והנה All of the above refers to the fire that would burn on the [outer] altar.

This includes both a) the arousal of the hidden love that every Jew possesses within his heart (the fire from Above) through b) the preparatory work of humbling himself as a result of personal introspectionand a careful reckoning of his level of Divine service (in the analogy, the ordinary fire brought by the Jews to consume a sacrifice).

There is, however, a greater and higher level than this [which is symbolized by] the water that is poured on the altar on the festival of Sukkos. For water quenches the thirst that comes from the element of fire,1 as it is written:2 “Aye! All who are thirsty, go to the water.”

Fiery love is generated by distance. Love that is described by the analogy of water, by contrast, involves closeness, the comprehension of G‑dliness within one’s mind. As a result, one no longer feels active desire, but instead, the inner satisfaction that accompanies intimate connection. Instead of frenetic movement, one’s emotions are characterized by serene calm. The time of year when this phase of Divine service receives focus is the holiday of Sukkos when the water libation is brought.

וגם Within the attribute and aspect [symbolized by] water, there are also different levels, one more elevated than the other. [The highest level involves a revelation of G‑dliness so powerful that it is equivalent to actual sight,] as it is written:3 “You have been shown to know that G‑d is the L‑rd {in the heavens}...

The squiggle brackets indicate that the Alter Rebbe is fusing the verse cited with Devarim 4:39.

there is nothing aside from Him.”

I.e., not only that there is no other G‑d, but also that there is no existence other than G‑dliness.

“You have been shown” implies “actual seeing”; i.e., that the level of total and absolute bittul (bittul bemetzius)

When a person has internalized his awareness of this concept, he loses all sense of self. Every person has an “I,” an identity that he expresses through his thoughts, feelings, and deeds. The intent is not that he is obsessed with pride or egotism, but that he possesses a fundamental sense of selfhood, referred to in Chassidus by the term yesh. He may realize the need to go beyond himself and devote himself to G‑d’s service, but even that commitment is a product of his own understanding and feeling. As a result, it is conscribed by the limits of that understanding and feeling and cannot take the person beyond its horizons. In Chassidus, this is referred to as bittul hayesh, “the nullification of one’s selfhood.”

When, by contrast, there is a revelation of G‑d’s infinity, one is swept away by the experience entirely. His self-focus is overwhelmed by his awareness of G‑d. As a result, his commitment is boundless, knowing no constraints. In Chassidus, this is referred to as bittul bemetzius, the state in which one’s entire existence is negated.

is experienced on the level of sight, as explained in another source.4

Sight makes a deep and powerful impression on the soul, affecting the inner dimensions of a person’s being. Therefore, the impression is lasting. Once a person has seen something, it is difficult for him to forget it; the matter will affect him more forcefully than a concept he merely hears.

ובחינה This quality is called “water,” which cools and quenches the warmth of fire. Since the person is in a state of utter and absolute bittul to G‑d, as a consequence, [his bittul] cools the warmth of the natural fire that is in the G‑dly soul and the thirst that [burns] like flames of fire,a [G‑dly] blaze.

The fire and thirst that a person feels for G‑dliness represent his own spiritual feelings. Now, these feelings are refined and elevated, but they are the individual’s personal feelings. When he experiences the intimate closeness with G‑d symbolized by water, he steps beyond his self entirely. Hence his fire and his thirst are cooled.

וכמו [To explain this phenomenon with an analogy:] It is like the love of a son for his father. When he desires to come close to him but is still slightly distant, then the love is visible and revealed [as it emerges] from the heart and surfaces, [to the extent that] he calls out, “Father, Father.” In contrast, when he is actually in his father’s presence, the heart is “paved with love on the inside,”5 but [that love] is not revealed and visible outside the heart. Therefore [this inner love] is referred to as “water” which cools the attribute of fire so that it will not be revealed outside, but will remain hidden within the heart.x

וזהו This theme [is reflected in] the Shemoneh Esreh prayers that are recited in a whisper and a hushed tone. In Pesukei DeZimrah, one arouses [his] love [for G‑d] like flames of fire that burn and destroy the flames that are considered foreign fire, as mentioned above.

I.e., the fiery love described above plays an important role in our Divine service because it consumes other self-oriented loves a person may experience. He feels that the deepest and most satisfying love and pleasure stems from G‑dliness and, therefore, focuses his will there rather than on objects of worldly desire. Those other desires then pale in importance in his eyes.

Indeed, this concept is alluded to in the very name Pesukei DeZimrah, for zimra relates to the word zemar meaning “cut.” The recitation of these verses cuts away one’s desire for material pleasures. See Likkutei Torah, Vayikra, p. 47d, et al.

[In that stage of prayer,] it is as if he is still distant from the king. In contrast, during the Shemoneh Esreh prayer, it is as if one is standing before the King6 and saying “Blessed are You.”

I.e., he is talking to G‑d, one on One, as it were.

פי' The interpretation of the term Baruch, blessed, is drawing down,

The word for blessing (berachah; ברכה) shares a root with a number of seemingly unrelated words:

a) bereichah — apool, a place into which the water on the surrounding slopes flows down and collects;

b) berech — a knee, a joint that enables a person to bend and lower the upper and more refined portions of his body;

c) lehavrich, which means bringing an animal (such as a camel) down to its knees; the very same verb also signifies the practice of embedding a low branch into the ground in the hope that it will strike roots and ultimately produce a satellite tree (Kilayim 7:1; see Torah Or, Bereishis,p. 37c ff.).

Common to all these terms is the theme of drawing something downward. Similarly, the concept of blessing (berachah)is to elicit and bring down a flow of Divine light from the higher realms where it is hidden (i.e., above revelation), to this material world where it will blossom into revelation.

i.e., one draws down G‑d’s unity so that [it will be manifest] on this material plane and [the world] will be batel to Him. To [emphasize] this concept, [our Sages] instituted [the blessing] Modim Anachnu Lach (“We thankfully acknowledge You”), which expresses bittul, as explained in another source.7

As explained in the maamar entitled Tziyon BeMishpat, sec. I (Likkutei Torah, Devarim 1a ff., translated in Vol. II of this series).The term modim can refer to thankful acknowledgment and that is its literal meaning within the context of the blessing. Nevertheless, the term acknowledgment also implies the acceptance of a position that one does not totally understand. Such acknowledgment involves self-negation, for one is accepting a position that he does not comprehend.

This is the intent of bending the knee and bowing [while reciting the Shemoneh Esreh,]

By bending one’s knee and bowing, a person lowers his head, symbolically, subjugating his mind to G‑d’s higher authority.

and therefore [this prayer] is recited in a whisper and a hushed tone.xi

See the explanation of the concept of a “still, slight voice” in the Tzemach Tzedek’s notes to sec. I, and in Torah Or, p. 45c, Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar 49a, et al.,where it is explained that this level represents bittul that takes a person beyond himself and enables him to be a medium for the expression of G‑dliness. As explained in those sources, this motif finds consummate expression in Torah study.

אך Nevertheless, for this level to be fixed and implanted in a person’s heart so that he will not waver from it, he must take counsel within his soul, for we see that, in actual fact, after the Shemoneh Esreh prayers, one reverts to his initial state. The true advice [that enables a person to maintain such a connection with G‑d is for him]

At this point in the maamar, the Alter Rebbe begins connecting the concepts discussed previously with the holidays of Sukkos (when the water libation is offered, with water being the analogy for the Torah) and Shemini Atzeres (“the assembly of the eighth day”).

to involve [himself in the study of] the Torah and its laws.

I.e., Torah study enables a person to internalize and maintain the level of bittul achieved in the Shemoneh Esreh prayers.

For although they are enclothed in lowly, physical entities — [the laws concerning] crops, [the celebration of] the festivals, etc. —

The Hebrew terms Zeraim (“crops”)and Moed (“festival”)are also the names of the first two orders of the Mishnah. The teachings of those orders concern themselves with these material matters.

they represent unity with G‑d and clinging to Him, as explained in another source.8

As explained in the maamar entitled BaChodesh HaShelishi (Torah Or, p. 64d ff., translated in Vol. II of this series), Torah study enables a person to step beyond the inherent limits of a created being. Even though the Torah speaks of material matters, when a man or woman studies the Torah, the words he or she is reciting are not their own. Every word uttered is G‑d’s word, as it were, and unites the person in a perfect bond with Him.

וצריך [For Torah study to produce these spiritual feelings,] a person must nullify himself [so that he is] subsumed in G‑dliness, becoming a resting place for His oneness, going beyond himself and giving up his ego-oriented desires and thoughts,

He must not only step beyond his materially-oriented desires and pleasures, but rise above all thoughts of self, even his desire for spiritual fulfillment and the satisfaction of his soul. Instead, his intent should be solely to generate pleasure for G‑d without any thought of self at all. This relates to the concept of bittul bemetzius mentioned above. On such a level, a person sees himself as nothing more than a medium for the expression of G‑d’s will.

This emphasizes the complementary relationship between Torah study and prayer. For in order to reach this selfless approach to Torah study, the approach of bittul achieved through prayer is necessary. Otherwise, one’s study will be confined within the limits of his intellect and natural tendencies and thus will not be a medium for G‑dliness.

as explained in another source9 on the verse:10 “A land that consumes its inhabitants.”

The implication is that Eretz Yisrael is a land where there is a natural tendency for one’s selfhood to be diminished.

ובבחינה On this level, Torah study is actually equivalent to the Shemoneh Esreh prayers.

For in both instances, a person steps beyond his self-concern. In the Shemoneh Esreh, he identifies as G‑d’s servant and, through Torah study, He unites his thought and speech with G‑d’s wisdom and word.

It is possible for a person to have the imprint of the bittul [experienced] during the Shemoneh Esreh prayers fixed and unwaveringly and endlessly implanted [within his heart] the entire day through involvement with Torah study.

וזהו This is the intent of the verse “On the eighth day, there will be an assembly for you”: that the level of water described above

And given expression in the water libation offered during the holiday of Sukkos.

should be gathered together and taken in; i.e., absorbed and grasped within your [inner] selves so that it will not be discharged, Heaven forbid.xii For it is possible that after prayer, a person will return to his original state. [This is prevented by the Divine service implied by the assembly of the eighth day.]

Shemini Atzeres makes it possible for the intimate bond with G‑d established on Sukkos to be perpetuated within the coming year.

והיינו [Such Divine service is made possible because] the eighth day is identified with the attribute of Binah,

For Binah is the eighth Sefirah when counting upwards from Malchus and counting Kesser as one of the Sefiros rather than Daas.

which is associated with the heart.11

Binah is generally translated as “understanding.” Nevertheless, as opposed to Chochmah,which involves seeing the idea in its most intellectual abstract, Binah implies bringing a concept down to the point where one can comprehend and grasp it thoroughly. And when that happens, “the heart,” one’s emotional potential, is aroused.

Implied is that the quality of bittul should reach the depths of the inner point of the heart, as mentioned above.

Within Binah, there are two dimensions:

a) the assimilation of information, understanding a concept in its depth and breadth and in that way bringing it close to oneself. Such understanding is a springboard for emotion, for when a person is able to appreciate and comprehend how a matter relates to him, his feelings are aroused. This is the manner in which the connection of Binah to the heart is usually explained.

b) the appreciation of how the inner core of the concept is manifest within all of its particulars. Reaching this level of understanding causes unbounded feelings of satisfaction to well up within a person’s heart.

To explain: Chochmah enables a person to appreciate the concept in theabstract,but that appreciation is above a person’s ordinary powers of comprehension. He reaches above the way he usually understands and receives a flash of a new idea. Afterwards, using his potential of Binah, he works with the idea, developing his comprehension by fleshing out and analyzing its details and particular implications. In doing so, the light and brilliance of the concept in its abstract is often lost. Nevertheless, once the concept is grasped in all of its particulars, the person then sits back and reflects on the core of its meaning and he appreciates how each of the particular details is not a separate concept, but an integral part of the greater whole. This is a much deeper and more satisfying experience than grasping a concept abstractly through the power of Chochmah, for on this level, the inner core resonates through all of the particulars.

This is possible because [the attribute of] Atik, the realm of [sublime] pleasure,is revealed in Binah.

The potential within Binah to bring out this infinite dimension stems from its source in Atik Yomin, the inner dimension of the attribute of Kesser.

This makes it possible for the level of water described above to be gathered together and taken in. [For this refers to] “the love of delights,” [the love experienced by] a son when he is in his father’s presence, as explained above.

At this level, there is no yearning for closeness, but the serene satisfaction that results from experiencing oneness with G‑d. Atzeres, the gathering in and internalizing of this level, makes it possible for this degree of connection to be maintained in an ongoing manner.

וזהו This is the implication of the verse “And you shall draw water with happiness from the wellsprings of salvation,” that the dimension of water described above should be like a wellspring.

I.e., this degree of connection to G‑d inspires a continuing pattern of growth and development.

[To explain:] It is written:12 “They abandoned Me, the source of living water.”

The Alter Rebbe is not using the verse to refer to G‑dliness Above, but rather the spark of G‑dliness that exists within every individual.

[Implied is that every person possesses a G‑dly spark that is like] the source [for a] spring [of water] that flows beneath the ground. All that can be seen or grasped is the [external] spring; the source itself is “deep, [so very] deep, who can find it?”13 ,xiii

וכך [Similarly, in every] person’s [Divine service], he must also dig deep, arousing [himself] on his own initiative,

This translates the phrase באתערותא דלתתא, lit., “through an arousal from below.”

[seeking] the deeply [hidden] source [of living waters within his soul]

See Torah Or, p. 17c, et al., which explains similar concepts with regard to our Patriarch Yitzchak, whose Divine service was reflected in the task the Torah describes him as having performed, digging wells, i.e., penetrating to the source of living water within every individual and situation.

that flows beneath the earth.

Not only is a person’s G‑dly core buried deep within his personality, beneath the earth, as it were, the earth also serves as an analogy for the medium to uncover and spark the expression of this G‑dliness. For it is the approach of bittul, selfless dedication to G‑d’s purpose, i.e., the humility symbolized by earth, that enables this inner G‑dly potential to surface.

Thus, although earth is being used to symbolize the layers of concealment that one must overcome, as the Tzemach Tzedek explains in his Hosafos (printed as endnote xv), the Alter Rebbe is primarily employing it as an analogy for two positive potentials: a) the quality of bittul which should characterize a person’s Divine service in general, and, in particular, his approach to Torah study; and b) the limitless dimension present within the Torah itself. These two concepts are interrelated, for, as stated there, by studying Torah with bittul, one opens himself up to the infinite G‑dliness invested within the Torah.

“The earth” refers to [the level of bittul implied by the words of our Sages]:14 “May my soul be like earth

The phrase is generally translated as “May my soul be as dust to all,” because the Hebrew term afar can be translated as both “earth” and “dust.” The rationale for our choice of translation is explained in the Hosafos of the Tzemach Tzedek (printed as endnote xv).

to all.”

I.e., through bittul, he can penetrate to his G‑dly core. This makes possible the continuation of the request made in our prayers: “Open my heart to Your Torah.”

וגם [“Digging in the earth” also implies] deep, intellectual analysis during one’s occupationin the study of the Torah and its laws.xiv [For the Torah] is sublime wisdom, “the beginning of everything,”

Chochmah is the first of the ten Sefiros from which all existence emanates.

and is drawn down from “the source of living waters” Above. On this material plane, [these waters] have descended very far through the chainlike pattern of existence until they are “below the earth,” i.e., [enclothed] in material matters, [such as the laws concerning] crops, [the celebration of] the festivals, etc. From that level, they emerge and become “the wellsprings of salvation.”

For it is when the Torah is enclothed in material entities that its essential G‑dliness is manifested. This is the level on which it becomes “the wellsprings of salvation” and its infinite dimension is expressed.

[The term] “wellsprings” is plural, referring to two qualities: the quality of bittul [as in the verse]:“May my soul be like earth to all”; and the Torah, which is enclothed in [matters concerning] the physical earth, as explained above. Through these [two] mediums, [the water] becomes “living water.” [In contrast, the water which is on the surface of the earth is not called “living water,”] as is well known.15 ,xv

As stated in Vayikra 15:13 and Bamidbar 19:17, “living water” is required for the immersion of a zav and for the sprinkling of the ashes of the red heifer. Living water is defined as water from a wellspring that emerges from the ground. Even a stream resulting from rainwater is not included in this category.

In the analogy, the water (the Torah) that descends from Above does not express the infinite life-giving potential of water. It is only when the Torah has descended and enclothed itself in worldly matters that this potential is realized.


The previous sections spoke of the love for G‑d that is described through the analogies of thirst and fire. There is, however, a higher dimension of love, one described with the analogy of water. Thirst implies a distance from G‑d. The love symbolized by water implies a relationship where no distance exists. It is like a son who is in the presence of his father, in which case the feelings of closeness well up so powerfully within the son that he cannot express them outwardly. The water libation brought on Sukkos alludes to this level of attachment.

The parallel to this in our Divine service is the bittul experienced during the Shemoneh Esreh prayer. Torah study is the medium that enables this level of attachment to be continued after prayer. Although the Torah speaks about material entities, it is united absolutely with G‑d and thus enables a person to relate to Him with absolute bittul.

On this basis, we can appreciate the spiritual sequence in which Shemini Atzeresfollows Sukkos. On Shemini Atzeres, the quality of water expressed throughout Sukkos should be gathered in and internalized.

In this context, we can understand the verse “And you shall draw water with happiness from the wellsprings of salvation.” The emphasis is that the water comes from a wellspring, i.e., a source of water that flows out of the earth. The earth refers to humility on man’s part as a preparation for his study of the Torah, as we say “May my soul be like earth to all; open my heart to Your Torah.” It also refers to the dimension of the Torah that descends and enclothes itself in earthly matters.