In ch. 29 the Alter Rebbe began to deal with the problem of timtum halev, insensitivity of the heart. He quoted the statement of the Zohar that a body impervious to the light of the soul needs to be crushed. By crushing one’s spirit, one crushes the sitra achra of his animal soul, whose arrogance is the cause of timtum halev.

In chs. 29-30, the Alter Rebbe described various means of arriving at a feeling of contrition (lit., “brokenheartedness”); e.g., reflecting on one’s spiritual failings in not waging an adequately strenuous battle against his evil impulse, and realizing that one’s failure in this area places him on a level lower than that of the lowliest of his fellow Jews (as explained at length in ch. 30).

But while these methods may effectively dispel timtum halev, they would seem to have an undesirable side-effect — depression. Ch. 31 deals with this problem.

והנה אף אם כשיאריך הרבה להעמיק בעניינים הנ״ל כשעה ושתים להיות בנמיכת רוח ולב נשבר, יבא לידי עצבות גדולה, לא יחוש

Even if dwelling long and deeply into the above-mentioned matters for an hour or two, to be lowly of spirit and contrite of heart, leads one to profound depression, let him not be perturbed.

ואף שעצבות היא מצד קליפת נוגה ולא מצד הקדושה

True, atzvut (depression) derives from the realm of kelipat nogah, not of holiness.

כי בצד הקדושה כתיב: עוז וחדוה במקומו, ואין השכינה שורה אלא מתוך שמחה, וכן לדבר הלכה וכו׳

For concerning the realm of holiness it is written:1 “Strength and gladness are in His place”; and likewise, 2 “The Divine Presence abides... only in [man’s] joy,... and the same joy is required for the study of the Halachah.”

אלא שאם העצבות היא ממילי דשמיא היא מבחינת טוב שבנוגה

Any depression, then, comes from the realm of kelipat nogah, except that if the depression is due to spiritual matters arising from one’s realization of his spiritual failings, it stems from the good contained in kelipat nogah; for, as mentioned in ch. 1, kelipat nogah contains both good and evil — the evil in nogah is the source of ordinary depression, and the positive element in nogah gives rise to spiritually motivated depression. Yet, even the element of good contained in nogah is, after all, kelipah.

ולכן כתב האר״י ז״ל שאפילו דאגת העונות אינה ראויה כי אם בשעת הוידוי

( 3For this reason the AriZal writes that even worry over one’s sins is appropriate only during confession,

ולא בשעת התפלה ותלמוד תורה, שצריכים להיות בשמחה שמצד הקדושה דווקא

but not during prayer and Torah study. These must be conducted with a joy deriving exclusively from the realm of holiness, as opposed to frivolity and the like.)

Why then should one strive to crush the spirit of sitra achra with methods that lead to depression, which itself stems from the sitra achra of nogah

אף על פי כן, הרי כך היא המדה, לאכפיא לסטרא אחרא במינה ודוגמתה

Yet, this is precisely the method of humbling the sitra achra — through something of its own species and kind; i.e., the sitra achra is most effectively attacked by utilizing the good contained within it as a weapon against itself.

כמאמר רז״ל: מיניה וביה אבא לשדיה ביה נרגא, ופגע בו כיוצא בו

As our Sages expressed it: 4 “From the forest itself comes [the handle for] the ax [which fells the forest]”; and in a similar vein, 5 “He encountered one of his own kind.”

ועל זה נאמר: בכל עצב יהיה מותר, והיתרון היא השמחה הבאה אחרי העצב, כדלקמן

Of this sadness resulting from contemplation of one’s spiritual state it is written, 6 “In every sadness there will be profit.” The profit lies in the joy which follows the sadness, as will be explained later — i.e., in what way the sadness itself leads to joy.

אך באמת אין לב נשבר ומרירות הנפש על ריחוקה מאור פני ה׳ והתלבשותה בסטרא אחרא נקראים בשם עצבות כלל בלשון הקודש

In truth, however, the state of being contrite of heart and bitter of soul i.e., remorseful over one’s remoteness from G‑d, and over the fact that one’s soul is clothed in the sitra achra, — this state can by no means be described in the Holy Tongue (Hebrew) by the term “atzvut”.

The word atzvut, meaning “melancholy”, stems from a root which means “constricted”. In this context, it refers to a numbing depression that constricts one’s heart, blocking out all feeling, as the Alter Rebbe continues:

כי עצבות היא שלבו מטומטם כאבן ואין חיות בלבו

For “atzvut” means that one’s heart is as dull as a stone, and that there is no vitality — arousal of feeling — in his heart.

אבל מרירות ולב נשבר, אדרבה, הרי יש חיות בלבו להתפעל ולהתמרמר

But “bitterness” (merirut) and contrition are just the opposite, since the very fact that one is moved to be embittered is itself a sign of life,

רק שהיא חיות מבחינת גבורות קדושות, והשמחה מבחינת חסדים,כי הלב כלול משתיהן,

except that this vitality derives from the holy attributes of severity (gevurot) and it therefore expresses itself as bitterness, whereas joy derives from the holy attributes of kindness (chasadim), for the heart contains both these attributes — kindness and severity.

At any rate, we see that the dejection accompanying one’s disappointment with his spiritual situation stems from the realm of holiness, unlike atzvut, which derives from kelipat nogah. 7

והנה לעתים צריך לעורר בחינת גבורות הקדושות כדי להמתיק הדינים,שהם בחינת נפש הבהמית ויצר הרע כששולט חס ושלום על האדם,

At times one must arouse the holy attributes of severity (gevurot) in order to temper (lit., “sweeten”) stern judgements, which in this context denote the animal soul and the evil inclination, whenever it (the latter) dominates a man, G‑d forbid,

כי אין הדינים נמתקין אלא בשרשן

for stern judgements i.e., restraints on one’s spiritual wellbeing can only be “sweetened” by means of their source.

All evil is simply a degenerate form of the attribute of severity (gevurot) that derives from the realm of holiness. Myriad “contractions” (tzimtzumim) and descents of this attribute transform it to evil, the evil of kelipah. Naturally, this includes also the sitra achra of one’s animal soul and his evil impulse. In order to elevate or “sweeten” evil, to return evil to the realm of holiness, it is necessary to bring its source to bear on it. In terms of one’s divine service, this means crushing one’s evil impulse by merirut, bitter remorse, which derives its vitality from the holy attribute of severity — the source of the evil impulse.

ולכן אמרו רז״ל: לעולם ירגיז אדם יצר הטוב

For this reason our Sages said: 8 “One should always incite the good inclination to anger [against the evil inclination].”

Since anger stems from the attribute of severity, it is capable of “sweetening” the evil inclination.

והיינו בכל עת שרואה בנפשו שצריך לכך

The word “always” (“one should always incite...”) is, however, to be understood in a qualified sense. Joy, not severity, is usually the proper setting for divine service. Thus, when our Sages state that one should always incite the good inclination, this means — whenever he finds it necessary for himself; as, for example, when one sees that the arrogance of his animal soul does not permit the light of his divine soul to penetrate his heart, causing timtum halev.

אך שעת הכושר שהיא שעה המיוחדת וראויה לכך לרוב בני אדם

However, the appropriate time for this “anger” of the divine soul at the animal soul, meaning, the time which is opportune and fitting for most people,

היא בשעה שהוא עצב בלאו הכי ממילי דעלמא, או כך בלי שום סבה

is when one is in any case depressed over mundane matters, or just so, without any discernible cause. 9

אזי היא שעת הכושר להפך העצב, להיות ממרי דחושבנא הנ״ל

This is an opportune time for redirecting the depression toward spiritual matters, to be among the “masters of accounts” mentioned above, i.e., to engage in soul-searching and spiritual stocktaking,

ולקיים מאמר רז״ל: לעולם ירגיז וכו׳ כנ״ל

and to fulfill the previously mentioned teaching of our Sages, that one should always incite his good inclination against his evil inclination, since both of these paths harness the attribute of severity.

ובזה יפטר מהעצבות שממילי דעלמא

He will thus also be rid of the depression brought on by mundane matters.

I.e., redirecting his depression into soul-searching, and into anger at his evil inclination, will dispel the mundane depression.

ואחר כך יבא לידי שמחה אמיתית, דהיינו, שזאת ישיב אל לבו לנחמו בכפליים אחר הדברים והאמת האלה הנ״ל

He will then arrive at a true joy, as follows: In order to comfort his heart in double measure, let him — in the wake of the above words of truth concerning his lowly spiritual stature — tell himself the following.

The comfort is dual: not only is his depression eliminated, but he will also attain a joy which he would never experience were it not for his earlier depression.

לאמר ללבו: אמת הוא כן בלי ספק שאני רחוק מאד מה׳ בתכלית, ומשוקץ ומתועב כו׳,

Let him say to his heart: “Indeed, without a doubt, I am far removed, utterly remote from G‑d, and am despicable, contemptible, and so on.

אך כל זה הוא אני לבדי, הוא הגוף עם נפש החיונית שבו

But all this is true only of me — that is, my body and the animating soul within it.

אבל מכל מקום יש בקרבי חלק ה׳ ממש, שישנו אפילו בקל שבקלים,שהיא נפש האלקית עם ניצוץ אלקות ממש המלובש בה להחיותה,

Yet within me there is a veritable ‘part’ of G‑d, which is present even in the most worthless of my fellows, so that even if I am no better than he, I still have this ‘part’ of G‑d within me, namely, the divine soul and the spark of G‑dliness itself clothed in it, animating it.

רק שהיא בבחינת גלות

It is only that when the body and animating soul are in such a lowly state, the divine soul is in exile within them.

ואם כן, אדרבה, כל מה שאני בתכלית הריחוק מה׳, והתיעוב ושיקוץ

“If so, then, on the contrary, the further I am removed from G‑d, and the more despicable and contemptible,

הרי נפש האלקית שבי בגלות גדול יותר, והרחמנות עליה גדולה מאד

the deeper in exile is my divine soul, and all the more is it to be pitied.

ולזה אשים כל מגמתי וחפצי להוציאה ולהעלותה מגלות זה,להשיבה אל בית אביה כנעוריה,

“Therefore, I will make it my entire aim and desire to extricate it from this exile, and to ‘return her to her father’s house i.e., to restore it to its source and its original state as in her youth,’

קודם שנתלבשה בגופי, שהיתה נכללת באורו יתברך ומיוחדת עמו בתכלית

i.e., as it was before being clothed in my body, when it was completely absorbed in G‑d’s light and united with Him.

וגם עתה כן תהא כלולה ומיוחדת בו יתברך, כשאשים כל מגמתי בתורה ומצות, להלביש בהן כל עשר בחינותיה כנ״ל

“Now too will it likewise be absorbed and united with Him once again, when I concentrate all my aspirations on the Torah and the mitzvot, in an effort to clothe therein all [of the soul’s] ten faculties; i.e., by applying my mental faculties to Torah study, and my emotive faculties to the performance of the mitzvot with the vitality lent them by the love and fear of G‑d, as explained above in ch. 4. Thus will my divine soul be reunited with G‑d.

ובפרט במצות תפלה, לצעוק אל ה׳ בצר לה מגלותה בגופי המשוקץ, להוציאה ממסגר, ולדבקה בו יתברך

“Especially in fulfilling the mitzvah of prayer will I try to release my divine soul, by crying out to G‑d because of the distress of its exile in my loathsome body, so that He release it from captivity and bind it to Himself.”

וזו היא בחינת תשובה ומעשים טובים

This service of G‑d, in which one seeks to restore the soul to its source, is referred to as 10 “teshuvah with good deeds.”

This is an oft-used Talmudic expression denoting the mitzvot (as in the statement, “One hour of teshuvah with good deeds in this world is better than all the life of the World to Come”). At first glance, the juxtaposition of the two seems incongruous; teshuvah deals with atoning for one’s past imperfections, while “good deeds” are performed in the present and would seem to bear no relation to one’s past. According to the Alter Rebbe’s statement, however, that one’s performance of the mitzvot should be motivated by a desire to return his soul to its source within G‑d, the connection between the two is clear: the “good deeds” themselves actually constitute teshuvah, which means “return”. As the Alter Rebbe continues:

שהן מעשים טובים שעושה כדי להשיב חלק ה׳ למקורא ושרשא דכל עלמין

This denotes the “good deeds” which one does with the intention of returning the soul which is part of G‑d, to the [Divine] source and root of all the worlds.

וזאת תהיה עבודתו כל ימיו בשמחה רבה, היא שמחת הנפש בצאתה מהגוף המתועב, ושבה אל בית אביה כנעוריה בשעת התורה והעבודה

This, then, should be one’s lifelong aim in the service of G‑d with great joy — the joy of the soul upon leaving the loathsome body, and returning, during one’s study of the Torah and service of G‑d through prayer, to “her father’s house as in her youth,” i.e., to the unity with G‑d that it enjoyed before it descended into the body.

וכמאמר רז״ל: להיות כל ימיו בתשובה

This corresponds to the statement of our Sages 11 that one ought to engage in teshuvah throughout his life.

If the word teshuvah is understood only in the sense of repentance for sin, why the need for further repentance once one has already repented

However, teshuvah as explained here, returning the soul to its source, is something in which one may well engage throughout his life — whenever he studies Torah or performs a mitzvah.

ואין לך שמחה גדולה כצאת מהגלות והשביה, כמשל בן מלך שהיה בשביה וטוחן בבית האסורים ומנוול באשפה

Surely, there is no joy as great as that of being released from exile and captivity. It is comparable to the joy of a prince who was taken captive, and was subjected to the hard labor of turning the millstone in prison, 12 while covered with filth,

ויצא לחפשי אל בית אביו המלך

and who then goes free to the house of his father, the king.

Such a prince, descended from the Supreme King, is the soul — and by means of the Torah and the mitzvot it is redeemed from the captivity and degradation imposed on it by the body.

ואף שהגוף עומד בשיקוצו ותיעובו, וכמו שכתוב בזהר, דנקרא משכא דחויא

True, the body remains abominable and loathsome, and as the Zohar says, it is called “a serpent’s skin,” 13

כי מהותה ועצמותה של הנפש הבהמית לא נהפך לטוב, ליכלל בקדושה

since the essential character of the animal soul has not been transformed to good, so that it might be absorbed into the realm of holiness.

For, as explained above, the Beinoni may indeed elevate the “garments” of the animal soul — the thought, speech and action through which it expresses itself — by performing the mitzvot by means of his thought, speech and action; but the essential character of the animal soul — its intellectual and emotional faculties — remains subject to the realm of kelipat nogah. How, then, can one be expected to rejoice, knowing that his body and animal soul are still in such an undesirable state

מכל מקום תיקר נפשו בעיניו לשמוח בשמחתה יותר מהגוף הנבזה,שלא לערבב ולבלבל שמחת הנפש בעצבון הגוף,

Yet, let his divine soul be more precious to him than his loathsome body, so that he rejoices in the soul’s joy at its liberation, through the observance of the Torah and the mitzvot, from the exile of the body, without letting the sadness on account of the lowly state of his body interfere with or disturb the joy of the soul.

והנה בחינה זו היא בחינת יציאת מצרים, שנאמר בה: כי ברח העם

This form of divine service — in which the divine soul breaks free of its exile within the body, while the body and animal soul remain in their lowly state — is analogous to the Exodus from Egypt, of which it is written that14 “the people escaped.”

The Jews told Pharaoh that they would leave Egypt for only three days, but upon being released from his land they escaped.

דלכאורה הוא תמוה למה היתה כזאת, וכי אילו אמרו לפרעה לשלחם חפשי לעולם, לא היה מוכרח לשלחם

At first glance it seems strange: Why should it have been so, in a manner of flight? Had they demanded of Pharaoh that he set them free forever, would he not have been forced to do so, having been stricken by the Plagues?

The explanation, the Alter Rebbe goes on to say, lies in the spiritual aspect of the Exodus, and this was reflected in its physical counterpart just as every event in Jewish history reflects a parallel spiritual process.

The corporeal enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt reflected the enslavement of their souls by the kelipah of Egyptian impurity. Their Exodus from Egypt likewise represented a spiritual liberation from this kelipah. Since the spiritual Exodus was an act of escape — i.e., their soul broke away and “escaped” from the impurity of Egypt, while the body and animal soul were still in exile within the kelipah — therefore the physical Exodus likewise assumed the manner of an escape.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

אלא מפני שהרע שבנפשות ישראל עדיין היה בתקפו בחלל השמאלי

But escape was necessary because the evil in the [animal] souls of Israel was still strong in the left part of the heart, the seat of the animal soul,

כי לא פסקה זוהמתם עד מתן תורה

for their impurity (the impurity of kelipah) did not cease until the Giving of the Torah. 15

רק מגמתם וחפצם היתה לצאת נפשם האלקית מגלות הסטרא אחרא, היא טומאת מצרים, ולדבקה בו יתברך

Yet their aim and desire was that their divine soul leave the exile of the sitra achra — the impurity of Egypt, and that it cleave to G‑d. 16

וכדכתיב: ה׳ עוזי ומעוזי ומנוסי ביום צרה וגו׳, משגבי ומנוסי וגו׳,והוא מנוס לי וגו׳,

So it is written17 that there is a divine service which consists of the divine soul’s “escape” from the impurity of the body and animal soul: “G‑d is my strength and my fortress, my refuge in the day of affliction”; 18 “[He is] my high tower and my refuge”; and19 “He is my escape...”

And the Exodus from Egypt exemplified this idea of “escape”.

ולכן לעתיד, כשיעביר ה׳ רוח הטומאה מן הארץ, כתיב: ובמנוסה לא תלכון כי הולך לפניכם ה׳ וגו׳

Hence it is written of the Redemption which will take place in the time to come, when G‑d will remove the spirit of impurity from the earth and there will therefore be no evil necessitating spiritual escape: 20 “[You will not go out in haste,] nor go in flight, for G‑d will go before you.”

The Exodus from Egypt, however, took place in a manner of flight, for the evil was still strong in the people’s animal soul. Similarly, whenever one disregards the lowliness of his body and animal soul and engages in the Torah and the mitzvot in order to free the divine soul from its corporeal exile, he effects the spiritual equivalent of the Exodus from Egypt.

ולהיות בחינת תשובה זו ביתר שאת ויתר עז מעומקא דלבא, וגם שמחת הנפש תהיה בתוספת אורה ושמחה

One may lend this teshuvah the restoration of his soul to its source — additional strength from the depths of his heart, and likewise add a greater measure of light and joy to the joy of his soul brought on by the teshuvah,

כאשר ישיב אל לבו דעת ותבונה לנחמו מעצבונו ויגונו, לאמר כנ״ל

by comforting his heart from its distress and sorrow, through reflecting (lit., “speaking to his heart”) with knowledge and understanding, as follows:

הן אמת כו׳, אך אני לא עשיתי את עצמי

“Certainly it is true, as said above, that I am utterly remote from G‑d, etc.; but it was not I who created myself in a manner that permits the divine soul to be exiled within the impurity of the body and animal soul. It was G‑d Who created me thus.

ולמה עשה ה׳ כזאת, להוריד חלק מאורו יתברך, הממלא וסובב כל עלמין, וכולא קמיה כלא חשיב, והלבישו במשכא דחויא וטפה סרוחה

“Why then has G‑d done such a thing — to cause [the divine soul,] a part of His light which fills and encompasses all worlds and before which all is as naught, to descend into [the body], and be clothed in a ’serpent’s skin‘ and a ’fetid drop‘

אין זה כי אם ירידה זו היא צורך עליה

“Surely this descent must be for the sake of a subsequent ascent.

להעלות לה׳ כל נפש החיונית הבהמית שמקליפת נוגה, וכל לבושיה, הן בחינות מחשבה דבור ומעשה שלה

“That is, to elevate to G‑d the entire animating, animal soul, which derives from kelipat nogah, and also its ’garments‘ of thought, speech and action,

על ידי התלבשותן במעשה דבור ומחשבת התורה

by means of clothing them in the action, speech and thought of the Torah.

For by performing the mitzvot, and by speaking and thinking words of Torah, the animal soul and its ’garments‘ are elevated toward G‑dliness.

וכמו שכתוב לקמן ענין העלאה זו באריכות, איך שהיא תכלית בריאת העולם

(21The subject of this ascent will be discussed further on at length; 22 it will be shown how this is the purpose for which the world was created.)

ואם כן איפוא זאת אעשה, וזאת תהיה כל מגמתי כל ימי חלדי

“If this be so, there is one thing for me to do, and this shall be my sole aim throughout my life:

לכל בהן חיי רוחי ונפשי, וכמו שכתוב: אליך ה׳ נפשי אשא

To immerse therein — in the thought, speech and action of the Torah and the mitzvot the life of my spirit and soul, as it is written, 23 “To You, G‑d, I raise my soul.

דהיינו, לקשר מחשבתי ודבורי במחשבתו ודבורו יתברך, והן הן גופי הלכות הערוכות לפנינו, וכן מעשה במעשה המצות

In practical terms, this means: To bind my thought and speech with G‑d’s thought and speech — which are, in fact, the very laws which have been set out before us. For the laws of the Torah are G‑d’s “thought” and “speech”, and by studying them one binds his own faculties of thought and speech with their Divine counterparts. Similarly with action: I will bind my faculty of action with G‑d’s faculty of action, through performing the commandments.”

שלכן נקראת התורה משיבת נפש, פירוש, למקורה ושרשה

For this reason, the Torah is described as24 “that which restores the soul,” i.e., it restores the soul to its source and root.

ועל זה נאמר: פקודי ה׳ ישרים משמחי לב

Moreover, concerning this occupation in the Torah and the mitzvot which brings joy to the soul by restoring it to its source, and which banishes the sadness of its exile in the body and animal soul, it is written: 25 “G‑d’s commandments are just; they gladden the heart.”

When one considers that one’s study of the Torah and observance of the mitzvot elevate not only his divine soul, but also his animal soul, his teshuvah will gain in depth, and the joy of his soul will gain in intensity.

For although the soul’s “escape” from exile within the body and animal soul (spoken of earlier) would in itself be sufficient cause for great joy, yet this is a joy tempered by sadness over the lowly state in which one’s body and animal soul remain. When one realizes, however, that Torah and the mitzvot elevate the body and animal soul as well, his joy will be untarnished.