In the previous chapters, the Alter Rebbe defined the terms tzaddik and rasha. The tzaddik, he explained, is one in whom the good qualities of his divine soul vanquish the evil qualities of his animal soul to the extent of completely eradicating them. A rasha, conversely, is one in whom the evil qualities of his animal soul overcome the good of his divine soul, causing him to sin in thought, speech, or action.

In this, the twelfth chapter, the term beinoni—the “intermediate man’’ who is neither tzaddik nor rasha—will be defined. The beinoni, the Alter Rebbe explains, is one whose practical conduct in thought, speech, and action is dictated solely by the divine soul; it has the upper hand over the animal soul. The beinoni accomplishes this by not allowing himself to be dominated in any way by the animal soul, even for the shortest duration, never thinking, speaking, and surely not acting in a sinful manner. The garments of the divine soul alone—namely thought, speech, and action in Torah and mitzvot—are those used by the beinoni.

Nevertheless, with respect to the essence of the divine and animal souls, i.e., their respective faculties of intellect and emotion, the divine soul does not dominate the animal soul, and the latter remains powerful enough to arouse desires for physical matters. However, through constant vigilance, the beinoni keeps these desires in check, never permitting them any practical manifestation.

The beinoni (“intermediate man”) is he in whom the evil of the animal soul never attains enough power to conquer the “small city” (i.e., the body, which is likened to a small city which the divine and animal soul both wish to dominate),

וְהַבֵּינוֹנִי, הוּא שֶׁלְּעוֹלָם אֵין הָרָע גּוֹבֵר כָּל כָּךְ לִכְבּוֹשׁ אֶת הָעִיר קְטַנָּה

so as to clothe itself in the body and make it sin.

לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בַּגּוּף לְהַחֲטִיאוֹ;

That is to say, the three “garments” of the animal soul—namely thought, speech, and action originating in the kelipah(i.e., forbidden thought, speech, and action, which derive their vitality from kelipah, as explained in previous chapters) are, in the beinoni, so subdued that they

דְּהַיְינוּ, שֶׁשְּׁלֹשָׁה לְבוּשֵׁי נֶפֶשׁ הַבַּהֲמִית, שֶׁהֵם מַחֲשָׁבָה דִּבּוּר וּמַעֲשֶׂה שֶׁמִּצַּד הַקְּלִיפָּה,

do not prevail within him over the divine soul to the extent of clothing themselves in the body

אֵין גּוֹבְרִים בּוֹ עַל נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בַּגּוּף –

—(neither) in the brain (so that the brain thinks forbidden thoughts with the animal soul’s garment of thought) nor in the mouth (to speak forbidden words—the garment of speech) nor in any of the other 248 organs (to act in a forbidden manner—the garment of action)in none of these do the garments of the animal soul clothe themselves to cause them to sin and to defile them, G‑d forbid (in which case he would be a rasha, not a beinoni).

בַּמּוֹחַ וּבַפֶּה וּבִשְׁאָר רַמַ"ח אֵבָרִים, לְהַחֲטִיאָם וּלְטַמְּאָם חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

Only the three garments of the divine soul, they alone manifest themselves in the body, these being the thought, speech, and action related to the 613 commandments of the Torah.

רַק שְׁלֹשָׁה לְבוּשֵׁי נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית הֵם לְבַדָּם מִתְלַבְּשִׁים בַּגּוּף, שֶׁהֵם מַחֲשָׁבָה דִּבּוּר וּמַעֲשֶׂה שֶׁל תַּרְיַ"ג מִצְוֹת הַתּוֹרָה,

The beinoni has never committed any transgression, nor will he ever transgress;

וְלֹא עָבַר עֲבֵירָה מִיָּמָיו וְלֹא יַעֲבוֹר לְעוֹלָם,

the name “rasha” has never been applied to him, however temporarily, not even for a moment, throughout his life.

וְלֹא נִקְרָא עָלָיו שֵׁם "רָשָׁע" אֲפִילוּ שָׁעָה אַחַת וְרֶגַע אֶחָד כָּל יָמָיו.

The Rebbe notes: ‘‘The question is well known…”; i.e., with regard to the statement that the beinoni is one who has never transgressed, the following question is commonly raised:

Is it not possible, through repentance and subsequent divine service, that one attain the rank of beinoni despite his previous sins? After repenting, one can rise even to the level of tzaddik; surely, then, the rank of beinoni is not beyond his reach!

The Rebbe answers this question in the following manner:

When the Alter Rebbe states that the beinoni has never transgressed, he does not mean that the beinoni never sinned in his life as a human being but that in his life as a beinoni, he has no history of sin. The beinoni’s present spiritual state is such that sin—in the past as well as in the future—has no place in his life. He would not sin even if he were subject to the same temptations and trials which led him to sin in the past. It is therefore true to state that from the perspective of his present state, he has never sinned.

Likewise, the Alter Rebbe’s statement that the beinoni “will never sin” is to be understood in the same vein. The intention is not that it is impossible for him to sin; he does not, after all, lose his freedom of choice. Rather, as explained above, his present state is such that it precludes his sinning in the future, despite the trials that the future may bring.

To be classified as a true beinoni, one must fulfill these conditions. For if one’s spiritual state precludes his sinning only under present conditions but he would succumb to sin were he subject to the temptations of the past or those the future may bring, then he is, in potentia, a rasha; he could and would sin, except that the prevailing circumstances are not sufficiently conducive for him to do so.

In the same vein, the Alter Rebbe concludes, “The name ‘rasha’ (referring to one who sins in thought, speech, or action) has never (again, in his state of beinoni) been applied to him, however temporarily….” For the beinoni has reached a state where sin is precluded under any circumstances, whether of the past or future.

It remains to be understood, however, why such a lofty person is considered merely a beinoni, not a tzaddik. This matter is now clarified.

However, the essence and being of the divine soul, which are its ten faculties,

אַךְ מַהוּת וְעַצְמוּת נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית, שֶׁהֵן עֶשֶׂר בְּחִינוֹתֶיהָ,

(The three soul-powers of intellect and the seven emotional faculties are referred to as the “essence” of the divine soul, in contrast with the soul’s “garments” [thought, speech, and action], which serve merely as outlets and means of expression for the soul’s essential faculties.)

do not hold undisputed sovereignty and sway over the “small city”—the body.

לֹא לָהֶן לְבַדָּן הַמְּלוּכָה וְהַמֶּמְשָׁלָה בָּעִיר קְטַנָּה,

For, as shall be explained later, the faculties of the animal soul, too, exercise some degree of control over the body through awakening in one’s heart desires for worldly pleasures, which in turn cause forbidden thoughts to enter his mind.

Only at specific times do the faculties of the divine soul hold undisputed sovereignty over the beinoni with the animal soul having no effect whatsoever on him, such as during the recital of the Shema or the Amidah.

כִּי אִם בְּעִתִּים מְזוּמָּנִים, כְּמוֹ בִּשְׁעַת קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּתְפִלָּה

At this time [of prayer], the supernal intellect above is in a sublime state—it is a time of great illumination in the higher worlds;

שֶׁהִיא שְׁעַת מוֹחִין דְּגַדְלוּת לְמַעְלָה,

likewise below—in this physical world—the time [of prayer] is propitious for every man to ascend to a higher spiritual level.

וְגַם לְמַטָּה הִיא שְׁעַת הַכּוֹשֶׁר לְכָל אָדָם,

Then, during the recital of Shema or during prayer, [the beinoni] binds his ChaBaDhis intellectual faculties, consisting of chochmah, binah, and daat—to G‑d,

שֶׁאָז מְקַשֵּׁר חָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת שֶׁלּוֹ לַה' –

meditating deeply on the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof,

לְהַעֲמִיק דַּעְתּוֹ בִּגְדוּלַּת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

and arousing through this meditation a burning love [of G‑d] in the right part of his heart; for, as explained in previous chapters, meditation on G‑d’s greatness arouses the love of Him within one’s heart.

וּלְעוֹרֵר אֶת הָאַהֲבָה כְּרִשְׁפֵּי אֵשׁ בֶּחָלָל הַיְמָנִי שֶׁבְּלִבּוֹ,

This love, in turn, leads the beinoni to desire to cleave to Him by means of fulfilling the Torah and its commandments out of love.

לְדָבְקָה בוֹ בְּקִיּוּם הַתּוֹרָה וּמִצְוֹתֶיהָ מֵאַהֲבָה,

The realization that only the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot will fulfill his desire to become one with G‑d channels the beinoni’s love into a desire to observe Torah and mitzvot.

This arousal of love for G-d, and its accompanying resolve to adhere to Torah and mitzvot and thereby to cleave to Him, is the essential subject of the Shema, which the Biblical (deorayta) commandment enjoins us to recite;

שֶׁזֶּהוּ עִנְיָן הַמְבוֹאָר בִּקְרִיאַת שְׁמַע דְּאוֹרַיְיתָא,

likewise, the Rabbinically ordained (derabbanan) blessings preceding and following [the Shema] are a preparation enabling us to fulfill [that which we recite in] the Shema, as explained elsewhere.1

וּבִרְכוֹתֶיהָ שֶׁלְּפָנֶיהָ וּלְאַחֲרֶיהָ שֶׁהֵן מִדְּרַבָּנָן – הֵן הֲכָנָה לְקִיּוּם הַקְּרִיאַת־שְׁמַע, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר;

At such time, during the Shema or prayer, when the love of G‑d burns in the heart of the beinoni, the evil in the left part of his heart (the animal soul’s principal area of manifestation) is subjected to and is nullified before the goodness (i.e., the love of G‑d) that spreads into the right part of the heart, where the divine soul is manifest, from the ChaBaD faculties in the brain which are bound [in meditation] to the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof.

וְאָז, הָרָע שֶׁבֶּחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי כָּפוּף וּבָטֵל לַטּוֹב הַמִּתְפַּשֵּׁט בֶּחָלָל הַיְמָנִי מֵחָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת שֶׁבַּמּוֹחַ הַמְקוּשָּׁרִים בִּגְדוּלַּת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא;

Contemplating G‑d’s greatness with the three intellectual faculties—wisdom, understanding, and knowledge (ChaBaD)—arouses and diffuses a love of G‑d in (the right part of) the heart. This arousal of love causes the evil of the animal soul to be nullified in the good of the divine soul, now pervading the heart. During the time of prayer, therefore, when the beinoni arouses his love of G‑d through meditation, his animal soul is inactive, and he feels no inclination for physical pleasures.

Thus, during prayer, the beinoni’s divine soul is his “undisputed sovereign,” as the Alter Rebbe stated above.

But this state of affairs lasts only for the duration of the spiritually charged time of prayer. However, after prayer, when the state of sublimity of the intellect of the Ein Sof, blessed is He, departs, i.e., when the spiritual illumination engendered by prayer ceases, the evil of the animal soul in the left part of the heart reawakens, and he (the beinoni) [once again] feels a desire for the lusts of this world and its delights, since the evil of the beinoni’s animal soul remains undiminished even after prayer (as the Alter Rebbe will explain shortly).

אֲבָל אַחַר הַתְּפִלָּה, בְּהִסְתַּלְּקוּת הַמּוֹחִין דְּגַדְלוּת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, הֲרֵי הָרָע חוֹזֵר וְנֵיעוֹר בֶּחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי, וּמִתְאַוֶּה תַּאֲוָה לְתַאֲוֹת עוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְתַעֲנוּגָיו.

Yet, because the evil of the animal soul has not the sole authority and dominion over the “city,” for the good of the divine soul (situated in the brain) has its say as well, it is unable to implement this desire by clothing itself in the limbs of the body,

רַק מִפְּנֵי שֶׁלֹּא לוֹ לְבַדּוֹ מִשְׁפַּט הַמְּלוּכָה וְהַמֶּמְשָׁלָה בָּעִיר, אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהוֹצִיא תַּאֲוָתוֹ מִכֹּחַ אֶל הַפּוֹעַל, לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּאֵבְרֵי הַגּוּף

[to engage] in deed, speech, or actual thought—

בְּמַעֲשֶׂה דִּבּוּר וּמַחֲשָׁבָה מַמָּשׁ,

“actual” thought meaning: to concentrate his attention on worldly pleasures [with a view to] devising means of satisfying the lust of his heart.

לְהַעֲמִיק מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ בְּתַעֲנוּגֵי עוֹלָם הַזֶּה אֵיךְ לְמַלֹּאת תַּאֲוַת לִבּוֹ,

The beinoni’s desire for worldly pleasures will cause thoughts of such matters to rise from the heart to his mind; these thoughts are beyond his control, beyond the sphere of dominance of his divine soul. He can, however, control his “actual”—i.e., conscious and willful—thought so that immediately as he becomes aware of the forbidden thoughts he dismisses them from his mind, not permitting himself to dwell on them nor to think how to implement them (as the Alter Rebbe will state at greater length further in this chapter).

Returning now to his statement that the divine soul of the beinoni keeps the desires of his animal soul in check, preventing their expression in deed, speech, and actual thought, the Alter Rebbe explains why this is possible:

because the brain rules over the heart (as it is written in Raaya Mehemna, Parashat Pinchas2) by virtue of its innately created nature.

כִּי הַמּוֹחַ שַׁלִּיט עַל הַלֵּב [כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּרַעְיָא מְהֵימְנָא פָּרָשַׁת פִּינְחָס] בְּתוֹלַדְתּוֹ וְטֶבַע יְצִירָתוֹ,

For man was so created from birth that every person may, with the power of the will in his brain—i.e., the will created of his mind’s understanding—restrain himself and control the drive of his heart’s lust,

שֶׁכָּךְ נוֹצַר הָאָדָם בְּתוֹלַדְתּוֹ, שֶׁכָּל אָדָם יָכוֹל בִּרְצוֹנוֹ שֶׁבְּמוֹחוֹ לְהִתְאַפֵּק וְלִמְשׁוֹל בְּרוּחַ תַּאֲוָתוֹ שֶׁבְּלִבּוֹ,

preventing his heart’s desires from finding expression in deed, word, and thought, when the mind understands the evil inherent in such deed, word, or thought,

שֶׁלֹּא לְמַלֹּאת מִשְׁאֲלוֹת לִבּוֹ בְּמַעֲשֶׂה דִּבּוּר וּמַחֲשָׁבָה,

and [he can, if his mind wills it] divert his attention completely from that which his heart craves [and turn his attention] to the exactly opposite direction.

וּלְהַסִּיחַ דַּעְתּוֹ לְגַמְרֵי מִתַּאֲוֹת לִבּוֹ אֶל הַהֵפֶךְ לְגַמְרֵי,

This principle of mind over heart holds true even where the restraint of one’s desires is dictated by simple logic, without motives of holiness; the demands of the mind’s logic are, alone, sufficiently powerful to steer one’s attention in a direction diametrically opposite to that which his heart craves.

If this is true whatever his motives, it is true particularly in the direction of holiness.

וּבִפְרָט אֶל צַד הַקְּדוּשָּׁה,

When, motivated by the knowledge that his lustful thoughts are sinful and thoughts of Torah and mitzvot good and praiseworthy, one seeks to divert his attention from the former to the latter so that both his goal and his motives are holy, his mind’s will is particularly effective in mastering his heart and thoughts.

Thus is it written: “Then I saw that wisdom surpasses folly as light surpasses darkness.”3

כְּדִכְתִיב: "וְרָאִיתִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ יִתְרוֹן לַחָכְמָה מִן הַסִּכְלוּת, כִּיתְרוֹן הָאוֹר מִן הַחוֹשֶׁךְ";

Clearly, the use of analogy indicates that a difficult and unfamiliar idea is to be clarified by comparison with a simple, familiar one. However, nothing seems to be gained by equating wisdom and folly with light and darkness; both are equally comprehensible.

Even assuming that the reference here is to a deeper aspect of “wisdom,” namely holiness (as in Ecclesiastes’ depiction of man’s inclination for good as “a poor and wise child”4), and that “folly” refers to evil (as in his portrayal of the evil inclination as “an old and foolish king”), there is still no need for analogy. Clearly, holiness is vastly superior to evil.

Rather, the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain, the analogy is used here to illustrate how wisdom is superior to folly: The superiority of light over darkness is manifest in the ability of a tiny ray of light to banish a great deal of darkness. Furthermore, the light need not battle darkness to banish it; the darkness disappears as a matter of course with the appearance of light. In the same way is the wisdom of holiness superior to the folly of evil. A mere ray of holiness suffices to banish—as a matter of course—a great deal of evil folly.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

This [analogy] means that just as light has superiority, power and dominion over darkness,

פֵּירוּשׁ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁהָאוֹר יֵשׁ לוֹ יִתְרוֹן וּשְׁלִיטָה וּמֶמְשָׁלָה עַל הַחוֹשֶׁךְ,

so that a little physical light banishes a great deal of darkness,5 which is displaced automatically and inevitably without any effort on the part of the light,

שֶׁמְּעַט אוֹר גַּשְׁמִי דּוֹחֶה הַרְבֵּה מִן הַחשֶׁךְ, שֶׁנִּדְחֶה מִמֶּנּוּ מֵאֵלָיו וּמִמֵּילָא,

so is there driven away, automatically, much foolishness of the kelipah and sitra achara of the animal soul located in the left part of the heart,

כָּךְ נִדְחֶה מִמֵּילָא סִכְלוּת הַרְבֵּה שֶׁל הַקְּלִיפָּה וְסִטְרָא אָחֳרָא שֶׁבֶּחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי

(as indeed, our Sages say, “A man does not sin unless a spirit of folly enters him”6).

[כְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן נִכְנַס בּוֹ רוּחַ שְׁטוּת וְכוּ'"],

Thus, our Sages described the desires of the animal soul as “folly.” Hence, they are automatically banished by the wisdom of the divine soul that is in the brain,

מִפְּנֵי הַחָכְמָה שֶׁבַּנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית שֶׁבַּמּוֹחַ,

which desires to rule alone over the “city”—the body—and to pervade the entire body by means of its aforementioned7 three garments,

אֲשֶׁר רְצוֹנָהּ לִמְשׁוֹל לְבַדָּהּ בָּעִיר, וּלְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה לְבוּשֶׁיהָ הַנִּזְכָּרִים לְעֵיל, בְּכָל הַגּוּף כּוּלּוֹ כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

namely thought, speech, and action, connected with the 613 mitzvot of the Torah, as discussed above.8

שֶׁהֵם מַחֲשָׁבָה דִּבּוּר וּמַעֲשֶׂה שֶׁל תַּרְיַ"ג מִצְוֹת הַתּוֹרָה, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

In the beinoni, this desire of the divine soul in the brain—that it alone pervade his thought, speech, and action and hence his entire body—controls the lustful desires which the animal soul arouses in his heart. Moreover, it prevents their actual expression because of the natural supremacy of mind over heart and of holiness over evil.

But if the divine soul of the beinoni indeed dominates his every area of practical expression, alone dictating his every thought, word, and deed, why is he not considered a tzaddik?

The Alter Rebbe explains:

Nevertheless, he is not deemed a tzaddik at all,

וְאַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן אֵינוֹ נִקְרָא "צַדִּיק" כְּלָל,

for this dominance that the light of the divine soul has over the darkness and folly of the kelipah of the animal soul, which is automatically dispelled,

מִפְּנֵי שֶׁיִּתְרוֹן הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר לְאוֹר נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית עַל הַחוֹשֶׁךְ וְסִכְלוּת שֶׁל הַקְּלִיפָּה הַנִּדְחֶה מִמֵּילָא –

is limited to the divine soul’s aforementioned three garments—only in thought, speech, and action does the divine soul of the beinoni dominate his animal soul,

אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה לְבוּשֶׁיהָ הַנִּזְכָּרִים לְעֵיל,

but the essence and core of the divine soul does not dominate the essence and core of the [animal soul deriving from the] kelipah.

וְלֹא בְּמַהוּתָהּ וְעַצְמוּתָהּ עַל מַהוּתָהּ וְעַצְמוּתָהּ שֶׁל הַקְּלִיפָּה,

For in the beinoni, the essence and core of the animal soul originating in kelipah, which is lodged in the left part of the heart, remains undisturbed (not displaced by the divine soul)

כִּי מַהוּתָהּ וְעַצְמוּתָהּ שֶׁל נֶפֶשׁ הַבַּהֲמִית שֶׁמֵּהַקְּלִיפָּה שֶׁבֶּחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי – לֹא נִדְחָה כְּלָל מִמְּקוֹמוֹ בַּבֵּינוֹנִי

after prayer, when the burning love of G‑d is no longer in a revealed state in the right part of his heart, as it was during prayer, when the love glowed openly and was palpably felt there;

אַחַר הַתְּפִלָּה, שֶׁאֵין רִשְׁפֵּי אֵשׁ אַהֲבַת ה' בְּהִתְגַּלּוּת לִבּוֹ בֶּחָלָל הַיְמָנִי,

rather, the love is (after prayer) only on the inside—his heart is inlaid with hidden love, meaning that love which is natural to the divine soul, not the revealed love born of meditation that the beinoni experiences during the prayer, but a natural, hidden love of G‑d, as will be discussed further in ch. 18that in the heart of every Jew lies hidden a natural love of G‑d.

כִּי אִם תּוֹכוֹ רָצוּף "אַהֲבָה מְסוּתֶּרֶת", שֶׁהִיא אַהֲבָה הַטִּבְעִית שֶׁבַּנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית, כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר לְקַמָּן.

Then after prayer, when the love of G‑d is no longer revealed in the heart of the beinoni, it is possible for the folly of the “wicked fool” (i.e., the animal soul) to reveal itself in the left part of the heart,

וַאֲזַי, יָכוֹל לִהְיוֹת סִכְלוּת הַכְּסִיל הָרָע בְּהִתְגַּלּוּת לִבּוֹ בֶּחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי,

craving all physical matters of this world, whether permitted (except that they should be desired and used as means of serving G‑d, whereas at this time, the beinoni craves them for their own sake for the pleasure they provide) or whether prohibited, G‑d forbid,

לְהִתְאַוֹּת תַּאֲוָה לְכָל עִנְיְינֵי גַּשְׁמִיּוּת עוֹלָם הַזֶּה, בֵּין בְּהֶיתֵּר בֵּין בְּאִיסּוּר חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

as though he had never prayed.

כְּאִלּוּ לֹא הִתְפַּלֵּל כְּלָל.

[His craving is limited] only [in that] in the case of [a craving for] a prohibited matter, it does not enter his mind to transgress in actual practice, G‑d forbid.

אֶלָּא שֶׁבִּדְבַר אִיסּוּר אֵינוֹ עוֹלֶה בְּדַעְתּוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת הָאִיסּוּר בְּפוֹעַל מַמָּשׁ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

But thoughts of sin, which are in certain respects (as explained in the previous chapter) “more heinous than actual sin,” can manage to rise to his mind and to distract him from Torah and divine service,

אֶלָּא הִרְהוּרֵי עֲבֵירָה הַקָּשִׁים מֵעֲבֵירָה יְכוֹלִים לִפְעוֹל לַעֲלוֹת לְמוֹחוֹ וּלְבַלְבְּלוֹ מִתּוֹרָה וַעֲבוֹדָה,

as our Sages say, “There are three sins so difficult to avoid that no man is safe from [transgressing] daily:

וּכְמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "ג' עֲבֵירוֹת אֵין אָדָם נִיצּוֹל מֵהֶן בְּכָל יוֹם,

thoughts of sin, [lack of] concentration in prayer…[and slanderous gossip]”9; thus, the beinoni is included in the generalization that “no man” avoids thoughts of sin.

הִרְהוּר עֲבֵירָה וְעִיּוּן תְּפִלָּה כוּ'".

However, the impression retained in his mind from his meditation, during prayer, on G‑d’s greatness, and the [natural] love and fear of G‑d hidden in the right part of his heart, enable him

רַק שֶׁלָּזֶה מוֹעִיל הָרְשִׁימוּ בַּמּוֹחִין, וְיִרְאַת ה' וְאַהֲבָתוֹ הַמְסוּתֶּרֶת בֶּחָלָל הַיְמָנִי,

to prevail over and dominate the evil [animal soul’s] craving,

לְהִתְגַּבֵּר וְלִשְׁלוֹט עַל הָרָע הַזֶּה הַמִּתְאַוֶּה תַּאֲוָה,

preventing the evil from gaining the supremacy and dominion over the “city” (the body) and carrying out its craving from the potential to the actual by clothing itself in the organs of the body in actual speech or deed.

שֶׁלֹּא לִהְיוֹת לוֹ שְׁלִיטָה וּמֶמְשָׁלָה בָּעִיר לְהוֹצִיא תַּאֲוָתוֹ מִכֹּחַ אֶל הַפּוֹעַל לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּאֵבְרֵי הַגּוּף.

Furthermore: even in the mind alone, with respect to sinful thought, the evil has not the dominion and power to cause him (G‑d forbid) to think such thoughts consciously,

וַאֲפִילוּ בַּמּוֹחַ לְבַדּוֹ, לְהַרְהֵר בְּרָע, אֵין לוֹ שְׁלִיטָה וּמֶמְשָׁלָה לְהַרְהֵר חַס וְשָׁלוֹם בִּרְצוֹנוֹ שֶׁבְּמוֹחוֹ –

i.e., [to cause the mind] to accept willingly, G‑d forbid, the evil thought that rises of its own accord—unbidden—from the heart to the mind, as explained above.8

שֶׁיְּקַבֵּל בְּרָצוֹן חַס וְשָׁלוֹם הִרְהוּר זֶה הָרָע הָעוֹלֶה מֵאֵלָיו מֵהַלֵּב לַמּוֹחַ כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

Evil thoughts will occur to him involuntarily, because the evil in his heart craves evil; however, the evil does not have the final say on what he will let his mind accept willingly; the beinoni’s conscious mind is dominated by the divine soul.

Instead, immediately upon [the thought’s] rising to [the mind], he—the beinoni—thrusts it aside as it were with both hands, and averts his mind from it,

אֶלָּא מִיָּד בַּעֲלִיָּיתוֹ לְשָׁם, דּוֹחֵהוּ בִּשְׁתֵּי יָדַיִם, וּמַסִּיחַ דַּעְתּוֹ

the instant he realizes that it is an evil thought.

מִיָּד שֶׁנִּזְכָּר שֶׁהוּא הִרְהוּר רָע,

He will refuse to accept it even as a subject for mere conscious thought and will certainly not entertain the notion of acting on it, G‑d forbid, or even speaking of it,

וְאֵינוֹ מְקַבְּלוֹ בְּרָצוֹן אֲפִילוּ לְהַרְהֵר בּוֹ בְּרָצוֹן, וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן לְהַעֲלוֹתוֹ עַל הַדַּעַת לַעֲשׂוֹתוֹ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, אוֹ אֲפִילוּ לְדַבֵּר בּוֹ,

for he who willingly indulges in such thoughts is deemed a rasha at that moment,

כִּי הַמְהַרְהֵר בְּרָצוֹן נִקְרָא רָשָׁע בְּאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה,

while the beinoni is never wicked, even for a single moment. Obviously, then, the beinoni would not willingly entertain evil thoughts.

וְהַבֵּינוֹנִי אֵינוֹ רָשָׁע אֲפִילוּ שָׁעָה אַחַת לְעוֹלָם.

The discussion of his mastery over his animal soul has thus far centered on matters pertaining to man’s relationship with G‑d. It now moves to another area:

So, too, in matters “between man and his fellow man.”

וְכֵן בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁבֵּין אָדָם לַחֲבֵירוֹ,

The beinoni will not grant expression in thought, speech, or action to any evil feelings toward his fellow.

As soon as there rises from his heart to his mind any animosity or hatred, G‑d forbid,

מִיָּד שֶׁעוֹלֶה לוֹ מֵהַלֵּב לַמּוֹחַ אֵיזוֹ טִינָא וְשִׂנְאָה חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

or jealousy, anger, or a grudge and their like,

אוֹ אֵיזוֹ קִנְאָה אוֹ כַּעַס אוֹ קְפֵידָא וְדוֹמֵיהֶן,

he will bar them from his mind and will, refusing even to think of them.

אֵינוֹ מְקַבְּלָן כְּלָל בְּמוֹחוֹ וּבִרְצוֹנוֹ.

On the contrary, his mind will prevail over and dominate the feelings of his heart to do the exact opposite of that which the heart desires,

וְאַדְּרַבָּה, הַמּוֹחַ שַׁלִּיט וּמוֹשֵׁל בָּרוּחַ שֶׁבְּלִבּוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת הַהֵפֶךְ מַמָּשׁ, –

namely, to conduct himself toward his fellow with the quality of kindness (as opposed to the quality of “severity,” where hatred and anger originate),

לְהִתְנַהֵג עִם חֲבֵירוֹ בְּמִדַּת חֶסֶד,

and to display toward his fellow a disproportionate love, in suffering from him to the furthest extreme,

וְחִיבָּה יְתֵרָה מוּדַעַת לוֹ, לִסְבּוֹל מִמֶּנּוּ עַד קָצֶה הָאַחֲרוֹן,

without being provoked into anger, G‑d forbid, or to take revenge in kind, G‑d forbid, even without anger,

וְלֹא לִכְעוֹס חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, – וְגַם, שֶׁלֹּא לְשַׁלֵּם לוֹ כְּפָעֳלוֹ חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, –

but, on the contrary, to repay offenders with favors,

אֶלָּא אַדְּרַבָּה; לִגְמוֹל לְחַיָּיבִים טוֹבוֹת,

as taught in the Zohar10 that we should learn from the example of Joseph’s conduct with his brothers, when he repaid them for the suffering they brought upon him with kindness and favors.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּזֹּהַר, לִלְמוֹד מִיּוֹסֵף עִם אֶחָיו:

Thus, in his relations with his fellow man as well, the beinoni does not permit the evil in his heart to express itself in thought, word, or deed.

It is thus understood from this chapter that with regard to practice, the divine soul is the beinoni’s only master. He neither thinks, speaks, nor does anything forbidden but acts only in accordance with Torah and mitzvot. As regards his essence, however, i.e., his intellect and emotions, he has another master as well; his animal soul is still powerful, and it can and does arouse evil desires in his heart.

In connection with the statement made earlier in this chapter, that the time of prayer is propitious for spiritual elevation, an aphorism of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe,11 comes to mind:

When a Jew studies Torah, he feels like a student before G‑d, his teacher, Whose wisdom he is studying. When he prays, he feels like a child before his father.