Chapter 14

פרק יד

In previous chapters, the Alter Rebbe explained that though the beinoni is unsullied by sin in thought, speech, or action, the internal evil of his animal soul remains strong enough to desire evil. That these desires do not find any practical expression is due only to the divine soul’s restraining them with the aid given it by the Almighty. The Alter Rebbe now continues:

Now, the rank of beinoni is one that is attainable by every man; each person should strive after it if he has not yet attained it and should not think it beyond his reach,

וְהִנֵּה, מִדַּת הַבֵּינוֹנִי, הִיא מִדַּת כָּל אָדָם וְאַחֲרֶיהָ כָּל אָדָם יִמְשׁוֹךְ,

for every person can, at any time or hour, be a beinoni,

שֶׁכָּל אָדָם יָכוֹל לִהְיוֹת בֵּינוֹנִי בְּכָל עֵת וּבְכָל שָׁעָה.

because a beinoni does not abhor evil; unlike the tzaddik, he does not find worldly pleasures revolting and loathsome,

כִּי, הַבֵּינוֹנִי אֵינוֹ מוֹאֵס בְּרָע,

for this is a matter entrusted to the heart, and as explained earlier, the beinoni has yet to conquer [the evil in] his heart; consequently, he does not loathe evil.

שֶׁזֶּהוּ דָּבָר הַמָּסוּר לַלֵּב

Also, not all times are alike.

וְלֹא כָּל הָעִתִּים שָׁווֹת,

There are times—such as during prayer—when one’s heart is open and receptive; at such time, he may evoke a loathing toward evil. At other times, the heart may be “blocked” and spiritually insensitive, and one is incapable of loathing evil. Inasmuch as the beinoni’s attitude toward evil varies while his status of beinoni remains constant, it is understood that loathing evil is not the measure of the beinoni.

Rather, the task of the beinoni is only to “turn away from evil and do good” in actual practice—in deed, speech, and thought.

אֶלָא "סוּר מֵרַע וַעֲשֵׂה טוֹב", דְּהַיְינוּ בְּפוֹעַל מַמָּשׁ, בְּמַעֲשֶׂה דִּבּוּר וּמַחֲשָׁבָה,

In these matters, as opposed to “matters of the heart,” every man is given the choice, ability, and freedom

שֶׁבָּהֶם הַבְּחִירָה וְהַיְכוֹלֶת וְהָרְשׁוּת נְתוּנָה לְכָל אָדָם

to act, speak, and think even that which is contrary to the desire of his heart and diametrically opposed to it.

לַעֲשׂוֹת וּלְדַבֵּר וְלַחֲשׁוֹב גַּם מַה שֶּׁהוּא נֶגֶד תַּאֲוַת לִבּוֹ וְהֶפְכָּהּ מַמָּשׁ,

For even when one’s heart craves and desires a material pleasure, whether permitted, in which case it is only the lustful nature of the desire that is evil (instead of desiring the pleasure “for the sake of heaven,” as he should, he seeks self-gratification), or whether, G‑d forbid, he desires that which is forbidden, and the desire is intrinsically evil; whatever sort of craving it is

כִּי גַּם בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהַלֵּב חוֹמֵד וּמִתְאַוֶּה אֵיזוֹ תַּאֲוָה גַשְׁמִיִּית בְּהֶיתֵּר אוֹ בְּאִיסּוּר חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

he can conquer [this desire] and divert his attention from it altogether by declaring to himself (“saying to his heart”) [as follows]:

יָכוֹל לְהִתְגַּבֵּר וּלְהַסִּיחַ דַּעְתּוֹ מִמֶּנָּה לְגַמְרֵי, בְּאָמְרוֹ לְלִבּוֹ:

“I do not want to be a rashain succumbing to the blandishments of the animal soul—even for a moment,

אֵינֶנִּי רוֹצֶה לִהְיוֹת רָשָׁע אֲפִילוּ שָׁעָה אַחַת,

because under no circumstances do I want to be parted and severed, heaven forbid, from the One G‑d; as is written, “Your iniquities separate…[you from G‑d].”1

כִּי אֵינֶנִּי רוֹצֶה לִהְיוֹת מוּבְדָּל וְנִפְרָד חַס וְשָׁלוֹם מֵה' אֶחָד בְּשׁוּם אוֹפֶן, כְּדִכְתִיב: "עֲוֹנוֹתֵיכֶם מַבְדִּילִים וְגוֹ'",

By reflecting that sin separates one from G‑d, one will conclude that he does not wish to be a rasha, since he will thereby sever his bond with Him. In this way, one can always “turn away from evil” and refrain from sin, although his heart craves it.

Similarly, in order for one to “do good” and actively perform the mitzvot, he should declare to himself:

“I desire, instead, to unite my nefesh, ruach, and neshamah with G‑d through investing them in ‘His’ three garments,

רַק אֲנִי רוֹצֶה לְדָבְקָה בוֹ נַפְשִׁי רוּחִי וְנִשְׁמָתִי, בְּהִתְלַבְּשָׁן בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה לְבוּשָׁיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

namely, action, speech, and thought dedicated to G‑d, His Torah, and His commandments.

שֶׁהֵם: מַעֲשֶׂה דִּבּוּר וּמַחֲשָׁבָה בַּה' וְתוֹרָתוֹ וּמִצְוֹתָיו,

These are called “His” (G‑d’s) three garments because they lend expression to His wisdom (Torah) and will (mitzvot), which are one with G‑d Himself.

This desire to unite with G‑d arises out of the love of G‑d that is (surely) hidden in my heart though I do not feel it, just as [this love is found] in the heart of all Jews, who are called ‘lovers of Your (G‑d’s) Name’2 by reason of their inherent love of G‑d, although they do not all feel this love consciously.

מֵאַהֲבָה מְסוּתֶּרֶת שֶׁבְּלִבִּי לַה', כְּמוֹ בְּלֵב כְּלָלוּת יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁנִּקְרְאוּ "אוֹהֲבֵי שְׁמֶךָ",

For this reason, even a kal shebekalim (a most unworthy Jew) is capable of sacrificing his life for the sanctity of G‑d should he be forced to deny Him, G‑d forbid. Surely, I am not inferior to him.

וַאֲפִילוּ קַל שֶׁבְּקַלִּים יָכוֹל לִמְסוֹר נַפְשׁוֹ עַל קְדוּשַּׁת ה', וְלֹא נוֹפֵל אָנֹכִי מִמֶּנּוּ בְּוַדַּאי,

As will be explained in later chapters, the ability of even the lowliest Jew to give up his very life for G‑d stems from every Jew’s innate, hidden love of G‑d, which is activated and aroused whenever he feels that he is being torn away from Him. But if the kal shebekalim does indeed love G‑d so deeply that he will surrender his life for Him, why is he a kal shebekalim? Why does he sin? Why does he not observe the mitzvot?

“It is only that a spirit of folly has overcome (lit., ‘entered’) him, as our Sages say: ‘No man sins unless overcome by a spirit of folly’3; he imagines that committing this sin will not affect his Jewishness and that his soul will not be severed thereby from the G‑d of Israel.

אֶלָּא שֶׁנִּכְנַס בּוֹ רוּחַ שְׁטוּת, וְנִדְמֶה לוֹ שֶׁבַּעֲבֵירָה זוֹ עוֹדֶנּוּ בְּיַהֲדוּתוֹ וְאֵין נִשְׁמָתוֹ מוּבְדֶּלֶת מֵאֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל,

In fact, at the moment that a Jew sins, he becomes separated from G‑d. Were the kal shebekalim to realize this, he would never sin. The “spirit of folly,” however, deludes him into thinking otherwise.

Similarly, the kal shebekalim neglects the positive mitzvot, although his natural love of G‑d dictates that he fulfill them, because he also forgets the love of G‑d hidden in his heart. Were he aware of this love, he would seek out mitzvot to perform in order to unite with G‑d.

וְגַם, שׁוֹכֵחַ אַהֲבָתוֹ לַה' הַמְסוּתֶּרֶת בְּלִבּוֹ,

All this applies to the kal shebekalim. But as for me”—one should say to himself—I have no desire to be such a fool as he to deny the truth!”

אֲבָל אֲנִי, אֵינֶנִּי רוֹצֶה לִהְיוֹת שׁוֹטֶה כָּמוֹהוּ לִכְפּוֹר הָאֱמֶת.

The truth of the matter is that sin does separate man from G‑d and that one does have a natural love of G‑d that dictates the performance of mitzvot. “These truths,” one must say to himself, “I do not wish to deny.”

Such arguments are effective in a conflict with one’s animal soul over actual thought, speech, and action. Using the abovementioned reasoning, one can prevail over his evil inclination at all times (in both “turning from evil” and “doing good”) and thereby attain the rank of the beinoni.

It is different, however, with something entrusted to the heart, i.e., involving one’s feelings, meaning, in our case, that one’s heart actually abhor and despise the evil that he now craves,

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן בְּדָבָר הַמָּסוּר לַלֵּב, דְּהַיְינוּ, שֶׁיְּהֵא הָרָע מָאוּס מַמָּשׁ בַּלֵּב וְשָׂנאוּי

[whether] with absolute hatred, as the perfect tzaddik does, or even not quite so utterly, as does the “incomplete tzaddik.”

בְּתַכְלִית שִׂנְאָה – אוֹ אֲפִילוּ שֶׁלֹּא בְּתַכְלִית שִׂנְאָה –

This cannot be attained in complete truth except through that level of intense love of G‑d called “love which experiences delights,” which consists of delighting in G‑dliness,

הִנֵּה זֶה, אִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בֶּאֱמֶת לַאֲמִיתּוֹ, אֶלָּא עַל יְדֵי גּוֹדֶל וְתוֹקֶף הָאַהֲבָה לַה', בִּבְחִינַת "אַהֲבָה בְּתַּעֲנוּגִים", לְהִתְעַנֵּג עַל ה'

akin to [the bliss of] the World to Come, concerning which our Sages say that souls “will bask in the radiance of the Divine Presence.” Only such “love which experiences delights” creates a hatred of evil, as explained in the previous chapters.

מֵעֵין עוֹלָם הַבָּא,

Concerning one who experiences this [“love of delights”], our Sages said, “You shall see a glimmer of your reward in the World to Come in your lifetime.”4 Not every man is privileged to attain this state, for it is in the nature of a reward received from above, and a reward can only be received, not taken.

וְעַל זֶה אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "עוֹלָמְךָ תִּרְאֶה בְּחַיֶּיךָ כוּ'"; וְאֵין כָּל אָדָם זוֹכֶה לָזֶה, כִּי זֶהוּ כְּעֵין קִבּוּל שָׂכָר,

Thus, it is written, “I (G‑d) shall grant [you] your priestly service as a gift,”5

וּכְדִכְתִיב: "עֲבוֹדַת מַתָּנָה אֶתֵּן אֶת כְּהוּנַּתְכֶם וְגוֹ'",

Service of G‑d with this ecstatically blissful love is designated “priesthood” even though it is not restricted to the Kohanim, members of the priestly family of Aaron. The above-quoted verse tells us that this lofty level of divine service is a gift from G‑d,

as is explained elsewhere.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר.

Consequently, the rank of tzaddik is not within every man’s reach: it is dependent upon one’s loathing of evil, which is in turn contingent on his experiencing that blissful love which is a gift from G‑d. The level of beinoni, however, is attainable by all.

With this in mind, the Alter Rebbe clarifies the Talmudic passage that describes Job as saying to G‑d: “You have created tzaddikim (righteous men), You have created resha’im (wicked men).” In the first chapter of the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe asked: How can G‑d be said to have “created” righteous and wicked men? If man is wicked, it is his own doing. G‑d ordains only whether one shall be clever or foolish, strong or weak, and the like; he does not declare whether one will be righteous or wicked, for doing so would negate man’s freedom of choice. How, then, could Job say, “You have created men as tzaddikim and resha’im”?

The matter becomes clear, however, in light of the Alter Rebbe’s statement here that the ability to become a tzaddik is a gift from G‑d, not granted to every man. “You have created tzaddikim” thus means that G‑d created souls capable of attaining the rank of tzaddik. In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

Therefore Job said, “You have created tzaddikim….”

וְלָכֵן אָמַר אִיּוֹב: "בָּרָאתָ צַדִּיקִים כוּ'";

We can now understand Job’s statement as a reference to those souls created with the capacity of attaining the rank of tzaddik. (The meaning of “You have created resha’im” is explained in ch. 27.)

As stated in Tikkunei Zohar,6 there are many grades and degrees in Jewish souls:

וְכִדְאִיתָא בַּתִּיקּוּנִים, שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּנִשְׁמוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל כַּמָּה מִינֵי מַדְרֵגוֹת וּבְחִינוֹת:

Pious men (chassidim), strong men (gibborim) who gain mastery over their evil inclination, scholars of the Torah, prophets…tzaddikim, and so forth. Note there.

חֲסִידִים, גִּבּוֹרִים הַמִּתְגַּבְּרִים עַל יִצְרָם, מָארֵי תוֹרָה, נְבִיאִים כוּ', צַדִּיקִים כוּ', עַיֵּין שָׁם:

Accordingly, within the ranks of the souls, there are those who are categorized as tzaddikim.7

Now we may understand the repetitious wording in the oath administered to every Jew before birth, “Be a tzaddik, and be not a rasha(as quoted from the Talmud in the opening words of the Tanya).

וּבָזֶה יוּבַן כֶּפֶל לְשׁוֹן הַשְּׁבוּעָה: "תְּהִי צַדִּיק, וְאַל תְּהִי רָשָׁע";

At first glance, it seems puzzling: once he is charged to “be a tzaddik,” implying clearly that he not be a rasha, why the need to adjure him again not to be a rasha?

דְּלִכְאוֹרָה תָּמוּהַּ, כִּי מֵאַחַר שֶׁמַּשְׁבִּיעִים אוֹתוֹ "תְּהִי צַדִּיק", לָמָּה צְרִיכִים לְהַשְׁבִּיעוֹ עוֹד שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה רָשָׁע?

The answer is that inasmuch as not everyone is privileged to become a tzaddik, nor has a person the full advantage of choice in this matter of experiencing true delight in G‑d and of actually and truly abhorring evil,

אֶלָּא, מִשּׁוּם שֶׁאֵין כָּל אָדָם זוֹכֶה לִהְיוֹת צַדִּיק, וְאֵין לָאָדָם מִשְׁפַּט הַבְּחִירָה בָּזֶה כָּל כָּךְ, לְהִתְעַנֵּג עַל ה' בֶּאֱמֶת, וְשֶׁיִּהְיֶה הָרָע מָאוּס מַמָּשׁ בֶּאֱמֶת,

[each person] is consequently adjured a second time: “You shall, at any rate, not be a rasha.”

וְלָכֵן מַשְׁבִּיעִים שֵׁנִית "אַל תְּהִי רָשָׁע" עַל כָּל פָּנִים,

Even if a person is not privileged to become a tzaddik, he should at the very least not be a rasha, being instead a beinoni.

With regard to this (not being a rasha), the right of choice and freedom is extended to every man,

שֶׁבָּזֶה – מִשְׁפַּט הַבְּחִירָה וְהָרְשׁוּת נְתוּנָה לְכָל אָדָם

to control the spirit of lust in his heart and to conquer his nature, so that he shall not be wicked for even one moment throughout his life.

לִמְשׁוֹל בְּרוּחַ תַּאֲוָתוֹ שֶׁבְּלִבּוֹ וְלִכְבּוֹשׁ יִצְרוֹ, שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה רָשָׁע אֲפִילוּ שָׁעָה אַחַת כָּל יָמָיו,

[This applies] both in the realm of “turning away from evil’’—refraining from transgression—and in that of “doing good”—performing all the positive mitzvot in which he is obligated—and especially the mitzvah of Torah study, which is specifically termed “good,” as our Sages say, “There is no ‘good’ other than Torah,”8

בֵּין בִּבְחִינַת "סוּר מֵרָע", בֵּין בִּבְחִינַת "וַעֲשֵׂה טוֹב", – וְ"אֵין טוֹב אֶלָּא תוֹרָה",

meaning the study of Torah, which “balances (i.e., is equal to) all [the other mitzvot combined].”9

דְּהַיְינוּ תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה שֶׁכְּנֶגֶד כּוּלָּן.

By reason of the freedom of choice granted him, one is expected to surmount even the difficulty of faithfully observing this most difficult mitzvah of constant Torah study.

For this reason, the oath is administered a second time. Even if one does not have the opportunity to become a tzaddik, it is still possible for him—and therefore expected of him—not to be a rasha.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to state that everyone should strive to emulate the tzaddik’s service of G‑d, although he may never actually reach the rank of tzaddik. Specifically, one should train oneself to loathe worldly pleasures, and conversely, he should try to awaken in himself a delight in the love of G‑d, which is accomplished through reflecting deeply on His greatness. Thereby one fulfills the charge, “Be a tzaddik,” to the best of his ability.

Nevertheless, though it has been said that not every person can loathe evil and attain the “love of delights” characteristic of a tzaddik—and we are dealing here with a beinoniyet one must also set aside specific periods to seek for himself means of abhorring evil—i.e., of loathing worldly pleasures.

אַךְ אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, צָרִיךְ לִקְבּוֹעַ לוֹ עִתִּים גַּם כֵּן לָשִׁית עֵצוֹת בְּנַפְשׁוֹ לִהְיוֹת מוֹאֵס בְּרָע,

For example, [following] the advice of our Sages on overcoming a lust for women, let one reflect on their words, “Woman is a vessel full of filth,”10 and the like.

כְּגוֹן, בַּעֲצַת חֲכָמֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אִשָּׁה – חֵמֶת מְלֵאָה צוֹאָה כוּ'", וּכְהַאי גַּוְונָא,

So, too, one may learn to despise gluttony by reflecting that all dainties and delicacies similarly become “vessels full of waste.”

וְכֵן כָּל מִינֵי מַטְעַמִּים וּמַעֲדַנִּים נַעֲשִׂים כָּךְ: חֵמֶת מָלֵא כוּ';

Likewise with regard to all the pleasures of this world: the wise man foresees what becomes of them; they ultimately rot and become worms and refuse.

וְכֵן כָּל תַּעֲנוּגֵי עוֹלָם הַזֶּה, הֶחָכָם רוֹאֶה הַנּוֹלָד מֵהֶן, שֶׁסּוֹפָן לִרְקוֹב וְלִהְיוֹת רִמָּה וְאַשְׁפָּה.

In this way, one cultivates an abhorrence of worldly pleasures.

Conversely, one should train himself to delight and rejoice in G‑d by reflecting, to the best of his ability, on the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof.

וְהַהֵפֶךְ, לְהִתְעַנֵּג וְלִשְׂמוֹחַ בַּה' – עַל יְדֵי הִתְבּוֹנְנוּת בִּגְדוּלַּת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא כְּפִי יְכוֹלְתּוֹ,

He may well know that he will not attain this degree of loathing evil and delighting in G‑dliness with the fullest measure of truth but will only imagine it.

אַף שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ בְּנַפְשׁוֹ שֶׁלֹּא יַגִּיעַ לְמַדְרֵגָה זוֹ בֶּאֱמֶת לַאֲמִיתּוֹ – כִּי אִם בְּדִמְיוֹנוֹת –

He will fancy that he truly abhors evil and delights in G‑dliness; why, then, should he exert himself merely to produce a fantasy (especially in the service of G‑d, where sincerity is essential)?

Nevertheless, he should do his part to uphold the oath administered to him to “Be a tzaddik,”

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, הוּא יַעֲשֶׂה אֶת שֶׁלּוֹ, לְקַיֵּים אֶת הַשְּׁבוּעָה שֶׁמַּשְׁבִּיעִים "תְּהִי צַדִּיק",

and G‑d will do as He sees fit—whether to grant him the level of tzaddik or not.

וַה' יַעֲשֶׂה הַטּוֹב בְּעֵינָיו.

Furthermore, emulating the tzaddik in loathing evil and delighting in G‑d produces another benefit for the beinoni:


Habit reigns supreme in all matters;11 it becomes second nature.

שֶׁהַהֶרְגֵּל עַל כָּל דָּבָר – שִׁלְטוֹן, וְנַעֲשֶׂה טֶבַע שֵׁנִי,

Therefore, when one accustoms himself to loathe evil, he will begin to find it truly loathsome, to some extent.

וּכְשֶׁיַּרְגִּיל לְמָאֵס אֶת הָרָע – יִהְיֶה נִמְאָס קְצָת בֶּאֱמֶת,

And when he accustoms himself to rejoice in G‑d through reflecting on His greatness,

וּכְשֶׁיַּרְגִּיל לְשַׂמֵּחַ נַפְשוֹ בַּה' עַל יְדֵי הִתְבּוֹנְנוּת בִּגְדוּלַּת ה',

then, [on the principle that] “an arousal of man below brings a corresponding arousal above,”12 perhaps after all this effort of his, “a spirit [ruach] from above will descend upon him,”13

הֲרֵי בְּאִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְתַתָּא אִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְעֵילָּא, וְכוּלֵּי הַאי וְאוּלַי יֵעָרֶה עָלָיו רוּחַ מִמָּרוֹם,

and it will be granted him that the [soul-level of] ruach, originating in the soul of some tzaddik, will be “impregnated” in him so that he may serve G‑d with true joy.

וְיִזְכֶּה לִבְחִינַת רוּחַ מִשֹּׁרֶשׁ אֵיזֶה צַדִּיק שֶׁתִּתְעַבֵּר בּוֹ – לַעֲבוֹד ה' בְּשִׂמְחָה אֲמִיתִּית,

Kabbalah speaks of the soul of a tzaddik “impregnating” another’s soul with its faculties so that the latter may serve G‑d as the tzaddik does. (This concept is somewhat akin to gilgul—transmigration—where a soul is attached to some object or animal, or another human being, except that in the case of gilgul, the soul is chained to and dominated by the body to which it attaches, whereas in the case of “impregnation,” it is not; the soul of the tzaddik serves merely as an additional spiritual charge for the soul of the recipient.)

In our context, the “impregnation” of the beinoni’s soul with the (ruach originating in) the tzaddik’s soul enables the beinoni to experience a delight in G‑d that he could not attain on his own.

Thus is it written, “Rejoice, O tzaddikim, in G‑d.”14

כְּדִכְתִיב: "שִׂמְחוּ צַדִּיקִים בַּה'",

This alludes also to the idea that when two types of tzaddikim are joined together (the verse addresses tzaddikim, in the plural form), when the beinoni—called a “lower-level tzaddik”—is impregnated with the soul of a tzaddik—a “higher-level tzaddik”—they both rejoice in G‑d, for the tzaddik imparts his delight in G‑dliness to the beinoni.15

In this way, the oath charging him to “be a tzaddik” will be truly fulfilled.

וְתִתְקַיֵּים בּוֹ בֶּאֱמֶת הַשְּׁבוּעָה שֶׁמַּשְׁבִּיעִים: "תְּהִי צַדִּיק":