A preliminary step [is necessary: to create an appropriate setting] for the comprehension and knowledge of G‑dliness, and particularly, so that the contemplation will be grasped and remain attached within one’s mind, [so] that the person can become bonded with it and be aroused with love. In order to be an appropriate medium for this, a person must bring about a general refinement of the material orientation of his body so that it will not create concealment for the powers of the soul. This involves two [different] activities:

a) constraint - [restraints] with regard to eating, drink­ing, and other pleasures, to minimize one’s [involvement] in physical pleasure even with regard to simple matters to what­ever degree possible, using only what is necessary to maintain one’s life and health.

This is within the potential of every individual, to actually hold himself back, not to eat so much, and similarly to restrain himself with regard to other pleasures, not to indulge in them, for example, not to take pleasure strolls and the like.

This applies even when one does not occupy oneself with Torah study during this time. For the restraint itself, that the person holds himself back from doing what his heart desires to subdue the sitra achra, shatters the material orientation of his body (provided the person does not occupy himself with another material concern that his natural soul desires at that time; and certainly when he does not occupy himself with frivolity or jests, heaven forbid), as stated in Tanya, ch. 27: “Similarly, if he muzzles his mouth [and refrains] from speaking matters which his heart craves.”

Certainly, this applies if he occupies himself with Torah study at that time, as explained in Tanya, ibid.: “For example, he desires to eat, and delays his meal for an hour or less, and occupies himself with Torah study at that time.” Similarly, if he desires to take a pleasure stroll, and instead occupies himself with Torah study at that time.

b) breaking oneself - crushing one’s ego in the manner described in Tanya, ch. 29. This involves laboring with one’s flesh, crushing the body’s [material tendencies], to subdue it, as explained in Tanya, ch. 42. 1

These are preparatory steps to make oneself a medium that is able to comprehend and contemplate [spiritual concepts] and be aroused to the love and fear [of G‑d].

The love 2 implied by the verse: 3 “My soul desires You,” is also very easily attainable. [A person] should contemplate how Or Ein Sof is the life of the world at large, and the person’s own life. When he thinks deeply about this, he will be aroused with a genuine love and a great yearning for G‑dliness. He will genuinely desire that G‑dly light be revealed overtly for him. This desire [will motivate] him to study Torah, for this will bring about such a revelation within his soul. For the Torah is G‑d’s wisdom and His will, and “the Torah and G‑d are one,” 4 as explained above in ch. 16, based on Tanya, ch. 42.

Certainly, there are many different levels and rungs of love and yearning, [for] this also depends on the nature of a person’s comprehension and the depth of his thought. But in general, the concept is “neither wondrous, nor distant,” 5 but rather within the potential of each individual to attain, each person according to his level, one more, one less. [Moreover, there is an incremental effect.] At the beginning, [the love] is small, [but] afterwards, it grows and increases.

Synopsis: [This chapter] emphasizes that as a preparation for the knowledge and comprehension [of G‑dliness], one must refine the body through privation and breaking oneself. [The chapter also] explains the love associated with the verse: “My soul desires You.”