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The previous chapter taught that the Jewish soul is a part of the Tetragrammaton, the internal aspect of G‑dliness, from which it derives. In this it differs from other created beings whose source is more external — the Divine Name Elokim and Supernal speech.

However, in order that the soul be able to become enclothed in a physical body in this corporeal world, it had to descend through ever more concealing planes by means of the letters that comprise the Divine Utterance, “Let us make man.”

Deriving as it does from the internal aspect of the Divine life-force, the soul itself is thus loftier than the degree of Supernal speech; it merely undergoes a descent through Divine speech. It is for this reason that concerning the infusion of man’s soul into the body the Torah uses the expression “He blew,” indicating that it comes from an internal level, for “he who blows, does so from the innermost aspect of his being.”

Because the soul is part of the Tetragrammaton, it also comprises ten faculties that parallel the Ten Sefirot that are found within the Tetragrammaton.

In this chapter the Alter Rebbe goes on to say that even though the soul was invested in the body through the external agency of speech — the Utterance “Let us make man”— nevertheless it derives from the internal aspect of speech, namely, “breath”. In this regard man differs from all other creatures, including angels, which derive their existence from the external aspect of speech. Accordingly, both the internal and external aspects of the soul derive from the internal aspect of G‑dliness, the internal aspect of the soul deriving from the internal aspect of G‑dliness, namely, the Tetragrammaton, the external aspect of the soul deriving from the internality of the external level of Divine speech.

והנה המשכת וירידת הנפש האלקית לעולם הזה, להתלבש בגוף האדם

Bringing the G‑dly soul down into this physical world to invest itself in a human body, this process resulting from Divine speech, viz., the Utterance “Let us make man,”

נמשכה מבחינת פנימיות ומקור הדבור

derives from the internal aspect, the source, of speech.

הוא הבל העליון המרומז באות ה׳ תתאה כנ״ל

This is the “breath” of the Supreme One that is indicated in the latter hei [of Havayah, the Four-Letter Name of G‑d] discussed above.

וכמו שכתוב: ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים, ויהי האדם לנפש חיה

As Scripture states concerning the vestiture of the soul within the body,1 “He blew into his nostrils a breath of life, and man became a living creature,”

ומאן דנפח מתוכיה נפח וכו׳

and “he who blows, does so from within him, [from his inwardness and innermost being].”

Thus, even the external aspect of the soul that is vested within the body is vested in an inward manner, albeit with the inwardness of speech — the internal aspect of the external level of speech. In this regard it is unlike the internal aspect of the soul which emanates from the most internal aspect of G‑dliness.

וזה שנאמר: כי חלק ה׳ עמו, יעקב חבל נחלתו

This, then, is the meaning of the verse,2 “For [G‑d’s] people is a part of G‑d; Jacob is the rope of His inheritance.”

This verse implies that within the soul there are to be found two levels: the internal aspect of the soul is “part of G‑d”; the external aspect of the soul is the “rope of His inheritance.”

פירוש: כמו חבל, על דרך משל, שראשו אחד קשור למעלה וקצהו למטה

The analogy is of a rope, whose upper end is bound above and the lower end below; so, too, the “upper end” of the soul is “bound Above” and its “lower end” is enclothed within the body.

כי הנה פשט הכתוב מה שנאמר: ויפח, הוא להורות לנו, כמו שעל דרך משל כשהאדם נופח לאיזה מקום

The simple meaning3 of the words “He blew” stated in reference to the soul’s vestiture within the body is to instruct us that just as, for example, if one blows in some direction,

אם יש איזה דבר חוצץ ומפסיק בינתיים, אין הבל הנופח עולה ומגיע כלל לאותו מקום

and there is any separation or obstruction there, then the exhaled breath will not reach that place at all,4

ככה ממש, אם יש דבר חוצץ ומפסיק בין גוף האדם לבחינת הבל העליון

— precisely this is the case if any obstruction separates man’s body from the “breath” of the Supreme One, concerning which Scripture states, “He blew.”

אך באמת אין שום דבר גשמי ורוחני חוצץ לפניו יתברך

The truth is, though, that nothing material or spiritual is a barrier before Him,

כי הלא את השמים ואת הארץ אני מלא

for, as the verse states,5 “Do I not fill heaven and earth?”

ומלא כל הארץ כבודו

Furthermore, Scripture states,6 “All the world is full of His glory.”

ולית אתר פנוי מיניה

Also,7 “There is no place devoid of Him,”

בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת, אין עוד

[and]8 “In the heavens above and on the earth below there is none else,”

ואיהו ממלא כל עלמין וכו׳

[and]9 “He fills all worlds….”

Since G‑d is everywhere and within everything, it is thus seemingly impossible for anything to act as a barrier before Him.

אלא כמו שכתוב בישעיהו: כי אם עונותיכם היו מבדילים ביניכם לבין אלקיכם

But as Isaiah declares,10 “Only your sins separate you from your G‑d.”

והטעם, לפי שהם נגד רצון העליון ברוך הוא, המחיה את הכל

The reason is that sins oppose the Will of the Supreme One, Who gives life to all,

כמו שכתוב: כל אשר חפץ ה׳ עשה בשמים ובארץ

as in the verse,11 “Whatever G‑d wills He has done in heaven and earth.”

וכמו שנאמר לעיל, שהוא מקור השפעת שם הוי׳, ונרמז בקוצו של יו״ד

(12It has been noted above, that [the Supreme Will] is the source of the sustenance issuing from the Tetragrammaton, and is represented in the “thorn” atop the letter yud.)

Inasmuch as the Tetragrammaton sustains all of creation, it follows that sins, which act in opposition to it, also oppose and conceal the Divine life-force. Sins are thus capable of preventing the Divine “breath” (concerning which it is written “He blew”) from reaching man.

וזהו ענין הכרת

This, then, is the meaning of excision:

שנכרת ונפסק חבל ההמשכה משם הוי׳ ברוך הוא, שנמשכה מה׳ תתאה כנ״ל

the “rope” drawn from the final hei in the Four-Letter Name of G‑d is severed, cut off.

As a result, the soul clothed within the body is unable to receive vitality from its source in that Divine Name. During those times when the Jewish people received their vitality only from the “side” of holiness (as for example during the period of the Temple, as the Alter Rebbe will say in the next chapter), the lack of this life-force led to physical death.

וכמו שכתוב בפרשת אמור: ונכרתה הנפש ההיא מלפני, אני ה׳

As the verse says in Parshat Emor:13 “That soul shall be cut off from before My face; I am G‑d.”

The verse here uses the Tetragrammaton in referring to G‑d. Excision thus involves being sundered from the internal aspect of G‑dliness. It is this that the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say.

מלפני דייקא

The expression chosen is “from before My face”; i.e., the soul is excised from the innermost aspect of G‑dliness, the Tetragrammaton.

ובשאר עבירות שאין בהן כרת

Other sins that do not incur excision

על כל פנים הן פוגמין את הנפש כנודע, ופגם הוא מלשון פגימת הסכין

do cause at least a defect in the soul, in the sense of the defect or nick that invalidates a blade for ritual slaughter.

As with the defective blade, a sin causes something to be lacking in the rope-like flow of life-force from the Tetragrammaton downward to the soul, as is now explained.

והוא על דרך משל מחבל עב, שזור מתרי״ג חבלים דקים

This is analogous to a thick rope woven of 613 thin strands.

ככה חבל ההמשכה הנ״ל כלול מתרי״ג מצות

So, too, the “rope” of the downward flow mentioned above is comprised of the 613 mitzvot,14 each mitzvah being an individual thin strand.

וכשעובר ח״ו על אחת מהנה, נפסק חבל הדק וכו׳

When one violates one of them, G‑d forbid, a thin strand consisting of that particular commandment is severed….

Should an individual violate many commandments, G‑d forbid, then many strands are severed and the “rope” is grievously weakened. Sins punishable by excision (or death by divine agency) cause the entire “rope” to be severed, heaven forfend.

אך גם בחייב כרת ומיתה, נשאר עדיין בו הרשימו מנפשו האלקית

But even if one has incurred excision or death, there yet remains an impression within him of his Divine soul,

ועל ידי זה יכול לחיות עד נ׳ או ס׳ שנה, ולא יותר

and through this he may live until fifty (in the case of excision) or sixty years (in the case of death by divine agency), but no more.

ומה שכתוב בשם האריז״ל, שנכנסה בו בחינת המקיף וכו׳

(15As to the statement attributed to the AriZal, that the makkif, a transcendent level of life-force, enters such an individual, and so on,

Though unable to receive vitality from the internal aspect of G‑dliness, he is still able to receive vitality from this transcendent (lit., “encompassing”) level of G‑dliness. If this is indeed so, why can he not live longer than fifty or sixty years?

אינו ענין לחיי גשמיות הגוף

this is irrelevant to the life of the physical body,16 which cannot survive once there remains no vestige of the Divine soul,

ומיירי עד נ׳ שנה

and applies only until fifty years,

I.e., the transcendent level is also found within an individual only so long as he is able to remain alive by virtue of the impression of the Divine soul that is still within his body.

או בזמן הזה, וכדלקמן

or to the contemporary period, as will be noted.)

In this era, when a Jew’s vitality reaches him through becoming clothed in unholy media, it is possible for a person to live even after his soul has been sundered from its source in the Four-Letter Name of G‑d. This is why it is now possible for someone liable to excision or death by divine agency to live longer than fifty or sixty years. And during this time, the holy life-force which must be found within a Jew is received from the transcendent level, as the AriZal teaches.

Bereishit 2:7.
Devarim 32:9.

The Rebbe queries why the Alter Rebbe should have introduced the forthcoming analogy with the seemingly superfluous preamble, “The simple meaning of the words ‘He blew’ is to instruct us....”

He proposes that the Alter Rebbe added these words in order to resolve a difficulty which would otherwise be inexplicable. For according to the Alter Rebbe’s explanation, the soul is drawn down in a number of successive stages: its initial source is the internal aspect of the life-force, and thereafter the internal aspect (the “breath”) of speech. (Both these concepts are adduced from the words “He blew,” which indicates inwardness, as mentioned above.) The soul later progresses through the letters of speech (for the Utterance “Let us make man” is composed of actual letters of speech, and does not derive from “blowing”, which is an aspect of breath). Only then does it become actually enclothed within the body of man. This ultimate stage, then, the implanting of the soul “into his nostrils,” comes about from speech, not from G‑d’s having “blown”.

Now speech is heard even if there is an obstruction between speaker and listener. Accordingly, when describing the soul already situated in the body, how is it appropriate to use the image of exhaled breath, that can be prevented by an obstruction from arriving at its destination?

It is this question that the Alter Rebbe answers by saying that the “simple meaning” of the verse is to “instruct us” that even after the Utterance “Let us make man,” i.e., even when the investiture of the soul in the body takes place by means of speech, it still retains the characteristics of “blowing”.

Just as an obstacle can obstruct the passage of breath, so, too, sins can obstruct the soul’s lifeline to G‑dliness. This explains why other creatures which derive their nurture through Divine “speech” are not subject to excision, for the sound of speech can penetrate an obstruction. Souls, however, throughout their sojourn in the body, constantly depend on the nurture which is (so to speak) blown into them; they must always have an unobstructed path to their life-source.

The first edition of Iggeret HaTeshuvah here cited the instance of a person blowing “into the lungs of an animal.” The Rebbe once explained that this example was chosen because the Alter Rebbe wanted to draw on a source from the Torah, and according to Torah law (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De‘ah, beg. Sec. 39) an animal’s lungs are to be examined by being inflated.
Yirmeyahu 23:24.
Yeshayahu 6:3.
Tikkunei Zohar 51.
Devarim 4:39.
Zohar III, 255a.
Tehillim 135:6.
Parentheses are in the original text.
Vayikra 22:3.

The Rebbe notes that the Alter Rebbe here offers a remarkably novel thought — that every Jew receives vitality in this world from all 613 mitzvot, even though the commandments given to Kohanim do not apply to commoners, many commandments cannot be performed simultaneously, and the like.

Possibly, continues the Rebbe, this may be understood in light of the Alter Rebbe’s explanation in Kuntreis Acharon, in the essay that begins, “To Understand the Details of the Laws...” (p. 159b.) [There the Alter Rebbe writes that even the laws that perhaps never have practical application derive from Supernal Wisdom.]

Parentheses are in the original text.
At this point the Rebbe refers the reader to Likutei Torah, Devarim 62c, where the Alter Rebbe explains that excision applies only to the level of “Yaakov” within the soul, but not to the level of “Yisrael”. He also cites Likutei Torah, Devarim 83b, where the Alter Rebbe speaks of one who has incurred excision. Though of him it is written, “For my father and mother have forsaken me,” yet the continuation of the same verse (Tehillim 27:10) also applies to him: “...but G‑d has taken me in.” The encompassing level of the soul remains intact. Though within his soul the Jew’s innate love of G‑d is not manifest (“does not shed light”), yet in him too this love is still present, though concealed.
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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