The Alter Rebbe now concludes what he began to elucidate (in ch. 51) concerning the statement of the Yenuka in the Zohar — that the light of the Shechinah which shines above the head of a person needs oil. The Yenuka concludes, “...and these are good deeds” — the oil is the performance of the mitzvot.

In chassidic literature, however, oil traditionally refers to wisdom. What is the connection between the performance of mitzvot — and wisdom, which is called oil?

The Alter Rebbe explains that the light of the Shechinah must garb itself in wisdom, which is oil. For (as previously explained) wisdom, or intellect, is the vessel and “garment” for the light of the Shechinah, which is — Chochmah as it is garbed in Torah.

Yet, in order to draw down the light of the Shechinah so that it will shine upon the divine soul of the Jew, more than oil is necessary; one must also have a wick. Oil is transformed into light through the medium of a wick. It is the wick, which itself is burned, which keeps the fire from being extinguished.

In spiritual terms the wick refers to the vivifying soul which provides the person with physical life. This wick is burned through Torah and mitzvot. Just as the physical wick burns and is annihilated by the fire, so do the garments of thought, speech and action of the vivifying soul become burned in the light of the Shechinah through the Torah and mitzvot which a Jew studies and performs.

It is for this reason that the oil must also consist of “good deeds,” mitzvot, which have their source in G‑d’s wisdom; Torah alone (even though it is itself wisdom) does not suffice. For only through the action required by the mitzvot will the light of the Shechinah be drawn down into the wick — the vivifying soul. This is accomplished when the vivifying soul is burned thoroughly in the light of the Shechinah which shines on one’s head.

וזהו שאמר הינוקא, דנהורא עילאה דאדליק על רישיה, היא שכינתא, איצטריך למשחא

And this is what the Yenuka in Zohar, quoted in ch. 35, meant when he said that “the Supernal light that is kindled on his (the Jew’s) head, namely, the Shechinah, requires oil,”

פירוש: להתלבש בחכמה, הנקראת שמן משחת קדש, כמו שכתוב בזהר

that is, to be clothed in wisdom, which is called “the oil of the holy anointing” — and “holy” signifies Chochmah, or wisdom, as is explained in the Zohar,

Thus, the light of the Shechinah which is upon one’s head is in need of oil, i.e., it must be garbed in Chochmah, for that is the vessel for the light of the Shechinah. The Zohar then quotes the conclusion of the statement of the Yenuka:

ואינון עובדין טבין, הן תרי״ג מצות, הנמשכות מחכמתו יתברך

“and these are the good deeds,” namely, the 613 commandments, which derive from His wisdom.

Torah, which is itself oil, does not suffice; there must also be good deeds — the performance of the mitzvot, although they are only drawn down from wisdom.

כדי לאחוז אור השכינה בפתילה, היא נפש החיונית שבגוף, הנקראת פתילה על דרך משל, כי כמו שבנר הגשמי האור מאיר על ידי כליון ושריפת הפתילה הנהפכת לאש, כך אור השכינה שורה על נפש האלקית

Thereby the light of the Shechinah can cling to the wick, i.e., the vivifying soul in the body, which is metaphorically called a “wick”. For just as in the case of a material candle, the light shines by virtue of the annihilation and burning of the wick turning to fire, so does the light of the Shechinah rest on the divine soul, which is the candle (“The soul of man is the candle of the L‑rd”),

על ידי כליון נפש הבהמית והתהפכותה מחשוכא לנהורא וממרירו למתקא, בצדיקים

as a result of the annihilation of the animal soul and its transformation from darkness of kelipah to light of holiness, and from bitterness of kelipat nogah to sweetness of holiness, in the case of the righteous — for tzaddikim (as mentioned in ch. 10) are those who transform the essence of the animal soul, its intellect and emotion, from evil into goodness and holiness,

או לפחות על ידי כליון לבושיה, שהן מחשבה דבור ומעשה

or at least through the destruction of its garments, which are thought, speech and action — which previously were garments of the vivifying soul, which is a soul of kelipah,

והתהפכותן מחשך הקליפות לאור ה׳ אין סוף ברוך הוא, המלובש ומיוחד במחשבה דבור ומעשה של תרי״ג מצות התורה, בבינונים

and their transformation from the darkness of the kelipot to the Divine light of the Ein Sof, which is clothed and united in the thought, speech and action of the 613 commandments of the Torah, in the case of the Beinonim.

Beinonim, as explained in ch. 12, do not transform the essence of the vivifying soul into goodness and holiness. Only the soul-garments of thought, speech and action are transformed to goodness through being utilized for the thought, speech and action of the Torah and the mitzvot. In this sense the wick of the vivifying soul is annihilated, and is transformed into the light of holiness.

כי על ידי התהפכות נפש הבהמית, הבאה מקליפת נוגה, מחשוכא לנהורא וכו׳, נעשה בחינת העלאת מ״ן

For as a result of the transformation of the animal soul, originating from kelipat nogah, from the darkness of kelipot, to the light of holiness, and so forth, there is brought about the so-called “ascent of the feminine waters” — the spiritual awakening on the initiative of the recipient, which in turn causes an arousal Above,

להמשיך אור השכינה, היא בחינת גילוי אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, על נפשו האלקית שבמוחין שבראשו

to draw down the light of the Shechinah (not only like the oil of Chochmah and Torah which is but a vessel for receiving the light of the Shechinah, but actually drawing down the light of the Shechinah), i.e., revealed light of the Ein Sof, over one’s divine soul principally dwelling in the brain of the head.

This is why the Yenuka says, “The Supernal light that is kindled over one’s head requires oil,” for the light that is over one’s head and “intelligence” is in need of the oil of the “good deeds.”

ובזה יובן היטב מה שכתוב: כי ה׳ אלקיך אש אוכלה הוא

Thereby one may clearly understand the text,1 “For the L‑rd Your G‑d is a consuming fire,”

Just as fire can only catch on an object when that object is being consumed by it, so, too, regarding the light of the Shechinah. In order for G‑d to become “your G‑d,” illuminating the Jew’s soul, there must be consumption by fire — burning and annihilating the wick of the vivifying soul, so that this soul of kelipah be transformed into the fire of holiness.

וכמו שנתבאר במקום אחר

as is explained elsewhere2 — that only when a Jew succeeds in nullifying himself to G‑d in a manner where he ceases to exist as an independent entity, and is consumed in the flames of G‑dliness, — only then will he draw down upon himself the light of the Shechinah.

נשלם חלק ראשון בעזרת ה׳ יתברך ויתעלה