We shall now learn what is necessary for the rectification of permitted words not spoken for the sake of heaven.

As for innocent idle chatter, such as in the case of an ignoramus who cannot study,

וְעַל דְּבָרִים בְּטֵלִים בְּהֶיתֵּר, כְּגוֹן עַם הָאָרֶץ שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִלְמוֹד,

He who is able to study is constantly obligated to fulfill the commandment of studying Torah; for him, idle chatter is prohibited. For the ignoramus, however, idle chatter may be permissible. But—

he must have his soul cleansed from the impurity of this kelipah, through its being rolled in the “Hollow of a Sling,”5 as is stated in the Zohar, Parashat Beshalach, p. 59.

צָרִיךְ לְטַהֵר נַפְשׁוֹ מִטּוּמְאָה זוֹ דִּקְלִיפָּה זוֹ, עַל יְדֵי גִּלְגּוּלָהּ בְּכַף הַקֶּלַע, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזֹּהַר פָּרָשַׁת בְּשַׁלַּח דַּף נ"ט.

This punishment is described as “being slung from one end of the world to the other” or “from Israel to other lands.”6 The meaning of this is that the soul is flung from one extreme to the other: First it is shown the truth and preciousness of holiness, and then it it “slung” into and reminded of the thoughts and words it experienced while in the physical world—a most painful experience for the soul.7

But with regard to forbidden speech, such as scoffing and slander and the like, which being prohibited stem from the three completely unclean kelipot,

אֲבָל לְדִיבּוּרִים אֲסוּרִים, כְּמוֹ לֵיצָנוּת וְלָשׁוֹן הָרָע וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָהֶם, שֶׁהֵן מִשָּׁלֹשׁ קְלִיפּוֹת הַטְּמֵאוֹת לְגַמְרֵי –

the “Hollow of a Sling” (alone) does not suffice to cleanse and remove the impurity of the soul,

אֵין כַּף הַקֶּלַע [לְבַדּוֹ] מוֹעִיל לְטַהֵר וּלְהַעֲבִיר טוּמְאָתוֹ מֵהַנֶּפֶשׁ,

but it (the soul) must descend into Gehinom (Purgatory—which is a greater punishment and thus more effective in cleansing the soul).

רַק צְרִיכָה לֵירֵד לְגֵיהִנֹּם.

So, too, with one who is able to engage in the study of Torah but occupies himself instead with idle chatter—

וְכֵן מִי שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לַעֲסוֹק בַּתּוֹרָה וְעוֹסֵק בִּדְבָרִים בְּטֵלִים –

the “Hollow of the Sling” alone cannot effectively scour and cleanse his soul,

אֵין כַּף הַקֶּלַע לְבַדּוֹ מוֹעִיל לְנַפְשׁוֹ לְמָרְקָהּ וּלְזַכְּכָהּ,

but it must receive the severe penalties which are meted out for neglect of the Torah in particular

רַק עוֹנָשִׁים חֲמוּרִים שֶׁמַּעֲנִישִׁים עַל בִּיטּוּל תּוֹרָה בִּפְרָטוּת,

apart from the general retribution for the neglect of positive commandments through indolence, namely the “Purgatory of Snow,” as is explained elsewhere.8

מִלְּבַד עוֹנֶשׁ הַכְּלָלִי לְכָל בִּיטּוּל מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה מֵחֲמַת עַצְלוּת בְּגֵיהִנֹּם שֶׁל שֶׁלֶג, כִּמְבוֹאָר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר.

The purgatory (Gehinom), where the soul is cleansed of the “stains” of sin so that it may enter Paradise to enjoy the radiance of G-d’s glory, operates on the principle of “measure for measure,” i.e., punishment in kind. Thus, sins of commission caused by the heat of passion and lust are cleansed in a “Gehinom (nehar, lit., “stream”) of Fire,” while sins of omission, due to indolence and coolness (i.e., lack of fervor), are cleansed in a “Gehinom of Snow.”9

Occupying oneself with the intellectual disciplines of the nations of the world is likewise included in the category of engaging in inconsequential matters insofar as the sin of neglecting the Torah is concerned, for in studying the intellectual disciplines of the nations, too, one is guilty of neglecting Torah study, as is explained in the Laws of Torah Study.10

וְכֵן הָעוֹסֵק בְּחָכְמוֹת אוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם – בִּכְלַל דְּבָרִים בְּטֵלִים יֵחָשֵׁב לְעִנְיַן עֲוֹן בִּיטּוּל תּוֹרָה, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּהִלְכוֹת תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה.

Moreover, the impurity of the intellectual disciplines of the nations is greater than the impurity of idle speech,

וְעוֹד זֹאת יְתֵרָה טוּמְאָתָהּ שֶׁל חָכְמַת הָאוּמּוֹת עַל טוּמְאַת דְּבָרִים בְּטֵלִים,

for the latter clothe and defile only the emotions [which emanate] from the holy element of ruach (Air) within his divine soul

שֶׁאֵינוֹ מַלְבִּישׁ וּמְטַמֵּא רַק הַמִּדּוֹת, מִיסוֹד הָרוּחַ הַקָּדוֹשׁ שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ הָאֱלֹהִית,

[by tainting them] with the impurity of kelipat nogah contained in idle speech (which is derived from the evil element of ruach [Air, which is one of the components] of this kelipah in his animal soul), as mentioned above.

בְּטוּמְאַת קְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ שֶׁבִּדְבָרִים בְּטֵלִים, הַבָּאִים מִיסוֹד הָרוּחַ הָרָע שֶׁבִּקְלִיפָּה זוֹ בְּנַפְשׁוֹ הַבַּהֲמִית כְּדִלְעֵיל,

The G-dly soul and the animal soul are both composed of four spiritual “elements”: Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. The emotions, such as love and fear, which one expresses in idle talk, emanate from the element of Air. Thus, idle speech defiles the emotional attributes of the divine soul, which emanate from the holy element of Air, by using them in the service of the animal soul’s element of Air, i.e., its emotional attributes—which are “impure,” since they derive from kelipat nogah.

[Idle speech does] not, however, [defile] the levels of ChaBaD (the intellectual faculties) in his soul, for it is but words of foolishness and ignorance,

וְלֹא בְּחִינוֹת חָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ, מֵאַחַר שֶׁהֵם דִּבְרֵי שְׁטוּת וּבוּרוּת,

since even fools and ignoramuses can speak that way.

שֶׁגַּם הַשּׁוֹטִים וְעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ יְכוֹלִים לְדַבֵּר כֵּן.

Since these are not intellectual matters, the intellect remains uninvolved and untainted.

Not so in the case of the science of the nations; thereby, one clothes and defiles his divine soul’s faculties of ChaBaD (intellect) with the impurity of the kelipat nogah contained in those sciences,

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן בְּחָכְמַת הָאוּמּוֹת, הוּא מַלְבִּישׁ וּמְטַמֵּא בְּחִינוֹת חָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ הָאֱלֹהִית בְּטוּמְאַת קְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ שֶׁבְּחָכְמוֹת אֵלּוּ,

whither they (the sciences) have fallen, through the “shattering of the vessels,” out of the “hinder-part” of chochmah of holiness, as is known to the students of the Kabbalah.

שֶׁנָּפְלוּ שָׁמָּה בִּשְׁבִירַת הַכֵּלִים מִבְּחִינַת אֲחוֹרַיִים שֶׁל חָכְמָה דִקְדוּשָּׁה, כַּיָּדוּעַ לְיוֹדְעֵי חֵן.

Thus, the study of these sciences contaminates the intellectual faculties of the G-dly soul, and it is therefore much worse than idle speech, which contaminates only the emotional faculties.

unless one employs them (these sciences) as a useful instrument, viz., as a means of earning a more affluent livelihood with which to be able to serve G-d,

אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן עוֹשֶׂה אוֹתָן קַרְדּוֹם לַחְתּוֹךְ בָּהֶן, דְּהַיְינוּ כְּדֵי לְהִתְפַּרְנֵס מֵהֶן בְּרֶיוַח לַעֲבוֹד ה',

or unless he knows how to apply them (the sciences) in the service of G-d or to his better understanding of His Torah, e.g., he utilizes mathematics to better understand the laws of the Sanctification of the New Moon.

אוֹ שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהֶן לַעֲבוֹדַת ה' אוֹ לְתוֹרָתוֹ,

This is the reason why Maimonides and Nachmanides, of blessed memory, and their peers engaged in them (in the sciences—since they were able to utilize this knowledge in the service of G-d and Torah).

וְזֶהוּ טַעֲמוֹ שֶׁל הָרַמְבַּ"ם וְרַמְבַּ"ן זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה וְסִיעָתָן שֶׁעָסְקוּ בָּהֶן:

Regarding that which was stated at the beginning of this chapter that a thing prohibited even by Rabbinic enactment remains attached to the three unclean kelipot and cannot be elevated to holiness, even when it is used unwittingly and for the sake of heaven (i.e., in order to have strength to study and pray)—the following story is worth relating:

A Chasid once came to the Alter Rebbe lamenting the fact that his son-in-law was subject to periods when he would doubt his faith. The Alter Rebbe responded that the son-in-law had unwittingly consumed milk which was milked by a non-Jew, with no Jew in attendance. Though he was unaware of this fact, and though the prohibition against such milk is only of Rabbinic origin, this had so strong an effect upon him that it caused him to doubt his faith. The Alter Rebbe then proceeded to tell the Chasid how the matter could be rectified, thereby healing the son-in-law of his spiritual malady.11