TranscriptsEnglish TranscriptsShavu'ot

The Ternary Torah

Unedited excerpt from a class given on 4 Sivan 5746 in Be’er Sheva

(Click here for a PDF version of this article that includes all the figures referred to)


The Sages’ Description of Torah as Ternary

Good evening. Since we are about to celebrate the holiday of the Giving of the Torah, our topic in this class will be the famous saying from the sages—a saying that is directly related to the Giving of the Torah: “Blessed is God who has given a ternary [divided into 3 parts] Torah, to a ternary people, by the ternary [messengers], on the ternary day of the ternary month.” What this saying is delivering is the message that the substance, the essence, and the manifestation of Torah are all connected with the number 3 and its inner meaning.

First thing, let us explain the plain meaning behind this saying. The ternary Torah refers to the division of Torah into Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. The ternary people refers to the Jewish people who consist of three groups: Cohanim [priests], Levites, and Israelites. By the ternary [messenger] refers to the three tzaddikim, God’s three emissaries connecting us with Him—Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. The ternary month is the third month from the Exodus, i.e., the month that we now know as Sivan.[1]

The Torah as An Intermediate Between Faith and Action

The Torah is the way in which the Divine intellect works. The Torah’s goal is to provide a bridge between faith, which is above reason and the intellect, and action, which lies below reason and the intellect.

Intelligence and reason are not an end to themselves. Rather, they are a means for receiving from that which lies above them. This happens when intelligence and reason are refined and rectified. It is then that the intelligence can draw down the light, i.e., the Divine inspiration from above. But what the intelligence in the mind does is it draws boundaries around the limitless inspiration drawn from above.

Now, we are going to be looking at a special chart in this class, which will help us envision how the infinite inspiration from above is drawn down into the limited mind. The largest structure in this chart is an upside-down triangle. The triangle’s base is thus on top, and it represents the infinite—like an infinite expanse.[2] The infinite expanse needs to be used to rectify our reality, but to do that, it needs to be injected into limited vessels. The power to limit the infinite in this manner is the power of the Torah. The Torah acts like an upside-down triangle, focusing the infinite above into a single point below. In this sense, it is like an arrow. We will be speaking about the secret of the arrow which has the power to concentrate the infinite and direct it in the direction of limited, positive action.

The Three Intellectual Faculties: Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge

God, in His wisdom, has set up the world in such a way that the intellect is composed of three faculties that work together. They receive from the infinite and focus it downwards to become limited, so that it can be used to guide finite actions. In Kabbalah, in many places in the revealed Torah, these three faculties are called, wisdom (חָכְמָה), understanding (בִּינָה), and knowledge (דָּעַת). The acronym by which they are known is ChaBaD (חבד).

Anatomically, wisdom corresponds to the brain’s right lobe, understanding to the left lobe, and knowledge is between them, corresponding to the lower part of the brain and the head.[3] As such, knowledge is situated just above the spinal cord and in it lies the concentration and junction of all the body and the psyche’s senses. This is all quite familiar. What is less known is that in Chasidic terminology, these three faculties are described as the powers of intelligence— הַשְׂכָּלָה(wisdom), comprehension— הַשָּׂגָה (understanding), and awareness— הַכָּרָה (knowledge). Let us define these.

Intelligence: The Power of Invention

Intelligence (wisdom) refers to a novel thought that comes to mind—like a lightning strike on the mind. We could also call it the power to innovate or invent. Intelligence refers to an initial thought, an invention. The inner sense that is at work in this phenomenon of wisdom is sight. It is as if the individual “sees” the novel idea, that is why it is likened to lightning that suddenly lights up the night sky, or in this case, lights the mind up.


Understanding is the power of comprehension and is situated to the left. Comprehension works with the inner sense of hearing. What is received with the faculty of understanding expands in every direction. Understanding (binah) has the ability to recognize the myriad details found in the initial thought or invention that occurred in wisdom. Understanding has the power to analyze that which was “picked-up.” When the initial thought or invention is analyzed properly, with each of its details being placed in its proper location in relation to all the other details, the result is what is known as “understanding,” or “comprehension.” To comprehend (הַשָּׂגָה) in Hebrew is akin to pursuing (לְהַשִּׂיג), like one person pursuing another. If you do not pursue the initial lightning strike and capture it and immediately begin to dissect it into particulars in order to capture it properly, you cannot fully understand it. This is what the faculty of understanding does.

Two Stages of Comprehension: Grasping and Receiving

We need to look at this process a little more closely. The first stage of comprehension is called “catching” or “grasping” (תְּפִיסָה), the same way that a catcher catches the ball. The second stage is called “reception” (קְלִיטָה). Catching (תְּפִיסָה) can be thought of like catching an object, a ball for instance, but to receive (קְלִיטָה) something means that I am able to integrate the thought into my own mind, which makes it possible for the heart to be affected by the thought. These are the two stages of comprehension.


The third intellectual faculty, knowledge, is also known as awareness (הַכָּרָה), which can be translated just as well as consciousness. On Shavu’ot, the festival of the Giving of the Torah, many congregations read the Book of Ruth, the story of a Moabite princess who converted and became the great grandmother of King David. When Ruth is welcomed by Bo’az (ultimately, King David’s great grandfather), she is overwhelmed and says, “Why have I found favor in your eyes that you know [of] me, and yet I am a foreigner”[4] (מַדּוּעַ מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ לְהַכִּירֵנִי וְאָּנֹכִי נָכְרִיָּה).

This verse was spoken before Bo’az married Ruth. The sages say[5] that when she said the word “know me” (לְהַכִּירֵנִי), she was inspired by ru’ach hakodesh that he would eventually “know” her after marrying her. Thus, even though to know is a different word, from this verse, we learn that awareness (הַכָּרָה) is synonymous with knowledge. Knowledge itself connotes a connection and union as in the verse, “And Adam knew his wife Eve.”[6] To cling to his wife, the Torah says that a man must leave his father and mother,[7] which in Kabbalah are connotations for wisdom and understanding—the first two intellectual faculties. To come to knowledge one has to let go of both the aspects of intelligence and comprehension, as defined above, and instead concentrate on the subject of contemplation itself, so much so, that it is as if a total unification takes place between the person contemplating and the subject. This is what “awareness” really means—to connect and unite with the truth of the matter begin contemplated. These are the meanings of the three terms intelligence, comprehension, and awareness as found in Chasidic philosophy.

Written Torah, Oral Torah, and Inner Torah

Now we can return to contemplate the saying of the sages that we started with regarding the nature of the Giving of the Torah that is ternary on the third month, etc. The reference of “a ternary Torah” is plainly meant to refer to the Tanach, the Bible, which is made up of three parts: Torah (Pentateuch), the Prophets, and the Writings. These are the parts of the Written Torah. However, many times we find that the Torah itself refers to Torah’s in the plural, for instance in the verse, “Inasmuch as Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My laws, and My Torah’s”[8] (עֵקֶב אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַע אַבְרָהָם בְּקֹלִי וַיִּשְׁמֹר מִשְׁמַרְתִּי מִצְוֺתַי חֻקּוֹתַי וְתוֹרֹתָי). Since the word Torah appears in the plural (וְתוֹרֹתָי), following the principle that the smallest plurality is 2, then this word designates the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.


Still, here the sages are saying that the Torah is ternary—it has three parts. You could explain it as just the division of the Bible into three parts, but there is a deeper explanation along the lines of the plural of Torah in the verse we saw designating the Written Torah and the Oral Torah, which are two dimensions of the same Torah really, since the Oral Torah is an explanation of the Written Torah. To follow this example, we introduce the Torah’s inner dimension known as Pnimiyut Hatorah (the inner aspect of the Torah). Actually, the Torah’s inner dimension is an intermediate between the Written and Oral Torah.

Harmony Between the Written Torah and the Oral Torah

The Torah’s inner dimension, Pnimiyut Hatorah serves several different functions. First, it is an intermediate dimension standing between the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. This is a very deep topic.

There are people, especially in our generation, that feel there is a gap and even conflict when it comes to lifestyle, to worldview, between the way they read the books of the Bible—the way in which they find themselves identifying with its heroes and their way of life—and between the character, the lifestyle, and the worldview of the sages of the Oral Torah. This seeming difference causes a great deal of misunderstanding and segregation between Jews, especially here in our holyland. Without getting into the details of something that is probably familiar to most, here we are saying that Pnimiyut Hatorah—the Torah’s inner dimension—brings harmony to the seeming difference between the Written Torah and the Oral Torah. Pnimiyut Hatorah reveals to anyone that studies it that it is impossible to have the Written Torah without the Oral and vice versa. How so? The Written Torah is full of beautiful stories and prophecies. The Oral Torah is all about halachah. Pnimiyut Hatorah shows (to those who learn it) how the spiritual abundance that was in the Bible is absolutely identified with the practical halachah described in the Oral Torah. This is Pnimiyut Hatorah’s first function.

Bringing the Torah and Mitzvoth Down Into Our Reality

The second function that Pnimiyut Hatorah serves is that—despite originating in the highest realm—the secrets of the Torah, when understood correctly, are what bring the Torah down into our world of action, immeasurably more than the Torah can come down by itself. In our graphic presentation of the Torah’s ternary structure, we will see that the intermediate part, in this case, Pnimiyut Hatorah, is not above the two other parts (the Written and the Oral) rather, it is pictured underneath them to stress that its vector of action is downwards.

We could have drawn the triangle right-side-up and placed Pniimyut Hatorah at the apex, but we are drawing it flipped over, with the triangle’s apex pointing down to remind us that Pnimiyut Hatorah is bringing the Torah down—pointing it in the direction of the realm of action, which is our mundane reality.

To convince ourselves that Pnimiyut Hatorah connects the Torah with the mundane realm of action, we can think about the simple fact that throughout the generations, it was the masters of the Torah’s secrets, those who are called Kabbalists who spoke and addressed the return to the Land of Israel the most. Some of them even sacrificed their lives in this respect. The return to the Land of Israel is a step in the coming of Mashiach and the complete redemption. The existential need to constantly think and talk about rectifying reality, beginning with the return to Zion and all the stages that follow is fueled by the Torah’s inner dimension. The more one is connected to the inner dimension of Torah, the more necessary it becomes to find a way to bring the Torah’s boundless energy down to rectify reality.

Now, let’s take a look at our figure and begin explaining what it means. Within each triangle that we see in this figure, the right side represents the intelligence (הַשְׂכָּלָה) and the Written Torah. As we said, this is the intellectual faculty that is synonymous with wisdom. We know this from the verse, “My son, heed the discipline of your father,
And do not forsake the instruction of your mother”[9] (שְׁמַע בְּנִי מוּסַר אָבִיךָ וְאַל־תִּטֹּשׁ תּוֹרַת אִמֶּךָ). The Zohar[10] explains that “the discipline of your father” is wisdom while “the instruction of your mother” is understanding. The Gaon of Vilna, quoting the sages,[11] says that the former refers to the Written Torah and the latter is the Oral Torah. So, we have a reference from the sages that the right side, the side of wisdom, is the Written Torah and the left side of our triangle, the side of understanding, is the Oral Torah.

It follows then that there is a third component between them, in the middle, which as we have said is the faculty of knowledge or awareness. Knowledge connects and unifies the husband and the wife. The Zohar sometimes[12] calls knowledge the firstborn son, meaning that it is like the first child that brings the parents together, “as one flesh.”[13] Thus, knowledge (and awareness) is what manifest all the willpower that was previously reserved in the mind. Every person’s mind wants something, and the faculty of the soul that applies the mind’s inner will is knowledge.

The part of the Torah that corresponds to knowledge and stands in the middle here is the Torah’s inner dimension. Pnimiyut Hatorah is sometimes called the soul of Torah. The Ramban called the concealed dimension, the True Wisdom (חָכְמַת הָאֱמֶת), even though the entire Torah is true and there is no truth but Torah.[14] There are also other connotations given to the Torah’s inner dimension.

Chabad of the Written Torah

From the wider perspective, we begin to analyze each component the same way. Within every triangle we can identify another triangle—three aspects of the larger triangle that correspond to wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.

Since we began with the plain meaning of “a ternary Torah” referring to the 3 parts of the Tanach, the Bible, it follows that the right-side triangle, representing the Written Torah, divides into three triangles, which are: Torah (the Penateuch), the Prophets, and the Writings. Between them, the Torah—the Five Books of Moses—corresponds to wisdom (it is the “Written Torah” within the Written Torah), the Prophets correspond to understanding (they are the “Oral Torah” within the Written Torah, and the Writings correspond with knowledge (they are the “Pnimiyut Hatorah,” the inner dimension, of the Written Torah).

Chabad of the Oral Torah

Within the Oral Torah we also have a ternary division. The Mishnah is the wisdom of the Oral Torah, or the wisdom of understanding (since we identified the Oral Torah as a whole is the understanding aspect of the entire Torah). The Gemara, which explains the laws appearing in the Mishnah in length, what its sources are, how it was applied, and so on is the aspect of understanding of the Oral Torah; or, the Gemara is the understanding of understanding. The third part of the Oral Torah that corresponds with knowledge is the Poskim, the scholars who ruled a final ruling. After the Talmud was sealed, there were scholars in every generation, beginning with the Gaonim who made the rulings on what to do in practice.

They learnt the Talmud with a mind to determine the halachah[15] (לְאַסּוֹקֵי שְׁמַעְתָּתָא אַלִּבָּא דְּהִלְכְתָא). After the Gaonim came Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfasi (the Rif) who wrote his book of rulings, which was then printed at the end of each of the tractates of the Talmud. Following him were the Rambam and the Rosh and then the Tur, written by the Rosh’s son, Rabbeinu Yaakov Ba’al Haturim and following him the Shulchan Aruch written by Rabbi Yosef Karo and then a slew of commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch and so on and on. Each generation added more and more discussion and rulings.

Poskim: The Pnimiyut of the Oral Torah

In the Song of Songs there is a verse that reads, “There are sixty queens and eighty concubines and damsels without number”[16] (שִׁשִּׁים הֵמָּה מְּלָכוֹת וּשְׁמֹנִים פִּילַגְשִׁים וַעֲלָמוֹת אֵין מִסְפָּר). The sages explain[17] that these words are a metaphor for different parts of the Oral Torah. The sixty queens refer to the tractates of the Mishnah. The eighty concubines refer to the beraitot, passages of mishnah that were not included in the Mishnah compiled by Rebbi Yehudah Hanassi and are therefore not “officially” part of the Mishnah. The damsels without number are a metaphor for the halachot, for the various rulings, which have no end.

So, this verse covers the three aspects of the Oral Torah that we have just seen: the Mishnah, the Gemara (which discusses the beraitot), and the Poskim—the innumerable rulings. But the next verse reads, “Only one is my dove, My perfect one” (אַחַת הִיא יוֹנָתִי תַמָּתִי). What might this be referring to? Who is this special “one?” This is the third component of the Torah, Pnimiyut Hatorah, the soul of the Jewish people, which the Ba’al Shem Tov referred to as, “the living heart of Israel.” It is, as the verse continues, “Her mother’s only one, the delight of she who bore her” (אַחַת הִיא לְאִמָּהּ בָּרָה הִיא לְיוֹלַדְתָּהּ). We now turn to the ternary structure of the Torah’s inner dimension.

Chabad of Pnimiyut Hatorah

If you have noticed, so far, the order has also been chronological. First there was the Written Torah, and within it, first the Pentateuch, then the Prophets, and then the Writings. Within the Oral Torah the chronological order is also apparent. In the Torah’s inner dimension, we find the same phenomenon.

The first part of Pnimiyut Hatorah, the wisdom of the Torah’s inner dimension, is the Zohar. The Zohar actually consists of many books, all of which are from the Mishnaic period. Most of the Zohar’s corpus of writings is attributed to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai whose yahrzeit was just a couple of weeks ago on Lag Ba’omer. About 400 years after the Zohar was revealed, Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Arizal, appeared and explained a whole new dimension within the Zohar. We cannot dwell on what the Arizal contributed, but one way of making the point is that the Arizal revealed the science behind the Zohar, in this case what is certainly a Divine science. In that sense, today the ”physics” of Kabbalah are the teachings of the Arizal. Before the Arizal it was nearly impossible to grasp or comprehend the Zohar’s depth. We use science as a metaphor for what the Arizal did because in other models, the faculty of understanding corresponds to science.[18] Thus, the Arizal’s teachings are the understanding (the binah) of Pnimiyut Hatorah, the understanding of knowledge.

Finally, the knowledge of knowledge, the novel teachings whose purpose is to reveal all of the Kabbalistic corpus to date and bring them to action and application is Chasidut, the revelation taught by our teacher the Ba’al Shem Tov about 200 years ago.

Recursive Analysis

Up to this point, we have taken a bird’s eye view of the ternary divisions of Torah. There is a principle in Chasidic thought that if you want to truly understand an idea, you need to follow it through to the minutest details. If you only grasp the general idea when there are still details to be analyzed, then you have not actually grasped the idea. You have to follow through to the minutest details you can find. In our case we have this ternary structure that we have analyzed down 2 levels: Written, Oral, and Inner Torah was our first level of analysis. Then we analyzed each of these into 3 parts, and that was our second level of analysis. So far, we have only discussed 3 squared, or 9 elements. To continue the analysis we need to analyze each of these 9 elements into 3 parts as well, at the end of which we will have 3 to the 3rd elements, or 27. If we continue and analyze those 27 elements the same way, we will have 81 elements. This is recursive analysis, which is an important technique in all thought but particularly in Chasidic thought.

The Chabad of the Pentateuch

Let’s continue by analyzing the Five Books of Moses, the Pentateuch. Since there are five books, we cannot just divide them into three groupings arbitrarily. We must find a normative and well-accepted model from the sages that divides the five chumashim into 3 parts.

To this end we will use the verse, “Then he [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people. And they said, “All that Havayah has spoken we will perform, and we will hear”[19] (וַיִּקַּח סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית וַיִּקְרָא בְּאָזְנֵי הָעָם וַיֹּאמְרוּ כֹּל אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר הוי' נַעֲשֶׂה וְנִשְׁמָע). The sages explain[20] that the Book of the Covenant refers to the Books of Genesis and parts of Exodus, which Moses had written prior to the Giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The second part would then be the remainder of Exodus and the books of Leviticus and Numbers, which together are known as, “The Book of Pekudim,” and which Moses taught us during our 40 years in the wilderness. Finally, during the last 37 days of his life, Moses first spoke and then wrote down the book of Deuteronomy, which forms the third part of the Pentateuch. This is a clear and well-known division of the Five Books of Moses.

We have then that the Book of the Covenant is the wisdom of the wisdom of the wisdom of Torah; the middle books called the Book of Pekudim are the understanding of the wisdom of the wisdom; and the Book of Deuteronomy is the knowledge of the wisdom of wisdom.

Chabad of the Prophets

With the books of the Prophets there is a primary division into the Early Prophets and the Later Prophets. There is a principle brought in Tanya that the root of all “stories” is in the supernal wisdom. Stories act like lightning strikes upon our minds. We saw this just now in the division of the Five Books of Moses into three parts. The part with the most stories, which we corresponded to the wisdom (of the wisdom of the wisdom) was the Book of the Covenant. Stories open our inner sense of sight allowing us to receive a revelation of the Divine. Like the Pentateuch, the Prophets also begin with stories. These are the early Prophets which consist of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings.

These four books of the Prophets are the wisdom within the Prophets, or to state it more precisely: the wisdom of the understanding (Prophets) of the wisdom (the Written Torah). The Later Prophets consist of all the other books of prophecies. The three major prophets among the Later Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, they correspond to the understanding of the Prophets. Finally, the Minor Prophets, which are known collectively as Trei Asar (the Twelve Books) are the knowledge of the Prophets.

Chabad of the Writings

Turning to the books in the part of the Bible known as the Writings, we first need to comment that there are different opinions regarding the order of the books of the Writings. If you look at different Tanachim, you will probably find that they do not agree on the order.

There is one particular Tanach that was published by one of the greatest experts on Tanach in recent generations, Rabbi Mordechai Breuer. He argues that the most precise manuscripts of the Tanach are Yemenite and follows them in placing the Book of Chronicles as the first book of the Writings. After that he places the books of Psalms, Job, Proverbs, and the Five Scrolls. Finally, he places the books of Daniel, Ezra, and Nechemiah.

But if we are to follow our principle that the books of stories correspond to wisdom, then the first division of the Writings should contain Chronicles together with Daniel, Ezra, and Nechemiah. After these, the three books known by their acronym, the books of Emet (אִיּוֹב מִשְׁלֵי תְּהִלִּים) correspond to the understanding of the Writings. These three books also have a system of cantillation that is entirely different from the rest of the Bible. Finally, the Five Scrolls—Song of Songs, Esther, Ruth, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes—form the division that corresponds to the knowledge of the Writings.

Chabad of the Zohar

We are skipping over the next few sections of our figure as they are mostly self-explanatory. The books and authors mentioned in those parts are well-known and their relationship with one another can for the most part be understood by anyone familiar with them.

Let us then turn to address the Zohar. We said earlier that the Zohar is actually a collection of a number of works. There are books that were written prior to the Zohar such as the book known as Pirkei Heichalot, which is like an eyewitness account of the chambers of the Garden of Eden and of Gehenom. It is like a book of journeys in the supernal realms. Then there is the main part of the Zohar. In addition, there are two more tomes, Tikkunei Zohar and Zohar Chadash that were written in a different style and have a different atmosphere to them.

We therefore divide the Zohar into these three categories: the Pirkei Heichalot are the most palpable descriptions in the Zohar and therefore we will correspond them with the wisdom (of the wisdom of knowledge). The primary tradition of the Zohar that was passed down from generation to generation corresponds to the understanding in the Zohar. Finally, the Tikkunei Zohar and Zohar Chadash correspond with knowledge.

Chabad of the Arizal’s Writings

Because the Arizal did not write much himself, most of his Torah was passed down to us via his most dedicated disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital, known as Rachu. Rachu’s writings documenting the Arizal’s teachings are considered 100% authoritative relative to other traditions from other disciples of the Arizal, who are known as the “cubs of the Arizal.” They too wrote down their notes from when they learnt with the Arizal. These are called, “the writings of the friends” (כִּתְבֵי הַחֲבֵרִים).

The writings of Rachu include the Shmonah She’arim and the Eitz Chaim, etc. The writings of the other disciples contain many books, the most important of which is Emek Hamelech, from Rabbi Naftali Bachrach. 200 years later, there lived the greatest Kabbalist after the Arizal whose name was Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, the Rashash. He corrected all of the Arizal’s writings from mistakes and then turned them into something applicable. He learnt in the Beit El shul in the Old City of Jerusalem. He originally came from Yemen and miraculously made it to the Land of Israel. Anyone who studies Kabbalah seriously knows that the Rashash is the final goal. Though the most important work in the Arizal’s corpus of writings is Rachu’s Eitz Chaim, anyone who wants to do what the Arizal instructed and have the proper intent (kavanot) during prayer, must learn Rechovot Hanahar and Nahar Shalom by the Rashash. Without these two works, you cannot make heads or tails of the Arizal’s kavanot. In a sense, among the Kabbalists, the Rashash is considered the posek, the one who makes rulings regarding the kavanot.

So now we have that within the Arizal’s writings the three aspects are: the writings of the Rachu correspond to the wisdom (of the understanding of knowledge); the writings of the other disciples correspond to the understanding; and, the writings of the Rashash correspond to the knowledge.

Chabad of Chasidut

When it comes to the teachings of Chasidut, we have the first three generations who consisted of the Ba’al Shem Tov, who began to reveal this part of the Torah. Then comes his disciple, the Maggid of Mezritch who succeeded the Ba’al Shem Tov. He had many holy disciples most of whom became leaders and tzaddikim themselves. The Maggid is considered a new revelation within Chasidut. This can be seen in the direct disciples of the Ba’al Shem Tov, many of whom are missing the unique insight that the Maggid brought with him to the Ba’al Shem Tov’s teachings. Then we have the third generation, which is where the movement known as Chabad begins. Chabad was founded by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. He was so connected and united with Chassidic thinking that he eventually rules in every spiritual aspect like its doctrines. The book that he wrote, the Tanya, is like the ruling, the final word when it comes to Pnimiyut Hatorah, the Torah’s inner teachings. He was definitely into serving God through action as he writes in the introduction to the Tanya, that it is all meant to motivate a person to serve God with action. He writes that this making a ruling in the Torah’s inner dimension is harder than doing so in the revealed dimension. This is because, when it comes to inner work and inner service of God, every person has a different degree of being able to grasp and comprehend Godliness and no two people are alike. The Tanya then strives to do just that and make a ruling in matters that are debated in Pnimiyut Hatorah. Of course, to make these rulings required the Alter Rebbe to have the complete intelligence (הַשְׂכָּלָה) and comprehension (הַשָּׂגָה) of the entire corpus of Chassidic teachings, the wisdom and understanding of its Torah. Thus, the Chabad method corresponds to the knowledge of the knowledge of the knowledge of Torah in general.

So, finally, we have that the three divisions of Chasidut are the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov, which is its wisdom, the teachings of the Maggid, which are its understanding, and the teachings of the Alter Rebbe of Chabad, which are its knowledge.

There is a lot more to cover and to develop in this figure, but for now, let us finish by presenting the complete figure:

[1]. For many of the foundations of this class, see Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 2, Shavu’ot.

[2]. See Mittler Rebbe’s Torat Chaim, Beshalach, S.v. Tzidkat Peerzono (235b), and elsewhere.

[3]. See Zohar 3:153b and elsewhere.

[4]. Ruth 2:10.

[5]. Midrash Lekach Tov on ibid.

[6]. Genesis 4:1.

[7]. Ibid. 2:24.

[8]. Genesis 26:5.

[9]. Proverbs 1:8.

[10]. 2:85a.

[11]. See his commentary on the verse.

[12]. 3:291a. See also Sha’ar Hapesukim, Bereishit 4.

[13]. See Rashi on Genesis 2:24, based on Sanhedrin 58b.

[14]. Jerusalem Talmud Rosh Hashanah 3:8 and elsewhere.

[15]. Yoma 26a.

[16]. Song of Songs 6:8.

[17]. Megillah 6b.

[18]. See our article “The Torah Academy” available online at:

[19]. Exodus 24:7.

[20]. Mechilta, Parashat Hachodesh, ch. 3.

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