[It is written:] Know this day and take it unto your heart that G‑d is the [mighty and just] L-rd in the heavens above and upon the earth below; there is none other. (Deut. 4:39)
This requires explanation. For would it occur to you that there is a god dwelling in the waters beneath the earth, so that it is necessary to caution so strongly [and negate this thought by stating that one should] "take it unto your heart," [and come to the realization that this is indeed not so, that there are no other gods dwelling in heaven or earth]? For if the creative letters were to depart…all the heavens would become naught…
It is written: "Forever, O G‑d, Your word stands firm in the heavens" (Psalms 119:89). The Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory, has explained [this concept at length, and made it widely known that this means:] that "Your word" which you uttered, [viz.,] "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters..." (Gen. 1:6), these [very] words and letters [through which the heavens were created] stand firmly forever within the firmament of heaven and are forever clothed within all the heavens to give them life, as it is written, "And the word of our L-rd shall stand firm forever" (Isaiah 40:8), [and as it is likewise written,] "And His words live and stand firm forever…". (Liturgy, Morning Prayer)
This refers not only to those creations such as the heavenly firmament which enjoy a permanent existence, but also to those creatures which perish as individuals, with only their species continuing to exist. In all instances, the divine life-force which created a particular creature must constantly be vested within it, incessantly creating and vivifying it anew, just as it ceaselessly recreates the heavenly firmament, as shall soon be explained.
For if the creative letters were to depart even for an instant, G‑d forbid, and return to their source, that source being the degree of G‑dliness from whence they emanate, all the heavens would become naught and absolute nothingness, and it would be as though they had never existed at all, exactly as before the utterance, "Let there be a firmament."
Before that Divine utterance the firmament did not exist at all. Were the letters that constitute the Divine utterance to depart from the firmament, it would revert to the state of never having existed at all.
The Alter Rebbe now concludes that this is true not only of the firmament, but of all created beings.
And so it is with all created things, in all the upper and lower worlds, and even this physical earth and the realm of the completely inanimate.
Even immobile beings that show no signs of animation or spirituality, not even the degree of animation observed in the process of growth in the vegetative world - even this extremely low life-form constantly harbors within it the divine life-force that brought it into being.
If the letters of the Ten Utterances by which the earth was created during the Six Days of Creation were to depart from it but for an instant, G‑d forbid, it would revert to naught and absolute nothingness, exactly as before the Six Days of Creation. This combination of letters is the life-force of the stone…
This thought was expressed by the Arizal (Etz Chayim, Portal 50; ch. 2:10), [when he said] that even within [that which appears to be] utterly inanimate matter, such as stones or earth or water, there is a soul and spiritual life-force. That is, [i.e, although they evince no demonstrable form of animation, within them] are [nevertheless] enclothed the letters of speech from the Ten Utterances which give life and existence to inanimate matter, enabling it to come into being out of the naught and nothingness that preceded the Six Days of Creation.
The Ten Utterances usher inanimate matter into a state of existence, in contrast to its former state of non-being, prior to the Six Days of Creation. Thus, the letters of the Ten Utterances which cause inanimate matter to be created are its soul and life-force.
Now, although the word "stone" [in Hebrew, "even", spelled alef, beit, nun] is not mentioned in the Ten Utterances recorded in the Torah, how, then, can we say that letters of the Ten Utterances are enclothed within a stone? Nevertheless, life-force flows to the stone from the Ten Utterances by means of combinations and substitutions of their letters, which are transposed in the 231 Gates, either in direct or reverse order, as is explained in Sefer Yetzira, so that ultimately the combination of letters [that forms] the word "stone" descends from the Ten Utterances, and is derived from them, and this combination of letters is the life-force of the stone.
And so it is with all created things in the world.
The Holy Tongue, the Hebrew of the Torah, was the language used in Creation. Thus, all created things are directly affected by their Hebrew names, as well as by the component letters of their names. In this, the Holy Tongue is unlike other, arbitrary languages, the meaning of whose words is the result of mere consensus. Individual creatures cannot receive their life-force directly from the actual Ten Utterances…
The names [of all creatures] in the Holy Tongue are the very letters of speech which descend, degree by degree, from the Ten Utterances recorded in the Torah, by means of substitutions and transpositions of letters through the 231 Gates, until they reach a particular created thing and become invested in it, thereby giving it life.
[This descent is necessary] because individual creatures, [unlike the more pervasive beings such as the heavens, earth, sun and moon,] cannot receive their life-force directly from the actual Ten Utterances recorded in the Torah, for the life-force issuing directly from them is far greater than the capacity of the individual creatures [i.e., it is far too intense to serve as their life-force.]
They can receive the life-force only when it descends and is progressively diminished, degree by degree, by means of substitutions and transpositions of the letters, and by means of gematriot, their numerical values.
The life-force may be so muted that it reaches a created being not even through a transposition of letters, but merely through their numerical equivalent.
[This transpires] until [the life-force] can be condensed and enclothed, and a particular creature can be brought forth from it.
And the name by which [the creature] is called in the Holy Tongue is a vessel for the life-force condensed into the letters of that name which has descended from the Ten Utterances recorded in the Torah, that have the power and vitality to create a being ex-nihilo and give it life forever. [Why does it have the power to do so?] For "the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one." (Zohar I, 24a; II, 60a)
Just as G‑d has the ability to create ex-nihilo, so too do the Ten Utterances of the Torah.
[Tanya, Book 2 (Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah), Chapter 1;
Translated by Rabbi Levy Wineberg from the translation and elucidations of his father, Rabbi Yosef Wineberg, and printed in "Lessons in Tanya" (Kehot)]