ועל כן רע בעיני המעשה אשר נעשה תחת השמש בכלל

Therefore, evil in my eyes is1 “the conduct that takes place under the sun” in general,

The Alter Rebbe is referring here to those who engage in business or labor — temporal occupations that are “under the sun,” in contrast to Torah, that is “above the sun.” To them, too, his forthcoming words of rebuke are addressed, and he finds it “evil in his eyes” that before or after prayer they devote their time to lightminded talk instead of to Torah study.

ובפרט בין אחיי ורעיי הנגשים אל ה׳, הגשה זו תפלה

especially among my brethren and friends who draw near to G‑d2 — and3 “drawing near means prayer,” for prayer, particularly when accompanied by the avodah of measured meditation, constitutes a “drawing near” to G‑d,

ואחר תפלה או לפניה, נעשה מושב לצים, רחמנא ליצלן

when after prayer or before it, [the gathering] becomes a “company of scoffers,” heaven forfend.

כמו שאמרו רז״ל: שנים שיושבים, ואין ביניהם דברי תורה כו׳

As our Sages, of blessed memory, said,4 “If two people sit together and no words of Torah are exchanged between them, [this is a company of scoffers].”

ואם נעשה מושב לצים בעשרה, דשכינתא שריא עלייהו, אין לך עלבונא וקלנא דשכינתא גדול מזה, רחמנא ליצלן

Now if a “company of scoffers” is constituted by ten people, over whom the Shechinah abides, there is no greater insult and shaming of the Shechinah than that, heaven forfend.

ואם אמרו רז״ל על העובר עבירה בסתר, שדוחק רגלי השכינה, חס ושלום

And if our Sages, of blessed memory, said5 of him who commits a transgression in secret that “he repulses the feet of the Shechinah,” heaven forfend,

העובר עבירה ברבים דוחק כל שיעור קומה של יוצר בראשית, כביכול

then he who commits a transgression in public repulses the whole measure of the stature of the Creator, as it were.6

כמו שאמרו רז״ל: אין אני והוא וכו׳

As our Sages, of blessed memory, said,7 “It is impossible for Me and him [to live together in the world].”

But repulsing the Shechinah does not mean that the actions of the transgressor cause it to be utterly absent, for the above passage speaks of shaming the Shechinah while it is present.

אלא שמלך אסור ברהטים כו׳

Rather,8 “The King is held captive in the gutters”9 [“of the mind”10] — shackled in the channels of people’s unworthy thoughts which, like gushing currents, flash fleetingly through the mind. This is indeed a humiliation of the Shechinah.

אבל ווי למאן דדחקין לשכינתא, כד יוקים לה קודשא בריך הוא, ויימא לה: התנערי מעפר קומי וגו׳

But11 woe unto those who repulse the Shechinah, when G‑d will raise her (the Shechinah) and say to her,12 “Awake, arise from the dust....”

ועל תלת מילין מתעכבי ישראל בגלותא: על דדחקין לשכינתא, ועל דעבדין קלנא בשכינתא וכו׳, כמו שכתוב בזוהר הקדוש

So, too, “On account of three things are the Jewish people detained in exile — because they repulse the Shechinah, and because they shame the Shechinah,” and so on, as stated in the sacred Zohar.13

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