Before beginning ch. 35, it will be worthwhile to note once again that the Tanya is based on the verse, “For the matter (of observing Torah and mitzvot) is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”

This verse asserts that the Torah is easily fulfilled through all of man’s three forms of expression (also called the “garments of the soul”): thought (“in your heart”), speech (“in your mouth”), and action (“that you may do it”). In a deeper sense, the phrase “in your heart” refers also to the emotions of love and fear of G‑d; they, too, are “very near to you,” i.e., easily attainable.

Concerning this latter statement, the Alter Rebbe points out (in ch. 17) that this claim appears contrary to our experience; in fact, it is by no means an easy matter for us to acquire the love and fear of G‑d.

In answer, he explains that the phrase “that you may do it” qualifies and describes the emotions intended in the words “in your heart,” thus: What sort of love and fear of G‑d is “very near to you…in your heart?” The love and fear which serve to motivate one’s practical observance of the mitzvot (even though such love and fear are not experienced in the heart as fiery, spiritual emotions). Intellectual contemplation of G‑d’s greatness will lead one to an intellectual appreciation (“love”) of G‑d and an awe (“fear”) of Him, which will in turn affect the heart (since, by nature, the mind rules the heart). The heart will then be motivated and will resolve to observe all the mitzvot in the spirit of this “love” or “fear.”

The Alter Rebbe then went on to say that even he who is not suited to such intellectual contemplation may also attain a love and fear of G‑d by revealing the natural love hidden in the heart of every Jew. This love also contains an element of fear, the fear of separation from G‑dliness. Thus, it is indeed “very near” and easy to serve G‑d “in one’s heart,” i.e., out of both the love and fear of G‑d.

Yet, from the wording of the verse (“It is very near to you…in your mouth, and…heart, that you may do it”), it is evident that however necessary the love and fear of G‑d may be, the actual, practical observance of the mitzvot is paramount. In the following chapters, the Alter Rebbe explains the superiority of the practical aspect of mitzvot over this seemingly more “spiritual” aspect.

It is also important to bear in mind the Alter Rebbe’s definition of the rank of beinoni: The beinoni is he who is not guilty of any sin, whether in action, in speech, or even in thought.

The inner evil of his animal soul, however, retains its native strength and is capable of arousing forbidden desires in his heart; only by constant vigilance does the beinoni prevent these desires from finding expression in his actions, words, and (conscious) thoughts.

Let us elucidate still further the term “that you may do it” in the verse, “For the matter is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it,” where, as mentioned, the climax of the verse is its emphasis on action.

וְהִנֵּה, לְתוֹסֶפֶת בֵּיאוּר תֵּיבַת "לַעֲשׂוֹתוֹ",

Let us also understand, in a very small measure, the purpose in creating beinonimto be and remain forever on the level of beinonim, for, as explained in ch. 14, the souls of the beinonim are usually incapable of rising to the level of tzaddik through their own will and effort: they were created to be beinonim;

וְגַם לְהָבִין מְעַט מִזְּעֵיר תַּכְלִית בְּרִיאַת הַבֵּינוֹנִים

also, [the purpose of] their souls’ descent to this world, being clothed within an animal soul deriving from the kelipah and sitra achara, the very antithesis of the (divine) soul.

וִירִידַת נִשְׁמוֹתֵיהֶם לָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה, לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בַּנֶּפֶשׁ הַבַּהֲמִית שֶׁמֵּהַקְּלִיפָּה וְסִטְרָא אָחֳרָא,

Since they will not be able to banish [the animal soul] throughout their lives, nor [even] dislodge it from its place in the left part of the heart,

מֵאַחַר שֶׁלֹּא יוּכְלוּ לְשַׁלְּחָהּ כָּל יְמֵיהֶם, וְלִדְחוֹתָהּ מִמְּקוֹמָהּ מֵחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי שֶׁבַּלֵּב

so that no [evil] imaginings rise from it to the brain,

שֶׁלֹּא יַעֲלוּ מִמֶּנָּה הִרְהוּרִים אֶל הַמֹּחַ,‏

inasmuch as in the beinonim, the essence of the animal soul derived from the kelipah remains in its full strength and potency as at birth,

כִּי מַהוּתָהּ וְעַצְמוּתָהּ שֶׁל נֶפֶשׁ הַבַּהֲמִית שֶׁמֵּהַקְּלִיפָּה – הִיא בְּתָקְפָּהּ וּבִגְבוּרָתָהּ אֶצְלָם כְּתוֹלַדְתָּהּ,

except that its “garments,” i.e., its forms of expression as evil thought, speech, and action, do not clothe themselves in their body, as mentioned above in ch. 12, where the Alter Rebbe explains that by means of constant battle with his animal soul, the beinoni prevents the budding evil of this soul from expressing itself in his thought, speech, and action.

רַק שֶׁלְּבוּשֶׁיהָ אֵינָם מִתְלַבְּשִׁים בְּגוּפָם כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

However, since the beinoni succeeds only in suppressing the “garments” of the animal soul but can never, despite all his efforts, effect any change in the essential, evil nature of the animal soul itself, the question arises:

Why then did their souls descend to this world, to strive in vain, G‑d forbid, waging war all their lives against their evil inclination yet never being able to vanquish it?

וְאִם כֵּן, לָמָּה זֶּה יָרְדוּ נִשְׁמוֹתֵיהֶם לָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה לִיגַע לָרִיק חַס וְשָׁלוֹם, לְהִלָּחֵם כָּל יְמֵיהֶם עִם הַיֵּצֶר, וְלֹא יָכְלוּ לוֹ?

It was explained in the previous chapters that the ongoing battle waged by the beinoni in preventing his evil inclination from asserting itself in thought, speech, and action causes prodigious pleasure Above. How then can we complain that the battle is in vain? Yet, were this divine pleasure the sole object of the battle, there would be no reason for having the divine soul clothed within the animal soul; on the contrary, the two souls ought then to be separate and distinct from each other so that whenever the divine soul emerges victorious from a particular struggle (against the desire of the animal soul to act or speak evilly), it would then act alone, without the participation of the animal soul. Since the divine soul is clothed within the animal soul, the objective obviously lies in perfecting the animal soul itself. From this perspective, the battle of the beinoni does indeed seem futile, since all his efforts have no effect on the evil nature of the animal soul.

Let this forthcoming explanation be their solace, to comfort them in a double measure of aid and to gladden their hearts in G‑d, Who dwells among them in their Torah and [divine] service. I.e., the explanation will show them how to find comfort and joy in the G‑dly light that abides within them when they study the Torah and when they engage in the service of G‑d.

וּתְהִי זֹאת נֶחָמָתָם, לְנַחֲמָם בְּכִפְלַיִים לְתוּשִׁיָּה, וּלְשַׂמֵּחַ לִבָּם בַּה' הַשּׁוֹכֵן אִתָּם בְּתוֹךְ תּוֹרָתָם וַעֲבוֹדָתָם.

[The abovementioned difficulties will be resolved] by clarifying first the comment of the Yenuka (quoted in the Zohar, Parashat Balak1) on the verse: “The wise man’s eyes are in his head.”2

וְהוּא, בְּהַקְדִּים לְשׁוֹן הַיַּנּוּקָא [בַּזֹּהַר פָּרָשַׁת בָּלָק] עַל פָּסוּק: "הֶחָכָם עֵינָיו בְּרֹאשׁוֹ" –

The Zohar comments: “Where else are a man’s eyes?… Surely, then, the meaning of the verse is as follows:

"וְכִי בְּאָן אֲתַר עֵינוֹי דְּבַר נַשׁ כוּ', אֶלָּא קְרָא הָכֵי הוּא וַדַּאי,

We have learned that a man must not go four cubits while bareheaded. Why? Because the Shechinah (the Divine Presence) rests upon his head.

דִּתְנַן: לֹא יְהַךְ בַּר נַשׁ בְּגִילּוּיָא דְּרֵישָׁא אַרְבַּע אַמּוֹת, מַאי טַעֲמָא, דִּשְׁכִינְתָּא שַׁרְיָא עַל רֵישֵׁיהּ,

[Therefore] every wise man has his eyes, i.e., his interest and concern, and hence also his speech [concentrated] “in his head,” i.e., in that light of the Shechinah which rests and abides above his head.

וְכָל חָכָם עֵינוֹהִי וּמִילּוֹי בְּרֵישֵׁיהּ אִינּוּן, בְּהַהוּא דְּשַׁרְיָא וְקַיְּימָא עַל רֵישֵׁיהּ,

Now, when his “eyes” i.e. his interest and his concern are there, he must know that this light kindled above his head i.e., the light that shines upon his soul requires oil,

וְכַד עֵינוֹי תַּמָּן, לִנְדַּע, דְּהַהוּא נְהוֹרָא דְּאַדְלִיק עַל רֵישֵׁיהּ – אִצְטְרִיךְ לְמִשְׁחָא,

for man’s body is the wick that retains the luminous flame, and the light is kindled above it,

בְּגִין דְּגוּפָא דְבַר נַשׁ אִיהוּ פְּתִילָה, וּנְהוֹרָא אַדְלִיק לְעֵילָא,

and [thus,] King Solomon cried out, saying, “Let there be no lack of oil above your head,”3

וּשְׁלֹמֹה מַלְכָּא צָוַח וְאָמַר: וְשֶׁמֶן עַל רֹאשְׁךָ אַל יֶחְסַר,

for the light over his head requires oil, meaning good deeds—the good deeds that man performs are the oil which supplies the light illuminating his soul,

דְּהָא נְהוֹרָא דִּבְרֹאשׁוֹ אִצְטְרִיךְ לְמִשְׁחָא, וְאִינּוּן עוֹבָדָאן טָבָאן,

and for this reason, “the wise man’s eyes are in his head”—to ensure that he never lacks oil (good deeds) for this light.

וְעַל דָּא הֶחָכָם עֵינָיו בְּרֹאשׁוֹ",

The quotation from the Zohar ends here.

עַד כָּאן לְשׁוֹנוֹ.

The meaning of this analogy, comparing the light of the Shechinah to the light of a candle, “is clear…to every intelligent person,” as the Alter Rebbe will conclude shortly after a closer examination of its details. Just as it is true of the candle’s flame

וְהִנֵּה, בֵּיאוּר מָשָׁל זֶה, שֶׁהִמְשִׁיל אוֹר הַשְּׁכִינָה לְאוֹר הַנֵּר

that it does not shed light nor is it retained by the wick without oil,

שֶׁאֵינוֹ מֵאִיר וְנֶאֱחָז בַּפְּתִילָה בְּלִי שֶׁמֶן,

By nature, fire strains upward; it will not remain below unless restrained by a wick or wood, for example. But a wick alone is rapidly consumed, and the fire vanishes quickly. Moreover, the burning wick produces a dim and smoky light, for it consists of material insufficiently refined to be completely absorbed by the flame. Oil, on the other hand, is completely transformed into the flame and absorbed by it; burning steadily, it produces a pure and clear light.

This is what is meant by the Alter Rebbe’s statement that without oil, “the flame of the candle (a) does not shed light (b) nor is it retained by the wick.”

Returning now to the point of the analogy:

similarly, the Shechinah does not rest upon man’s body, which is compared to a wick, except through man’s performing good deeds.

וְכָךְ אֵין הַשְּׁכִינָה שׁוֹרָה עַל גּוּף הָאָדָם שֶׁנִּמְשָׁל לִפְתִילָה, אֶלָּא עַל יְדֵי מַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים דַּוְוקָא,

The body can only act as a wick, not as oil. It is a coarse, physical being which will not be absorbed within the light of the Shechinah but will always remain separate from it. The good deeds that man performs provide the oil.

It is evident from the Zohar, however, that one’s soul, although a part of G‑d above, is insufficient to serve as oil for the wick.

וְלֹא דַי לוֹ בְּנִשְׁמָתוֹ, שֶׁהִיא חֵלֶק אֱלוֹהַּ מִמַּעַל, לִהְיוֹת הִיא כְּשֶׁמֶן לַפְּתִילָה –

A question is implied here. Why should the soul, itself divine and thus certainly suited to being absorbed within the light of the Shechinah, require anything external (such as good deeds) to serve as oil for that light? Surely the soul itself should constitute the oil!

But the reason for this—the Alter Rebbe now concludes the sentence begun earlier with the words “The meaning of this analogy”—is clear and understandable to every intelligent person.

מְבוֹאָר וּמוּבָן לְכָל מַשְׂכִּיל,

The Alter Rebbe will now proceed to explain why good deeds can serve as oil for the light of the Shechinah, whereas the divine soul cannot. The explanation in brief:

Man’s soul is not, after all, completely nullified before G‑d and one with Him to the extent that it is capable of becoming absorbed within the G‑dly light. This is true even of the soul of the tzaddik, who serves G‑d with the loftiest forms of love and fear. Indeed, it is the soul’s very love of G‑d that emphasizes its separateness, for love entails two separate entities, the lover and the beloved. Similarly with fear: there is one who fears, and another who is feared.

Only “good deeds”—mitzvot, which (as the Alter Rebbe will explain further on) are completely one with G‑d—can therefore serve as the oil which is absorbed within the flame of the light of the Shechinah that is kindled over man.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

For the soul of a man, even if he be a perfect tzaddik who serves G‑d with fear and with a pleasurable love i.e., his love consists of delighting in the experience of G‑dliness—a most lofty form of love,

כִּי הִנֵּה, נִשְׁמַת הָאָדָם, אֲפִילוּ הוּא צַדִּיק גָּמוּר עוֹבֵד ה' בְּיִרְאָה וְאַהֲבָה בְּתַּעֲנוּגִים,

is nevertheless not utterly nullified out of existence so that it might be dissolved into and absorbed within G‑d’s light to be merged with it in perfect unity.

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, אֵינָהּ בְּטֵילָה בִּמְצִיאוּת לְגַמְרֵי לִיבָּטֵל וְלִיכָּלֵל בְּאוֹר ה' מַמָּשׁ, לִהְיוֹת לַאֲחָדִים וּמְיוּחָדִים בְּיִחוּד גָּמוּר,

It is, rather, a separate entity, which fears G‑d and loves Him. Since it is not absorbed within G‑dliness, as oil is absorbed within a flame, the soul cannot serve as oil for the light of the Shechinah.

רַק הוּא דָּבָר בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ – יְרֵא ה' וְאוֹהֲבוֹ;

Not so with mitzvot and good deeds, which are G‑d’s will—each commandment representing G‑d’s desire that a particular act be performed.

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן הַמִּצְוֹת וּמַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים, שֶׁהֵן רְצוֹנוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

Now, G‑d’s will is the source of life for all the worlds and the creatures—they live only because G‑d so desires.

וּרְצוֹנוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ הוּא מְקוֹר הַחַיִּים לְכָל הָעוֹלָמוֹת וְהַבְּרוּאִים,

The difference between the Divine will expressed in mitzvot and that same will as expressed in creation lies in the latter’s descending to them by means of many contractions (tzimtzumim) and by concealment of the “Countenance” i.e., the internal aspect of the supernal will, with only the external, superficial aspect of G‑d’s will expressing itself in creation and through a descent from level to level.

שֶׁיּוֹרֵד אֲלֵיהֶם עַל יְדֵי צִמְצוּמִים רַבִּים וְהֶסְתֵּר פָּנִים שֶׁל רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן בָּרוּךְ־הוּא וִירִידַת הַמַּדְרֵגוֹת,

All these steps were necessary so that it would be possible for [the worlds and creatures] to come into being and to be created ex nihilo as separate entities without becoming nullified out of existence, as mentioned above.4 Without the previously enumerated forms of concealment of G‑dliness, all created beings would be so completely nullified before the Divine will that created them that they would have no independent identity. Thus, the Divine will expressed in creation can come about only through its seeming contraction, occultation, and descent.

עַד שֶׁיּוּכְלוּ לְהִתְהַוּוֹת וּלְהִבָּרְאוֹת יֵשׁ מֵאַיִן וְדָבָר נִפְרָד בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ, וְלֹא יִבָּטְלוּ בִּמְצִיאוּת כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

The mitzvot, on the other hand, are the internal aspect of the Divine will. There, the “Countenance” is not hidden at all, for, on the contrary, mitzvot are the underlying purpose (the “inner aspect of will”) of creation in its entirety.

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן הַמִּצְוֹת, שֶׁהֵן פְּנִימִית רְצוֹנוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, וְאֵין שָׁם הֶסְתֵּר פָּנִים כְּלָל –

To illustrate by way of example:

One engages in business so that he will realize a profit and thereby support his family. In all, he wants the business to prosper, wants the profits, and wants to provide for his family. Yet, his true, inner will lies only in supporting his family. His desire for profit is merely incidental, “external” to this will, and his desire for business even more so.

So, too, with the Divine will as expressed in creation and as expressed in the mitzvot. The desire for creation is an external will. It is generated by the inner (i.e., ultimate) desire that Jews observe the mitzvot—obviously an impossibility without a created world.

Because the mitzvot represent G‑d’s true, inner will, and because in them there is no concealment of this will (unlike the case in creation), therefore, the [G‑dly] life-force within them is by no means a separate entity,

אֵין הַחַיּוּת שֶׁבָּהֶם דָּבָר נִפְרָד בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ כְּלָל,

but is united with and contained within G‑d’s will, and they (the mitzvot) are truly joined in perfect unity with G‑d’s will.

אֶלָּא הוּא מְיוּחָד וְנִכְלָל בִּרְצוֹנוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, וְהָיוּ לַאֲחָדִים מַמָּשׁ בְּיִחוּד גָּמוּר.

It is thus clear why (in the abovementioned metaphor) the mitzvot can serve as oil for the light of the Shechinah: for they are truly absorbed within and transformed into the light of the Divine will, just as oil is absorbed within a flame. (The Alter Rebbe will arrive at this conclusion after a preliminary discussion on what the Zohar means when it says that the light of the Shechinah “rests” on man. This exposition now follows:)

The “resting” of the Shechinah means, i.e., when we single out a specific object from a world filled with the Shechinah by saying that the Divine Presence “rests” upon that object, its uniqueness lies in

וְהִנֵּה, עִנְיַן הַשְׁרָאַת הַשְּׁכִינָה,

וְהִנֵּה, עִנְיַן הַשְׁרָאַת הַשְּׁכִינָה,

the revelation of G‑dliness and the Ein Sof-light in that particular object.

הוּא גִּילּוּי אֱלֹהוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ וְאוֹר אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בְּאֵיזֶה דָבָר,

This means to say that this object is comprised within G‑d’s light and is nullified out of existence toward Him (i.e., it has no separate identity),

וְהַיְינוּ לוֹמַר, שֶׁאוֹתוֹ דָבָר נִכְלָל בְּאוֹר ה' וּבָטֵל לוֹ בִּמְצִיאוּת לְגַמְרֵי,

for [only] then can the One G‑d rest upon it (upon that object) and reveal Himself in it.

שֶׁאָז הוּא שֶׁשּׁוֹרֶה וּמִתְגַּלֶּה בּוֹ ה' אֶחָד.

But anything not completely nullified out of existence toward [the G‑dly light] cannot have G‑d’s light rest and reveal itself within it.

אֲבָל כָּל מַה שֶּׁלֹּא בָטֵל אֵלָיו בִּמְצִיאוּת לְגַמְרֵי – אֵין אוֹר ה' שׁוֹרֶה וּמִתְגַּלֶּה בּוֹ.

Even a perfect tzaddik, who cleaves to Him with “abundant love”—a most lofty level of love and attachment to G‑d—even in the case of such a tzaddik, “no thought can truly grasp Him at all.”

וְאַף צַדִּיק גָּמוּר שֶׁמִּתְדַּבֵּק בּוֹ בְּאַהֲבָה רַבָּה, הֲרֵי "לֵית מַחֲשָׁבָה תְּפִיסָא בֵיהּ" כְּלָל בֶּאֱמֶת,

For the true implication of the phrase “G‑d is the true L-rd” is His Unity and Oneness, that He alone exists, and there is absolutely nothing besides Him.

כִּי אֲמִיתַּת "ה' אֱלֹהִים אֱמֶת" – הוּא יִחוּדוֹ וְאַחְדוּתוֹ, שֶׁהוּא לְבַדּוֹ הוּא וְאֶפֶס בִּלְעָדוֹ מַמָּשׁ.

As explained in ch. 20, the statement “G‑d is one” means (not only that He is the sole G‑d but also) that He is the only being that truly exists. All else is totally nullified before Him.

If so, this person i.e., the abovementioned tzaddik who loves [G‑d] and who is a [separate] “being” in his own self-perception (as is evident from the very fact that he loves G‑d) rather than a “nonentity,” no thought of his can grasp Him at all.

וְאִם כֵּן, זֶה הָאוֹהֵב, שֶׁהוּא יֵשׁ וְלֹא אֶפֶס – לֵית מַחֲשָׁבָה דִילֵיהּ תְּפִיסָא בֵיהּ כְּלָל,

Even the tzaddik cannot grasp G‑d and thereby become one with Him through the faculties of his own soul; therefore, G‑d’s light does not abide or manifest itself in him except through the fulfillment of the mitzvot, which constitute His actual will and wisdom without any “concealment of Countenance.” Since the inner aspect of the Divine will stands revealed only in the mitzvot, it is only by means of them that the light of the Shechinah rests upon man, not through spiritual devotion alone.

וְאֵין אוֹר ה' שׁוֹרֶה וּמִתְגַּלֶּה בּוֹ, אֶלָּא עַל יְדֵי קִיּוּם הַמִּצְוֹת, שֶׁהֵן רְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ מַמָּשׁ – בְּלִי שׁוּם הֶסְתֵּר פָּנִים

Concerning his aforementioned statement that the Ein Sof-light reveals itself only within that which is totally nullified before G‑d and absorbed within Him, the Alter Rebbe notes:

This accords with what I heard from my teacher (the Maggid of Mezritch), peace upon him, on the meaning of and the reason behind the statement of the Etz Chaim that the Ein Sof-light does not unite itself even with the World of Atzilut (Emanation) except by first vesting itself in the attribute of chochmah (wisdom).

וְכַאֲשֶׁר שָׁמַﬠְתִּי מִמּוֹרִי ﬠָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם, פֵּירוּשׁ וְטַﬠַם לְמַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב בְּﬠֵץ חַיִּים, שֶׁאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא אֵינוֹ מִתְיַיחֵד אֲפִילוּ בְּעוֹלַם הָאֲצִילוּת אֶלָּא ﬠַל יְדֵי הִתְלַבְּשׁוּתוֹ תְּחִלָּה בִּסְפִירַת חָכְמָה,

The Maggid (a) explained the meaning of the Ein Sof’s vesting itself in chochmah and (b) provided the reason that it does not unite with Atzilut except by way of chochmah.

This is because the Ein Sof is “the true One,which means that He alone exists and there is naught besides Him, and this, in fact, is the level of chochmah.

וְהַיְינוּ מִשּׁוּם שֶׁאֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, הוּא אֶחָד הָאֱמֶת, שֶׁהוּא לְבַדּוֹ הוּא וְאֵין זוּלָתוֹ, וְזוֹ הִיא מַדְרֵגַת הַחָכְמָה וְכוּ':

The attribute of chochmah represents the perception of G‑dliness as the sole existing being. This, then, is the meaning of the Ein Sof’s “clothing” itself in the attribute of chochmah: The revelation of the Ein Sof as “One alone, with naught besides Him.” And for this reason, the Ein Sof does not unite with any world or level except by way of chochmah, for, as stated above, G‑d abides (“may be united with”) only where there is no sense of self or separation from Him, only in that which is pervaded with the spirit of “He alone…and naught besides him,” and this spirit constitutes the attribute of chochmah, as stated.

(This note expresses a profound Chasidic concept; after further study of the Tanya, we will understand it more clearly.)

The Alter Rebbe now returns to our subject of the light of the Shechinah, which rests upon man only through the mitzvot (which alone can serve as oil for this light). He points out that the effect of this light upon the person performing a mitzvah varies from one category of mitzvot to another.

Those mitzvot performed in one’s thought and speech cause the light of the Shechinah to rest upon the divine soul alone. Drawing this light upon the body and upon the animal soul requires the performance of mitzvot which involve action, where one harnesses the power of the animal, life-giving soul.5 In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

When a person studies Torah, using his powers of thought and speech, his neshamah, his divine soul with its two inner “garments” only, viz., the faculties of speech and thought—

וְהִנֵּה, כְּשֶׁהָאָדָם עוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה, אֲזַי, נִשְׁמָתוֹ שֶׁהִיא נַפְשׁוֹ הָאֱלֹהִית, עִם שְׁנֵי לְבוּשֶׁיהָ הַפְּנִימִים לְבַדָּם, שֶׁהֵם, כֹּחַ הַדִּבּוּר וּמַחֲשָׁבָה,

Thought is obviously an internal “garment,” as it is connected to the soul itself. This is why thought functions ceaselessly; it is closely bound to the soul, and the soul’s presence is constant. Speech, too, is internal, when compared with action, which acts upon objects outside the soul—

are absorbed within the light of G‑d, the Ein Sof, blessed be He, and are merged within it in perfect unity.

נִכְלָלוֹת בְּאוֹר ה' אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, וּמְיוּחָדוֹת בּוֹ בְּיִחוּד גָּמוּר.

This constitutes the “resting of the Shechinah” on his divine soul; as our Sages have said: “When even one person applies himself diligently to Torah study, the Shechinah is with him,”6 meaning, in this case, that the Shechinah rests upon his divine soul and upon its faculties of thought and speech, which are engaged in the mental and oral study of the Torah.

וְהִיא הַשְׁרָאַת הַשְּׁכִינָה עַל נַפְשׁוֹ הָאֱלֹהִית, כְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה שֶׁאֲפִילוּ אֶחָד שֶׁיּוֹשֵׁב וְעוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה – שְׁכִינָה עִמּוֹ.

However, in order to draw the light and radiance of the Shechinah upon his body and animal soul as well, i.e., upon the vitalizing soul actually clothed in the body and providing for it a corporeal life-force,

אַךְ כְּדֵי לְהַמְשִׁיךְ אוֹר וְהֶאָרַת הַשְּׁכִינָה גַּם עַל גּוּפוֹ וְנַפְשׁוֹ הַבַּהֲמִית, שֶׁהִיא הַחִיּוּנִית הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בְּגוּפוֹ מַמָּשׁ,

one must fulfill the practical mitzvot (i.e., commandments involving the faculty of action), which are performed with the body itself.

צָרִיךְ לְקַיֵּים מִצְוֹת מַעֲשִׂיּוֹת הַנַּעֲשׂוֹת עַל יְדֵי הַגּוּף מַמָּשׁ,

In this way, the actual power of the body engaged in this act e.g., when one dons tefillin, it is the physical strength in his arm that impels the motions that constitute the fulfillment of the mitzvah, and therefore, this bodily power is absorbed in the Divine light and will and merges with it in perfect unity.

שֶׁאָז – כֹּחַ הַגּוּף מַמָּשׁ שֶׁבַּעֲשִׂיָּה זוֹ, נִכְלָל בְּאוֹר ה' וּרְצוֹנוֹ וּמְיוּחָד בּוֹ בְּיִחוּד גָּמוּר,

This (power of the body) constitutes the third garment of the divine soul. As mentioned in ch. 4, the divine soul expresses itself in the faculty of action through performing the mitzvot.

וְהוּא לְבוּשׁ הַשְּׁלִישִׁי שֶׁל נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית.

When the faculty of action is absorbed within the Divine will, then in addition, the power of the vitalizing soul actually clothed within the body, the power of that soul derived from kelipat nogah,

וַאֲזַי, גַּם כֹּחַ נֶפֶשׁ הַחִיּוּנִית שֶׁבְּגוּפוֹ מַמָּשׁ שֶׁמִּקְּלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ,

is transformed from evil to good and is actually absorbed into holiness exactly like the divine soul,

נִתְהַפֵּךְ מֵרַע לְטוֹב וְנִכְלָל מַמָּשׁ בִּקְדוּשָּׁה כַּנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית מַמָּשׁ,

for it is the [power of the animal soul] that implements and performs the act that constitutes the mitzvah.

מֵאַחַר שֶׁהוּא הוּא הַפּוֹעֵל וְעוֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֵׂה הַמִּצְוָה,

True, the divine soul is the force motivating one’s observance of a mitzvah, yet the divine soul cannot directly activate the body to perform a physical action, to don the tefillin, for example. It can accomplish this only through the agency of the animal soul, which serves as a medium between the divine soul and the body. In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

For without this power of the animal soul, the divine soul would not affect the body at all, since it is spiritual and the body physical and corporeal, so that body and divine soul are antithetical, as are the spiritual and material dimensions generally.

שֶׁבִּלְעָדוֹ, לֹא הָיְתָה נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית פּוֹעֶלֶת בַּגּוּף כְּלָל, כִּי הִיא רוּחָנִיִּית, וְהַגּוּף – גַּשְׁמִי וְחוּמְרִי,

The intermediary between them is the vitalizing animal soul clothed in man’s blood, which is in his heart and throughout his body.

וְהַמְמוּצָּע בֵּינֵיהֶם, הִיא נֶפֶשׁ הַחִיּוּנִית הַבַּהֲמִית הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בְּדַם הָאָדָם שֶׁבְּלִבּוֹ וְכָל הַגּוּף.

The nature of the animal soul is such that the coarsest, most material-like level of its spiritual substance is capable of clothing itself within the blood.

Since the animal soul is the divine soul’s medium of affecting the body, its active power is also absorbed into holiness when one performs a mitzvah.

Although the substance and essence of the animal soul in his heart, i.e., its evil middot (its evil emotional character), have still not been absorbed into holiness—

וְאַף שֶׁמַּהוּתָהּ וְעַצְמוּתָהּ שֶׁל נֶפֶשׁ הַבַּהֲמִית שֶׁבְּלִבּוֹ, שֶׁהֵן מִדּוֹתֶיהָ הָרָעוֹת, עֲדַיִין לֹא נִכְלְלוּ בִּקְדוּשָּׁה,

As explained in ch. 12, only in the case of tzaddikim are the evil middot themselves transformed into holiness. In others, only the animal soul’s garments—its faculties of expression by means of which a mitzvah is accomplished—are absorbed into holiness, not the middot, which constitute the animal soul’s essence. Nevertheless, this fact does not prevent the light of the Shechinah from suffusing the entire body, as the Alter Rebbe concludes shortly—

yet, because they (the evil middot) are subjugated to holiness and “against their will they say Amen,” agreeing and acceding to the performance of the mitzvah,

מִכָּל מָקוֹם, מֵאַחַר דְּאִתְכַּפְיָן לִקְדוּשָּׁה, וּבְעַל כָּרְחָן עוֹנִין אָמֵן, וּמַסְכִּימִין וּמִתְרַצִּין לַעֲשִׂיַּית הַמִּצְוָה,

through the strengthening of the divine soul in the brain, which masters the heart,

עַל יְדֵי הִתְגַּבְּרוּת נַפְשׁוֹ הָאֱלֹהִית שֶׁבַּמּוֹחַ שֶׁשַּׁלִּיט עַל הַלֵּב,

As discussed in ch. 12, although the emotions of the beinoni have not been transformed into good, he nevertheless has the power to control them by means of his mind through contemplating G‑d’s greatness. In this way, the beinoni can direct his heart as he chooses insofar as the actual performance of the mitzvot is concerned.

and [the evil middot] are at such time when one exercises the natural mastery of brain over heart by contemplating G‑d’s greatness, in a state of “exile” and “sleep” i.e., impotent as mentioned above in ch. 12,

וְהֵן בְּשָׁעָה זוֹ בִּבְחִינַת גָּלוּת וְשֵׁינָה, כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

therefore, this incorrigible nature of the animal soul’s evil middot does not prevent the Shechinah from resting on one’s body at this time.

וּלְכָךְ אֵין זוֹ מְנִיעָה מֵהַשְׁרָאַת הַשְּׁכִינָה עַל גּוּף הָאָדָם בְּשָׁעָה זוֹ.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain how it is possible for one mitzvah to draw the Shechinah upon one’s entire body.

This “resting of the Shechinah means that the power of the animal soul clothed in the act that constitutes the mitzvah, e.g., the power in the hand donning tefillin,

דְּהַיְינוּ, שֶׁכֹּחַ נֶפֶשׁ הַחִיּוּנִית הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בַּעֲשִׂיַּית הַמִּצְוָה,

is actually absorbed into the divine light and merges with it in perfect unity.

הוּא נִכְלָל מַמָּשׁ בְּאוֹר ה' וּמְיוּחָד בּוֹ בְּיִחוּד גָּמוּר,

Thereby, one draws down a “ray” of the light, wherein the particular power has been absorbed upon the totality of the animal soul throughout the body and upon the [entire] body as well.

וְעַל יְדֵי זֶה מַמְשִׁיךְ הֶאָרָה לִכְלָלוּת נֶפֶשׁ הַחִיּוּנִית שֶׁבְּכָל הַגּוּף, וְגַם עַל הַגּוּף הַגַּשְׁמִי,

This “ray” of divine light illuminates one’s animal soul and his body in a manner of “encompassing from above,” surrounding them from head to foot.

בִּבְחִינַת מַקִּיף מִלְמַעְלָה מֵרֹאשׁוֹ וְעַד רַגְלָיו.

This explains the expression (appearing in the passage from the Zohar quoted at the beginning of this chapter): “The Shechinah rests upon his head,”7 specifically “upon” i.e., encompassing him “from above”;

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "דִּשְׁכִינְתָּא שַׁרְיָא עַל רֵישֵׁיהּ" – "עַל" דַּיְיקָא.

and in a similar vein, the expression upon every [assembly of] ten [Jews], the Divine Presence rests” means that the light of the Divine Presence does not permeate them but illuminates them “from above.”8

וְכֵן, "אַכָּל בֵּי עֲשָׂרָה שְׁכִינְתָּא שַׁרְיָא".

Heretofore, various levels in the “resting of the Shechinah” have been discussed: As it rests upon the divine soul; upon the specific faculty of the animal soul that performs a mitzvah;9 upon the animal soul as a whole and upon the body—the latter two only encompassed by, but not permeated with, the light of the Shechinah. As to the light of the Shechinah encompassing the body, within this level we find further subdivisions: that level which is the effect of a mitzvah; that which encompasses any gathering of ten Jews, even when not engaged in a mitzvah; and perhaps we may distinguish yet another level—that which rests upon even one individual Jew, even when he is not occupied with a mitzvah.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to state that this variety of levels at which the Shechinah becomes manifest does not indicate any change or plurality in its light (G‑d forbid). The variety means merely that the different objects of the light (the divine soul, the animal soul, the body, and so on) receive it in different ways.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

None of these various forms in which the light of the Shechinah is manifested, meaning the ways in which the Ein Sof-light is revealed,

וְהִנֵּה, כָּל בְּחִינַת הַמְשָׁכַת אוֹר הַשְּׁכִינָה, שֶׁהִיא בְּחִינַת גִּילּוּי אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

G‑d, the Ein Sof, is everywhere; it is only that He is concealed from His creatures. Thus, the uniqueness of the manifestation of the Shechinah lies in the revelation of the Ein Sof.

can be construed as a change in Himself or as a plurality.

אֵינוֹ נִקְרָא שִׁינּוּי חַס וְשָׁלוֹם בּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ, וְלֹא רִיבּוּי,

The fact that the Shechinah manifests itself at some point (e.g., in one’s soul through the performance of a mitzvah), whereas it had previously not been manifest, does not point to any change in G‑d, nor do the various forms of manifestation indicate plurality within Him.

As we find in the Tractate Sanhedrin,10 where it is recorded that a certain heretic said to Rabban Gamliel: “You say that the Shechinah rests on every assembly of ten. How many Shechinahs have you?”

כִּדְאִיתָא בְּסַנְהֶדְרִין, דְּ"אָמַר לֵיהּ הַהוּא מִינָא לְרַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל, אַמְרִיתוּ כָּל בֵּי עֲשָׂרָה שְׁכִינְתָּא שַׁרְיָא, כַּמָּה שְׁכִינְתָּא אִית לְכוּ"?

And Rabban Gamliel replied with an analogy of the sun’s light, which enters through many windows, etc.

וְהֵשִׁיב לוֹ מָשָׁל מֵאוֹר הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ הַנִּכְנָס בְּחַלּוֹנוֹת רַבִּים כוּ',

Despite the multitude of windows, there is but one light. The same holds true even where the light appears differently from place to place: sunlight shining through stained-glass windows of various hues remains nonetheless unchanged, though it takes on the multicolored appearance of the windows, as does also water in a colored glass—once removed from the glass, it appears in its pristine clarity.

So, too, with the various modes in which the light of the Shechinah is manifested: The light remains the same without change or division; any differences in manifestation are attributable only to the way the light is received by the object in which it is manifest.

And the intelligent will understand—and, as Chasidim would add, “The devout will perceive.”

וְהַמַּשְׂכִּיל יָבִין: