Judaism: Weekly Tanya Lecture: Chap 4, Part II
והמדות, שהן יראה ואהבה וענפיהן ותולדותיהן, מלובשות בקיום המצות במעשה ובדיבור שהוא תלמוד תורה שכנגד כולן
And the middot, namely the emotions of fear and love (of the Almighty) together with their offshoots and ramifications, are clothed in the fulfillment of the commandments in deed and in word, (“in word”) meaning in the study of Torah, which is1 “the equivalent of all the commandments.”
The Alter Rebbe’s previous statement, that in comprehending Torah the soul’s faculty of intellect clothes itself in thought, requires no further elaboration; it goes without saying that the intellect can comprehend Torah only through the vehicle of thought.
His latter statement, however (that the middot are clothed in the fulfillment of the commandments in deed or in word), requires further amplification. What connection do the middot of fear and love have with action and speech? The seat of the emotions is in the heart; how do they come to clothe themselves in actions which are done with one’s hand (in donning tefillin, for example), or in speech where one uses his mouth (such as in oral Torah study)?
In answer to this question, the Alter Rebbe explains that completeness in the performance of the commandments demands love and fear of G-d; one can bring to his fulfillment of the commandments the fullness generated by vitality and depth of feeling only when he is imbued with fear and love of the Almighty.
In the Alter Rebbe’s words:
כי האהבה היא שרש כל רמ״ח מצות עשה וממנה הן נמשכות, ובלעדה אין להם קיום אמיתי
For love is the root of a Jew’s observance of all the 248 positive commands; from it they issue forth, and without it they have no true substance.
כי המקיימן באמת הוא האוהב את שם ה׳ וחפץ לדבקה בו באמת
For he who fulfills them in truth, is he who loves G-d’s Name and who truly desires to cleave to Him.
ואי אפשר לדבקה בו באמת כי אם בקיום רמ״ח פקודין
Now, one cannot truly cleave to Him except through the fulfillment of the 248positive commandments,
Thus, one’s love of G-d and desire to cleave to Him dictate that he observe the commandments. Why is it possible to cleave to G-d only by fulfilling the commandments?
שהן רמ״ח אברין דמלכא כביכול, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר
for they are the 2482 “organs of the King” (of G-d, King of the universe), as it were, as is explained elsewhere.3
Just as each of the organs of a human being is a vessel for the particular soul power that clothes itself in it (e.g., the eye is a vessel for the power of sight, the ear for hearing, and so on), so is each commandment a vessel for the specific aspect of G-d’s Will (the “Supernal Will”) which clothes itself in that particular commandment. Each commandment expresses not only the Supernal Will that a specific act be carried out, but also the particulars of its observance. Thus it is understood that by performing the commandments one achieves unity with G-d, Whose Will they express.
It follows, then, that love of G-d clothes (or expresses) itself in one’s performance of the 248 positive commandments; it is their root and life-force, which leads one to observe them with the totality of one’s being. For when one loves G-d and desires to cleave to Him, he will perform His commandments as he would perform a task for a dear friend — with delight and zest, and with all of his being.
1) Mishnah, Peah 1:1.
2) Tikkunei Zohar,
3) Tikkun 30. See further, ch. 23.