We must now understand why at times the letters are called “vessels” and at times they are called “clothing”. In general, as explained earlier, the vessels or organs are still considered to be a part and parcel of the essence and completely connected with it, just as one’s brain, or heart, is part and parcel of him. Likewise, the letters are called vessels because although they limit the light, they, nonetheless, are vessels which bring the light into tangible description and being.
However, at times the letters are called clothing. An article of clothing is not part and parcel of the wearer. It is subject to change or exchange with other clothing. Likewise, the letters are called clothing because they are not bound to this particular light and may be exchanged for different letters. This means to say that the same idea may be said in more than one way, as we see that two people may express the same idea using different words. Besides this, the letters may be put into a different order to mean something radically different then their original meaning, as we see with the letters of a ransom note which are cut out from a magazine.
The difference between these two aspects of the letters may be understood from the letters of the Torah. The letters of the Torah are ordered in a specific manner. It is specifically these letters in this particular order which makes it the Torah. Only this combination of letters reveals the light of the Torah to us and the letters may not be changed or exchanged. In this regard the letters of the Torah are its vessels.
However, there is another aspect in the letters of the Torah. This is the aspect of the external letters themselves. It is possible to rearrange the external letters of the Torah and make a whole new book out of them, a book that says something totally different. These are the letters which are called enclothements or “clothing”. These external letters are not connected to the inner essence of the Torah, because if one were to rearrange them, he would not have changed the Torah altogether. The Torah would continue to be the Torah. Rather the book lying before him would not be the Torah at all. It would be a different book written with the same letters, ordered differently. For this reason we are told that when the Romans burned the Torah scroll, the letters of the Torah were not burned at all, but rather floated up to heaven. What was burned was merely the “clothing”, the external letters which may be changed or exchanged. The essential letters of the Torah itself remained intact.
From this we understand that although letters which are “vessels” and the letters which are “clothing” look exactly alike, they, nonetheless, are two separate matters.