The concept of sublimating the mundane, of actualizing the potential of the not-yet-holy (or to use the terminology of mysticism: of extricating and liberating the sparks of Divine holiness inherent in all created entities , means active involvement.

Man is a compound of body and soul, placed in a material world. The Divine soul of man per se is not in need of tikun (mending) at all, and there was no need for it to be vested in matter and the world except to draw G‑dliness into them, to mend them.

The material body and material objects are mended and sublimated by means of the Torah and mitzvot which the soul performs with their aid. The literal and figurative descent of the Divine soul from its sublime source to a gross, material world, therefore, is to mend the world, to elevate it to become absorbed in pure kedushah, and the achievement of this sublimation elevates the soul itself as well. But, again, this purpose of creation implies direct involvement, to use everything in this world as Divinely ordained.

This goal excludes an approach of asceticism. Asceticism - self- denial, fasting, self-mortification - can and does serve a valid purpose, but only within certain boundaries. Yechidei segulah - a select few individuals of high spiritual stature - are able to achieve the Divine intent through asceticism just as others do through a normative way of life. Many great mystics, including large numbers of the Chassidic masters who publicly spoke out against asceticism and discouraged their followers from pursuing it, were themselves strict ascetics. There is a legitimate and recommended asceticism even for people of lower stature, as in the context of teshuvah (whether on the level of teshuvat hamishkal - to do penance for sins committed, or of teshuvat hageder - as precautionary measures in the face of personal weaknesses). Generally speaking, though, asceticism is negativism, escapism.

The ascetic individual (beyond the exceptions mentioned) opts out: he evades reality, he avoids involvement, adhering but to the minimal essentials for bare survival. He practically rejects the realm of kelipat nogah, scared off by seeing only its negative side, the evil-in-potency. Moreover, self-mortification weakens and reduces man's energy. "A worker may not famish or chastise himself because this would cause him to lessen from his work." This applies no less to the work and labour of life, to the service of G‑d. Self-denial of the legitimate and permissible, therefore, though undertaken with good intentions, may still be tantamount to sin.

(See Ta'anit 11a; Tanya, Igeret Hateshuvah, ch. 3; Radvaz on Rambam, Hilchot Sanhedrin 18:6, that man's body is not his private possession but the exclusive property of G‑d. This leads to the significant ruling stated in Shulchan Aruch Harav, Choshen Mishpat, Hilchot Nizkei Guf Vanefesh, par. 4, that the human being has no authority over his own body to smite or to shame it, or to afflict it in any manner of affliction - even by withholding some food or drink (unless for a legal and truly beneficial purpose)! For an extensive discussion of this principle, see Rabbi S. Y. Zevin, LeOr Hahalachah (Tel Aviv 1964), p. 318.)

The mystic does not lose sight of the danger inherent in the raw- material of the mundane, but his perspective causes him to cast his eyes upwards: he sees the not-yet-hallowed, he is conscious of the Divine sparks hidden in the not-yet-consecrated. Thus he will not withdraw. He contemplates the world as Divine creation, the Divine omnipresence, the aspects of Divinity within himself and within the world around him. He chooses, nay, he feels compelled to adopt the road of involvement, regardless and in spite of it being more difficult and more tortuous. He feels compelled to actualize, expose and manifest the latent "for My glory I have created it, formed it, and made it."(Isaiah 43:7) For he realizes that without this, the universal body is deficient, as every particular creature is essential for the completion and perfection of the whole in its Divinely intended context.

(Here apply Rambam's words, that "In this context I have never heard a more remarkable statement than that in the Jerusalem Talmud, in the ninth chapter of Nedarim (9:1). Rav Idi said in the name of R. Yitzchak, `Is what the Torah has forbidden not enough for you that you prohibit yourself yet other things as well?'

Needless to say, this is not a license for self-indulgence, but applies only in context of "Let all your deeds be for the sake of Heaven" (Avot 2:12) and "Know Him in all your ways" (Proverbs 3:6).

See commentaries on Yerushalmi, Kidushin 4:12. In all other cases, when a person's present status renders him unable to achieve the sublimation and sanctification of reshut (the optional), it is obligatory to set up fences to safeguard the inviolability of the Torah (Avot1:1; Yevamot 21a). The rule is to "sanctify yourself in that which is permitted to you" (Yevamot 20a; Sifre, Re'ey, par. 49; Pessikta Zutraty, preamble to Kedoshim). All the qualifications of the sources cited above, apply, in the spirit of the Chassidic aphorism that "whatever is forbidden is forbidden, and that which is allowed is unnecessary" (Likutei Sichot, vol. I, Noach, end of sect. V). Ethical texts thus caution that it takes restrictive measures in seventy areas of the permissible and optional in order to avoid trespassing the boundaries of a single area of the prohibited (Chovot Halevovot, Sha'ar Hateshuvah, ch. 5; Or Hachayim on Numbers 26:23). For a discussion of these premises see Likutei Sichot, vol. I, Acharei, and Kedoshim, sect. VI-XIII.)

The sublimation and transformation of kelipat nogah is an act of redemption. It redeems not only the particular object used, but also the agent using it. For the human body and its vital or `animal' soul, too, are of the realm of kelipat nogah, (100) and the actualization of their potential of holiness is their very purpose. This individual redemption, bringing "redemption to my soul" (Psalms 69:19), is a prelude to the universal redemption. (101) For it contributes to the ultimate goal of total yichud, the goal towards which everything strives, when "In that day G‑d shall be One and His Name shall be One." (Zechariah 14:9)