Epistle 29 – Part 1


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The focus of the present letter is the distinctive value of studying the halachot, the laws of the Torah. The Sages deem these laws to be the “crown of Torah,” because the Supernal Will is most fully revealed within the laws of the Oral Torah, inasmuch as they clearly spell out G‑d‘s will with regard to the performance of the mitzvot.

In fact, as the Alter Rebbe explains, the Supernal Will as expressed in the mitzvot derives from an even higher level of Divinity than does the Chochmah (“wisdom”) of the Torah. Indeed, it is this Divine Will that furnishes the “garments” which enable the soul to absorb the Divine radiance that is manifest in the Garden of Eden.

אשת חיל עטרת בעלה כו’

“A woman of valor is the crown of her husband…”

This verse in the Book of Mishlei1 is a metaphor for the Torah. The Torah is also likened to a wife in another verse:2 “See to live your life with the woman whom you love,” which our Sages, of blessed memory, explain3 to mean the Torah.

Here, too, “a woman of valor” refers to the Torah. More specifically, within the Torah itself the Oral Torah is the “wife” and the Written Torah is the “husband”. The “woman of valor,” which the Alter Rebbe will later explain refers to the halachot of Torah, serves as the “crown” to her husband, the Written Torah.

איתא בגמ’ פ”ד דמגילה ודאשתמש בתגא חלף כו’ זה המשתמש במי ששונה הלכות כתרה של תורה כו’

The Gemara, in ch. 4 of Megillah,4 [commenting on the teaching of our Sages in Avot5 that] “He who makes use of the crown, passes away [from this world],” states: “This applies to him who makes use of one who studies halachot, which are the crown of the Torah…”

Unlike the text of the Bach, which omits “the crown of the Torah,” the Alter Rebbe here accepts the standard printed version as quoted above.

תנא דבי אליהו כל השונה הלכות מובטח לו כו’

The Gemara in Megillah goes on to say: “It was taught in the Academy of Elijah that ‘Whoever studies halachot is assured [of a share in Olam Haba – the World to Come].”‘

At the conclusion of Tractate Niddah6 the text reads, “Whoever studies halachot daily ….” Rashi explains there that the term halachot refers to Mishnah, Beraita, and Halachah L’Moshe MiSinai. In Epistle XXIII (above), the Alter Rebbe (based on Rashi elsewhere7) defines halachot as “clearly adjudicated laws of practical application.”

וצריך להבין למה נקראו ההלכות בשם תגא וכתרה של תורה

Now it needs to be understood why the halachot are referred to as a “crown” or “the crown of the Torah.”

וגם למה השונה הלכות דוקא מובטח לו כו’ ולא שאר ד”ת

Furthermore, why is it that he who studies specifically halachot is assured [of a share in the World to Come], and not other Torah subjects, such as Scriptures, Midrash and the like?

וכן להבין מארז”ל בפי”א דמנחות אפי’ לא שנה אדם אלא פרק אחד שחרית כו’ יצא י”ח

One also needs to understand the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory, in ch. 11 of Menachot,8 that “even if one studied only a single chapter in the morning [and a single chapter in the evening], he has fulfilled his obligation to study Torah.”

The Gemara states there that the individual has fulfilled the commandment that9 “this book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth.” According to a second opinion cited later in the Gemara, that this verse does not constitute an obligation, it is to be understood that according to this opinion it is still obligatory to study Torah at all times; however, if one is unable to do so, he can fulfill his obligation by studying a chapter in the morning and a chapter in the evening.

ולמה אינו יוצא י”ח בשאר ד”ת

Why is one’s duty not fulfilled by other Torah subjects?

The expression “one chapter” indicates that the study is of Mishnah, the Oral Torah. Why can one not fulfill his obligation with the study of Scripture, Midrash and the like?

* * *

אך מודעת זאת מ”ש האריז”ל שכל אדם מישראל צריך לבא בגלגולים רבים עד שיקיים כל תרי”ג מצות התורה במחשבה דיבור ומעשה

However, it is well known that R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory, stated10 that [the soul of] every11Jew needs to be reincarnated many times, until he will fulfill all 613 commandments of the Torah in thought, speech and action, i.e., using all three soul-garments with which one performs the commandments.

להשלים לבושי נפשו ולתקנם שלא יהא לבושא דחסרא כו’

This is in order to complete the garments of his soul and to correct them, so that no garment will be incomplete.

As explained in Tanya, ch. 4, the divine soul has three garments – the thought, speech and action of the 613 commandments of the Torah. If the performance of one of these commandments is lacking, the soul’s garments are incomplete. It is thus necessary for each soul to perform all of the commandments.

לבד מצות התלויות במלך שהוא מוציא כל ישראל כי הוא כללות כולם כו’

Excepted12 are the commandments incumbent upon a king,13 because he discharges the obligation of all of Israel, as he is a corporate collective of them all.14

All Jews are incorporated within the king. When he performs those commandments that depend upon him, it is therefore considered as if all the Jewish people had performed them. As to the other commandments, however, if in one incarnation an individual did not perform them all, he must be reincarnated so that he will be able to do so.

Why must one have the garments of all 613 commandments?

והטעם הוא כדי להלביש כל תרי”ג בחי’ וכחות שבנפשו

The reason is, in order to garb all the 613 aspects and powers of one’s soul,

These 613 “organs” of the soul (see Tanya, ch. 4) must all be clothed in the garments of the mitzvot.

אחת מהנה לא נעדרה כו’

so that not one of them – of these 613 aspects and powers of the soul – will be lacking.

וביאור ענין הכרח וצורך לבושים אלו מבואר בזהר ומובן לכל משכיל

An explanation for the indispensability of these garments is given in the Zohar,15 and is understandable by every thinking person.

כי להיות שנפש רוח ונשמה שבאדם הן בחי’ נבראים וא”א לשום נברא להשיג שום השגה בבורא ויוצר הכל א”ס ב”ה

For the Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshamah in man, are created entities, and hence inherently limited, and it is impossible for any created being to attain any apprehension of the blessed Creator and Former of all, Who is infinite.

This, of course, is true with respect to Divinity as it totally transcends all worlds.

וגם אחרי אשר האיר ה’ מאורו ית’ והאציל בבחי’ השתלשלות מדרגות רבות מדרגה אחר מדרגה

Moreover, even after G‑d has radiated [a glimmer] of His blessed light, and has caused an emanation in the form of an evolution of numerous [descending] degrees, level beyond level,

בבחי’ צמצומים עצומים ולבושים רבים ועצומים

by way of intense contractions and numerous, immense garments that obscure G‑dliness –

הידועים לי”ח

these are familiar to those adept in the Esoteric Wisdom,16

ונקראים באד”ר בשם שערות

and in the Idra Rabba17 these [contracted degrees of divine illumination] are referred to as “hairs”.

Because the life-force present in hair is so tenuous that it does not even convey sensation, the subtle glimmers of Divine energy that filter through the above-described contractions are referred to metaphorically as “hairs”.

וכדכתיב בדניאל ושער רישיה כעמר נקא כו’

And as is written in Daniel,18 “And the hair of His head is like white wool…” from which we see that certain degrees of spiritual down flow are referred to by the term “hair” –

אעפ”כ לא יכלה הנפש או הרוח ונשמה למסבל האור

nevertheless, even after the screening effected by these mighty contractions, neither the Nefesh nor the Ruach and Neshamah can endure the light.

כי טוב ומתוק האור וכו’

For the light is good and sweet… – so intensely so, in fact, that no created being can receive it without expiring, as will soon be explained.

כמ”ש לחזות בנועם ה’ לשון נעימות ועריבות ומתיקות ותענוג עצום לאין קץ

As it is written,19 “to behold the pleasantness (no’am) of G‑d.” [The term no’am] denotes pleasantness, agreeableness, and sweetness, and an infinitely intense delight,

כמ”ש אז תתענג על ה’

as it is written,20 “Then you will delight yourself in G‑d,”

והשביע בצחצחות כו’

and21 “He will sate your soul with a pleasurable thirst (tzachtzachot)….”22

לשון צחה צמא

[The word tzachtzachot] is related to23 tzichei tzama “parched with thirst”; it denotes a thirst that cannot be slaked, for the pleasure involved is endless,

כמ”ש בזהר

as stated in the Zohar.24

ואין בכחה לקבל הנעימות ועריבות הצחצחות שלא תצא מנרתקה ותתבטל ממציאותה כנר באבוקה

It is not in [the soul’s] power to absorb the pleasantness and agreeableness of the [above] pleasurable thirst without leaving its husk, i.e., its limitation, and becoming wholly nullified, just like a candle-flame [becomes entirely nullified] in a torch.

Just as the light of a candle loses its identity as an independent luminary once it is confronted by the intense diffusion of a fiery torch, so, too, the soul would cease to exist as an independent entity if it were to absorb the radiation emanating from the intense light and sweetness of G‑dliness,

אם לא שמבחי’ אור זה עצמו תשתלשל ותמשך ממנו איזו הארה מועטת בדרך השתלשלות מדריגה אחר מדרגה בצמצומים רבים

were it not that from this very light there will evolve and issue forth some minute radiation, by way of an evolution of level after level, with multitudinous contractions,

עד שיברא ממנה לבוש אחד נברא מעין מהות אור זה להלביש הנפש רוח ונשמה

until a single garment is created of [this contracted light],a creation akin to the nature of this light, with which to garb the Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshamah.

ודרך לבוש זה שהוא מעין אור זה תוכל ליהנות מזיו אור זה ולהשיגו ולא תתבטל ממציאותה

By way of this garment, which is akin to this light, [the soul]can derive enjoyment from the ray of this light, and apprehend it, without becoming wholly nullified out of existence.

Since this garment derives from this light, it not only withstands its intensity itself, but also enables the soul to receive the light. Being a created entity, this garment can be “worn” by the soul. And what is this garment? – It is the garment of mitzvot.

וכמשל הרואה בשמש דרך עששית זכה ומאירה וכו’

This is analogous to someone looking at the sun through a fine and lucid speculum.

וכמ”ש ויבא משה בתוך הענן ויעל כו’

Thus it is written,25 “And Moses entered the midst of the cloud, and he ascended [the mountain]”;

שנתלבש בענן ועלה וראה דרך הענן וכו’

that is, he vested himself in the cloud and ascended, and saw by way of the cloud…. i.e., the cloud served as a garment by means of which Moses was able to receive the revelations on Sinai.

כמ”ש בזח”ב דר”י ורכ”ט

Thus it is explained in the Zohar, Volume II, pp. 210 and 229.

והנה אור זה הגנוז לצדיקים לע”ל הנק’ בשם נועם ה’ וצחצחות להתענג על ה’

Now this light, hidden away for the righteous for the Time to Come, is termed (as above) the “pleasantness of G‑d,” and the “pleasurable thirst” of “delighting in G‑d,

וד’ מאות עלמין דכסופין דמתענגי בהון צדיקייא כו’ כמ”ש ארבע מאות שקל כסף כו’

” and also26 “the 400 Worlds of Longing in which the tzaddikim delight…” as it is written,27 “400 shekalim of silver (kesef)…”

The Aramaic phrase translated “Worlds of Longing” is almin dekisufin. The root of the second word (kesef) means not only “silver” but also “longing” (as in the phrase28 nichsof nichsafta). Hence the Kabbalah relates the above reference to “400 shekalim of kesef” to the 400 Worlds of Longing whose spiritual delights are reserved for tzaddikim.

הנה יש בו מעלות ומדרגות רבות מאד גבוה מעל גבוה

This [light] comprises very many rungs and levels, one superior to the other.

אך הארה מועטת היורדת מדרגה אחר מדרגה לברוא לבוש זה היא מבחי’ מדרגה האחרונה שבאור זה

But the minute radiation, which descends level after level to create this garment that garbs the soul, belongs to the lowest level of this light.

ונקראת בשם מדרגה החיצונה ואחוריים דרך משל

Metaphorically speaking, it is referred to as the external level, or achorayim,

כמ”ש בזהר דר”ח ע”ב (עיין בס’ מק”מ) ור”י ע”ב ומה דאשתאר כו’

as stated in the Zohar, p. 208b (29 cf. the commentary entitled Mikdash Melech30) and 210b: “And that which is left…,” meaning that the light which is the source of the garment is of the most external or hindmost level.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain that the external level of this radiance, from which these garments derive, is called the Supernal Will. Will, as is soon to be explained, is the external aspect (i.e., a consequence) of pleasure, or delight.

The post Epistle 29 – Part 1 appeared first on TanyaClass.com.

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