Having described in ch. 9 the ongoing battle between the divine and animal souls to capture and dominate the body, the Alter Rebbe proceeds, in ch. 10, to define the term tzaddik within the context of this struggle.

He explains there that tzaddikim are classified in two general categories. The first is that of the “complete tzaddik,” also known as the “ tzaddik who possesses (only) good.” Such a tzaddik has succeeded in completely transforming the evil of his animal soul to good and holiness. A tzaddik of the second category, that of the “incomplete tzaddik,” or the “ tzaddik who possesses evil,” is one who has not yet completely converted his animal soul to good; he still retains a vestige of its native evil. This remaining fragment of evil, however, is completely nullified within the far greater proportion of good.

In ch. 11, the Alter Rebbe now addresses himself to the definition of the rank that is the antithesis of the tzaddik — that of the wicked person, the rasha. In direct contrast to the tzaddik, whose divine soul overpowers his animal soul, the rasha is one whose animal soul overwhelms his divine soul.

The rank of rasha, too, is divided into two general categories: the “complete rasha,” or the “rasha who possesses only evil,” and the “incomplete rasha,” or the “rasha who possesses some good.” These categories will be defined in this chapter.

(Note: Following the Talmudic expressions which the Alter Rebbe employs, these terms are henceforth translated as the “rasha who knows (only) evil,” and the “rasha who knows good,” respectively.)

וזה לעומת זה, רשע וטוב לו לעומת צדיק ורע לו

1“One is the opposite of the other”: the “rasha who knows good” is the antithesis of the “tzaddik who knows evil.”

דהיינו שהטוב שבנפשו האלקית שבמוחו ובחלל הימני שבלבו

This means, that the good that is in [this rasha’s] divine soul, which is in his brain and in the right part of his heart (these being the chief dwelling places of the divine soul, as explained in ch. 9),

כפוף ובטל לגבי הרע מהקליפה שבחלל השמאלי

is subservient to, and nullified within, the evil of the animal soul which stems from the kelipah, which is in the left part [of the heart], as explained in ch. 9.

Thus, in the “rasha who knows good” the evil of the animal soul overpowers the good of the divine soul, to the extent that the good is subservient to the evil and is nullified within it.

וזה מתחלק גם כן לרבבות מדרגות

This rank, too, is subdivided into myriads of degrees.

Just as the rank of the “tzaddik who knows evil” is subdivided into myriads of degrees with respect to the nullification within him of the evil to good, so too are there numerous subdivisions within the rank of the “rasha who knows good” with respect to the nullification of good to evil, as the Alter Rebbe continues:

חלוקות בענין כמות ואיכות הביטול וכפיפת הטוב לרע חס ושלום

[The difference between these myriad sublevels lies] in the quantity i.e., the extent and the quality of the nullification and subservience of the good to the evil, G‑d forbid.

The “quantitative” difference between one “rasha who knows good” and another is indicated by whether the good is merely outweighed by a majority of evil, or whether the evil is (say) sixty times more prevalent than the good, and so on. The “qualitative” classification hinges on what aspect of the divine soul is subservient to its evil counterpart: in one rasha the divine soul’s holy capacity for affection may be subservient to the animal soul’s affection for forbidden matters, while in another rasha the subservience may lie in another area. The Alter Rebbe now provides practical illustrations of different levels within the ranks of the “rasha who knows good.”

יש מי שהכפיפה והביטול אצלו מעט מזער

There is one in whom the subservience and nullification of good to evil are exceedingly minor,

ואף גם זאת אינו בתמידות, ולא תדיר לפרקים קרובים

and even these minor degrees are not permanent, nor recurrent at frequent intervals.

אלא לעתים רחוקים מתגבר הרע על הטוב, וכובש את העיר קטנה הוא הגוף

Rather, only on infrequent occasions does the evil prevail over the good, conquering the “small city,” i.e., the body which, as mentioned in ch. 9, is likened to a small city, whose conquest is the objective of both the divine and animal souls.

אך לא כולו אלא מקצתו לבד

Furthermore, even when the evil does conquer the body, yet not all of the body falls under its dominion, but only part of it,

שיהיה סר למשמעתו ונעשה לו מרכבה

subjecting it — that part of the body — to its discipline, and causing it to be a “chariot” to the evil, i.e., as subservient to the evil as is a chariot to its driver,

ולבוש להתלבש בו אחד משלשה לבושיה הנ״ל

and further causing that part of the body to serve as a “garment” wherein one of the animal soul’s aforementioned three garments will be clothed.

As mentioned in ch. 6, the garments of the animal soul are sinful thought, speech and action. In the case of the rasha now described the evil of the animal soul, even on those rare occasions when it does prevail over the good, can do no more than express itself in one of these areas or “garments”.

Furthermore, even in this restricted field of expression, the evil is further limited in that it can motivate this rasha to commit only minor transgressions, as the Alter Rebbe now continues:

דהיינו או במעשה לבד, לעשות עבירות קלות, ולא חמורות חס ושלום

Namely, the animal soul prevails either in deed alone, in the commission of minor transgressions [only], not major ones, G‑d forbid — for his animal soul has not the power to prevail to such an extent;

או בדיבור לבד, לדבר אבק לשון הרע וליצנות וכהאי גוונא

or it may prevail in speech alone, [but merely] in the utterance of that which borders on slander or scoffing, the evil being too weak to cause him to engage in actual slander or scoffing and the like;

או במחשבה לבד, הרהורי עבירה הקשים מעבירה

or the evil may prevail in thought alone, in contemplations of sin which are in certain respects worse than actual sin.2

Thought is more refined than speech and action, and of the soul’s three garments, it is the one most intimately connected with the soul itself. Therefore, contemplations of sin can befoul the the soul even more than the sinful deed itself.

וגם אם אינו מהרהר בעבירה לעשותה, אלא בענין זיווג זכר ונקיבה בעולם

[This is the case] even where one does not actually contemplate committing a sin, but merely indulges in contemplation on the carnal union of male and female in general,

שעובר על אזהרת התורה: ונשמרת מכל דבר רע, שלא יהרהר ביום כו׳

whereby he violates the admonition of the Torah,3 “You shall guard yourself from every wicked thing,” which our Sages interpret as an injunction that4 “one must not harbor impure fancies by day so that he will not become polluted at night”; thus, contemplation on such matters violates a command of the Torah.

או שהיא שעת הכושר לעסוק בתורה, והוא מפנה לבו לבטלה

or another area in which the evil may prevail in the case of such a partial rasha: when, at a time fitting for Torah study, he turns his heart to inane matters,

כדתנן באבות: הניעור בלילה כו׳ ומפנה לבו כו׳

as stated in the Mishnah, Tractate Avot:5 “He who awakens at night when he has time to study Torah. and turns his heart to vanity, is guilty against his own soul.”

In the latter two instances, then, the animal soul’s garment of thought has prevailed and manifested itself in his body.

שבאחת מכל אלה וכיוצא בהן נקרא רשע בעת ההיא

In any one of all these instances, or their like, i.e., whenever one commits even a minor transgression in thought, speech or action, he is called rasha, wicked, at that time;

שהרע שבנפשו גובר בו ומתלבש בגופו, ומחטיאו ומטמאו

the term rasha meaning that the evil of his animal soul prevails within him, clothing itself in his body, inducing it to sin and defiling it.

ואחר כך גובר בו הטוב שבנפשו האלקית, ומתחרט

Afterwards, after this person has transgressed in any of the above-mentioned matters, the good that is in his divine soul asserts itself, and he is filled with remorse over his transgression in thought, word or action;

ומבקש מחילה וסליחה מה׳, וה׳ יסלח לו, אם שב בתשובה הראויה על פי עצת חכמינו זכרונם לברכה בשלשה חלוקי כפרה שהיה רבי ישמעאל דורש כו׳, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

he will seek pardon and forgiveness of G‑d for his transgression, and if he repents with the appropriate penitence, in accordance with the counsel of our Sages of blessed memory, G‑d will indeed forgive him, with [one of] the three forms of pardon expounded by Rabbi Yishmael,6 as explained elsewhere.7

The three forms of pardon: (a) If one transgresses a positive precept and repents, he is pardoned at once; (b) if he transgresses a prohibitive commandment and repents, the Day of Atonement together with his repentance atones; (c) if his transgression carries the penalty of karet (spiritual excision) or execution at the hands of the court, then after having repented and undergone the spiritual cleansing of Yom Kippur, suffering brings about full atonement.

However, as the Rebbe notes, the divine pardon elicited by this person’s repentance does not change his status of rasha in the true sense of the term, but only in the borrowed sense of the terms rasha and tzaddik as applied to reward and punishment. Indeed, when weighed on the scales of merits and sins, such a person — who sins rarely, only in minor matters, and then repents immediately — is deemed a tzaddik and deserves reward, since the overwhelming majority of his deeds are good.

But this usage of tzaddik is merely a borrowed term, as explained in ch. 1. As true definitive terms, tzaddik and rasha describe the quality of the good or evil in one’s soul. Viewed in this perspective the person described above is classified as a rasha even after he repents and is pardoned, for he still retains his predisposition toward sin, and his animal soul still tends to dominate him.

Thus far the Alter Rebbe has discussed a higher-level rasha — the “rasha who knows good” — one in whom the animal soul rarely prevails, and then only in one of the three soul-garments of thought, speech and action.

ויש מי שהרע גובר בו יותר

There is, however, another [type of “rasha who knows good”], in whom the evil prevails more strongly.

ומתלבשים בו כל שלשה לבושים של הרע, ומחטיאו בעבירות חמורות יותר, ובעתים קרובים יותר

All three garments of evil clothe themselves in him — he transgresses in thought, in speech, as well as in action; also, the evil causes him to commit more heinous sins, and [to sin] more frequently.

אך בינתיים מתחרט, ובאים לו הרהורי תשובה מבחינת הטוב שבנפשו, שמתגבר קצת בינתיים

Yet he, too, is nevertheless described as a “rasha who knows good,” for intermittently between one sin and the next he experiences remorse, and thoughts of repentance enter his mind, arising from the aspect of good that is still in his soul, that gathers a degree of strength in the interim.

אלא שאין לו התגברות כל כך לנצח את הרע

However, the good within him does not strengthen itself sufficiently to vanquish the evil

לפרוש מחטאיו לגמרי, להיות מודה ועוזב

so that he can rid himself entirely of his sins, and be as one who confesses his sins and abandons them once and for all.

ועל זה אמרו רז״ל: רשעים מלאים חרטות

Concerning such a person, the Rabbis of blessed memory have said,8 “The wicked are full of remorse,” i.e., between sins. It is also possible that even while sinning they regret their actions, but feel themselves unable to master their desires.

שהם רוב הרשעים, שיש בחינת טוב בנפשם עדיין

These represent the majority of the wicked, in whose soul there still lingers some good — and it is this good which causes these feelings of vexation and remorse in their mind and heart.

We thus see that there are many levels within the rank of the “rasha who knows good,” ranging from one who sins only rarely, only in minor matters, and with the involvement of only one soul-garment, to him who sins often, grievously, and with all three soul-garments. Yet they all come under the same heading of the “rasha who knows good,” the difference between them being to what degree the good within them is dominated by the evil — in direct contrast to the rank of the “tzaddik who knows evil,” where there are various degrees of dominance of the evil by the good.

Having defined the “rasha who knows good,” the Alter Rebbe now turns to consider the “rasha who knows (only) evil”:

אבל מי שאינו מתחרט לעולם, ואין באים לו הרהורי תשובה כלל, נקרא רשע ורע לו

But he who never feels contrition, and in whose mind no thoughts of repentance at all ever enter, is called a “rasha who knows (only) evil.”

שהרע שבנפשו הוא לבדו נשאר בקרבו, כי גבר כל כך על הטוב עד שנסתלק מקרבו

For only the evil in his soul has remained in him, having so prevailed over the good that the latter has departed from within him,

ועומד בבחינת מקיף עליו מלמעלה

and the good now stands in a manner of makkif over him, i.e., the good hovers over him, so to speak, in an aloof and external manner, so that he has no conscious awareness of it.

Yet, since he still possesses good, albeit as a makkif, for after all, he possesses a divine soul —

ולכן אמרו רז״ל: כל בי עשרה שכינתא שריא

Therefore have the Sages said,9 “Over every gathering of any ten Jews rests the Shechinah (the Divine Presence).”

That is to say, even if they are all in the category of the “rasha who knows (only) evil,” the Shechinah still hovers over them; for they too possess good in a manner of makkif. Since at such a gathering the Shechinah is present only in the externally encompassing way of makkif, not entering the consciousness of those assembled, therefore their correspondingly makkif level of good is sufficient to enable them to receive this revelation.

With regard to the subject of the Jew whose animal soul prevails over his divine soul, the following story bears mention.

A certain freethinker once asked of the Tzemach Tzedek: The word Yehudim (“Jews”) is normally spelled in the Book of Esther with one letter yud before the final letter. Why is it that when the word is used there in connection with the harsh decree against the Jews, it is spelled with two letters yud?

The Tzemach Tzedek answered: Yud is numerically equivalent to ten; it represents the ten soul-powers possessed by both the divine and animal souls. There are Jews who conduct their lives solely according to the dictates of the divine soul’s ten powers, while in other Jews the animal soul prevails, and their conduct is dictated also by the animal soul’s ten powers. Haman planned to exterminate all the Jews, even those who were of two yuds, i.e., those ruled by the ten evil soul-powers as well.

But the man persisted: Why then is the word spelled several times with two yuds even after the decree was repealed? To which the Tzemach Tzedek responded: After suffering under Haman’s evil decree and ultimately witnessing G‑d’s salvation, even those Jews repented and became equals of their brethren whose lives were led by the dictates of the divine soul and good inclination. Thus, concluded the Tzemach Tzedek, the two yuds (yud, or yid, is also Yiddish for “Jew”) became equal.