The central point of the above discussion was that through the occurrence of evil thoughts in one’s mind and through one’s battle against them, the sitra achara is subdued, causing great pleasure above.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that this subjugation of the sitra achara and the consequent Divine pleasure are brought about not only by one’s struggle against the sitra achara when it attempts to lead one to sin (as in our case, where the lack of a struggle against evil thoughts, and the continued meditation on them, would constitute a sin). Rather, one produces the same effect by struggling with one’s nature in abstaining from permitted matters. For as explained in ch. 6, any permitted action done without the specific intention of leading one to the serving of G-d (as, for example, eating in order to obtain strength for Torah study or performing the mitzvot) derives its vitality from the sitra achara. (This term simply means “the other side,” i.e., the absence of holiness.) Only an action so directed can draw its vitality from the realm of holiness. Therefore, whenever one refrains from doing even a permissible act (in which this intention is lacking) in order to subdue the sitra achara, he gives rise to Divine pleasure.

Furthermore, not only by fighting his evil thoughts does one subdue the sitra achara, but even in matters that are fully permissible,

וְלֹא עוֹד, אֶלָּא אֲפִילוּ בִּדְבָרִים הַמּוּתָּרִים לְגַמְרֵי,

every act of sacrificing one’s impulse, even if only for a short while, i.e., if he delays partaking of even the permissible and essential with the intention of subduing the sitra achara in the left part of his heart, achieves this end.

כָּל מַה שֶּׁהָאָדָם זוֹבֵחַ יִצְרוֹ אֲפִילוּ שָׁעָה קַלָּה, וּמִתְכַּוֵין לְאַכֽפָּיָא לְסִטְרָא אָחֳרָא שֶׁבֶּחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי,

For example: when he wants to eat but delays his meal for an hour or less,

כְּגוֹן שֶׁחָפֵץ לֶאֱכוֹל, וּמְאַחֵר סְעוּדָּתוֹ עַד לְאַחַר שָׁעָה אוֹ פָּחוֹת,

and during that time, he studies Torah.

וְעוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה בְּאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה,

For if he occupies himself with other physical matters, he does not subdue the sitra achara by postponing his meal, since he is in any case indulging his animal soul, but if he studies Torah during that time, then even when the delay of his meal does not gain him any time for Torah study, for he would have studied Torah regardless (as will soon be stated), and despite the fact that he eventually does eat, yet he subdues the sitra achara by the mere effort of postponing his meal, and thereby, he brings about the Divine pleasure caused by every subjugation of the sitra achara.

As the Gemara states: “The fourth hour [of the day] is when all men eat, but the sixth hour is the mealtime for scholars,”8

כִּדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא: "שָׁעָה רְבִיעִית מַאֲכַל כָּל אָדָם, שָׁעָה שִׁשִּׁית מַאֲכַל תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים",

because they would go hungry for two hours with this intention,

וְהָיוּ מַרְעִיבִים עַצְמָם שְׁתֵּי שָׁעוֹת לְכַוָּונָה זוֹ,

although even after the meal, they would study all day.

אַף שֶׁגַּם אַחַר הַסְּעוּדָּה הָיוּ לוֹמְדִים כָּל הַיּוֹם.

Similarly, if one restrains his mouth from saying things which he greatly desires to say concerning mundane matters—even where there is nothing wrong with the words per se, yet he refrains from speaking them precisely because he feels a desire to do so

וְכֵן אִם בּוֹלֵם פִּיו מִלְּדַבֵּר דְּבָרִים שֶׁלִּבּוֹ מִתְאַוֶּה מְאֹד לְדַבְּרָם מֵעִנְיְינֵי הָעוֹלָם,

and likewise regarding the thoughts of his mind, he suppresses an urge to think about some mundane matter.

וְכֵן בְּהִרְהוּרֵי מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ,

Even by the slightest subjugation of the sitra achara here below,

אֲפִילוּ בִּמְעַט מִזְּעֵיר, דְּאִתְכַּפְיָא סִטְרָא אָחֳרָא לְתַתָּא –

the glory of G-d and His holiness is greatly elevated on high.

אִסְתַּלֵּק יְקָרָא דְקוּדְשָׁא־בְּרִיךְ־הוּא וּקְדוּשָּׁתוֹ לְעֵילָּא הַרְבֵּה.

From this holiness, a sublime holiness issues forth upon man below to assist him with a great and powerful aid in his service of G-d.

וּמִקְּדוּשָּׁה זוֹ נִמְשֶׁכֶת קְדוּשָּׁה עֶלְיוֹנָה עַל הָאָדָם לְמַטָּה, לְסַיְּיעוֹ סִיּוּעַ רַב וְעָצוּם לַעֲבוֹדָתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ.

This is what our Sages meant when they said: “If a man consecrates himself in a small measure here below, he is sanctified greatly from above.”9

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אָדָם מְקַדֵּשׁ עַצְמוֹ מְעַט לְמַטָּה – מְקַדְּשִׁין אוֹתוֹ הַרְבֵּה מִלְמַעְלָה".

This is apart from the fact that when one sanctifies himself in permissible matters, he thereby fulfills the positive commandment of the Torah: “Sanctify yourselves, and be holy.”10

לְבַד מַה שֶּׁמְּקַיֵּים מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁל תּוֹרָה: "וְהִתְקַדִּשְׁתֶּם וְכוּ'", כְּשֶׁמְּקַדֵּשׁ עַצְמוֹ בַּמּוּתָּר לוֹ.

Hence, apart from the consolation previously offered the beinoni—that through “turning away from evil” by combating evil thoughts and desires, he affords G-d a pleasure that tzaddikim cannot—his battle with the sitra achara also contains a positive quality in the category of “doing good” that is likewise not present in the divine service of tzaddikim.11 This positive quality is the fulfillment of the mitzvah: “Sanctify yourselves…,” which applies only to beinonim, not to tzaddikim. For the intention of the commandment is that even one’s personal, permissible, and mundane matters should not be attended to out of the desire of one’s animal soul but for the sake of G-d. This directive cannot apply to tzaddikim, who are unencumbered by desires of the animal soul, as the Alter Rebbe continues:

The meaning of “Sanctify yourselves” is: “You shall make yourselves holy.”

וּפֵירוּשׁ "וְהִתְקַדִּשְׁתֶּם" – שֶׁתַּעֲשׂוּ עַצְמְכֶם קְדוֹשִׁים;

That is to say, although in truth, one is not holy and separated from the sitra achara,

כְּלוֹמַר, אַף שֶׁבֶּאֱמֶת אֵינוֹ קָדוֹשׁ וּמוּבְדָּל מִסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא,

for the sitra achara of his animal soul is still, as at birth, at its full strength and might, in the left part of his heart—the seat of the animal soul and evil inclination—

כִּי הִיא בְּתָקְפָּהּ וּבִגְבוּרָתָהּ כְּתוֹלַדְתָּהּ בֶּחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי,

The word kedushah (“holiness”) means “setting apart,” i.e., separation from the unholy.12 The verse thus means: One should sanctify himself even if he must yet make himself holy and separate from the sitra achara, for at his present level his heart still desires those things that derive from it—

yet if even while at this level, he subdues and masters his evil impulse and makes himself “holy,” separate from the sitra achara, then, continues the verse:

רַק שֶׁכּוֹבֵשׁ יִצְרוֹ וּמְקַדֵּשׁ עַצְמוֹ.

“You will be holy.”

"וִהְיִיתֶם קְדוֹשִׁים"

The words “be holy,” which, in their simple sense, voice a command, can also be understood as conveying a promise,

that is, that ultimately he will be truly “holy” and removed from the sitra achara,

כְּלוֹמַר, סוֹפוֹ לִהְיוֹת קָדוֹשׁ וּמוּבְדָּל בֶּאֱמֶת מֵהַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא,

through his being “greatly sanctified from above,” as quoted earlier from the Gemara,

עַל יְדֵי שֶׁמְּקַדְּשִׁים אוֹתוֹ הַרְבֵּה מִלְמַעְלָה,

and through his being aided from above to expel [the sitra achara] from his heart, little by little, so that even in his heart, he will no longer have any desire for anything originating in the realm of the sitra achara.

וּמְסַיְּיעִים אוֹתוֹ לְגָרְשָׁהּ מִלִּבּוֹ מְעַט מְעָט: