Conclusion/End of Chapter 37
Until here the Alter Rebbe has discussed the superiority of Torah study over other mitzvot in terms of its greater influence on the soul. He now begins to describe a far greater quality found in Torah study. Of all the mitzvot, only Torah study is described as “calling to G‑d, as one calls to his friend, and as a son calls his father,” as the Alter Rebbe will state shortly. Whereas mitzvot have the effect of drawing the light of G‑d (i.e., of His Will) upon the soul, Torah study “calls” G‑d’s essence to man, as is implied in the analogy of one who calls to his friend: the friend will turn with his entire “essence” to face his caller.
Furthermore: As a means of “calling” G‑d, Torah study is superior even to prayer. For this reason, in the verse, “G‑d is near to all who call Him, to all who call Him in truth,” the first part of the verse refers to prayer and the latter to Torah.
The difference between the two forms of “calling G‑d” is that prayer effects a change in material matters: healing, prosperity, etc., whereas the effect of Torah is in the soul, on the spiritual plane.
In the Alter Rebbe’s words:
והנה המשכה והארה זו שאדם ממשיך ומאיר מהארת אור אין סוף ברוך הוא על נפשו ועל נפשות כל ישראל
This influence and illumination generated by one’s Torah study, which man draws from the radiance of the Ein Sof-light upon his soul and upon the souls of all Israel,
היא השכינה, כנסת ישראל, מקור כל נשמות ישראל, כמו שיתבאר לקמן
(meaning, as will be explained later, that the light is drawn into the spiritual level known as “the Shechinah, Knesset Yisrael” — the source of all the souls of Israel — and thereby the Ein Sof- light reaches not only the soul of the person studying Torah, but also that of every Jew), —
על ידי עסק התורה, נקראת בלשון קריאה
This illumination which one draws through his Torah study is referred to as “calling” [as in the Talmudic expression] (concerning a Torah student)קורא בתורה (usually translated as “One who reads (studies) the Torah,” but reinterpreted here as “One who calls [G‑d] through the Torah”).
Just as calling in its usual sense means that the caller causes the person being called to come to him, to turn to him with his entire being, similarly in the context of “calling through Torah”:
קורא בתורה, פירוש: שעל ידי עסק התורה קורא להקב״ה לבוא אליו, כביכול
This [phrase] means that in Torah study one calls G‑d to come to him, so to speak,
כאדם הקורא לחבירו שיבא אליו, וכבן קטן הקורא לאביו לבא אליו להיות עמו בצוותא חדא ולא ליפרד ממנו ולישאר יחידי, חס ושלום
as a man calls to his friend to come to him, or as a child will call his father to come and join him and not to part from him, leaving him alone, G‑d forbid.
The former analogy pertains to those Jews designated as “brethren and friends” of G‑d; when they study Torah they call their “friend”. The latter analogy pertains to those designed “children of G‑d”; when they study Torah they are calling their “father”.
וזה שכתוב: קרוב ה׳ לכל קוראיו, לכל אשר יקראוהו באמת, ואין אמת אלא תורה, דהיינו שקורא להקב״ה על ידי התורה דוקא
This is the meaning of the verse:15 “G‑d is near (a) to all who call Him, (b) to all who call Him in truth,”16 and17 “There is no truth but Torah,” indicating that [one “calls G‑d with truth”] as opposed to simply “calling G‑d,” only by calling G‑d through Torah study,
לאפוקי מי שקורא אותו שלא על ידי עסק התורה, אלא צועק אבא אבא
in contrast to one who does not call Him through Torah study, but merely cries: “Father, Father!”
This refers to the service of prayer, in which one calls G‑d, out of love for Him, saying “Father…!” Such a call is not considered “calling with truth,” and thus the illumination of G‑dly light generated by this call cannot compare with that generated by Torah, as explained above.
וכמו שקובל עליו הנביא: ואין קורא בשמך כו׳, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר
Since he does not say simply: “There is none who calls You,” his intention must be that although there are indeed those who “call” G‑d, yet they do not do so “by His Name,” meaning through Torah, “whose words throughout are the Names of G‑d” (Ramban, Introduction to his commentary on the Torah, based on the Zohar).
ומזה יתבונן המשכיל להמשיך עליו יראה גדולה בשעת עסק התורה, כמו שנתבאר לעיל פרק כ״ג
There it is stated that one’s Torah study must be permeated with awe of G‑d (despite the apparent incompatibility between the intellectual boldness that characterizes study, and the constraint engendered by awe); this awe, moreover, is the goal of Torah study, while study is merely the “gateway”.
The thought that in Torah study one “calls” G‑d to himself, just as, for example, one calls his friend to come to him, will surely arouse in the student a feeling of intense awe of G‑d.
|16.||The division into (a) and (b) is by the Rebbe, who notes that this accords with the explanation given in Sanhedrin 39b, and in the Siddur [with chassidic commentary] on this verse.|
|17.||Tanna devei Eliyahu Zuta, ch. 21.|
|19.||The Rebbe asks the following question. What reason is there for the Alter Rebbe to refer the reader back to ch. 23, when arousal of great reverence is achieved only by meditating on that which is stated in this chapter, and not in ch. 23? For in this chapter the Alter Rebbe stresses that through his Torah study a person is able to draw down G‑d Himself, as it were, like a person calling his friend to come to him. In ch. 23, however, we find only that Torah study enables the person to draw down the Supernal Will and Light; it mentions nothing of drawing down G‑d Himself. Why, then, does the Alter Rebbe connect ch. 23 to that which is being discussed here?We must say, writes the Rebbe, that the Alter Rebbe does so in order to stress that great reverence is indispensable during Torah study. Since fear is an emotion that leads to withdrawal and contraction it would seem to be inimical to Torah study, which requires openness and expansiveness. The Alter Rebbe therefore cites ch. 23, wherein he explained that great reverence must be felt during one’s study of Torah. Furthermore, by citing the above-mentioned chapter the Alter Rebbe indicates that one should ponder the statement there — that Torah study is “secondary” to reverence, and serves to arouse it.This is the meaning of the verse, “And G‑d commanded us [to obey] all these statutes, in order to fear G‑d…” This, explains the Alter Rebbe at the end of ch. 23, implies that (a) the ultimate purpose of the Torah — “commanded us” — is “in order to fear G‑d”; (b) that Torah is called “a gateway to the dwelling” of fear. Thus Torah in relation to fear is a matter of secondary importance, a mere gateway to the house itself.All the above is discussed in ch. 23, and it is this that the Alter Rebbe intended to convey when he cited that chapter.|