The following is a free translation of a letter by the Rebbe dated Nissan 5724 (March-April 1964):

In answer to your query, in which you ask to explain the concept of Shechinah (the divine immanence; lit. “indwelling”), which is mentioned many times in the teachings of our sages:

The concept is extensively expounded upon, particularly, in the books and discourses of chassidic teachings—you can look it up in the indices published in the back of Tanya, Torah Ohr, Likkutei Torah and other works. Here I will offer a brief explanation, obviously not a comprehensive one, as space does not allow.

Since G‑d is the ultimate perfection and is free of all limitations and definitions, it is self-evident that, in the words of the Alter Rebbe, “The fact that He creates universes does not express what G‑d is.” At the same time He is, as Maimonides writes in his Laws of the Fundamentals of Torah, “the one who brings every existence into being; all existences exist only as derivatives of His ultimate existence” and the one upon whom “all existences are utterly dependent.” It is also obvious that just as no creature can comprehend the nature of G‑d’s creation of reality ex nihilo, so too no creature can comprehend the nature of G‑d, even the nature of G‑d as the creator of the world and the source of every existence.

In the words of the great Jewish philosophers: “If I knew Him, I would be Him.”

So, though a person realizes and understands that no thing can create itself, and that one must therefore conclude that the created reality has a source that generates its existence, this is proof only of the existence of the Creator, not an understanding of what He is, even as “Creator.”

Nevertheless, G‑d desired that the divine influences upon creation . . . and the divine immanence in the world should also include elements that the human mind can comprehend. In the words of the sweet singer of Israel, “When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers . . .” Indeed, this includes an instruction to man regarding the service of his Creator: “Lift your eyes upward, and see who created these . . .” (As the Alter Rebbe elaborates on this verse in a discourse that is also the basis of Sefer ha-Chakirah, authored by his grandson, the Tzemach Tzedek.)

This aspect of the divine reality—that which pervades our world to the extent that it can be discovered by G‑d’s creatures—is what is meant by the term Shechinah, i.e., that which dwells within and enclothes itself.

It is important to emphasize that one cannot categorize the divine reality into various aspects or areas, G‑d forbid; it is only that from the perspective of the contemplating creature, there are things that he can comprehend and things that he cannot comprehend. In truth, however, there are no categories, in the plural, but a singular, utterly abstract reality.

Consider the soul of man: obviously, it is not divisible into 248, 365 or 613 components; nevertheless, the observing eye differentiates between the vitality of the foot and the vitality of the brain, though both are of a single essence—the soul that vitalizes the body. How much more so (to distinguish ad infinitum) is it so regarding the divine reality. Thus, when we say that the Shechinah is present in the Holy Temple, this is not to say, G‑d forbid, that only that “aspect” of the divine that is called Shechinah is there, but to stress that there the divine reality is present in such a way that it “dwells within” and “clothes itself” to the extent that it is observable with our physical eyes, in the fact that “the ark did not take up space,” in the ten miracles that regularly occurred in the Holy Temple, and so on.

As we said, the above is but one approach to explain the concept of Shechinah; many other approaches, and many other points in this approach itself, are elaborated in a number of books and discourses of chassidic teaching.

My hope is that you have set times for the study of the teachings of Chassidut every day, and to an even greater extent on Shabbat, the day sanctified to G‑d.

With esteem and blessings for a happy and kosher Passover,