“And He blew into his nostrils the soul of life” also explained by the Alter Rebbe in his saying, “just as a child stems form his father’s brain.”
An explanation in brief: In this analogy, we observe that the child’s entire body is derived from a drop of semen originating in its father’s brain. Yet the many physical components, which constitute the child’s body, are by no means uniform. They vary greatly, from the brain-the highest component– to the nails of the feet, the lowest.
These radical differences come about through the presence of the drop of semen in the mother’s womb during the nine months of gestation. It is this period of physical development that produces the differences between one organ and another. The more materialized a particular component of the drop becomes, the more it diverges from its original state and becomes an entity with its own unique physical characteristics. We thus observe that though all the organs share a common source, nevertheless in the process of development there arise differences as radical as that between brain and nails.
Another matter evident from the analogy is that although the nails are the most insignificant part of the child’s body, they are still bound and united with their first source– the father’s brain. For, like the other parts of the child’s body, the nails to receive their nourishment and life from its brain. Since the child’s brain retains the essence of its source (the fathers brain) and is thus constantly bound to its source, even the nails are therefore bound up with their original source.
Even when in this physical world, souls of a higher level (analogous to the child’s brain) retain the spiritual level of their source– the level of “head” and “brain”; and through these souls even the souls of lower levels remain bound and unified with their source within G-d. This, briefly, is what the Alter Rebbe explains.
The second aspect of the analogy too applies here. Although his soul may descend to the very lowest of levels, it is still bound up and unified with its original source in Chochmah Ila’ah. In the analogy, the nails remain bound to the father’s brain through their unity with the son’s brain. Similarly, the souls of the lowest level remain bound to their source in Chochmah Ila’ah through their attachment to the souls of the righteous and the sages of their generation, from whom they receive their spiritual nourishment.
In order to help us better understand why the levels of individual souls vary so widely despite their common source, the Alter Rebbe now returns to the analogy of a father and son (used earlier to illustrate the description of Jews as G-d’s ” children” who are derived from Chochmah Ila’ah — G-d’s” brain”, as it were).
Another matter evident from the analogy is that although the nails are the most insignificant part of the child’s body, they are still bound and united with their first source– the father’s brain. For, like the other parts of the child’s body, the nails to receive their nourishment and life from its brain. Since the child’s brain retains the essence of its source (the father’s brain) and is thus constantly bound to its source, even the nails are therefore bound up with their original source.
The same is true regarding souls. All souls are derived from the same source and root, from Chochmah Ila’ah. But each soul must descend through from a multitude of worlds and levels, before clothing itself the physical body. It is this descent that creates changes in the soul’s level and differences between one soul and another, as one soul is affected by this descent to a greater degree than another.
As for what is written in the Zohar and in Zohar Chadash, that the essential factor is to conduct oneself in a holy manner during sexual union, which is not the case with the children of the ignorant and their descendants who do not conduct themselves. The ignorant– as the Zohar goes on to imply– draw down for their child the soul of a lower-level, which seems to indicate that an action occurring in the physical world can, in fact, affect the souls level. Not so, declares the Alter Rebbe. The Zohar is not referring to the soul at all, but to the souls spiritual “garment.” The Rabbi Isaac Luria, of blessed memory in Likutei Torah on Parshat Vayera, and in Taamei HaMittzvot on Parshat Bereishit: “Thus the physical world—of which the parents are a part—can in no way affect the soul’s spiritual rank. Even the statement of the Zohar that the essential factor regarding the state of the soul is the holy manner of conduct during sexual union, pertains only to the soul’s “’garment”. The soul itself, with all its various levels, emanates, ‘from above’.
However great a soul it may be, it still needs the father’s sanctification at the time of intercourse.
The Gemara relates that G-d decrees that a child about to be born will be wise or foolish, strong or weak, and so on. However, whether the child will be righteous or wicked G-d does not say: this is not predetermined; rather, it is left to the individual’s free choice.
The Alter Rebbe continues: “I desire, instead, to unite my Nefesh, Ruash and this Neshamah with G-d through investing them in “His” three garments, namely, action, speech and thought dedicated to G-d, his Torah and His commandments. These are called “His” (G-d’s) three garments because they lend expression to His wisdom (Torah) and Will (mitzvot), which are one with G-d Himself.
How can we approach G-d’ greatness, to “find” it and be united with it? It is through His “humility”, by His lowering himself to our level, G-d compressed His Will and wisdom in the 613 commandments of the Torah and in their laws.
Just as the human body consists of 248 and 365 blood vessels, corresponding to the Torahs 248 positive commandments and 365 prohibitive commandments 613 in all in all, the soul similarly comprises 613 “organs”–the spiritual counterpart of the 613 bodily organs, where each ” organ” corresponding to a specific commandment. When, through its three “garments” (thought, speech and action), the soul embraces all 613 commandments, then all 613 “organs” of the soul are enclothed in all 613 commandments– each “organ” of this soul in its related commandment.
The Alter Rebbe discussed the divine soul; it’s ten faculties– three intellectual and seven emotional– and it’s three garments by which it expresses itself, namely, the thought, speech and action of Torah and mitzvot. Alter Rebbe explains and differentiates the animal’s soul. He explains that its structure exactly parallels that of the divine soul as it too has 10 faculties and three garments; only, unlike the divine soul, the substance of the animals’ soul is kelipah, and its faculties in garments are impurity. By clothing itself in these garments the animal’s soul descends to an even lower state of impurity.
The G-d-ly soul and the animal’s soul are both composed of four spiritual “elements”: fire, air, water and earth. The emotions, such as love and fear, which one expresses in idle talk, emanate from the element of air. This is the reason why Maimonides and not Nachmanides, of Blessed memory, and their peers, engaged in them (in the sciences– since they were able to utilize this knowledge in the service of G-d and Torah).
The animal souls have four evil elements. The desire and appetite for pleasure is found in the element of water. The animal soul is predominantly emotional, and the heart is the seat of emotion. More specifically, the abode of the animal soul is in the left ventricle, as it is filled with blood, and it is written, (1) “for the blood is the soul” (nefesh) — indicating that the soul resides in that ventricle filled with blood, the left ventricle. Because the animal soul resides in the heart, therefore all lusts and boasting and anger and similar passions are in the heart, and from the heart they spread throughout the entire body, rising also to the brain in the head, (2) to think and meditate about then and to become cunning in them.
The divine soul is essentially intellective, and the brain is the seat of intellect. [The divine soul resides] also in the heart, in the right ventricle where there is no blood. Divine souls abode is in the brain and the heart. “The heart of the wise man, –i.e., the divine soul (in contrast with the animals soul; specifically: the evil inclination, they yetzer hara, which is described as “an old fool”)–is on his right.” Understanding the greatness of G-d leads one to love Him. This love, then, is one example of the divine souls reaching from the brain into the heart.
Therefore, because the heart, in its corporeality, is close to the other organs, and also provides their vitality, it can clothe itself in their actions, to be their “wings”, elevating them. As we see in practice: when one acts out of love, his hands suddenly become animated; for, as stated, when the souls revelation reaches the point where it is felt in a revealed love, it has become so materialized that it can be experienced in the other organs of the body, and can therefore animate their actions.
As explained in the Kabbalah the right hand represents both Cheshed and water (and, as said earlier, Torah is compared to water), and the left hand represents Gevurah (“severity”) and fire. We thus see from the above statement in Etz Chayim that Torah is the food of the soul and mitzvot are its garments. Torah has the qualities of both ” food” and ” garment”– hence its superiority.
We find in the Gemara, five distinct soul types:
- A righteous man who prospers, as well as spiritually– he knows only good. The Gemara explains: “the righteous man who prospers” is the consummate “complete” Tzaddik.
- A righteous man who suffers, in both a material as well as spiritual sense: spiritually, he has not yet vanquished all his evil, and in the material sense too wanting.
- A wicked man in whom there is some good and who prospers.
- A wicked man who suffers spiritually and materially.
- An intermediate man — the Beinoni.
We thus see from the Gemara that the definition of Tzaddik in its true sense applies to the person who has rid himself of his evil nature.
And as it is written in The Duties of the Heart, “Desires for worldly pleasures are unable to dwell in the heart together with the love of G-d.”
In order to attain a love of G-d, therefore, it is necessary for one to change his nature from one extreme to the other– by no means an easy matter! Moreover, our sages also said, that only Tzaddikim have control over their hearts — to arouse a love and fear of G-d whenever they so desire.
As mentioned, the garments of the animal’s soul are sinful thought, speech and action. Therefore “one must not harbor impure fancies by day so that he will not become polluted at night”.
The Alter Rebbe now proceeds to explain that one who vanquishes his animal soul and transforms its evil into good– is a Tzaddik.
The level of Tzaddik comprises two general categories. The “perfect Tzaddik, “also called the “Tzaddik who knows only good,” is he who has transformed all the evil of his animal soul to good; while he who has not completely eradicated and converted the evil within him is termed ” an imperfect Tzaddik” and “a Tzaddik who knows (i.e., possesses some vestige of) evil.” The difference between the two sets of descriptive terms– “complete” and “incomplete “Tzaddik “who knows only good” or “who knows evil”– is as follows:
The former said describes the degree of the Tzaddik’s love of G-d, for it is this love that earns for him the title “Tzaddik”. In the case of the “complete Tzaddik” it is complete and perfect love; while the love of the “incomplete Tzaddik” is imperfect. The latter set of terms refers to the conversion of the animal souls evil to good; an individual in whom it has been entirely transformed is termed “a Tzaddik who knows only good,” whereas one in whom a vestige of evil remains is termed “a Tzaddik who knows evil.”
As we find in the Gemara, “18,000 Tzaddikim stand before the Holy One, Blessed be He.”
The ability to become a Tzaddik is a gift from G-d, not granted to every man. “You have created Tzaddikim” thus means that G-d created souls capable of attaining the rank of Tzaddik.
They thirst for G-d, advising them to slake their thirst for Him through Torah, which binds one to G-d.
They do not study Torah or perform mitzvah with the intention of quenching their own thirst for G-d-liness, for such service is– in a subtle sense– self-serving, as it is motivated by one’s desire for a certain spiritual profit, namely, the bliss of closeness to G-d.
The higher the level of the soul, the less preparation it requires to awaken its love of G-d. Regardless, every soul has the capacity to arouse its love of G-d during prayer. Also, not all times are alike. There are times — such as during prayer– when one’s heart is open and receptive; at such time he may evoke a loathing towards evil. At other times the heart may be” blocked” and spiritually insensitive, and one is incapable of loathing evil.
The Alter Rebbe discussed the difference between the Tzaddik and the Beinoni. The Tzaddik has no evil inclination. Since there is no longer any evil in his own soul, evil holds no attraction for him.
In the Beinoni, however, the evil remains strong. The Beinoni therefore finds evil desirable, and it is only through the constant vigilance and struggle of his divine soul that he is able to prevent his animal’s soul from implementing its desires in thought, speech and action.
Now, the rank of Beinoni is one that is attainable by every man. Each person should strive after it if he has not yet attained it, and should not think it beyond his reach, for every person can, at any time or hour, be a Beinoni because a Beinoni does not abhor evil. Unlike the Tzaddik, he does not find worldly pleasures revolting and loathsome. For this is a matter entrusted to the heart, and as explained earlier, the Beinoni has yet to conquer the evil in his heart; consequently, he does not loathe evil.
The Alter Rebbe explains that though the Beinoni is unsullied by sin and thought, speech or action, the internal evil of his animal soul remains strong enough to desire evil. That these desires do not find any practical expression is due only to the divine souls restraining them, with the aid given it by the Almighty.
The mind, by virtue of its inherent nature, is master over the left part of the heart, the seat of the animal soul; whence comes one’s mundane desires and evil thoughts, and over the mouth and the other bodily organs, which are the instruments of action.
Hence by having– in his mind, at least– a love of G-d and a desire to fulfill the mitzvot, one can utilize the natural mastery of the mind to overcome the desires of his heart, and to motivate his mouth and other bodily organs to study Torah and fulfill its commandments.
Even one whose heart is not under his control, as is a Tzaddik’s, can do this transformation.
“Tzaddikim have control over their heart,” indicates that any one of the lesser rank, including a Beinoni, is not in control of his heart; while the statement that only the wicked are ” under the control of their heart,” implies that anyone outside the category of Rasha– even a
Beinoni–is in control of his heart. Where, then, does the Beinoni actually stand? The previous discussion of the mastery of mind over heart explains this point. There are actually not two alternatives — of either being in control of one’s heart or controlled by it– but three. The Tzaddik controls his heart. He can arouse the love of G-d in his heart, directly, without resorting to his mind as a medium of influence.
The Rasha, on the other hand, not only does not control his heart, but also is controlled by it. The Beinoni, although not in control of his heart, as is a Tzaddik, rules his heart by way of his mind, which is under his control. To a certain extent, then, i.e., as regards the practical effect of his heart on his thought, speech, and action, the Beinoni does in fact control his heart. Therefore the Alter Rebbe says of the Rasha, “his heart is not under his control at all,” emphasizing that he is unable to influence his heart even by means of his mind.
Our sages state that the wicked are under the control of their heart but their heart is not under their control at all– they are unable to master the desires of their heart, for their mind has no active control over it.
This explains the Talmudic statement that “he who serves G-d” refers to one who reviews his studies 101 times, while “him who serves Him not” refers to one who reviews his studies only 100 times. This is so because in those Talmudic days, it was customary to review such lessons 100 times. Thus, to review 100 times did not require any effort; it was second nature. Only the 101st revision, which required effort beyond the student’s custom, could gain him the appellation of “him who serves G-d.”
The Talmud illustrates this by the analogy of the market drivers. The drivers would charge one zuz for 10 parsi (Persian miles), but demanded two zuz for driving 11 parsi, for driving an 11th mile exceeded their customary practice.
There are three forms of pardon: (a) if one transgresses a positive precept and repents, he is pardoned it once; (b) if he transgresses a prohibitive commandment and repents, the day of atonement together with his repentance atones; (c) if his transgression carries a penalty of karet (spiritual excision) or execution at the hands of the court, then after having repented and undergone the spiritual cleansing of the Yom Kippur, suffering brings about full atonement. Such a person– who sins rarely, only in minor matters, and then repents immediately– is deemed a Tzaddik and deserves reward, since the overwhelming majority of his deeds are good. Furthermore, if a person considers himself wicked, he will be grieved at heart and depressed.
Kelipot nogah is found in the higher worlds as well. However, the proportions of good and evil, which comprise it, vary from one world to the next. In Beriah, Kelipot nogah is mostly good, possessing only a small measure of evil, which is separate from the good. In Yetzirah it is composed equally of good and evil, while in the spiritual Asiyah, evil predominates. In our physical world, Kelipot nogah is almost totally evil, with only a minute representation of good and light. From this minute amount of good within elipat nogah come the good qualities, which are found in the animal soul of the Jew. King David extirpated his evil nature through fasting; other ways are possible.
The author previously stated that the ability of the mind to master the heart is natural and inherent in the mind. Why, then, do the wicked Rasha’im lack this capacity? He answers:
A soul that has fallen captive in the hands of the Kelipot remains in the state until the Kelipot release it of their own will. Anything in the hold of the Kelipot cannot be removed from them against their will, for the principle that “God does not make unjustifiable demands of His creations,” holds true even with regard to the Kelipot. In the case of a child to be born to sinful parents, the Kelipot willingly release the soul, in the hope that such a child will be influenced by its parents, and will become a sinner like them. In this way, the Kelipot stand to extract in even greater measure of vitality from the holiness of the soul by means of its eventual sins. However, having such a lofty soul, the child is able to overcome the obstacles imposed by its parents’ wickedness, and may rise to the level of a Tzaddik. In this way, paradoxically, it comes to pass that a Tzaddik may be born to wicked parents because of their wickedness.
Returning to his original point, that every Jew has a soul which stems from the holy Sefirot, and that ultimately each soul is animated by the light of the Ein Sof by way of the soul’s faculty of wisdom (Chochmah), the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain why it is Chochmah that is the original recipient of the light of the Ein Sof. The explanation is based on a discussion of the nature of the soul’s faculty of wisdom, which now follows:
Since the light of the Ein Sof is vested in every Jews’ soul: everyone, regardless of his level of knowledge, is prepared to sacrifice his life for his faith in G-d.
The four elements — earth, water, air, and fire– are so positioned that the higher and more ethereal elements surround and encompass the lower, coarser elements.
Earth is the coarsest of the elements; it is therefore physically the lowest. Water, the next highest element, should, by right, surround and be located above the Earth: it is only because of G-d’s kindness that the Earth is above the waters, as it is written: “He spreads the Earth over the waters, for His kindness is everlasting.” The element of Air is higher than Water and therefore surrounds it. Fire, the highest element surrounds the entire atmosphere and is found in the sub lunar sphere. The flames constant drawing upwards thus represent its desire to unite with its source.
This stands in direct contrast to the Kelipah and Sitra Achra, from which are derived the souls of the Gentiles…who act only for themselves, saying,” Give, give!” and (as Esau said:) ” Feed me!”– In order to be independent beings and entities (separated from G-d), as mentioned earlier, that kelipah is a separate and distinct entity, far removed from G-d, in direct contrast to Chochmah (whose nature is humility and self nullification).
Therefore they (those of the realm of Kelipah) are described as “dead,” for ” Wisdom (Chochmah) gives life” (hence that which is the opposite of Chochmah lacks life), and it is written: ” They die, without wisdom”; i.e. “death” is a direct result of lack of wisdom (Chochmah), therefore the nations that receive their life force from Kelipah are considered “dead”. (Just as the heathen nations are called “dead”) so too are the wicked and the sinners of Israel — (but only) before they are put to the test of sanctifying G-d’s Name.
“The wicked are under the control of their heart,” i.e., the animals soul of the Kelipah, situated in the left part of the heart, … then all the Kelipot become nullified, and they vanish as though they had never been, in the presence of the L-rd.
So it is written: “All the nations including also the Kelipot are as nothing before Him”; and ” For all your enemies, O L-rd, referring also to the Kelipot, which are the “enemies of G-d” all Your enemies will perish, they will be scattered….”: and again, “As wax melts before fire, so shall the wicked perish”; and “The hills referring to the Kelipot, which are compared to hills by reason of their hauteut melted like wax.”
The force of the divine light of the Ein Sof that is clothed in the soul’s faculty of Chochmah is so intense… as to banish and repel the Sitra Achra and the Kelipot so that they are unable to touch even if it’s “garments”, namely the thought, speech, and action that express one’s faith in the unity of G-d.
That is, not only can the Kelipot not weaken one’s faith, but they cannot even prevent his faith from expressing itself in thought, speech and action.
When a Jew considers that he would willingly give up his life rather than be parted from G-d, he will surely realize that:
- He should certainly refrain from sin for the very same reason, since sin tears one away from G-d.
- He ought to fulfill all the commandments, for through them one achieves the objective of his ” hidden love” and the fear of G-d contained in it as a motivation for observing all the commandments, “I am G-d…”and “You shall have no other G-ds…” comprise the entire Torah.
For the commandment “I am G-d” contains all but 248 positive precepts, while the commandment “You shall have no other G-ds” contains all the 365 prohibitive commandments.
That is why we heard only these two commandments, “I am…” and “You shall have… ” Directly from G-d, while the other eight commandments were transmitted by Moses, as our Sages have said, for they are the sum total of the whole Torah.
That is why the sages, of blessed memory, said that arrogance is truly tantamount to idolatry.
This is similar in what is written in Etz Chayim, Portal, that the evil in this corporeal world is the dregs of the coarse Kelipot; it is the sediment of the purifying process, and so on.
Whatever sparks of good that are found in the Kelipot have been isolated and elevated, what remains in Kelipah is its lowest and coarsest form. The Kelipah is the evil found in the material world…namely, the unclean cattle, beasts and birds, and the vermin and reptiles which all receive their life force from the three completely unclean Kelipot…”When a man sins, he is told: ” The gnat preceded you.”…”You have no cause for pride! Even then lowly gnat was created before you!”
This means that even the gnat, as the Talmud states, consumes food but does not excrete, indicating a Kelipah, which is the height of selfishness–it does not give anything of itself. As our sages explain: “a wild beast will never defy a human being unless he appears to it like an animal.” In fact, when confronting Tzaddikim, from whose face the divine image never departs, the evil beasts are humbled before them, as is stated in the Zohar concerning Daniel in the lion’s den.
Not only did the lions not harm him, but on the contrary, they humbled themselves before him. At any rate, what emerges from the above is that even the animals do not violate G-d’s Will…. not even a child (see Shabbat 151b: a day old child need not be guarded from weasels and mice; not so the corpse of the mighty King of Bushan).
For the Kelipot and Sitra Achra are called “vomit and filth,” as is known.
Despite the fact that the good nature is stronger than evil, ” even a little of the light of holiness dispels much darkness of the Kelipah, yet here too the previous rule applies; and thus: It is impossible to conquer the evil nature with laziness and sluggishness, which stem from sadness and a stone like dullness of the heart, but rather with alacrity, which derives from joy and an open i.e., responsive heart that is unblemished by any trace of worry and sadness in the world.
Sound advice has been offered by our sages on cleaning one’s heart of all sadness and any trace of worrying about mundane matters, even a sadness or worry caused by the lack of such essentials as children, health, or livelihood. “Blessed are you, G-d… the true Judge”; rather the implication is that one should accept misfortune with joy, like the joy indivisible and obvious good.
The Alter Rebbe explained that the evil in the soul of the Beinoni remains vigorous; his task is to prevent it from expressing itself in thought, speech, and action. Thus, he has no control over the occurrence of evil thoughts in his mind, but only over his acceptance or rejection of these thoughts.
Concerning this Job said to G-d: “you have created wicked men,” as though it were preordained that one wicked, and another righteous.
The Alter Rebbe pointed out that this is contradicted by the statement in the Gemara that before a child is born, G-d decrees whether he shall be wise or foolish, strong or weak, and so on, but does not determine whether he will be righteous or wicked– this is left to one’s own choice. The meaning of Job’s statement becomes clear, however, in light of the above discussion. True, G-d does not ordain whether man will act wickedly, but he does “create wicked men,” in the sense that their minds work like the mind of the Rasha, with evil thoughts constantly occurring to them. G-d created them in this way so that they will engage in battle with these thoughts, and thereby subjugate the Sitra Achra.
The implication of Job’s statement is not that they were created to actually be wicked, G-d forbid, i.e., sinful and thought, speech and action, but that there should occur to them, in their thoughts and musings alone, that which occurs to the wicked, i.e., that evil thoughts should enter their mind, as they do in the mind of the wicked, and they shall eternally wage war to avert their minds from them in order to subjugate the Sitra Achra, yet they will never be able to annihilate the Sitra Achra in their souls completely, for this is accomplished by Tzaddikim.
Therefore, in the battle between the divine soul in the animal soul, when the divine soul exerts itself and musters all its strength in prayer, thereby to weaken or even vanish the animal soul, the Kelipah of the animal soul too gathers strength to counter it, aiming to confuse and topple the divine soul by means of a foreign thought of its own.
The animal’s soul, sensing danger in the divine souls increased efforts in prayer and devotion, contrives to jar ones concentration by conjuring up assorted foreign thoughts in his mind. Thus, the appearance of an extraneous thought during prayer indicates that one’s devotion was of sufficient quality to give the animal soul cause for concern; and this realization itself should gladden one and encourage him to continue his efforts.
This refutes a common error. When a foreign thought occurs to some people during prayer, they mistakenly conclude that there prayer is worthless, for if one prayed properly and correctly, so they mistakenly believe, no foreign thoughts would arise in his mind, but in fact there are two souls, each waging war against the other in the person’s mind. The mind is thus not only the battleground, but also the prize, the object of the battle between the two souls, for:
Each of them wishes and desires to rule and pervade the mind exclusively.
For he who wrestles with the filthy person is bound to become soiled himself.
Similarly, in the process of fighting the foreign thought, one’s mind becomes filled and tainted by it. He should therefore not seek to grapple with it. Instead he should pretend not to know nor hear the foreign thoughts that occurred to him, should dismiss them from his mind, and strengthen still more the power of his concentration.
The Alter Rebbe stated that both depression and dullness of heart produce a state of sluggishness, which prevents a person from overcoming the evil inclination of the animal soul. He therefore outlined methods of overcoming depression arising from various causes. In this chapter the Alter Rebbe will discuss means of dealing with “dullness of heart “(timtum halev), after describing this state more clearly.
Occasionally, and even frequently, they experience of dullness of the heart, as though it had turned to stone, and, try as they might, they cannot open their heart and prayer, which is by definition, “service of the heart.”
Chassidic explain that prayer is the “service of the heart” in a two-fold sense:
- It takes place in the heart, for in prayer one strives to extend his intellectual apprehension of G-d-liness into the realm of emotions experienced in the heart–the love and fear of G-d;
- The object of prayer is the heart, for in prayer one tries to transform the nature of his heart– to steer it away from the mundane desires to which it naturally inclines, and to direct it instead towards a yearning for the spiritual and the G-d-ly. To accomplish both these objectives of prayer, the heart must of course be open and receptive, and thus timtum halev is a major hindrance.
Also, the heaviness in his heart prevents him at times from waging war against the evil impulse, and sanctifying himself in permitted matters.
As the author readily explained, it is the task of the Beinoni to suppress the desires of his heart, e.g., by not eating as soon as he has the urge to do so. This requires a battle with one’s evil impulse, which demands that he gratify all of his desires. When the heart is dull, heavy and insensitive, he cannot fight the evil impulse.
It was in this sense that Hillel the Elder would say to his disciples when he went to eat that he was going to do a favor to the” lowly and poor creature,” meaning his body. He regarded his body as a foreign thing, and therefore used this expression– that he was doing it a favor by giving it food. For he himself was nothing other than the divine soul. It alone animated his body and flesh, inasmuch as in Tzaddikim, the evil that is in the vital soul, pervaded their blood and flesh has been transformed into good and completely absorbed into the holiness of the divine soul, and thus, the divine soul is the man himself.
Indeed, we find this explicitly stated in the Torah in connection with the Spies sent by Moses to scout the Holy Land. At the outset they declared: “for he (the enemy) is stronger than we,” and, interpreting the word (heb), the sages say: “Read not’ then we,’ but’ then
He,’ ” meaning that they had no faith in G-d’s ability to lead them into the holy land. But afterwards they reversed themselves and announced; “We will readily go up [to conquer the land].”…If in any case they do not believe in G-d’s ability to subdue the [31 Kings 28] reigned in the land at that time, for which reason they had had no desire whatever to enter the land?
Now that the Alter Rebbe has established that sadness arising from one’s spiritual stocktaking is not atzvut (depression) and the merirut (bitterness), several difficulties arise:
- Earlier, the Alter Rebbe stated that one ought not to be perturbed by such sadness, even though it is in fact atzvut (which stems from the Sitra Achra), because ” this is previously the method for humbling the Sitra Achra– through something of its own kind…”. “Why the need to justify atzvut if this sadness is not atzvut at all, but merirut.
- Several lines further, the Alter Rebbe states that the opportune time for dwelling on one’s failings is when one is in any case depressed over some material concern; the depression that such contemplation arouses will read him of his materially- inspired depression, but the Alter Rebbe has just pointed out that this is not depression at all; how, then, does this dispel any other depression?
A possible explanation: When one dwells on his spiritual failings, and concludes that he is indeed worse then the kal shebekalim, his first reaction will be despondency; he will feel utterly worthless and disgraced in his own eyes. In this state, there is no stirring of feeling, no vitality it is, it indeed classic atzvut. But if this stocktaking was undertaken in its proper spirit, the despondency will last only momentarily. Immediately after sinking into depression the individual feel the stirrings of bitterness, of anger at his having allowed himself to fall so low; he will begin to seek means of extricating himself from this story state. It is with regard to this momentary atzvut that the Alter Rebbe advises one not to be perturbed, since his atzvut is an effective weapon against the Sitra Achra. Regarding the bitterness and anger that follows it, the Alter Rebbe states that they are not atzvut at all, inasmuch as they are alive and active. Likewise, when the Alter Rebbe states that depression over one’s spiritual failings is effective in ridding one of depression due to other causes, he again refers to the aforementioned temporary depression, which immediately follows one’s spiritual stock taking. (From a comment by the Rebbe Shilta.)
The Jews told Pharaoh that they would leave Egypt for only three days, but upon being released from that his land they escaped.
But escape was necessary because the evil in the [animal] souls of Israel was still strong in the left part of the heart, the seat of the animal so, for their impurity (the impurity of Kelipah) did not cease until the Giving of Torah.
For this reason, the Torah is described “that which restores the soul,” i.e., it restores the soul to its source and root.
Moreover, concerning this occupation in the Torah and the mitzvot which brings joy to the soul by restoring it to its source, and which banishes the sadness of its exile in the body and animal soul, it is written: ” G-d’s commandments are just; they gladden the heart.”
When one considers that one study of the Torah in observance of the mitzvot elevate not only his divine soul, but also his animal soul, his teshuvah will gain in-depth, and the joy of his so will gain in intensity.
For although the soul’s “escape” from exile within the body and animal soul (spoken of earlier) would in itself be sufficient cause for great joy, yet this is a joy tempered by sadness over the lowly state in which one’s body and animal soul remain. When one realizes, however, that Torah and the mitzvot elevate the body and animals soul as well, his joy will be untarnished.
The Alter Rebbe taught that when one is bitterly remorseful over his sorry spiritual state, he must strive for joy by considering the following. True, on account of his body and his animal soul he is utterly remote from G-d-liness. Yet he has within him a divine soul, veritably a part of G-d. This soul, in exile within the body and the animal soul, is to be greatly pitied. One should therefore strive constantly to release it from this exile and to return it to its divine source, through engaging in the Torah and the mitzvot. Such a return will bring one great joy, the joy of freedom. The knowledge that the body and the animal soul remain in their unfortunate state should not disturb one’s joy on account of his divine soul, for the soul should be infinitely more precious in one’s eyes.
Note the discrepancy: In speaking of the souls of Israel in general, the Alter Rebbe first rights, “who can know (‘can distinguish’) their greatness and excellence?” implying that there are in fact differences between one soul and another; here he writes, ” They actually are all equal.”
The explanation: the original source of all souls is the sefirah of Chochmah in the world of atzilut. On this level, all the souls are indeed one entity. This is indicated in the words, “They all have one father”–“father” (Abba) being the Kabbalistic term for Chochmah. From this source, the souls descend downward through the various Sefirot and Worlds. It is this descent that creates differences between souls; one soul is more strongly affected by the descent, and another less so. The first stage in this descent is the sefirah of binah in the world of atzilut; it is at the level of binah that the differences between souls first appear. This is alluded to in the words,” Who can know their greatness and excellence in their source and root– the living G-d; in Kabbalistic terminology,” the living G-d” is a reference to the level of binah in the world of atzilut. Speaking of the souls at this level, the Alter Rebbe therefore says that feeling superior to one’s fellow is unjustified, because ” who can know their greatness and excellence…” There are indeed differences between souls– but who knows them? When speaking of the souls having ” one father” however, he writes, ” They are all equal.”
The Talmud relates that it was Hillel the Elder who authored the well-known statement that ahavat Yisrael (the love of one’s fellow Jew) is the basis of the entire Torah. For Hillel had been approached by a Gentile who declared that he wish to convert to Judaism, but only if Hillel could teach him the entire Torah while he stood on one foot. Hillel replied, ” What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is but commentary…”
The Alter Rebbe answer follows from his previously stated principle that the essence of ahavat Yisrael lies in giving priority to one’s soul rather than to his body. This indeed is the basis of the entire Torah— as the Alter Rebbe continues: Since every Jew has a divine soul, and since the commandment to love one’s fellow is based on the essential unity of the souls, it follows that this commandment applies to every Jew without exception. In fact, however, we find the Talmud exhorting us to hate certain fellow Jews. How do we reconcile these apparently contradictory requirements?
The Alter Rebbe proceeds to clarify: As for the Talmudic statement that if one sees his friends sinning, he should hate him, and should also relate the fact to his teacher said that he too will hate him, –how does this conform with what was said above? … Exhortation of the nation of the Mishnah, “Do not consort with the Rasha”.
Stated in the terms which the Alter Rebbe employs, the idea and desire are described as part of the “ten soul-powers,” of which three (ChaBaD) belongs to the intellect, and seven (the middot) comprise one’s emotional range. These 10 faculties are the “source and root” of thought and speech, for one thinks and speaks of that which he understands or feels. These faculties are called the “substance and essence of the soul,” in comparison with thought and speech which are merely the souls “garments,” i.e., its modes of external expression.
Every created being derives its existence and life from divine “speech”, i.e., the “letters” of G-d’s command that created it. Since nothing is ” outside” G-d, this creative “speech” and the beings created thereby are contained within G-d, in the same way as the words one speaks were previously contained within the desire of the heart. All of creation is therefore nullified before G-d, just as the “letters” of speech are nullified within the idea or desire which is their source, were only the desire is felt, not the ” letters”.
This banishment of the Sitra Achra will take place only at “the end of days,” during the messianic era. Until then, however while the darkness of kelipah still reigns over the earth, one affords G-d gratification by crushing the Sitra Achra and transforming its darkness into light, by means of his faith. And man’s realization of this fact intensifies his own joy in his faith.
It is known that ” the patriarchs constitute the divine chariot.” Throughout their lives, they did not cease even momentarily from binding their mind and soul to the master of the universe.
After them came all the prophets who similarly nullified themselves before G-d’s unity in varying degrees, each according to the level of his soul and his understanding.
The rank of our teacher Moses, Peace be upon him, surpass them all; of him our sages said:” The Shechinah (the Divine Presence) spoke out of Moses’ throat.”
“As our sages say,’ even one chapter in the morning [and one at night…]’ suffice, for one who can manage no more, for him to be regarded as ‘ engaging in Torah study day and night.’ Therefore, by fulfilling this minimal quota, I too will become an abode for G-d-liness.
Charity is one of G-d’s attributes which we are enjoined to emulate, as our sages say, ” as He is compassionate…[so must you be]”; as it is written in Tikkunei Zohar, “Kindness is the right arm of G-d,” and therefore human kindness constitutes an abode for the Divine attribute of kindness.
A Chassid once came to the Alter Rebbe lamenting the fact that his son-in-law was subject to periods when he would doubt his faith. The
Alter Rebbe responded that the son-in-law had unwittingly consumed milk, which was milked by a non- Jew, with no Jew in attendance.
Though he was unaware of this fact, and though the prohibition against such milk is only of rabbinic origin, this had so strong an effect upon him that it caused him to doubt his faith. The Alter Rebbe then proceeded to tell the Chassid how the matter could be rectified, thereby healing the son-in-law of his spiritual malady.
The Alter Rebbe explained that the ascent of one’s Torah and mitzvot is commensurate with the level of Kavanah that one invests in study and performance. If one’s Kavanah stems from love and fear of G-d created by one’s understanding of His greatness, his Torah and mitzvot ascend to the Sefirot of Beriah, a world of intellect. If one’s Kavanah stems from natural love and fear, his Torah and mitzvot ascend to the Sefirot of Yetzirah, a world of emotion.
“What profit has a man of all his toil that he labors under the sun?” Our sages point out that only man’s labor “under the sun,” i.e., toil in mundane matters, does not realize any profit; the labor of Torah however, is “above the sun” and does indeed profit a man. The Zohar, though, stipulates: (even with the toil of Torah,)
Similarly, [he should intend that] the attribute of Daat (the third of the three components of seichel) in his soul, which includes both the Chesed (kindness) and Gevurah (severity), i.e., and love, in his heart.
The attribute of Daat comprises kindness and severity insofar as these attributes exist on an intellectual level. Moreover, the profound and involved meditation that characterizes the level of Daat actually creates love and fear, insofar as they exist independently on an emotional level. This faculty of Daat, then, should– be nullified and absorbed into the attribute of higher knowledge (Daat HaElyon), which comprises kindness and severity, and which is clothed in the passage of Shema and Vehayah.
Just as the soul in heaven has no other occupation apart from Torah and prayer, so too, a person occupied in Torah and prayer in this world is immersed in it to the exclusion of all material needs and desires. As such, he is then renouncing all materiality and is totally surrendering his soul to G-d. This comes as a result of the love of G-d concealed within every Jewish heart.
In the previous chapter the Alter Rebbe explained that fear of G-d is a prerequisite to divine service. Every Jew is capable of attaining this level, by contemplating how “G-d stands over him” and “searches his reins and heart [to see] if he is serving Him as is fitting.” This thought will leave him to bring forth at least some measure of fear in his mind. This in turn will enable him to study Torah properly, as well as to perform both the positive and negative commandments.
One should turn away from evil and do god in thought, speech and action, because of G-d who looks and sees, hears and listens, and perceives use all his deeds, and searches his “kidneys and heart.”
As mentioned earlier, all Jews possess a “hidden treasure of fear of heaven” in their hearts. Through the faculty of Daat, this fear of heaven is revealed and felt in one’s thought, and also affects his speech and actions.
The Alter Rebbe will now say that by looking at heaven and earth one not only becomes aware of their G-d-ly vitalizing force, but also perceives how the world and all its inhabitants are truly nullified to the divine life force. This can be perceived by observing the stars and planets, all of which travel in a westerly direction. In doing so they expressed their nullification of the Shechinah, the divine presence, which is in the west.
This distinction clarifies a seeming contradiction. The Mishnah first states:
(1) “If there is no wisdom, there is no fear [of God]. ” Wisdom must precede fear. But the Mishnah now goes on to say:” if there is no fear [of G-d], there is no wisdom. “Fear must precede wisdom!
(2) From the Earth to the heavens is a distance of 500 years, and the distance from one heaven to the next…is also a journey of 500 years,
For Daat incorporates both Chesed and Gevurah, which are love and fear; Chesed is love and Gevurah is fear. Daat reveals both these emotions. Thus, binding one’s Daat intensely to the greatness of G-d gives rise to feelings, fear and love.
The Alter Rebbe explained that there are two broad categories in the love of G-d, ahavah rabbah and ahavat olam. Ahavah rabbah cannot be obtained by man unaided. It is granted as a gift from above when an individual merits it; reflection alone on G-d’s greatness can in no way engender this level of love. Ahavat olam, however, results from intense and sustained meditation on the greatness of G-d.
“Sleep is one sixtieth of death.”
Moses, whose essence was Daat and self-nullification, loved G-d with these traits. And as a “faithful shepherd” he emanated these traits to all of Jewry as well.
For their emergence from the latency and concealment of the heart into a state of revelation comes through the faculty of Daat, i.e., through a powerful fixation of the mind and an intense concentration– from the depths of the heart, powerfully and frequently– on the Blessed Ein sof, as to how He in our very life and our blessed true Father.
For the Ten Commandments are the all-embracing principles of the whole Torah.
It was this level of Shechinah that did not abide in the Second Temple, but only a far lesser level.
Therefore, because the Shechinah resided in the Temple’s Holy of Holies, no man was permitted to enter there, except the high priest on Yom Kippur.
And the 613 commandments of the Torah, together with the seven commandments of our rabbis, combine to total the numerical equivalent of Keter (“Crown”), which is the supernal will.
“Only in your fathers did He delight…. you shall circumcise…. with seventy souls [did your forefathers descend to Egypt, and now he has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven].”
Now, those who are familiar with the esoteric meaning of Scripture know the meaning of the verse, “for a Tzaddik may fall seven times, and yet rises again.”
Note of the Rebbe Shilta: “similar to Rabbi. Zeira, who fasted in order to forget the Babylonian Talmud [as a prerequisite to his attaining mastery of the spiritually more elevated Jerusalem Talmud]”?
In the letters of the 10 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, 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 “two hundred and thirty one gates,” either in direct or reverse order, as is explained in Sefer Yetzirah.
The twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet in two- lettered combinations yield a total of 462 combinations. Of these, half are the exact reverse of the other half, e.g. aleph-bet, bet-aleph. Hence, there are 231 two-lettered combinations in direct order and the same number in reverse order.
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. The names [of all creatures] in the Holy Tongue are the very letters of speech which descend, degree by degree, from the 10 utterances recorded in the Torah, by means of substitutions and transpositions of letters through the “231 Gate” 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 10 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.
And by means of gematria, the reveal they’re meaning by their numerical values.
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 and the letter Hei of the same word alludes to the five organs of verbal articulation, i.e., the larynx, palate, tongue, teeth and lips, which are the source of the letters.
As our sages, of blessed memory, have said, “in time to come (i.e., in the Messianic era), the Holy one, blessed be He, will take out the Sun from its sheath; the wicked will be punished by it…” as they will be unable to bear the intensity of the Sun. The passage goes on to say that the righteous will not only be able to tolerate it: they will actually be healed by it.
The original plan for creation, therefore, was that it should be dominated by the attribute of stern judgment. When, however, G-d saw that if he created the world in this manner it could not endure, He tempered it by the attribute of mercy.
Why, indeed would the world not be able to endure otherwise? — Because if creation had come about under such auspices alone, the life force of Holiness would have been utterly hidden. Accordingly, the spiritual task of revealing G-d-liness in such a world would have been inordinately arduous. G-d therefore involved the attribute of mercy in the creation of the world, so that holiness and G-d-liness could be revealed within it.
The source of the body and its essence comes into being not from the soul, but from the seed of one’s father and mother; and even afterwards– after its creation– its growth is not from the soul alone, but through the mother’s eating and drinking throughout the nine months [of gestation].
This is radically different from mortal knowledge, which comprises three distinct elements: (a) the person’s soul– the knower; (b) this subject that is known; and (c) the power of knowledge– the faculty of Daat, which enables the knower to know the known. In the divine realm, however, these three elements are all one: all our G-d.
This is seen vividly– that a child, having no wisdom, is always angry and unkind, and even his love is for trivial things which are unworthy of being loved, because he lacks the understanding to love things which are worthy of love, for love varies with [the level of one’s] understanding. Thus, the emotions are dependent on the intellect and understanding, inasmuch as they derived from them.
The life force that animates hair is exceedingly attenuated, to the point that cutting it causes no pain. Accordingly, the terms Dikna (lit.” beard” and se’arot (“hair”) are used to represent a certain form of tzimtzum.
As it is stated in the Midrash, “by means of ten things was the world created: by wisdom, by understanding and by knowledge. As it is written, “G-d founded the earth with wisdom; He established the heavens with understanding; with His knowledge the depths of the abyss were burst open,”We thus see from the Midrash that the world was created by means of “10 things”, i.e., the ten sefirot.
On the contrary, our sages assert, “G-d has in certain instances glossed over [even] idolatry, [incest and murder]” though excision and capital punishment are involved, “but did not excuse the neglect of Torah study.”
And it is written in tractate zevachim, “There is no one of Israel who is not guilty of [transgressing] a positive commandment…”
Thus, though there are always sins for which one should fast, one should do so only if this will in no way impair his health; otherwise, he is considered a sinner, especially if he is a student of Torah, in which case he is doubly punished, for the weakness resulting from his fast prevents him from studying Torah properly.
What, then, is his remedy? He should comply with the verse that says, “Redeem your sin with charity.” And, indeed the codifiers of Torah law specified that one should donate the equivalent of 18[large Polish] coins called “gedolim Polish” for each day of repentance.
“One should not extravagantly distribute more than 1/5th [of one’s property to charity],”
A violator of a sin punishable by excision would actually die before his 50th year.
In the case of death by divine agency he would actually die before 60, like the prophet Chananiah Ben Azur in Jeremiah. As a result of his false prophecy, G-d told him,” I shall banish you from the face of the earth….” this resulted in his actual death.
The Alter Rebbe explained the concept of repentance according to the mystical approach to the Torah. He prefaced his commentary by noting that according to Scripture and our Sages a person who committed a sin punishable by excision with actually die before his 50th year, while one who committed a sin punishable by death by divine agency with actually die before he 60th year
For example: ignoring the needy, concerning which Scripture writes, “beware lest there be in your heart something unworthy….”.
Beliyaal (here translated “unworthy”) is used in reference to idolatry… from which we learn that ignoring the needy is likened to idolatry.
Or tale bearing, the evil tongue that is equated to idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed. Likewise, the vile tempered is like the idolatrous, and so is the arrogant.
There are many such cases described in the Talmud–of sins whose punishment is not as severe as that of idolatry and the like, but which nonetheless effect a similar spiritual blemish, and [the sin of neglecting] the study of the Torah equals them all.
As our sages assert, “G-d has overlooked idolatry, [immorality and bloodshed, but has not overlooked the sin of neglecting Torah study].”
Thus, sins such as ignoring the needy, tale bearing, and so on, though not carrying the punishment of excision or death by the hand of heaven, nonetheless sever the soul from its divine source.
“His right-hand embraces me,” though [man’s] acts of kindness for “kindness is the [supernal] right arm….”With every act of loving kindness one draws down divine benevolence: one is embraced by a far loftier level of Holiness then he could possibly aspire to by dint of his own spiritual service.
In accordance with the blessing we recite immediately afterwards, “Blessed are you, O G-d, who redeems Israel.” As the order of the blessings indicates, forgiveness leads to redemption– if not for our relapses.
Even by human standards [this certainty of pardon is legitimate, for] one must forgive as soon as he is asked for pardon. So, too, if one has asked his fellow for forgiveness three times and has been rebuffed, he need not apologize further. In the mortal world, if one person harms another and asks his pardon which is granted, and then repeats the misdeed it becomes very difficult to grant pardon again, and certainly a third and fourth time.
By the standard of G-d, however, there is no difference between once and 1000 times. For pardon is a manifestation of the attribute of mercy, and divine attributes are not bounded and finite; they are infinite, as in the verse, “For his mercies have not ended ”
Relative to infinity there is no difference whatsoever between a small number and a large one. For “before him all are considered as naught,” and “he makes equal the small and the great….”
As Nachmanides writes, in the introduction to his commentary on Job, that even the sufferings of Job for 70 years bear absolutely no comparison to the suffering of his soul for even one hour in Gehinnom…. for “[physical] fire is but one sixtieth [of the fire of Gehinnom].”
The more kindness [shown to Ishmael and to his ancestry], the more he grows and pride, arrogance and self-satisfaction.
Likewise, incalculable like the above heichalot and regiments, are the levels of souls, belonging to the five general categories of Nefesh, Rauch, Neshamah, Chayah and Yechidah, in rungs to no end, for each of these five categories branches out into levels of inexhaustible number.
That is why our sages, of blessed memory, have said: “whoever says that he has nothing but Torah,” and that’s no kindly deeds, “does not have even Torah; rather, one ought to engage in Torah and in the performance of acts of loving kindness.”
And although every Jewish soul needs to be reincarnated in order to fulfill all 613 commandments,
It is only that according to the Torah a man’s wife and children take precedence over all others,
The Alter Rebbe wrote this epistle in connection with the tzaddikim, Rabbi Avraham Kalisker, as well as their colleagues and disciples, who at the time of writing had already left the Diaspora and were living in the Holy Land.
The Alter Rebbe therefore goes on to say: except for the tzaddikim of the generation, who take precedence over one’s children; moreover, the tzaddikim in the land of Israel take precedence over Tzaddikim in the Diaspora,
Now, it is well known that the Torah is called oz (“strength”),
By the fulfillment of the 248 positive commandments,
“And [the reward for] the act of tzedakah will be peace, and [the reward for] the service of tzedakah [will be] quietness and surety forever.”
“Michael is the Prince of Water and Gabriel is the Prince of Fire, yet they do not extinguish one another.”
The Alter Rebbe will now go on to explain the “act” of tzedakah upon the individual benefactor himself, in terms of his battle with the evil of his animal soul.
The animal soul may be refined, and the good within it separated and elevated from its evil, in one of two ways:
One possible direction of attack is” from below to above” (milmatah lemaalah), whereby each attribute of the divine soul does battle with its counterpart in the animal soul, seeking to refine and elevate it. For example: the divine soul’s love for G-d seeks to purify the animal souls attribute of Chesed with its fleshly desires; the divine soul’s fear of G-d seeks to refine the animal soul’s kinds of fear; and so on.
Then there is a manner of purification that proceeds “from above to below” (milmaalah lematah), whereby one draws from a Divine light upon oneself so that the attributes of the animal soul spontaneously become purified and elevated within this light.
Which, since the sin of Adam, is mingled of good and evil, and the evil rules over the good,
“Just as the Holy One, blessed be he, [permeates the world,] so does the soul [permeate the body].”
[This correspondence likewise] accords with the teachings of the Zohar “and He blew into his nostrils the soul of life”: When Scripture states that ” He blew into his nostrils of the soul of life,” it means to indicate that the soul derives from the innermost aspects of G-d-liness, as explained in Iggeret HaTeshuvah,
And the greater the desire and delight of the father, the greater is the influence and the learning, because then the son is able to absorb more and the father communicates more, proportionately.
This is readily observable, for the difference between the emotive traits of various people corresponds to the difference in their respective degrees of Daat.
And likewise [engaged in one’s divine service is] the attribute of [Yesod (lit.” foundation”), as in the phrase],”the Tzaddik is the foundation of the world.”
This is the faculty of Daat Tachton, the lower level of Daat, which extends into the attributes and vests itself in them to animate and sustain them.
There is also a faculty of Daat Elyon, a superior level of Daat, through which the source of the intellect that apprehends the profundity of a concept is bound and connected [to it]
After all, furthermore, “there is not a righteous person upon earth who does good”– always–” and does not sin,” and tzedakah atones, and protects against misfortune and the like.
[Charity] is thus an actual cure for body and soul, with respect to which [it is written], “Skin for skin– a limb for a limb, and all that a man has he will give for his soul,” i.e. to save his life.
This love is latent in the heart of all Jews, even in the wicked, and from this [latent love] derives their remorse, as in the phrase,” The wicked are full of remorse.”
Therefore a man’s service to his maker consists of strengthening himself and prevailing over the kelipah in all its manifestations. That is, first to expel it completely from the body, so that it has absolutely no dominion over him– expelling it] from the [faculties of] thought, speech and actions that are in the brain, the tongue, and the 248 organs. For G-d, in turn, this love will result in his enhanced fulfillment of the Torah and its mitzvot. That is, he will be strong, “and his heart courageous among the valiant,” so that the hidden love will become abundantly revealed in all the powers of the soul’s components in his body; i.e., mainly in the mind and in the [faculty of] thought in the brain,
The mind serves to reveal this love, which then manifests throughout the rest of the person’s organs… so that corresponding to its intellect and understanding the mind will constantly think and contemplate on the Blessed Creator– and he is the Fountainhead of life in general, and of the life of his own soul in particular. Consequently he will yearn and desire to be attached to Him, and near to Him, within in a yearning,
There is a great difference between the apprehension of the Kabbalists, such as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and Rabbi Isaac Luria, of Blessed memory, which is an apprehension through wisdom and knowledge, and the prophetic apprehension of Moshe Rabbeinu, peace to him, and the other prophets, to which Scripture refers as actual vision. Seeing something grasps its essence; comprehension merely grasps its externality.
The meaning of this will be understood by way of analogy and terrestrial man, whose soul spans five ranks, one lower than the other.
These are the faculties of the intellect, the emotive attributes, thought, speech, and action, with action the lowest of them all. The soul manifests itself in action to a much lesser degree than it does in the other four levels.
For the life force that extends from the soul and is vested in the faculty of action, is as nothing compared to the life force that extends from it and is vested in the faculty of speech. The latter in turn is as nothing compared to the life force that extends from [the soul] and is vested in thought, in the emotive attributes, and in the intellect.
The latter three faculties are always united with the soul. Even the faculty of thought, which is merely a” garment” of the soul (i.e., one of its means of expression), is always united with it, and therefore, like the soul itself, always in a manifest state. Speech and action, however, are ” garments” that are separate from the soul. Thus, insofar as speech is concerned, there is “A time to speak and the time to refrain from speech,” while action is even more distant from the soul than speech.
The letters pertaining to speech are engraved in the breath and voice, which is divided into 22 parts, one differing from the other with respect to their form, i.e., the enunciation an outer ends of the 22 letters in any language. For there is no difference between the Holy Tongue and the other languages with respect to the nature of the letters’ enunciation, only with respect to their combinations.
Now with thought, there are three kinds of letters. For when one sees the visual forms of the letters in the Torah scroll they are pictured in his thought.
The same is true with regard to the refinement and elevation of the animal soul and its transformation into goodness and holiness (for which reason the Divine soul first descended into the body): the optimal refinement and elevation of the animal soul is achieved specifically through the performance of these mitzvot–donning tefillin, wearing tzitzit, etc.–for they engage the power of the animals soul to a greater degree than do the Commandments that are performed only in thought or in speech.
The sages asked this question in response to Rabbi Shimon’s earlier statement that he and his colleagues would not interrupt their Torah study even for the recitation of the Shema. Their assumption was that whatever would be true of the mitzvah of lulav would also be true with regard to the recitation of the Shema.
The Yerushalmi then goes on to differentiate between Shema and other commandments with regard to interrupting one’s Torah study, explaining that both Shema and Torah study involve learning. Surely, however, Rabbi Shimon would interrupt his Torah study for the performance of practical commandments in their proper time.
Insertion by the Rebbe Shilta:”And even told his study itself presupposes the prior performance of the mitzvot–for they are it’s beginning, and on then depends its very existence…
“This statement is made by decree of the wakeful [angels] and by the word of [those] Holy Ones,”
This phrase is used by the sages (and here by the Alter Rebbe) to denote eminent Torah scholars, who are likened to ministering angels; specifically– the Mishnaic Sages, peace be upon them, who taught in their Mishnah:”If 10 people sit together and engage in the study of the Torah, the Divine Presence (the Shechinah) rests among them.”
“For this is the whole purpose of man.” As the Gemara interprets this verse: “The entire world was created solely for this purpose.”
Thus our Sages, of blessed memory, taught that the Holy One, blessed be He, gives the righteous the capacity [to receive their reward in the World to Come]. This is not so, however, with the angels, which are incapable of receiving in infinite degree of revelation;
The Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch stated that if one angel were to stand in the presence of a gathering of 10 Jews, even if there were no words of Torah between them, yet still, since the Shechinah rests upon every gathering of 10 Jews, such of boundless and infinite terror and dread would befall him on account of the Shechinah that abides over them, that he would become utterly nullified.
The sanctity of 10 Jews congregating together, even if they are not engaged in Torah study, is so intense, that an angel would become utterly nullified when confronting the indwelling of the Shechinah that abides in the presence of 10 Jews.
But woe unto those who repulse the Shechinah, when G-d will raise her (the Shechinah) and say to her,” Awake, arise from the dust…”
So, too,” on account of three things are the Jewish people detained in exile — because they repulsed the Shechinah, and because they shame the Shechinah,” and so on, as stated in the sacred Zohar.
In the present letter the Alter Rebbe goes on to condemn those who during prayer services engage in mundane conversation— not only on idle matters, but also even on matters that are necessary to their livelihood. Such conversation at any other time would of course be permitted. During prayer services, however, it demonstrates that the speaker has no desire to behold the G-d-liness that is revealed specifically during that time.
This insensitivity is depicted by a parable drawn from the Zohar. For years on end, a terrestrial king hides his majestic splendor behind locked doors; those of his subjects, who have the discernment to value that splendor, eagerly wait there for years on end until they are granted a glimpse of it; others are so foolish and so brazen that they show no interest.
There is an expression of our sages: “if one had the proper intention (kiven libo), he has fulfilled his obligation.” Now (the Hebrew) shares a root with the Aramaic (Hebrew) (kavin), meaning “windows”. Accordingly, in the above quoted teaching of the sages, the Alter Rebbe read the following message: A man fulfills his obligation during prayer only if he has made a window in his heart, so that the revelation that illuminates his mind during prayer will radiate its warmth into his heart.
“And G-d who is righteous examines the heart and the kidneys”: He probes a man’s inner integrity, and is able to discern a deliberate offense from an unwitting one.
[But only] until the time of the “end”, until the time of the imminent Redemption, when death and the Sitra Achra (i.e., the “other side,” the unholy aspect of the universe) will be swallowed up. Of that time G-d promises, “then shall I make the nations [pure of speech] so that they will all call upon the name of G-d.”
In the Zohar [the Sefirah of] Chochmah of [the World of] Atzilut is termed Abba (“father”), and [the Sefirah of] Binah of [the World of] Atzilut is termed Imma (“mother”), while [the Sefirah of] Daat is a combination of the two, as explained in the teachings of Chassidut.
And as it is likewise written,”And [Hagar] called the name of G-d who spoke to her…” where we are explicitly told that we are speaking of an angel; and many more [passages] like this.
And should it be [difficult for them to conceive that the Shechinah vests itself in the Gentile] because of the impurity of the souls of the Gentile, — the souls [of the Gentiles] derive from the union of the masculine and feminine elements (zivug zu’n, the union of Z’eir Anpin and Malcut) of the spiritual Kelipot, as stated in the writings of Rabbi Isaac Luria, of Blessed memory.
The Zohar previously states that at the time of the final redemption the Jewish people will be put to the test; those who belong to the “good side” of the universe will withstand it, while those who belong to the “side of evil” will not. As it is written, “many will be refined and bleached and chastened, but the wicked will act wickedly; none of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand.”
The Zohar then states (as above) that those who study the tree of life, the Zohar, which is “from the side of Binah” (lit.” understanding”, alluding to the perception of the mystical essence of the Torah), will not be put to the test.
Because eventually the Jewish people will taste of the Tree of Life, which is this book of the Zohar, they will go out of exile with it, in mercy.
In seeking their Redemption, they will not have to resort to the favors of the Gentile nations, whose patron angels are known as “strange G-ds. Rather, G-d Himself will lead them out of exile and redeem them.
And the Tree of [Knowledge of] Good and Evil, i.e., prohibition and permission, impurity and purity, will no longer dominate Israel.
For their sustenance will derive only from the side of the Tree of Life, where there is no problematic query, which emanates from the side of evil, and no controversy, which emanates from the spirit of impurity; as it is written, “And the spirit of impurity I shall remove from the earth.”
Now, when Malchut of Atzilut is vested in kelipat nogah in order to extract and refine the sparks that fell with the sin of Adam, as well as the 288 sparks that fell with the “breaking of the vessels, “The concept of shevirat hakelim (the primordial “breaking of the vessels”) and the elevation of the 288 sparks of holiness hidden in the material world is explained at length elsewhere in the literature of Chassidut.
Now, the celestial beings (i.e., the souls and angels in the higher worlds) do not have the power to disencumber and elevate that, which is in kelipat nogah (i.e., the sparks that are exiled they are) as a result of the ” breaking of the vessels.”
Only the terrestrial beings, this souls situated in this world, [can do this], for they are vested in a material body that is known as the” hide of the serpent,” which derives from kelipat nogah.
These [embodied souls] weaken its strength, the strength of the kelipah, by crushing the passions, thereby subjugating the Sitra Achra, so that “all the workers of evil (i.e., the Kelipot) will be dispersed.”
Thus, only souls in this world are able to extract the holy sparks from the Kelipot and elevate them. For this reason, they alone are able to elevate the Chochmah of Torah which the Kelipot obscure.
This is why the Celestial beings, the souls of the higher worlds, come to hear innovative insights into the Torah from the terrestrial beings, from the souls here in this world– [to hear] the secrets of wisdom which they innovate and reveal, and which until this time had been in bondage in exile.
Every Jew is able to reveal secrets of wisdom, (to reveal) and to discover a new insight, whether it is in the laws or in homiletics, in the revealed or in the mystical [planes of the Torah], according to the nature of his soul’s root, and it consequent affinity with each of the above categories of the Torah
Indeed, one is obliged to do so–to uncover hitherto–concealed insights into the Torah, and to reveal the secrets of wisdom, in order to perfect his soul by elevating all the sparks that have been allotted to it, as is known.
The Gemara relates that Abraham fulfilled the entire Torah even before it was given at Sinai. Now there are passages and commandments to which he could not possibly have related on a physical level.
Inscribed on the tiny parchment scrolls within tefillin, for example, are Biblical passages, which record the Exodus from Egypt–a land to which his descendents had not yet been exiled. The mode of Abraham’s performance of the commandments was thus spiritual and esoteric, as the Alter Rebbe explains in Torah and Likkutei Torah.
In the middle of the above epistle, the Alter Rebbe stated that if “one ate [forbidden food] in order to save an endangered life…[the food] became [entirely] permissible.”
The Rebbe Shlita notes that this concept is problematic; indeed, many editions of the Tanya omit the word “entirely”, which is evidently why it found its way into current editions as a bracketed text.
The Rebbe goes on to distinguish between prohibition (issur) and impurity (tumah). When something is prohibited, one can sense its inherent evil; for example, forbidden foods clog the mind and heart with spiritual congestion. Thus, even if pregnant women scented forbidden food on Yom Kippur and the Torah permitted her to eat it (if her life would otherwise be in danger), eating that food would still becloud her soul.
Moreover, even when the prohibition was not intrinsic to the food, but a thought or a statement invalidated it, as for example when an animal was slaughtered with idolatrous intent, eating this food leaves its imprint. Thus, for example, the Midrash traces the wayward path of Elisha ben Avuyah (known as “Archer”) two very early beginnings–before his birth his mother had tasted food that was prepared for idolatrous worship.
In light of the above, the Rebbe Shlita goes on to note, we can understand why a nursing mother who had been forbidden food, even when permitted to do so because her life was in danger, should refrain from nursing her child. For although eating this food was in fact Halachically permitted, the nature of the food and the spiritual blemish, which it imparts to her infant, remain unchanged.
This is especially so, according to the halachic determination (with regard to one who is ill as well), that a life-threatening situation merely sets aside a prohibition; it does not make the prohibited object permissible. As the Rebbe Shlita concludes, the above considerations evidently explained why in current editions of Iggeret HaKodesh — regarding the food eaten in a life-threatening situation that becomes “[entirely] permissible”– the word “entirely” is bracketed, and in many editions never appeared.
That is why our sages, of blessed memory, said that “one cannot* the depth of his master’s teachings [until the passage of 40 years].”
Thus it is stated in the Zohar in reference to Moses our Master, peace be unto him, that after his passing his radiation extends in every generation to the 600,000 souls, all other souls being sparks of these general souls, as explained in Tanya, — like the sun which radiates to the 600,000 stars from below the earth.
Commenting on this quotation from the Gemara, Tosafot explains that the Red Heifer atones for the sin of the Golden Calf, as in the same way the passing of the righteous effects atonement.
However, it is well known that Rabbi Isaac Luria, of Blessed memory, stated that [the soul of] every Jew needs to be reincarnated many times, until he will fulfill all 613 commandments of the Torah in thought, speech and action i.e., using all three soul – garments with which one forms the commandments.
For example, the precept of tefillin: In the written Torah it is stated, ” And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.” This is an indistinct and obscure statement, for Scripture did not explain how and what to bind, nor what frontlets are, nor where is “between your eyes” or “on your hand,” until the Oral Torah explicates that one needs to bind a single box on the hand, and four boxes on the head, containing four Scriptural passages.
Moreover, the boxes are to be made of prepared leather, and necessarily square, and to be tied by means of leather straps which need to be black, with all the other detailed rulings governing the making of tefillin, that were stated orally, i.e., that are found in the Oral Torah.
Also “on your hand” refers only to the arm, and not to the palm of your hand; and “between your eyes” refers to the scalp, and not to the forehead.
It is thus only the detailed halachot of the Oral Torah that enable us to perform this mitzvah in keeping with the Supernal Will.
For instance, the prohibitory precept that has been stated with respect to the Sabbath, “you shall do no work”. [The Written Torah] does not specify what constitutes work. In the Oral Torah, however, it is explicated to refer to the well-known 39 forms of work, and not (only) to the carrying of stones or heavy beams, which is only Rabbinically prohibited.
And as it is with these — with the above examples of tefillin and Shabbat– so it is with all the commandments, whether they be positive precepts or prohibitory precepts: they are indistinct, and are explicated and revealed and known only through the Oral Torah.
Metaphorically speaking, just as all the organs of the child are comprised, very latently, in the sperm of the father, and the mother brings this out into a state of manifestation when giving birth to a child complete with 248 organs and 365 sinews, exactly so do the 248 positive precepts and the 365 prohibitory precepts emerge from obscurity to manifestation through the Oral Torah, which is therefore called the “teachings of your mother,”
[To consider the tzitzit, for example:] Only when a persons has used it’s threads in the performance of the commandment, are all the sublime levels of Divinity drawn downward into the physical world; only then are this person’s thoughts, speech and action (relative to the tzitzit) united; only then do all the laws of tzitzit and all the appropriate Torah passages apply
The Midrash teaches that Abraham was saved in the future merit of Jacob, who was destined to descend from him. In spiritual terms: When Abraham’s characteristic attribute, kindness and love, remains latent within a Jew, it is revealed and redeemed by Jacob’s characteristic attribute– mercy.
All know the verse, “Skin for skin,” i.e., a person will protect one limb at the expense of another, “but all that a man possesses he will give for his soul” — he will give away everything in order to save his life.
As our Sages of blessed memory teach, ” Three things prolong the days of man,” and one of these is prolonged worship.
This is apparent to the understanding, that while the love is concealed it is still lodged within the divine soul alone.
Only when it attains to a state of revelation in the animating soul is it revealed in the heart in the left chamber, the abode of the animating soul. Since this soul animates the entire body, the person as a whole will be permeated with this love.
“For the blood is the soul…” and hence the life- force of man, and the blood is renewed daily through food and drink.
This statute — that the entire Talmud be studied every year — shall not be varied or violated.
In addition, each of the participants shall individually read the whole of the eightfold Psalm 119 every week.
The Previous Rebbe comments on the connection between completing the study of the Talmud and the recitation of Psalms as follows: “From here we see that the study of Gemara is complete only when it is accompanied by the recitation of Tehillim; and in order to recite Tehillim properly, one needs to study Gemara.”
The term “according to its law” is used advisedly, for this Shabbat cannot be properly observed without the knowledge of its laws.
It is therefore incumbent upon every individual to master the “great law” of Shabbat.
The term “great law” echoes the expression in the Gemara regarding checking one’s clothes before sundown on Friday in order not to transgress a prohibition later. The laws of Shabbat thus not only inform us of what is prohibited, but also of how to avoid transgression.
Also, be most careful [on Shabbat] not to indulge in idle chatter, G-d forbid.
For, as is known to the initiates in the mystical wisdom [of Kabbalah], all the mitzvot comprise an internal and an external aspect– the spirituality of the mitzvah, and the physical act that it requires.
The externality of the [mitzvah of] Shabbat is the cessation of physical activity, just as G-d ceased making the physical heaven and earth.
The internal dimension of Shabbat is one’s intention in the Shabbat prayers and during one’s Torah study, to cleave to the One G-d, as it is written, “It is Shabbat to the L-rd your G-d.”
This [internal level of the mitzvah of Shabbat] is the element of “remembering”.
The Shabbat comprises two elements, “remembering” (zachor) and “observing” (shamor), reflecting the two commandments, “Remember the Shabbat day, to sanctify it,” and “Observe the Shabbat day, to sanctify it. “Elevating the soul on Shabbat through proper intent (kavanah) during prayer and Torah study is an act of “remembering”.