In the previous chapters, the Alter Rebbe defined the terms tzaddik and rasha. The tzaddik, he explained, is one in whom the good qualities of his divine soul vanquish the evil qualities of his animal soul, to the extent of completely eradicating them. A rasha, conversely, is one in whom the evil qualities of his animal soul overcome the good of his divine soul, causing him to sin in thought, speech or action.

In this, the twelfth chapter, the term Beinoni — the “intermediate man” who is neither tzaddik nor rasha — will be defined. The Beinoni, the Alter Rebbe explains, is one whose practical conduct in thought, speech and action is dictated solely by the divine soul; it has the upper hand over the animal soul. The Beinoni accomplishes this by not allowing himself to be dominated in any way by the animal soul, even for the shortest duration, never thinking, speaking and surely not acting in a sinful manner. The garments of the divine soul alone — namely thought, speech and action in Torah and mitzvot — are those used by the Beinoni.

Nevertheless, with respect to the essence of the divine and animal souls, i.e., their respective faculties of intellect and emotion, the divine soul does not dominate the animal soul, and the latter remains powerful enough to arouse desires for physical matters. However, through constant vigilance the Beinoni keeps these desires in check, never permitting them any practical manifestation.

והבינוני הוא שלעולם אין הרע גובר כל כך לכבוש את העיר קטנה

The Beinoni (“intermediate man”) is he in whom the evil of the animal soul never attains enough power to conquer the “small city” (i.e., the body, which is likened to a small city which the divine and animal soul both wish to dominate),

להתלבש בגוף להחטיאו

so as to clothe itself in the body and make it sin.

דהיינו ששלשת לבושי נפש הבהמית, שהם מחשבה דבור ומעשה שמצד הקליפה

That is to say, the three “garments” of the animal soul — namely thought, speech and action originating in the kelipah — (i.e., forbidden thought, speech and action, which derive their vitality from kelipah, as explained in previous chapters) are, in the Beinoni, so subdued that they

אין גוברים בו על נפש האלקית להתלבש בגוף

do not prevail within him over the divine soul to the extent of clothing themselves in the body

במוח ובפה ובשאר רמ״ח אברים, להחטיאם ולטמאם חס ושלום

— (neither) in the brain (so that the brain think forbidden thoughts with the animal soul’s garment of thought) nor in the mouth (to speak forbidden words — the garment of speech) nor in any of the other 248 organs (to act in a forbidden manner — the garment of action) — in none of these do the garments of the animal soul clothe themselves to cause them to sin and to defile them, G‑d forbid, (in which case he would be a rasha, not a Beinoni).

רק שלשה לבושי נפש האלקית הם לבדם מתלבשים בגוף, שהם מחשבה דבור ומעשה של תרי״ג מצות התורה

Only the three garments of the divine soul, they alone manifest themselves in the body, these being the thought, speech and action related to the 613 commandments of the Torah.

ולא עבר עבירה מימיו ולא יעבור לעולם

The Beinoni has never committed any transgression, nor will he ever transgress;

ולא נקרא עליו שם רשע אפילו שעה אחת ורגע אחד כל ימיו

the name “rasha” has never been applied to him, however temporarily, not even for a moment, throughout his life.

The Rebbe notes: “The question is well known.”; i.e., with regard to the statement that the Beinoni is one who has never transgressed, the following question is commonly raised:

Is it not possible, through repentance and subsequent divine service, that one attain the rank of Beinoni despite his previous sins? After repenting one can rise even to the level of tzaddik; surely, then, the rank of Beinoni is not beyond his reach!

The Rebbe answers this question in the following manner:

When the Alter Rebbe states that the Beinoni has never transgressed, he does not mean that the Beinoni never sinned in his life as a human being, but that in his life as a Beinoni he has no history of sin. The Beinoni’s present spiritual state is such that sin — in the past as well as in the future — has no place in his life. He would not sin even if he were subject to the same temptations and trials which led him to sin in the past. It is therefore true to state that from the perspective of his present state he has never sinned.

Likewise, the Alter Rebbe’s statement that the Beinoni “will never sin” is to be understood in the same vein. The intention is not that it is impossible for him to sin; he does not, after all, lose his freedom of choice. Rather, as explained above, his present state is such that it precludes his sinning in the future, despite the trials that the future may bring.

To be classified as a true Beinoni, one must fulfill these conditions. For if one’s spiritual state precludes his sinning only under present conditions, but he would succumb to sin were he subject to the temptations of the past or those the future may bring, then he is, in potentia, a rasha; he could and would sin, except that the prevailing circumstances are not sufficiently conducive for him to do so.

In the same vein, the Alter Rebbe concludes, “The name ‘rasha’ (referring to one who sins in thought, speech or action) has never (again, in his state of Beinoni) been applied to him, however temporarily…” For the Beinoni has reached a state where sin is precluded under any circumstances, whether of the past or future.

It remains to be understood, however, why such a lofty person is considered merely a Beinoni, not a tzaddik. This matter is now clarified.

אך מהות ועצמות נפש האלקית, שהן עשר בחינותיה

However, the essence and being of the divine soul, which are its ten faculties,

(The three soul-powers of intellect and the seven emotional faculties are referred to as the “essence” of the divine soul, in contrast with the soul’s “garments” (thought, speech and action), which serve merely as outlets and means of expression for the soul’s essential faculties.)

לא להן לבדן המלוכה והממשלה בעיר קטנה

do not hold undisputed sovereignty and sway over the “small city” — the body.

For, as shall be explained later, the faculties of the animal soul, too, exercise some degree of control over the body, through awakening in one’s heart desires for worldly pleasures, which in turn cause forbidden thoughts to enter his mind.

כי אם בעתים מזומנים כמו בשעת קריאת שמע ותפלה

Only at specific times do the faculties of the divine soul hold undisputed sovereignty over the Beinoni with the animal soul having no effect whatever on him, such as during the recital of the Shema or the Amidah.

שהיא שעת מוחין דגדלות למעלה

At this time [of prayer], the Supernal Intellect above is in a sublime state — it is a time of great spiritual illumination in the higher spiritual worlds;

וגם למטה היא שעת הכושר לכל אדם

likewise below — in this physical world — the time [of prayer] is propitious for every man to ascend to a higher spiritual level.

שאז מקשר חב״ד שלו לה׳

Then, during the recital of Shema or during prayer, [the Beinoni] binds his CHaBaD — his intellectual faculties, consisting of Chochmah, Binah and Daat to G‑d,

להעמיק דעתו בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא

meditating deeply on the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof,

ולעורר את האהבה כרשפי אש בחלל הימני שבלבו

and arousing through this meditation a burning love [of G‑d] in the right part of his heart; for, as explained in previous chapters, meditation on G‑d’s greatness arouses the love of Him within one’s heart.

לדבקה בו בקיום התורה ומצותיה מאהבה

This love, in turn, leads the Beinoni to desire to cleave to Him by means of fulfilling the Torah and its commandments out of love.

The realization that only the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot will fulfill his desire to become one with G‑d channels the Beinoni’s love into a desire to observe Torah and mitzvot.

שזהו ענין המבואר בקריאת שמע דאורייתא

This arousal of love for G‑d, and its accompanying resolve to adhere to Torah and mitzvot and thereby to cleave to Him, is the essential subject of the Shema, which Biblical (deoraysa) commandment enjoins us to recite;

וברכותיה שלפניה ולאחריה שהן מדרבנן הן הכנה לקיום הקריאת שמע, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

likewise, the Rabbinically ordained (derabbanan) blessings preceding and following [the Shema] are a preparation enabling us to fulfill [that which we recite in] the Shema, as explained elsewhere.1

ואז הרע שבחלל השמאלי כפוף ובטל לטוב המתפשט בחלל הימני מחב״ד שבמוח המקושרים בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא

At such time, during the Shema or prayer, when the love of G‑d burns in the heart of the Beinoni, the evil in the left part of his heart (the animal soul’s principal area of manifestation) is subjected to and is nullified before the goodness (i.e.,the love of G‑d) that spreads into the right part of the heart, where the divine soul is manifest, from the CHaBaD faculties in the brain which are bound [in meditation] to the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof.

Contemplating G‑d’s greatness with the three intellectual faculties — Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge (CHaBaD) — arouses and diffuses a love of G‑d in (the right part of) the heart. This arousal of love causes the evil of the animal soul to be nullified in the good of the divine soul now pervading the heart. During the time of prayer, therefore, when the Beinoni arouses his love of G‑d through meditation, his animal soul is inactive, and he feels no inclination for physical pleasures. Thus, during prayer the Beinoni’s divine soul is his “undisputed sovereign,” as the Alter Rebbe stated above.

אבל אחר התפלה, בהסתלקות המוחין דגדלות אין סוף ברוך הוא, הרי הרע חוזר וניעור בחלל השמאלי, ומתאוה תאוה לתאות עולם הזה ותענוגיו

But this state of affairs lasts only for the duration of the spiritually-charged time of prayer. After prayer, however, when the intellect of the blessed Ein Sof is no longer in a state of sublimity, i.e., when the spiritual illumination engendered by prayer ceases, the evil of the animal soul in the left part of the heart reawakens, and he (the Beinoni) [once again] feels a desire for the lusts of this world and its delights, since the evil of the Beinoni’s animal soul remains undiminished even after prayer (as the Alter Rebbe will explain shortly).