The Alter Rebbe now explains that there are also two general levels in the love of God. The higher level is called ahavah rabbah (“great love”). It is a gift from above, granted to an individual after he has attained the level of yirah ila‘ah. This love is so lofty that one cannot hope to achieve it unaided.

The second and lower level of love is attained by contemplating G‑d’s greatness. It is called ahavat olam (“eternal love,” and more literally, “love of the world”), because it emanates from one’s comprehension of the world, i.e., from one’s appreciation of the G‑dly life-force that animates the world.

והנה באהבה יש גם כן שתי מדרגות, אהבה רבה ואהבת עולם. אהבה רבה היא אהבה בתענוגים

Now, in love too there are two grades — ahavah rabbah and ahavat olam. Ahavah rabbah is a love of delight [and ecstasy], a love of G‑d which delights in Him. There is no other desire or goal present, such as the desire to cleave to Him or to expire in one’s yearning for Him. The love itself is comprised purely of delight in Him and cleaving to Him,

והיא שלהבת העולה מאליה

and it is a fiery flame that rises of itself. Man does not create or kindle this love within himself; rather, it comes forth spontaneously,

ובאה מלמעלה בבחינת מתנה למי שהוא שלם ביראה, כנודע על מאמר רז״ל: דרכו של איש לחזר אחר אשה, שאהבה נקראת איש וזכר, כמו שכתוב: זכר חסדו

and it comes from above by way of a gift to him who is perfect in fear, as is known from the saying of the Rabbis, of blessed memory:1 “The way of a man is to search for a woman.” And in spiritual terms: Love is called “man” or “male”, as it is written:2 “He has remembered his lovingkindness.”

The second letter of the verb (זכר) is vocalized with a patach; changing this vowel to a kamatz makes it mean “male”. Thus, love is alluded to as “male”,

ואשה יראת ה׳, כנודע

while a woman [symbolizes] “fear of G‑d,” as is known.

The connection between a female and the fear of G‑d is alluded to by the verse that says,3 “a G‑d-fearing woman.” This, then, is the spiritual meaning of the statement of the Sages, “The way of a man is to search for a woman”: the level of love (“man”) is revealed from above (“to search for”) where the level of fear (“woman”) is already present and complete.

ובלי קדימת היראה אי אפשר להגיע לאהבה רבה זו, כי אהבה זו היא מבחינת אצילות, דלית תמן קיצוץ ופירוד, חס ושלום

Without the prerequisite of fear, it is impossible to attain the level of ahavah rabbah, for this love originates from the realm of Atzilut wherein there is no sundering or separateness, G‑d forbid.

In the World of Atzilut nothing exists which is separate from G‑dliness; nothing at that level feels that it exists independently of G‑d, and everything in Atzilut is totally nullified to G‑dliness. Understandably, the love that emanates from such a level cannot light upon one whose fear of G‑d is imperfect, and who still perceives himself as existing independently of Him. Complete self-abnegation is a prerequisite for this level of love.

אך אהבת עולם היא הבאה מהתבונה ודעת בגדולת ה׳, אין סוף ברוך הוא, הממלא כל עלמין וסובב כל עלמין

Ahavat olam, however, the second and lower level of love, is that which comes from the understanding and knowledge of the greatness of G‑d, the blessed Ein Sof, Who fills all worlds, animating them with a permeating mode of vitality, which is limited and tailored to the capacity of each creature, and encompasses all worlds, animating them with a vitality which transcends them, not being limited by the worlds and created beings it animates.

וכולא קמיה כלא ממש חשיב, וכביטול דבור אחד בנפש המשכלת בעודו במחשבתה או בחמדת הלב כנ״ל

and before Whom everything is accounted as nothing at all, like the nullity of one utterance within the intelligent soul while it is still in its thought or in the desire of the heart, as has been explained earlier.4

אשר על ידי התבוננות זו ממילא תתפשט מדת האהבה שבנפש מלבושיה

As a result of such contemplation the attribute of love which is in the soul will as a matter of course divest itself of its garments, which it had previously worn.

This means to say that the individual will cease loving those things he had previously loved (this love having previously led him to vest himself in those things), and all his love will be directed to G‑d alone.

דהיינו: שלא תתלבש בשום דבר הנאה ותענוג גשמי או רוחני, לאהבה אותו, ולא לחפוץ כלל שום דבר בעולם בלתי ה׳ לבדו, מקור החיים של כל התענוגים

I.e., it will not clothe itself in anything of pleasure or enjoyment whether physical or spiritual, to love it, and will not desire anything whatever in the world other than G‑d alone, the Source of the vitality of all enjoyments,

שכולם בטילים במציאות, וכלא ממש קמיה חשיבי, ואין ערוך ודמיון כלל ביניהם, חס ושלום, כמו שאין ערוך לאין ואפס המוחלט לגבי חיים נצחיים

for they are all nullified in reality and are accounted as nothing at all, compared with Him, there being no manner of comparison or similitude between them, G‑d forbid — between all worldly pleasures and G‑d, the “Source of the vitality” of all pleasures, just as there is no comparison between that which is absolutely naught and nothing — and everlasting life.

Reflecting on this matter will lead the person to desire G‑d alone, and not to desire any worldly pleasures at all, seeking as he will the Source of all pleasures, which is G‑dliness.

וכמו שכתוב: מי לי בשמים, ועמך לא חפצתי בארץ

As it is written,5 “Whom have I in Heaven [to love other than G‑d]?” The verse goes on to say: “And there is nothing upon earth that I desire with You.”

This means to say that anything “with You” — that is subjugated and nullified to G‑d — is not desired as well.

כלה שארי ולבבי, צור לבבי וגו׳, וכמו שיתבאר לקמן

The next verse continues: “My flesh and my heart yearn for You, Rock of my heart...,” as the various levels of love a Jew may attain by contemplating G‑d’s greatness will be explained later.6

All the above refers to a person who has a love for worldly matters, and divests himself of this love because of his contemplation of G‑d’s greatness. His love will then be felt for G‑d rather than for mundane things.

However, he who by nature is cold and removed from any feelings of love, whether to G‑d or otherwise, cannot simply transfer his love. It is much more difficult for such a person to awaken a feeling of love for G‑d. Nevertheless, the Alter Rebbe goes on to say, even he can arouse within himself a fiery love for G‑d through the above-mentioned contemplation.

וגם מי שאין מדת אהבה שבנפשו מלובשת כלל בשום תענוג גשמי או רוחני, יכול להלהיב נפשו כרשפי אש ושלהבת עזה ולהב העולה השמימה, על ידי התבוננות הנ״ל, כמו שיתבאר לקמן

Also he, whose soul’s attribute of love is not vested at all in any physical or spiritual enjoyment, is able to kindle his soul as with burning coals and an intense fire and a flame that soars heavenward, by contemplating the above-mentioned matters, as shall be explained later on.