Chapter 26

Glossary for this chapter:
Yetzer: There are actually two yetzers: The yetzer tov, which is an urge to do the right thing, and the yetzer hara, an urge to do the wrong thing. When the word yetzer is presented without any modifier, it refers to the yetzer hara.
Tumah: A kind of dark energy that inhabits voids of G‑dly light.
Havayeh: We never pronounce the four letter name of G‑d as it is written, so we say Havayeh instead, changing the order of the letters.

In truth, at this point there is a general principle you need to know. Let's compare this to winning any other competition, one in the physical realm. Think of two men who are wrestling with one another, each attempting to throw the other down. If one of them would be lazy and sluggish, he would be easily beaten—even if he were stronger than the other.

The same applies when it comes to winning against the yetzer: You can't beat it while in a state of laziness and sluggishness which are symptoms of depression and a fossilized heart. The only way to win is with the zeal that comes out of joy and a wide open heart, free from any nuance of worry or anxiety in the world.

Yes, there is a verse, "In every sadness there will be some profit"—meaning that there will be some qualitative gain to emerge from this sadness. But on the contrary, those words imply that the sadness itself has no positive qualities, only that some sort of gain will be eventually attained through it.

And what is it that can be gained? It is the true joy in Havayeh your G‑d that comes after a true sadness at designated times over one's sins with a bitter soul and a broken heart. Through this, the spirit of tumah, the Other Side and the iron curtain separating between you and your Heavenly Father are broken.

Now, generally, to free the heart of any sadness or nuance of anxiety from mundane concerns, even of children, health and finances, we give the following advice:

Everyone knows the statement of our rabbis, may their memory be for a blessing, "Just as one should bless G‑d for the good, so he should bless Him for the bad." The Talmud explains that this means we should greet such tidings with the same joy as we would greet tidings that were obvious and visible good, because "this is also for the good." It is only that it is not revealed good, visible to the human eye. That is because it originates from the Hidden World, which is higher than the Revealed World.

The Revealed World is the last two letters of the Divine Name, vav and hey, whereas the Hidden World is the first two letters, yud and hey. That is why it says, "Fortunate is the man who is chastised by yud-hey (those first two letters alone also spell one of G‑d's names)."

This explains another teaching of our rabbis. They taught that when the verse says, "His beloved are as the sun when it comes out in all its might," it is speaking of those who rejoice in their suffering. For how can a suffering person rejoice? Only because he cherishes closeness to G‑d more than anything in this world, as it says, "For your kindness is greater than life..." And closeness to G‑d is much stronger and of immeasurably higher quality in the Hidden World, "for there is the fortress of His might," of "He who dwells in supernal concealment."

That is why such a person will be privileged to witness the sun in all its might in the time to come. This is speaking about a time promised in the future when the sun will come out of its sheath in which it is covered in this world—meaning when the Hidden World will be revealed. The light of that world will shine and illuminate with a great and intense revelation all those who took refuge within it in this world and were sheltered by its shadow. For it is the shadow of wisdom, not light and visible good. That is enough for those who understand.

When it comes to depression over matters between you and G‑d, however, in that case you need to take some advice seriously to get rid of it. Obviously, this is so when you are in the middle of doing G‑d's work—because working for G‑d must be with joy and wholeheartedness. But it is so even for a businessperson involved in worldly affairs: If you suddenly find yourself depressed or concerned over matters between you and G‑d in the middle of your business, this is plainly a trap of the yetzer, intended to bring you down into a pleasure-seeking state afterwards.

This is obvious, for if not so, how could it be that you are sincerely depressed due to love of G‑d or awe of Him in the middle of your business?

So now, whether this sadness hit you at a time when you were serving G‑d by learning Torah or in prayer, or whether it occurred spontaneously at a time not designated for such tasks, you need to take this to heart:

Now is not the time for genuine sadness, even if you are concerned about grave sins, heaven forbid. Rather, for this you need a designated time and appropriate circumstances, when your mind is in a settled state. At that time you will contemplate the greatness of G‑d to whom these sins were directed, so that thereby your heart will be broken with genuine bitterness.

Elsewhere, this time and practice is explained. And there it is also explained that immediately after your heart is broken at those designated times, you must remove the sadness from your heart entirely. You must believe with complete faith that G‑d has removed your sin and that He is utterly forgiving. That itself is the genuine joy that comes after a depression as mentioned above.

Chapter 27

Glossary for this chapter:
Tzaddik: plural, tzaddikim. A righteous person. In Tanya, one who has achieved such a state of love for G‑d that he has divested himself of any urge towards anything contrary to G‑d's will.
Rasha: plural, reshaim. A person who has succumbed to the urge to do something contrary to G‑d's will, and has not yet expressed utter regret and abandoned his ways.
Beinoni: plural, beinonim. The “in between” person. Though he strives to be a tzaddik, the beinoni lives in a constant battle to not be a rasha.
Shechinah: The Divine Presence. G‑d in the modality of immanence
Sitra Achra: Literally, “the other side.” There are only two sides: One side let’s the truth of G‑d’s oneness shine through, the other opposes it; one side tells you—or at least admits—that there is nothing else but Him, and the other side denies it.

What if your depression is not from a nagging sense of guilt over sins, but from immoral fantasies and destructive urges that keep falling into your mind?

It all depends on what you are doing at the time. Let's say we are not talking about these thoughts falling into your mind at your time for prayer and study, but rather when you are occupied with your business and other day to day concerns. Then, on the contrary, you should rejoice in your lot. Yes, these fantasies fall into your mind, but nevertheless you take your mind off of them. You are fulfilling the words, "...and you shall not follow your heart and your eyes after which you tend to stray."

After all, who is this text referring to? Obviously not to tzaddikim, G‑d forbid, to call them "strayers." Rather, the text is speaking about beinonim, such as yourself, to whom fall lustful thoughts, sometimes for permissible things and sometimes....

When you distract your mind from such thoughts, that's how you perform this mitzvah of "not following." Our rabbis taught, "Someone who sits tight and does not sin is rewarded just like someone who fulfilled a mitzvah." If so, you should celebrate fulfilling a mitzvah by not doing exactly the same as if you had fulfilled a mitzvah by doing.

On the contrary, your depression stems from arrogance. You don't recognize your place and therefore you feel bad that you are not on the level of a tzaddik—because inane thoughts like this certainly do not fall into the minds of tzaddikim.

If you would only recognize your place, that you are very distant from the stature of a tzaddik, that if only you could be a beinoni and not a rasha all your life for even one moment—look, this is the measure of the beinoni and his job: to conquer the urges and the fantasies that rise from his heart to his brain, to distract his mind entirely from them and to push them away with both hands.

With every single push by which you expel it from your thoughts, the sitra achra is defeated here in our lowly world. You do your job down here and it has an effect in a higher realm. There, as well, the sitra achra is defeated as it soars upward as an eagle, just as the text says, "If you will lift yourself up like an eagle...from there I will throw you down, says G‑d."

The Zohar marvels over the tremendous enjoyment derived by G‑d when the sitra achra is defeated down here in our world and G‑d's glory rises above, stating that it goes beyond any other praise and reaches higher than anything else can reach.

So don't feel discouraged or overly distressed even if you will spend your entire life in this battle. Perhaps it is for this that you were created, perhaps this is your task in life—to be constantly suppressing the sitra achra.

This is what Job had in mind when he said, "You created wicked people." He didn't mean that G‑d created them to be actually wicked—G‑d forbid. Rather, he meant that G‑d created people who would have thoughts and fantasies just like the deeds of the wicked. They would then be engaged in a constant battle to distract their mind from these thoughts in order to defeat the sitra achra. But they will not be able to eradicate it entirely—that is done by tzaddikim.

You see, for G‑d, there are two kinds of enjoyment. One is from the total obliteration of the sitra achra and its transformation from bitter to sweet and from dark to light by the tzaddikim. The second is when the sitra achra is suppressed at the apex of its strength and might, while soaring upward like an eagle—and from that height G‑d throws it down. Why does He throw it down? Because there is an initiative from below by the beinonim.

This is what the text is saying with the words, "Make tasty foods for me, as I love." That is the Shechina speaking to Her children, all the Jewish people, as explained in the Tikunei Zohar. The word "foods" is plural because there are two sorts of delicacies: one from sweet, delicious foods, the other from foods that are sharp and pungent—only that they are well spiced and prepared until they become delicacies to refresh the spirit. In the same way, G‑d derives satisfaction from both the service of the tzaddik and the service of the beinoni.

This is what the text is talking about when it says, "Whatever G‑d causes is for His sake, even the wicked man on the day of his wickedness." It is talking about when a person will repent from his wickedness and transform the night of his evil into day and light above when the sitra achra is suppressed and G‑d's glory rises.

It does not stop there. It applies even in matters that are entirely permissible, anything in which you slay your urges—even for a short moment—with the intent of suppressing the sitra achra in the left ventricle of the heart.

For example, let's say you want to eat, but you delay your meal for an hour or less and spend that time occupied in Torah. The Talmud describes how in their days the rest of the world ate their first meal at ten in the morning, but the students of the sages would not eat until noon. They would deprive themselves with the purpose of suppressing the sitra achra. They didn't do this to have more time for study—since they studied for the rest of the day anyway.

The same applies when you keep your mouth shut and refrain from speaking some mundane matter that you really want to say. The same with fantasies. With even the slightest degree by which you suppress the sitra achra here below, G‑d's glory and His holiness rises above to tremendous heights. Then, from this holiness another holiness is drawn upon you below to empower you tremendously in your job to serve Him, blessed be He. This is what the rabbis had in mind when they taught, "Sanctify yourself a little below and you will be sanctified a lot from above."

And this is in addition to fulfilling a positive mitzvah of the Torah—"Make yourselves holy"—when you sanctify yourself in that which is permissible to you. The Torah means that you should be actively making yourself holy, implying that you do this even though you are not really holy and separated from the sitra achra—since it is still in all its strength and might in the left ventricle. It's just that you conquer your urges and sanctify yourself. Yet when the Torah says, "you will be holy," it means that eventually you actually will become holy and separated from the sitra achra. How? Through all this holiness you are getting from above, empowering you to drive it from your heart little by little.

Chapter 28

Glossary for this chapter:
Kelipah: Literally, shell or husk. Used to describe forces that obstruct the divine light. Klipat Noga is a translucent shell—a form of klipa that can be inducted to the service of good.
Avodah: Literally, work—either in the sense of doing a difficult job, or transforming something, such as working a hide into leather—or servitude, as a servant serves his master. Used to describe the labor of connecting to G‑d through immersion in His Torah and intense focus in davening.
Daven: Infinitive: Davening. Commonly called prayer, however, in actuality it is much more about achieving mystic union than about petition and requests.

Furthermore, even if erotic fantasies and other inappropriate thoughts pop into your mind while you are laboring in Torah or focusing on prayer, don't pay any attention to them. Instead, immediately get your mind off of them.

And don't be a fool either to attempt to elevate that aspect of your personality from which this extraneous thought extends. That is a technique meant only for tzaddikim who do not have distracting thoughts falling into their minds from their own character. If such a thought occurs to them, it belongs to someone else. But when it's your own thoughts falling into your mind—from the negative aspect of your heart, from the left ventricle—how are you supposed to pull something up when you yourself are the one who is tied down?

Yet, nevertheless, don't let this get you down into a self-blaming depression. You are doing G‑dly work right now and that has to be done with a lot of joy. Instead, just the opposite: When these distracting thoughts strike, you should be even more encouraged and intensified in your efforts with all your might to focus on your prayers with joy and to celebrate. Why?

Because you realize that this thought is coming to you from the kelipah of the left ventricle of your heart. In a beinoni, that kelipah is at war with the G‑dly soul. And you are well aware of the way warfare goes—and hand-to-hand combat as well: When one side starts taking control, the other side starts fighting harder as well, mustering up all its forces. So as your G‑dly soul exerts itself and struggles to daven, the kelipah struggles to confound it and throw it down with its totally out-of-nowhere thoughts.

This is counter-intuitive, since common sense tells you that these inappropriate thoughts are proof that your davening is worthless. After all, if you were davening properly you wouldn't be getting these inappropriate thoughts, right?

Well, that would be true if there was only one person inside you—if the same one who was davening was the same one who was conjuring and fantasizing these inappropriate thoughts. But when you really get down to it, there are two personalities inside the human brain at war with one another, each one with the same objective and motive: To gain complete control and have the brain exclusively at its disposal.

All thoughts of Torah and heaven-inspired awe originate in the G‑dly soul. And all mundane matters come from the animal soul—only that the G‑dly soul happens to be stuck inside it.

So the whole thing is as though you were davening and some devious anti-Semite was standing in your face trying to engage you in conversation just to mess you up. Obviously, the best strategy is to not answer him a thing, neither positive nor negative, and to act as though you were utterly deaf. You can fulfill the Torah's written advice, "Never answer an idiot according to his idiocy, lest you also become the same as him."

So that's precisely what you have to do: Don't react in any way—not with a complaint, not with a response—against this extraneous thought. Wrestle with dirt and you'll get dirty. Just pretend you have no idea and are totally unaware of the imaginings that popped in. Get them out of your mind and muster up more intensity in your mental focus.

Sometimes it's hard to get these things out of your consciousness—they are capable at times of plaguing your mind with force. Then you can pour your soul out to G‑d and plead to Him in your thoughts, asking that He have mercy over you in His abundant mercies, as a father has compassion for his children who are of his same essential brain. So, too, G‑d will have compassion over your soul which is drawn out of Him, to save it from the turbulent waters. And He will do so for His sake, for His people are truly a part of Him.