ומה שאין כל אדם זוכה למדרגה זו, לעבודה שבלב מעומקא דליבא בבחינת פנימיות

The reason that not every person merits this rank in the service of the heart — service from the depth of the heart in a state of pnimiyut

היינו לפי שבחינה זו היא אצלו בבחינת גלות ושביה

is that within him this faculty is in a state of exile and captivity.

והיא בחינת גלות השכינה ממש

And this is actually the state of the exile of the Shechinah,

כי היא היא בחינת ניצוץ האלקות שבנפשו האלקית

for it is precisely the [Shechinah] which is the spark of Divinity that is in one’s Divine soul.

Thus, when the “spark” is in exile, the Shechinah is in exile as well. Moreover, being in exile, the spark cannot rouse the soul to serve G‑d with the loftier manner of love that stems from the innermost depths of the heart.

וסבת הגלות הוא מאמר רז״ל: גלו לבבל, שכינה עמהם

The cause of the exile of the Divine spark of the soul is,1 as in the words of our Sages, of blessed memory:2 “When [the Jewish people] were exiled to Babylon, the Shechinah went with them.”

In terms of the individual sparks of the soul this means that when a spark is in a state of “Babylon” — i.e., when an individual acts in a “Babylonian” manner — then the Shechinah is in exile together with him.

דהיינו, מפני שהלביש בחינת פנימית נקודת לבבו בזה לעומת זה

This is so because he has vested the innermost point of his heart in [that aspect of the universe which is] the opposing counterpart [to holiness],

דהיינו, בלבושים צואים דמילי דעלמא ותאות עולם הזה, הנקרא בשם בבל

namely, in the soiled garments — mundane matters and worldly desires — which are known as “Babylon”.

He has thereby banished the Divine spark within his soul — the personal Shechinah within himself, so to speak — to this all-pervasive “Babylon”.

והיא בחינת ערלה המכסה על הברית ונקודה הפנימית שבלב

This [exile] corresponds to the “foreskin” that covers the covenant and the innermost point of the heart.

ועל זה נאמר: ומלתם את ערלת לבבכם

Of this it is written,3 “And you shall excise the foreskin of your heart.”

In principle, the spiritual service of circumcision is that of repentance.4 With regard to exile our Sages teach that5 “if Israel repent they will be immediately redeemed.” Repentance thus leads to the redemption (on a personal scale) of the Divine spark within each individual soul, and (on a cosmic scale) of the Shechinah, from their respective exiles. In spiritual terms, the act of circumcision likewise removes a veil of concealment, and allows the innermost point of the heart to be revealed.

והנה במילה יש שני בחינות: מילה ופריעה

Now, in circumcision there are two stages: milah (“excision”) and periah (“uncovering”),

שהן ערלה גסה וקליפה דקה

[which remove respectively] the coarse foreskin and the thin membrane.

וכן בערלת הלב יש גם כן תאות גסות ודקות

With respect to the “foreskin” of the heart, which the Torah commands us similarly to circumcise, there are likewise coarse and subtle desires, corresponding to the two grades of skin.

מילה ופריעה

[These two grades of worldly desire respectively require] milah and periah,

ומל ולא פרע כאלו לא מל

and6 “if one performed milah (‘circumcision’) without periah (‘uncovering’), it is as if he had not circumcised,”

Just as this is the law with regard to actual circumcision, so too is it true when it comes to circumcising the desires of the heart: if a person removes only his coarse desires and does not proceed to remove the subtler ones as well, it is as if he had not circumcised his heart at all,

מפני שסוף סוף עדיין נקודת פנימית הלב היא מכוסה בלבוש שק דק

because, after all is said and done, the innermost point of the heart is still covered by a garment of thin sackcloth [of kelipah];

בבחינת גלות ושביה

it is in a state of exile and captivity.

And there it will remain — until the individual redeems it by performing a spiritual periah, and removing his subtler desires as well.

והנה על מילת הערלה ממש, כתיב: ומלתם את ערלת לבבכם, אתם בעצמכם

Now, concerning the excision of the foreskin itself it is written: “And you — yourselves — shall excise the foreskin of your heart.”

Each and every Jew is able to remove this himself, for repentance tears down the veil with which his desires obscure the innermost point of his heart.

אך להסיר הקליפה הדקה, זהו דבר הקשה על האדם

But the removal of the thin membrane is a difficult matter for man,

ועל זה נאמר בביאת המשיח: ומל ה׳ אלקיך את לבבך גו׳, לאהבה את ה׳ אלקיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך למען חייך

and of this it is written7 that with the coming of Mashiach, “The L‑rd your G‑d will circumcise your heart, to love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart and all your soul, for the sake of your life,”

כלומר, למען כי ה׳ לבדו הוא כל חייך ממש

because G‑d alone is literally your whole life.

In this state, the individual’s love of G‑d will not be a mere manifestation of his soul, but a love that constitutes his very life. And just as a person does not regard his life as being something apart from himself, so too will this love not be sensed as a distinct entity, but as an intrinsic component of himself.

שלכן אהבה זו היא מעומקא דליבא, מנקודה פנימית ממש כנ״ל, ולמעלה מבחינת הדעת

That is why this love, the love that follows the Divine excision of the heart’s thin membrane, stems from the depth of the heart, from the truly innermost point, as mentioned above, and transcends the faculty of Daat.

ולכן משיח בא בהיסח הדעת לכללות ישראל

Therefore, too, Mashiach will come when Israel in general are8 “caught unawares.”

והיא גילוי בחינת נקודה פנימית הכללית

[His coming] is the manifestation of the innermost point which is universal [to all Jews],

ויציאת השכינה הכללית מהגלות והשביה, לעד ולעולמי עולמים

and [likewise] the emergence of the universal Shechinah [of the entire community of Israel] from exile and captivity forever more.

Just as each individual’s Divine spark — his personal Shechinah, so to speak — is redeemed from captivity through means that transcend reason and Daat, in such a manner too will the universal Shechinah, and with it the entire House of Israel, be redeemed.

Thus, the ultimate circumcision of the heart, and in its wake the ultimate manifestation of the love of G‑d, will take place when Mashiach comes. Nevertheless, it is possible even now to liberate one’s personal Shechinah — one’s Divine spark — at least on a temporary basis, during the time of prayer. This the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say.

וכן כל ניצוץ פרטי מהשכינה שבנפש כל אחד מישראל

Similarly, every particular spark of the Shechinah, inherent in the soul of every individual Jew,

יוצאת מהגלות והשביה לפי שעה

emerges for the moment from exile and captivity

בחיי שעה, זו תפלה

during that9 “momentary life which is prayer” —

ועבודה שבלב מעומקא דלבא

during the service of his heart, from the depth of his heart,

מבחינת נקודה הפנימית הנגלית מהערלה

from the innermost point which becomes divested of the [concealing] “foreskin”—

ועולה למעלה לדבקה בו בתשוקה עזה

and soars upwards to cleave to Him with a fierce passion,

בבחינת למען חייך

in the spirit of the phrase, “for the sake of your life,” for the individual senses that G‑dliness is his entire life.

והוא גם כן בבחינת היסח דעת האדם

And [in] this, too — in this momentary deliverance of the innermost point of the heart during the service of prayer — a man may be considered to be in a state of hessech daat, “unaware” or “absentminded”, so to speak,

כי בחינה זו היא למעלה מדעת האדם והתבוננותו בגדולת ה׳

for this state, the state in which the Divine spark within man, his personal Shechinah, is momentarily revealed, transcends the Daat of man and his meditation on the greatness of G‑d.

רק היא בחינת מתנה נתונה מאת ה׳ מן השמים

Rather, it is a kind of gift granted by G‑d from heaven

מהארת בחינת פנים העליונים

from the radiation of the Supernal Countenance,

שכתוב: יאר ה׳ פניו אליך

as it is written,10 “May G‑d make His countenance shine upon you,”

וכמו שכתוב: ומל ה׳ אלקיך גו׳

and as it is written, “And the L‑rd, your G‑d, will circumcise i.e., remove the insensitivity of [your heart]” — and this is a state which exists even now on a temporary basis.