Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Contact Us
Tanya Navigator

ובזה יובן מה שכתוב

With this explanation — that even a fear and love of G‑d which remain concealed in one’s mind and heart suffice to infuse one’s fulfillment of the commandments with vitality, thereby perfecting and elevating them, we will understand the verse:1

כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד, בפיך ובלבבך לעשותו

“For this thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”

The verse states that it is easy for one to fulfill Torah and mitzvot with all three “garments” of the soul — thought, speech and action. The words “with your mouth” refer to speech, “with your heart” — to thought, and “that you may do it” refers to action. In a deeper sense, however, “your heart” refers not only to the power of thought, but also to the heart as the seat of the emotions — love, fear, and so on. The verse is telling us, then, that it is within easy reach of every Jew to fulfill the mitzvot with a feeling of awe and love of G‑d. Concerning this, the Alter Rebbe poses the question:

דלכאורה הוא בלבבך נגד החוש שלנו

At first glance, [the statement that “this thing is very near to you]…in your heart” seems contrary to our experience — in our experience we find that it is no simple feat to acquire a spirit of love and fear of G‑d.

והתורה היא נצחית

(2Yet the Torah is eternal),3 hence it could not refer only to Moses‘ generation — “a generation of understanding” — but must hold true for our own age as well.

שאין קרוב מאד הדבר, להפך לבו מתאוות עולם הזה לאהבת ה׳ באמת

In our experience we see that it is not a “very near thing” to change one’s heart from worldly desires to a sincere love of G‑d, for by nature one is inclined toward the former.

And as is written in The Duties of the Heart,4 “Desires for worldly pleasures are unable to dwell in the heart together with a love of G‑d.” In order to attain a love of G‑d, therefore, it is necessary for one to change his nature from one extreme to the other — by no means an easy matter!

וכמו שכתוב בגמרא: אטו יראה מילתא זוטרתי היא

Indeed, commenting on Moses‘ statement: “What does G‑d ask of you, but to fear Him?” the Talmud queries:5 “Is fear of heaven a small matter?”

This indicates, as the Rebbe points out, that even in Moses‘ generation (and surely in subsequent generations) it was no simple matter to acquire a fear of G‑d.

וכל שכן אהבה

And if this is true of fear of G‑d, then how much more so — a love of G‑d, for fear of G‑d is generally more easily attainable than love of G‑d.

Thus, not only our experience, but also this quotation from the Talmud seems to contradict the verse which states that fear and love of G‑d are “very near to you.”

וגם אמרו רז״ל דצדיקים דוקא לבם ברשותם

Moreover, our Sages also said6 that only tzaddikim have control over their hearts — to arouse a love and fear of G‑d whenever they so desire.

This latter quotation intensifies the question, as the Rebbe points out. Not only is it not “very near” to us to achieve a love of G‑d, but on the contrary, it is possible only for tzaddikim, who are a minority. Surely the Torah does not address only tzaddikim; how, then, can it state that a love of G‑d is very near to us, indicating that our heart is in our control, that we can divert it from mundane desires to a love of G‑d?

אלא דלעשותו רצונו לומר: האהבה המביאה לידי עשיית המצות בלבד

But the words “that you may do it” refer to a love which merely leads to the fulfillment of the commandments, although, strictly speaking, it is not an actual love.

The author thus interprets the words “that you may do it” as a qualification of the earlier phrase “for it is near to you…with your heart.” What is “near to you with your heart” (i.e., What sort of love is easily attainable)? That love which pertains to action (“that you may do it”).

Thereby we may also understand the order of the words in the verse. The words “in your mouth, in your heart, that you may do it” refer to the three “soul-garments” of thought, speech, and action, as we have observed earlier. However, the order in which they are listed in the verse is difficult to understand, for it seems to be neither an ascending order (action, speech, thought) nor a descending order (thought, speech, action). Why is the middle faculty, speech, put first, followed by thought (“in your heart”), and then action (“that you may do it”)? However, according to the interpretation of the words “that you may do it” given here, this is readily understood. These words follow immediately after the words “in your heart,” for they serve to explain and to qualify them: the love of which the verse speaks here (“in your heart”), is that which leads to action (“that you may do it”).

שהיא רעותא דלבא שבתעלומות לב, גם כי אינה בהתגלות לבו כרשפי אש

This means the hidden desire of the heart; even if it does not burn openly like a flaming fire, yet it can still lead one to fulfill the commandments.

ודבר זה קרוב מאד ונקל לכל אדם אשר יש לו מוח בקדקדו

This matter of arousing a love which remains hidden in the heart is very easy and very near to every man who has a brain in his head.

כי מוחו ברשותו, ויכול להתבונן בו בכל אשר יחפוץ

For his mind is under his control even if his heart is not, and with it he can meditate as he pleases, on any subject.

וכשיתבונן בו בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא, ממילא יוליד במוחו על כל פנים האהבה לה׳, לדבקה בו בקיום מצותיו ותורתו

If, then, he will contemplate with it on the greatness of the Almighty, he will inevitably generate — in his mind, at least — a love of G‑d, to cleave to Him through the performance of His commandments and the study of His Torah.

וזה כל האדם, כי היום לעשותם כתיב, שהיום הוא עולם המעשה דוקא

This Torah study and fulfilling the mitzvot constitutes7 “the whole purpose of man,” for it is written:8 “I command you these mitzvot, that you do them this day” — “this day” referring specifically to this world of physical action.

The Alter Rebbe’s point is that the main objective in the commandment to love G‑d lies, not in the love itself, but in the practical and wholehearted fulfillment of the commandments that is motivated by this love, for the main thing in this world is action.

ולמחר כו׳ כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

Only “tomorrow” i.e., in the afterlife is the time of reward,9 as is explained elsewhere.

Hence the true love of G‑d, which is in itself a partial reward for one’s serving Him, is not as important in this life as the actual performance of the mitzvot, which can be generated even by a love which remains hidden in the mind and heart. This, then, is the love referred to in the verse, “for it is very near to you in your heart that you may do it” — a love which, though it may not find overt expression in the heart, is yet sufficient to motivate the performance of the mitzvot, and within reach of every Jew.

How does this love motivate one to perform the commandments? This the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain:

והמוח שליט בטבעו ותולדתו על חלל השמאלי שבלב, ועל פיו ועל כל האברים שהם כלי המעשה

The mind, by virtue of its inherent nature, is master over the left part of the heart, the seat of the animal soul, whence come one’s mundane desires and evil thoughts, and over the mouth and the other bodily organs, which are the instruments of action.

Hence by having — in his mind, at least — a love of G‑d and a desire to fulfill the mitzvot, one can utilize the natural mastery of the mind to overcome the desires of his heart, and to motivate his mouth and other bodily organs to study Torah and fulfill its commandments. We thus see that this can be done even by one whose heart is not under his control, as is a tzaddik’s.

אם לא מי שהוא רשע באמת

This is true of everyone except he who is truly wicked — that is, not the Beinoni who is considered “like a rasha,” but one who is truly a rasha; in his case it cannot be said that his mind is master over his heart.

כמאמר רז״ל, שהרשעים הם ברשות לבם ואין לבם ברשותם כלל

On the contrary, our Sages state10 that the wicked are under the control of their heart but their heart is not under their control at all — they are unable to master the desires of their heart, for their mind has no active control over it.

This also resolves an apparent contradiction. The statement, “Tzaddikim have control over their heart,” indicates that anyone of a lesser rank, including a Beinoni, is not in control of his heart, while the statement that only the wicked are “under the control of their heart,” implies that anyone outside the category of rasha — even a Beinoni — is in control of his heart. Where, then, does the Beinoni actually stand? The previous discussion of the mastery of mind over heart explains this point. There are actually not two alternatives — of either being in control of one’s heart or controlled by it — but three. The tzaddik controls his heart. He can arouse a love of G‑d in his heart, directly, without resorting to his mind as a medium of influence. The rasha, on the other hand, not only does not control his heart, but is controlled by it. The Beinoni, although not in control of his heart, as is a tzaddik, rules his heart by way of his mind, which is under his control. To a certain extent, then, i.e., as regards the practical effect of his heart on his thought, speech, and action, the Beinoni does in fact control his heart. Therefore the Alter Rebbe says of the rasha “his heart is not under his control at all,” emphasizing that he is unable to influence his heart even by means of his mind.

The author previously stated that the ability of the mind to master the heart is natural and inherent in the mind. Why, then, do the wicked (resha‘im) lack this capacity? He answers:

וזה עונש על גודל ועוצם עונם

This is a punishment for the enormity and potency of their sinfulness.

However, this raises another question: If they have in fact lost the ability to master their heart, how can it be “very near” to them to observe the mitzvot “with their heart”? In answer, the author states:

ולא דברה תורה במתים אלו שבחייהם קרוים מתים

The Torah does not speak of the dead, that is, those wicked ones who are considered dead11 even during their lifetime.12

כי באמת אי אפשר לרשעים להתחיל לעבוד ה׳ בלי שיעשו תשובה על העבר תחלה

Indeed, it is impossible for the wicked to begin to serve G‑d, that is, to observe the mitzvot out of a feeling of love and fear of G‑d, without first repenting for their past,

לשבר הקליפות, שהם מסך מבדיל ומחיצה של ברזל המפסקת בינם לאביהם שבשמים

in order to shatter the kelipot that were created by their sins, which form a sundering curtain and an “iron wall” that interposes between them and their Father in Heaven.13

על ידי שבירת לבו ומרירת נפשו על חטאיו

How are these kelipot shattered? — By means of contriteness of heart and bitterness of soul over one’s sins.

כמו שכתוב בזהר על פסוק: זבחי אלקים רוח נשברה לב נשבר וגו׳ שעל ידי לב נשבר, נשברה רוח הטומאה דסטרא אחרא

As the Zohar interprets the verse,14 “The sacrifices to the Almighty (Elokim) are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart…,” to mean that through one’s breaking his heart the unclean spirit of the sitra achra (the kelipot) is broken, and this is the sacrifice that we offer to the Divine Name, Elokim.

When speaking of the sacrifices and the laws pertaining to them, the Torah mentions only the Divine Name Havayeh (as in the oft-repeated phrase describing the sacrifices: “an appealing fragrance to G‑d (Havayeh)”). No mention is made of a sacrifice to the Divine Name, Elokim. What, asks the Zohar, does constitute a sacrifice to that Name? The Zohar interprets the previously quoted verse as answering this question. “The sacrifice to Elokim is a broken spirit” (i.e., breaking the spirit of the sitra achra; and this is accomplished by means of) “a broken and contrite heart.”

(עיין שם פרשת פינחס דף ר"מ, ופרשת ויקרא דף ח׳ ודף ה׳ עמוד א׳, ובפירוש הרמ״ז שם)

15(See Zohar on Parshat Pinchas, p. 240, and on Parshat Vayikra, p. 8 and p. 5a, and the commentary of Rabbi Moshe Zacuto thereon.)

Returning now to his original point, that the wicked cannot begin serving G‑d with love and fear before repenting their sins, the Alter Rebbe says:

והיא בחינת תשובה תתאה, להעלות ה׳ תתאה להקימה מנפילתה שנפלה אל החיצונים

This is the lower category of repentance, whereby the lower letter hei is raised up from its fall into the forces of evil, the kelipot.

Teshuvah (repentance), spelled תשובה, forms the words “returning the hei”; this implies that repentance “returns” the hei of the Divine Name, Havayeh (yud hei vav hei), to its proper place. The higher category of teshuvah returns the “higher” (the first) hei to the yud preceding it, while the lower form of teshuvah returns the “lower” hei to the vav preceding it. The teshuvah mentioned earlier as a prerequisite for a love and fear of G‑d, is of the lower category.

שהוא סוד גלות השכינה, כמאמר רז״ל: גלו לאדום שכינה עמהם

This fall of the lower hei of the Divine Name into the kelipot is the mystery of the Shechinah (the Divine Presence) in exile, as our Sages have said:16 “When the Jews were exiled to Edom, the Shechinah went into exile with them.”

דהיינו כשאדם עושה מעשה אדום, מוריד וממשיך לשם בחינת וניצוץ אלקות המחיה את נפש רוח ונשמה שלו

In a spiritual sense, in terms of one’s service to G‑d, this statement means that when one acts like “Edom”, the embodiment of evil, when he sins, he degrades and draws down to Edom, to the kelipot, the Divine spark which vitalizes his Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshamah with G‑dly, holy life. In this way, the Shechinah within him is drawn into exile.

המלובשים בנפש הבהמית מהקליפה שבלבו שבחלל השמאלי, המולכת בו בעודו רשע ומושלת בעיר קטנה שלו

What constitutes “exile” in this case is the fact that the Divine spark gives life to his G‑dly soul which is clothed in the animal soul of kelipah situated in the left part of his heart; and as long as he remains wicked, the animal soul reigns over him, dominating his “small city,” his body. Thus the Divine spark within his G‑dly soul is in exile in the kelipah of his animal soul.

ונר״נ כבושים בגולה אצלה

The Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah are thus held captive in exile under it.

A captive not only lacks the freedom to act as he wishes, but is also forced to carry out the wishes of his captor. The Divine spark within the soul, however, although in exile, is still not in captivity. It has merely lost its ability to affect the person with its G‑dly vitality.

וכשנשבר לבו בקרבו, ונשברה רוח הטומאה וסטרא אחרא, ויתפרדו כו׳

When the heart of the rasha is broken within him, and thereby the spirit of uncleanliness and of the sitra achra are broken, and the forces of evil are dispersed,

היא קמה מנפילתה וגם נצבה, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

then the lower hei of the Divine Name — the Shechinah — rises from its fall and stands firm, as discussed elsewhere.

Only when he repents and thereby frees the Shechinah from exile, and allows the Divine spark within him to affect his soul and body, may he begin to serve G‑d with love and fear.

* * *

In summary: It is indeed “very near” to us to love and fear G‑d, for we are able to create at least an “intellectual emotion” by means of our mind, which is under our control even if our heart is not. However, this does not apply to the rasha, who is a slave to the desires of his animal soul, and must repent before beginning to serve G‑d with love and fear.

——— ● ———

Devarim 30:14.
Parentheses are in the original text.
Maimonides, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, 9:1.
Chovot HaLevavot, introduction to Shaar Ahavat HaShem.
Berachot 33b; Megillah 25a.
Bereishit Rabbah 34:10; 67:8.
Kohelet 12:13.
Devarim 7:11.
Eruvin 22a.
Bereishit Rabbah 34:10; 67:8.
Berachot 18b.
The Rebbe notes that in the following sentences the Alter Rebbe addresses a difficulty which arises from his previous statement concerning the rasha: If indeed, the mind of the rasha is under the control of his heart, and if the heart is naturally inclined, not toward love and fear of G‑d (in any form, not even a love which remains hidden in the mind) but toward material pleasures, then (a) It is not only “far”, but in fact impossible for him to acquire a love or fear of G‑d; (b) It will remain impossible for him forever, G‑d forbid, for what will arouse him to love and fear once he has lost control over his mind, which is the medium of influence on the heart? Indeed, answers the Alter Rebbe; in his present state, it is in fact impossible for the rasha to attain a love or fear of G‑d. But it is in his hands to change this state of affairs — through repentance, which destroys the evil in his heart.In this way, the rasha tackles the problem at its source. Once his heart rules him no longer, his mind is free to influence it, and to arouse a love and fear of G‑d.
Cf. Yeshayahu 59:2.
Tehillim 51:19; Zohar II, 116b.
Parentheses are in the original text.
Cf. Megillah 29a.
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.
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
1000 characters remaining
Devorah Tzfat, Israel March 6, 2011

RE: concerning the rasha IMHO, this that the rasha cannot attain a love and fear of G-d, due to the wall of klipos seperating him from his Father-this itself will bring a ''contriteness of heart and bitterness of soul".
When a person realizes how far he has strayed- this causes a strong remorse, an impetus towards return. See Ch29 Likeitei Amarim for more information.
Sometimes the answers to our questions are merely the questions themselves. Reply

Kushta JHB, SA April 14, 2010

Concerning the rasha: In note 12 it states: "The mind of the rasha is under the control of his heart, and if the heart is naturally inclined not toward love and fear of G‑d then (a) It is not only “far”, but in fact impossible for him to acquire a love or fear of G‑d;(b) It will remain impossible for him forever,for what will arouse him to love and fear once he has lost control over his mind, Answers the Alter Rebbe; in his present state, it is in fact impossible for the rasha to attain a love or fear of G‑d. But it is in his hands to change this state of affairs — through repentance." The Rebbe explains above that repentance is achieved "By means of contriteness of heart and bitterness of soul over one’s sins". But if there is nothing to "arouse him to love and fear once he has lost control over his mind", then by the same token, what will arouse him to "contriteness of heart and bitterness of soul"??? How can the rasha EVER rise beyond his situation, what is motivating him? Reply

Related Topics