All the abovementioned calculations, then, can lead one to conclude that he is no better than the kal shebekalim. Like the kal shebekalim, he too fails to wage war against his evil impulse when it is required of him. Yet, this still does not explain the requirement that one consider oneself lower than every man. In what way is he worse than the kal shebekalim? In answer, the Alter Rebbe continues:

In truth, however, if he is a scholar and upholds G-d’s Torah and wishes to be close to G-d,

אֲבָל בֶּאֱמֶת, אִם הוּא יוֹדֵעַ סֵפֶר, וּמַחֲזִיק בְּתוֹרַת ה', וְקִרְבַת אֱלֹקִים יֶחְפָּץ –

his sin is unbearably great and his guilt is increased manifold for his not waging war and not overcoming his impulse in a manner commensurate with the quality and nature of the war mentioned above that the kal shebekalim must face.

גָּדוֹל עֲוֹנוֹ מִנְּשׂוֹא, וְאַשְׁמָתוֹ גָדְלָה בְּכִפְלֵי כִפְלַיִים בְּמַה שֶּׁאֵינוֹ נִלְחָם וּמִתְגַּבֵּר עַל יִצְרוֹ בְּעֵרֶךְ וּבְחִינַת מִלְחָמָה עֲצוּמָה הַנִּזְכֶּרֶת לְעֵיל,

His guilt is far greater than the guilt of the kal shebekalim, the most worthless of the street-corner squatters, who are remote from G-d and His Torah.

מֵאַשְׁמַת קַל שֶׁבְּקַלִּים מִיּוֹשְׁבֵי קְרָנוֹת הָרְחוֹקִים מֵה' וְתוֹרָתוֹ,

Their guilt for not summoning up the fear of G-d, Who knows and sees all their actions, in order to restrain their impulse, which burns like a fiery flame, is not as heinous

וְאֵין אַשְׁמָתָם גְּדוֹלָה כָּל כָּךְ בְּמַה שֶּׁאֵינָם כּוֹבְשִׁים יִצְרָם הַבּוֹעֵר כְּאֵשׁ לֶהָבָה, מִפְּנֵי פַּחַד ה' הַמֵּבִין וּמַבִּיט אֶל כָּל מַעֲשֵׂיהֶם,

as the guilt of one who draws ever nearer to G-d, His Torah, and His service.

כְּאַשְׁמַת כָּל הַקָּרֵב הַקָּרֵב אֶל ה' וְאֶל תּוֹרָתוֹ וַעֲבוֹדָתוֹ,

As our Sages, of blessed memory, said of the apostate “Acher,” Elisha ben Avuyah: “Because he knew My glory…,”16 said G-d; if despite this, he still sinned, his guilt is far greater.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה גַּבֵּי אַחֵר: "שֶׁיָּדַע בִּכְבוֹדִי וְכוּ'".

Therefore, our Sages declared in regard to the illiterate that “Deliberate sins are regarded in their case as inadvertent acts,”17 since they are unaware of the gravity of their sins.

וְלָכֵן אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה עַל עַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ: שֶׁ"זְּדוֹנוֹת נַעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם כִּשְׁגָגוֹת":

With a scholar, the reverse is true: an oversight due to lack of study is adjudged as being as grave as a deliberate sin.18 Thus, his failure to restrain his evil impulse is indeed worse than the failure of the kal shebekalim.

By contemplating this, the observant scholar will now be able to fulfill the instruction of the Mishnah (quoted at the beginning of this chapter): “Be lowly of spirit before every man.” Thereby, he will crush his own spirit and the spirit of the sitra achara in his animal soul, enabling the light of his soul to permeate and irradiate his body, as explained in ch. 29.