ולמשל כמו בנפש האדם כשמדבר דבור אחד, שדבור זה לבדו כלא ממש אפילו לגבי כללות נפשו המדברת

To illustrate from the soul of a human being: When a man utters a word, this single word is as absolutely nothing even when compared only to his articulate soul (i.e., power of speech) as a whole,

שהוא בחינת לבוש האמצעי שלה, שהוא כח הדבור שלה

which is the soul’s middle “garment” i.e., organ of expression, namely its faculty of speech.

The soul has three “garments” — thought, speech, and action, of which speech is the middle one, with action being lower than it, and thought, higher; one word has no value even in comparison with this faculty,

שיכול לדבר דבורים לאין קץ ותכלית

since this faculty can produce an infinite number of words — and next to infinity, one word has no value whatever.

In actual practice, there is a limit to the number of words one can speak. However, this is only because the physical organs involved in speech have a limited functional ability. The soul’s capacity for speech is limitless.

וכל שכן לגבי בחינת לבוש הפנימי שלה שהוא המחשבה, שממנה נמשכו הדבורים והיא חיותם

Surely, then, this word has no value when compared to the soul’s innermost “garment” i.e., that “garment” which is closest to the soul itself, namely, its faculty of thought, which is the source of speech and its life-force.

Since thought is higher and closer to the soul than is speech, this one word surely has no value in comparison with it.

ואין צריך לומר לגבי מהות ועצמות הנפש, שהן עשר בחינותיה הנ״ל, חכמה בינה דעת כו׳

It goes without saying, that this word is as naught when compared with the essence and entity as opposed to the “garments” of the soul, these being its ten attributes mentioned above:1 Chochmah, Binah, Daat, and so on, i.e., the seven emotional attributes

שמהן נמשכו אותיות מחשבה זו המלובשות בדבור זה כשמדבר

from which are derived the “letters” of thought that are clothed in one’s speech, when it is uttered.

Since all of man’s thoughts are either of an intellectual or an emotional nature, they derive from the soul’s intellectual or emotional faculties. When one speaks, the letters of his thought descend to a lower level.

כי המחשבה היא גם כן בחינת אותיות כמו הדבור, רק שהן רוחניות ודקות יותר

For thought too, like speech, consists of letters, except that the letters of thought are more spiritual and refined — thus thought and speech share a common characteristic.

אבל עשר בחינות, חכמה בינה דעת כו׳, הן שרש ומקור המחשבה ואין בהם בחינת אותיות עדיין קודם שמתלבשות בלבוש המחשבה

But the ten attributes — Chochmah, Binah, Daat, and so on, are the root and source of thought and, before being clothed in the garment of thought, they as yet lack the element of letters.

The letters are formed only when one applies his thoughts to a particular idea or a feeling, as explained further.

Since the intellectual and emotional soul-powers are so subtle and amorphous that they cannot be defined even in terms of the spiritual thought-letters, they are obviously of an altogether different, more spiritual, order than thought, and the spoken word is surely without value in comparison to them. What follows is a description of the process whereby the letters of thought are formed.

למשל כשנופלת איזו אהבה וחמדה בלבו של אדם קודם שעולה מהלב אל המוח לחשב ולהרהר בה

For example, when a man suddenly becomes conscious of a certain love or desire in his heart, before it has risen from the heart to the brain to meditate on it and ponder it,

אין בה בחינת אותיות עדיין, רק חפץ פשוט וחשיקה בלב אל הדבר ההוא הנחמד אצלו

it has not yet acquired the element of letters; it is only a pure desire and longing for the object of his affection.

וכל שכן קודם שנפלה התאוה והחמדה בלבו לאותו דבר, רק היתה בכח חכמתו ושכלו וידיעתו

All the more so before he began to feel in his heart a craving and desire for that thing, when it was yet confined within the realm of his intellect (Chochmah), understanding (corresponding to Binah), and knowledge (Daat),

שהיה נודע אצלו אותו דבר שהוא נחמד ונעים וטוב ויפה להשיגו ולידבק בו, כגון ללמוד איזו חכמה או לאכול איזה מאכל ערב

meaning that the thing was known to him to be desirable and gratifying, something good and pleasant to attain and to cling to; as for instance, to study a certain discipline or to eat some delicacy — then, in this state of intellectual appreciation of the desirable object, before the appreciation has even developed into an emotion, there are certainly no “letters” present in one’s mind.

רק לאחר שכבר נפלה החמדה והתאוה בלבו בכח חכמתו ושכלו וידיעתו

Only after the desire and craving have already descended into his heart i.e., after they have developed into emotions through the stimulus of his wisdom, understanding and knowledge,

ואחר כך חזרה ועלתה מהלב למוח לחשב ולהרהר בה איך להוציא תאותו מכח אל הפועל, להשיג המאכל או למידת החכמה בפועל

and only after they have ascended once again from the heart back to the brain, to think and meditate on how to implement his desire by actually obtaining that food or actually studying that subject,

הרי בכאן נולדו בחינת אותיות במוחו, שהן אותיות כלשון עם ועם המדברים ומהרהרים בהם כל עניני העולם

it is only at this point — when one applies his thoughts to implementing his desire — that “letters” are born in one’s mind, corresponding to the language of each of the nations, who employ these letters when speaking and thinking about everything in the world; i.e., each of us thinks in his own language.

“Pure” feeling, however, that is feeling that has not yet reached the “applied”, implemental stage of thought, transcends differences of nation and language, since it does not express itself in “letters”.

From all this we may understand the Alter Rebbe’s earlier statement that a spoken word is utterly without value in comparison with the soul’s intellectual and emotional powers (which are described here, for our purposes, as the essence of the soul). Surely, then, the Divine “Word” by which G‑d creates and animates all the worlds has no value at all next to G‑d, Who is truly and absolutely infinite. Thus all the worlds created and sustained by the Divine Word are as if nonexistent, from G‑d’s perspective, and their presence does not effect any change in His unity. This theme will be further discussed in the following chapter.

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