This is 1 an appropriate place - and it is a necessity - for me to draw attention to a matter concerning which many err, and which is a major cause of damage, [leading to] a lack of Divine service with love and fear. For people will say: “Who are we? And what is our Divine service [worth]? [How will] we experience genuine love and fear? How can we ask this of ourselves since we are on such a low level?”

When these people study about the love and fear of G‑d, they consider it as an external matter, something that is entirely above them. Because of their own low [spiritual] level and the elevated plane of the love and fear of G‑d, they do not think of demanding this of themselves. They do not see any connection between themselves and these matters.

This is an error. For we have been commanded by the Torah to fulfill the mitzvos of loving and fearing G‑d. For they are among the 613 mitzvos of the Torah, 2 whose observance is incumbent upon every member of the Jewish people. Indeed, a person must reincarnate until he observes every one of these mitzvos. 3

The Holy One, blessed be He, does not come with over-imposing demands to His created beings. 4 He asks of them only what is within their potential. Thus if one would say that it is impossible for every individual to attain the love and fear of G‑d, how could he be commanded to express these emotions?

We are forced to say that every individual has the potential to attain love and fear [of G‑d]. [The protests to this] could be accepted as true if we were speaking about a love [of G‑d] resembling that of Avraham, and a fear [of G‑d] resembling that of Yitzchak, 5 and [the emotive qualities expressed by] other perfect tzaddikim. For who would be so presumptuous to try to attain such peaks?! (Nevertheless, even regarding these levels, no person is free from the obligation [to attain such heights - and moreover, he has the potential to do so], as explained in Tanya, ch. 44, with regard to the level of Moshe. Certainly, this applies with regard to the Patriarchs.)

The love and fear [of G‑d are attainable by all], because there are several levels and rungs within these emotions. Each one of these qualities subdivides into an infinite number of echelons, [appropriate] for every person according to his level, (i.e., according to his degree of comprehension).

{For in truth, every individual possesses a natural and essential love [for G‑d] within his soul. For every soul is “an actual part of G‑d from above,” 6 emanating from the ten sublime Sefiros. 7 This is an inheritance which we have received from our ancestors. 8 Nevertheless, this love must be brought from a concealed state into revelation. This is accomplished through knowledge and meditation.

This is the intent of the commandment with which we have been charged, that the love for G‑d be revealed within our hearts. In this, there are many levels depending on one’s knowledge and comprehension, and the extent to which a person must labor in meditation. (See the comments concerning this in the Siddur, in the note regarding Tikkun Chatzos and also in Tanya, ch. 42.) This depends on the level at which the soul is rooted in its source.}

[The existence of these different levels is reflected in the interpretation offered by] the Zohar 9 for the verse: 10 “Her husband is known in the gates (she'arim)”: “This refers to the Holy One, blessed be He, who is known (with understanding and comprehension) and who clings (in love) to each person according to what he assesses (mishear) within his heart,” as explained in Tanya, ch. 44.

The love of G‑d refers to the soul being drawn in love toward Him, and desiring to cling to Him, because of its comprehension of the greatness and magnificence of G‑d. For just as it is a natural tendency of the soul to be drawn to an entity which it perceives as good and pleasant, so too, when a person meditates on [the greatness of G‑d, he will be stirred to loving Him].

[More particularly, when he thinks of] the awesome exaltation of Or Ein Sof, how [Or Ein Sof] permeates all the worlds and transcends all the worlds, and contemplates the particular levels of this, sensing their spiritual and refined nature, and he understands, grasps, and meditates about these concepts with concentration, attaching his thoughts, his soul will be drawn to G‑dly light, and will desire to cling to it.

[He will be stirred to more powerful feelings] when he grasps and meditates on the fact that [the G‑dly light which relates to the worlds] is only a ray which cannot be compared to the essence, for [the essence] is far more wondrous and magnificent than it; indeed, all existence is of no importance before Him. The awareness of the wondrous and magnificent nature of Or Ein Sof will arouse the love within his soul. He will be drawn to cling to the essence of Or Ein Sof; this will be his desire. He will not seek any other material or spiritual entity, only G‑d alone. (This concept is reflected in the interpretation 11 of the verse: 12 “I do not desire [to be] with You,” [not to seek all the revelations of G‑dliness that are with Him, but to desire His essence alone].

As explained at length in Tanya, [ch. 44], there is a dimension of love [for G‑d] which is shared by every Jewish soul, [for] it is an inheritance which we received from our ancestors. This is the love identified with the verse: 13 “My soul desires You.” [As Tanya, op. cit., explains:]

Because You, G‑d, are my soul and my true life, I desire You; i.e., like a person who desires life, the life of his soul; [e.g.,] when he is weak and overburdened, he desires that his soul be revived within him. Or like a person who goes to sleep, who desires that his soul be revived within him when he awakens. So too, I desire Or Ein Sof, my true life. And [I] desire to draw it into my inner being through the study of the Torah when I arise from my sleep at night, for the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one....

A great and more extensive love than this is also hidden within the soul of every Jew, for it is an inheritance from our ancestors, as described in the Raya Mehemna: 14 “Like a son who strives for the sake of his father and mother, because he loves them [even more than his own self].

This is the love described at the conclusion of [Tanya,]ch. 10. It is possible to explain that this also reflects the second level of love described in [Tanya,] Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 18, entitled Ma Yafis which speaks of:

The love and the desire with which the soul yearns for, loves, and craves to cling to G‑d, “to be bound up in the bond of life.” 15 This closeness to G‑d is very precious for it; 16 it desires this and it is very difficult for it to be removed from Him.

This [love] also stems from the fact that [G‑d] is our Father as the continuation of that text explains. It is also possible to explain that the love described [in the Epistle] in Iggeres HaKodesh relates to the concepts explained in Tanya, ch. 20, except that in [ch. 20,] the emphasis is on will, while in [Iggeres HaKodesh],the emphasis is on love.

Synopsis: [This chapter] proves that it is within the potential of every individual to attain love and fear [of G‑d], for these are included within the 613 mitzvos which everyone is obligated to fulfill.

[The chapter] explains several levels of love which are inherent traits within our souls and relates that we are obligated to express [these levels of love] through knowledge and meditation.