And this is the meaning of the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory:1 "[In the World to Come — here meaning Gan Eden — there is no eating and drinking..., but the righteous sit] with their crowns on their heads, and they take delight [in the radiance of the Divine Presence]."2
עטרה היא בחינת מקיף וסובב
A crown (atarah) is something that encompasses and encircles,
This refers to an illumination that neither contracts nor adapts itself so that it can be vested in varying degrees within created beings; rather, it descends to the worlds3 and encompasses them all equally.
ונקרא כתר, מלשון כותרת
and is called keter, as related to koteret, the capital which crowns a column,4 as in the Beit HaMikdash built by King Solomon (I Kings, ch. 7).
Atarah is thus a crown worn on the head,5 while keter means (as well) the crown atop a column.
Since the illumination of light from the Sefirah of Keter that will be revealed in the World to Come results from the performance of the mitzvot that are likened to 620 תר״ך columns of light (corresponding to the 613 Torah commandments and seven Rabbinic commandments, numerically equal to the word כתר),6 the Alter Rebbe also explains the term "crown" as it applies to a column.
והוא בחינת ממוצע המחבר הארת המאציל, אין סוף ברוך הוא, להנאצלים
[The Sefirah of Keter] is an intermediary which joins the radiation and revelation of the Emanator, the blessed Ein Sof, to the emanated beings in the World of Atzilut,
The Emanator is infinite, while the emanated beings — which are within a world, and even the loftiest of worlds is bound by limitation — are finite. There must therefore be an intermediary between the two. It is the Sefirah of Keter that serves as this intermediary, for its internal dimension is related to the Emanator and its external dimension is related to the emanated beings. It is thus through the Sefirah of Keter that the [infinite] Ein Sof-light is drawn into the World of Atzilut and to the emanated beings which populate it.
ולעתיד יאיר ויתגלה בעולם הזה, לכל הצדיקים שיקומו בתחייה
and in the future it will radiate and become revealed in this world to all the righteous who will rise with the Resurrection,
This transcendent degree of Divine light will thus be revealed to the entire Jewish people.
Accordingly, the illumination that presently is received only by those beings that inhabit the World of Atzilut will radiate in the World to Come to this physical world as well. For unlike the indwelling illumination of Gan Eden that is dependent upon the level and comprehension of each recipient, this revelation is an encompassing light from the Sefirah of Keter, which does not undergo contraction, but radiates to all equally.
This results in a state of total revelation, whereby the very Essence of Divinity is visually perceived (re'iyat hamahut), as it is written,10 "The glory of G‑d shall be revealed, and together all flesh shall see..."
וזהו שאמרו רז״ל: עתידים צדיקים שיאמרו לפניהם קדוש
And this is the meaning of the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory:11 "In the future the righteous will be lauded as holy," as G‑d is praised now.
כי קדוש הוא בחינת מובדל
For "holy" signifies [lofty] separation;
שאינו בגדר השגה ודעת
it is not subject to apprehension and knowledge,
כי הוא למעלה מעלה מבחינת החכמה ודעת שבגן עדן
because it transcends by far the wisdom and knowledge which are attainable in Gan Eden.
כי החכמה מאין תמצא, כתיב
For Scripture states,12 "Chochmah shall be found from ayin ('naught')."
הוא בחינת כתר עליון, הנקרא אין בזהור הקדוש
This refers to the Supreme Keter which, in the sacred Zohar,13 is called ayin;
והשפעתו והארתו בבחינת גילוי, הוא דוקא כשהנשמה תתלבש בגוף זך וצח אחר התחיה
and the bestowal of its radiance is manifest, i.e., its essence is apprehended, only when, after the Resurrection, the soul is vested in a pure and clear body.
The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain why in Gan Eden, when the soul is not encumbered by a body, the light of Keter cannot be manifest, whereas — paradoxically — this revelation becomes possible only in the World to Come at the time of the Resurrection, when the soul is once again invested within a body.
(For, as is well known,14 the determining opinion is that of the Ramban,15 who states that the ultimate reward will be specifically at the time of the Resurrection, when the soul will again be found within a body.)
כי נעוץ תחלתן בסופן דוקא
For16 "Their beginning (i.e., the loftiest initial level) is wedged in their end."
This is explained in the teachings of Chassidut17 as follows: "Beginning" refers to a level of Divinity that utterly transcends the evolvement of any created worlds. This level of Divinity is wedged in the last level preceding the creation of the evolving worlds, the Sefirah of Keter. Keter is revealed only in the "end" of all worlds — i.e., within this physical world — during the time of the Resurrection. Gan Eden, by contrast, is incapable of receiving this transcendent level of revelation in an internalized manner.
Thus, while the lesser radiance that is muted to match the respective limitations of the evolving worlds can be absorbed by the soul (in Gan Eden) in its disembodied state, the transcendent radiance issuing from Keter is revealed to the soul only when it is clothed within a body.
וסוף מעשה במחשבה תחלה כו׳, כנודע
Likewise, as is known,18 "The final deed — i.e., the last stage of creation: this physical world — was first in thought...."
Thought and creation both have aspects that are "first" and "last"; the "last" (i.e., lowest) level of creation, which is this world, is rooted in the "beginning" (i.e., in the highest level) of the Divine thought.
This is why specifically the deeds performed in this "last" world of creation, while the soul is clothed in a physical body, are able to elicit and drawn down the radiance of Keter. As explained here by the Alter Rebbe, this refers to the mitzvah of tzedakah, as well as to mitzvot in general, all of which are termed "tzedakah".19 For it is the performance of physical mitzvot in this material world that arose first in G‑d's thought and will, at the level of the Divine Keter, for the physical mitzvot are the ultimate purpose of creation.
Returning to the earlier discussion: It is now clear why in future time the righteous (and "Your people are all righteous") will be lauded as holy: they will all have revealed to them that Divine radiance that is "holy" in the sense that it transcends apprehension. Moreover, they will become so unified with this revelation that the term "holy" will apply to them as well.
אך אי אפשר להגיע למדרגה זו, עד שיהא בגן עדן תחלה
But it is impossible to attain this level of being able to absorb the transcendent light of Sovev Kol Almin, until one has first been in Gan Eden,
להשיג בחינת חכמה עילאה כו׳ אפשר צריך להיות: כל חד כפום שיעורא דיליה
to apprehend a degree of the Supernal Chochmah,20 each21 according to his measure.
For, as explained earlier, the lesser Divine light that radiates in Gan Eden is received by each soul according to its own particular degree.
וטל תורה מחייהו
(The Rebbe adds here that the soul will then rise at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead through the "dew of the Torah," for, as our Sages teach,22 "[Whoever engages in the study of the Torah,]) the dew of Torah revives him [at the time of the Resurrection]."
The verse upon which our Sages base this teaching reads:23 "Your dead shall be resurrected...; those who lie in the dust shall awaken and sing joyful praises; for the Dew of Lights shall be your dew...." It is thus clear that the revival effected by "the dew of the Torah" refers to the Resurrection of the Dead.
והקיצות, היא תשיחך גו׳, ודי למבין
(The Rebbe adds: Thereafter,)24 "When you will awaken, it (i.e., the Torah) will cause you to speak...," and this promise, as expounded in Avot,25 refers to the time of the World to Come. This will suffice for the discerning.
In order to attain the level of Sovev Kol Almin at the time of the Resurrection, the soul must first be in Gan Eden and apprehend Supernal Chochmah according to is particular degree and level. For though in Gan Eden the soul apprehends no higher than the lesser, permeating Divine light called Memaleh Kol Almin, its perception is nevertheless augmented by the light of Keter which also illumines it. The soul indeed apprehends the latter enlightenment only to the extent of yediat hametziut (lit., "a knowledge of its existence"; i.e., by the "encompassing" perception known as makkif), rather than with the penetrating revelation of hassagat hamahut (lit., "an understanding of its essence").26 Nevertheless, this added illumination enables the soul at the time of the Resurrection to comprehend the essence of the revelation of Sovev Kol Almin.
Since, as stated above, the soul in Gan Eden apprehends indwelling lights, its experience of Gan Eden consists of the revelation of the Torah within the soul, so to speak, for the Torah is likened to "food" (as in the verse,27 "for Your Torah is within my inward parts") — i.e., something that affects one from within, as explained at length above, in Part I, ch. 5. However, Gan Eden is also illumined by a glimmering of the radiation that results from the performance of mitzvot, and these act as "garments" and "encompassing lights" for the soul in Gan Eden, as mentioned in the above letter.
At the time of the World to Come, at the time of the Resurrection, the superior light of Sovev Kol Almin will be revealed chiefly as a result of one's present performance of mitzvot. This comes about through and together with the "dew of Torah" that "revives him" and "causes [him] to speak."
The Alter Rebbe now returns to the above-quoted verse, "Your commandment is very wide." Having earlier explained that "Your commandment" (in the singular) refers to G‑d's own commandment, viz., tzedakah, he now goes on to explain the words, "is very wide": the mitzvah of tzedakah is a vessel so capacious that it can contain the revelation of G‑d's infinite light at the time of the Resurrection.
Note of the Rebbe: "The former phrase (`with their crowns on their heads') alludes to makkif, the encompassing light; adding to this, the latter phrase (`and they take delight [in the Divine Presence]') alludes to pnimi, the indwelling light."
At this point the Rebbe noted that although this illumination is present even in the lower worlds, it cannot be said that it illumines them with the same degree of luminosity as in its own inherent state. For while it is true that the light of "Sovev Kol Almin illumines all worlds equally, there yet remains an entirely separate question — whether it is revealed [to the worlds to quite the same degree] as it exists in itself [which indeed it does not do]. [By way of analogy:] Though a king's august majesty transcends all of his subjects equally, their perception of it does not at all resemble its own intrinsic state. (Indeed, this is true not only with regard to the king's objective essence, but even insofar as he is revealed to — and is aware of — himself.)"
Note of the Rebbe: "I.e., this is the etymology that is relevant here, rather than that of katar li [Iyov 36:2; lit., `wait for me'], which implies silence and abnegation. (See Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar 69a; beginning of Hemshech 5672.)"
Note of the Rebbe: "This verse is cited here, for this is one of the differences between the time of the Resurrection and Gan Eden. As to the former, `Your people are all righteous,' whereas Gan Eden is not merited by all (see Torah Or, Parshat Yitro 73b; Likkutei Torah; and elsewhere)."
Although the Alter Rebbe says below that "it is impossible to attain this level until one has first been in Gan Eden," which would seem to presuppose that all Jews will merit Gan Eden as well, the Rebbe notes that when the Alter Rebbe writes above that "Your people are all righteous" he means only that "they will all rise at the Resurrection, which will embrace everyone from Moshe Rabbeinu and the Patriarchs and so on, to the water-drawers. And it is self-evident that there will be enormous distinctions between their respective revelations at that time, each according to his measure (in Gan Eden), and so on."
The parenthetical text means "etc.", and the bracketed text that follows it suggests instead "each one." The Rebbe notes that the anomalous "etc." grew out of a copyist's error in which its Hebrew abbreviation כו׳ was substituted for כ״ח, an abbreviation for כל חד ("each one").
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