Returning to his original point, that every Jew has a soul which stems from the holy sefirot and that ultimately each soul is animated by the light of the Ein Sof by way of the soul’s faculty of wisdom (chochmah), the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain why it is chochmah that is the original recipient of the light of the Ein Sof. The explanation is based on a discussion of the nature of the soul’s faculty of wisdom, which now follows:

Now chochmah which, as explained in ch. 3, is the initial flash of intellect, the nebulous, seminal glimmer of an idea, is the source of intelligence and comprehension which first begin to emerge in the faculty of binah, for, as explained there, binah represents the ability to grasp an idea in all its details and ramifications;

הִנֵּה, הַחָכְמָה הִיא מְקוֹר הַשֵּׂכֶל וְהַהֲבָנָה,

it is higher than binah, which is the faculty of understanding an idea and grasping it.

וְהִיא לְמַעְלָה מֵהַבִּינָה שֶׁהוּא הֲבָנַת הַשֵּׂכֶל וְהַשָּׂגָתוֹ,

In its relation to the soul’s lower faculties, this single level of chochmah comprises two opposite aspects: On one hand, chochmah is above comprehension and understanding—thus, it transcends the lower faculties of the soul, and it is this aspect of chochmah which enables it to be the recipient of the light of the Ein Sof, as will soon be explained, while on the other hand, chochmah is the source of intelligence and comprehension and is thus connected to the lower faculties.

וְהַחָכְמָה – הִיא לְמַעְלָה מֵהַהֲבָנָה וְהַהַשָּׂגָה, וְהִיא מָקוֹר לָהֶן.

It is this latter aspect of chochmah which enables it to suffuse the entire soul (as stated earlier) and, in its active state, to affect even one’s thought, speech, and action (which are even lower than the soul’s lowest faculties, being merely the “garments,” the organs of expression, for the soul), as will be stated further in ch. 19.

The etymological composition of the word chochmah indicates this dual nature. Chochmah contains two words: כֹּ"חַ מָ"ה—“the faculty of the unknown.” (Literally, מַה means “What?”—as one would ask of something he cannot comprehend, “What is it?”) Hence, while it is an intellectual faculty (and thus related to the other, lower faculties), it is a faculty which cannot as yet be comprehended or grasped by the intellect and is therefore also above and beyond the others.11

וְזֶהוּ לְשׁוֹן חָכְמָה – "כֹּ"חַ מָ"ה", שֶׁהוּא מַה שֶּׁאֵינוֹ מוּשָּׂג וּמוּבָן, וְאֵינוֹ נִתְפָּס בְּהַשָּׂגָה עֲדַיִין,

For this reason, the light of the Ein Sof, blessed be He, Who can in no way be comprehended by any thought, is vested in [chochmah].

וְלָכֵן מִתְלַבֵּשׁ בָּהּ אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא דְּלֵית מַחֲשָׁבָה תְּפִיסָא בֵיהּ כְּלָל.

Those faculties whose functions are intelligence and comprehension cannot serve as receptacles for the light of the Ein Sof, for knowledge cannot grasp the unknowable. Only chochmah, which itself is higher than comprehension, can receive this light.

Hence, all Jews, even the women and the illiterate, who have no knowledge of G-d’s greatness, believe in G-d, since faith is beyond understanding and comprehension, i.e., faith represents the ability to grasp that which the intellect cannot,

וְלָכֵן, כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲפִילוּ הַנָּשִׁים וְעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ, הֵם מַאֲמִינִים בַּה', שֶׁהָאֱמוּנָה הִיא לְמַעְלָה מִן הַדַּעַת וְהַהַשָּׂגָה,

For as Scripture states: “The fool believes everything, but the clever man understands.”12

כִּי "פֶּתִי יַאֲמִין לְכָל דָּבָר, וְעָרוּם יָבִין וְגוֹ'",

That is, the fool, lacking understanding, grasps every subject through the medium of faith, while the clever man’s grasp is based on reason. However, this derogation of the fool for approaching every idea with faith can apply only where the subject of his belief is within the grasp of reason. In this case, the basis for his faith is his own lack of understanding, and he is therefore called a fool. When dealing with G-dliness, however, which is essentially beyond comprehension, there is no other approach, as the Alter Rebbe goes on to say:

In relation to the Almighty, Who is beyond intelligence and knowledge and “Who can in no way be comprehended by any thought”—all men are like fools before Him, and they can therefore grasp Him only through faith.

וּלְגַבֵּי הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, שֶׁהוּא לְמַעְלָה מִן הַשֵּׂכֶל וְהַדַּעַת וְלֵית מַחֲשָׁבָה תְּפִיסָא בֵיהּ כְּלָל – הַכֹּל כִּפְתָיִים אֶצְלוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

As it is written, “I am foolish and ignorant, I am as a beast before You—and I am constantly with You…,”13

כְּדִכְתִיב: "וַאֲנִי בַעַר וְלֹא אֵדָע, בְּהֵמוֹת הָיִיתִי עִמָּךְ, וַאֲנִי תָּמִיד עִמָּךְ וְגוֹ'",

meaning that “because I approach You as a fool and a beast—i.e., through the irrational power of faith—precisely therefore and thereby am I constantly with You.”

כְּלוֹמַר, שֶׁבָּזֶה שֶׁאֲנִי "בַּעַר" וּ"בְהֵמוֹת" – "אֲנִי תָּמִיד עִמָּךְ".

Therefore, as a rule, even the most worthless of the worthless and the sinners among Israel sacrifice their lives for the sanctity of G-d’s Name and suffer harsh torture rather than deny G-d’s unity,

וְלָכֵן, אֲפִילוּ קַל שֶׁבְּקַלִּים וּפוֹשְׁעֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מוֹסְרִים נַפְשָׁם עַל קְדוּשַּׁת ה', עַל הָרוֹב, וְסוֹבְלִים עִינּוּיִם קָשִׁים שֶׁלֹּא לִכְפּוֹר בַּה' אֶחָד.

even if they be boors and illiterates who are ignorant of G-d’s greatness.

וְאַף אִם הֵם בּוּרִים וְעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ וְאֵין יוֹדְעִים גְּדוּלַּת ה',

Even the little knowledge that they do possess is not what motivates them, for they do not delve into it at all, so that by no means does their self-sacrifice result from any knowledge or contemplation of G-d.

וְגַם בַּמְעַט שֶׁיּוֹדְעִים אֵין מִתְבּוֹנְנִים כְּלָל, וְאֵין מוֹסְרִים נַפְשָׁם מֵחֲמַת דַּעַת וְהִתְבּוֹנְנוּת בַּה' כְּלָל,

Rather, they are prepared to sacrifice their lives without any knowledge or reflection but as though it were absolutely impossible to renounce the one G-d,

אֶלָּא בְּלִי שׁוּם דַּעַת וְהִתְבּוֹנְנוּת, רַק כְּאִלּוּ הוּא דָּבָר שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר כְּלָל לִכְפּוֹר בַּה' אֶחָד,

without any reason or rational argument whatsoever.

בְּלִי שׁוּם טַעַם וְטַעֲנָה וּמַעֲנֶה כְּלָל.

Were their readiness to face martyrdom intellectually motivated, the benefits and costs of the act would first be carefully weighed. But, in fact, we see that the decision to sacrifice oneself is not based on such rational arguments, stemming instead from a nonintellectual resolve that it is simply impossible to do otherwise.

This is so because the one G-d illuminates and animates the entire soul

וְהַיְינוּ, מִשּׁוּם שֶׁה' אֶחָד מֵאִיר וּמְחַיֶּה כָּל הַנֶּפֶשׁ,

through being clothed in its faculty of chochmah, which is beyond any graspable knowledge or intelligence.

עַל יְדֵי הִתְלַבְּשׁוּתוֹ בִּבְחִינַת חָכְמָה שֶׁבָּהּ, שֶׁהִיא לְמַעְלָה מִן הַדַּעַת וְהַשֵּׂכֶל הַמּוּשָּׂג וּמוּבָן:

Since the light of the Ein Sof is vested in every Jew’s soul, everyone, regardless of his level of knowledge, is prepared to sacrifice his life for his faith in G-d.