וזהו כלל בכל סטרא דקדושה שאינו אלא מה שנמשך מחכמה, שנקראת קודש העליון

Now this is a general principle in the whole realm of holiness: Holiness (קדושה) is only that which derives from Chochmah, called קודש העליון — “supernal holiness.”

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:

הבטל במציאות באור אין סוף ברוך הוא המלובש בו, ואינו דבר בפני עצמו כנ״ל

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.1

ולכן נקרא כ״ח מ״ה

Therefore, this faculty is called Chochmah, which consists of the two words כ׳׳ח מ׳׳ה (the power of humility and abnegation).

The word מה — 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.

והוא הפך ממש מבחינת הקליפה וסיטרא אחרא, שממנה נפשות אומות העולם

This stands in direct contrast to the kelipah and sitra achra, from which are derived the souls of the gentiles2

דעבדין לגרמייהו ואמרין הב הב והלעיטני, להיות יש ודבר בפני עצמו כנ״ל, הפך בחינת החכמה

who act only for themselves, saying,3 “Give, give!” and (as Esau said:4) “Feed me!” — 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).

ולכן נקראים מתים, כי החכמה תחיה, וכתיב: ימותו ולא בחכמה

Therefore they (those of the realm of kelipah) are described5 as “dead,” for6 “Wisdom (Chochmah) gives life” (hence that which is the opposite of Chochmah lacks life), and it is written:7 “They die, without wisdom”; 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.”

וכן הרשעים ופושעי ישראל קודם שבאו לידי נסיון לקדש השם

(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.

For, 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:

כי בחינת החכמה שבנפש האלקית, עם ניצוץ אלקות מאור אין סוף ברוך הוא המלובש בה

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,

הם בבחינת גלות בגופם, בנפש הבהמית מצד הקליפה שבחלל השמאלי שבלב, המולכת ומושלת בגופם

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.

בסוד גלות השכינה כנ״ל

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.9

ולכן נקראת אהבה זו בנפש האלקית, שרצונה וחפצה לדבק בה׳ חיי החיים ברוך הוא, בשם אהבה מסותרת

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.

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:

כי היא מסותרת ומכוסה בלבוש שק דקליפה בפושעי ישראל

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

וממנה נכנס בהם רוח שטות לחטוא, כמאמר רז״ל: אין אדם חוטא כו׳

From the kelipah, there enters into them a “spirit of folly” which leads them to sin, as our Sages remark:10 “A person does not sin unless a spirit of folly enters into him.”

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.

However, if his senses are so dulled, why is it that even the worst sinner will willingly sacrifice his life for G‑d, when his faith is put to the test? In answer, the Alter Rebbe explains that the kelipah can obstruct only those matters that do not directly affect the G‑dly soul’s level of Chochmah. However, in such matters as faith — a derivative of Chochmah — kelipah can neither penetrate nor obstruct. Consequently, in such matters the Jew is aware that to succumb to sin would mean being torn away from G‑d, and therefore he will readily lay down his life rather than sin. This the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain: