Now this is a general principle in the whole realm of holiness: Holiness (קְדוּשָּׁה) is only that which derives from chochmah, called קוֹדֶשׁ הָעֶלְיוֹן—“supernal holiness.”

וְזֶהוּ כְּלָל בְּכָל סִטְרָא דִקְדוּשָּׁה, שֶׁאֵינוֹ אֶלָּא מַה שֶּׁנִּמְשָׁךְ מֵחָכְמָה, שֶׁנִּקְרָא "קוֹדֶשׁ הָעֶלְיוֹן",

The word קודש refers to chochmah, while קדושה refers to any manifestation of holiness as derived from chochmah. As chochmah represents nullification of self before G-d, only those matters that manifest this character of chochmah may be said to possess holiness. Those matters in which this characteristic is lacking lack holiness as well. The Alter Rebbe continues, speaking of chochmah:

Its very existence is nullified in the light of the blessed Ein Sof which is clothed in it, and it is not a thing apart—as explained earlier.4

הַבָּטֵל בִּמְצִיאוּת בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בּוֹ, וְאֵינוֹ דָּבָר בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

Therefore, this faculty is called chochmah, which consists of the two words כֹּ"חַ מָ"ה (the power of humility and abnegation).

וְלָכֵן נִקְרָא "כֹּ"חַ מָ"ה".

The word מָה—literally meaning “What?’’—denotes immateriality, as one might say when belittling himself: “What am I?” Thus, “holiness” refers to anything which, like chochmah, draws down from G-d and nullifies itself before Him.

This stands in direct contrast to the kelipah and sitra achara, from which are derived the souls of the gentiles5

וְהוּא הֵפֶךְ מַמָּשׁ מִבְּחִינַת הַקְּלִיפָּה וְסִטְרָא אָחֳרָא, שֶׁמִּמֶּנָּה נַפְשׁוֹת אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם

who act only for themselves, saying, “Give, give!”6 and (as Esau said:) “Feed me!”7—in order to be independent beings and entities (separated from G-d), as mentioned earlier, that kelipah is a separate and distinct entity, far removed from G-d, in direct contrast to chochmah (whose nature is humility and self-nullification).

דְּעָבְדִין לְגַרְמַיְיהוּ, וְאָמְרִין: "הַב הַב" וְ"הַלְעִיטֵנִי", לִהְיוֹת יֵשׁ וְדָבָר בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל, הֵפֶךְ בְּחִינַת הַחָכְמָה;

Therefore, they (those of the realm of kelipah) are described as “dead,”8 for “Wisdom (chochmah) gives life”9 (hence, that which is the opposite of chochmah lacks life), and it is written: “They die without wisdom”10; i.e., “death” is a direct result of lack of wisdom (chochmah), therefore, the nations that receive their life-force from kelipah are considered “dead.”

וְלָכֵן נִקְרָאִים "מֵתִים", כִּי "הַחָכְמָה תְּחַיֶּה", וּכְתִיב: "יָמוּתוּ וְלֹא בְחָכְמָה",

(Just as the heathen nations are called “dead,”) so, too, are the wicked and the sinners of Israel8(but only) before they are put to the test of sanctifying G-d’s Name.

וְכֵן הָרְשָׁעִים וּפוֹשְׁעֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל קוֹדֶם שֶׁבָּאוּ לִידֵי נִסָּיוֹן לְקַדֵּשׁ הַשֵּׁם;

Facing such a test, the chochmah within them is aroused until it fills the entire soul with its spirit of self-nullification before G-d. At this point, they are “alive” once again. However, as long as they do not face this test, the level of chochmah is dormant within them, as the Alter Rebbe continues:

For the faculty of chochmah in the divine soul, with the spark of G-dliness from the light of the blessed Ein Sof that is clothed in it,

כִּי בְּחִינַת הַחָכְמָה שֶׁבַּנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית עִם נִיצוֹץ אֱלֹהוּת מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בָּהּ,

are in a state of exile in their body, within the animal soul of the realm of kelipah in the left part of the heart, which reigns over them and dominates their body.

הֵם בִּבְחִינַת גָּלוּת בְּגוּפָם בַּנֶּפֶשׁ הַבַּהֲמִית, מִצַּד הַקְּלִיפָּה שֶׁבֶּחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי שֶׁבַּלֵּב, הַמּוֹלֶכֶת וּמוֹשֶׁלֶת בְּגוּפָם

This “exile” of the faculty of chochmah while the animal soul dominates the body echoes the esoteric doctrine of the exile of the Shechinah (since the Ein Sof abides in chochmah), as mentioned earlier.11

בְּסוֹד גָּלוּת הַשְּׁכִינָה, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

For this reason, this love found in the divine soul, whose wish and desire is to unite with G-d, “the fountainhead of all life,” is called “hidden love”—an apparent contradiction in terms; love denotes a manifest emotion and is not at all hidden.

וְלָכֵן נִקְרֵאת אַהֲבָה זוֹ בַּנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית, שֶׁרְצוֹנָהּ וְחֶפְצָהּ לִדָּבֵק בַּה' חַיֵּי הַחַיִּים בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, בְּשֵׁם "אַהֲבָה מְסוּתֶּרֶת",

It is called “hidden” only when it is obstructed by an alien entity and not because of any inherent quality of concealment, as the Alter Rebbe goes on to say:

For it is hidden and veiled, in the case of the transgressors of Israel, in the sackcloth of the kelipah.

כִּי הִיא מְסוּתֶּרֶת וּמְכוּסָּה בִּלְבוּשׁ שַׂק דִּקְלִיפָּה בְּפוֹשְׁעֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל,

From the kelipah, there enters into them a “spirit of folly” which leads them to sin, as our Sages remark: “A person does not sin unless a spirit of folly enters into him.”12

וּמִמֶּנָּה נִכְנָס בָּהֶם רוּחַ שְׁטוּת לַחֲטוֹא, כְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אֵין אָדָם חוֹטֵא כוּ'",

As the Alter Rebbe explains further, the foolishness consists of the self-delusion that one remains “a good Jew” in spite of his sins—an insensitivity to the serious breach that his sins create between himself and G-d. If a Jew felt how each sinful act tore him away from G-d, he would never sin, for after all, every Jew’s love of G-d is so strong that he is prepared to sacrifice his very life for G-d (as discussed in the previous chapter). It is only that the “spirit of folly” dulls his senses so that he does not feel the wrench caused by each sin.