וכשעוסק שלא לשמה ממש, לשום איזו פניה לכבוד עצמו

However, when one engages in divine service explicitly not lishmah but for an ulterior motive of self-glorification,

כגון להיות תלמיד חכם וכהאי גוונא

as, for example, in order to become a scholar, and the like,

אזי אותה פניה, שמצד הקליפה דנוגה, מתלבשת בתורתו

then this motive, which is derived from kelipat nogah, clothes itself in his Torah study,

והתורה היא בבחינת גלות בתוך הקליפה

and the Torah studied for this motive is in a state of exile within the kelipah;

לפי שעה, עד אשר יעשה תשובה, שמביאה רפואה לעולם

but only temporarily, until he repents, since1 “Repentance brings healing to the world.”

שבשובו אל ה׳, גם תורתו שבה עמו

For when he returns to G‑d, his Torah returns with him from kelipah to holiness.

ולכן אמרו רז״ל: לעולם יעסוק אדם וכו׳ שמתוך שלא לשמה בא לשמה בודאי

Therefore our Rabbis, of blessed memory, said,2 “One should always engage [in Torah and mitzvot, even shelo lishmah], for out of shelo lishmah he will certainly arrive at [study and observance] lishmah,

שבודאי סופו לעשות תשובה, בגלגול זה או בגלגול אחר

since it is certain that he will ultimately repent, whether in this incarnation or another,

כי לא ידח ממנו נדח

because3 “No one banished from Him by his sins will remain banished,” but will ultimately repent.

The Alter Rebbe thus perceives two novel insights in the statement that one should always engage in Torah and mitzvot even shelo lishmah, etc.

(a) Progress from shelo lishmah to lishmah is a certainty, not a possibility, since every sinner will ultimately repent (— and the Alter Rebbe therefore adds the word “certainly” to the quotation);

(b) Not only will the person advance from the state of shelo lishmah to lishmah, but even the Torah that he studied shelo lishmah will be elevated, so that it attains the quality of lishmah; for when one repents and returns to G‑d, his Torah “returns” with him.

The aforesaid applies to one who engages in divine service for an ulterior motive, strictly shelo lishmah.

אך כשעושה סתם לא לשמה, ולא שלא לשמה, אין הדבר תלוי בתשובה

But if one acts neutrally, neither lishmah nor shelo lishmah, then the matter is not contingent on repentance.

אלא מיד שחוזר ולומד דבר זה לשמה, הרי גם מה שלמד בסתם מתחבר ומצטרף ללימוד זה, ופרחא לעילא

Rather, as soon as he reviews the subject lishmah, then even that which he had studied neutrally soars on high, attaching itself to and joining his present study,

מאחר שלא נתלבש בו עדיין שום קליפה דנוגה

since no kelipat nogah had yet clothed itself in [his previous study].

Because his earlier study was not motivated by selfish reasons, the Torah studied is not in exile within the kelipah; it merely lacks the quality of lishmah. This fault is remedied by reviewing the subject lishmah.

ולכן לעולם יעסוק אדם כו׳

Therefore, “A man should always occupy himself [with Torah...even shelo lishmah, for out of shelo lishmah he will come to lishmah”] — the Torah that he studied will itself be elevated to the level of lishmah. In this case, the lishmah “comes” automatically when one reviews his studies; it is not contingent on repentance (as it is in the case of Torah studied for personal motives).

וכן הענין בתפלה שלא בכוונה, כמו שכתוב בזהר

The same is true of prayer without kavanah, as discussed in the Zohar.4

When one recites the prayer once again, this time with kavanah, his earlier prayer ascends as well. Further in Tanya, the Alter Rebbe states that even if from all one’s prayers throughout the year, only one full prayer with kavanah can be assembled piecemeal (from one part of prayer said with kavanah one day, another part on another day, and so on), this one prayer is sufficient to elevate all the prayers of the entire year. For even where specific kavanah is lacking, the prayer is endowed with the comprehensive kavanah that one is praying to G‑d.