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והנה כל בחינה ומדריגה משלש אלו, נפש רוח ונשמה, כלולה מעשר בחינות

Now, each of these three distinctions and grades — Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah — consists of ten faculties1

כנגד עשר ספירות עליונות שנשתלשלו מהן

corresponding to the Ten Supernal Sefirot (divine manifestations,2 in which they originate and whence they descend.

הנחלקות לשתים

The Ten Sefirot are subdivided into two general categories.

שהן שלש אמות ושבע כפולות

These two categories are: three “mothers”, i.e., three of these Sefirot are termed “mothers” for they are the source and root of the other seven Sefirot, as a mother is the source of her offspring, and seven “doubles” — the seven divine attributes, called “doubles” inasmuch as each of the emotional attributes manifests itself in a twofold manner, as shall presently be explained.

פירוש: חכמה בינה ודעת, ושבעת ימי הבנין: חסד גבורה תפארת כו׳

Namely: Chochmah (“wisdom”), Binah (“understanding”) and Daat (“knowledge”) are called “mothers”; and the seven “doubles” are [the emotional attributes known as] the “seven days of Creation”: Chesed (“kindness”), Gevurah (“severity”), Tiferet (“beauty”), and so on, the other four being: Netzach (“endurance”), Hod (“splendor”), Yesod (“foundation”), and Malchut (“royalty”).

These seven attributes are known as the “seven days of Creation,” for it was through these seven attributes that G‑d created the world. Each day’s creation came about through a particular attribute: during the first day Chesed was dominant, the second day Gevurah, and so on.

וכך בנפש האדם שנחלקת לשתים — שכל ומדות

Just as the Ten Supernal Sefirot are divided into two general categories, so, too, with the human soul [and its ten faculties]; they are divided into two general categories: seichel (“intellect”) and middot (“emotional attributes”).

השכל כולל חכמה בינה ודעת, והמדות הן אהבת ה׳ ופחדו ויראתו ולפארו כו׳

The [category of] intellect includes the three all-inclusive intellectual powers Chochmah, Binah and Daat (ChaBaD), whilst the middot, which bear the same names as their corresponding seven Sefirot: Chesed, Gevurah, etc., represent the following emotions: love of G‑d, dread and awe of Him, glorification of Him, and so forth.

Love corresponds to Chesed (“kindness”), as they are, respectively, the internal (i.e., emotional) and external (i.e., practical) aspects of the same trait; the dread and awe of G‑d correspond to Gevurah, as they are its inner aspect; so too the glorification of Him corresponds to Tiferet.

וחב״ד נקראו אמות ומקור למדות כי המדות הן תולדות חב״ד

ChaBaD (the intellectual faculties) are called the “mothers” and source of the middot, for the middot are “offspring” of (i.e., derive from) ChaBaD.

At this point it would be worthwhile to explain briefly the function of the faculties Chochmah, Binah and Daat (abbreviated as ChaBaD), mentioned frequently in the coming chapters.

Chochmah is the first flash of intellect. It is the seminal and inner point of an idea. This seminal point of intellect already includes within it all the details and ramifications of the idea, but as yet they are concentrated and obscured. (This is analogous to a dot, in which the dimensions of length and breadth are not evident — all that is seen is the dot — although for the dot to exist it must certainly contain length and breadth.)

Chochmah is also called barak hamavrik — the intuitive flash of illumination which is the beginning of intellectual revelation. For instance, we may observe how a person striving to answer an intellectual question suddenly realizes in a flash of intuition that the question can be answered along a particular line of reasoning. At the moment of illumination he is as yet unaware exactly how the particular question is answered: he knows only that he has found an adequate solution to the problem.

Thereafter the faculty of Binah (“understanding”) comes into play. Through cogitation, Binah apprehends, crystallizes and clarifies the details of the idea which were obscured in Chochmah, until the whole edifice of the idea, in all its length and breadth, becomes manifest. For this reason the function of Binah is described as meivin davar mitoch davar — “to understand (or deduce) one matter out of another” — i.e., that which was previously concentrated in the obscure intuitive flash of Chochmah is now revealed and understood.

After the person fully understands the idea with all its details and ramifications, he must then immerse himself in it, binding and unifying himself with it to the extent that he not only understands it but also feels it. Only in this way can he be affected by the idea; if his understanding points to the desirability of a particular thing, it will give birth to a love for it; if his understanding indicates instead the harmfulness of a particular thing, he will react with a feeling of fear and flee from it; and similarly with other emotions. The faculty with which one thus immerses himself in an idea is called Daat (“knowledge”), which is etymologically related to the expression,3 “and Adam knew (ידע) Eve,” a verb which denotes attachment and union. We now return to the text:

וביאור הענין: כי הנה השכל שבנפש המשכלת, שהוא המשכיל כל דבר

The explanation of the matter (i.e., of the three intellectual processes described above — inspiration, cogitation, and contemplation) is as follows: that intellectual faculty of the rational soul that first conceives any matter (i.e., the faculty which produces the seminal point of an idea and the first flash of illumination, as explained above)

נקרא בשם חכמה — כ״ח מ״ה

is given the appellation of Chochmah [which is composed of the two words] כח מה — the potential of “what is.”4

It is a faculty concerning which one can only pose the question “Mah?” (“What is it?”) — for at this stage the idea in question is not yet clear or comprehensible logically, since its details are still in potentia, emerging only at a later stage.

וכשמוציא כחו אל הפועל, שמתבונן בשכלו להבין דבר לאשורו

When one brings forth this concentrated idea from the potential into the actual, that is, when one cogitates with his intellect on the seminal point in order to understand a matter full well —

That is: when he ponders all the details which make up the totality of the particular idea in its length and breadth. “Length” involves the range of an idea; when one draws down a concept from a lofty level to a lower one (by way of a parable, for example) in order to make it more readily understood, he is “lengthening” it, giving it a greater range of accessibility, so that it will be more readily intelligible to a student. For a student whose capacity is more limited, one parable may not suffice; it may be necessary to provide a second parable to explain the first, thereby “lengthening” the concept still further downward. (As Scripture writes concerning King Solomon:5 “He spoke three thousand parables.” So great was Solomon’s wisdom that to explain one of his thoughts he had to give three thousand parables; one parable to explain the basic concept, a second parable to explain the first parable, and so forth, until ultimately giving three thousand parables — an extreme example of the “length” of an idea.)

The “breadth” of an idea means the multitude of details which the concept comprises, as well as all its ramifications. For example, the logic behind a halachic ruling in the laws of kashrut may also apply to laws governing financial disputes.

This is the meaning of the word לאשורו (“full well”) — understanding the intellectual concept completely, in both its length and breadth.


[Thus, when one cogitates on a concept in its length and breadth] and delves to its very depths

מתוך איזה דבר חכמה המושכל בשכלו

as it evolves from the concept which he had conceived in his intellect (i.e., when he apprehends in a detailed manner the seminal point of intellect, which prior to his cogitation was but a nebulous point of Chochmah),

נקרא בינה

this is called Binah. (Binah is that faculty which elucidates the details of any concept and apprehends it “full well” and “in depth.”)

והן הם אב ואם המולידות אהבת ה׳ ויראתו ופחדו

They (Chochmah and Binah) are the very “father” and “mother” which give birth to love of G‑d, and awe (yirah) and dread (pachad) of Him.6

כי השכל שבנפש המשכלת כשמתבונן ומעמיק מאד בגדולת ה׳

For when the intellect in the rational soul deeply contemplates and immerses itself exceedingly in the greatness of G‑d,

איך הוא ממלא כל עלמין

how He fills all worlds,

i.e., how G‑d animates all of creation with an immanent divine light and life-force (just as the soul fills and gives life to every part of the body) — a life-force which clothes itself in and unifies itself with each creature, and which adapts itself to the individual needs of that creature,

וסובב כל עלמין

and when one further contemplates how He encompasses all worlds,7

He illuminates the worlds with a G‑dly light and life-force that is far beyond the capacity of the worlds to receive internally; rather, it affects them in an encompassing manner.

וכולא קמיה כלא חשיב

Or, when one contemplates another aspect of G‑d’s greatness, namely, how in His presence all creation is considered as naught, —8

נולדה ונתעוררה מדת יראת הרוממות במוחו ומחשבתו

Upon contemplating and immersing oneself in any of the above-mentioned aspects of G‑d’s greatness the middah of awe for the Divine Majesty will be born and aroused in one’s mind and thought,

לירא ולהתבושש מגדולתו יתברך, שאין לה סוף ותכלית

to fear and be humble before His blessed greatness, which is without end or limit,

i.e., the fear will be coupled and permeated with humility, as in the awe one feels in the presence of a very wise or righteous person, which expresses one’s bashfulness and humility before him,

ופחד ה׳ בלבו

and there will also be born a dread of G‑d in his heart.

This explains how contemplating G‑d’s greatness arouses a fear and dread of Him — an expression of the attribute of Gevurah.

ושוב יתלהב לבו באהבה עזה כרשפי אש, בחשיקה וחפיצה ותשוקה ונפש שוקקה

Next his contemplation will give birth to the attribute of Chesed, expressed as a love of G‑d, so that his heart will glow with an intense love of G‑d like fiery flames, with a passion, desire and longing, and a yearning soul

לגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא

(each of these expressions — “fiery flames,” “passion”, and so on, denoting a different grade of love) toward the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof.

והיא כלות הנפש, כדכתיב: נכספה וגם כלתה נפשי וגו׳, וכתיב: צמאה נפשי לאלקים וגו׳, וכתיב צמאה לך נפשי וגו׳

This is what is meant by the term kalot hanefesh (“a consuming passion of the soul”), as it is written:9 “My soul longs [for You]; indeed, it faints…,” and10 “My soul thirsts for G‑d …,” and again,11 “My soul thirsts for You.”

So intense can one’s love become that the soul risks being consumed in the fiery flames of its love of G‑d, and totally leaving the body. In fact, were one not to forestall this danger, and contain this great love, he would indeed expire. But he restrains himself so that his soul will remain clothed in his body — the only condition in which it is possible for him to fulfill his G‑d-given mission.

והצמאון הוא מיסוד האש שבנפש האלקית

This loving thirst is derived from the element of Fire in the divine soul.

וכמו שכתבו הטבעיים, וכן הוא בעץ חיים, שיסוד האש הוא בלב

As students of natural science affirm, and so it is in Etz Chayim, the element of Fire is in the heart,

ומקור המים והליחות מהמוח

while the source of [the element of] Water and moisture is in the brain,

וכמו שכתוב בעץ חיים שער נ׳, שהיא בחינת חכמה שנקרא מים שבנפש האלקית

As explained in Etz Chayim, Portal 50, [the source of the element of Water] is the level of Chochmah which is called “the water of the divine soul.”

Inasmuch as the heart is the seat of the emotions — of warmth — we say that it is the abode of the element of Fire. In contrast, the brain — being the seat of “cold” intellect, calm and measured intelligence — is the source of the element of Water. One can readily observe this by comparing the demeanor of an emotional person to that of an intellectual.

So, too, with the intellect and emotions of the divine soul: the heat and passion of one’s love of G‑d is expressed in the heart, ultimately leading him to expire in kalot hanefesh. The mind, however, remains cool. This capacity of the intellect for calm appraisal of a situation leads it to comprehend that G‑d’s intent is that the soul remain clothed in the body so that it will be able to fulfill the Torah and its commandments. This realization cools the fiery ardor of the heart and thus prevents the soul from actually expiring in kalot hanefesh.

The Alter Rebbe’s discussion of the birth of middot from the intellect has thus far been centered on two emotions: love and fear of G‑d. What of the others?

ושאר המדות כולן הן ענפי היראה והאהבה ותולדותיהן, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

The rest of the remaining five middot are all offshoots and derivatives of fear and love (and obviously they, too, are born of Chochmah and Binah), as is explained elsewhere.

All the above explains why Chochmah and Binah are called the “father” and “mother” of the middot, for it is through the contemplation exercised by Chochmah and Binah that the middot are born. Chochmah is called the “father”. Just as the drop of semen which derives from the father’s brain comprises, in concentrated and concealed form, all the organs of the child’s body, similarly the seminal point of Chochmah contains, in a concealed manner, all the details of an idea, as explained above. And just as it is the mother who reveals the child’s organs from their concealed state, and brings them to a state of completion, similarly, Binah reveals, expands and elucidates the concept in all its details.

But what of Daat, the third of the intellectual faculties? Daat too, as explained earlier, is a “mother” and source of middot. What does it contribute to their birth? This issue is now addressed.

והדעת הוא מלשון: והאדם ידע את חוה, והוא לשון התקשרות והתחברות

Daat, whose etymology may be found in the verse,12 “And Adam knew (ידע) Eve,” implies attachment and union.

שמקשר דעתו בקשר אמיץ וחזק מאד, ויתקע מחשבתו בחוזק, בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא, ואינו מסיח דעתו

(As applied to Daat of the divine soul, this means) binding one’s mind with a very firm, strong bond and firmly fixing one’s thought on the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof, without diverting his mind from it (i.e., the subject matter conceived in Chochmah and developed in Binah is absorbed in the mind by concentration, Daat.)

כי אף מי שהוא חכם ונבון בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא, הנה אם לא יקשר דעתו ויתקע מחשבתו בחוזק ובהתמדה

For even one who is wise (by utilizing his faculty of Chochmah) and understanding (by exercising his faculty of Binah) in the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof, yet, unless he applies his Daat and fixes his thought firmly and diligently on his understanding of G‑d’s greatness,

לא יוליד בנפשו יראה ואהבה אמיתית, כי אם דמיונות שוא

he will not produce in his soul true fear and love, but only vain fancies.

He will only imagine that he fears G‑d and loves Him. True fear and love are attained only by way of Daat.

ועל כן הדעת הוא קיום המדות וחיותן

Thus, Daat provides the substance and vitality of the middot (and is therefore termed a “mother” of the middot, another parent side by side with Chochmah and Binah).

והוא כולל חסד וגבורה, פירוש: אהבה וענפיה ויראה וענפיה

It comprises Chesed and Gevurah; that is to say, love with those other middot that are its offshoots, and fear with its offshoots.

——— ● ———

Elsewhere (e.g., Likutei Torah, Bamidbar 1a, 51b; Shir HaShirim 16d) the Alter Rebbe makes it clear that the soul does not “consist” of the ten faculties, but rather manifests itself through them, since the soul itself is essentially indefinable and indivisible.
The Ten Sefirot are more fully discussed in Iggeret HaKodesh (Tanya, Part IV), ch. 15 and elsewhere.
Bereishit 4:1.
Zohar III, 28a; 34a.
I Melachim 5:12.
Yirah means an awe which is felt for the most part intellectually. Pachad denotes a dread which is felt emotionally, in one’s heart. This is why at the beginning of the chapter, where the emotions are enumerated and explained in a general way, pachad precedes yirah, for pachad — the feeling of dread in one’s heart — is a truer emotion that the intellectual yirah. Here, however, when dealing with the emotions as they are born from the intellect, yirah precedes pachad, for only after the emotion is first formed in the mind, at which stage it is yirah, does it then descend to the heart, as pachad.
Zohar III, 225a.
Zohar I, 11b.
Tehillim 84:3.
Ibid. 42:3.
Ibid. 63:2.
Bereishit 4:1.
Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, all rights reserved.
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Kwanele Lewistown, MT June 10, 2013

Our senses are the doorway to the soul, and the pathway to the mind is our soul. Yet our soul comprises of variety of elements. Therefore which is to say that a certain thought or intellect ought to go to the mind and the other despised? Of truth the third soul, that which distinguishes the faculties of the soul and the health of out thoughts based on what we we use with our senses to feed our soul. For it is how we use our senses that we can be able to determine whether or not the soul within expires or remains as is or grows. Reply

Michael Elmaleh Milan, Italy October 27, 2011

Yes it is a third soul.
The AR describes the two souls like two kings fighting to conquer a city, that city is the man.
So if a man has two souls fighting to conquer him, who is he? He is the intellectual soul, the third soul.
This is also the communication bridge between the other two souls, as G-dly soul is too lofty to be understood by the lowly animal soul so the intellectual soul acts as the middleman that understands both languages.
Hope this is clear. Reply

Alon los angeles, ca April 14, 2011

What is the rational soul that is spoken of here. Previously we talked about two souls ; G-dly soul and animal soul occupying a person. But is this rational soul a third soul, or is it manifested in the G-dly soul; and if it is then is it also in the animal soul; as we learn later the animal soul mirrors what the G-dly soul has. I hope my question is legible.

Moshiach NOW! Reply

MIke Kramer tampa, FL November 6, 2010

One gains insight into strategies for living from this, as well as the Talmud, try to search for wisdom... Reply

Menachem Posner for April 3, 2009

Please have a look at Are the Four Elements Outdated? for a fascinating explanation from the Rebbe on the matter. Reply

Tzomah Nufshi April 2, 2009

How is one to understand the Tanya and Zohar's reliance on the antiquated scientific model of the 4 elements, which seems to be based on the Platonic model, which Plato himself characterized as being pre-Socratic in origin,first formulated by the Sicilian philosopher Empedocles (ca. 450 BC). We now know that there are hundreds of elements, how do we reconcile this (more accurate) scientific understanding with the 4 element model espoused by the Sacred texts? We find that their whole premise is that the spiritual world mirrors the physical (or rather visa versa) and thus there are both 4 elements in the spiritual & physical sense, thus one cannot explain it away as solely a metaphysical model of Esoteric cosmology in the spiritual plain. Reply

Kushta April 2, 2009

This refers to the Enigma of Makom.
See Nefesh HaChaim Sha'ar 3 (ch. 3-5 in particular) for details Reply

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