” and invariably is revealed to be referring to an additional legal scenario, with its own distinct ruling. Yet Talmudic dialectic also includes the principle of leshitathaihu (“according to their approach”), meaning that when two different laws are cited, we seek the single principle which they both express. A distinctive feature of the Rebbe’s Talmudic discourses is his integration of both principles. A case in point is the Rebbe’s Hadran on the Six Orders of the Mishnah,30 in which he cites seven different halachic disputations between the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel, shows how they all derive from the same fundamental disagreement, and then proceeds to demonstrate how each of the seven debates represents a distinctive form of the debated principle, so that each is “needed.”