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On Studying Chassidus: Chapter Eighteen

On Studying Chassidus: Chapter Eighteen


Another example. When a person studies a very profound subject, concentrating all his powers, intellectual and auxiliary, no other thought penetrates his consciousness. Still, impressed on the recesses of the mind remains a topic studied earlier. Here we have an example of spiritual space, the space of the mind.

There is an example of four distinct powers that work in combination to achieve one action. Each power is clothed in the other, each directing its inferior; the lower power actuates the instructions of its superior.

In recording an idea in writing, a process ensues. First one must establish his fundamental proposition. This must then be expanded by explanation, details, and conclusions appropriate to the idea. Since the idea is to be committed to writing, it must be presented in an orderly fashion, with nothing omitted. A clarity must permeate the exposition so that it may be self-sufficient, and convey conviction no less than the exposition of an eloquent orator.

In this act of writing, four general powers combine: will, intellect, thought, and deed. Will directs intellect to delve into the idea and its component details. Through will, the three intellect-powers contribute to the idea. They, in turn, bring the idea into the process of thought. Through its auxiliaries (speech-in-thought and thought-in-speech)1 appropriate verbal expressions are developed to delineate and articulate the idea, and then to vivify it through writing.

All these three powers (will, intellect, and thought) are general, inclusive. Will is inclusive in that it desires the very delicate and subtle idea to be coherent even to the mediocre mind. Moreover, will desires that the idea be written with lucid, thorough, and precise exposition, and that thought discover proper articulation for the idea. Will is thus exercised over intellect and thought. Intellect is inclusive, since it is composed of concept, comprehension, and concentration. Thought is inclusive since it contains thought-in-speech, speech-in-thought, and intellect-in-thought. In the act of writing, all three are clothed in the power of deed.

The process of an idea’s development, in the descent from concept-source to concept, then to comprehension and conclusion, is accomplished through the auxiliary power of thought. We have just seen, in addition, that the ultimate revelation of the spiritual idea depends on the physical skill, the physical writing.

Literary ability enables the thought to be expressed lucidly and faithfully in written form, so that it comes to life. Without this ability of articulation the thought itself is amorphous. Moreover, when skilfully written, the subject is presented coherently.

Frequently, this skill can sharpen and beautify the idea far beyond its contemplative state, its state in thought, prior to physical verbalization.

All this demonstrates that the more a concept descends through the lower powers, the more exposition, detail, and clarity it achieves. Hence the commandment, 2 “Know this day and bring close to your hearts that the L-rd is G‑d” Comprehension and knowledge are required. The oneness of the Creator, and His Unity with all creation, must actually be grasped and known.

Discourse “Ma rav tuvcha” 5692. [Tr. Expl. Notes.]
Translated by Zalman I. Posner. Rabbi Posner (1927-2014) was a noted author and lecturer. He was rabbi of Congregation Sherith Israel of Nashville, Tennessee, for 53 years and co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Nashville.
A Chassidic discourse by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch.
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