The Alter Rebbe explained in the previous chapter that every Jew has the ability to attain yirah tataah, the lower level of fear of G-d. This enables him to perform all the positive commandments and refrain from transgressing all the negative commandments. In the present chapter, the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain the two levels of fear of G-d, yirah tataah and yirah ilaah, the lower and higher levels of fear, respectively.

This distinction clarifies a seeming contradiction. The Mishnah first states:1 “If there is no wisdom, there is no fear [of G-d].” Wisdom must precede fear. But the Mishnah then goes on to say: “If there is no fear [of G-d], there is no wisdom.” Fear must precede wisdom!

The explanation is as follows: The Mishnah refers to the two abovementioned levels of fear. The first statement—“If there is no fear, there is no wisdom”—refers to the lower level of fear, yirah tataah. Without this level of fear, it is impossible to attain wisdom, i.e., the performance of Torah and mitzvot. (This is deemed wisdom, since the ultimate purpose of wisdom is repentance and good deeds.) The second statement—“If there is no wisdom, there is no fear”—refers to the higher level of fear, yirah ilaah. This level of fear must be preceded by wisdom, i.e., the performance of Torah and mitzvot. Only thus is one able to attain the higher level of fear.

The Alter Rebbe also explains in this chapter that just as there are two general levels of fear of G-d, there are also two general levels of love of G-d.

Concerning this level of yirah tataah, of which it was said in the previous chapter that it is in the province of every Jew, which is [necessary] for the fulfillment of His commandments in both areas of “Turn away from evil and do good,” i.e., in the performance of the negative and positive commands,

וְהִנֵּה עַל יִרְאָה תַּתָּאָה זוֹ, שֶׁהִיא לְקִיּוּם מִצְוֹתָיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ בִּבְחִינַת "סוּר מֵרָע וַעֲשֵׂה טוֹב",

it was said by our Sages, “If there is no fear, there is no wisdom.” If fear of G-d is lacking, then one cannot properly fulfill the Torah and mitzvot.

אָמְרוּ: "אִם אֵין יִרְאָה אֵין חָכְמָה".

It (this lower level of fear) comprises a mode of “smallness” and a mode of “greatness.”

וְיֵשׁ בָּהּ בְּחִינַת קַטְנוּת וּבְחִינַת גַּדְלוּת.

The quality of “smallness” describes the fear which is experienced as a result of a Jew’s innate fear of G-d and which is merely revealed through meditating upon matters that lead to the fear of G-d. Since it does not result from contemplating G-d’s greatness, it is deemed “small.” The quality of “greatness” characterizes the fear of G-d that results from contemplating G-d’s greatness as it can be discerned from creation.

This means i.e., fear has the quality of “greatness” when this category of the lower level of fear is a result of contemplation on the greatness of G-d as it is perceived through His providing life to creation

דְּהַיְינוּ, כְּשֶׁנִּמְשֶׁכֶת בְּחִינַת יִרְאָה זוֹ מֵהַהִתְבּוֹנְנוּת בִּגְדוּלַּת ה',

that He fills all worlds,

דְּאִיהוּ מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין,

G-d provides all worlds with vitality by vesting Himself in them. This life-force is attuned to the innate spirituality of the particular world or created being in which it is vested; the higher the world or created being, the loftier its life-force.

and from the earth to the heavens is a distance of 500 years…and the distance from one heaven to the next…is also a journey of 500 years,2

וּ"מֵהָאָרֶץ לָרָקִיעַ מַהֲלָךְ תּ"ק שָׁנָה וְכוּ', וּבֵין רָקִיעַ לְרָקִיעַ כוּ',

[and] “the feet i.e., the lowest level of the angels called Chayot measure up to them all…”2

רַגְלֵי הַחַיּוֹת כְּנֶגֶד כּוּלָּן וְכוּ'",

The lowest level of the Chayot transcends all the other levels.

and similarly with one’s contemplation on the evolvement of all the worlds, one above the other to the topmost heights of the most spiritual worlds.

וְכֵן הִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת כָּל הָעוֹלָמוֹת לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה עַד רוּם הַמַּעֲלוֹת –

When a person contemplates and gains a deep understanding of the divine life-force that provides life to all worlds and spiritual levels and hence attains a fear of G-d, then this understanding may be described by the term “greatness.” However, if this is the case, why then is this level considered part of yirah tataah, the lower level of fear?

The Alter Rebbe answers this by explaining that since this fear derives from contemplation of G-dliness as it “fills all worlds” and thus is bound up with them, it is necessarily a lower level of fear. For this life-force is concealed in the worlds in such a way that they are still able to be aware of their own existence and being. At this level, the worlds merely nullify their being and existence in deference to their life-force. This is termed bittul hayesh, the self-nullification of a being that is aware of its own existence.

The fear which results from this contemplation can only belong to the level of bittul hayesh and not the higher form of nullification known as bittul bimetziut, which is total and complete nullification of self. It is for this reason that even the fear which has the quality of “greatness” is still only on a level of yirah tataah, the lower level of fear. And this is what the Alter Rebbe now says:

Nevertheless, this fear is called an external and inferior fear, yirah tataah, since it is derived from the worlds i.e., from understanding the greatness of G-d as a result of meditating upon the divine life-force which animates them,

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, נִקְרֵא יִרְאָה זוֹ יִרְאָה חִיצוֹנִית וְתַתָּאָה, מֵאַחַר שֶׁנִּמְשֶׁכֶת מֵהָעוֹלָמוֹת,

for they are “garments” of the King, the Holy One, blessed be He, Who conceals and hides and clothes Himself in them, in these worlds, to animate them and give them existence, that they may exist ex nihilo….

שֶׁהֵם לְבוּשִׁים שֶׁל הַמֶּלֶךְ הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, אֲשֶׁר מִסְתַּתֵּר וּמִתְעַלֵּם וּמִתְלַבֵּשׁ בָּהֶם לְהַחֲיוֹתָם וּלְקַיְּימָם לִהְיוֹת יֵשׁ מֵאַיִן וְכוּ',

Before the worlds were created, they did not exist at all; they were in a state of non-being. Through their creation, they became “beings,” entities whose existence could be experienced. This is the manner in which the divine life-force animates (and clothes itself in) creation: that created beings should be able to perceive themselves as existing entities which, nevertheless, are nullified to their divine life-force. Therefore, as explained earlier, this contemplation can only result in the level of bittul hayesh and not in bittul bimetziut, which is the level of yirah ilaah, the higher level of the fear of G-d.

It is only that this fear serves as the gate and entrance to the performance of Torah and mitzvot.

רַק שֶׁהִיא הַשַּׁעַר וְהַפֶּתַח לְקִיּוּם הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת.

For, as mentioned earlier, yirah tataah leads to the performance of Torah and mitzvot. And it is concerning this lower level of fear that our Sages have said, “If there is no fear, there is no wisdom”; fear of G-d must precede the performance of Torah and mitzvot.

However, as for yirah ilaah, a fear stemming from a sense of shame before G-d’s greatness,

אַךְ הַיִּרְאָה עִילָּאָה, יְרֵא בֹּשֶׁת

Fear of G-d stemming from a sense of shame is similar to the shame and total sense of abnegation a person feels when he is in the presence of a truly outstanding tzaddik.3 His shame is not from that great man’s external and revealed powers as would be the case when one fears a king.

Fearing a king only involves fear of his externality, which finds expression in his rule. (Generally, the more extensive the king’s domain, the greater will be the fear of him.)

The same is true of the fear of G-d which results from contemplating the “garments” and revelation of G-dliness in all worlds. It is therefore termed yirah tataah, a lower level of the fear of G-d, inasmuch as it does not evoke the same degree of shame and self-nullification as is evoked by recognizing the greatness of a truly righteous person. There, the shame and fear is prompted by the great man’s essence; the nullification and shame will therefore be total. Thus, yirah ilaah is a fear which stems from a sense of shame when one is confronted by G-d’s greatness.

and an inner fear that derives from the inward aspects of G-dliness within the worlds,

וְיִרְאָה פְנִימִית, שֶׁהִיא נִמְשֶׁכֶת מִפְּנִימִית הָאֱלֹהוּת שֶׁבְּתוֹךְ הָעוֹלָמוֹת,

wherein the person is cognizant of the inward and essential aspects of G-dliness and not only of the external qualities of G-dliness which are clothed in all the worlds. The worlds are wholly nullified before this inward aspect of G-dliness with a complete and total nullification, bittul bimetziut. Awareness of this higher level of nullification leads to the higher level of fear, yirah ilaah.

Concerning this level of fear, it was said by our Sages, “If there is no wisdom, there is no fear.” This level of fear must be prefaced by wisdom.

עָלֶיהָ אָמְרוּ: "אִם אֵין חָכְמָה אֵין יִרְאָה",

For4 chochmah is koach mah, the level of nullification which is termed mah (“What?”), as the verse says, “…and we are mah5—a phrase that expresses the complete and total nullification which is termed bittul bimetziut,

דְּחָכְמָה, הִיא כֹּ"חַ מָ"ה –

and “Chochmah comes from ayin6 (“nothingness”), for which reason chochmah is ayin and nullity,

"וְהַחָכְמָה מֵאַיִן תִּמָּצֵא",

and our Sages said, moreover, “Who is wise? He who sees that which is born [and created].”7 That is to say that the wise person is he who sees how everything is born and created from non-being to being by means of the Word of G-d and the breath of His mouth, as it is written, “…and by the breath of His mouth, all their hosts [were created].8

וְ"אֵיזֶהוּ חָכָם הָרוֹאֶה אֶת הַנּוֹלָד", פֵּירוּשׁ, שֶׁרוֹאֶה כָּל דָּבָר אֵיךְ נוֹלָד וְנִתְהַוֶּה מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ, בִּדְבַר ה' וְרוּחַ פִּיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וּבְרוּחַ פִּיו כָּל צְבָאָם".

Therefore, the heavens and the earth and all their hosts, i.e., all of creation, are truly nullified out of existence within the Word of G-d and the breath of His mouth—the level of their nullification is thus not that of bittul hayesh but of bittul bimetziut—and are accounted as nothing at all, as naught and nothingness indeed, just as the light and brightness of the sun are nullified within the body of the sun itself.

וְאֵי לָזֹאת, הֲרֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ וְכָל צְבָאָם, בְּטֵלִים בִּמְצִיאוּת מַמָּשׁ בִּדְבַר ה' וְרוּחַ פִּיו, וּכְלָא מַמָּשׁ חֲשִׁיבֵי וְאַיִן וָאֶפֶס מַמָּשׁ, כְּבִיטּוּל אוֹר וְזִיו הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ – בְּגוּף הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ עַצְמָהּ,

Once sunlight has left the sun, one can perceive actual rays and illumination. However, when the light of the sun is found in its source, the body of the sun itself, it is completely nullified and does not exist in a luminous state; all that exists there is the source of light, the sun itself.

So, too, are all created beings nullified in their source, the Word of G-d that creates them ex nihilo. When a person ponders this matter, it will so affect him that his nullification to G-d will be at the level of bittul bimetziut.

And no man should except himself from this principle—from the principle governing all created beings, about which he understands that they are totally nullified to G-d. He should realize:

וְאַל יוֹצִיא אָדָם עַצְמוֹ מֵהַכְּלָל,

that also his body and nefesh, ruach, and neshamah are utterly nullified in the Word of G-d that created them,

שֶׁגַּם גּוּפוֹ וְנַפְשׁוֹ וְרוּחוֹ וְנִשְׁמָתוֹ בְּטֵלִים בִּמְצִיאוּת בִּדְבַר ה',

and His Word is united with His thought…and G-d’s thought in turn is one with G-d Himself. Thus, the nullification is not only to G-d’s Word but is a total nullification to G-d Himself, as has been explained above at length (9chs. 20 and 21) by analogy with the human soul, one utterance of whose speech and thought are veritably as nothing…, when compared to the power of speech, which is limitless.

וְדִבּוּרוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ מְיוּחָד בְּמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ כוּ', וְכַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל [פְּרָקִים כ' וכ"א] בַּאֲרִיכוּת בְּדֶרֶךְ מָשָׁל מִנֶּפֶשׁ הָאָדָם, שֶׁדִּבּוּר אֶחָד מִדִּבּוּרוֹ וּמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ – כְּלָא מַמָּשׁ כוּ'.

Surely, one word pales utterly in comparison to man’s thought, which is the source of speech. Even more so when a single utterance is compared to the source of thought—the power of intellect or emotion, depending on whether the individual is thinking about intellectual or emotional things. Surely, then, this spoken word cannot in any way be compared to the soul itself.

There is, however, a difference between man’s speech and G-d’s. When a human being speaks, the sound emitted from his mouth departs from its source and becomes a separate entity. G-d’s creative speech, however, never departs—heaven forbid—from its source, that source being G-d Himself, Who is omnipresent. Thus, divine speech is always found within its source.

It now becomes even more clear that G-d’s Word, the source of creation, is truly and totally nullified to and unified with G-d. Thus, all of creation is completely nullified to G-d.

This is what is meant by the verse: “Behold, the fear of G-d, that is wisdom.”10

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב: "הֵן יִרְאַת ה' הִיא חָכְמָה".

For as explained earlier, the level of yirah ilaah and bittul bimetziut is the same as “wisdom”; it, too, is essentially bittul bimetziut.

However, one cannot attain this fear and wisdom except by means of the fulfillment of the Torah and mitzvot through yirah tataah, which is an external fear. And this is what is meant by the statement, “If there is no fear, there is no wisdom.”

אַךְ אִי אֶפְשָׁר לְהַשִּׂיג לְיִרְאָה וְחָכְמָה זוֹ, אֶלָּא בְּקִיּוּם הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת, עַל־יְדֵי יִרְאָה תַּתָּאָה הַחִיצוֹנִית, וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמְרוּ "אִם אֵין יִרְאָה אֵין חָכְמָה".

First must come yirah tataah and the resulting performance of Torah and mitzvot; only then can one attain “wisdom”—yirah ilaah and bittul bimetziut.

The Alter Rebbe now explains that there are also two general levels in the love of G-d. The higher level is called ahavah rabbah (“great love”). It is a gift from above, granted to an individual after he has fully attained the level of yirah ilaah. This love is so lofty that one cannot hope to achieve it unaided.

The second and lower level of love is attained by contemplating G-d’s greatness. It is called ahavat olam (“eternal love” and more literally, “love of the world”), because it emanates from one’s comprehension of the world, i.e., from one’s appreciation of the G-dly life-force that animates the world.

Now, in love, too, there are two grades—ahavah rabbah and ahavat olam. Ahavah rabbah is a love of delight [and ecstasy], a love of G-d which delights in Him. There is no other desire or goal present, such as the desire to cleave to Him or to expire in one’s yearning for Him. The love itself is comprised purely of delight in Him and cleaving to Him,

וְהִנֵּה, בְּאַהֲבָה יֵשׁ גַּם כֵּן שְׁתֵּי מַדְרֵגוֹת: "אַהֲבָה רַבָּה" וְ"אַהֲבַת עוֹלָם", "אַהֲבָה רַבָּה" – הִיא "אַהֲבָה בְּתַּעֲנוּגִים",

and it is a fiery flame that rises of itself. Man does not create or kindle this love within himself; rather, it comes forth spontaneously,

וְהִיא שַׁלְהֶבֶת הָעוֹלָה מֵאֵלֶיהָ,

and it comes from above by way of a gift to he who is perfect in fear, as is known from the saying of the Rabbis, of blessed memory: “It is the way of the man to search for the woman.”11 And in spiritual terms: Love is called “man” or “male,” as it is written: “He has remembered his lovingkindness.”12

וּבָאָה מִלְמַעְלָה בִּבְחִינַת מַתָּנָה לְמִי שֶׁהוּא שָׁלֵם בְּיִרְאָה, כַּנּוֹדָע עַל מַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "דַּרְכּוֹ שֶׁל אִישׁ לְחַזֵּר אַחַר אִשָּׁה", שֶׁאַהֲבָה נִקְרֵאת "אִישׁ" וְ"זָכָר", כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "זָכַר חַסְדּוֹ",

The second letter of the verb (זָכַר) is vocalized with a patach; changing this vowel to a kamatz makes it mean “male.” Thus, love is alluded to as “male,”

while a woman [symbolizes] “fear of G-d,” as is known.

וְ"אִשָּׁה – יִרְאַת ה'", כַּנּוֹדָע;

The connection between a female and the fear of G-d is alluded to by the verse that says “a G-d-fearing woman.”13 This, then, is the spiritual meaning of the statement of the Sages, “The way of a man is to search for a woman”: the level of love (“man”) is revealed from above (“to search for”), where the level of fear (“woman”) is already present and complete.

Without the prerequisite of fear, it is impossible to attain the level of ahavah rabbah, for this love originates from the realm of Atzilut, wherein there is no sundering or separateness, G-d forbid.

וּבְלִי קְדִימַת הַיִּרְאָה, אִי אֶפְשָׁר לְהַגִּיעַ לְאַהֲבָה רַבָּה זוֹ, כִּי אַהֲבָה זוֹ הִיא מִבְּחִינַת אֲצִילוּת, דְּלֵית תַּמָּן קִיצּוּץ וּפֵירוּד חַס וְשָׁלוֹם.

In the World of Atzilut, nothing exists which is separate from G-dliness; nothing at that level feels that it exists independently of G-d, and everything in Atzilut is totally nullified to G-dliness. Understandably, the love that emanates from such a level cannot light upon one whose fear of G-d is imperfect and who still perceives himself as existing independently of Him. Complete self-abnegation is a prerequisite for this level of love.

Ahavat olam, however, the second and lower level of love, is that which comes from the understanding and knowledge of the greatness of G-d, the blessed Ein Sof, Who fills all worlds, animating them with a permeating mode of vitality, which is limited and tailored to the capacity of each creature and encompasses all worlds, animating them with a vitality which transcends them, not being limited by the worlds and created beings it animates,

אַךְ "אַהֲבַת עוֹלָם" הִיא הַבָּאָה מֵהַתְּבוּנָה וָדַעַת בִּגְדוּלַּת ה' אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, הַמְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין וְסוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין,

and before Whom everything is accounted as nothing at all, like the nullity of one utterance within the intelligent soul while it is still in its thought or in the desire of the heart, as has been explained earlier.14

וְכוּלָּא קַמֵּיהּ כְּלָא מַמָּשׁ חֲשִׁיב, וּכְבִיטּוּל דִּבּוּר אֶחָד בַּנֶּפֶשׁ הַמַּשְׂכֶּלֶת בְּעוֹדוֹ בְּמַחֲשַׁבְתָּהּ אוֹ בְּחֶמְדַּת הַלֵּב כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

As a result of such contemplation, the attribute of love, which is in the soul, will as a matter of course divest itself of its garments, which it had previously worn.

אֲשֶׁר עַל יְדֵי הִתְבּוֹנְנוּת זוֹ, מִמֵּילָא תִּתְפַּשֵּׁט מִדַּת הָאַהֲבָה שֶׁבַּנֶּפֶשׁ מִלְּבוּשֶׁיהָ,

This means to say that the individual will cease loving those things he had previously loved (this love having previously led him to vest himself in those things), and all his love will be directed to G-d alone.

I.e., it will not clothe itself in anything of pleasure or enjoyment, whether physical or spiritual, to love it and will not desire anything whatsoever in the world other than G-d alone, the Source of the vitality of all enjoyments,

דְּהַיְינוּ, שֶׁלֹּא תִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּשׁוּם דְּבַר הֲנָאָה וְתַעֲנוּג גַּשְׁמִי אוֹ רוּחָנִי לְאַהֲבָה אוֹתוֹ, וְלֹא לַחְפּוֹץ כְּלָל שׁוּם דָּבָר בָּעוֹלָם, בִּלְתִּי ה' לְבַדּוֹ – מְקוֹר הַחַיִּים שֶׁל כָּל הַתַּעֲנוּגִים,

for they are all nullified in reality and are accounted as nothing at all, compared with Him, there being no manner of comparison or similitude between them, G-d forbid—between all worldly pleasures and G-d, the “Source of the vitality” of all pleasures, just as there is no comparison between that which is absolutely naught and nothing—and everlasting life.

שֶׁכּוּלָּם בְּטֵילִים בִּמְצִיאוּת וּכְלָא מַמָּשׁ קַמֵּיהּ חֲשִׁיבֵי, וְאֵין עֲרוֹךְ וְדִמְיוֹן כְּלָל בֵּינֵיהֶם חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, כְּמוֹ שֶׁאֵין עֲרוֹךְ לְאַיִן וָאֶפֶס הַמּוּחְלָט לְגַבֵּי חַיִּים נִצְחִיִּים,

Reflecting on this matter will lead the person to desire G-d alone and not to desire any worldly pleasures at all, seeking as he will the Source of all pleasures, which is G-dliness.

As it is written, “Whom have I in Heaven [to love other than G-d]?”15 The verse goes on to say: “And there is nothing upon earth that I desire with You.”

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "מִי לִי בַשָּׁמָיִם, וְעִמְּךָ לֹא חָפַצְתִּי בָאָרֶץ,

This means to say that anything “with You”—that is subjugated and nullified to G-d—is not desired as well.

The next verse continues: “My flesh and my heart yearn for You, Rock of my heart…,” as the various levels of love a Jew may attain by contemplating G-d’s greatness will be explained later.16

כָּלָה שְׁאֵרִי וּלְבָבִי, צוּר לְבָבִי וְגוֹ'", וּכְמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר לְקַמָּן.

All the above refers to a person who has a love for worldly matters and divests himself of this love because of his contemplation of G-d’s greatness. His love will then be felt for G-d rather than for mundane things.

However, he who by nature is cold and removed from any feelings of love, whether to G-d or otherwise, cannot simply transfer his love. It is much more difficult for such a person to awaken a feeling of love for G-d. Nevertheless, the Alter Rebbe goes on to say, even he can arouse within himself a fiery love for G-d through the abovementioned contemplation.

Also he, whose soul’s attribute of love is not vested at all in any physical or spiritual enjoyment, is able to kindle his soul, as with burning coals and an intense fire and a flame that soars heavenward, by contemplating the abovementioned matters, as shall be explained later on.

וְגַם מִי שֶׁאֵין מִדַּת אַהֲבָה שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ מְלוּבֶּשֶׁת כְּלָל בְּשׁוּם תַּעֲנוּג גַּשְׁמִי אוֹ רוּחָנִי – יָכוֹל לְהַלְהִיב נַפְשׁוֹ כְּרִשְׁפֵּי אֵשׁ וְשַׁלְהֶבֶת עַזָּה וְלַהַב הָעוֹלֶה הַשָּׁמַיְמָה, עַל יְדֵי הִתְבּוֹנְנוּת הַנִּזְכֶּרֶת לְעֵיל, כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר לְקַמָּן.