והנה מדרגה זו מתחלקת לרבבות מדרגות, בענין בחינת מיעוט הרע הנשאר מאחד מארבעה יסודות רעים

Now, this level — that of the “incomplete tzaddik” who “knows evil” — is subdivided into myriads of levels, consisting of [varying degrees in] the quality of the minute remaining evil [deriving] from [any] one of the four “evil elements” of which the animal soul is composed (see ch. 1).

In one tzaddik the remaining evil may consist of the element of Water, in another the evil may consist of a spark of the element of Fire, and so on. This subdivision of levels is qualitative, based on the type of remaining evil.

The Alter Rebbe will now describe (as it were) a quantitative subdivision, depending on the degree to which the evil loses its identity within the good. In one tzaddik the vestigial evil may be such that the proportion of good to evil could be described as 60:1; the evil in another tzaddik may be more minute, so that it is overwhelmed by a proportion of good that is 1000:1; and so on.

Yet, to borrow a term from the law concerning non-kosher foodstuffs, where in certain cases of error the rule is that even a preponderance of 60 parts (kosher) to 1 (non-kosher) is sufficient to render the entire mixture kosher (since the non-kosher food is no longer capable of tainting the mixture with its flavor), we may likewise say in our case that a preponderance of good over evil to the degree of 60:1 is also capable of preventing the expression and perception of the remaining evil.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

ובענין ביטולו במיעוטו

[The subdivision] also takes into account the degree to which [the remaining evil] is nullified [in the good] because of its minuteness,

בששים על דרך משל, או באלף ורבבה וכיוצא, על דרך משל

whether in sixty [times as much good], for example, or in a thousand, or ten thousand, and so on.

והן הם בחינת צדיקים הרבים שבכל הדורות

These various sublevels in the ranks of “incomplete tzaddikim” are the levels of the numerous tzaddikim found in all generations, all of whom belong to the category of the “incomplete tzaddik,”

כדאיתא בגמרא, דתמניסר אלפי צדיקיא קיימי קמיה הקדוש ברוך הוא

as we find in the Gemara,1 “Eighteen thousand tzaddikim stand before the Holy One, blessed be He.”

Thus, though many attain the level of tzaddik, they are in fact “incomplete tzaddikim.”

אך על מעלת צדיק גמור, הוא שאמר רבי שמעון בר יוחאי: ראיתי בני עליה והם מועטים כו׳

But concerning the rank of the “complete tzaddik,” Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s statement2 applies: “I have seen ’superior men‘ (bnei aliyah) and they are but few.”

שלכן נקראים בני עליה, שמהפכין הרע ומעלים אותו לקדושה

The reason that [the complete tzaddikim] are called bnei aliyah (literally: “men of ascent”) is that they convert evil and make it ascend to holiness.

כדאיתא בזהר בהקדמה, שכשרצה רבי חייא לעלות להיכל רבי שמעון בן יוחאי שמע קלא נפיק ואמר

It is similarly written in the introduction to the Zohar,3 that when Rabbi Chiyya wished to ascend to the heichal (heavenly shrine) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, he heard a voice come out and say:

מאן מנכון די חשוכא מהפכן לנהורא, וטעמין מרירו למיתקא עד לא ייתון הכא וכו׳

“Whichever of you, before coming here, have converted the darkness of the world to light (holiness), and [have transformed] the bitter taste of their animal soul and evil inclination to sweetness (holiness)[only these may enter].”

ועוד נקראים בני עליה

Another reason for their designation of bnei aliyah:4

מפני שגם עבודתם בבחינת ועשה טוב, בקיום התורה ומצותיה, הוא לצורך גבוה ומעלה מעלה עד רום כל המעלות

Even their divine service in the area of “doing good,” in their fulfillment of Torah and its mitzvot, is for the sake of the Above, and their service is directed toward a most high level, toward the loftiest heights.

ולא כדי לדבקה בו יתברך בלבד, לרוות צמאון נפשם הצמאה לה׳

[Their divine service] is not [intended] merely to attach themselves to G‑d by serving Him through Torah and mitzvot, so as to quench the thirst of their soul which thirsts for G‑d,

The divine service of tzaddikim of lower levels may indeed be for the purpose of stilling their thirst for G‑d and their desire to cleave to Him; for indeed, the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot satisfies these needs —

כמו שכתוב: הוי כל צמא לכו למים

as it is written:5 “Ho, exclaims the prophet, all who are thirsty for G‑dliness, should go to the waters of Torah,” i.e., let them engage in Torah, which is likened to water,

וכמו שכתוב במקום אחר

as is explained elsewhere, that the “thirsty ones” of this verse refer to those who thirst for G‑dliness.

The prophet’s words prove this point. Were he addressing those who thirst for Torah, he need not exclaim “Ho,” nor direct them to its “waters”. Whoever thirsts for Torah will find it readily available for study. Rather, the prophet is addressing those who thirst for G‑d, advising them to slake their thirst for Him through Torah, which binds one to G‑d.

The “men of ascent,” however, whom we have been discussing, are beyond this level of divine service. They do not study Torah or perform mitzvot with the intention of quenching their own thirst for G‑dliness, for such service is — in a subtle sense — self-serving, as it is motivated by one’s desire for a certain spiritual profit, namely, the bliss of closeness to G‑d.

אלא כדפירשו בתיקונים: איזהו חסיד, המתחסד עם קונו, עם קן דיליה

Rather their service of G‑d is as the Tikkunei Zohar6 explains that which our Sages have said: “Who is a pious one (chassid)? He who is benevolent (mischassed) with his Creator (kono).” The Tikkunei Zohar comments, that kono (usually translated “his Creator”) is here to be interpreted as “his nest” (derived from the root ken — “nest”), and thus, the chassid is he who is benevolent “with his nest” — i.e., his Source, G‑d. This “benevolence” towards G‑d consists of —

לייחדא קודשא בריך הוא ושכינתיה בתחתונים

“uniting the Holy One, blessed be He, with His Shechinah (the Divine Presence), so that the light of this union reach and be felt even in the lowest worlds.”

וכמו שכתוב ברעיא מהימנא, פרשת תצא: כברא דאשתדל בתר אבוי ואימיה, דרחים לון יתיר מגרמיה ונפשיה ורוחיה ונשמתיה כו׳

As is also explained in Ra‘aya Mehemna on Parshat Tetze: “In the manner of a son who exerts himself for his father and mother, whom he loves more than himself, [more than] his own Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah,

ומסר גרמיה למיתה עלייהו למיפרק לון כו׳, וכמו שכתוב במקום אחר

and who sacrifices his life for their sake to redeem them, should they be held in captivity,“ and as is also explained elsewhere.

Such is the divine service of “men of ascent”: it is wholly altruistic, motivated only by a desire to please G‑d and make His presence felt everywhere.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain that the two aforementioned interpretations of the term “men of ascent” accord with each other and are in fact complementary.

It is a kabbalistic axiom that the “elevation of mahn” (מ"ן — initials of mayin nukvin, lit., “feminine waters”) effects a corresponding “descent of mahd” (מ"ד — initials of mayin dechurin, lit., “masculine waters”). This means that the arousal of the “feminine” level, i.e., the recipient (which in our case means the efforts of man below, in actions directed “upward” toward G‑d), causes a reciprocal arousal of the “masculine” level, i.e., the giver (meaning, in our case, G‑d’s benevolence as it “flows downward” and is bestowed upon man).

Applying this to the service of “men of ascent” we find the following. That aspect of their service mentioned in the first interpretation — that they elevate evil and convert it to good — constitutes an “ascent of mahn.” The aspect mentioned in the second interpretation — that by their service of love they draw down G‑d’s Presence upon earth — constitutes a “descent of mahd,” for every mitzvah that they perform (as a channel for the descent of G‑d’s Presence) is an expression of G‑d’s benevolence. Thus, the two interpretations are complementary, since the “ascent of mahn” is what causes the “descent of mahd” as stated above.

(The Alter Rebbe employs kabbalistic terms in his explanation, which are explained in Chassidut at length; they will become clearer in the course of further study.)

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

ושניהם עולים בקנה אחד. כי על ידי הבירורים שמבררים מנוגה מעלים מיין נוקבין

(7Both interpretations are complementary. For by refining [the good found in] kelipat nogah, as the “men of ascent” do by converting their animal soul (which is derived from kelipat nogah) to good, one elevates “feminine waters” (mahn),

ונעשים יחודים עליונים להוריד מיין דכורין

effecting unions in the higher realms, so as to cause “masculine waters” (mahd) to descend to this world.

שהם הם מימי החסדים שבכל מצוה ומצוה מרמ״ח מצות עשה, שכולן הן בחינת חסדים ומיין דכורין

These [“masculine waters”] are the “waters” of kindness that flow into and are contained in each of the 248 positive mitzvot, which are all in the nature of “kindness”, or benevolence, and “masculine waters.”

דהיינו המשכת קדושת אלקותו יתברך מלמעלה למטה להתלבש בתחתונים, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

This term “masculine waters” as applied to mitzvot means that the mitzvot draw G‑d’s holiness from above, i.e., from the higher realms, downward, so that [G‑d’s holiness] be clothed in and revealed within the lowest realms, i.e., our physical world, as explained elsewhere.) Thus the two interpretations of the term “men of ascent” are complementary.

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