ובזה יובן כפל לשון השבועה: תהי צדיק ואל תהי רשע

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 Tanya).

דלכאורה תמוה, כי מאחר שמשביעים אותו: תהי צדיק, למה צריכים להשביעו עוד שלא יהיה רשע

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

אלא משום שאין כל אדם זוכה להיות צדיק, ואין לאדם משפט הבחירה בזה כל כך, להתענג על ה׳ באמת, ושיהיה הרע מאוס ממש באמת

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,

ולכן משביעים שנית: אל תהי רשע על כל פנים

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

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.

שבזה משפט הבחירה והרשות נתונה לכל אדם

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

למשול ברוח תאותו שבלבו ולכבוש יצרו, שלא יהיה רשע אפילו שעה אחת כל ימיו

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.

בין בבחינת סור מרע בין בבחינת ועשה טוב, ואין טוב אלא תורה

[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,1 “There is no ‘good’ other than Torah,”

דהיינו תלמוד תורה שכנגד כולן

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

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 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.

אך אף על פי כן צריך לקבוע לו עתים גם כן לשית עצות בנפשו להיות מואס ברע

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 Beinoni — yet one must also set aside specific periods to seek for himself means of abhorring evil —i.e., of loathing worldly pleasures.

כגון בעצת חכמינו ז״ל: אשה חמת מלאה צואה, וכהאי גוונא

For example, [following] the advice of our Sages on overcoming a lust for women, let one reflect on their teaching that “[Even a beautiful] woman is a vessel full of excrement” [i.e., focusing on the undesirous aspects of the human anatomy to uproot the obsession with physical lust], and the like.

וכן כל מיני מטעמים ומעדנים נעשים כך חמת מלא כו׳

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

וכן כל תענוגי עולם הזה: החכם רואה הנולד מהן, שסופן לרקוב ולהיות רמה ואשפה

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.

In this way one cultivates an abhorrence of worldly pleasures.

וההפך, להתענג ולשמוח בה׳ על ידי התבוננות בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא כפי יכולתו

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.

אף שיודע בנפשו שלא יגיע למדרגה זו באמת לאמיתו, כי אם בדמיונות

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.

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)?

אף על פי כן הוא יעשה את שלו, לקיים את השבועה שמשביעים: תהי צדיק

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

וה׳ יעשה הטוב בעיניו

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


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

שההרגל על כל דבר שלטון, ונעשה טבע שני

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

וכשירגיל למאס את הרע, יהיה נמאס קצת באמת

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

וכשירגיל לשמח נפשו בה׳ על ידי התבוננות בגדולת ה׳

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

הרי באתערותא דלתתא אתערותא דלעילא, וכולי האי ואולי יערה עליו רוח ממרום

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

ויזכה לבחינת רוח משרש איזה צדיק שתתעבר בו, לעבוד ה׳ בשמחה אמיתית

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 joy.

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.

כדכתיב: שמחו צדיקים בה׳

Thus is it written,2 “Rejoice, O tzaddikim, in G‑d.”

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.3

ותתקיים בו באמת השבועה שמשביעים: תהי צדיק

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