In ch. 31, the Alter Rebbe discussed various means of arousing joy to counteract the sadness brought on by contemplation of one’s spiritual failings. Ch. 33 resumes this discussion.

עוד זאת תהיה שמחת הנפש האמיתית, ובפרט כשרואה בנפשו בעתים מזומנים שצריך לזככה ולהאירה בשמחת לבב

Yet another means of leading one’s soul to true joy, especially at those specific times when one finds it necessary to purify his soul and illuminate it with a gladness of heart:

אזי יעמיק מחשבתו ויצייר בשכלו ובינתו ענין יחודו יתברך האמיתי

Let him then think deeply and picture in his intellect and understanding the subject of G‑d’s true unity.

True unity means not only that there is but one G‑d, one Creator, but that furthermore, G‑d is the only existing being — nothing truly exists outside of Him, as will be explained further.

איך הוא ממלא כל עלמין עליונים ותחתונים

Let him consider how He permeates all worlds, both upper and lower.

Just as the soul pervades the body, thereby animating it, so does G‑d permeate all the worlds. This indwelling refers to the divine life-force which adapts itself to each individual creation’s capacity to receive it, and for this reason the Alter Rebbe distinguishes here between the “upper worlds” and “lower worlds”: in the “upper (more spiritual) worlds” the revelation of this life-force is greater, since their capacity is greater.

ואפילו מלא כל הארץ הלזו הוא כבודו יתברך

Let him further consider how even this world is filled with His glory —

This refers to the divine life-force which “encompasses” all worlds, and which animates them as if “from above,” without adapting itself to the particular nature of each created being, so that even this physical world is “filled with His glory”1

וכולא קמיה כלא חשיב ממש

and how everything is of no reality whatever in His presence.

והוא לבדו הוא בעליונים ותחתונים ממש כמו שהיה לבדו קודם ששת ימי בראשית, וגם במקום הזה שנברא בו עולם הזה, השמים והארץ וכל צבאם, היה הוא לבדו ממלא המקום הזה

He is One alone in the upper and lower realms, just as He was alone prior to the six days of Creation, when nothing existed apart from G‑d; so too now, when all the worlds have come into being, He is still One alone since all of creation is naught before Him, as will be explained further. Even in the very place where this world — the heaven, the earth and all their host — was created, He alone then filled this space.

וגם עתה כן הוא לבדו בלי שום שינוי כלל, מפני שכל הנבראים בטלים אצלו במציאות ממש

The same is true now; He is One alone, without any change whatever. For in relation to Him, the very existence of all created beings is utterly nullified — so that from His perspective, as it were, everything remains just as it was prior to creation.

The Alter Rebbe here introduces an analogy which traces the early evolution of an idea or a desire from the moment that it first occurs in one’s mind and heart. At that stage the idea or desire is formless, not yet having the shape or form of words. It is pure desire, pure idea. The desire of an English-speaking person, for example, feels no different from that of a Hebrew speaker.

It is only when it reaches the stage of applied, or practical thought, that the idea or desire takes on the form of what are called “letters of thought,” which may later be expressed in speech.

Now, the “letters” of thought and speech are, of course, seminally contained in the original idea or desire — it is only that at that point their existence is completely nullified; it is as though these “letters” were non-existent; only the idea or desire is felt.

Stated in the terms which the Alter Rebbe employs, the idea and desire are described as part of the “ten soul-powers,” of which three (ChaBaD) belong to the intellect, and seven (the middot) comprise one’s emotional range. These ten faculties are the “source and root” of thought and speech, for one thinks and speaks of that which he understands or feels. These faculties are called the “substance and essence of the soul,” in comparison with thought and speech which are merely the soul’s “garments,” i.e., its modes of external expression.

To relate the analogy to the point under discussion: Every created being derives its existence and life from Divine “speech”, i.e., the “letters” of G‑d’s command that created it. Since nothing is “outside” G‑d, this creative “speech” and the beings created thereby are contained within G‑d, in the same way as the words one speaks were previously contained within the desire of the heart. All of creation is therefore nullified before G‑d, just as the “letters” of speech are nullified within the idea or desire which is their source, where only the desire is felt, not the “letters.”

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

כביטול אותיות הדבור והמחשבה במקורן ושרשן, הוא מהות הנפש ועצמותה, שהן עשר בחינותיה, חכמה בינה ודעת וכו׳

[All created beings are nullified before G‑d] just as the letters of speech and thought are nullified within their source and root, i.e., the soul’s substance and essence, meaning its ten faculties — Chochmah, Binah, Daat... and the middot,

שאין בהם בחינת אותיות עדיין קודם שמתלבשות בלבוש המחשבה (כמו שנתבאר בפרק כ׳ וכא באריכות, עיין שם)

in which there are no letters as yet, prior to their being clothed in the garment of thought (as has been explained at length in chs. 20 and 21).

וכמו שכתוב גם כן במקום אחר משל גשמי לזה, מענין ביטול זיו ואור השמש במקורו, הוא גוף כדור השמש שברקיע

Elsewhere, this idea is further illustrated by an analogy from a physical phenomenon — the nullification of the sun’s radiance and light within its source, the celestial orb of the sun.

שגם שם מאיר ומתפשט ודאי זיוו ואורו, וביתר שאת מהתפשטותו והארתו בחלל העולם, אלא ששם הוא בטל במציאות במקורו, וכאילו אינו במציאות כלל

For surely its radiance and light glow and spread forth there too; more strongly, in fact, than they spread forth and glow in the space of the universe. Being close to its source, the light is more intense. But there — within the sun — its very existence is nullified within that of its source; it is as though [the light] were absolutely non-existent. All that is seen within the sun is the sun itself, not the light which is merely a product, an offshoot of the sun.

This will be better understood in terms of the saying,2 “Of what good is a candle in the daylight” Naturally, the candle is no less luminous by day than by night. But because its light is overwhelmed by the far greater brightness of daylight, it no longer fulfills its function of illumination. At this point it ceases to exist as a luminary. The same is true of the sun’s rays as they are within the sun.

וככה ממש דרך משל הוא ביטול העולם ומלואו במציאות לגבי מקורו, שהוא אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, וכמו שכתוב שם באריכות

Exactly so, figuratively speaking, is the very existence of the world and everything in it nullified in relation to its source, which is the light of Ein Sof, as is explained there at length.

This, then, is the true meaning of G‑d’s unity — that He alone exists, and there is nothing besides Him.

והנה כשיעמיק בזה הרבה, ישמח לבו ותגל נפשו אף גילת ורנן בכל לב ונפש ומאד באמונה זו

Now when one contemplates deeply and at length on this matter of G‑d’s true unity, his heart will rejoice with this faith;3 his soul will be gladdened by it to the point of rejoicing and singing with all his heart, soul and might.

כי רבה היא, כי היא קרבת אלקים ממש

For this faith is tremendous — when it fills one’s mind it actually constitutes [an experience of] the closeness of G‑d.

וזה כל האדם ותכלית בריאתו ובריאת כל העולמות עליונים ותחתונים

This in fact is the whole [purpose] of man, and the purpose for which he, and all the worlds, both upper and lower, were created:

להיות לו דירה זו בתחתונים, כמו שכתוב לקמן באריכות

that G‑d should have such a dwelling-place here below, as will be explained further at length4 how this earthly abode for G‑d is the purpose of all creation.

Man’s faith in the unity of G‑d fulfills this goal. For when G‑d’s unity is revealed in the mind and heart of men, this world becomes an abode for G‑d; He is revealed there just as one reveals himself completely in his own home.

והנה כמה גדולה שמחת הדיוט ושפל אנשים בהתקרבותו למלך בשר ודם המתאכסן ודר אתו עמו בביתו

How great is the joy of a common and lowly person when he is brought close to a king of flesh and blood who furthermore lodges and greater still dwells together with him — not in the king’s palace, but in his (the commoner’s) home.

וקל וחומר לאין קץ, לקרבת ודירת מלך מלכי המלכים, הקדוש ברוך הוא

How much more, infinitely more, [ought one to rejoice] in the nearness of the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, and in His dwelling together with man in this physical world, man’s “home.”

וכדכתיב: כי מי הוא זה אשר ערב לבו לגשת אלי, נאם ה׳

So it is written:5 “‘For who is the man who dares to approach me?’ says G‑d.”

Yet in one’s awareness of G‑d’s unity and through self-nullification before Him, one does come near to G‑d. Furthermore, G‑d thereby dwells with him and within him.