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Tanya for Sunday, 11 Shevat, 5781 - January 24, 2021

As Divided for a Regular Year

Tanya for 11 Shevat

10 Shevat, 5781 - January 23, 202112 Shevat, 5781 - January 25, 2021

Chapter Twenty-Three

[In the previous chapters the Alter Rebbe explained that from G-d's perspective nothing is ever separate from Him. For the Divine "Word" which creates everything is unlike a word spoken by a human being. The latter becomes separated from the speaker, while the former remains always within its source - G-d.

It is only from the subjective viewpoint of the created beings that they are considered as separate, independent entities. They are able to regard themselves as such because they receive the Divine life-force which animates them by way of many tzimtzumim and through the concealment of the Divine "Countenance", i.e., the concealment of the inner, ultimate aspect of G-d's Will.

The logical corollary to this idea is that anything in which the Divine Will stands revealed, is completely nullified before G-d, and absolutely one with Him.

In this chapter the Alter Rebbe applies this idea to the Torah and the mitzvot, in which G-d's Will is manifest.

He demonstrates how one can unite with G-d's Will and wisdom, and thereby with G-d Himself, through study of the Torah and observance of the mitzvot].

In light of all that has been said above, we can better understand and more fully and clearly elucidate the statement in the Zohar [1] that "The Torah and G-d are entirely one," and the commentary in the Tikkunei Zohar [2] that "The 248 commandments are the 248 `organs' of the [Divine] King."

[Just as every organ in the human body is a repository for the particular faculty of the soul that is vested in that organ (e.g., the eye is the receptacle for the faculty of sight, and the ear for the faculty of hearing), so too is every commandment a channel and a repository for the Divine Will that is vested and expressed in that particular commandment.

(The commandments in general represent G-d's Will, and each individual mitzvah is an expression of a particular aspect of this Will.)

It should be noted, however, that according to this analogy the mitzvot are no more than G-d's "organs." An organ of the body is not one with the soul. True, when any particular soul-power is vested in its corresponding organ, they function together as one. But they remain two separate entities that have been joined together.

By the same token, the mitzvot are not actually one with G-d: they are merely (as it were) joined to Him. Yet the Torah, whose whole purpose is to explain the mitzvot, is "entirely one with G-d," as quoted earlier from the Zohar.

What is the meaning of this greater unity with G-d found in the Torah (and in the act of Torah study), that surpasses even the unity in the mitzvot and in their fulfillment?

This the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain].

For the mitzvot constitute G-d's innermost Will and His true desire, which is clothed in all the upper and lower worlds, thereby giving them life.

[All the worlds are a product of G-d's Will. He desired that they exist, and this desire is what brought them into being. However, this desire is but an external manifestation of His underlying, internal Will - the desire for mitzvot.

Why, in fact, does G-d desire that the worlds exist? Because He desires that the mitzvot be performed - and this is possible only when there is someone to perform them, and when there are objects with which to perform them. To this end G-d created all the worlds.

This can be illustrated by the analogy of a man who travels abroad on business. Naturally, he travels because he wishes to do so. But his "internal" (i.e., ultimate) desire in the journey, his underlying motive, lies in the profit he expects to reap.

When we probe still deeper, we find that the desire for profit is itself an external expression of an even more "internal" desire - the desire for the things which he will be able to buy with the proceeds of his business.

Here lies the true object of his pleasure. It is this desire which creates the desire for profit, which leads in turn to his desire to travel. So too in the case of the worlds and the mitzvot. G-d's external Will, His desire that the worlds exist, is motivated by His desire for the true object of His pleasure - the mitzvot.

Thus, the mitzvot represent His innermost will. It is for their sake that G-d gives life to all the worlds].

The very life and sustenance of all the worlds is dependent upon the performance of the mitzvot by the creatures of the lower worlds, as is known - [that performing a mitzvah draws G-dly life and sustenance into all the worlds].

It follows that the performance and fulfillment of the mitzvot is the innermost garment for the innermost aspect of G-d's Will, since it is due to this performance of the mitzvot that the light and life of the worlds issues forth from the Divine Will, to be clothed in them - [I.e., since G-d desires the worlds only as a vehicle for the performance of the mitzvot, as explained above, and it is only for this reason that He animates the worlds].

Hence the mitzvot are figuratively described as "organs of the King."

For just as the organs of the human body are a garment for its soul, and are completely and utterly surrendered to it, as is evident from the fact that as soon as a person desires to stretch out his hand or foot, they obey his will immediately, without any command or instruction to them and with no delay whatever, but at the very instant that it entered his will.

[The response of his organs is automatic; one need not consciously occupy himself with activating his hand. As to the phrase, "without any command or instruction": When one must exert effort in activating his faculties (e.g., when one dislikes a particular task, but forces himself to do it on the strength of logic) this effort is spoken of as an internal command from one faculty to another. However, when one's will activates the organs of his body, there is no such command involved.

Just as the organs of the human body are completely united with one's soul and are surrendered to it], so too is the life-force animating the performance and fulfillment of the commandments completely surrendered to the Divine Will which is clothed therein, and [this life-force] becomes, in relation to the Divine Will, like a body to a soul.

Likewise the external garment of the divine soul, i.e., its faculty of action [which is external compared to the faculties of speech and thought, since it functions outside oneself], of the person fulfilling and practising the commandment, clothes itself in the vitality of the performance of the mitzvah, and thus it, too, becomes like a body to a soul in relation to the Divine Will; [i.e., the soul's power of action becomes united with the Divine Will in the same way as one's body is united with his soul, and is completely surrendered to the Divine Will].

In this way, those organs of the human body which perform the mitzvah - i.e., those organs in which the divine soul's faculty of action is clothed during the performance and fulfillment of the mitzvah - they, too, become a veritable vehicle [lit., merkavah - a "chariot"] for the Divine Will.

For example, the hand which distributes charity to the poor, or performs another commandment becomes, [in the act of performing the mitzvah, a "chariot" for the Divine Will].

Similarly the feet which walk for the purpose of fulfilling a mitzvah, or the mouth and tongue which speak words of Torah, or the brain reflecting on the Torah or on the fear of heaven, or on the greatness of G-d, blessed be He.

[When these organs are occupied with the mitzvot they are totally surrendered, like a chariot, to the Divine Will clothed in these mitzvot.

Note that a physical organ becomes merely a chariot for the Divine Will.

It does not become surrendered to and unified with the Divine Will to the same extent as the divine soul's faculty of action, whose unity the Alter Rebbe previously compared to the unity of body and soul.

The unity of body and soul surpasses that of the chariot with its rider.

Body and soul, although originally two separate, disparate entities, one physical and the other spiritual, become one entity when united. No part of the body is devoid of the soul; conversely, the soul completely adapts itself to the body, becoming transformed into a corporeal life-force. The divine soul's faculty of action, being a G-dly power, can achieve this level of unity with G-d when it is employed in the performance of a mitzvah.

The organs of the body, on the other hand, although they too are involved in fulfilling the mitzvah, can reach no higher than the level illustrated in the analogy of the chariot. A chariot, having no will of its own, is indeed completely subservient to its rider - yet it is not united with him].

This is what the Sages meant when they said that [3] "The Patriarchs are truly the [Divine] chariot," for all their organs were completely holy and detached from mundane matters, and throughout their lives they served as a vehicle for nothing but the Divine Will.

[The reason for the Sages' designating specifically the Patriarchs as G-d's chariot, although every Jew's body becomes a "chariot" when he performs a mitzvah, is that the Patriarchs' submission to the Divine Will was unique in its power, its scope, and its consistency.

All their organs were totally surrendered to the Divine Will throughout their lives - whereas with other Jews, only those organs which perform a mitzvah are a "chariot", and then only during the act.

In fact, the same organ which today served as a "chariot" to G-d's Will might conceivably serve the opposite purpose tomorrow.



  1. (Back to text) Cf. I, 24a; II, 60a; Tikkunei Zohar 21b.

  2. (Back to text) Tikkun 30.

  3. (Back to text) Bereishit Rabbah 47:6.

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