Now we may understand the repetitious wording in the oath administered to every Jew before birth, “Be a tzaddik, and be not a rasha(as quoted from the Talmud in the opening words of the Tanya).

וּבָזֶה יוּבַן כֶּפֶל לְשׁוֹן הַשְּׁבוּעָה: "תְּהִי צַדִּיק, וְאַל תְּהִי רָשָׁע";

At first glance, it seems puzzling: once he is charged to “be a tzaddik,” implying clearly that he not be a rasha, why the need to adjure him again not to be a rasha?

דְּלִכְאוֹרָה תָּמוּהַּ, כִּי מֵאַחַר שֶׁמַּשְׁבִּיעִים אוֹתוֹ "תְּהִי צַדִּיק", לָמָּה צְרִיכִים לְהַשְׁבִּיעוֹ עוֹד שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה רָשָׁע?

The answer is that inasmuch as not everyone is privileged to become a tzaddik, nor has a person the full advantage of choice in this matter of experiencing true delight in G-d and of actually and truly abhorring evil,

אֶלָּא, מִשּׁוּם שֶׁאֵין כָּל אָדָם זוֹכֶה לִהְיוֹת צַדִּיק, וְאֵין לָאָדָם מִשְׁפַּט הַבְּחִירָה בָּזֶה כָּל כָּךְ, לְהִתְעַנֵּג עַל ה' בֶּאֱמֶת, וְשֶׁיִּהְיֶה הָרָע מָאוּס מַמָּשׁ בֶּאֱמֶת,

[each person] is consequently adjured a second time: “You shall, at any rate, not be a rasha.”

וְלָכֵן מַשְׁבִּיעִים שֵׁנִית "אַל תְּהִי רָשָׁע" עַל כָּל פָּנִים,

Even if a person is not privileged to become a tzaddik, he should at the very least not be a rasha, being instead a beinoni.

With regard to this (not being a rasha), the right of choice and freedom is extended to every man,

שֶׁבָּזֶה – מִשְׁפַּט הַבְּחִירָה וְהָרְשׁוּת נְתוּנָה לְכָל אָדָם

to control the spirit of lust in his heart and to conquer his nature, so that he shall not be wicked for even one moment throughout his life.

לִמְשׁוֹל בְּרוּחַ תַּאֲוָתוֹ שֶׁבְּלִבּוֹ וְלִכְבּוֹשׁ יִצְרוֹ, שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה רָשָׁע אֲפִילוּ שָׁעָה אַחַת כָּל יָמָיו,

[This applies] both in the realm of “turning away from evil’’—refraining from transgression—and in that of “doing good”—performing all the positive mitzvot in which he is obligated—and especially the mitzvah of Torah study, which is specifically termed “good,” as our Sages say, “There is no ‘good’ other than Torah,”8

בֵּין בִּבְחִינַת "סוּר מֵרָע", בֵּין בִּבְחִינַת "וַעֲשֵׂה טוֹב", – וְ"אֵין טוֹב אֶלָּא תוֹרָה",

meaning the study of Torah, which “balances (i.e., is equal to) all [the other mitzvot combined].”9

דְּהַיְינוּ תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה שֶׁכְּנֶגֶד כּוּלָּן.

By reason of the freedom of choice granted him, one is expected to surmount even the difficulty of faithfully observing this most difficult mitzvah of constant Torah study.

For this reason, the oath is administered a second time. Even if one does not have the opportunity to become a tzaddik, it is still possible for him—and therefore expected of him—not to be a rasha.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to state that everyone should strive to emulate the tzaddik’s service of G-d, although he may never actually reach the rank of tzaddik. Specifically, one should train oneself to loathe worldly pleasures, and conversely, he should try to awaken in himself a delight in the love of G-d, which is accomplished through reflecting deeply on His greatness. Thereby one fulfills the charge, “Be a tzaddik,” to the best of his ability.

Nevertheless, though it has been said that not every person can loathe evil and attain the “love of delights” characteristic of a tzaddik—and we are dealing here with a beinoniyet one must also set aside specific periods to seek for himself means of abhorring evil—i.e., of loathing worldly pleasures.

אַךְ אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, צָרִיךְ לִקְבּוֹעַ לוֹ עִתִּים גַּם כֵּן לָשִׁית עֵצוֹת בְּנַפְשׁוֹ לִהְיוֹת מוֹאֵס בְּרָע,

For example, [following] the advice of our Sages on overcoming a lust for women, let one reflect on their words, “Woman is a vessel full of filth,”10 and the like.

כְּגוֹן, בַּעֲצַת חֲכָמֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אִשָּׁה – חֵמֶת מְלֵאָה צוֹאָה כוּ'", וּכְהַאי גַּוְונָא,

So, too, one may learn to despise gluttony by reflecting that all dainties and delicacies similarly become “vessels full of waste.”

וְכֵן כָּל מִינֵי מַטְעַמִּים וּמַעֲדַנִּים נַעֲשִׂים כָּךְ: חֵמֶת מָלֵא כוּ';

Likewise with regard to all the pleasures of this world: the wise man foresees what becomes of them; they ultimately rot and become worms and refuse.

וְכֵן כָּל תַּעֲנוּגֵי עוֹלָם הַזֶּה, הֶחָכָם רוֹאֶה הַנּוֹלָד מֵהֶן, שֶׁסּוֹפָן לִרְקוֹב וְלִהְיוֹת רִמָּה וְאַשְׁפָּה.

In this way, one cultivates an abhorrence of worldly pleasures.

Conversely, one should train himself to delight and rejoice in G-d by reflecting, to the best of his ability, on the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof.

וְהַהֵפֶךְ, לְהִתְעַנֵּג וְלִשְׂמוֹחַ בַּה' – עַל יְדֵי הִתְבּוֹנְנוּת בִּגְדוּלַּת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא כְּפִי יְכוֹלְתּוֹ,

He may well know that he will not attain this degree of loathing evil and delighting in G-dliness with the fullest measure of truth but will only imagine it.

אַף שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ בְּנַפְשׁוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יַגִּיעַ לְמַדְרֵגָה זוֹ בֶּאֱמֶת לַאֲמִיתּוֹ – כִּי אִם בְּדִמְיוֹנוֹת –

He will fancy that he truly abhors evil and delights in G-dliness; why, then, should he exert himself merely to produce a fantasy (especially in the service of G-d, where sincerity is essential)?

Nevertheless, he should do his part to uphold the oath administered to him to “Be a tzaddik,”

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, הוּא יַעֲשֶׂה אֶת שֶׁלּוֹ, לְקַיֵּים אֶת הַשְּׁבוּעָה שֶׁמַּשְׁבִּיעִים "תְּהִי צַדִּיק",

and G-d will do as He sees fit—whether to grant him the level of tzaddik or not.

וַה' יַעֲשֶׂה הַטּוֹב בְּעֵינָיו.

Furthermore, emulating the tzaddik in loathing evil and delighting in G-d produces another benefit for the beinoni:


Habit reigns supreme in all matters;11 it becomes second nature.

שֶׁהַהֶרְגֵּל עַל כָּל דָּבָר – שִׁלְטוֹן, וְנַעֲשֶׂה טֶבַע שֵׁנִי,

Therefore, when one accustoms himself to loathe evil, he will begin to find it truly loathsome, to some extent.

וּכְשֶׁיַּרְגִּיל לְמָאֵס אֶת הָרָע – יִהְיֶה נִמְאָס קְצָת בֶּאֱמֶת,

And when he accustoms himself to rejoice in G-d through reflecting on His greatness,

וּכְשֶׁיַּרְגִּיל לְשַׂמֵּחַ נַפְשוֹ בַּה' עַל יְדֵי הִתְבּוֹנְנוּת בִּגְדוּלַּת ה',

then, [on the principle that] “an arousal of man below brings a corresponding arousal above,”12 perhaps after all this effort of his, “a spirit [ruach] from above will descend upon him,”13

הֲרֵי בְּאִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְתַתָּא אִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְעֵילָּא, וְכוּלֵּי הַאי וְאוּלַי יֵעָרֶה עָלָיו רוּחַ מִמָּרוֹם,

and it will be granted him that the [soul-level of] ruach, originating in the soul of some tzaddik, will be “impregnated” in him so that he may serve G-d with true joy.

וְיִזְכֶּה לִבְחִינַת רוּחַ מִשֹּׁרֶשׁ אֵיזֶה צַדִּיק שֶׁתִּתְעַבֵּר בּוֹ – לַעֲבוֹד ה' בְּשִׂמְחָה אֲמִיתִּית,

Kabbalah speaks of the soul of a tzaddik “impregnating” another’s soul with its faculties so that the latter may serve G-d as the tzaddik does. (This concept is somewhat akin to gilgul—transmigration—where a soul is attached to some object or animal, or another human being, except that in the case of gilgul, the soul is chained to and dominated by the body to which it attaches, whereas in the case of “impregnation,” it is not; the soul of the tzaddik serves merely as an additional spiritual charge for the soul of the recipient.)

In our context, the “impregnation” of the beinoni’s soul with the (ruach originating in) the tzaddik’s soul enables the beinoni to experience a delight in G-d that he could not attain on his own.

Thus is it written, “Rejoice, O tzaddikim, in G-d.”14

כְּדִכְתִיב: "שִׂמְחוּ צַדִּיקִים בַּה'",

This alludes also to the idea that when two types of tzaddikim are joined together (the verse addresses tzaddikim, in the plural form), when the beinoni—called a “lower-level tzaddik”—is impregnated with the soul of a tzaddik—a “higher-level tzaddik”—they both rejoice in G-d, for the tzaddik imparts his delight in G-dliness to the beinoni.15

In this way, the oath charging him to “be a tzaddik” will be truly fulfilled.

וְתִתְקַיֵּים בּוֹ בֶּאֱמֶת הַשְּׁבוּעָה שֶׁמַּשְׁבִּיעִים: "תְּהִי צַדִּיק":