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” whatever.

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.

והנה תכלית השלימות הזה של ימות המשיח ותחיית המתים, שהוא גילוי אור אין סוף ברוך הוא בעולם הזה הגשמי

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

תלוי במעשינו ועבודתנו כל זמן משך הגלות

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).

כי הגורם שכר המצוה היא המצוה בעצמה

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

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.

כי בעשייתה ממשיך האדם גילוי אור אין סוף ברוך הוא מלמעלה למטה

For by performing [the mitzvah] man draws the revelation of the blessed Ein Sof-light from above downwards,

להתלבש בגשמיות עולם הזה, בדבר שהיה תחלה תחת ממשלת קליפת נוגה, ומקבל חיותה ממנה

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;

שהם כל הדברים הטהורים ומותרים שנעשית בהם המצוה מעשיית

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.

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.

כגון קלף התפילין ומזוזה וספר תורה

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

וכמאמר רז״ל: לא הוכשר למלאכת שמים אלא טהורים ומותרים בפיך

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

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 Ein Sof-light.

וכן אתרוג שאינו ערלה,

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


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


שהערלה היא משלש קליפות הטמאות לגמרי שאין להם עליה לעולם, כמו שכתוב בעץ חיים

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

וכן כל מצוה הבאה בעבירה, חס ושלום

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.


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:

ומעות הצדקה שאינן גזל, וכיוצא בהם

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.

ועכשיו שמקיים בהם מצות ה׳ ורצונו

Now that one fulfills G‑d’s commandment and Will with these objects,

הרי החיות שבהם עולה ומתבטל ונכלל באור אין סוף ברוך הוא, שהוא רצונו יתברך המלובש בהם

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.

מאחר שאין שם בחינת הסתר פנים כלל, להסתיר אורו יתברך

For [in a mitzvah] there is no “concealment of the Countenance” whatever 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.

* * *

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 service of a mitzvah, being absorbed into the Divine Will represented by the mitzvah.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

וכן כח נפש החיונית הבהמית שבאברי גוף האדם המקיים המצוה, הוא מתלבש גם כן בעשיה זו

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.

ועולה מהקליפה, ונכלל בקדושת המצוה שהיא רצונו יתברך, ובטל באור אין סוף ברוך הוא

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.

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.

וגם במצות תלמוד תורה וקריאת שמע ותפלה וכיוצא בהן

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,

אף שאינן בעשיה גשמית ממש שתחת ממשלת קליפת נוגה

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

מכל מקום הא קיימא לן דהרהור לאו כדבור דמי, ואינו יוצא ידי חובתו עד שיוציא בשפתיו

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

וקיימא לן דעקימת שפתיו הוי מעשה

It is also accepted that “moving one’s lips constitutes action,” 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.

כי אי אפשר לנפש האלקית לבטא בשפתיים ופה ולשון ושיניים הגשמיים, כי אם על ידי נפש החיונית הבהמית, המלובשת באברי הגוף ממש

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.

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 the 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.

וכל מה שמדבר בכח גדול יותר, הוא מכניס ומלביש יותר כחות מנפש החיונית בדבורים אלו

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.

וזה שאמר הכתוב: כל עצמותי תאמרנה וגו׳

This is also the meaning of the verse,2 “All my bones shall declare.... [:‘G‑d, who is like You?’],” 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.

וזה שאמרו רז״ל: אם ערוכה בכל רמ״ח אברים משתמרת, ואם לאו אינה משתמרת

This is why our Sages have said:3 “If the Torah abides in all of your 248 limbs it is preserved in your memory; otherwise it is not preserved.”

כי השכחה היא מקליפת הגוף ונפש החיונית הבהמית, שהן מקליפת נוגה הנכללת לפעמים בקדושה

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.

והיינו כשמתיש כחן, ומכניס כל כחן בקדושת התורה או התפלה

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.

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.

* * *

Up till here, the Alter Rebbe has spoken of the effect of a mitzvah on the power of one’s animal soul used in performing it. He now states that not only does one’s animal soul ascend from kelipat nogah to holiness when he performs a mitzvah, but also all the food and drink that sustained one and gave him the strength to perform the mitzvah, are likewise elevated from the dominion of kelipat nogah.

Based on this idea, the Alter Rebbe explains how the vitality of all physical objects of this world — which currently draw their vitality from kelipat nogah — will be elevated to the realm of holiness.

Every Jewish soul is given the ability and responsibility to elevate a portion of this physical world which “belongs” to it. This elevation is accomplished by means of the 613 mitzvot, as mentioned. There are, however, two categories in mitzvot: the 248 positive commandments and the 365 prohibitive commandments. Similarly, the elevating effect of mitzvot on physical matter takes two forms: one positive and the other negative (i.e., restrictive).

To explain these two aspects of elevation accomplished by the two categories of mitzvot, the Alter Rebbe uses for each category an analogy drawn from the human body. The 248 positive commandments correspond to the body’s 248 limbs; and, indeed, the function of these mitzvot resembles that of the limbs. Every organ of the body is a vehicle for a particular faculty of the soul, and brings that faculty into active expression. Similarly, every (positive) mitzvah is a vehicle for the expression of a particular aspect of Divine Will, and brings about a G‑dly revelation.

The prohibitive commandments, numbering 365, correspond to the 365 blood vessels of the body; their function, too, is like that of the blood vessels. The blood vessel acts as a conduit, channeling blood in the right direction so that it will not be randomly, wastefully dispersed through the body. Similarly, the prohibitive commandments prevent the life-force of holiness from being funneled off into the kelipot, thereby increasing their power; they channel the life-force toward deserving recipients.

When all the souls of Israel, representing the vitality of all physical matter, fulfill all the commandments — drawing down G‑d’s light by performing the positive mitzvot, and confining it to the realm of holiness by observing the prohibitive mitzvot — they elevate the vitality of the entire world from kelipat nogah to holiness.

This, in summary, is the subject of the following discussion.