Since the animal soul establishes its claim [over the body and the person’s consciousness] first,1 when the G‑dly soul does come and is revealed after thirteen years, it becomes [enclothed and even] hidden within the animal soul, i.e., the animal soul hides and conceals it, [preventing it from expressing itself freely]. Therefore, [before the service of the G‑dly soul can begin, the controlling influence of the animal soul must be broken]. As such, the initial step [of Divine service] must be gor’in and [only] afterwards can the phase of mosifin begin.

It was explained previously that gor’in refers to efforts to remove the thick, material [shell which defines the animal soul’s orientation. In chassidic thought,2 such efforts are described by the phrase:]3 “Forget your people and your father’s house,” [i.e., going beyond] the basic materialistic orientation with which one becomes habituated from birth. Thus before these [material tendencies] are removed, the G‑dly soul is concealed and hidden in the physical [orientation] of the animal soul, as [intimated by the verse]:4 “The wicked surround the righteous” to the extent that [the influence of] a G‑dly concept will not be apparent or felt within a person.

In essence, the G‑dly soul is a medium through which [G‑dliness can be manifest]. Therefore, the souls [of the Jewish people] are referred to as a throne for the Holy One, blessed be He. Thus [the words “His throne” in] the phrase:5 “He endures… and His name endures;…His throne is firmly established,” refer to the souls that are considered as [G‑d’s] throne,6 for they are a medium for G‑dliness.

When [a person] is involved in comprehending G‑dliness, he has an understanding and a feeling for a G‑dly concept. It sits comfortably within his soul. The G‑dly light shines within his soul and [his feelings] are activated by it. All of this applies, however, when the G‑dly soul is revealed. When, by contrast, it is concealed within the animal soul, G‑dly light does not shine within it, as reflected by the verse:7 “But it is your sins that separate between you and your G‑d.” As explained in [Tanya,] Iggeres HaTeshuvah, ch. 5, [not only do sins separate a person from G‑d as He exists Above, they also separate a person from the G‑dly source of his own soul]. Although, in general, nothing [material or spiritual] can intervene and create a separation from G‑d, sins create such a separation because they are against G‑d’s will. Hence, [for G‑dliness to be revealed within one’s soul,] it is necessary to remove [all the barriers that confine the G‑dly soul, including] the thick, material [shell of the animal soul] by overpowering one’s [animal] soul and forcing it [to comply with the G‑dly soul’s desires] in actual practice. This enables the G‑dly soul to be revealed, at least to a certain degree. Afterwards, one can illuminate his soul with G‑dly light through comprehension [of the Torah’s truths]. First, however, it is necessary to remove [the animal soul’s] material [orientation] so that the G‑dly soul can be revealed. After [this is accomplished], one must in truth begin the service of the G‑dly soul.

Moreover, with regard to the animal soul itself,8 the initial step must be to break its thick, material [shell]. This will enable it to be corrected. As long as [the animal soul possesses] its initial strength, it is impossible to humble it and motivate it to a state of bittul, self-nullification,because [until then,] it is not affected by G‑dly light at all, and G‑dly light will not bring about the state of bittul within it.

[The soul’s awakening in] teshuvah [however, is an exception. At such a time,]the G‑dly soul is revealed powerfully. As such, it has the ability to have an effect on the animal soul even when it is at its [natural] strength. [This, however, reflects a divergence from the norm. Man's ordinary] Divine service which is structured according to logic and reason will not have an effect on the animal soul when it is at its [natural] strength. Therefore, the initial step is to break its general material [orientation].

This is particularly true since the fundamental improvement and refinement of the animal soul — making it a medium for G‑dliness — involves [the performance of Divine service that will affect] and transform its powers into [forces for] G‑dliness; i.e., that they also desire [and express] G‑dliness.

[This is impossible] when [the animal soul’s] self-concern is at its natural strength. [At that time,] it is impossible for a G‑dly concept to sit comfortably within a person’s soul and for him to desire G‑dliness. [Instead,] he must first break the thick, material [shell of the animal soul]; it must be removed entirely. This also applies to the powers of the animal soul. Their evil orientation must be removed entirely. Only the fundamental power of desire may be transformed [into holiness], as explained in other sources.9

Certainly, the [all-]encompassing material orientation [of the animal soul], its evil tendency which is engrained and rooted in it, must be broken and removed entirely. Afterwards, Divine service can begin concerning the refinement of his powers.

Rosh ChodeshElul begins a time of mercy; [a time when] G‑d’s Thirteen Attributes of Mercy shine. [As a result,] all dimensions of Divine service can be carried out more easily. [This is reflected by the verse:10 “I stood on the mountain as on the first days,” on which our Sages comment:11 Just as the first [forty days were characterized by Divine] favor, so too these [forty days] were characterized by Divine favor. Therefore Divine service is easier during these days.

The days of Selichos12 come at the end of Elul. They are pre-established days for [self-introspection]: making a reckoning and an accounting of the events of the previous year during which one contemplates how he walked in futility.13 This should cause the person to feel very bitter within his soul and motivate him to return to G‑d with all his heart, soul, and might.

This is the preparatory service for Rosh HaShanah. On Rosh HaShanah, the primary service is the acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven performed like a subject [to his king] in all matters of service. [The quality of] a person’s Divine service on Rosh HaShanah is determined according to his Divine service during the days of Selichos, when he uproots his desire from worldly matters in general and his personal concerns in particular.


[The maamar] continues to explain that the animal soul establishes its claim [over the body] first. [As such, when the person reaches the age of thirteen,] the G‑dly soul becomes hidden within it. Therefore the first phase of Divine service must be to remove the concealment.

The animal soul itself requires an all-encompassing eradication of its material orientation. Afterwards, it is possible to refine its powers.

Divine service is easier in the month of Elul. [Such service] serves as a preparation for Rosh HaShanah.