Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Thy commandments are the end which I love

"Thy commandments are the end which I love; all other things have value to me only to the extent that they serve as means to the attainment of this end." Rav Hirsch on Tehillim 119:44-48

There are those who seem to have lost their esteem for commandments and talk only of study. Rav Hirsch saw how the latter attitude contributed to massive departure from Torah observance in Germany. Torah study matters and mitzvos matter.

TIDE is dedicated to all mitzvos. It rejects the Medieval Spanish notion of mitzvos as handmaidens to the ultimate goal of philosophic understanding. This notion was influenced arguably by Aristotelian-Arabic philosophers. R' Hirsch's explanation of the meaning and symbolism of mitzvos helps to enhance our love for the mitzvos. Rather, mitzvos are an end goal themselves. Rav Hirsch saw Judaism as "a view of life which lays chiefest stress upon the deed, upon action, and looks upon knowledge only as a means to such action.(Letter 18)."

The Sefer Tanya speaks of the value of study but also of mitzvos and in this Tanya lesson for the day says that mitzvos are necessary to bring the Divine light into the guf and the animal soul. Study alone will not do it. 


"When even one person applies himself diligently to Torah study, the Shechinah is with him,”meaning, in this case, that 

the Shechinah rests upon his divine soul, and upon its 

faculties of thought and speech which are engaged in the 

mental and oral study of the Torah. However, in order to draw the light and radiation of the Shechinah upon his body and animal soul as well, i.e., upon the vitalizing soul actually clothed in the body and providing for it a corporeal life-force, one must fulfill the practical mitzvot (i.e., commandments involving the faculty of action), which are performed with the body itself."  (

Full lesson here: Likutei Amarim, end of Chapter 35

Then continuing on to the beginning of Chapter 36, the lessons in Tanya overview says, 

"In the previous chapter, the Alter Rebbe began to explain why the observance of the practical mitzvot is the ultimate purpose of Torah and of one’s spiritual service to G‑d. (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 ch. 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."

Full lesson here: Likutei Amarim, end of Chapter 35

He doesn't say it here but I think this gives us insight into why a woman's role is so important. A woman is not commanded in Torah study (even though she can do it on a non-commanded level) and her role (even her support of Torah study) takes place in the more physical realms (tznius, chesed, etc.) But we find that bringing light into those realms creates a special kind of revelation and is the purpose of or a main part of the purpose of the creation. 

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