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As Divided for a Leap Year
Tanya for 7 Adar II
(This practical aspect is underscored by the conclusion of the verse, "For the thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart that you may do it.")
He explained that only mitzvot observed through action draw down the light of the Shechinah upon one's animal soul and body (rather than upon the divine soul alone, as do the mitzvot performed only in thought and speech).
Yet this does not answer one question satisfactorily:
Why is the illumination of the body and animal soul so important that those (practical) mitzvot which accomplish this illumination should be considered one's primary objective?
The Alter Rebbe addresses this question in chapter 36.
He explains that G-d's purpose in Creation is that he might have a dwelling place "in the lower realms"; specifically, in this physical world.
In this world of doubled and redoubled spiritual darkness, His Ein Sof-light would radiate even more powerfully than it does in the higher, spiritual realms, through man's transforming the darkness into light.
In man, the microcosm, the animal soul and the body are "the lower realms." Therefore, the practical mitzvot which draw the light of the Shechinah upon them constitute man's ultimate purpose.
Furthermore, through the practical mitzvot, and through their elevating effect on the body and animal soul, the material world in its entirety becomes a "dwelling place" for G-d. (This, however, properly belongs to the discussion in chapter 37.)]
In a well-known statement, our Rabbis declare  that the purpose for which this world was created is that the Holy One, blessed be He, desired to have an abode in the lower realms.
[He desired that the essence of His Ein Sof-light be revealed as it is, without veil or concealment, amidst the lower creations.
Our Sages use the word "abode", or "dwelling place," to describe such revelation.
Just as a man's home serves as an abode for his essence, so too, is this world intended to be an "abode" for G-d's Essence.
The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain the phrase "the lower realms" mentioned above.
He shows that this refers specifically to our physical world.
The explanation in brief:
The terms "higher" and "lower" realms do not denote degrees of respective importance in the sight of G-d, or of closeness to Him.
In G-d's eyes all the worlds, from the highest to the lowest, are equally insignificant; all are equally remote from Him.
On the other hand, He fills the lowest world just as He fills the highest.
Thus, the terms "higher" and "lower" must be understood as a standard of comparison within the numerous worlds.
They indicate to what degree G-dliness is revealed in each individual world: the more revelation, the "higher" the world; the more obscurity and concealment, the "lower" (the world). From this standpoint, our physical world is the very lowest, for here G-dliness is most veiled and concealed.
In the Alter Rebbe's words]:
But surely, before G-d [i.e., in His sight] the distinction of "higher" and "lower" is not valid, [one world is no higher than another], for he pervades all worlds equally.
[What, then, do our Sages mean by saying that "G-d desired an abode in the `lower' realms?]"
The explanation of the matter, however, is [that G-d desired an abode in that realm considered "lower" within the ranks of the worlds] as follows:
Before the world [any world] was created, there was only He alone, one and unique, filling all the space in which He created the world.
[Anything that could be conceived of as a "space" or possibility for creation, was filled with the Ein Sof-light].
In His view, [indeed], it is still the same now. [Creation wrought no change in His unity; He is One alone now just as He was prior to creation].
The change applies only to the recipients of His vivifying force and His light - [before creation there was none to receive the Divine life-force and light; Creation brought into being these recipients], who receive [this life-force and light] by way of numerous "garments" which veil and conceal G-d's light [for without such garments they could not bear its intensity, and would cease to exist].
So it is written:  "For no man can see Me and live."
[Furthermore, not only man, a physical being, but even spiritual beings such as angels are unable to receive the divine light and life- force without concealing garments].
And as our Rabbis, of blessed memory, interpret [the word Vochai "...and live" in this verse, as referring to angels; thus] : "Even angels, called [holy chayyot] cannot see..." [G-dliness, except by way of garments which conceal Him, thereby enabling them to receive His light.
The degree of concealment varies, however, from world to world and from level to level.
Here the distinction between "higher" and "lower" realms becomes valid, as the Alter Rebbe continues]:
This [concealment] is the subject of the Hishtalshelut [the chain- like, graded and downward succession] of the worlds, and their descent from level to level, through the many "garments" that conceal the light and the life-force emanating from Him - [the more concealment, the lower the descent]; culminating in the creation of this physical, gross world.
[This world is not only physical - so that the truth of G-d's creative power is not in evidence; it is also gross, in that the lie is held up as a truth].
[This world] is the lowest in degree; there is none lower than it in terms of concealment of His light and no world compares with it for doubled and redoubled darkness; [nowhere is G-d's light hidden as in this world].
So much so, that it is filled with kelipot and sitra achra which actually oppose G-d, saying: "I am, and there is nothing else besides me."
[It is thus clear that the term "lower realms" refers to this physical world, the very lowest in degree of divine revelation.
Since there is but one "order of Hishtalshelut," a question arises: Does its ultimate purpose lie in the higher worlds, where G-dliness is revealed to a greater degree, while the lower worlds serve only to emphasize the revelation found in those higher than them (since light is distinguishable only where darkness exists)? Or, on the contrary, does its purpose lie in the lower realms (but in order to create them an order of Hishtalshelut is necessary, entailing the creation of the higher realms)?
Obviously, concealment of G-dliness is not an end in itself; thus, if we assume the second position, it follows that these lower realms were created so that the darkness pervading them be transformed to light.
The statement that "G-d desired an abode in the lower realms" shows the latter position to be the true one; and the "abode" is built by the revelation of His Presence in this lowest of worlds to a degree surpassing even that in the highest.
This, in brief, is the subject of the following paragraphs in the text].
- (Back to text) Midrash Tanchuma Nasso 7:1
- (Back to text) Shmot 33:20.
- (Back to text) Sifrei, end of Parshat Behaalotecha; Bamidbar Rabbah, end of Parshat Nasso.
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