Saturday, December 31, 2005

LESSONS IN TANYA: Sunday, January 1, 2006


Tevet 1, 5766 * January 1, 2006


Today's Lesson:

Likutei Amarim
(Conclusion of Chapter Five)

This is the distinctive, infinitely great and wonderful superiority of the mitzvah of knowing and comprehending Torah over all the mitzvot involving action, and even over those performed through speech; indeed, even over the mitzvah of oral Torah study.

[The precept of Torah study may be performed by reciting passages of Scripture, even if one is ignorant of their meaning. Such study, however, lacks the infinitely superior quality of comprehending Torah, namely]:

For through all the mitzvot performed in action and speech G-d clothes the soul, and envelops it with His light from "head" to "foot", [i.e., from its highest level to its lowest]; while in the case of the knowledge of Torah, apart from the intellect's being clothed in [i.e., enveloped by] Divine wisdom, the Divine wisdom is also within him, so that he envelops it, through his intellect's comprehending, grasping and encompassing whatever Torah knowledge it is capable of grasping and comprehending, each man according to his intellect and his capacity for knowledge and understanding in Pardes (2) - [the four modes of Torah interpretation]: Pshat, Remez, Derush and Sod.

[Thus, apart from the effect that Torah shares with other mitzvot, namely, that a mitzvah when performed envelops the soul in Divine light, Torah study has the additional effect of filling the soul (internally) with the light of Divine wisdom contained in the Torah that the soul grasps and encompasses.]

Since through the knowledge of Torah the Torah is absorbed in the soul and intellect of the person and is encompassed within them, it is therefore called the "bread" and "food" of the soul.

Just as physical bread nourishes the body when it is ingested and absorbed within it, and [when] it is transformed there into blood and flesh of one's own flesh, and only then will the body live and be sustained; similarly, through the knowledge and comprehension of Torah by the soul of a person who studies it well, with the concentration of his intellect, to the point where the Torah is grasped by his mind and is joined with him so that they become one, [the Torah thereby] becomes food for the soul.

It becomes inner life for it, from the Fountainhead of life, the blessed Ein Sof, Who is clothed in His wisdom and Torah that are in [the soul] of the Torah student.

This is the meaning of the verse, (3) "Your Torah is in my inner parts," meaning that Torah is food for the soul.

It is similarly written in Etz Chayim (Portal 44, ch. 3) that mitzvot are the "garments" of the souls in Paradise.

[In Paradise, souls enjoy the radiance of the Divine Presence. In order that the soul, a finite being, be capable of bearing the infinite radiance, it must be shielded by spiritual "garments". The mitzvot it performed during its life on earth provide the soul with these garments; for, as explained above, performing mitzvot envelops the soul in Divine light, as a garment envelops the body.]

Torah [on the other hand] is the food of the souls in Paradise which had engaged in Torah study for its own sake during their life on this earth. It is similarly written in the Zohar (Vayakhel, p. 210).

The meaning of [Torah study] "for its own sake" is [study] with the intent of binding one's soul to G-d by comprehending the Torah, (4) each man according to the capacity of his intellect, as explained in Pri Etz Chayim.

[We thus see from the above statement in Etz Chayim that Torah is the food of the soul and mitzvot are its garments.

But the question now arises: If Torah and mitzvot each have their own unique quality, why the superiority of Torah study over mitzvot?

The Alter Rebbe answers this by defining the terms "food" and "garments" in their spiritual context. From this explanation it will become clear that Torah has the qualities of both "food" and "garment" - hence its superiority.]

( (5) The "food" of the soul refers to the level of "indwelling light"; the "garments" refer to the level of "encompassing light."

For this reason, our Sages have said (6) that Torah study is equal to all the other mitzvot combined; for mitzvot are "garments" alone, while Torah is "food" and also a "garment" for the intellectual soul.

Torah serves as a "garment" because one clothes himself within it, by his soul's concentration on it and study of it. How much more so, if one expresses the words of Torah orally, for the breath of speech becomes a kind of "encompassing light," as written in Pri Etz Chayim.)

[We thus see that Torah study possesses the qualities of both "food" and "garment". It is thus superior to other mitzvot, which are "garments" alone.

2. See beginning of ch. 4 for the meaning of the term Pardes.
3. Tehillim 40:9.
4. The Rebbe observes that the Alter Rebbe finds it necessary
to define the term Lishmah ("for its own sake"), lest we
misinterpret the Zohar to mean that the factor that causes the
Torah to become "food" for the soul is some other, incidental
meaning of Lishmah; rather, "The meaning .... is [study] with the
intent of binding one's soul to G-d by comprehending the Torah."
5. Parentheses are in the original text.
6. Mishnah, Peah 1:1.


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