וכן כל הדבורים וכל המחשבות אשר לא לה׳ המה ולרצונו ולעבודתו
Similarly, all words and all thoughts that are not directed to G‑d and to His Will and His service are all garments for the animal soul.
שזהו פירוש לשון סטרא אחרא פירוש: צד אחר, שאינו צד הקדושה
For this is the meaning of the term sitra achra — literally “the other side,” i.e., not the side of holiness.
Thus, whatever does not belong to the realm of holiness is sitra achra. But what, in fact, does the realm of holiness encompass?
וצד הקדושה אינו אלא השראה והמשכה מקדושתו של הקדוש ברוך הוא
The side of holiness is nothing but the indwelling and extension of G‑d’s holiness.
ואין הקדוש ברוך הוא שורה אלא על דבר שבטל אצלו יתברך, בין בפועל ממש, כמלאכים עליונים
Now, G‑d dwells only on that which is surrendered to Him, whether [the surrender is an] actual [one] (and visible even in that surrendered being’s external aspects) as is the case with the supernal angels whose entire being is constantly and openly surrendered to G‑d
ובין בכח, ככל איש ישראל למטה, שבכחו להיות בטל ממש לגבי הקדוש ברוך הוא במסירת נפשו על קדושת ה׳
or whether [it is a] potential [surrender], as in the case of every Jew here below in this physical world, who has the capacity for surrendering himself completely before G‑d, through martyrdom for the sanctification of G‑d’s Name.
As explained further in the Tanya, every Jew has the capacity for such self-sacrifice; in the face of an attempt to coerce him to forsake Judaism he will willingly suffer martyrdom. Thus, every Jew possesses internally within his soul the potential for surrender to G‑d, whatever his external state; this potential, however, may reveal itself only in the act of martyrdom. Because he is surrendered to G‑d, G‑d’s holiness rests upon him.
ולכן אמרו רבותינו ז״ל שאפילו אחד שיושב ועוסק בתורה שכינה שרויה כו׳
That is why our Sages have said that “if even one individual sits and engages in Torah study, the Divine Presence rests upon him.”
For when one engages in Torah study his surrender to G‑dliness emerges, to affect him on a revealed, external level, since such study entails setting aside one’s own notions and presumptions in order to understand and accept G‑d’s wisdom and Will as expressed in Torah. It is this surrender to G‑dliness that causes the Divine Presence to rest upon the Torah student.
וכל בי עשרה שכינתא שריא לעולם
Also, “On each gathering of ten Jews the Divine Presence rests” always; together, ten Jews form a “congregation of Israel,” which is a fit abode for the Divine Presence.
אבל כל מה שאינו בטל אצלו יתברך, אלא הוא דבר נפרד בפני עצמו, אינו מקבל חיות מקדושתו של הקדוש ברוך הוא
Anything, however, that does not surrender itself to G‑d, but [considers itself as if it] is a thing separate unto itself, does not receive its life from the holiness of G‑d —
But where else would it receive its vitality? G‑dliness and holiness is the source of vitality for every existing being, as it is written, “You give life to them all” (Nechemiah 9:6). The Alter Rebbe goes on to qualify his previous remark, stating that those beings who do not surrender themselves to G‑d receive their vitality only from a superficial, external level of G‑dliness; and from this level, too, only when it descends degree by degree through numerous “contractions” of the life-force.
מבחינת פנימית הקדושה ומהותה ועצמותה בכבודה ובעצמה, אלא מבחינת אחוריים
To return to the Alter Rebbe’s words: The self-styled separate being does not receive its vitality from the pnimiyut, the inner aspect of holiness, from its every essence and core, but from its achorayim, its “hind-part”, so to speak.
To bestow from one’s “pnimiyut” (literally, one’s “face”) means, as explained in ch. 22, to give with a pleasurable will and desire; “achorayim” (literally, “behind one’s back”) means to bestow without desire or pleasure, out of some extenuating factor. The giver’s attitude will be apparent, in either case, in his manner of giving. If one gives something to his enemy, for example, he will avert his face from him, for one’s face represents his inner feelings; since the giver’s heart is not in his gift, he turns his face away, presenting his enemy with his rear. Thus, pnimiyut and achorayim in the sense of internal and external aspects (of one’s will) are related to their literal meanings of “face” and “rear”.
In our context, everything in the realm of holiness, whose existence and life G‑d desires, receives its life from the pnimiyut of G‑dliness; while the kelipot, in which G‑d has no desire (since He created them only for the reasons given in the paragraphs introducing this chapter), receive their life from the achorayim of G‑dliness.
שיורדים ממדרגה למדרגה רבבות מדרגות בהשתלשלות העולמות, דרך עלה ועלול
This limited form of life-force reaches the kelipot by descending degree by degree through myriads of levels, in the chain-like descent of the worlds, in the manner of cause and effect.
The higher level is the “cause” for the lower level which emerges from it. However, in a descent which is a sequence of cause and effect, the effect, although lower, is always comparable to the cause. Such descents, no matter how numerous, would be insufficient to produce the low level of vitality bestowed upon kelipot. This can be produced only by the descent of the vitality through tzimtzum, as the Alter Rebbe now continues:
The vitality descends also through many tzimtzumim, or contractions — and this process diminishes the vitality to the point where it is incomparably lower than in its original state.
עד שנתמעט כל כך האור והחיות, מיעוט אחר מיעוט, עד שיכול להתצמצם ולהתלבש בבחינת גלות
So greatly diminished does the light and life-force become, diminution after diminution, until it is able to become contracted and clothed in a manner of exile, meaning that instead of being surrendered to the Divine life-force, the object in which the vitality is clothed masters it; as, for example, a captive in exile is mastered by his captors.
תוך אותו דבר הנפרד, להחיותו ולקיימו מאין ליש
The vitality is thus in a state of exile within that object which is (i.e., which considers itself) separate from holiness, giving it vitality and existence, causing that object to pass from non-existence to existence,
שלא יחזור להיות אין ואפס כבתחלה מקודם שנברא
so that is does not return to its original state of non-existence, as it was before it was created by the vitality clothed in it.
In brief: All that is not surrendered to G‑d, but considers itself separate from Him, receives its vitality from the achorayim of G‑dliness by way of numerous descents and various contraction. The Divine life-force is concealed within it in a state of exile; thus it belongs to the realm of kelipah. It is now clear why any thought, word or action not directed toward [serving] G‑d — hence, not surrendered to G‑dliness — is a garment of the animal soul that derives from kelipah, even if that thought, word or deed is not actually evil.