Purpose

This is what man is all about; this is the purpose of his creation and of the creation of all the worlds, sublime and lowly—to make for G‑d a dwelling in the physical world.

—Likkutei Amarim 33

Light

A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.

—Likkutei Amarim 12

Mind and Heart

By virtue of its inborn nature, the mind rules the heart.

—Likkutei Amarim 33

Feeling

Love and awe are the two wings by which a deed is raised aloft.

—Likkutei Amarim 41

The Two Souls

Every individual Jew, righteous or wicked, has two souls . . . One soul derives from kelipah (the “husks” of creation) and sitra achra (the “other side”), and clothes itself in the blood to animate the body. . . . From it derive the evil traits . . . and also the Jew’s instinctive good traits. . . . The second soul in the Jew is literally a part of G‑d above.

—Likkutei Amarim 1–2

The Striving of the Soul

“The soul of man is a lamp of G‑d” (Proverbs 20:27). Just like the flame of the lamp strains upwards, seeking to tear free of the wick and rise heavenward—though this would spell its own demise—so, too, does the G‑dly soul in man constantly strive to tear free of the body and the material existence, and be nullified within its source in G‑d.

—Likkutei Amarim 19

Internal Battleground

The body is likened to a small city. Like two kings who wage war over a city, each desiring to capture it and rule over it—that is, to govern its inhabitants according to his will, so that they obey him in all that he decrees for them—so do the two souls, the G‑dly and the animal, wage war against each other over the body and all its organs and limbs. The desire and will of the G‑dly soul is that it alone should rule over the person and direct him, and that all his limbs should obey it and surrender themselves completely to it and become a vehicle for it, and serve as a vehicle for its ten faculties [of intellect and emotion] and three “garments” [thought, speech and action] . . . and the entire body should be permeated with them alone, to the exclusion of any alien influence, G‑d forbid. . . . While the animal soul desires the very opposite . . .

—Likkutei Amarim 9

Two Types of Pleasure

There are two types of pleasure before G‑d. The first is from the complete nullification of evil, and its transformation from bitterness to sweetness and from darkness to light, by the perfectly righteous. The second [pleasure] is when evil is repelled while it is still at its strongest and mightiest . . . through the efforts of the “intermediate man” (beinoni). . . . As in the analogy of physical food, in which there are two types of delicacies that give pleasure: the first being the pleasure derived from sweet and pleasant foods; and the second, from sharp and sour foods, which are spiced and prepared in such a way that they become delicacies that revive the soul . . .

—Likkutei Amarim 27

How to Love a Fellow

When one’s body is viewed with scorn and contempt, and one’s joy is in the soul alone, this constitutes a direct and simple way to fulfill the commandment “Love your fellow as yourself” toward every Jew, great or small. . . . For the source of their souls is in the One G‑d, and they are divided only by virtue of their bodies. Therefore, those who give priority to their body over their soul find it impossible to share true love and brotherhood, except that which is conditional on some benefit. This is what Hillel the Elder meant when he said about this commandment [the love of Israel]: “This is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary.” For the foundation and source of all Torah is to elevate and give ascendancy to the soul over the body . . .

—Likkutei Amarim 32

Tolerance

Also those who are far from G‑d’s Torah and His service . . . one must draw them close with strong cords of love—perhaps one might succeed in bringing them closer to Torah and the service of G‑d. And even if one fails, one has still merited the rewards of the fulfillment of the mitzvah, “Love your fellow.”

—Likkutei Amarim 32

Perpetual Creation

It is written: “Forever, O G‑d, Your word stands firm in the heavens” (Psalms 119:89). Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory, explained the verse thus: Your word which you uttered, “Let there be a firmament . . .” (Genesis 1:6), these very words and letters stand firmly forever within the firmament of heaven and are forever clothed within the heavens to give them life and existence. . . . And so it is with all created things, down to the most corporeal and inanimate of substances. If the letters of the “ten utterances” by which the world was created during the six days of creation were to depart from it for but an instant, G‑d forbid, it would revert to absolute nothingness.

—Shaar Hayichud Veha’emunah 1

The Unrealness of Reality

If the human eye were allowed to see the spiritual vitality flowing from the utterance of G‑d’s mouth into every creation, we would not see the materiality, grossness and tangibility of the creation, for it would be utterly nullified in relation to this divine life-force.

—Shaar Hayichud Veha’emunah 3

Glimpses of a Higher Truth

It is written, “As the sun and its sheath, [so are the divine names] Havayah-Elokim” (Psalms 84:12). Meaning that G‑d desired that the infinite light with which he creates the world (Havayah) should be sheathed and concealed within the definitive laws and patterns of nature (Elokim). . . . But seeing that the world could not endure an absolute concealment, G‑d allowed glimmers of His infinite light to be glimpsed through the sheath. These glimmers are the souls of the righteous and the miracles recounted in the Torah.

—Shaar Hayichud Veha’emunah 4–5

The Precedent

The era of Moshiach is the fulfillment and culmination of the creation of the world, for which purpose it was originally created. Something of this revelation has been experienced once before on earth, at the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, [when] “To you it has been shown, to know that the L‑rd is G‑d; there is none else beside Him” (Deuteronomy 4:35). G‑dliness was then perceived with physical vision. . . . Subsquently, however, sin coarsened both them and the world—until the era of Moshiach, when the physicality of the body and the world will be refined, and we will be able to apprehend the revealed Divine light which will shine forth to Israel by means of the Torah. . . . “The glory of G‑d will be revealed; and all flesh will see that the mouth of G‑d has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5). . . . This all depends on our deeds and labor throughout the duration of the galut. . . . When a person does a mitzvah, he draws down a flow of Divine light into the world, to be suffused and integrated into the material reality . . .

—Likkutei Amarim 36

Anger

Our sages have taught, “Whoever gets angry, it is as if he worshipped idols” (Zohar 1:27b). The reason for this is . . . because at the time of his anger, his faith has left him. For were he to believe that what happened to him was G‑d’s doing, he would not be angry at all. For although it is a person possessed of free choice that is cursing him, or striking him, or causing damage to his property—and is accountable according to the laws of man and the laws of heaven for his evil choice—nevertheless, as regards the person harmed, this [incident] was already decreed in heaven, and “G‑d has many agents” [to carry out the decree] . . .

Iggeret Hakodesh 25

Human Suffering

If one truly believes that G‑d, who is the ultimate source of life, goodness and bliss, is creating everything out of absolute nothingness each and every moment of time—then how can one imagine that anything bad is happening to him? Indeed, the truth is that only good comes from G‑d. It is only that there are two types of good: revealed good, which we experience as such; and hidden good, which comes from a place so lofty that our finite faculties are incapable of assimilating it, so that we experience it as pain and suffering . . .

—Iggeret Hakodesh 11

The Tzaddik

The life of a tzaddik is not a life of the flesh, but a spiritual life consisting wholly of faith, awe, and love of G‑d.

—Iggeret Hakodesh 27

The Moses Within

“And now, Israel: what does the L‑rd your G‑d ask of you? Only to fear G‑d” (Deuteronomy 10:12). Regarding this verse, the Talmud asks: “Is fear of G‑d a minor thing?” The answer given is, “Yes, for Moses it is a minor thing.” At first glance this answer is incomprehensible, since the verse says, “What does G‑d ask of you”—i.e., every individual Jew! But the explanation is as follows: Each and every soul of the House of Israel contains within it something of the quality of our teacher Moses, for he is one of the “seven shepherds” who feed vitality and G‑dliness to the community of the souls of Israel. . . . Moses is the sum of them all, called the “shepherd of faith” (raaya meheimna), in the sense that he nourishes the community of Israel with the knowledge and recognition of G‑d. . . . So although who is the man who dares presume in his heart to approach and attain even a thousandth part of the level of the faithful shepherd, nevertheless, an infinitesimal fringe and minute particle of his great goodness and light illuminates every Jew in each and every generation.

—Likkutei Amarim 42

More Than In His Lifetime

It is stated in the sacred Zohar that “when the tzaddik departs, he is to be found in all worlds more than in his lifetime.” Now this needs to be understood. For, granted that he is to be found increasingly in the supernal worlds, because he ascends to there; but how can he be found more in this world? . . . This can be explained based on [the maxim] that the life of a tzaddik is not a physical life but a spiritual life, consisting wholly of faith, awe, and love of G‑d. . . . While the tzaddik was alive on earth, these three qualities were contained in their physical vessel and garment (i.e., the body) on the plane of physical space. . . . All his disciples receive but a reflection of these attributes, a ray radiating beyond this vessel by means of his holy utterances and thoughts. . . . But after his passing . . . whoever is close to him can receive a [far loftier dimension] of these three qualities, since they are no longer confined within a [material] vessel, nor bounded by physical space. . . . Thus it is very easy for his disciples to receive their part of their master’s quintessential spirit, each according to the level of his loving attachment (hitkashrut) and closeness to the tzaddik during his lifetime and after his death . . .

—Iggeret Hakodesh 27