Parshas Acharei Mos-Likkutei Torah-The uniqueness of the study of Halacha

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Parshas Acharei Mos

“Ki Bayom Hazeh Yichaper Aleichem…”

[Likkutei Torah p. 52]

In the Parsha of Acharei Mos, the Temple service of Yom Kippur is described. Yom Kippur is the holiest and most revered day in the Jewish calendar and represents the day when we receive atonement from Hashem. This atonement, however, is preconditioned on the performance of Teshuvah. The Alter Rebbe addresses why Yom Kippur is deemed unique if in truth Hashem accepts one who performs Teshuvah anytime during the year. The explanation is that the Teshuvah of Yom Kippur is on a higher and deeper level than regular Teshuvah, and hence touches a higher and deeper level within Hashem. To perform Teshuvah, one is not required to be a sinner. Teshuvah can even be performed by Tzaddikim, as it represents one’s turning his inner self towards G-d. When one performs Mitzvos and learns Torah precariously, without passion and focus but out of mere habit, it is considered as if he has turned his back on Hashem. Teshuvah represents the return of one’s focus in attaching to G-d by learning Torah and performing His Mitzvos. How can one reach a state of passion and attachment to Hashem while learning Torah? This is through contemplating the greatness of Torah and how it affects the person who learns it and the worlds above. In particular, the study of Halacha stands out as the most important and effective topic of Torah study. In this Mamar, the Alter Rebbe explains the greatness of studying Halacha, and how clarifying Halachic topics to yourself and others fulfills a great step in the redemption of the Shechina from exile and hastens the Final Redemption. 


Explorations of the Mamar:

1.       Why is every Jew obligated to learn every law in the Torah, including even those that are not applicable to him?

2.       Why is the Torah compared to a garment, to snow, and to hairs?

3.       What is unique about learning the Halacha sections of the Torah over other Torah subjects?

4.       How do we redeem Hashem and the Shechina from exile upon learning Halacha?


Obligation of each Jew to study entire Torah:

It is an obligation for each and every Jew to study all the Halachos in the Torah, even those that are not relevant to the person, such as the laws of Issur Viheter [rulings on mixtures of forbidden foods], which are only relevant to Morei Horaas, or the laws of Mishpatim [court-related laws], which are only relevant to Dayanim/judges. Each Jew is required to learn and study these topics, even if he has no aspirations to ever become a Morei Horaah or Dayan. To understand the reason behind this, we must first introduce the greatness of the subject of Halacha in Torah.


One must be incarnated until he learns all the sections of the Torah:[1]

The Kabbalists[2] state that every Jewish soul must be incarnated numerous times until it has fulfilled all 613 commandments in action, speech, and thought. One fulfills the 613 Mitzvos in speech and thought through learning the detailed laws of the Mitzvos. We thus see that learning all of the topics in Torah, even those that are not practically relevant to oneself, is of such importance that he must re-descend into this world in order to study it if it was not completed in his previous lifetime. Why, though, does learning every section of Torah have such importance?


The Torah is compared to a garment, snow, and hair:

The verse states, Oteh Or Kasalma, that Hashem garbs His light like a garment. This refers to the light of the Torah, which Hashem wears like a garment and invests His infinite light within it. Just as when a person is garbed in a garment, when the garment is pulled the person that is inside the garment gets pulled along with it, similarly Hashem garbed Himself with His Torah, and so when one learns Torah he draws Hashem to him. This garment is described in the verse as, “Levushei Kateleg Chivar/His garment is white like snow.” Why is the Torah, which is the garment of Hashem, described as snow? This is because it shares a similar characteristic to snow. Snow originates from water that has become frozen into a crystal, and upon being heated it returns to the same water substance that it originated from. The same applies regarding the relationship of the Torah with Hashem. The Torah originates from the level of Chochmah Ilaah, which is the spiritual level of water in Atzilus. The Torah then descends and invests itself into its physical connotations, which is similar to the change of form that the snow crystal has received. Nonetheless, the Torah, even as it exists below in its frozen and congealed form, retains its water substance of Chochmah Ilaah. In addition to the above parable of the Torah to snow, the Torah is also compared to hairs, as explained next.

The hairs of the Torah:

The verse states, “Saar Resihei Keamar Nakah/The hairs of his head are like clean wool.” This refers to the Halachos of the Torah. The Halachos of the Torah are comparable to the hairs of wool. Just as wool contains countless hairs, similarly there are a countless number of Halachos. Each of the 613 commandments individually contains countless details, conditions, and stipulations for its proper fulfillment. There is, however, a deeper relationship between hairs and Halacha. Although each strand of hair receives life from the brain, this life is very minute, to the point that even when the hair is cut pain is not felt. Similarly, the abundance of details found in Halacha all receive their vitality and life from the level of Chochmah Ilaah, although this vitality is contracted and minute, similar to a strand of hair, which nurtures from the brain. The Divine light that enters into each detailed law is a mere contracted ray that itself passes through various stages of filtration and concealment. Although this leaves the impression that the section of Halacha in Torah is a lower level than the rest of the Torah, containing less Elokus, in truth, through the study of Halacha one can reach levels of G-dliness that are higher than even the Torah itself, as will be explained next.

Untangling the hairs of Halacha:

Just as the hairs of one’s head need to be combed and untangled so they are all separate and beautiful, so too the multitude of Halachos need to be combed and sifted, each law being given its precise understanding, limitations, and conditions. This is the main task of the Talmud, to bring various Halachos together, question them, and bring contradictions in order to sift out the correct Halachic ruling. Without this sifting, the Halachos remain unclear and confusing, with various sets of Halachos opposing each other either in law or logic. On this job of refining Halachic conclusions, the verse states, Salsala Veteromemeka. Salsala means to comb, and refers to the combing and untangling of hair, and the untangling of Halacha as explained above. The word Vateromemeka refers to the elevation that occurs through the performance of this refinement. When one clarifies the Halachos, his soul is elevated to the level of “Keamar Naka/Clean wool,” which in the terms of Kabbalah corresponds to the high level of Kesser of Arich, which is much higher than the level of Torah that corresponds to the level of Oteh Or Kasalma. Through refining the Halachos, one reaches the root and source from where the Torah derives, and touches the essence of Or Ein Sof Baruch Hu.


The great effect that learning Halacha has in Heaven:[3]

The main subject of study in Torah is the subject of in-depth Halacha, deciphering between the permitted and forbidden and between the pure and impure; to refine the permitted and pure from the forbidden and impure through deep analysis of the subject. In Heaven, there is a remarkable change and effect that occurs through this refinement of clarifying a Halacha from the Gemara and Poskim, Rishonim and Achronim. Every Halacha that is studied and clarified is in a state of concealment prior to the clarification being made. It is sunken within the Kelipos, which hide and conceal it in a way that the law is not known, or its reason is not properly understood. The reasoning behind a Halacha is also a G-dly wisdom that has fallen into the Kelipos and entered into a state of exile, being hidden from the higher and lower spheres. The upper beings, including angels and souls that are not in this world, do not have the ability to redeem and elevate these contents of Halacha from their captivity. This power is only held in the hands of the creations of the lower worlds, which are invested in physical bodies that derive from Kelipa. When one breaks his lusts, this cracks open the Kelipos and gives ability for the Halachos to be refined and redeemed. Due to this, the upper beings come to listen to the Chiddushei Torah of the lower beings, which are the subjects of Torah that are redeemed from captivity. Every single Jew is able to reveal a hidden secret of wisdom of Torah, in Halacha Aggada, Nigleh, and Nistar, and is obligated to do so. One’s soul cannot be complete until he elevates all the sparks that have been allocated to the root of his soul. Every word of Torah, and especially Halacha, is a spark of the Shechina, and when it is concealed the actual Shechina is found in exile. This is why Chazal[4] state that whoever learns Torah, Hashem considers to have redeemed Him and His children from amongst the nations of the world. Learning and clarifying Halachic subjects redeems sparks of the Shechina from exile.



Attaching one’s soul garments to the 613 commands in the Torah:[5]

In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe emphasizes another important reason why every Jew must study the entire Torah. It is mainly required in order to bind all of the 613 aspects of his soul with Hashem: Every Jew contains three soul garments, called thought, speech, and action. One’s mission in this world is to attach each one of these soul garments to Hashem. This is accomplished by attaching them to the 613 Mitzvos of the Torah through physically fulfilling the 613 Mitzvos, verbalizing the learning of the 613 Mitzvos and all its details, and thinking of all that he can comprehend of the 613 Mitzvos. When one does so, all of the 613 strands of his soul are attached to the 613 Mitzvos of the Torah.  


Lessons of the Mamar:

·         Many people, Baruch Hashem, have set times for Torah study. There are scores of topics within Torah that one can choose to learn; Chumash; Tanach; Jewish history; Talmud; Midrash; Kabbalah, and Chassidus. Not everyone, however, uses their time for the study of Halacha. Halacha is the most important and central part of Torah study, which each Jew is required to learn while his soul is in this world. Aside from the necessity of having knowledge in how to live one’s life as a Jew and not transgress, one also needs to learn the laws for the sake of refining every strand of hair of the Torah and binding his soul to Hashem in every fiber of his being. Thus, even the non-practical sections of Halacha must be carefully studied. It is due to this reason that the Rebbe established the daily learning of Rambam, in which one studies all the Halachos of all the subjects in the Torah. It is important to focus on understanding the laws that are learned and not just to read them as a prayer. Take upon yourself a set time daily for study of Halacha, with the knowledge that doing so has the great effects described above.



[1] Admur Hilchos Talmud Torah 1/4; Iggeres Hakodesh 29

[2] Sefer Hagilgulim 4

[3] Tanya Iggeres Hakodesh 26

[4] Shabbos 138b

[5] Tanya chapter 4

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