From the beginning of ch. 35 until here, the Alter Rebbe has expounded the phrase “to do it”—the conclusion of the verse, “For the matter (of observing Torah and mitzvot) is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.” He explained that the mitzvot of action (and of speech, which is also deemed “action”) are of paramount importance, since it is through them that we achieve the goal of transforming this physical world into a “dwelling place for G-d in the lower realms,” i.e., a place where G-dliness will be revealed to an even greater degree than it is in the higher, spiritual worlds.

This goal will be realized when the energy of the vital soul and the body of every Jew will ascend from kelipat nogah to holiness. Thereby, all of kelipat nogah, meaning the vitality of the entire world, will ascend to holiness, and automatically, the three impure kelipot will cease to exist. Thus, there will be no obstruction of G-dliness in the world; G-dliness will radiate throughout; the world will be G-d’s “dwelling place.”

Since the entire process hinges on the elevation of a Jew’s body and his vital soul, and since their elevation is accomplished only by means of the mitzvot of action, which require their power in performance of the mitzvot, therefore, the mitzvot of action are, as said, of paramount importance.

In the discussion that now follows, the Alter Rebbe will examine the other side of the coin. He will explain the importance of kavanah—“devout concentration” or “intention”—in the performance of mitzvot. As used in this context, kavanah refers to the motivating intention that by performing a mitzvah, one is united with G-d, Whose command and will each mitzvah represents.

Yet, nevertheless, it has been said that prayer or any other blessing, said without kavanah, is like a body without a soul.9

אַךְ אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, אָמְרוּ: תְּפִלָּה אוֹ שְׁאָר בְּרָכָה בְּלֹא כַוָּונָה – הֵן כְּגוּף בְּלֹא נְשָׁמָה,

This comparison of the words of prayer to a body and of kavanah to its soul means [as follows]:


Just as all the creatures of this world possessing a body and a soul

כִּי כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּל הַבְּרוּאִים שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה שֶׁיֵּשׁ לָהֶם גּוּף וּנְשָׁמָה,

—meaning the nefesh of every living being, the ruach of all flesh, and the neshamah of all that has the breath of life in its nostrils among all living creatures—

שֶׁהֵם: "נֶפֶשׁ כָּל חַי וְרוּחַ כָּל בְּשַׂר אִישׁ", וְ"נִשְׁמַת כָּל אֲשֶׁר רוּחַ חַיִּים בְּאַפָּיו" מִכָּל בַּעֲלֵי חַיִּים,

G-d animates them all and creates them, constantly out of nothingness by the light and vitality which He bestows upon them i.e., upon both the soul and the body, and in support of his contention that the body, too, has a G-dly life-force (aside from the soul), the Alter Rebbe adds parenthetically:

וַה' "מְחַיֶּה אֶת כּוּלָּם" וּמְהַוֶּה אוֹתָם מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ תָּמִיד בְּאוֹר וְחַיּוּת שֶׁמַּשְׁפִּיעַ בָּהֶם,

—for even the material body, and furthermore, even the very stones and earth which are absolutely inanimate, lacking even that sign of life found in plant life, i.e., growth—even the totally inanimate being—has within it light and vitality from G-d so that it should not revert to naught and nothingness as it was before it was created.

שֶׁגַּם הַגּוּף הַחוּמְרִי, וַאֲפִילוּ אֲבָנִים וְעָפָר הַדּוֹמֵם מַמָּשׁ – יֵשׁ בּוֹ אוֹר וְחַיּוּת מִמֶּנּוּ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, שֶׁלֹּא יַחֲזוֹר לִהְיוֹת אַיִן וָאֶפֶס כְּשֶׁהָיָה,

(Further in the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains that every existing being would instantly revert to absolute nothingness were it not for the G-dly life-force constantly creating it and keeping it in existence. Thus, even the inanimate beings contain a life-force and so surely do the bodies of living creatures.)

(The Alter Rebbe now concludes the sentence begun earlier:) Just as in all the creatures of this world possessing a body and a soul, there is, nevertheless, i.e., despite the fact that body and soul are alike in that they both contain a divine life-force, there is, nevertheless, no comparison or similarity between the quality of the light and lifeforce radiating in the body and the light and life-force radiating in the neshamah, which is the soul of every living thing.

וְאַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, אֵין עֵרֶךְ וְדִמְיוֹן כְּלָל בֵּין בְּחִינַת אוֹר וְחַיּוּת הַמֵּאִיר בַּגּוּף, לְגַבֵּי בְּחִינַת אוֹר וְחַיּוּת הַמֵּאִיר בַּנְּשָׁמָה, שֶׁהִיא נֶפֶשׁ כָּל חַי.