אך הנה ידוע ליודעים טעמא דקרא, מאי דכתיב: כי שבע יפול צדיק וקם

Now, those who are familiar with the esoteric meaning of Scripture know the meaning of the verse,1 “For a tzaddik may fall seven times, and yet rises again.”

Even a tzaddik can (as it were) fall from his level and then regain his stature. There thus exists a certain interval of time during which he does not maintain his higher level of love for G‑d.

ובפרט שהאדם נקרא מהלך, ולא עומד

Especially so, since the conditions of spiritual service dictate that at given times he will not maintain his level, for man is called “mobile” and not “static”,

This phrase not only means that man is obliged to be ever reaching for ever greater heights; it means, moreover, that his newly-attained level is infinitely more elevated than his previous level.

When one is constantly on the same level, or even when one advances in finite stages from one comparable level to the next, there is no need to abandon one’s former level before establishing one’s foothold on the next; on the contrary, one’s former position may well help one to take the next step upward. When one is truly mobile, however, climbing from one level to an infinitely higher one, his previous level — which is finite compared to the level he is about to attain — actually hinders his progress. Indeed, if he aspires to mature to a more exalted spiritual mindset, he must first purge himself of his previous one.2

וצריך לילך ממדרגה למדרגה, ולא לעמוד במדרגה אחת לעולם

and must therefore advance from one level to another infinitely higher level, and not remain forever at one level.

For if his new level is merely within range of the first, he is essentially fixated at the same level.

ובין מדרגה למדרגה, טרם שיגיע למדרגה עליונה ממנה, הוא בבחינת נפילה ממדרגתו הראשונה

Between one level and the next, before he can reach the higher one, he is in a state of decline from his previous level, and thus he lacks the superior level of love in which he is accustomed to delight.

אך: כי יפול לא יוטל, כתיב

Yet, it is written,3 “Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down” from his spiritual service and from his love for G‑d.

ואינה נקראת נפילה אלא לגבי מדריגתו הראשונה, ולא לגבי שאר כל אדם, חס ושלום

This is considered a decline only relative to his former state, and not (G‑d forbid) relative to all other men; he is most assuredly loftier than those who have not attained the level of tzaddik,

שאף על פי כן הוא למעלה מכל האדם בעבודתו, כי נשאר בה בחינת רשימו ממדריגתו הראשונה

for notwithstanding his fall he still surpasses them in his divine service, inasmuch as it retains an impression of his former level.

אך עיקרה: מאהבה שנתחנך והורגל בה מנעוריו, בטרם שהגיע למדרגת צדיק

For the mainstay of his service while he is in this fallen state is the love of G‑d in which he had been educated and trained from his youth, before he attained the level of tzaddik, with its higher reaches in the love of G‑d.

Just as then his love of G‑d was born of contemplation, so too now, this lower level of love is the root of his divine service.

וזהו שכתוב: גם כי יזקין וגו׳

This, then, is what is meant by saying that “even as he grows old [he will not depart from it],” from the path of his youth.

Not “when he is old” but “as he grows old.” This implies an ongoing, lifelong climb from level to level. Yet even when he has risen to the dizziest heights of love for G‑d, he will yet have occasion to revert to the path of his youth — to the lower, more measured level of love that is born of meditation.

* * *

והנה ראשית הדברים המעוררים האהבה והיראה, ויסודן, היא האמונה הטהורה ונאמנה ביחודו ואחדותו, יתברך ויתעלה

First among the factors that arouse love and fear, and their foundation, is a pure and faithful belief in the Unity and Oneness of G‑d, may He be blessed and exalted. (“Oneness” here means that all of creation is united with G‑d and utterly nullified to Him.)

That is to say, pure faith in G‑d’s Unity is the starting-point and foundation of one’s meditation on yichuda ila‘ah (“higher-level Unity”) and yichuda tata’ah (“lower-level Unity”), and this meditation in turn leads to the love and fear of Him.

There are truths that transcend intellect and that can be perceived only through faith. At the same time, utilizing faith for something that can be comprehended is making use of the wrong faculty: intellect must grasp that which is within the reach of intellect, and faith must be used to apprehend that which transcends intellect. When within belief there is a mingling of the rational and the superrational — when truths that are accessible to comprehension are confused with things that defy comprehension — such belief is not “pure”, for pure belief deals only with that which transcends rationality. It is only when one utilizes his intellect to comprehend all that is subject to comprehension and his power of faith is then utilized solely for that which defies intellect, that such faith can then be deemed “pure faith.”

Since both categories are represented in the subject of G‑d’s Unity and Oneness, it becomes necessary to explain those aspects of the subject that are capable of being comprehended so that one’s faith will be “pure” — relating only to those matters that entirely transcend comprehension.