However, I shall relate the truth16 to those who listen to me: “Love upsets the natural order of conduct,”17 for it is a covering of the eyes that prevents people from seeing the truth.

אַךְ הָאֱמֶת אַגִּיד לַשּׁוֹמְעִים לִי, כִּי "אַהֲבָה מְקַלְקֶלֶת הַשּׁוּרָה", וְ"הִנֵּה הִיא כְּסוּת עֵינַיִם" שֶׁלֹּא לִרְאוֹת הָאֱמֶת,

The Alter Rebbe is quick to insist that his listeners’ love for the “life of the body” is no doubt motivated by a spiritual purpose. Nevertheless, they become so enmeshed in this love that they soon come to love the “life of the body” for its own sake as well. This latter love upsets the natural order to the point that it drives people to seek advice on material matters.

Because of their great love for the life of the body—

מֵרוֹב אַהֲבָתָם לְחַיֵּי הַגּוּף

[though this love is indeed experienced] for the sake of heaven so that with [the body] they can serve G-d with flashes of fiery fervor and an ardent flame,18 this love being even greater than their soul’s love for G-d—

לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, לַעֲבוֹד בּוֹ אֶת ה', בְּרִשְׁפֵּי אֵשׁ וְשַׁלְהֶבֶת גְּדוֹלָה מֵאַהֲבַת נַפְשָׁם אֶת ה',

they are extremely irate when their body undergoes suffering. (Heaven forfend; may G-d show compassion!)

וְעַל כֵּן, הֵיטֵב חָרָה לָהֶם בְּצַעַר הַגּוּף חַס וְשָׁלוֹם ה' יְרַחֵם,

Thus, they are not able to bear [it] at all to the point that it drives them out of their mind, causing them to tramp about from city to city to seek advice from afar.

וְאֵין יְכוֹלִין לְקַבֵּל כְּלָל, עַד שֶׁמַּעֲבִירָם עַל דַּעְתָּם, לְכַתֵּת רַגְלֵיהֶם מֵעִיר לְעִיר, לִשְׁאוֹל עֵצוֹת מֵרָחוֹק,

But why indeed does G-d cause suffering? Moreover, how are we to respond to life’s difficulties if it is not proper to seek advice on them from Torah sages and tzaddikim? The Alter Rebbe goes on to explain:

Those who seek merely to be rid of their physical afflictions are not following the proper path of the Torah, for in doing so, they do not turn to G-d by [penitently] returning to Him with humble spirit and submission of the body

וְלֹא שָׁעוּ אֶל ה' לָשׁוּב אֵלָיו בְּרוּחַ נְמוּכָה וְהַכְנָעַת הַגּוּף,

to accept His chastisement with love, “for it is him whom G-d loves [that He chastises].”19

לְקַבֵּל תּוֹכַחְתּוֹ בְּאַהֲבָה, "כִּי אֶת אֲשֶׁר יֶאֱהַב ה' וְכוּ'":

Misfortunes are in fact a call from G-d that one should repent. Indeed, they should be a source of satisfaction: out of G-d’s particular love for him, he has been chosen to be roused to repentance.

This is analogous to a compassionate, wise, and righteous father who hits his son. Surely, a wise son should not turn his back to escape, nor find himself help, nor even an intercessor to his father who is compassionate, righteous, and kind (chasid).

וּכְמוֹ אָב רַחֲמָן חָכָם וְצַדִּיק הַמַּכֶּה בְּנוֹ, שֶׁאֵין לְבֵן חָכָם לַהֲפוֹךְ עוֹרֶף לָנוּס, לִמְצוֹא לוֹ עֶזְרָה, אוֹ אֲפִילוּ מֵלִיץ יוֹשֶׁר, לִפְנֵי אָבִיו הָרַחֲמָן וְהַצַּדִּיק וְחָסִיד,

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, once remarked20 that when the Alter Rebbe first speaks of the father who punishes, he does not use the term “Chasid.” (He uses it only later, in the context of the intercessor.) The reason, says the Rebbe, is that a father who smites his child may indeed be compassionate, righteous, and wise—but he is not a Chasid, for a Chasid does not hit!

In any event, we see that if the child is truly wise, he will not flee from punishment.

Rather, he will look straight at his father, face to face, bearing his smacks lovingly for his lifelong benefit.

רַק לִהְיוֹת "יָשָׁר יֶחֱזוּ פָנֵימוֹ" עִם אָבִיו פָּנִים בְּפָנִים, לִסְבּוֹל הַכָּאוֹתָיו בְּאַהֲבָה, לְטוֹב לוֹ כָּל הַיָּמִים.

To transpose this to the analogue: Every Jew ought to look straight at his Father, “face to Face.”

Now, in the Divine realm, the concept of “Face”

וְהִנֵּה, לְמַעְלָה, בְּחִינַת "פָּנִים"

is the willingness and desire with which our Father in heaven bestows upon His children all the good of the worlds—the physical and the spiritual worlds—as well as life for the soul and body;

הוּא הָרָצוֹן וְהַחֵשֶׁק, אֲשֶׁר אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם מַשְׁפִּיעַ לְבָנָיו כָּל טוּב עוֹלָמִים וְחַיֵּי נֶפֶשׁ וְגוּף,

[all of this He bestows] out of love and willingness, out of inner desire and delight, through the Torah of Life, which is His blessed Will, that He gave unto us.

בְּאַהֲבָה וְרָצוֹן, חֲשִׁיקָה וַחֲפִיצָה, עַל־יְדֵי תּוֹרַת חַיִּים שֶׁהִיא רְצוֹנוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָנוּ,

The present passage is based on the body language that typically accompanies a gift.

As explained earlier in the Tanya (ch. 22), one gives a gift to a good friend face to face: the giver’s eyes rest on the face of the recipient. Through his very stance, the giver thus expresses the fact that his gift stems from his “face” (panim) and innermost core (pnimiyut). When, however, one gives something to an enemy, he averts his face. This simply gives outward expression to his real aversion: the gift is not prompted by any inner desire but by some external factor.

In our context, then, G-d’s loving willingness in showering us with His gifts is described by the metaphor of “Face.”

As we recite in the Amidah, “For in the light of Your Face, You have given us…the Torah of Life…,”21

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאוֹמְרִים: "כִּי בְאוֹר פָּנֶיךָ נָתַתָּ לָּנוּ תּוֹרַת חַיִּים כוּ'"

with which (and through which) to carry out His will.

לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּהּ רְצוֹנוֹ,

And of this, it is written, “For in the light of the King’s Face there is life, and His will….”22

וְעַל זֶה נֶאֱמַר: "בְּאוֹר פְּנֵי מֶלֶךְ חַיִּים, וּרְצוֹנוֹ כוּ'".

To the heathens, however, He grants the life of their bodies23 without willingness, pleasure, and delight.

מַה־שֶּׁאֵין־כֵּן לְעוֹבְדֵי גִלּוּלִים, מַשְׁפִּיעַ חַיֵּי גוּפָם שֶׁלֹּא בְּרָצוֹן וַחֲשִׁיקָה וַחֲפִיצָה,

For this reason, they are referred to as elohim acherim (“other gods”), for they draw [their life-force] from achorayim (the “hinderside” of Divinity).

לְכָךְ נִקְרָאִים "אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים", שֶׁיּוֹנְקִים מִבְּחִינַת "אֲחוֹרַיִים".

To continue the above metaphor: The Divine “reluctance” to grant life-force to the heathens—i.e., the so-called external level of Divine desire—is here described by a term that is the opposite of the “Face,” which expressed G-d’s innermost will.

It is likewise with man: willingness and pleasurable desire, i.e., man’s innermost desires, relate to the “face.”

וְכָךְ הוּא בָּאָדָם, הָרָצוֹן וְהַחֵשֶׁק הוּא בְּחִינַת "פָּנִים",

Thus, turning to G-d “face to Face” means that a man accepts willingly and with inner desire whatever is apportioned to him from the supernal face, from G-d’s innermost desire. In our context, this refers to a willing acceptance of G-d’s admonishments as expressed in physical suffering.

If one does not accept [this suffering] with love and willingness, it is as if he turns his neck and back [on G-d], heaven forfend.

וְאִם אֵינוֹ מְקַבֵּל בְּאַהֲבָה וְרָצוֹן כְּאִלּוּ הוֹפֵךְ עוֹרֶף וְאָחוֹר, חַס וְשָׁלוֹם.