Ch. 37, Class # 9

Continuation of Chapter 37

זאת ועוד אחרת, והיא העולה על כולנה, במעלת עסק תלמוד תורה על כל המצות

Aside from this, there is another, far more important, aspect to the superiority of Torah study over all other mitzvot,

על פי מה שכתוב לעיל בשם התיקונים, דרמ״ח פיקודין הן רמ״ח אברים דמלכא

based on the statement quoted above (ch. 23) from Tikkunei Zohar that “the 248 positive commandments are the 248 ‘limbs’ of the King (G‑d).”

Just as a limb of the human body is a receptacle for a corresponding soul faculty, so is each mitzvah a receptacle for a corresponding expression of the Divine Will.

Concerning Torah, however, it is written in Tikkunei Zohar: “Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are entirely one” (unlike mitzvot which are merely “limbs”). The Alter Rebbe now elucidates the difference:

וכמו באדם התחתון, דרך משל, אין ערוך ודמיון כלל בין החיות שברמ״ח אבריו לגבי החיות שבמוחין, שהוא השכל, המתחלק לג׳ בחינות חב״ד

Just as, for example in the case of a human being, the vitality in his 248 organs bears no comparison or similarity to the vitality in his brain — i.e., the intellect, which is divided into the three faculties of Chochmah, Binah and Daat, —

Every limb of the body is of course bound to the soul which provides it with life — yet they are two separate entities which have been joined together. It is otherwise, however, in the relationship between one’s intellect and his soul. The intellect is an extension and a part of the soul itself: thus its unity with the soul is not that of two separate entities which have been joined, but of two components of a whole.

This difference between the limbs and the intellect illustrates the difference between the other mitzvot and Torah study, as the Alter Rebbe continues:

ככה ממש, דרך משל, להבדיל ברבבות הבדלות לאין קץ, בהארת אור אין סוף ברוך הוא המתלבשות במצות מעשיות, לגבי הארת אור אין סוף שבבחינת חב״ד שבחכמת התורה, איש איש כפי שכלו והשגתו

Just as it is in the case of a human being, so, too, by way of analogy — allowing for the qualification that any comparison between human and divine traits must be distant, however, by myriads of degrees — is it with regard to the illumination of Ein Sof-light clothed in mitzvot of action, compared to the illumination of Ein Sof-light [clothed] in the ChaBaD faculties [of one immersed] in the wisdom of Torah, an illumination commensurate with the level of each man’s intellect and his grasp of Torah. To the extent that his intellect grasps the Torah which he studies, it is united with G‑dliness with a unity comparable to that of one’s intellect with his soul.

Herein, then, lies the superiority of Torah study over other mitzvot, even over charity: Torah study effects a much higher level of unity with G‑dliness than do the mitzvot of action.

ואף שאינו משיג אלא בגשמיות

Although one grasps [Torah] only as it is clothed in physical terms (e.g., the law concerning “Two men who clutch a garment…,” or “One who trades a cow for an ass…”); how, then, can it be said that through study of such laws one attains this lofty level of unity with G‑dliness? —

הרי התורה נמשלה למים שיורדים ממקום גבוה כו׳, כמו שנתבאר לעיל

yet the Torah has been compared to “water descending from a high place….”The water on the lower level is exactly the same as it was on the higher level. Similarly, the laws of Torah, although they have “descended” to deal with ordinary physical situations, still consist of G‑d’s Will and Wisdom. Thus, in studying Torah, one is united with G‑d’s Will and Wisdom, and thereby with G‑d Himself, as discussed above (ch. 4).

ואף על פי כן אמרו רז״ל: לא המדרש עיקר אלא המעשה

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the superior level of unity with G‑dliness attained only by Torah, our Sages have said:11 “The essential thing is not study, but deed.”

והיום לעשותם כתיב, ומבטלין תלמוד תורה לקיום מצוה מעשיית, כשאי אפשר לעשותה על ידי אחרים

It is also written:12 “This day, i.e., during our life in this world, the all-important thing is todo them” (the mitzvot). And the Halachah rules that one must interrupt Torah study to perform a mitzvah of action when it cannot be fulfilled by others.

משום כי זה כל האדם, ותכלית בריאתו וירידתו לעולם הזה

For “this (the active performance of mitzvot) is man’s entire purpose,” the purpose for which he was created and for which [his soul] descended to this world,

להיות לו יתברך דירה בתחתונים דוקא, לאהפכא חשוכא לנהורא

so that G‑d may have an abode precisely in the lowest realms, to turn the darkness of this world into light of holiness,

וימלא כבוד ה׳ את כל הארץ הגשמית דייקא, וראו כל בשר יחדיו, כנ״ל

so that G‑d’s glory fill specifically the entire physical world, and “all flesh will behold [G‑dliness] together,” as was discussed above (ch. 36).

Thus, the goal of making this world an abode for G‑d is achieved primarily through mitzvot of action. Therefore, when presented with the opportunity of performing a mitzvah that others cannot fulfill, one must fulfill this mitzvah even at the cost of interrrupting his Torah studies, so that G‑d’s desire for “an abode in the lower realms” be realized.

If, however, the mitzvah that clashes with one’s Torah study can be fulfilled by others, the choice is no longer between respecting or ignoring G‑d’s desire for “an abode…” — whether he suspends his Torah study to perform themitzvah, or continues his studies and leaves the mitzvah to others, this objective will be realized regardless. The choice is now between studying Torah and actively performing a mitzvah; and here Torah study prevails because of the superior level of unity that it effects between the Torah student’s soul and G‑d.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

מה שאין כן כשאפשר לעשותה על ידי אחרים, אין מבטלין תלמוד תורה, אף שכל התורה אינה אלא פירוש המצות מעשיות

On the other hand, if [the mitzvah] can be performed by others, one does not interrupt Torah study to perform it, even though the whole Torah is, after all, only an explanation of the mitzvot of action.

והיינו משום שהיא בחינת חב״ד של אין סוף ברוך הוא, ובעסקו בה ממשיך עליו אור אין סוף ברוך הוא ביתר שאת והארה גדולה לאין קץ מהארה והמשכה על ידי פקודין, שהן אברים דמלכא

This is because the Torah is the level of ChaBaD of the blessed Ein Sof, and hence, when one is engaged in [studying] it he draws upon himself an infinitely greater illumination of the blessed Ein Sof-light — greater both in its illuminative power and in its higher quality — than the illumination and influence that one draws upon his soul through mitzvot, which are [merely] “organs” of the King.

What emerges from this discussion is that the effect of mitzvot consists primarily of the elevation of one’s body and the physical world in general; the effect of Torah study on the other hand is to unite the soul with G‑d. Accordingly, the Alter Rebbe explains the following Talmudic statement:

וזה שאמר רב ששת: חדאי נפשאי, לך קראי, לך תנאי

This is what Rav Sheshet meant when he said,13 “Rejoice, my soul! For you do I study Scripture; for you do I study Mishnah,”

For the soul, the unity with G‑d attained through Torah (Scripture andMishnah) is greater than that attained through mitzvot; he therefore addressed these words to it: “For your sake I learn….”

כמו שנתבאר במקום אחר באריכות

as the superiority of the soul’s unity with G‑d through Torah is explained elsewhere at length.14

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Footnotes

11. Avot 1:17.
12. Devarim 7:11.
13. Pesachim 68b.
14. The Rebbe notes: “Possibly this alludes to the discourse in Torah Or, beginning of Parshat Mishpatim.

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