Chapter 37

פרק לז

In the previous chapter, the Alter Rebbe explained that the statement of the Sages that “G-d desired an abode in the lower realms” refers to our physical world. This is the lowest of worlds in terms of the degree of revelation of the divine creative power: it is hidden in this world as it is in no other world. G-d desired precisely this world, pervaded as it is with “doubled and redoubled darkness,” as His “abode,” where His presence would ultimately be revealed to a greater degree than it is revealed in the higher worlds without any concealing “garments” whatsoever.

This will come to pass in the Messianic era, the period for which the world was originally created, when G-dliness will be manifest throughout the world so that all the nations on earth will experience divine revelation.

Now this ultimate perfection of the Messianic era and [the time of] the resurrection of the dead, meaning the revelation of the Ein Sof-light in this physical world,

וְהִנֵּה, תַּכְלִית הַשְּׁלֵימוּת הַזֶּה שֶׁל יְמוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ וּתְחִיַּית הַמֵּתִים, שֶׁהוּא גִּילּוּי אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה הַגַּשְׁמִי –

is dependent on our actions and [divine] service throughout the period of exile (unlike the aforementioned revelation at Sinai, which was initiated by G-d).

תָּלוּי בְּמַעֲשֵׂינוּ וַעֲבוֹדָתֵנוּ כָּל זְמַן מֶשֶׁךְ הַגָּלוּת.

For it is the mitzvah itself that causes i.e., creates its reward.

כִּי הַגּוֹרֵם שְׂכַר הַמִּצְוָה – הִיא הַמִּצְוָה בְּעַצְמָהּ,

The Rebbe notes: Unlike, for example, the wages paid by the owner of a field to the laborer who plows and plants in it, where the laborer does not create the money he is paid, a mitzvah actually creates its own reward.

By performing [the mitzvah], man draws the revelation of the blessed Ein Sof-light from above downward

כִּי בַּעֲשִׂיָּיתָהּ, מַמְשִׁיךְ הָאָדָם גִּילּוּי אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מִלְמַעְלָה לְמַטָּה

to be clothed in the physicality of this world, i.e., in an object which had heretofore been under the dominion of kelipat nogah and had received its vitality from this kelipah,

לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּגַשְׁמִיּוּת עוֹלָם הַזֶּה, בְּדָבָר שֶׁהָיָה תְּחִלָּה תַּחַת מֶמְשֶׁלֶת קְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ וּמְקַבֵּל חַיּוּתָהּ מִמֶּנָּה,

namely, all pure, permissible objects with which the act of the mitzvah is performed. By performing the mitzvah, man draws the Ein Sof-light upon the object with which it is performed.

שֶׁהֵם כָּל דְּבָרִים הַטְּהוֹרִים וּמוּתָּרִים שֶׁנַּעֲשֵׂית בָּהֶם הַמִּצְוָה מַעֲשִׂיית,

The Alter Rebbe now illustrates his phrase—“pure, permissible objects with which the act of the mitzvah is performed”—citing as examples one object from each of the three categories: animal life, vegetative, and inanimate life.

For example, the parchment of the tefillin, mezuzah, and Sefer Torah, which must be made of the skins of permissible, kosher animals.

כְּגוֹן: קְלַף הַתְּפִילִּין וּמְזוּזָה וְסֵפֶר תּוֹרָה,

As our Sages state: “For the ‘work of heaven’ i.e., mitzvah objects only that which is pure and permissible to eat may be used.”1

וּכְמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "לֹא הוּכְשַׁר לִמְלֶאכֶת שָׁמַיִם אֶלָּא טְהוֹרִים וּמוּתָּרִים בְּפִיךָ".

The parchment derived from such animals is, however, under the dominion of kelipat nogah until one uses it for tefillin, etc., when the mitzvah draws upon the parchment a revelation of the Ein Sof-light.

Similarly, an etrog which is not orlah (the forbidden fruit of a tree’s first three harvests)

וְכֵן אֶתְרוֹג שֶׁאֵינוֹ עָרְלָה,

In reference to his earlier stipulation that an etrog not be orlah and that charity be honestly acquired, the Alter Rebbe notes:

For Orlah is of the three completely unclean kelipot that can never ascend into holiness, as is written in Etz Chaim; thus, fruit which is orlah, deriving its vitality from these kelipot, cannot be elevated by having a mitzvah performed with it,

שֶׁהָﬠָרְלָה הִיא מִשָּׁלֹשׁ קְלִיפּוֹת הַטְּמֵאוֹת לְגַמְרֵי שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם ﬠֲלִיָּה לְעוֹלָם, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּﬠֵץ חַיִּים,

and similarly any mitzvah whose performance involved a transgression (G-d forbid). Since the sinful act receives its vitality from the three completely unclean kelipot, the resulting mitzvah cannot elevate it.

וְכֵן כָּל מִצְוָה הַבָּאָה בַּﬠֲבֵירָה חַס וְשָׁלוֹם:

or money given to charity that has not been acquired through theft and their like i.e., other physical objects used in performing a mitzvah, all of which were previously in the realm of kelipat nogah, and (as the Alter Rebbe will conclude presently) are now merged into the Divine will by serving the purpose of a mitzvah.וּמָעוֹת הַצְּדָקָה שֶׁאֵינָן גֶּזֶל, וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָהֶם.

When performed, however, with pure and permissible objects, the mitzvah elevates those objects from kelipat nogah to holiness to be united with the Ein Sof-light, as the Alter Rebbe continues:

Now that one fulfills G-d’s commandment and will with these objects,

וְעַכְשָׁיו שֶׁמְּקַיֵּים בָּהֶם מִצְוַת ה' וּרְצוֹנוֹ –

the vitality within them ascends and is dissolved and absorbed into the blessed Ein Sof-light, which is His will that is clothed in the mitzvot, the Divine will that each mitzvah represents.

הֲרֵי הַחַיּוּת שֶׁבָּהֶם עוֹלֶה וּמִתְבַּטֵּל וְנִכְלָל בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, שֶׁהוּא רְצוֹנוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בָּהֶם,

For [in a mitzvah], there is no “concealment of the Countenance” whatsoever to hide His light, preventing the object from being absorbed in this light. As stated earlier, wherever the Ein Sof-light stands revealed, there is no separation from G-d; everything is united with His light—in this case, the object with which the mitzvah (representing revelation of the will and light of the Ein Sof) is performed.

מֵאַחַר שֶׁאֵין שָׁם בְּחִינַת הֶסְתֵּר פָּנִים כְּלָל לְהַסְתִּיר אוֹרוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ.

Thus far, the Alter Rebbe has discussed the effect of a mitzvah on the objects used in its performance (e.g., the etrog, the parchment used for tefillin, etc.). He now discusses its effect on the power of a Jew’s animal soul that is applied to the mitzvah. This soul, like the aforementioned objects, derives its vitality from kelipat nogah, and like them, it experiences a similar elevation to the realm of holiness whenever it is used in the service of a mitzvah, being absorbed into the Divine will represented by the mitzvah.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

Similarly, the power of the vitalizing animal soul clothed in the bodily limbs of a person who performs a mitzvah likewise clothes itself in the deed of the mitzvah.

וְכֵן כֹּחַ נֶפֶשׁ הַחִיּוּנִית הַבַּהֲמִית שֶׁבְּאֵבְרֵי גּוּף הָאָדָם הַמְקַיֵּים הַמִּצְוָה – הוּא מִתְלַבֵּשׁ גַּם כֵּן בַּעֲשִׂיָּה זוֹ,

Thereby, it ascends from the kelipah to be absorbed into the holiness of the mitzvah, which is His will and is nullified within the blessed Ein Sof-light.

וְעוֹלֶה מֵהַקְּלִיפָּה, וְנִכְלָל בִּקְדוּשַּׁת הַמִּצְוָה שֶׁהִיא רְצוֹנוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, וּבָטֵל בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that those mitzvot involving speech alone likewise effect this elevation of the animal soul, even though here, the animal soul’s power is not brought to bear in the performance of any mitzvah.

Even in the case of such mitzvot as Torah study, reciting the Shema, prayer, and the like, the animal soul’s power is elevated to holiness,

וְגַם בְּמִצְוֹת תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה וּקְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּתְפִלָּה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָהֶן,

although they do not involve actual physical action which is under the dominion of kelipat nogah,

אַף שֶׁאֵינָן בַּעֲשִׂיָּה גַשְׁמִית מַמָּשׁ שֶׁתַּחַת מֶמְשֶׁלֶת קְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ,

yet it is an accepted principle that “thought is not a substitute for speech,”2 and one does not fulfill his duty of Torah study, prayer, etc. unless he actually utters [the words] with his lips.

מִכָּל מָקוֹם, הָא קַיְימָא לָן דְּ"הִרְהוּר לָאו כְּדִבּוּר דָּמֵי", וְאֵינוֹ יוֹצֵא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ עַד שֶׁיּוֹצִיא בִּשְׂפָתָיו,

It is also accepted that “moving one’s lips constitutes action,”3 and such “action,” as the Rebbe notes, likewise stems from the vitality of the kelipat nogah that is nourished by the animal soul, as does the actual bodily action spoken of earlier.

וְקַיְימָא לָן דַּ"עֲקִימַת שְׂפָתָיו הָוֵי מַעֲשֶׂה",

For the divine soul cannot express itself with the physical lips, mouth, tongue, or teeth, the instruments of speech, except by way of the vitalizing animal soul actually clothed in the organs of the body.

כִּי אִי אֶפְשָׁר לַנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית לְבַטֵּא בִּשְׂפָתַיִים וּפֶה וְלָשׁוֹן וְשִׁינַּיִים הַגַּשְׁמִיִּים, כִּי אִם, עַל יְדֵי נֶפֶשׁ הַחִיּוּנִית הַבַּהֲמִית הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בְּאֵבְרֵי הַגּוּף מַמָּשׁ,

The divine soul is entirely spiritual, the body, physical. Therefore (as explained in ch. 35), the divine soul cannot activate the body to perform a mitzvah except through an intermediary. This intermediary is the animal soul, which, on one hand, is a soul, a spiritual life-force, yet on the other hand is actually clothed in the blood and the bodily organs.

This intermediary is necessary in mitzvot performed through speech, just as in the mitzvot performed through action. For articulating the words required for the mitzvah also constitutes physical “action” so that this, too, cannot be accomplished by the divine soul except by way of the animal soul’s power.

Hence, the more forcefully one speaks words of Torah or prayer, the more of the animal soul’s energy he introduces and clothes in these words. Thereby, he converts more of the energy of the kelipah to holiness.

וְכָל מַה שֶּׁמְּדַבֵּר בְּכֹחַ גָּדוֹל יוֹתֵר – הוּא מַכְנִיס וּמַלְבִּישׁ יוֹתֵר כֹּחוֹת מִנֶּפֶשׁ הַחִיּוּנִית בְּדִיבּוּרִים אֵלּוּ.

This is also the meaning of the verse, “All my bones shall declare…[:‘G-d, who is like You?’],”4 which means that the words of Torah and prayer must be said “with all of one’s bones” so that as much as possible of the body’s energy be utilized in performing the mitzvot.

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב: "כָּל עַצְמוֹתַי תֹּאמַרְנָה וְגוֹ'".

This is why our Sages have said: “If the Torah abides in all 248 limbs, it is preserved in your memory; otherwise, it is not preserved.”5

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אִם עֲרוּכָה בְּכָל רַמַ"ח אֵיבָרִים מִשְׁתַּמֶּרֶת, וְאִם לָאו – אֵינָהּ מִשְׁתַּמֶּרֶת",

For forgetfulness in matters of Torah stems from the kelipah of the body and vitalizing animal soul, derived from kelipat nogah, which is sometimes absorbed into holiness; when it is absorbed into holiness, there is no longer any cause for forgetfulness.

כִּי הַשִּׁכְחָה הִיא מִקְּלִיפַּת הַגּוּף וְנֶפֶשׁ הַחִיּוּנִית הַבַּהֲמִית, שֶׁהֵן מִקְּלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ הַנִּכְלֶלֶת לִפְעָמִים בִּקְדוּשָּׁה,

This is accomplished when one weakens their power (the power of body and animal soul), applying all their strength to the holiness of Torah and prayer.

וְהַיְינוּ כְּשֶׁמַּתִּישׁ כֹּחָן וּמַכְנִיס כָּל כֹּחָן בִּקְדוּשַּׁת הַתּוֹרָה אוֹ הַתְּפִלָּה:

This, then, is the meaning of the aforementioned quotation: When one involves (the energy of) all his 248 limbs in Torah study, it is preserved in his memory, for the kelipah that causes one to forget has been weakened.