The Alter Rebbe had stated earlier that a person’s intention while performing Torah and mitzvot should be that his soul cleave to G‑d.
He now goes on to say that a Jew’s spiritual service also includes the goal of becoming one with all the Jewish people. For this reason his intentions should not be limited to having his own soul cleave to G‑d, but also that the source of his soul and the source of all the souls of Israel cleave to Him.
By doing so the individual brings about the union (yichud) of the higher and lower levels of G‑dliness known respectively as Kudsha Brich Hu (“the Holy One, blessed be He”) and His Shechinah (“the Divine Presence”), for the former is the source of Torah and mitzvot and the latter is the source of all Jewish souls.
This explains the concluding phrase of the formula recited before the performance of certain mitzvot: “For the sake of the union of Kudsha Brich Hu with His Shechinah...in the name of all Israel.” As the Rebbe notes: “In the name of all Israel” implies that the union achieved through the performance of the mitzvah is for the sake of, and in the name of, all of Israel. For it is with the Shechinah that Kudsha Brich Hu is united and the Shechinah is the source of all Jewish souls.
In the Alter Rebbe’s words:
אך אמנם אמרו רז״ל: לעולם אל יוציא אדם עצמו מן הכלל
Yet in fact, the Sages, of blessed memory, have said that “a man should never separate himself from the community.”
לכן יתכוין ליחד ולדבקה בו יתברך, מקור נפשו האלקית ומקור נפשות כל ישראל
Therefore he should intend to unite and attach to Him, blessed be He, the source of his divine soul and in addition the source of the souls of all Israel,
שהוא רוח פיו יתברך, הנקרא בשם שכינה על שם ששוכנת ומתלבשת תוך כל עלמין להחיותן ולקיימן
[this source] being the spirit of His mouth, called by the name ‘Shechinah’ because it dwells (shochenet) and clothes itself in all worlds, animating them and giving them existence,
והיא היא המשפעת בו כח הדבור הזה שמדבר בדברי תורה, או כח המעשה הזה לעשות מצוה זו
and it is the Shechinah which imbues him with the power of speech to utter his current words of Torah, or with the power of action to perform the particular commandment at hand.
One should thus intend to become united with the infinite Ein Sof-light through speaking words of Torah or performing a commandment. For it is the Shechinah which is the source of his power of speech and action, as well as the source of his divine soul and the souls of all Israel.
ויחוד זה הוא על ידי המשכת אור אין סוף ברוך הוא למטה, על ידי עסק התורה והמצות שהוא מלובש בהן
This union of the source of Jewish souls with G‑d is attained through drawing forth the light of the blessed Ein Sof here below, by being occupied in the Torah and the commandments wherein it (the light of the Ein Sof) is clothed.
ויתכוין להמשיך אורו יתברך על מקור נפשו ונפשות כל ישראל לייחדן
And he should be intent on drawing His blessed light over the source of his soul and of the souls of all Israel, so as to unite them with Him.
וכמו שכתוב לקמן פירוש יחוד זה באריכות, עיין שם
The meaning of this union will be discussed at length later on; note there.
וזהו פירוש לשם יחוד קודשא בריך הוא ושכינתיה בשם כל ישראל
This, then, is the meaning of the words we recite before performing various commandments: “For the sake of the union of Kudsha Brich Hu with his Shechinah...in the name of all Israel.”*
That is to say, one’s observance of the commandments unites Kudsha Brich Hu (the source of Torah and mitzvot) with the Shechinah — in the name of all the Jewish people, for the Shechinah is the source of the souls of them all.
The Alter Rebbe now notes that much more than the union of divine souls and G‑d is accomplished by the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot. These activities also bring about hamtakat hadinim, the tempering (lit., “sweetening”) of harsh judgment and Gevurot, and their transformation into kindness and Chassadim.
This is effected through the coalescing of the supernal Sefirot of Chesed and Gevurah (kindness and severity). These Sefirot, which by nature are opposites, are fused into one through the revelation and diffusion of a divine light which is spiritually superior to them both.
This light is the Supernal Will drawn down upon these two attributes through the performance of Torah and mitzvot, for inasmuch as Torah and mitzvot are expressions of the Divine Will, their spirituality far surpasses the spirituality of the Sefirot of Chesed and Gevurah.
When the Divine Will — the source of Supernal kindness — is revealed through the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot, the attributes of kindness and severity are united, and severity is transformed into kindness.
In the Alter Rebbe’s words:
וגם על ידי זה יתמתקו גם כן הגבורות בחסדים ממילא
Thereby, i.e., through the performance of Torah and mitzvot, the Gevurot will, of themselves, also be sweetened by the Chassadim through the coalescence of the middot and their union,
על ידי גילוי רצון העליון ברוך הוא, המתגלה למעלה באתערותא דלתתא
by means of the revelation of the Supernal Will, which is revealed on high through the stimulus from below,
הוא גילוי למטה בעסק התורה והמצוה, שהן רצונו יתברך
namely, its revelation here below in one’s occupation in the Torah and commandments, for they are His blessed Will.
Thus, when a Jew reveals and draws down G‑d’s Will into this world as a result of his spiritual activities, the Divine Will will also be revealed in the Supernal Sefirot, resulting in the unification and coalescing of the middot, so that the Gevurot are sweetened by and transformed into Chassadim.
וכמו שכתוב באדרא רבא ובמשנת חסידים מסכת אריך אנפין פרק ד׳
Thus it is written in Idra Rabba and in Mishnat Chassidim, Tractate Arich Anpin, ch. 4,
שתרי"ג מצות התורה נמשכות מחיורתא דאריך אנפין, שהוא רצון העליון מקור החסדים
that the 613 commandments of the Torah are derived from the “whiteness” — the Chassadim — of Arich Anpin, which is the Supernal Will, the source of the Chassadim.
Although this is stated in Kabbalistic terms, the intent is clear: Kindness and benevolence are drawn down into the world through the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot.
END OF NOTE
It has been previously noted that it is not enough to intend to unify one’s own soul with G‑d through the performance of Torah and mitzvot; one must also seek to unite the source of all the souls of Israel with the infinite Ein Sof-light.
In point of fact, there is quite a difference between these two intentions. A Jew’s personal desire to cleave to G‑d because of his love for Him is surely an utterly truthful intention: since his love of G‑d is sincere, his desire to cleave to Him is likewise sincere.
However, for a Jew to sincerely desire that his performance of Torah and mitzvot connect the source of all the souls of Israel with the infinite Ein Sof-light (i.e., that it effect the union of Kudsha Brich Hu and His Shechinah, as explained above), — this presupposes a far greater love of G‑d: a love so fierce that his only desire is to cause G‑d pleasure through his actions, thinking of himself not at all. It is thus entirely possible that this general intention is not completely genuine.
Now we are constantly taught that one should be wary of spiritual intentions which outstrip one’s current spiritual pace: spirituality must be earned in an environment of honesty. How, then, are we to expect that every Jew study Torah and perform mitzvot for the sake of uniting all of Israel with G‑d, when he himself knows that he does not mean it wholeheartedly?
The Alter Rebbe therefore goes on to explain that although an individual may not be entirely sincere in this intention, his integrity is not compromised thereby. For every Jew desires to fulfill G‑d’s Will — and uniting Jews with G‑d is surely His Will.
One should therefore not be apprehensive about his own sincerity to the point that he refrains from this comprehensive intention of unity, for to a certain degree his intention is consciously sincere. Moreover, there is no self-delusion here, for this unity is what his soul desires.
ואף שלהיות כוונה זו אמיתית בלבו, שיהיה לבו חפץ באמת יחוד העליון הזה, צריך להיות בלבו אהבה רבה לה׳ לבדו
And although in order that this intent should be sincere in his heart, so that his heart should truly desire this Higher Union, uniting all Jewish souls with their source in G‑dliness, his heart must harbor a great love (ahavah rabbah) for G‑d alone,
Often, loving another is ultimately a result of self-love: a person loves that which is good for him. The same is true with regard to loving G‑d and desiring to cleave to Him through the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot: the individual desires his own welfare, and that which will benefit his own soul — and there can be no better way of achieving this than by cleaving to G‑d.
If, however, he is to truly desire the unification of all Jewish souls with their source in G‑d, a much deeper love is required: a love untainted by the faintest vestige of self-interest, a love wholly and exclusively directed toward G‑d,
לעשות נחת רוח לפניו לבד ולא לרוות נפשו הצמאה לה׳
to do what is gratifying to Him alone, and not for the purpose of quenching his soul’s thirst for G‑d,
אלא כברא דאשתדל בתר אבוי ואמיה, דרחים לון יתיר מגרמיה ונפשיה כו׳ כמו שנתבאר לעיל בשם רעיא מהימנא
but he must be “like a son who strives for the sake of his father and mother, whom he loves more than his own body and soul,...” (as explained above in ch. 10, citing Ra‘aya Mehemna),
As explained above, this degree of love was experienced by Moses, who sacrificed himself utterly in order to secure the unification of the Jewish people with G‑d. His love was similar to that of a child who is ready to give his very life for his parents‘ sake. How, then, can every Jew be expected to summon up this lofty level of love, which is a prerequisite for the desire to unite all Jewish souls with their G‑dly source?
מכל מקום יש לכל אדם להרגיל עצמו בכוונה זו
nevertheless, every person should habituate himself to this intent.
כי אף שאינה באמת לאמיתו לגמרי בלבו שיחפוץ בזה בכל לבו
For though it may not be in his heart in perfect and complete truth, so that he should long for it with all his heart, for in order to truly do so one must have attained a totally selfless love for G‑d,
מכל מקום מעט מזעיר חפץ לבו בזה באמת, מפני אהבה הטבעית שבלב כל ישראל לעשות כל מה שהוא רצון העליון ב״ה
nevertheless, to some small extent, his heart genuinely desires it, because of the inborn love in every Jewish heart to do whatever is the Supernal Will of G‑d.
ויחוד זה הוא רצונו האמיתי
And this union — the union of the source of all Jewish souls with the infinite Ein Sof-light — is His true desire,
והיינו יחוד העליון שבאצילות, הנעשה באתערותא דלתתא על ידי יחוד נפש האלקית והתכללותה באור ה׳ המלובש בתורה ומצות שעוסקת בהן
namely, the Supernal Union in the World of Atzilut, which is produced by an arousal from below, through the divine soul’s union and absorption in G‑d’s light that is clothed in the Torah and the commandments in which it is engaged,
והיו לאחדים ממש, כמו שכתוב לעיל
so that they — the divine soul and G‑d — become One in reality, as has been explained above. And thus one effects the union in the World of Atzilut.
כי על ידי זה מתיחדים גם כן מקור התורה והמצות, שהוא הקב״ה, עם מקור נפשו האלקית, הנקרא בשם שכינה
For by reason of this, the source of the Torah and the commandments, i.e., the Holy One, blessed be He, is united with the source of the individual’s divine soul, which is called ‘Shechinah’.
שהן בחינת ממלא כל עלמין ובחינת סובב כל עלמין, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר באריכות
Expressed in terms of the different levels of supernal illumination, these are the categories of “filling all worlds” and of “encompassing all worlds,” as is explained elsewhere at length.
In summary: Since all Jews desire to do G‑d’s Will, and He desires that their souls all unite with their source, there is a measure of truth in a Jew’s intent to bring about this union, even if his love of G‑d is not completely selfless.
The Alter Rebbe will now go on to say that a Jew’s desire for his own soul to be united with its source is an utterly honest one, for every Jew possesses an innate love of G‑d.
אבל יחוד נפשו והתכללותה באור ה׳ להיות לאחדים
But the union of the person’s own soul with, and its absorption into, the light of G‑d, making them one,
בזה חפץ כל אדם מישראל באמת לאמיתו לגמרי, בכל לב ובכל נפש
this is what every member of Israel desires in absolute and utter truth, with all his heart and all his soul,
מאהבה הטבעית המסותרת בלב כל ישראל, לדבקה בה׳ ולא ליפרד ולהיות נכרת ונבדל חס ושלום מיחודו ואחדותו יתברך בשום אופן, אפילו במסירות נפש ממש
because of the natural love that is hidden in every Jewish heart to cleave to G‑d and not, under any circumstances, to be parted or sundered or separated, G‑d forbid, from His blessed Unity and Oneness, even at the cost of his very life.
This readiness for self-sacrifice surfaces, for example, when a Jew is forced by heathens to bow down to an idol. Even if merely going through the motions would satisfy them, and they do not impose their belief upon him, the Jew will be ready to literally sacrifice his life so as not to be sundered from his unity with G‑d.
ועסק התורה ומצות והתפלה הוא גם כן ענין מסירת נפש ממש, כמו בצאתה מן הגוף במלאת שבעים שנה
Being engaged in the Torah and commandments and prayer is also a matter of actual surrender of the soul, just as when it leaves the body at the end of seventy years,
שאינה מהרהרת בצרכי הגוף, אלא מחשבתה מיוחדת ומלובשת באותיות התורה והתפלה, שהן דבר ה׳ ומחשבתו יתברך, והיו לאחדים ממש
for then it does not think of bodily needs, but its thought is united with, and clothed in, the letters of the Torah and prayer, which are the word and thought of G‑d, and they (the soul and the letters of Torah and prayer — G‑d’s thought and speech) truly become one.
שזהו כל עסק הנשמות בגן עדן, כדאיתא בגמרא ובזהר
This is [also] the whole occupation of the souls in the Garden of Eden, as is stated in the Gemara and in the Zohar,
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.
אלא ששם מתענגים בהשגתם והתכללותם באור ה׳
except that there, i.e., when souls in Gan Eden are immersed in the letters of Torah and prayer, they delight in their apprehension of, and absorption into, the light of G‑d.
Though this delight is lacking in this world, the manner of service remains the same.
וזהו שתקנו בתחלת ברכות השחר קודם התפלה: אלקי נשמה וכו׳ אתה נפחתה וכו׳ ואתה עתיד ליטלה ממני כו׳
This is why it was ordained by the Men of the Great Assembly that one recite at the beginning of the morning blessings, before the prayers: “My G‑d, the soul [which you have placed within me is pure]... You have breathed it [into me]... And You will eventually take it from me....”
כלומר: מאחר שאתה נפחתה בי ואתה עתיד ליטלה ממני, לכן מעתה אני מוסרה ומחזירה לך, לייחדה באחדותך
That is to say: Inasmuch as You have breathed it into me and You will eventually take it from me, I therefore as of now hand it over and return it to You, to unite it with Your Oneness,
וכמו שכתוב: אליך ה׳ נפשי אשא
as it is written: “To You, O L‑rd, I lift my soul,” in order to unite it with G‑d,
והיינו על ידי התקשרות מחשבתי במחשבתך ודיבורי בדבורך, באותיות התורה והתפלה
that is, through binding my thought with Your thought, and my speech with Your speech, by means of the letters of the Torah and prayer which I utter;
ובפרט באמירה לה׳ לנכח, כמו: ברוך אתה, וכהאי גוונא
and, especially, when one addresses G‑d in the second person, as in the phrase, “Blessed are You,” and the like.