In the previous chapters, the Alter Rebbe explained how a Jew can perform Torah and mitzvot “with his heart”—with a love and fear of G-d. When a Jew is motivated by love and by a desire to cleave to the Almighty, his Torah and mitzvot will then surely be lishmah, i.e., with the most purely focused intentions. This, in turn, will add vitality to his endeavors. It is also possible, as explained in the previous chapter, that his love for G-d is such that he is motivated in his Torah and mitzvot by the desire to cause G-d gratification, just as a son strives to do all he possibly can for his father, so that his father may derive pleasure from his actions.

Love and fear of G-d stem from the two attributes of kindness (chesed) and severity (gevurah).1 The attribute of kindness and love is that exemplified by our forefather Abraham, who is described (Isaiah 41:8) as “Abraham who loves me.” The attribute of severity and fear is that of our forefather Isaac; the Patriarch Jacob refers to the G-d of his father (Genesis 31:42) as the “Fear of Isaac.”

In the chapter that follows, the Alter Rebbe describes yet another manner of attaining the level of lishmah, of performing Torah and mitzvot with the innermost feelings of one’s soul. This approach consists of utilizing the third of the primary spiritual emotions, namely, compassion—the attribute of tiferet (lit., “beauty”), which is the distinctive characteristic of our forefather Jacob—as follows. Before engaging in Torah and mitzvot, a Jew should arouse in his mind the attribute of compassion for the divine spark of his soul. For the soul had to descend from its source, from the most lofty of spiritual heights, to the nethermost level in order to garb itself in a body whose life-force derives from kelipot and is as distant as possible from G-d. This is all the more so if the individual caused the “Exile of the Shechinah” through improper thoughts, speech, or deeds. With this sense of spiritual compassion, he should study Torah and perform mitzvot, for they enable the soul, with the Divine spark that animates it, to return to its source in the blessed Ein Sof.

There is yet another direct path open to man, namely, to occupy himself with Torah and mitzvot that are lishmah (lit., “for their own sake”), with the innermost feelings of heart and soul,

עוֹד יֵשׁ דֶּרֶךְ יָשָׁר לִפְנֵי אִישׁ, לַעֲסוֹק בַּתּוֹרָה וּמִצְוֹת לִשְׁמָן,

through the attribute of our forefather Jacob, peace unto him, this being the attribute of mercy.

עַל יְדֵי מִדָּתוֹ שֶׁל יַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם, שֶׁהִיא מִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים,

This is accomplished by first arousing in his mind i.e., before his performance of Torah and mitzvot great compassion before G-d,

לְעוֹרֵר בְּמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ תְּחִלָּה רַחֲמִים רַבִּים לִפְנֵי ה'

for the Divine spark which animates his divine soul that has descended from its source, the Life of life, the blessed Ein Sof,

עַל נִיצוֹץ אֱלֹהוּת הַמְחַיֶּה נַפְשׁוֹ, אֲשֶׁר יָרַד מִמְּקוֹרוֹ – חַיֵּי הַחַיִּים אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

Who pervades all worlds and animates them with a vitality which is enclothed in and compatible with the created beings and encompasses all worlds and animates them with a vitality that transcends created beings and effects them from without, as it were,

הַמְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין, וְסוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין,

and in comparison with Whom everything is accounted as nothing,

וְכוּלָּא קַמֵּיהּ כְּלָא חֲשִׁיב,

This then, is the exalted level from which the soul has descended,

and has been clothed in the body which is called “a serpent’s skin,”2

וְנִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּ"מַשְׁכָּא דְחִוְיָא",

The body is referred to as a skin since it serves as a garment to the soul, as the verse states, “You have garbed me with skin and flesh.”3 This is moreover the skin of a “snake” since the body in its unrefined state is loathsome, as explained in ch. 31.4 The Divine spark must enter into such a body,

which is far removed from the light of the King’s countenance, at the greatest possible distance,

הָרָחוֹק מֵאוֹר פְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ בְּתַכְלִית הַהֶרְחֵק –

since this world is the nadir of the coarse kelipot, i.e., this world is coarser than the coarsest of kelipot found in the spiritual worlds,

כִּי הָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה הוּא תַּכְלִית הַקְּלִיפּוֹת הַגַּסּוֹת

etc. The Rebbe notes that this word may allude to ch. 36, where the Alter Rebbe concludes that this world is “lowest in degree; there is none lower than it in terms of concealment of His light; [a world of] doubled and redoubled darkness, so much so that it is filled with kelipot and sitra achara, which actually oppose G-d.”


Since the Divine spark of the soul is clothed in a body which is animated by the kelipat nogah of this world, it is removed at the farthest possible distance from G-d. This descent in itself would suffice to arouse compassion for the Divine spark of the soul, even when the person has transgressed neither in action nor in speech nor even in thought.

And especially will he feel great compassion for his soul when he recalls all his actions and utterances and thoughts since the day he came into being, unworthy as they were,

וּבִפְרָט, כְּשֶׁיִּזְכּוֹר עַל כָּל מַעֲשָׂיו וְדִבּוּרָיו וּמַחְשְׁבוֹתָיו מִיּוֹם הֱיוֹתוֹ, אֲשֶׁר לֹא טוֹבִים הֵמָּה,

and the King of the world is thereby “fettered by the tresses,”5 i.e., “by the impetuous thoughts of the brain”6; G-d is, so to speak, “fettered” by his impetuous thoughts,

וּ"מֶלֶךְ אָסוּר בָּרְהָטִים" – "בִּרְהִיטֵי מוֹחָא",

for “Jacob—an appellation for the Jewish people—is the rope of His inheritance.”7

כִּי "יַעֲקֹב חֶבֶל נַחֲלָתוֹ".

The word chevel, usually translated as “lot” (i.e., a tract of land), is here interpreted by its alternative meaning of “rope.” When a rope has one end tied above, tugging at the lower end will draw down the upper end as well. The upper extremity of a Jew’s soul is likewise bound to its source in the blessed Ein Sof, while at its lower extremity, it is enclothed in the body. When the lower extremity of the soul is dragged into spiritual exile through wrongful action, speech, or thought, this has a corresponding effect upon the upper reaches of the soul which are bound Above.

As in the above illustration of one pulling a rope,

וְכִמְשַׁל הַמּוֹשֵׁךְ בְּחֶבֶל

and so forth. The Rebbe notes that this phrase may allude to Iggeret Hateshuvah, ch. 5, where this matter is explained at length.


This is the esoteric doctrine of the “Exile of the Shechinah.”

וְהוּא סוֹד גָּלוּת הַשְּׁכִינָה.

A Jew’s sin causes his soul to be exiled within the domain of the kelipot. This, in turn (so to speak), exiles the Shechinah, the source of his soul, too. Pondering this matter will awaken within a Jew a profound feeling of compassion for his soul and for its source. This compassion, as the Alter Rebbe will now point out, should be utilized in one’s study of Torah and performance of mitzvot. This will elevate his soul, enabling it to reunite with its source, the blessed Ein Sof.

Concerning this matter, that the pity is all the greater since even the soul’s source is in exile, it is written: “And let him return to G-d and have mercy upon Him,”8

וְעַל זֶה נֶאֱמַר: "וְיָשׁוֹב אֶל ה' וִירַחֲמֵהוּ",

arousing great compassion toward the Divine Name Who dwells among us, as it is written: “Who dwells among them in the midst of their uncleanness.”9

לְעוֹרֵר רַחֲמִים רַבִּים עַל שֵׁם ה' הַשּׁוֹכֵן אִתָּנוּ, כְּדִכְתִיב: "הַשּׁוֹכֵן אִתָּם בְּתוֹךְ טוּמְאֹתָם".

Even when Jews are (heaven forfend) in an unclean spiritual state, the Divine Name dwells among them. This arousal of compassion toward the Divine Name is what is alluded to in the previous phrase: “And let him return to G-d,” the stimulus for his repentance being one’s “mercy upon Him,” i.e., the Divine Name, the source of Jewish souls, inasmuch as Jews are part of the Divine Name.