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As Divided for a Regular Year
Tanya for 4 Kislev
To perform a mitzvah that cannot be delegated to another, one forgoes Torah study,  even [the study of] maaseh merkavah, [the sublime Kabbalistic mysteries of the celestial "Chariot"],  and beyond question one forgoes prayer, which is the state of intellect and intellectually-generated awe and love.
The reason is, as we have noted; [i.e., in order to extract and refine the sparks by means of the practical mitzvot, this being the purpose of creation.]
In addition, indeed, the standing of the practical mitzvot and their study, far transcends the standing of intellect, meaning intellectually-generated awe and love.
[The mitzvot requiring action are superior - in their performance and in the study of their laws - not only because they fulfill the ultimate purpose of creation through the extraction of the sparks, but also because they bond the soul with G-d.]
For though the verse declares,  "and to cleave to Him," i.e., through [cleaving to] His attributes (middot),  still, one does not cleave to the essence [mahut] of the Supernal attributes but only to [the externality of] their existence [metziut], as it is written,  "I am dust and ashes."
[When one acts in a kindly manner, for example, he cleaves to the Supernal Sefirah of Chesed - and the Sefirot are wholly one with G-d.
["I am dust and ashes," was stated by Abraham with regard to the glimmer of his soul that illuminated his body, in comparing it to its source - an irradiation of Supernal Kindness, as explained above at length in Epistle XV, in the name of the Maggid of Mezritch.
Abraham experienced such an intense degree of love (deriving from the attribute of Chesed) toward G-d, that he was a "chariot", a vehicle humbly waiting to be steered by the hands of its Driver. 
Nevertheless, he declared that his measure of love for G-d was but "dust and ashes" relative to the Supernal attribute of Chesed.
To appreciate the analogy:
A tree, originally composed of the four elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth, is burned.
Losing its first three elements in smoke, it is reduced to its fourth element, mere ashes. Yet, though these ashes and the tree itself are of the same element, the ashes can hardly be compared to the original tree that was "beautiful to behold and good to eat." [19a]
So, too, the attribute of kindness and love that Abraham possessed while his soul was in his body, cannot be compared to the attribute of Kindness which is one of the Supernal Sefirot.
It is thus to be seen that one does not cleave to the essence of the Supernal attributes but only to their external state, their state of mere existence.]
This is all the more true with regard to the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, for no thought can apprehend Him in His radiance or the diffusion of the life-force issuing from Him.
One can only grasp His existence, that He gives life to all, but not His essence.
This applies even to the supernal beings, of [whose praise] it is written,  "Holy, holy, holy is the L-rd of Hosts."
[The above phrase is uttered by the Seraphim, angels of the World of Beriah.
They perceive that even as G-d descends to relate to created beings so that He is called the "L-rd of Hosts," He is kadosh ("holy"), a term which implies that He is separate from them.]
Only emanated "effects" can conceive their "cause", according to the order recounted in Etz Chayim, concerning the investment of the visages [partzufim].
[The spiritual beings of the World of Atzilut are each an "effect" (alul) brought about by a "cause" (ilah) in the levels higher than themselves.
These beings vest themselves in each other in turn, and at each level are able to comprehend the antecedent "cause" that is vested within them.
Etz Chayim explains how the "visages" of the Supernal Sefirot of Atzilut vest themselves in each other. Each "effect" is able to comprehend its "cause" - the "visage" that is garbed within it.]
This is not the case with created beings, even with souls of Atzilut.
[Though the souls of Atzilut are Divinity, still, since they have become sundered from the vessels of the Ten Sefirot (as explained above in Epistle XX) , they are termed "created beings" and are unable to apprehend the essence of G-dliness.]
Thus, through the vision of his soul alone, as the soul gazes upon G-d without the benefit of mitzvot, even Moses could apprehend no more than externality, not essence.
- (Back to text) Moed Katan 9a.
- (Back to text) Yechezkel 1.
- (Back to text) Devarim 11:22.
- (Back to text) Cf. Sotah 14a et al.
- (Back to text) Bereishit 18:27.
- (Back to text) Bereishit Rabbah 47:6; Tanya, ch. 23.
- (Back to text) Bereishit 2:9.
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 6:3.
- (Back to text) Vol. IV in the present series, p. 376.
- (Back to text) Shmot 33:22.
- (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "Examine Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 19 [above]."
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