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.

והבינוני הוא שלעולם אין הרע גובר כל כך לכבוש את העיר קטנה

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),

להתלבש בגוף להחטיאו

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

דהיינו ששלשת לבושי נפש הבהמית, שהם מחשבה דבור ומעשה שמצד הקליפה

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

אין גוברים בו על נפש האלקית להתלבש בגוף

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

במוח ובפה ובשאר רמ״ח אברים, להחטיאם ולטמאם חס ושלום

— (neither) in the brain (so that the brain think 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).

רק שלשה לבושי נפש האלקית הם לבדם מתלבשים בגוף, שהם מחשבה דבור ומעשה של תרי״ג מצות התורה

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.

ולא עבר עבירה מימיו ולא יעבור לעולם

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

ולא נקרא עליו שם רשע אפילו שעה אחת ורגע אחד כל ימיו

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

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.

אך מהות ועצמות נפש האלקית, שהן עשר בחינותיה

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

(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.)

לא להן לבדן המלוכה והממשלה בעיר קטנה

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

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.

כי אם בעתים מזומנים כמו בשעת קריאת שמע ותפלה

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

שהיא שעת מוחין דגדלות למעלה

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

וגם למטה היא שעת הכושר לכל אדם

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

שאז מקשר חב״ד שלו לה׳

Then, during the recital of Shema or during prayer, [the Beinoni] binds his CHaBaD — his intellectual faculties, consisting of Chochmah, Binah and Daat to G‑d,

להעמיק דעתו בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא

meditating deeply on the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof,

ולעורר את האהבה כרשפי אש בחלל הימני שבלבו

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.

לדבקה בו בקיום התורה ומצותיה מאהבה

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.

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.

שזהו ענין המבואר בקריאת שמע דאורייתא

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 Biblical (deoraysa) commandment enjoins us to recite;

וברכותיה שלפניה ולאחריה שהן מדרבנן הן הכנה לקיום הקריאת שמע, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

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

ואז הרע שבחלל השמאלי כפוף ובטל לטוב המתפשט בחלל הימני מחב״ד שבמוח המקושרים בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא

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.

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.

אבל אחר התפלה, בהסתלקות המוחין דגדלות אין סוף ברוך הוא, הרי הרע חוזר וניעור בחלל השמאלי, ומתאוה תאוה לתאות עולם הזה ותענוגיו

But this state of affairs lasts only for the duration of the spiritually-charged time of prayer. After prayer, however, when the intellect of the blessed Ein Sof is no longer in a state of sublimity, 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).

רק מפני שלא לו לבדו משפט המלוכה והממשלה בעיר, אינו יכול להוציא תאותו מכח אל הפועל להתלבש באברי הגוף

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,

במעשה דבור ומחשבה ממש

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

להעמיק מחשבתו בתענוגי עולם הזה, איך למלאת תאות לבו

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

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 wilfull — 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.

כי המוח שליט על הלב כמו שכתוב ברעיא מהימנא פרשת פנחס בתולדתו וטבע יצירתו

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

שכך נוצר האדם בתולדתו, שכל אדם יכול ברצונו שבמוחו להתאפק ולמשול ברוח תאותו שבלבו

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,

שלא למלאת משאלות לבו במעשה דבור ומחשבה

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,

ולהסיח דעתו לגמרי מתאות לבו אל ההפך לגמרי

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

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.

ובפרט אל צד הקדושה

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

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.

כדכתיב: וראיתי שיש יתרון לחכמה מן הסכלות, כיתרון האור מן החושך

[For] thus is it written:3 “Then I saw that wisdom surpasses folly as light surpasses darkness.”

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:

פירוש: כמו שהאור יש לו יתרון ושליטה וממשלה על החושך

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

שמעט אור גשמי דוחה הרבה מן החשך, שנדחה ממנו מאליו וממילא

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

כך נדחה ממילא סכלות הרבה של הקליפה וסיטרא אחרא שבחלל השמאלי

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

כמאמר רז״ל: אלא אם כן נכנס בו רוח שטות וכו׳

(as indeed our Sages say,5 “A man does not sin unless a spirit of folly enters him”).

מפני החכמה שבנפש האלקית שבמוח

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,

אשר רצונה למשול לבדה בעיר ולהתלבש בשלשה לבושיה הנ״ל בכל הגוף כולו כנ״ל

which desires to rule alone over the “city” — the body — and to pervade the entire body by means of its aforementioned6 three garments,

שהם מחשבה דבור ומעשה של תרי״ג מצות התורה כנ״ל

namely thought, speech and action connected with the 613 mitzvot of the Torah, as discussed above.7

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:

ואף על פי כן אינו נקרא צדיק כלל

Nevertheless, he is not deemed a tzaddik at all.

מפני שיתרון הזה אשר לאור נפש האלקית על החושך וסכלות של הקליפה הנדחה ממילא

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,

אינה אלא בשלשה לבושיה הנ״ל

is limited to the divine soul’s aforementioned three garmentsonly in thought, speech and action does the divine soul of the Beinoni dominate his animal soul,

ולא במהותה ועצמותה על מהותה ועצמותה של הקליפה

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

כי מהותה ועצמותה של נפש הבהמית שמהקליפה שבחלל השמאלי לא נדחה כלל ממקומו בבינוני

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)

אחר התפלה, שאין רשפי אש אהבת ה׳ בהתגלות לבו בחלל הימני

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;

כי אם תוכו רצוף אהבה מסותרת, שהיא אהבה הטבעית שבנפש האלקית, כמו שכתוב לקמן

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. 18 — that in the heart of every Jew lies hidden a natural love of G‑d.

ואזי יכול להיות סכלות הכסיל הרע בהתגלות לבו בחלל השמאלי

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,

להתאות תאוה לכל ענייני גשמיות עולם הזה, בין בהיתר בין באיסור חס ושלום

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,

כאלו לא התפלל כלל

as though he had never prayed.

אלא שבדבר איסור אינו עולה בדעתו לעשות האיסור בפועל ממש, חס ושלום

[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.

אלא הרהורי עבירה הקשים מעבירה יכולים לפעול לעלות למוחו, ולבלבלו מתורה ועבודה

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,

וכמאמר רז״ל: ג׳ עבירות אין אדם ניצול מהן בכל יום

as our Sages say,8 “There are three sins so difficult to avoid that no man is safe from [transgressing], daily:

הרהור עבירה, ועיון תפלה כו׳

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

רק שלזה מועיל הרשימו במוחין, ויראת ה׳ ואהבתו המסותרת בחלל הימני

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

להתגבר ולשלוט על הרע הזה המתאוה תאוה

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

שלא להיות לו שליטה וממשלה בעיר, להוציא תאותו מכח אל הפועל, להתלבש באברי הגוף

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.

ואפילו במוח לבדו, להרהר ברע, אין לו שליטה וממשלה להרהר חס ושלום ברצונו שבמוחו

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;

שיקבל ברצון חס ושלום הרהור זה הרע העולה מאליו מהלב למוח כנ״ל

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.9

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.

אלא מיד בעלייתו לשם, דוחהו בשתי ידים ומסיח דעתו

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,

מיד שנזכר שהוא הרהור רע

the instant he realizes that it is an evil thought.

ואינו מקבלו ברצון, אפילו להרהר בו ברצון, וכל שכן להעלותו על הדעת לעשותו, חס ושלום, או אפילו לדבר בו

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.

כי המהרהר ברצון נקרא רשע באותה שעה

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

והבינוני אינו רשע אפילו שעה אחת לעולם

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

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:

וכן בדברים שבין אדם לחבירו

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

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

מיד שעולה לו מהלב למוח איזו טינא ושנאה, חס ושלום

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

או איזו קנאה או כעס או קפידא ודומיהן

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

אינו מקבלן כלל במוחו וברצונו

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

ואדרבה המוח שליט ומושל ברוח שבלבו לעשות ההפך ממש

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,

להתנהג עם חבירו במדת חסד

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

וחיבה יתרה מודעת לו, לסבול ממנו עד קצה האחרון

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

ולא לכעוס חס ושלום וגם שלא לשלם לו כפעלו, חס ושלום

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

אלא אדרבה לגמול לחייבים טובות

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

כמו שכתוב בזהר ללמוד מיוסף עם אחיו

as taught in the Zohar,10 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.

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 acordance 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 the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi J.I. Schneersohn, 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.

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