Chapter 46

פרק מו

In the previous chapter, the Alter Rebbe described yet another manner in which a person can perform Torah and mitzvot “with his heart”—with the love and fear of G‑d—and that is by utilizing the attribute of Jacob, which is the quality of mercy. In this case, the individual arouses compassion within himself upon his exiled soul and upon its source, the Ein Sof, and in this frame of mind, he studies Torah and performs mitzvot. This endeavor extricates his soul from its spiritual exile (whither it has been banished by his own inappropriate thoughts, words, and deeds) and restores it to its source in the blessed Ein Sof.

In this chapter, the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain how very, very close it is for every Jew to reveal his hidden love of G‑d. The approach explained in this chapter is novel (as the Rebbe clarifies) inasmuch as it utilizes the Jew’s very nature, thereby obviating the need for a specific manner of contemplation; a relatively general and tangible manner of contemplation will do, as will soon be explained. Indeed, the lower the spiritual level of the individual, the easier it is for him to awaken this hidden love—a paradox that will also be explained presently.

This manner of contemplation enables a Jew to serve G‑d with fiery, passionate love, leading him to excel in his study of Torah and performance of mitzvot. It also enables him to overcome all obstacles, whether from within or from without, that seek to hinder his service of G‑d.

Let a man think along these lines: It is in the nature of a human being that when he feels a strong emanation of love from his fellow, he will respond in kind. And if the manifestation of love is showered by an exalted personage upon a very lowly individual, the responsive chord of the lowly person’s love will be all the more vibrant.

In a like manner, but infinitely more so, should this apply when a human being is enveloped by G‑d’s boundless love for him. Such is the case with the Jewish people. G‑d showed His boundless love for His people by choosing them from all created beings from the highest level to the lowest. This love manifested itself by His taking them out of Egypt and bestowing the Torah and its mitzvot upon them alone. And so, too, does G‑d show this love to every individual Jew at all times and in all places.

Such boundless love should surely awaken within a Jew an ardent reciprocal love for G‑d. Moreover, just as G‑d, because of His love for the Jewish people, “overcame all obstacles” which stood in the way of creating this world (as will be explained in ch. 49), so, too, should each Jew strive to overcome all obstacles that hinder his service of G‑d.

There is yet another straight way i.e., simple and straightforward, that is equally applicable and suitable to every man, and this matter is very, very close, inasmuch as the technique involved is uncomplicated,

וְיֵשׁ דֶּרֶךְ יָשָׁר לִפְנֵי אִישׁ, שָׁוֶה לְכָל נֶפֶשׁ, וְקָרוֹב הַדָּבָר מְאֹד מְאֹד,

to arouse and kindle the light of the love that is implanted and concealed in his heart,

לְעוֹרֵר וּלְהָאִיר אוֹר הָאַהֲבָה הַתְּקוּעָה וּמְסוּתֶּרֶת בְּלִבּוֹ,

This love is already found in the heart of every Jew in a concealed state; utilizing the approach about to be described makes it very simple for every Jew to reveal and actualize it.

that it may shine forth with its intense light, like a flaming fire, in the consciousness of the heart and mind,

לִהְיוֹת מְאִירָה בְּתוֹקֶף אוֹרָהּ כְּאֵשׁ בּוֹעֲרָה בְּהִתְגַּלּוּת לִבּוֹ וּמוֹחוֹ,

ultimately enabling the person to surrender his soul to G‑d together with his body and [material] possessions,

לִמְסוֹר נַפְשׁוֹ לַה' וְגוּפוֹ וּמְאוֹדוֹ

this being done with all his heart and all his soul and all his “might”—with the boundless devotion of his soul’s essence,

בְּכָל לֵב וּבְכָל נֶפֶשׁ וּמְאֹד,

from the depth of the heart, in absolute truth,

מֵעוּמְקָא דְלִבָּא בֶּאֱמֶת לַאֲמִיתּוֹ,

and especially, i.e., a most propitious time for the person to kindle this love in such a manner, is at the time of the recital of the Shema and its blessings, as will be explained later, on the particular connection of the Shema and its blessings to the arousal of this love.

וּבִפְרָט בִּשְׁעַת קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וּבִרְכוֹתֶיהָ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר.

And this technique for revealing this love is,


to take to heart the meaning of the verse: “As water mirrors the face to the face, so does the heart of man to man.”1

כַּאֲשֶׁר יָשִׂים אֶל לִבּוֹ מַה שֶּׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב: "כַּמַּיִם הַפָּנִים לַפָּנִים, כֵּן לֵב הָאָדָם אֶל הָאָדָם";

This means2 that as [in the case of] the likeness and features of the face which a man presents to the water, the identical face is reflected back to him from the water,

פֵּירוּשׁ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכִּדְמוּת וְצוּרַת הַפָּנִים שֶׁהָאָדָם מַרְאֶה בַּמַּיִם, כֵּן נִרְאֶה לוֹ שָׁם בַּמַּיִם אוֹתָהּ צוּרָה עַצְמָהּ –

That image mirrors not only the person’s external features but also the nuances of facial expression that signify joy, sorrow, and so on, thus revealing not only his physical state but his mental state as well.

so indeed is also the heart of a man who is loyal in his affection for another person,

כָּכָה מַמָּשׁ, "לֵב הָאָדָם" הַנֶּאֱמָן בְּאַהֲבָתוֹ לְאִישׁ אַחֵר,

for this love which he has for the other awakens a loving response for him in the heart of his friend also so that they come to love each other loyally,

הֲרֵי הָאַהֲבָה זוֹ מְעוֹרֶרֶת אַהֲבָה בְּלֵב חֲבֵירוֹ אֵלָיו גַּם כֵּן, לִהְיוֹת אוֹהֲבִים נֶאֱמָנִים זֶה לָזֶה,

Even the love harbored in one’s heart arouses a reflected love in another.

especially when he sees his friend’s love for him freely revealed.

בִּפְרָט כְּשֶׁרוֹאֶה אַהֲבַת חֲבֵירוֹ אֵלָיו.

Such is the common nature in the character of every man, even when they are equal in status.

וְהִנֵּה, זֶהוּ טֶבַע הַנָּהוּג בְּמִדַּת כָּל אָדָם, אַף אִם שְׁנֵיהֶם שָׁוִים בְּמַעֲלָה.

How much more so is this the case if a great and mighty king, who rules over many lands, displays his great and intense love for a commoner who is despised and lowly among men, a disgraceful creature cast on the dunghill,

וְעַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה, אִם מֶלֶךְ גָּדוֹל וְרַב, מַרְאֶה אַהֲבָתוֹ הַגְּדוֹלָה וְהָעֲצוּמָה לְאִישׁ הֶדְיוֹט וְנִבְזֶה וּשְׁפַל אֲנָשִׁים וּמְנֻוָּול הַמּוּטָּל בְּאַשְׁפָּה,

The king depicted here rules not over one land but over many; his love for the person is not only harbored in the heart but is manifest; the manner of love is not ordinary but “great and intense”; and the love is shown not to an ordinary person but to a truly despicable character. The Alter Rebbe goes on to state how his love is displayed:

yet, he the king comes down to him from the place of his glory, together with all his retinue,

וְיוֹרֵד אֵלָיו מִמְּקוֹם כְּבוֹדוֹ עִם כָּל שָׂרָיו יַחְדָּיו,

and raises him and exalts him from his dunghill and brings him into his palace—the royal palace, and within the palace itself, he leads him in the innermost chamber, a place such as no servant nor lord ever enters,

וּמְקִימוֹ וּמְרִימוֹ מֵאַשְׁפָּתוֹ, וּמַכְנִיסוֹ לְהֵיכָלוֹ הֵיכַל הַמֶּלֶךְ, חֶדֶר לִפְנִים מֵחֶדֶר, מָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין כָּל עֶבֶד וְשַׂר נִכְנָס לְשָׁם,

and there shares with him the closest companionship with mutual embraces and kisses and attachment of “spirit to Spirit,” with their whole heart and soul—

וּמִתְיַיחֵד עִמּוֹ שָׁם בְּיִחוּד וְקֵירוּב אֲמִיתִּי וְחִיבּוּק וְנִישּׁוּק וְאִתְדַּבְּקוּת רוּחָא בְּרוּחָא בְּכָל לֵב וָנֶפֶשׁ –

When a mighty king shows such great affection and companionship to such a lowly person, then,

how much more so will there be aroused, of itself, a doubled and redoubled love in the heart of this most common and humble individual for the person of the king,3 with a true attachment of spirit, from heart and soul, from the infinite depths of his heart.

עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה, שֶׁתִּתְעוֹרֵר מִמֵּילָא הָאַהֲבָה כְּפוּלָה וּמְכוּפֶּלֶת בְּלֵב הַהֶדְיוֹט וּשְׁפַל אֲנָשִׁים הַזֶּה אֶל נֶפֶשׁ הַמֶּלֶךְ, בְּהִתְקַשְּׁרוּת הַנֶּפֶשׁ מַמָּשׁ מִלֵּב וָנֶפֶשׁ מֵעוּמְקָא דְלִבָּא לְאֵין קֵץ,

Even if his heart be like a heart of stone and not easily roused to tender feelings of love for another, in such a situation, it will surely melt and become [like] water, and his soul will pour itself out like water with soulful longing for the love of the king.

וְאַף אִם לִבּוֹ כְּלֵב הָאֶבֶן – הִמֵּס יִמַּס וְהָיָה לְמַיִם, וְתִשְׁתַּפֵּךְ נַפְשׁוֹ כַּמַּיִם – בִּכְלוֹת הַנֶּפֶשׁ מַמָּשׁ לְאַהֲבַת הַמֶּלֶךְ:

The Alter Rebbe goes on to explain that all the details mentioned in the parable of the king are infinitely more applicable with regard to the object of the parable—the relationship of G‑d with each and every Jew. For G‑d, the King of kings, showed his unending love of the Jewish people by taking them out of their nethermost level, in Egypt, and exalting them to the highest of levels by giving them the Torah. Through study of Torah and performance of mitzvot, Jews are united with G‑d to the utmost possible degree.

This was so not only at the time the Torah was given. But at all times, as shall soon be explained, contemplating this matter will arouse within every Jew—“as water mirrors the face to the face”—a parallel love of G‑d.

In a manner corresponding in every detail to the said figure and image4 of the love shown by the mighty king to this most lowly individual but to a much greater degree, doubled and redoubled infinitely more than in the parable, has our G‑d dealt with us,

וְהִנֵּה, כְּכָל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה וּכְכָל הַחִזָּיוֹן הַזֶּה, וְגָדוֹל יָתֵר מְאֹד בְּכִפְלֵי כִפְלַיִים לְאֵין קֵץ, עָשָׂה לָנוּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ.

for His greatness is beyond comprehension,

כִּי לִגְדוּלָּתוֹ אֵין חֵקֶר,

Just as G‑d is infinitely greater than any physical king, so, too, does his kingdom extend over an infinitely greater territory, so to speak.

and He pervades all worlds and encompasses i.e., transcends all worlds;

וְ"אִיהוּ מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין" וְ"סוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין",

and from the holy Zohar, as also from our Master, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of blessed memory, it is known of the multitude of Heichalotthese being the specific levels within each spiritual world—and worlds which are infinite and of the myriads of myriads of angels found in each world and Heichal, countless and without end.

וְנוֹדָע מִזֹּהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ וְהָאֲרִ"י זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה, רִיבּוּי הַהֵיכָלוֹת וְהָעוֹלָמוֹת עַד אֵין מִסְפָּר, וּבְכָל עוֹלָם וְהֵיכָל רִיבּוֹא רִבְבוֹת מַלְאָכִים לְאֵין קֵץ וְתַכְלִית,

So does the Gemara5 note: “It is written: ‘Is there any numbering His regiments of angels?’6 Yet it is also written: ‘A thousand thousands minister unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before Him….’”7

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּגְּמָרָא: כְּתִיב, "הֲיֵשׁ מִסְפָּר לִגְדוּדָיו", וּכְתִיב, "אֶלֶף אַלְפִין יְשַׁמְּשׁוּנֵּיהּ, וְרִיבּוֹ רִבְבָן קָדָמוֹהִי כוּ'",

The second verse indicates that there is indeed a finite number of angels, albeit a very great number, while the rhetorical question in the first verse implies that the number is truly infinite.

The Gemara answers: “‘A thousand thousands…’ is the quota of one regiment, but His regiments are innumerable.” The second verse, then, speaks of the number of angels within one regiment, while the first verse alludes to the number of regiments, which is truly infinite.

וּמְשַׁנֵּי: "אֶלֶף אַלְפִין וְכוּ' – מִסְפַּר גְּדוּד אֶחָד, אֲבָל לִגְדוּדָיו – אֵין מִסְפָּר",

Yet, before Him, all of them are accounted as nothing at all and are nullified in their very existence, just as one word is truly nullified in relation to the essence and being of the articulate soul, the soul possessing the power of speech, while the speech of the soul was still present in [the soul’s] faculty of thought or in the will and desire of the heart, as has been explained above at length.

וְכוּלָּם קַמֵּיהּ כְּלָא מַמָּשׁ חֲשִׁיבֵי, וּבְטֵלִים בִּמְצִיאוּת מַמָּשׁ, כְּבִיטּוּל דִּבּוּר אֶחָד מַמָּשׁ לְגַבֵּי מַהוּת הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַמְדַבֶּרֶת וְעַצְמוּתָהּ, בְּעוֹד שֶׁהָיָה דִיבּוּרָהּ עֲדַיִין בְּמַחֲשַׁבְתָּהּ אוֹ בִּרְצוֹן וְחֶמְדַּת הַלֵּב, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל בַּאֲרִיכוּת:

In chs. 20 and 21, the Alter Rebbe explained at length how a single utterance is as absolutely nothing when compared to the infinite capacity of the articulate soul. This is so even when the word has already been uttered and has thereby become a distinct entity. Even more so, in the case when the person’s speech is in potentia in the person’s thought or heart’s desire (which are the sources of speech since a person thinks before he speaks and speaks about things that he desires). In such an instance, the single word is totally nullified in its source and is not at all perceptible as an entity separate from it.

So, too,with Divine speech that creates and animates angels, the various worlds, and all creatures. Divine speech is always absolutely united with its source and is therefore always in a state of total nullification to it.

All these [angels] ask: “Where is the place of His glory?” And they answer: “The whole physical earth is full of His glory,”8 that is—i.e., How is this world “full of His glory?”—because of His people, Israel.

וְכוּלָּם שׁוֹאֲלִים: "אַיֵּה מְקוֹם כְּבוֹדוֹ", וְעוֹנִים: "מְלֹא כָל הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ" – הֵם יִשְׂרָאֵל עַמּוֹ,

For the Holy One, blessed be He, forsook the higher and lower creatures that are not the ultimate purpose of His creation,

כִּי הִנִּיחַ הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא אֶת הָעֶלְיוֹנִים וְאֶת הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים,

choosing none of them but Israel His people, whom He brought out of Egypt—“the obscenity of the earth,”9 the place of filth and impurity—

וְלֹא בָחַר בְּכוּלָּם כִּי אִם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל עַמּוֹ, וְהוֹצִיאָם מִמִּצְרַיִם, עֶרְוַת הָאָרֶץ, מְקוֹם הַזּוּהֲמָא וְהַטּוּמְאָה,

Like the lowly and disgraceful individual who was raised from the dunghill by the king in person, the Children of Israel were brought forth out of Egypt by the King Himself,

“not through an angel, which is a created being whose abode is in the World of Beriah, Yetzirah, or Asiyah, nor through a messenger from the level of the World of Atzilut, but the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself in His glory”10 descended there,

לֹא עַל יְדֵי מַלְאָךְ וְלֹא עַל יְדֵי כוּ', אֶלָּא הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בִּכְבוֹדוֹ וּבְעַצְמוֹ יָרַד לְשָׁם,

as it is written: “And I have descended to save him from the hand of the Egyptians,”11

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וָאֵרֵד לְהַצִּילוֹ וְגוֹ'",

Just as the king in the parable, after raising the individual from the dungheap, takes him into his palace and shares with him the closest companionship, in a like manner did G‑d treat His people.

in order to bring them near to Him in true closeness and unity with a real attachment of soul—so that the Jew’s soul will be truly bound up with the Almighty,

כְּדֵי לְקָרְבָם אֵלָיו בְּקֵירוּב וְיִחוּד אֲמִיתִּי, בְּהִתְקַשְּׁרוּת הַנֶּפֶשׁ מַמָּשׁ

This is also so regarding the Torah, concerning which G‑d says: “I have written and given My ‘soul’” to the Jewish people by giving them the Torah. Thus, not only is the Jew’s soul truly bound up with G‑d but G‑d’s “soul,” too, is united with the Jew.

on the level of “kisses” of mouth to mouth so that the Jew’s mouth be united with the “mouth” and speech of G‑d, by uttering “the word of G‑d namely, the Halachah,”12

בִּבְחִינַת נְשִׁיקִין פֶּה לַפֶה – לְדַבֵּר דְבַר ה' זוֹ הֲלָכָה,

When a Jew speaks and studies the words of the Torah, his speech is united with supernal speech in a manner of “kisses” of mouth to mouth. This unity, however, is external in comparison with the deeper and more inward “union of spirit and spirit,” as explained in the previous chapter. This deeper level of unity is also attained through Torah study:

and the fusion of “spirit” of man with “spirit” of G‑d, namely, the comprehension of the Torah and the knowledge of His will and wisdom,

וְאִתְדַּבְּקוּת רוּחָא בְּרוּחָא – הִיא הַשָּׂגַת הַתּוֹרָה וִידִיעַת רְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ,

When Torah is studied with comprehension, the person knows both G‑d’s will and wisdom. Knowing the Halachah, the law that determines that an object is (say) either kosher or nonkosher, constitutes the knowledge of G‑d’s will, while comprehending the reason for the Halachah relates to G‑d’s wisdom.

which are truly one; G‑d’s will and wisdom are truly one with Him. Hence, through Torah study, Jews become united with G‑d in a manner of “union of spirit and spirit,”

דְּכוּלָּא חַד מַמָּשׁ,

and also with a form of “embrace,” for Torah and mitzvot also effect the unity of an “embrace,” similar to a person embracing his friend with his body and arms,

וְגַם בִּבְחִינַת חִיבּוּק –

namely, the fulfillment of the positive precepts with the 248 organs which the human being possesses. Performance of the 248 positive commandments brings about a state of “embrace” wherein G‑d’s 248 “organs” embrace man’s,

הוּא קִיּוּם הַמִּצְוֹת מַעֲשִׂיּוֹת בְּרַמַ"ח אֵבָרִים,

for the 248 ordinances are the 248 “organs” of the King, as mentioned earlier, in ch. 23.

דְּרַמַ"ח פִּיקּוּדִין הֵן רַמַ"ח אֵבָרִין דְּמַלְכָּא כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

Each organ of the body is an appropriate vessel for the particular faculty of the soul that resides therein, such as the eye for the faculty of sight, the ear for the faculty of hearing, and so on. So, too, each mitzvah is an appropriate vessel for the specific emanation of the Divine will that desires the Jew to perform the particular commandment.

In a general manner, these 248 positive mitzvot are divided into three categories—right, left, and center—namely, Chesed (“kindness”), Din (“stern justice”), and Rachamim (“mercy”).

וְדֶרֶךְ כְּלָל, נֶחְלָקִין לְשָׁלֹשׁ בְּחִינוֹת: יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאל וְאֶמְצַע, שֶׁהֵן: חֶסֶד דִּין רַחֲמִים –

There are mitzvot which are in the category of the “right side”—Chesed; others in the category of the “left side”—Din; still others in the category of the “center”—Rachamim. These are:

the two arms and the body.

תְּרֵין דְּרוֹעִין וְגוּפָא וְכוּ'.

Chesed is the right arm; gevurah, or Din, is the left; and Rachamim represents the body (the center). Just as when a person embraces another he does so with both arms and his body, so, too, do the “two arms” and “body” of the mitzvot embrace the Jew who performs them.

This is the meaning of the text of the various blessings pronounced before one fulfills a mitzvah: “[Blessed be He,] Who has betrothed us by His commandments,”

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאוֹמְרִים: "אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו",

The Hebrew word kideshanu—generally rendered “Who has sanctified us”—is here rendered “Who has betrothed us,” from the Hebrew word kiddushin (“betrothal”), for mitzvot too, are:

like a man who betrothes a wife so that she be united with him in a perfect bond, as it is written, “And he shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.”13

כְּאָדָם הַמְקַדֵּשׁ אִשָּׁה לִהְיוֹת מְיוּחֶדֶת עִמּוֹ בְּיִחוּד גָּמוּר, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וְדָבַק בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ וְהָיוּ לְבָשָׂר אֶחָד". –

Exactly similar to the unity achieved through betrothal, and even infinitely surpassing it, is the union of the divine soul that is engaged in Torah and the commandments, and of the vivifying soul, and their garments referred to above, viz., thought, speech, and action—all of them becoming united with the light of the blessed Ein Sof.

כָּכָה מַמָּשׁ וְיֶתֶר עַל כֵּן לְאֵין קֵץ, הוּא יִחוּד נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית הָעוֹסֶקֶת בַּתּוֹרָה וּמִצְוֹת וְנֶפֶשׁ הַחִיּוּנִית וּלְבוּשֵׁיהֶן – הַנִּזְכָּרִים לְעֵיל – בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא.

This spiritual union infinitely surpasses the physical union of man and wife. The correlation to a physical union is valid only in the sense that in this world, there can be no greater union than that of man and wife. This union is termed kiddushin.

Therefore did Solomon, peace unto him, in the Song of Songs compare this union of G‑d and Jews through Torah and mitzvot with the union of bridegroom and bride,

וְלָכֵן הִמְשִׁיל שְׁלֹמֹה עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם בְּ"שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים", יִחוּד זֶה לְיִחוּד חָתָן וְכַלָּה,

this union being with attachment—an external level of unity, with longing—a more inward level of unity, and desire—an even more inward level of unity, with embrace and kissing.

בִּדְבִיקָה חֲשִׁיקָה וַחֲפִיצָה בְּחִיבּוּק וְנִישּׁוּק.

All the above manners of union are found in the Jew’s relationship to G‑d through Torah and mitzvot.

Until now, the Alter Rebbe expounded on the theme of unity, understanding kideshanu as deriving from kiddushin (“betrothal”). The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that the word kideshanu also alludes to the sanctification a Jew achieves through Torah and mitzvot, sanctification implying a state of exaltation and separation from all worlds.

This is also the meaning of the blessings alluded to above: “Who has sanctified us by His commandments,” the verb kideshanu (“Who has sanctified us”) here meaning:

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאוֹמְרִים: "אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו" –

that He has elevated us to the heights of the supreme holiness, which is the holiness of the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself.

שֶׁהֶעֱלָנוּ לְמַעֲלַת קוֹדֶשׁ הָעֶלְיוֹן בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, שֶׁהִיא קְדוּשָּׁתוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בִּכְבוֹדוֹ וּבְעַצְמוֹ,

Kedushah (“holiness”) is a term indicating separateness, in that the Holy One, blessed be He, is apart from the worlds,

וּקְדוּשָּׁה – הִיא לְשׁוֹן הַבְדָּלָה, מַה שֶּׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הוּא מוּבְדָּל מֵהָעוֹלָמוֹת,

this being the quality of “encompassing all worlds,” being unable to clothe Himself within them.

וְהִיא בְּחִינַת סוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין, מַה שֶּׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בָּהֶן.

Because of the inability of created beings to absorb the extreme holiness of this transcendent level, G‑d (as it were) cannot enclothe Himself within the worlds and therefore effects them in an encompassing manner. It is to this lofty level that Jews are elevated through their performance of mitzvot.

For through the union of the soul with, and its absorption into, the light of the Ein Sof, it attains the quality and the degree of holiness of the blessed Ein Sof Himself

כִּי עַל יְדֵי יִחוּד הַנֶּפֶשׁ וְהִתְכַּלְלוּתָהּ בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, הֲרֵי הִיא בְּמַעֲלַת וּמַדְרֵגַת קְדוּשַּׁת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מַמָּשׁ,

since it unites itself with Him and is integrated into Him, and they become truly one.

מֵאַחַר שֶׁמִּתְיַיחֶדֶת וּמִתְכַּלֶּלֶת בּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, וְהָיוּ לַאֲחָדִים מַמָּשׁ.

This is the meaning of the verse: “And you shall be holy unto Me, for I, the L-rd, am holy; the verse gives us the reason for the Jew’s sanctity, connecting it with G‑d’s supreme holiness, which Jews can attain through Torah and mitzvot; and I have separated you from other peoples that you should be Mine.”14 Here we see that holiness implies separation, as mentioned earlier.

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וִהְיִיתֶם לִי קְדוֹשִׁים כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי ה', וָאַבְדִּיל אֶתְכֶם מִן הָעַמִּים לִהְיוֹת לִי",

Another verse states: “You shall fulfill all My commandments and be holy unto your G‑d: I am the L-rd your G‑d….”15 The term “your G‑d,” in the possessive form, recalls the relationship set up when a man betrothes a woman, whereby she becomes his wife.16

וְאוֹמֵר: "וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֶת כָּל מִצְוֹתָי וִהְיִיתֶם קְדוֹשִׁים לֵאלֹהֵיכֶם אֲנִי ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וְגוֹ'";

The meaning is that “through the fulfillment of the commandments, I become ‘your’ G‑d,” in the same manner

פֵּירוּשׁ, כִּי עַל יְדֵי קִיּוּם הַמִּצְוֹת הֲרֵינִי אֱלוֹהַּ שֶׁלָּכֶם,

as G‑d is called “the G‑d of Abraham,” “the G‑d of Isaac,” and so on,

כְּמוֹ "אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אֱלֹהֵי יִצְחָק וְכוּ'",

called thus because the Patriarchs were on the level of a “vehicle” unto Him,

שֶׁנִּקְרָא כֵּן מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָאָבוֹת הָיוּ בְּחִינַת מֶרְכָּבָה לוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ

The Patriarchs were totally dedicated to G‑d and nullified before Him, like a vehicle (lit., “chariot”) which is totally nullified to its driver, possessing no independent will.

and they were nullified and absorbed in His light.

וּבְטֵלִים וְנִכְלָלִים בְּאוֹרוֹ.

So it is with the soul of every Jew at the time he is occupied with Torah and the commandments.

וְכָכָה הוּא בְּכָל נֶפֶשׁ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל בִּשְׁעַת עֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת.

When a Jew occupies himself with Torah study and the performance of its commandments, he is totally nullified and absorbed in G‑d’s light. The only difference between the Patriarchs and other Jews is that the Patriarchs were in this state constantly, while other Jews attain this level only at the abovementioned times.

Therefore, the Sages, of blessed memory, made it obligatory to rise and remain standing17 in the presence of anyone who is engaged in fulfilling a commandment, even if the latter is uncultured and illiterate. When such a person performs a mitzvah, such as bringing Bikkurim (the First Fruits) to the Beit Hamikdash, one must rise before him.

וְלָכֵן חִיְּיבוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה לָקוּם וְלַעֲמוֹד מִפְּנֵי כָּל עוֹסֵק בְּמִצְוָה, אַף אִם הוּא בּוּר וְעַם הָאָרֶץ,

This is because G‑d dwells and clothes Himself in this man’s soul at such time.

וְהַיְינוּ, מִפְּנֵי ה' הַשּׁוֹכֵן וּמִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּנַפְשׁוֹ בְּשָׁעָה זוֹ,

It is only that his soul is unconscious of this sanctity that resides within him at the time of his performance

רַק שֶׁאֵין נַפְשׁוֹ מַרְגֶּשֶׁת,

because of the barrier of the bodily grossness within which the soul dwells, which has of yet not been refined and which dims the eyes of the soul, preventing it from seeing Divine visions,

מִפְּנֵי מָסָךְ הַחוֹמֶר הַגּוּפָנִי, שֶׁלֹּא נִזְדַּכֵּךְ, וּמַחֲשִׁיךְ עֵינֵי הַנֶּפֶשׁ מֵרְאוֹת מַרְאוֹת אֱלֹהִים

as experienced by the Patriarchs and others of their stature, who “saw their world the spiritual World to Come during their lifetime.”

כְּמוֹ הָאָבוֹת וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָהֶן, שֶׁרָאוּ עוֹלָמָם בְּחַיֵּיהֶם.

These great tzaddikim were able in this world to see Divine visions normally seen only in the World to Come. This was so because their bodies, having been purified, did not conceal G‑dliness. Truly, each and every Jew would be capable of witnessing such visions of holiness during the performance of a mitzvah were it not for the coarseness of his body.

This is also the meaning of what Asaph said, under Divine inspiration, on behalf of the whole community of Israel, who were later to be in exile:18

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמַר אָסָף בְּרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ בְּעַד כָּל כְּנֶסֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁבַּגּוֹלָה:

The barriers that conceal holiness are particularly strong during the time of exile. Concerning that time, Asaph said:

“And I am foolish and know not; I was as a beast before You. [Yet] I am continually with You.”19

"וַאֲנִי בַעַר וְלֹא אֵדָע, בְּהֵמוֹת הָיִיתִי עִמָּךְ, וַאֲנִי תָּמִיד עִמָּךְ".

This means20 that even though I am as a “beast” when I am with You,

כְּלוֹמַר שֶׁאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֲנִי כִּבְהֵמָה בִּהְיוֹתִי עִמְּךָ,

Even when I perform a mitzvah and am thus united with You, I am still like a beast.

my soul being unaware of, and insensitive to, this union achieved between my soul and G‑d through performing a mitzvah, for were I to be aware and sensitive, my soul would be affected in a manner

וְלֹא אֵדַע וְלֹא אַרְגִּישׁ בְּנַפְשִׁי יִחוּד זֶה –

which should bring down upon it fear and awe first, followed by a great and pleasurable love that experiences delights, a love wherein the soul delights in G‑dliness or a love like fiery flames of ardent longing for G‑dliness,

שֶׁתִּפּוֹל עָלֶיהָ אֵימָתָה וָפַחַד תְּחִלָּה, וְאַחַר כָּךְ אַהֲבָה רַבָּה בְּתַּעֲנוּגִים אוֹ כְּרִשְׁפֵּי אֵשׁ,

like the quality of the tzaddikim, whose corporeality has been refined,

כְּמִדַּת הַצַּדִּיקִים שֶׁנִּזְדַּכֵּךְ חוּמְרָם;

When tzaddikim perform a mitzvah, they actually feel how it unifies their soul with G‑d. This, in turn, awakens within their soul a feeling of fear and awe of G‑d, followed by a feeling of intense love of Him. This, of course, is not the case with these who “feel not.”

for, as is known, the term daat connotes a sensitivity of the soul, and this is comprised of chesed and gevurah.

וְכַנּוֹדָע, שֶׁדַּעַת הוּא לְשׁוֹן הַרְגָּשָׁה בַּנֶּפֶשׁ, וְהוּא כּוֹלֵל חֶסֶד וּגְבוּרָה –

Chesed gives rise to love and gevurah to fear. Only when one possesses the attribute of daat and spiritual sensitivity will one experience the kinds of love and fear of G‑d described above.

Nevertheless, “I am continually with You,” for the corporeality of the body does not prevent the union of the soul with the light of the blessed Ein Sof, Who fills all worlds,

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, "אֲנִי תָּמִיד עִמָּךְ", כִּי אֵין הַחוֹמֶר מוֹנֵעַ יִחוּד הַנֶּפֶשׁ בְּאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין,

Corporeality can only prevent the soul from being conscious of its unity with G‑d inasmuch as it hinders the revelation and awareness of the unity accomplished during the performance of a mitzvah. It cannot, however, hinder the actual unity objectively effected.

and as it is written: “Even darkness cannot obscure You.”21

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "גַּם חוֹשֶׁךְ לֹא יַחְשִׁיךְ מִמֶּךָּ".

Accordingly,22 since (as above) every Jew who performs a mitzvah is granted the unity and sanctity of “supreme holiness,” even when he does not perceive it, as does a tzaddik,


one will be able to understand the severity of the punishment for transgressing the prohibition of work on Shabbat or that of leavened bread on Passover, which equally applies to all.

יוּבַן חוֹמֶר עוֹנֶשׁ אִיסּוּר מְלָאכָה בְּשַׁבָּתוֹת וְחָמֵץ בַּפֶּסַח הַשָּׁוֶה לְכָל נֶפֶשׁ,

The very same severe punishment applies equally to the loftiest tzaddik and to the coarsest boor were either of them, heaven forfend, to transgress one of the abovementioned prohibitions. The reason:

For even in the soul of an uncultured and completely illiterate person shines the light of the sanctity of Shabbat or Festival, hence he faces capital punishment by Karet for eating leavened bread on Passover and stoning for doing a prohibited form of labor on Shabbat, for the profanation of this sanctity, which illuminates his soul.

לְפִי שֶׁאַף בְּנֶפֶשׁ בּוּר וְעַם הָאָרֶץ גָּמוּר, מֵאִיר אוֹר קְדוּשַּׁת שַׁבָּת וְיוֹם טוֹב, וְנִידּוֹן בְּנַפְשׁוֹ בְּכָרֵת וּסְקִילָה עַל חִילּוּל קְדוּשָּׁה זוֹ.

Though a particular individual may not feel this sanctity, still, as explained earlier, this sanctity does indeed illuminate his soul. This being the case, the soul of this individual is tainted by his misdeed in a manner equal to that of a tzaddik in similar circumstances. It is for this reason that the manner of punishment applies equally to all.

Similarly, the transgression involving the slightest amount of leaven on Passover or the moving of muktzeh on Shabbat, blemishes the sanctity which rests on his (the uncultured person’s) soul just as it would the sanctity of the soul of a tzaddik,

וְגַם מַשֶּׁהוּ חָמֵץ אוֹ טִלְטוּל מוּקְצֶה – פּוֹגֵם בַּקְּדוּשָּׁה שֶׁעַל נַפְשׁוֹ כְּמוֹ בִּקְדוּשַּׁת נֶפֶשׁ הַצַּדִּיק,

for we all have one Torah: the laws of the Torah apply equally to all Jews.

כִּי תּוֹרָה אַחַת לְכוּלָּנוּ.

From all the above, it becomes eminently clear that though a person may not feel the sanctity brought about by the performance of a mitzvah, so much so that he is likened to a beast, nevertheless, through his performance of a mitzvah, this “beast” is unified with G‑d to the same degree as the greatest sage. Indeed, this is the implication of the verse, “I was as a beast before You, [yet] I am constantly with You.”

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that there is a definite reason why the similarity to a beast is described in the plural (“I was as בְּהֵמוֹת—behemot, lit., beasts, before You”). This tells us that the performance of a mitzvah on the level of a beast—with neither comprehension nor feeling—is related to the spiritual level which transcends comprehension and feeling, this level too being termed “beast” since it is not in the realm of comprehension, rather, it is transcending it. Thus, there are two levels of “beasts,” that which is lower than the realm of comprehension and that which is above it. Both are alluded to by the same word since the two are connected.

(23And as for the use of the plural form “beasts,” which is inconsistent both with the singular form mentioned earlier (“and I am a fool”) and with the singular form mentioned later (“And I am constantly…”),

[וּמַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב "בְּהֵמוֹת" לְשׁוֹן רַבִּים,

this intimates that before Him, even daat Elyon (“supernal knowledge”)—which comprises chesed and gevurah—is like “beasts” and a physical creation (i.e., the physical world of Asiyah, not its spiritual counterpart), when compared with the light of the Ein Sof,

לְרַמֵּז – כִּי לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ גַּם בְּחִינַת דַּעַת הָעֶלְיוֹן, הַכּוֹלֵל חֶסֶד וּגְבוּרָה, נִדְמֶה כִּבְהֵמוֹת וַעֲשִׂיָּיה גוּפָנִית לְגַבֵּי אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף,

as it is written: “You made (עָשִׂיתָ) them all with wisdom,”24 thereby comparing the level of chochmah (“wisdom”) with Asiyah (“physical creation”). From G‑d’s perspective, chochmah and Asiyah are equally distant.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "כּוּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ",

And this is called Behemah Rabbah (“a great beast”), denoting that level of “beast” which transcends understanding rather than that which lacks comprehension, as is explained elsewhere.

וְנִקְרָא "בְּהֵמָה רַבָּה", כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר.

And this is the level of the supernal Name of “Ban” (one of the four variations of the Tetragrammaton, corresponding with the number 52), with the same numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word Behemah (“beast”), which is on a level even preceding Atzilut).

וְהוּא שֵׁם "בַּ"ן" בְּגִימַטְרִיָּא "בְּהֵמָ"ה" שֶׁלִּפְנֵי הָאֲצִילוּת]:

We thus see that even one who performs mitzvot on the level of a “fool” or “beast,” neither comprehending nor sensing the unity and holiness achieved and drawn down through his actions—even such a person, too, attains a union with the level of “beast” that transcends even that most lofty of levels—daat of Atzilut.