The Alter Rebbe will now explain that since this love of G-d is such that the soul is on the verge of expiring, it cannot inspire one directly to serve G-d through Torah and mitzvot.

The order of one’s divine service through occupation with Torah study and mitzvot, a service deriving from this intense love, is possible only in a manner of retreat, i.e., when the soul withholds itself from expiring in order to fulfill the Divine intent, which can only be realized when the soul remains within the body.

וְהִנֵּה, סֵדֶר הָעֲבוֹדָה בְּעֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת הַנִּמְשֶׁכֶת מִבְּחִינַת אַהֲבָה עַזָּה זוֹ, הִיא בִּבְחִינַת "שׁוֹב" לְבַד,

As it is written in Sefer Yetzirah: “If your heart hastens, return to One.” “If your heart hastens” refers to the craving of the soul that is in the right side of the heart (the abode of the Divine soul), when this craving predominates and bursts into flame and glows in such rapture that the soul is consumed with a desire (kelot hanefesh) to pour itself out into the embrace of its Father, its Source, Who gives one life,

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּסֵפֶר יְצִירָה: "וְאִם רָץ לִבְּךָ – שׁוּב לְאֶחָד", פֵּירוּשׁ "וְאִם רָץ לִבְּךָ" – הִיא תְּשׁוּקַת הַנֶּפֶשׁ שֶׁבַּלֵּב בֶּחָלָל הַיְמָנִי, כְּשֶׁמִּתְגַּבֶּרֶת וּמִתְלַהֶבֶת וּמִתְלַהֶטֶת בִּמְאֹד מְאֹד עַד כְּלוֹת הַנֶּפֶשׁ מַמָּשׁ, לְהִשְׁתַּפֵּךְ אֶל חֵיק אָבִיהָ חַיֵּי הַחַיִּים בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

and to leave its confinement in the corporeal and physical body to attach itself to Him, blessed be He.

וְלָצֵאת מִמַּאֲסָרָהּ בַּגּוּף הַגּוּפָנִי וְגַשְׁמִי לְדָבְקָה בּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ –

When one is consumed with such an incontainable, rapturous love, seeking even at the cost of self-extinction to become attached to G-d, there must now be a deliberate “return to the One.”

Then one must take to heart the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory: “Despite yourself, you must live”18despite your craving for expiry in kelot hanefesh, you must nevertheless remain alive,

אֲזַי, זֹאת יָשִׁיב אֶל לִבּוֹ: מַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה, כִּי "עַל כָּרְחָךְ אַתָּה חַי"

in this body, to keep it alive, for the purpose of drawing down the higher life-force from the Life of life, blessed be He, through the life-giving Torah.

בַּגּוּף הַזֶּה לְהַחֲיוֹתוֹ, כְּדֵי לְהַמְשִׁיךְ חַיִּים עֶלְיוֹנִים מֵחַיֵּי הַחַיִּים בָּרוּךְ־הוּא לְמַטָּה, עַל יְדֵי תּוֹרַת חַיִּים,

Through this, there will be a dwelling place in the lower worlds and created beings for His blessed Oneness in a revealed state,

לִהְיוֹת דִּירָה בַּתַּחְתּוֹנִים לְאַחְדּוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ בִּבְחִינַת גִּילּוּי,

Just as in an ordinary dwelling, a person’s identity is totally revealed, so will the true essence of the Divine Oneness be then revealed among the beings of this lower world.

as explained above, that this is the ultimate Divine intent—that a human being’s service of G-d should make of the world a dwelling place for Him. And this is the meaning of “Return to the One”: retreat from your love of G-d in a state of kelot hanefesh for the sake of the “One,” for the sake of revealing G-d’s Oneness in the world.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר לְעֵיל,

And, as is explained in the holy Zohar: “That there be One in one,” meaning that the unity which is hidden—the “One” of a higher spiritual world or level—shall become an aspect of the “revealed world,” becoming manifest in the Oneness of a lower world or level.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזֹּהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ: "לְמֶהֱוֵי אֶחָד בְּאֶחָד", פֵּירוּשׁ, שֶׁהַיִּחוּד הַנֶּעְלָם יִהְיֶה בִּבְחִינַת "עָלְמָא דְאִתְגַּלְיָא".

And this is the meaning of the text: “Come, my Beloved, to meet the bride (kallah)”19—denoting kelot hanefesh (kallah and kelot being etymologically related). In this form of the love of G-d, one’s kelot hanefesh should be expressed through causing “my Beloved” to “come”—i.e., through drawing down the Beloved One, G-d Himself, so that G-dliness will be revealed in this nether world.

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאוֹמְרִים: "לְכָה דוֹדִי וְכוּ'".

With this one we will be able to understand the saying of our Sages, of blessed memory: “Despite yourself, even against your will, you must live, and despite yourself, you must die.”

וּבָזֶה יוּבַן מַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "עַל כָּרְחָךְ אַתָּה חַי, וְעַל כָּרְחָךְ וכוּ'",

From this saying, “Despite yourself, you must live,” we learn that, in our service of G-d, we should in the first instance desire the opposite of staying alive (kelot hanefesh) and that remaining alive within the body has to be perforce, against our will. On the other hand, from the second saying, “Despite yourself, you must die,” we learn that we should desire to remain alive and that the opposite of life, kelot hanefesh, should be against our will. If so, the question arises:

What then should one’s desire be?

וְאֶלָּא אֵיךְ יִהְיֶה רְצוֹנוֹ?

We can understand this according to what has been explained above: First, one must come to the point where one can arouse within oneself such an intense love of G-d that one desires kelot hanefesh, while remaining alive is “despite oneself”—only for the purpose of fulfilling G-d’s will that one reveal G-dliness and His Oneness in the world. This is the meaning of “Despite yourself, you must live.”

Afterward, though, when one is already in a state of “retreat,” then one should once more arouse within oneself the love of G-d that surges ever forward in kelot hanefesh. In this way, one injects into this state of “retreat” into the world a higher spiritual quality. Furthermore, in this state of withdrawing back into the world, one can possibly become drawn down into lowly mundane affairs. To forestall this possibility, one should once more arouse within oneself the sensation of “running forward,” loving G-d to the extent of kelot hanefesh. This is the meaning of “Despite yourself, you must die”—i.e., against your will, which is now in a state of “retreat,” the very opposite of kelot hanefesh, which denotes expiring and leaving the body.

[This is] explained elsewhere at length with reference to this Mishnah: “Despite yourself, you must live”—with the help of the “Life of life,” blessed be He, Who enables one to cope with this “compulsion” to live “despite yourself.”

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר בַּאֲרִיכוּת עַל מִשְׁנָה זוֹ – "עַל כָּרְחָךְ אַתָּה חַי", בְּעֶזְרַת חַיֵּי הַחַיִּים בָּרוּךְ־הוּא:

This means that when one’s love of G-d is surging forward in kelot hanefesh, one forces oneself against one’s will to remain “alive” within the body in order to reveal down here in this world the “Life of life,” that divine force which gives life to the world.20