In ch. 26 the Alter Rebbe stated that both depression and dullness of heart produce a state of sluggishness which prevents a person from overcoming the evil inclination of the animal soul. He therefore outlined in chs. 26-28 methods of overcoming depression arising from various causes. In this chapter the Alter Rebbe will discuss means of dealing with “dullness of heart” (timtum halev), after describing this state more clearly.

אך עוד אחת, צריך לשית עצות בנפשות הבינונים

Those whose souls are of the level of Beinonim must seek means of contending with yet another difficulty.

אשר לפעמים ועתים רבים יש להם טמטום הלב שנעשה כאבן, ולא יכול לפתוח לבו בשום אופן לעבודה שבלב, זו תפלה

Occasionally, and even frequently, they experience a dullness of the heart, as though it had turned to stone, and, try as they might, they cannot open their heart in prayer, which is by definition the1 “service of the heart.”

Chassidut explains that prayer is the “service of the heart” in a two-fold sense: (a) It takes place in the heart, for in prayer one strives to extend his intellectual apprehension of G‑dliness into the realm of emotions experienced in the heart — the love and fear of G‑d; (b) The object of prayer is the heart, for in prayer one tries to transform the nature of his heart — to steer it away from the mundane desires to which it naturally inclines, and to direct it instead towards a yearning for the spiritual and the G‑dly. To accomplish both these objectives of prayer, the heart must of course be open and receptive, and thus timtum halev is a major hindrance.

וגם לפעמים לא יוכל להלחם עם היצר לקדש עצמו במותר לו, מפני כבדות שבלבו

Also, the heaviness in his heart prevents him at times from waging war against the evil impulse, in sanctifying himself in permitted matters.

As the Alter Rebbe explained in ch. 27, it is the task of the Beinoni to suppress the desires of his heart, e.g., by not eating as soon as he has the urge to do so. This requires a battle with one’s evil impulse, which demands that he gratify all of his desires. When his heart is dull, heavy and insensitive he cannot fight the evil impulse.

וזאת היא עצה היעוצה בזהר הקדוש, דאמר רב מתיבתא בגן עדן: אעא דלא סליק ביה נהורא, מבטשין ליה כו׳, גופא דלא סליק ביה נהורא דנשמתא, מבטשין ליה כו׳

In this case, the advice given in the holy Zohar2 is, as the president of the academy of Gan Eden said: “A wooden beam which does not catch fire should be splintered, and similarly a body into which the light of the soul does not penetrate should be crushed,” and thereby the body becomes receptive to the soul’s light, as the Zohar concludes.

In the analogy quoted from the Zohar we see that the wood is made receptive to the flame, rather than the flame being increased or improved to the point where it overwhelms the wood. Similarly with the insensitive heart. Timtum halev must be eradicated (by removing its underlying cause, as the Alter Rebbe will soon conclude), rather than overwhelmed (by increasing the intellectual light of contemplation on the greatness of G‑d).

פירוש נהורא דנשמתא: שאור הנשמה והשכל אינו מאיר כל כך למשול על חומריות שבגוף

The reference to the “light of the soul” which, in this case, does not penetrate the body means that the light of the soul and of the intellect does not illuminate to such an extent as to prevail over the coarseness of the body.

ואף שמבין ומתבונן בשכלו בגדולת ה׳, אינו נתפס ונדבק במוחו כל כך שיוכל למשול על חומריות הלב, מחמת חומריותן וגסותן

Thus, although he understands and meditates in his mind on the greatness of G‑d, yet that which he understands is not apprehended and implanted in his mind to the point where it enables him to prevail over the coarseness of the heart — because of the degree of their (the mind and heart’s) coarseness and crassness. 3

והסיבה היא גסות הקליפה, שמגביה עצמה על אור קדושת נפש האלקית, ומסתרת ומחשיכה אורה

The cause of this deficiency is the arrogance of the kelipah of the animal soul, which exalts itself above the holiness of the light of the divine soul, so that it obscures and darkens its light.

ולזאת צריך לבטשה ולהשפילה לעפר

Therefore, one must crush it and cast it down to the ground, just as in the previously quoted analogy the beam is splintered so that it will catch fire.

The Alter Rebbe now proceeds to explain how this is accomplished. He points out that the personality of the Beinoni is his animal soul. (When a Beinoni says “I,” he is referring to his animal soul.) Thus, by crushing his own spirit, he crushes the sitra achra, and thereby enables the light of the soul and intellect to penetrate himself.

דהיינו לקבוע עתים להשפיל עצמו, להיות נבזה בעיניו נמאס, ככתוב

This means that one must crush the sitra achra and cast it to the ground by setting aside appointed times for humbling oneself and considering himself4 “despicable and contemptible,” as it is written.

ולב נשבר רוח נשברה היא הסטרא אחרא, שהיא היא האדם עצמו בבינונים

Now5 “A broken heart [leads to] a broken spirit,” the “spirit” being the sitra achra which, in the case of Beinonim, is the very man himself.

שנפש החיונית המחיה הגוף היא בתקפה כתולדתה בלבו, נמצא היא היא האדם עצמו

For in his heart the vital soul which animates the body is in its full strength as it was at birth; hence it is indeed the very man himself.

ועל נפש האלקית שבו, נאמר: נשמה שנתת בי טהורה היא, שנתת בי דייקא, מכלל שהאדם עצמו איננו הנשמה הטהורה, כי אם בצדיקים

With regard to the divine soul within him it is said: 6 “The soul which You gave within me is pure.” The word “(within) me” cannot be understood as referring to the body alone: the body cannot speak for itself as a complete man. Thus, it must refer also to the (animating) soul. Therefore, the words “(which You gave) within me” imply that the man himself who is saying these words is not identified with the “pure soul”; i.e., the divine soul is a thing apart, which has been “placed within” this “me” — the body and animal soul — except in the case of tzaddikim.

שבהם הוא להפך: שנשמה הטהורה שהיא נפש האלקית הוא האדם, וגופם נקרא בשר אדם

With them the contrary is true: the man himself is the “pure soul,” i.e, the divine soul, while their body is called “the flesh of man” i.e., secondary to the man himself — the divine soul.

וכמאמר הלל הזקן לתלמידיו, כשהיה הולך לאכול היה אומר שהוא הולך לגמול חסד עם העלובה ועניה, הוא גופו, כי כמו זר נחשב אצלו, ולכן אמר שהוא גומל חסד עמו במה שמאכילו, כי הוא עצמו אינו רק נפש האלקית לבד, כי היא לבדה מחיה גופו ובשרו, שהרע שהיה בנפש החיונית המלובשת בדמו ובשרו נתהפך לטוב, ונכלל בקדושת נפש האלקית ממש בצדיקים

It was in this sense that Hillel the Elder would say to his disciples when he went to eat that he was going to do a favor to the7 “lowly and poor creature,” meaning his body. He regarded his body as a foreign thing, and therefore used this expression — that he was doing it a favor by giving it food. For he himself was nothing other than the divine soul. It alone animated his body and flesh, inasmuch as in tzaddikim the evil that was in the vital soul pervading their blood and flesh has been transformed into good and completely absorbed into the holiness of the divine soul, and thus, the divine soul is the man himself.

אבל בבינוני, מאחר שמהותה ועצמותה של נפש החיונית הבהמית שמסטרא אחרא המלובשת בדמו ובשרו לא נהפך לטוב, הרי היא היא האדם עצמו

With a Beinoni, however, since the substance and essence of the vitalizing, animal soul (stemming from the sitra achra) which pervades his blood and flesh has not been transformed into good, it indeed constitutes the man himself, and therefore, by crushing his own spirit the Beinoni actually crushes the sitra achra.

The Alter Rebbe now proceeds to suggest various lines of reasoning that the Beinoni may use in order to humble and crush his spirit — and thereby the sitra achra of his animal soul. The first of these follows from the point just concluded, that the personality of the Beinoni is, in fact, an expression of the sitra achra — the animal soul.

ואם כן הוא רחוק מה׳ בתכלית הריחוק, שהרי כח המתאוה שבנפשו הבהמית יכול גם כן להתאוות לדברים האסורים, שהם נגד רצונו יתברך

If so, that he is actually the animal soul, he is removed from G‑d with the utmost remoteness. For the lusting drive in his animal soul is capable of lusting also after forbidden things, which are contrary to G‑d’s Will.

אף שאינו מתאוה לעשותם בפועל ממש, חס ושלום, רק שאינם מאוסים אצלו באמת כבצדיקים, כמו שכתוב לעיל פרק י״ב

While he does not desire to do them (these forbidden things) in actual practice, G‑d forbid, yet they are not truly repulsive to him, as they are to tzaddikim, as explained above (in ch. 12).

There the Alter Rebbe explains that after his prayers, when the love of G‑d is no longer revealed in his heart, a Beinoni can feel a craving for material pleasures, whether they be permitted or forbidden — except that in the case of forbidden matters, he does not actually wish to implement his desires in forbidden actions; they remain instead in the category of “sinful thoughts.”

ובזה הוא גרוע ומשוקץ ומתועב יותר מבעלי חיים הטמאים ושקצים ורמשים, כנ״ל

In this he is inferior to and more loathsome and abominable than unclean animals and insects and reptiles, as mentioned above — for even they do not transgress against G‑d’s Will (see ch. 24), and since he does do so (in his mind, at least) he is worse than they;

וכמו שכתוב: ואנכי תולעת ולא איש וגו׳

and as it is written: 8 “But I am a worm, and not a man...”

As a human being who chooses to lower himself to the level of a worm, I am worse than a worm, for it is a worm by creation rather than by choice.

But what of the times when the divine soul of the Beinoni dominates him, such as during prayer, when he experiences a revealed love of G‑d and there is no room in his heart for any mundane desires? To this the Alter Rebbe answers:

וגם כשמתגברת בו נפשו האלקית לעורר האהבה לה׳ בשעת התפלה, אינה באמת לאמיתו לגמרי, מאחר שחולפת ועוברת אחר התפלה כנ״ל, סוף פרק י״ג

(9Even when his divine soul gathers strength within him to arouse his love of G‑d during prayer, this predominance of the divine soul is not altogether genuine, since it is transient and vanishes after prayer, as mentioned earlier, end of ch. 13.)

The Alter Rebbe explains there that only that which is permanent and unchanging can be described as “true”. Relative to the rank of Beinoni, this arousal of the divine soul during prayer may be considered “truthful”, since the Beinoni is capable of generating it always — whenever he prays. It cannot, however, be described as “absolutely truthful” (emet la‘amito) since it is not constant, occurring only during prayer.

ובפרט כשיזכור טומאת נפשו בחטאת נעורים, והפגם שעשה בעליונים, ושם הוא למעלה מהזמן, וכאלו פגם ונטמא היום, חס ושלום, ממש

Especially so, if he calls to mind the contamination of his soul with the sin of youth, and the blemish he has wrought thereby in the supernal worlds —the source of his soul. The fact that they were sins of “youth”, belonging to a time and to a spiritual level from which he may presently be far removed, is irrelevant in these supernal worlds — where everything is timeless, and it is as if he had caused the blemish and defiled himself this very day, G‑d forbid.

ואף שכבר עשה תשובה נכונה, הרי עיקר התשובה בלב, והלב יש בו בחינות ומדרגות רבות, והכל לפי מה שהוא אדם, ולפי הזמן והמקום, כידוע ליודעים

True, he may already have repented sincerely and thereby removed the blemish and cleansed himself. But the essence of repentance is in the heart, and in the heart there are many distinctions and levels. Moreover, everything depends on what kind of a man he is (— the greater his stature, the higher the level of repentance required of him), and on the time and place in which he now stands, as is known to the knowing.

Whenever and wherever one is less tempted by a particular sin, a deeper and loftier level of repentance is expected of him for having committed that sin, than at a time when he is more strongly tempted, and must fight more insistently to resist that temptation. Similarly time and place create other differences with respect to repentance. Therefore, judging by one’s present situation, his earlier repentance may be inadequate in erasing his past sins. Perhaps, then, the absence of a higher form of repentance required of him now causes his sins to interpose between himself and G‑d, preventing the light of his soul from penetrating his heart — as the Alter Rebbe continues:

ולכן עכשיו בשעה זו, שרואה בעצמו דלא סליק ביה נהורא דנשמתא, מכלל שהיום לא נתקבלה תשובתו, ועונותיו מבדילים, או שרוצים להעלותו לתשובה עילאה יותר, מעומקא דלבא יותר

Consequently, now, at this time, when observing himself he sees that “the light of the soul does not penetrate into him,” it is evident that either, (a) his repentance has not been accepted, and his sins still separate him from G‑dliness; or (b) it is desired that he be raised to a more sublime level of repentance, coming from a point yet deeper in his heart than his earlier repentance.

Far from indicating Divine displeasure, the rejection of his repentance in this latter case points to Divine favor: a desire to raise this person to yet greater heights of repentance. Hence the difficulties in his divine service and the timtum halev — so that he will call forth greater resources from within himself, and repent more deeply.

ולכן אמר דוד: וחטאתי נגדי תמיד

For this reason, King David said, despite the fact that he was a tzaddik, who was also able to say of himself: 10 “My heart is a void within me,” which means (as Rashi comments, 11 “The evil impulse is as if dead within me,” — despite this he would still say:) 12 “My sin is constantly before me.”

Why was it necessary for a man of David’s caliber to constantly bear in mind his past sins? Surely he had repented for them adequately! Obviously, then, the memory is necessary in order to spur one on to greater heights within the ranks of holiness, to deeper levels of repentance, as said earlier. 13

וגם מי שהוא נקי מחטאות נעורים החמורים ישים אל לבו לקיים מאמר זהר הקדש: להיות ממארי דחושבנא

Even he who is innocent of the grievous sins of youth, but yet wants to attain a broken spirit, should set his heart to fulfill the counsel of the holy Zohar14 — to be “a master of accounts.”

This means that he should do the spiritual accounting described below as a “master”, a proprietor, to whom each set of figures represents either a profit or a loss that directly affects him — rather than as a “servant”, a hired accountant, who can view whatever bottom line eventuates with academic detachment.

דהיינו לעשות חשבון עם נפשו מכל המחשבות והדיבורים והמעשים שחלפו ועברו מיום היותו עד היום הזה, אם היו כולם מצד הקדושה, או מצד הטומאה, רחמנא לצלן, דהיינו כל המחשבות והדיבורים והמעשים אשר לא לה׳ המה, ולרצונו ולעבודתו, שזהו פירוש לשון סטרא אחרא כנ״ל פרק ו׳

This means that he should take stock with his soul of all his thoughts, utterances and actions that have come and gone since the day he came into being and until the present day. Were they all of the realm of holiness, or of the realm of impurity (G‑d forbid)? This latter realm includes also any thought, utterance or action not directed toward G‑d, His Will and His service even when they are not actually sinful, since this is the meaning of the term sitra achra: not necessarily “evil”, but simply “the other side” — the “side” (realm) that is not holy; thus anything that does not contain holiness belongs to the realm of impurity, as explained earlier, in ch. 6.

ומודעת זאת כי כל עת שהאדם מחשב מחשבות קדושות נעשה מרכבה בעת זו להיכלות הקדושה, שמהן מושפעות מחשבות הללו

Now, it is known that whenever a person thinks holy thoughts he becomes, during that time, a “chariot” for the “chambers” (heichalot) of holiness whence these thoughts originate, or, more precisely, whence their vitality originates.

Becoming a “chariot” means that he becomes completely subservient to these heichalot, to the same degree that a vehicle, having no will of its own, is completely subservient to its driver’s will. 15 When he meditates on the love of G‑d, for example, he becomes a “vehicle” for the supernal “chamber of love,” and so on.

וכן להפך, נעשה מרכבה טמאה בעת זו להיכלות הטומאה שמהן מושפעות כל מחשבות רעות, וכן בדבור ומעשה

Conversely, when he thinks impure thoughts he becomes an unclean “vehicle” for the heichalot of impurity, whence all impure thoughts originate. So, too, with speech and action.

Thus, even one who cannot call to mind any past sins can humble his spirit by contemplating how often he has become a vehicle for impurity through his thoughts, words and actions which, though not sinful, were still of the realm of the sitra achra — since they were not directed toward G‑dliness.

עוד ישים אל לבו רוב חלומותיו שהם הבל ורעות רוח, משום שאין נפשו עולה למעלה, וכמו שכתוב: מי יעלה בהר ה׳...נקי כפים וגו׳

Let him further consider his dreams in order to humble his spirit; for one may learn more about himself from his dreams than from his waking, conscious thoughts. For the most part, they are “vanity, and an affliction of the spirit,” 16 for his soul does not ascend heavenward during his sleep; since it is written: 17 “Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord?” — meaning, in our context, “Whose soul shall rise heavenward while he sleeps, to see and absorb matters of Torah and holiness, which will in turn be reflected in his dreams?” And the next verse gives the answer: “He that has clean hands and a pure heart” — implying that the soul of one whose hands and heart are not pure, does not ascend, and that is why his dreams are a patchwork of vanity and foolishness.

ואינון סטרין בישין אתיין ומתדבקן ביה, ומודעין ליה בחלמא מילין דעלמא וכו׳, ולזמנין דחייכן ביה ואחזיאו ליה מילי שקר, וצערין ליה בחלמיה כו׳, כמו שכתוב בזהר ויקרא דף כ״ה עמוד א׳ ועמוד ב׳ , עיין שם באריכות

Furthermore, “those originating from the ’evil side‘ come and attach themselves to him and inform him in his dreams of mundane affairs... and sometimes mock him and show him false things and torment him in his dreams,” and so on, as stated in the Zohar on Vayikra (p. 25a,b). See it there discussed at length.

We thus see from the Zohar that one may evaluate himself by studying the content of his dreams. Thereby, he can humble his spirit even if he finds himself free of sin, and in this way he may crush the sitra achra within him, as explained above.

והנה כל מה שיאריך בעניינים אלו במחשבתו, וגם בעיונו בספרים, להיות לבו נשבר בקרבו, ונבזה בעיניו נמאס ככתוב, בתכלית המיאוס, ולמאס חייו ממש, הרי בזה ממאס ומבזה הסטרא אחרא ומשפילה לעפר ומורידה מגדולתה וגסות רוחה וגבהותה, שמגביה את עצמה על אור קדושת נפש האלקית להחשיך אורה

The longer he reflects on these matters, both in his own thoughts and by delving deeply into books which speak of these matters, in order to break down his heart within him and render himself shamed and despised in his own eyes, as is written in the Scriptures, so utterly despised that he despises his very life, — the more he despises and degrades thereby the sitra achra, casting it down to the ground and humbling it from its haughtiness and pride and self-exaltation, wherewith it exalts itself over the light of the divine soul’s holiness, obscuring its radiance.

Up to now, the Alter Rebbe has proposed means of crushing the sitra achra within one’s animal soul by humbling his own spirit through intellectual contemplation. He now turns to another method, that of “raging” against one’s evil impulse, without entering into an analysis of his spiritual level.

וגם ירעים עליה בקול רעש ורוגז להשפילה, כמאמר רז״ל: לעולם ירגיז אדם יצר טוב על יצר הרע, שנאמר: רגזו וגו׳

He should also thunder against it (the sitra achra) with a strong and raging voice in order to humble it, as our Sages state, 18 “A person should always rouse the good impulse against the evil impulse, as it is written, 19 ‘Rage, and sin not.’”

דהיינו לרגוז על נפש הבהמית, שהיא יצרו הרע, בקול רעש ורוגז במחשבתו, לומר לו: אתה רע ורשע ומשוקץ ומתועב ומנוול וכו׳, ככל השמות שקראו לו חכמינו ז״ל, באמת

This means that one should rage — in his mind — against the animal soul, which is his evil impulse, with a voice of stormy indignation, saying to it: “Indeed, you are truly evil and wicked, abominable, loathsome and disgraceful,” and so forth, using all the epithets by which our Sages have called it. 20

עד מתי תסתיר לפני אור אין סוף ברוך הוא הממלא כל עלמין, היה הוה ויהיה בשוה, גם במקום זה שאני עליו כמו שהיה אור אין סוף ברוך הוא לבדו קודם שנברא העולם, בלי שום שינוי

“How long will you obscure the light of the blessed Ein Sof, which pervades all the worlds; which was, is, and will be the same, even in the very place where I stand, just as the light of the blessed Ein Sof was alone before the world was created — utterly unchanged;

כמו שכתוב: אני ה׳ לא שניתי, כי הוא למעלה מהזמן וכו׳

as it is written: 21 ’I, the L-rd, have not changed,‘ i.e., the fact of creation has wrought no change in Him, for He transcends time, and so on? And therefore, the fact that it is now ’after‘ creation, cannot affect Him.

ואתה מנוול וכו׳ מכחיש האמת הנראה לעינים, דכולא קמיה כלא ממש באמת, בבחינת ראייה חושיית

But you, repulsive one (and so forth) deny the truth which is so plainly visible — that all is truly as nothing in His presence — a truth which is so apparent as to be ’visible to the eye‘!

והנה על ידי זה יועיל לנפשו האלקית להאיר עיניה באמת יחוד אור אין סוף בראייה חושיית, ולא בחינת שמיעה והבנה לבדה

In this way he will help his divine soul, enlightening its eyes to perceive the truth of the unity of the infinite light of Ein Sof as though with physical sight, and not merely through the lesser perception of “hearing” and understanding.

כמו שכתוב במקום אחר, שזהו שרש כל העבודה

For, as explained elsewhere, this is the core of the whole [divine] service.

Intellectual comprehension — i.e., the “hearing” — of G‑dliness can lead only to a desire and longing for G‑d; the level of perception described as “sight” leads far higher — to one’s self-nullification before Him.

והטעם: לפי שבאמת אין שום ממשות כלל בסטרא אחרא, שלכן נמשלה לחשך שאין בו שום ממשות כלל, וממילא נדחה מפני האור

The reason that humbling the spirit of the sitra achra is effective in crushing it is that in truth there is no substance whatever in the sitra achra. That is why it is compared to darkness, which has no substance whatsoever, and is automatically banished by the presence of light.

וכך הסטרא אחרא, אף שיש בה חיות הרבה, להחיות כל בעלי חיים הטמאים, ונפשות אומות העולם, וגם נפש הבהמית שבישראל, כנ״ל, מכל מקום הרי כל חיותה אינה מצד עצמה, חס ושלום, אלא מצד הקדושה, כנ״ל, ולכן היא בטלה לגמרי מפני הקדושה, כביטול החשך מפני האור הגשמי, רק שלגבי קדושת נפש האלקית שבאדם, נתן לה הקב״ה רשות ויכולת להגביה עצמה כנגדה, כדי שהאדם יתעורר להתגבר עליה להשפילה על ידי שפלות ונמיכת רוחו, ונבזה בעיניו נמאס

Similarly with the sitra achra. Indeed, it possesses abundant vitality with which to animate all the impure animals and the souls of the nations of the world, and also the animal soul of the Jew, as has been explained. 22 Yet this vitality is not its own, G‑d forbid, but stems from the realm of holiness, for the realm of holiness is the source of all life, including even the life-force of the sitra achra, as has been explained above. 23 Therefore it is completely nullified in the presence of holiness, as darkness is nullified in the presence of physical light. Its power lies only in the fact that in regard to the holiness of man’s divine soul, G‑d has given it (— the sitra achra) permission and ability to raise itself against it (— the divine soul), in order that man should be roused to overpower it and to humble it by means of the humility and submission of his spirit, and by being abhorrent and despised in his own eyes — for through this he humbles the sitra achra and abhors it.

ובאתערותא דלתתא: אתערותא דלעילא, לקיים מה שכתוב: משם אורידך, נאם ה׳

The arousal of man below to crush the sitra achra causes an arousal above, to fulfill what is written: 24 “From there will I bring you down, says G‑d” to the sitra achra, which seeks to rise against G‑dliness and to obscure it.

דהיינו שמסירה מממשלתה ויכלתה, ומסלק ממנה הכח ורשות שנתן לה להגביה עצמה נגד אור קדושת נפש האלקית

This means that He deprives it of its dominion and power, and withdraws from it the strength and authority which had been given it to rise up against the light of the holiness of the divine soul.

ואזי ממילא בטילה ונדחית, כביטול החשך מפני אור הגשמי

Thereupon it automatically becomes nullified and is banished, just as darkness is nullified before physical light.

וכמו שמצינו דבר זה מפורש בתורה גבי מרגלים, שמתחלה אמרו: כי חזק הוא ממנו, אל תקרי ממנו כו׳, שלא האמינו ביכולת ה׳, ואחר כך חזרו ואמרו: הננו ועלינו וגו׳

Indeed, we find this explicitly stated in the Torah in connection with the Spies sent by Moses to scout out the Holy Land. At the outset they declared: 25 “For he (the enemy) is stronger than we,” and, interpreting the word ממנו , the Sages say: 26

“Read not 'than we,' but 'than He,'” meaning that they had no faith in G‑d’s ability to lead them into the Holy Land. But afterwards they reversed themselves and announced: 27 “We will readily go up [to conquer the Land].”

ומאין חזרה ובאה אליהם האמונה ביכולת ה׳, הרי לא הראה להם משה רבנו עליו השלום שום אות ומופת על זה בנתיים, רק שאמר להם איך שקצף ה׳ עליהם ונשבע שלא להביאם אל הארץ

Whence did their faith in G‑d’s ability return to them? Our teacher Moses, peace unto him, had not shown them in the interim any sign or miracle concerning this, which would restore their faith. He had merely told them that G‑d was angry with them and had sworn not to allow them to enter the Land. 28

ומה הועיל זה להם אם לא היו מאמינים ביכולת ה׳, חס ושלום, לכבוש ל״א מלכים, ומפני זה לא רצו כלל ליכנס לארץ

What value did this Divine anger and oath have to them, if in any case they did not believe in G‑d’s ability to subdue the thirty-one kings29 who reigned in the Land at that time, for which reason they had had no desire whatever to enter the Land?

אלא ודאי מפני שישראל עצמן הם מאמינים בני מאמינים, רק שהסטרא אחרא המלובשת בגופם הגביה עצמה על אור קדושת נפשם האלקית, בגסות רוחה וגבהותה בחוצפה בלי טעם ודעת

Surely, then, the explanation is as follows: Israelites themselves are30 “believers, [being] the descendants of believers.” Even while they stated, “The enemy is stronger than He,” their divine soul still believed in G‑d. They professed a lack of faith in His ability only because the sitra achra clothed in their body in the person of their animal soul had risen against the light of the holiness of the divine soul, with its characteristic impudent arrogance and haughtiness, without sense or reason.

ולכן מיד שקצף ה׳ עליהם והרעים בקול רעש ורוגז: עד מתי לעדה הרעה הזאת וגו׳ במדבר הזה יפלו פגריכם וגו׳ אני ה׳ דברתי אם לא זאת אעשה לכל העדה הרעה הזאת וגו׳, וכששמעו דברים קשים אלו, נכנע ונשבר לבם בקרבם, כדכתיב: ויתאבלו העם מאד, וממילא נפלה הסטרא אחרא מממשלתה וגבהותה וגסות רוחה

Therefore as soon as G‑d became angry with them, and thundered angrily: 31 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation…,Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness…I, G‑d, have spoken: I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation...,” — their heart was humbled and broken within them when they heard these stern words, as it is written, 32 “And the people mourned greatly.” Consequently, the sitra achra toppled from its dominion, from its haughtiness and arrogance.

וישראל עצמן הם מאמינים

But the Israelites themselves i.e., as far as their divine soul was concerned had believed in G‑d all along.

Therefore, as soon as they were released from the dominion of the sitra achra, they proclaimed, “We will readily go up...” There was no need of a miracle to convince them of G‑d’s ability. All that was necessary was to divest the sitra achra of its arrogance, and this was accomplished by G‑d’s “raging” at them.

Similarly with every Jew: When the light of his soul does not penetrate his heart, it is merely due to the arrogance of the sitra achra, which will vanish as soon as he rages at it.

ומזה יכול ללמוד כל אדם שנופלים לו במחשבתו ספיקות על אמונה כי הם דברי רוח הסטרא אחרא לבדה, המגביה עצמה על נפשו, אבל ישראל עצמן הם מאמינים כו׳

Every person in whose mind there occur doubts concerning faith in G‑d can deduce from this episode of the Spies that these doubts are nothing but the empty words of the sitra achra which raises itself against his divine soul. But Israelites themselves are believers...

וגם הסטרא אחרא עצמה אין לה ספיקות כלל באמונה, רק שניתן לה רשות לבלבל האדם בדברי שקר ומרמה להרבות שכרו

Furthermore, the sitra achra itself entertains no doubts at all concerning faith. As explained in ch. 22, the kelipah in its spiritual state (i.e., when not clothed in the human body) does not deny G‑d’s sovereignty. It has merely been granted permission to confuse man with false and deceitful words, in order that he may be more richly rewarded for mastering it.

כפיתויי הזונה לבן המלך בשקר ומרמה ברשות המלך, כמו שכתוב בזהר הקדוש

In this it is similar to the harlot who attempts to seduce the king’s son through falsehood and deceit, with the king’s approval, as in the parable narrated in the holy Zohar.33

The parable: A king hires a harlot to seduce his son, so that the prince will reveal his wisdom in resisting her wiles. The harlot herself, knowing the king’s intention, does not want the prince to submit to temptation. Similarly with the sitra achra: it is merely fulfilling its G‑d-given task in attempting to lure man away from G‑d, but actually desires that man resist it, thereby earning a greater reward.

However, this is true only of the spiritual kelipah which is the source of the animal soul. The animal soul and evil impulse as clothed within man, on the other hand, are truly evil, and their unequivocal aim is to entice man to do evil.

In the context of the parable, this may be described as follows: The harlot originally commissioned by the king subcontracts a second harlot, and the second a third, and so on. As the actual executor of the mission becomes successively further removed from the king, the original intention is lost, and finally the prince is approached by a harlot who has her own intentions in mind, not those of the king, as she attempts to seduce the prince.

In any event, we see that any doubts one may have concerning faith in G‑d, are merely the empty words of the sitra achra. The soul within every Jew, however, believes in G‑d with a perfect faith.