Chapter IV

The remedy for the above [difficulties] is the Torah, as it is written:1 “It will serve as remedies for your navel,” and 2 “It will be a cure for all your flesh.” For in contrast to “the lips of a strange [woman which] drip honey... but [whose] end is bitter as wormwood,” 3 the Torah is described 4 as being: “sweeter than honey and a honeycomb,” and its end is not bitter, heaven forbid.

See also the statements of Rabbeinu Bachaye, Parshas Toldos on the verse: 5 “A man familiar with hunting,” and [concerning] the opposite of that, Yaakov, who is described as “an artless man, dwelling in tents,” 6 i.e., “the tents of Torah study.” [See also his statements] at the beginning of Parshas Yisro, in which he writes [concerning the phrase:] 7 “’To save you from a foreign woman,’ undesirable faith is compared to a strange woman who ultimately destroys a man, as it is written: ‘her end is bitter.’... Nevertheless,... this can be corrected through [desirable] speech.”

This is alluded to in our Sages’ statement (Bava Metzia 107b): “Disease (machlah), this is the gall bladder (marah)... All of these can be nullified by bread [dipped] in salt, and a pitcher of water.”

“Bread” refers to the Torah as will be explained, “salt” to P’nimiyus HaTorah, [the Torah’s inner, mystic dimension,] as explained in Likkutei Torah in the explanation of the maamar entitled Vilo Tashbis Melech, and “a pitcher of water” to the Oral Law which is referred to with the analogy of water. These nullify and cure the “disease.”

To explain the above: The Torah is referred to as bread, as it is written: 8 “Come partake of My bread,” which alludes to the Torah. And it is written: 9 “Bread satisfies the heart of man.” The term used for man, enosh, implies weakness, as reflected in the verse: 10 “The heart is more deceitful than all things, and it is weak (enosh)....” “Bread satisfies the heart of man,” [i.e., the weakness in man,] 11 and strengthens it, giving it the power and the force to conquer with regard to his animal soul. For the Torah is called strength, as it is written: 12G‑d will grant strength to His people.” It endows the G‑dly soul with strength and power, [enabling it] to overcome the material nature and the coarseness of the body and the animal soul, and thus “[to] enable a prisoner to escape from captivity.” 13

Therefore the Torah is called “bread.” For bread connects and bonds the vitality of the soul to the limbs of the body and strengthens it, drawing down additional life energy for the soul. [Indeed,] when a person does not eat, the vitality which is enclothed in the limbs of his body is weakened; it is reduced and withdraws. And by eating, he draws down additional energy from his soul for the vitality which is enclothed in his body. This strengthens its power.

Similar concepts apply with regard to the “bread of the Torah.” It draws down added vitality to the G‑dly soul which is enclothed in the animal soul, and empowers it, enabling it to overcome the material nature of the body and the animal soul.

[This is possible,] because “the Torah emanates from Chochmah (wisdom), and with Chochmah rests the Or Ein Sof. 14 The external forces15 can derive their nurture only from the seven emotional qualities, [for] they are [paralleled by] the seven emotional qualities of Tohu. [This motif does not apply] with regard to the attribute of Chochmah. Thus it is written: 16 “They will die, but without Chochmah.” For Chochmah is above the breaking of the vessels of Tohu.

For this reason, sin does not extinguish [the light of] the Torah. For [negative forces] have no nurture and dominion on this level. Therefore, drawing down the attribute of wisdom through the Torah endows the G‑dly soul with strength. [Simultaneously, the Torah] weakens the power of the animal soul, for the Torah is called: 17 “strength and crippling,” “strength” for the G‑dly soul, and “crippling” for the animal soul. For the animal soul has its source in the broken vessels of the realm of Tohu. The Torah, by contrast, emanates from the level of Chochmah, [and it is written:] “They will die, but without Chochmah.” Therefore, it weakens the strength of the animal soul.

These concepts are reflected in our Sages’ statements (Shmos Rabbah, Parshas Shmos, 5:9) which explain that G‑d’s voice [which emanated from Mount Sinai] had two dimensions: life for the Jewish people, and death for the wicked. Since the source of the souls of the Jewish people is from Chochmah, the Torah granted them life and additional power. The animal soul, however, is the very opposite. Therefore, it is negated by the Torah.

This is also reflected by our Sages’ statement: 18 “If the rogue [the yetzer hara] encounters you, draw him to the house of study. If he is like a stone, he will be dissolved.” Even if his heart is as hard as a stone, it will be dissolved. The analogy is that when water passes drop by drop over a stone, even though the stone is hard and the water is soft, ultimately the continuous flow of the water will make an impression on the stone. 19

The above is particularly true since the source [of the Torah] is from the level of Kesser, as implied by the verses: 20 “And these words which I command you...” and 21 “I am G‑d, your L-rd.” Kesser, [though a positive potential], shares the same letters as the word kareis, meaning “cut off.” [For the awesomeness of its light will destroy all negative forces.] From [this level] is drawn down [the potential for] “all your enemies [to] be cut off,” 22 i.e., the evil of the animal soul will be cut off. It will perish and become transformed into good, [for] it too will become batel to G‑dliness.

[On this basis, we can understand the implication of] the verse: 23 “Or let him take hold of My strength; 24 let him make peace with Me. He will make peace with Me.” [Noting the redundancy in the verse,] our Sages comment: 25 “Whoever occupies himself with the Torah generates peace in the heavenly company and peace in the earthly company.”

“Establish[ing] peace in the heavenly company” refers to the bonding between Or Ein Sof, the source of emanation, and the Ten Sefiros of the realm of Atzilus. This is accomplished through the level of Kesser which is an intermediary between the source of emanation and the existence which has emanated. From this peace, additional strength and power is drawn down to the G‑dly soul whose source is from the level of Atzilus.

“Establish[ing]... peace in the earthly company” refers to [the spiritual dynamic in which] Malchus of Atzilus serves as Kesser for the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah. This establishes a connection and a bond between Atzilus and the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, causing the light of Atzilus to shine into these realms.

This weakens the power of the animal soul. For the shining of the light of Atzilus into the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah nullifies [the self-conscious dimension of] these realms. [For] the twelve cattle of Beriah 26 are the root and source of the animal soul. [Thus when the self-conscious dimensions of these potentials are nullified by the light of Atzilus,] the animal soul is also nullified. This reflects the bonding of the G‑dly soul and the animal soul, causing the animal soul also to be batel to G‑dliness.

This explains how the Torah serves as a cure for disease, as our Sages state (Kiddushin 30b), the Torah is “an elixir of life,” and they say: “I created the yetzer hara, and I created the Torah as a condiment for it.” And as explained above, all [of the sicknesses caused by marah] are negated by eating bread in the morning, [i.e., in analogy, by studying the Torah]. For sickness comes from kelipas nogah from which is drawn down the evil desires of the animal soul. The Torah, however, weakens the animal soul, destroys the evil within it, and creates peace within the G‑dly soul and the animal soul, enabling the animal soul also to be batel to G‑dliness.

See also the conclusion of Avos DeRabbi Nasan, ch. 16, which states that for the yetzer hara, there is no way for it to be corrected except through the words of the Torah. (And the Chidah in his Kisei HaRachamim writes:

Although there are techniques to subdue [the yetzer hara], e.g., to be genuinely humble, to attain a rightful measure of fear of heaven, and the like, these only protect a person from being snared by it. Through the study of the Torah, one corrects the yetzer hara itself and makes it good.

This is our Sages’ intent in their statement: “I created the yetzer hara, and I created the Torah as a condiment for it.” Just as a condiment makes food fit to eat, so too, the Torah corrects the yetzer hara, making it good.

This is the intent of the statement: “For the yetzer hara, there is no way for it to be corrected except through the words of the Torah,” i.e., for the yetzer hara itself, to make it good, the only way is through the words of the Torah.

The words of the interpretation of a wise man are gracious. [This relates to] the concepts stated previously with regard to establishing peace within the earthly company.)

[As a prooftext, the passage from Avos DeRabbi Nasan cites the verse:] 27 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him bread... and G‑d will repay you,” and comments: “Do not read yeshaleim lach, ‘repay you,’ but rather yashlim lach, ‘have him [the animal soul] join you.’”

In a similar vein,Rashi, in his commentary to the verse, identifies the “enemy” as “the yetzer hara,” and explains as follows: “If he is hungry and tells you to satisfy him through sins, take yourself to the house of study, and feed him the bread of Torah... ‘G‑d will repay you,’ will yashlim lach, establish peace between you and him, so that he will not overcome you.” (Above, yashlim lach was interpreted as referring to a higher rung [of Divine service], to make the yetzer hara itself good.)

The Talmud (Sukkah 52a, and Rashi’s commentary) [interprets] “feed him bread (lechem)” [differently, drawing on the connection] between lechem and milchama, “war,” and states: “unsettle him through the wars of the Torah.”

A similar interpretation is found in Likkutei Torah, in the maamar entitled Ko Sivorchu, sec. 2, commenting on the verse: 28 “Gird your sword on your thigh, man of might” which explains [that lechem] refers to the war (milchama) of Torah. In this vein, Shabbos 63a interprets that phrase as referring to the words of the Torah. And Bereishis Rabbah (the conclusion of ch. 21) states: “And our Rabbis say: ‘the sword of Torah,’ as it is written: 29 ‘A two-edged sword in their hand.’”

For this reason, the Torah was given on Mount Choreb. As Shmos Rabbah (Parshas Pekudei, the conclusion of ch. 51) states: “Why [is it called] Choreb? Because upon it was given the Torah which is called “a sword” (cherev), as it is written: “The exaltation of G‑d is in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hand.” In a similar vein, Shabbos 89b states that the mountain [was named] Choreb because [from there,] “desolation (churva) descended.”

The explanation of a two-edged sword is [that the Torah brings about two different types of restraint]: not to lower oneself into worldly desire, nor to come to pride, as stated in the maamar entitled ViAni Nasati Lecha Shechem Echad in the Hosafos to Torah Or.

Synopsis: [This chapter] explains that the remedy for sickness is the Torah which is called bread. [The Torah] endows the G‑dly soul with strength to overcome the body and the animal soul. [It explains that Torah study establishes] strength in the heavenly company and strength in the earthly company, being a source of strength to the G‑dly soul and crippling to the animal soul.