In the previous chapter, the Alter Rebbe contrasted human speech and Divine speech. He pointed out that human speech is marked by two characteristics: (1) it reveals to the hearer that which was previously hidden in the speaker’s thoughts; (2) the spoken word becomes a distinct entity, separate from the speaker. Divine speech, however, cannot become separate from G-d, since nothing exists “outside” G-d. G-d’s Word, even after being “spoken” and revealed (whether in Creation or in prophecy) is thus still united with Him and nullified before Him to the same degree that a word spoken by a human being is united with the speaker before he speaks, while the word was still within its source, viz., the desire or understanding that prompted the thought that ultimately produced the spoken word.

In this chapter, the Alter Rebbe goes on to say that since, after all, the Torah does use the term “speech” with regard to Divine revelation, we must say that Divine speech contains, to some extent at least, the second characteristic of human speech as well (i.e., that it becomes separated from the speaker). He explains that this is in fact so but only with respect to the beings created by Divine “speech”—they perceive G-d’s Word that created them, and consequently also themselves, as being separate from G-d. This is specifically the case with the kelipot and the sitra achara, which represent a denial of G-d’s unity.

Yet “the Torah employs human language,”1 and in the Torah, the “Word” of G-d is actually called “speech,” like the speech of a human being, which is characterized by separation from the speaker, indicating that, in some way at least, G-d’s “Word” is also separated from Him.

רַק שֶׁהַתּוֹרָה דִּבְּרָה כִּלְשׁוֹן בְּנֵי אָדָם, וְנִקְרָא בַּתּוֹרָה דִּבּוּרוֹ שֶׁל מָקוֹם בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּשֵׁם "דִּבּוּר" מַמָּשׁ, כְּדִבּוּרוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם,

For in truth, it is so—that G-d’s Word is separated from Him, not indeed with respect to Himself but only with respect to the various creations, as will soon be explained, and this separation comes about by way of the descent and flow of the life-force to the lower planes.

לְפִי שֶׁבֶּאֱמֶת כָּךְ הוּא דֶּרֶךְ יְרִידַת וְהַמְשָׁכַת הַחַיּוּת לַתַּחְתּוֹנִים,

This descent is accomplished through many powerful contractions, with each successive contraction increasingly veiling the Divine life-force, and these contractions are of various kinds in order that many diverse creatures may be created through them.

בְּצִמְצוּמִים רַבִּים וַעֲצוּמִים, מִינִים מִמִּינִים שׁוֹנִים, לְהִבָּרְאוֹת מֵהֶם בְּרוּאִים רַבִּים, מִינִים מִמִּינִים שׁוֹנִים,

Thus, the diversity found in creation stems from the diverse contractions of the creative power.

Indeed, so great and powerful are the contractions and the concealment of the “supernal countenance,” i.e., the inner, deeper aspect of the Divine life-force is so heavily veiled,

וְכָל כָּךְ גָּבְרוּ וְעָצְמוּ הַצִּמְצוּמִים וְהֶסְתֵּר פָּנִים הָעֶלְיוֹנִים,

that even unclean things, and kelipot and the sitra achara, can come into being and be created.

עַד שֶׁיּוּכְלוּ לְהִתְהַוּוֹת וּלְהִבָּרְאוֹת גַּם דְּבָרִים טְמֵאִים וּקְלִיפּוֹת וְסִטְרָא אָחֳרָא,

No amount of contractions could give rise to kelipot. Even at its lowest level, the Divine life-force would not ordinarily produce creations that deny G-d. It is the quality and intensity of the tzimtzumim, rather than their numerousness, that permits the kelipot to come into being,

and receive their life and existence from the Divine Word and the breath of His mouth through the concealment of His Countenance and through the downward gradations.

וּלְקַבֵּל חַיּוּתָם וְקִיּוּמָם מִדְּבַר ה' וְרוּחַ פִּיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ בְּהֶסְתֵּר פָּנִים וִירִידַת הַמַּדְרֵגוֹת.

For this reason, the kelipot are called אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים—“other gods,” for their nurture and vitality which they draw from the realm of holiness—since every existing being draws its life-force from holiness—does not derive from the “Countenance,” i.e., the inner aspect of the Divine will, but from the אֲחוֹרַיִים—the “hinder-part” of holiness, i.e., the external, superficial aspect of the Divine will.2

וְלָכֵן נִקְרָאִים "אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים", מִפְּנֵי שֶׁיְּנִיקָתָם וְחַיּוּתָם אֵינָהּ מִבְּחִינַת "פָּנִים" אֶלָּא מִבְּחִינַת "אֲחוֹרַיִים" דִּקְדוּשָּׁה;

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain the terms “Countenance” and “hinder-part” as relating to the Divine will. The explanation in brief: An “inner” will is a direct, pleasurable yearning for the object of one’s desire. An “external” will is one that is, as it were, “forced,” i.e., the object is desired only as a means to an end—the fulfillment of the “inner” will—and not as an end in itself.

The meaning of “hinder-part” is exemplified in the act of a person who gives something unwillingly to his enemy with an ulterior motive; he throws the object to him over his shoulder, while he turns his face away from him, out of his hatred for him.

וּפֵירוּשׁ "אֲחוֹרַיִים", כְּאָדָם הַנּוֹתֵן דָּבָר לְשׂוֹנְאוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בִרְצוֹנוֹ, שֶׁמַּשְׁלִיכוֹ לוֹ כִּלְאַחַר כְּתֵפוֹ, כִּי מַחֲזִיר פָּנָיו מִמֶּנּוּ מִשִּׂנְאָתוֹ אוֹתוֹ;

One’s bodily actions express the feelings of his soul. Thus, when the act of giving is motivated by an external will, the giver turns away his face, which is where the inner facets of one’s soul express themselves.

So, too, on high, the term “Countenance” represents the inner quality of the supernal will and its true desire3, namely, the desire of G-d to dispense life to all who belong to the realm of holiness, who are close to Him.

כָּךְ לְמַעְלָה, בְּחִינַת "פָּנִים" – הוּא פְּנִימִית הָרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן וְחֶפְצוֹ הָאֲמִיתִּי אֲשֶׁר חָפֵץ ה' לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ חַיּוּת לְכָל הַקָּרוֹב אֵלָיו מִסִּטְרָא דִקְדוּשָּׁה;

But the sitra achara, and so, too, unholiness, is “an abomination before G-d, which He hates.”4

אֲבָל הַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא וְהַטּוּמְאָה – הִיא תּוֹעֲבַת ה' אֲשֶׁר שָׂנֵא,

He does not give it life from His inner will and true desire as if He delighted in it, Heaven forbid,

וְאֵינוֹ מַשְׁפִּיעַ לָהּ חַיּוּת מִפְּנִימִית הָרָצוֹן וְחֶפְצוֹ הָאֲמִיתִּי אֲשֶׁר חָפֵץ בָּהּ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

but in the manner of one who unwillingly throws something over his shoulder to his enemy. This He does not out of His inner will

כִּי אִם, כְּמַאן דְּשָׁדֵי בָּתַר כַּתְפוֹי לְשׂוֹנְאוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בִרְצוֹנוֹ,

but merely to punish the wicked, who subjugate themselves to the kelipot and derive their power from them, and to grant a rich reward to the righteous, who subdue the sitra achara.

רַק כְּדֵי לְהַעֲנִישׁ אֶת הָרְשָׁעִים, וְלִיתֵּן שָׂכָר טוֹב לַצַּדִּיקִים דְּאַכְפָּיָין לְסִטְרָא אָחֳרָא;

In order that there may be freedom of choice for one to be either righteous or wicked, the existence of the sitra achara is necessary, and for this reason, G-d gives it life.

This is called the “hinder-part” of the supernal will.

וְזֶה נִקְרָא בְּחִינַת "אֲחוֹרַיִים" דְּרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן בָּרוּךְ־הוּא.

Thus, we see that the kelipot are designated אלקים אחרים—“other gods,” because they derive from אחוריים, the “hinder-part” of the Divine will.