Now, each of these three distinctions and grades—nefesh, ruach, and neshamah—consists of ten faculties1

וְהִנֵּה, כָּל בְּחִינָה וּמַדְרֵגָה מִשָּׁלֹשׁ אֵלּוּ: נֶפֶשׁ רוּחַ וּנְשָׁמָה – כְּלוּלָה מֵעֶשֶׂר בְּחִינוֹת,

corresponding to the ten supernal sefirot (divine manifestations)2 in which they originate and whence they descend.

כְּנֶגֶד עֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת עֶלְיוֹנוֹת שֶׁנִּשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּ מֵהֶן,

The ten sefirot are subdivided into two general categories.

הַנֶּחְלָקוֹת לִשְׁתַּיִם,

These two categories are: three “mothers,” i.e., three of these sefirot are termed “mothers,” for they are the source and root of the other seven sefirot, as a mother is the source of her offspring, and seven “doubles”—the seven divine attributes, called “doubles” inasmuch as each of the emotional attributes manifests itself in a twofold manner, as shall presently be explained.

שֶׁהֵן: שָׁלֹשׁ אִמּוֹת וְשֶׁבַע כְּפוּלוֹת;

Namely: chochmah (“wisdom”), binah (“understanding”), and daat (“knowledge”) are called “mothers”; and the seven “doubles” are [the emotional attributes known as] the “seven days of Creation”: chesed (“kindness”), gevurah (“severity”), tiferet (“beauty”), and so on, the other four being netzach (“endurance”), hod (“splendor”), yesod (“foundation”), and malchut (“royalty”).

פֵּירוּשׁ, חָכְמָה בִּינָה וָדַעַת, וְשִׁבְעַת יְמֵי הַבִּנְיָן: חֶסֶד גְּבוּרָה תִּפְאֶרֶת כוּ'.

These seven attributes are known as the “seven days of Creation,” for it was through these seven attributes that G‑d created the world. Each day’s creation came about through a particular attribute: during the first day chesed was dominant, the second day gevurah, and so on.

Just as the ten supernal sefirot are divided into two general categories, so, too, with the human soul [and its ten faculties]; they are divided into two general categories: seichel (“intellect”) and middot (“emotional attributes”).

וְכָךְ בְּנֶפֶשׁ הָאָדָם, שֶׁנֶּחְלֶקֶת לִשְׁתַּיִם: שֵׂכֶל וּמִדּוֹת.

The [category of] intellect includes the three all-inclusive intellectual powers chochmah, binah, and daat (ChaBaD), while the middot, which bear the same names as their corresponding seven sefirot: chesed, gevurah, etc., represent the following emotions: love of G‑d, dread and awe of Him, glorification of Him, and so forth.

הַשֵּׂכֶל כּוֹלֵל: חָכְמָה בִּינָה וָדַעַת, וְהַמִּדּוֹת הֵן: אַהֲבַת ה' וּפַחְדּוֹ וְיִרְאָתוֹ וּלְפָאֲרוֹ כוּ'.

Love corresponds to chesed (“kindness”), as they are, respectively, the internal (i.e., emotional) and external (i.e., practical) aspects of the same trait; the dread and awe of G‑d correspond to gevurah, as they are its inner aspect; so, too, the glorification of Him corresponds to tiferet.

ChaBaD (the intellectual faculties) are called the “mothers” and source of the middot, for the middot are “offspring” of (i.e., derive from) ChaBaD.

וְחָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת נִקְרְאוּ אִמּוֹת וּמָקוֹר לַמִּדּוֹת, כִּי הַמִּדּוֹת הֵן תּוֹלְדוֹת חָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת:

At this point, it would be worthwhile to explain briefly the function of the faculties chochmah, binah, and daat (abbreviated as ChaBaD), mentioned frequently in the coming chapters.

Chochmah is the first flash of intellect. It is the seminal and inner point of an idea. This seminal point of intellect already includes within it all the details and ramifications of the idea, but as yet, they are concentrated and obscured. (This is analogous to a dot, in which the dimensions of length and breadth are not evident—all that is seen is the dot—although for the dot to exist, it must certainly contain length and breadth.)

Chochmah is also called barak hamavrik—the intuitive flash of illumination which is the beginning of intellectual revelation. For instance, we may observe how a person striving to answer an intellectual question suddenly realizes in a flash of intuition that the question can be answered along a particular line of reasoning. At the moment of illumination, he is as yet unaware exactly how the particular question is answered: he knows only that he has found an adequate solution to the problem.

Thereafter, the faculty of binah (“understanding”) comes into play. Through cogitation, binah apprehends, crystallizes, and clarifies the details of the idea which was obscured in chochmah, until the whole edifice of the idea, in all its length and breadth, becomes manifest. For this reason, the function of binah is described as meivin davar mitoch davar—“to understand (or deduce) one matter out of another”—i.e., that which was previously concentrated in the obscure, intuitive flash of chochmah is now revealed and understood.

After the person fully understands the idea with all its details and ramifications, he must then immerse himself in it, binding and unifying himself with it to the extent that he not only understands it but also feels it. Only in this way can he be affected by the idea; if his understanding points to the desirability of a particular thing, it will give birth to a love for it; if his understanding indicates instead the harmfulness of a particular thing, he will react with a feeling of fear and flee from it, and similarly with other emotions. The faculty with which one thus immerses himself in an idea is called daat (“knowledge”), which is etymologically related to the expression, “And Adam knew (יָדַע) Eve,”3 a verb which denotes attachment and union. We now return to the text:

The explanation of the matter (i.e., of the three intellectual processes described above—inspiration, cogitation, and contemplation) is as follows: that intellectual faculty of the rational soul that first conceives any matter (i.e., the faculty which produces the seminal point of an idea and the first flash of illumination, as explained above)

וּּבֵיאוּר הָעִנְיָן, כִּי הִנֵּה הַשֵּׂכֶל שֶׁבַּנֶּפֶשׁ הַמַּשְׂכֶּלֶת, שֶׁהוּא הַמַּשְׂכִּיל כָּל דָּבָר –

is given the appellation of chochmah [which is composed of the two words] כח מה—the potential of “what is.”4

נִקְרָא בְּשֵׁם "חָכְמָה", "כֹּ"חַ מָ"ה".

It is a faculty concerning which one can only pose the question “Mah?” (“What is it?”)—for at this stage, the idea in question is not yet clear or comprehensible logically, since its details are still in potentia, emerging only at a later stage.

When one brings forth this concentrated idea from the potential into the actual, that is, when one cogitates with his intellect on the seminal point in order to understand a matter full well—

וּכְשֶׁמּוֹצִיא כֹּחוֹ אֶל הַפּוֹעַל, שֶׁמִּתְבּוֹנֵן בְּשִׂכְלוֹ לְהָבִין דָּבָר לַאֲשׁוּרוֹ

That is: when he ponders all the details which make up the totality of the particular idea in its length and breadth. “Length” involves the range of an idea; when one draws down a concept from a lofty level to a lower one (by way of a parable, for example) in order to make it more readily understood, he is “lengthening” it, giving it a greater range of accessibility, so that it will be more readily intelligible to a student. For a student whose capacity is more limited, one parable may not suffice; it may be necessary to provide a second parable to explain the first, thereby “lengthening” the concept still further downward. (As Scripture writes concerning King Solomon: “He spoke three thousand parables.”5 So great was Solomon’s wisdom that to explain one of his thoughts, he had to give three thousand parables; one parable to explain the basic concept, a second parable to explain the first parable, and so forth, until ultimately giving three thousand parables—an extreme example of the “length” of an idea.)

The “breadth” of an idea means the multitude of details which the concept comprises, as well as all its ramifications. For example, the logic behind a halachic ruling in the laws of kashrut may also apply to laws governing financial disputes.

This is the meaning of the word לַאֲשׁוּרוֹ (“full well”)—understanding the intellectual concept completely, in both its length and breadth.

[Thus, when one cogitates on a concept in its length and breadth] and delves to its very depths


as it evolves from the concept which he had conceived in his intellect (i.e., when he apprehends in a detailed manner the seminal point of intellect, which prior to his cogitation was but a nebulous point of chochmah),

מִתּוֹךְ אֵיזֶה דְּבַר חָכְמָה הַמּוּשְׂכָּל בְּשִׂכְלוֹ –

this is called binah. (Binah is that faculty which elucidates the details of any concept and apprehends it “full well” and “in depth.”)

נִקְרָא "בִּינָה".

They (chochmah and binah) are the very “father” and “mother” which give birth to love of G‑d and awe (yirah) and dread (pachad) of Him.6

וְהֵן הֵם "אָב" וָ"אֵם" הַמּוֹלִידוֹת אַהֲבַת ה' וְיִרְאָתוֹ וּפַחְדּוֹ.

For when the intellect in the rational soul deeply contemplates and immerses itself exceedingly in the greatness of G‑d,

כִּי הַשֵּׂכֶל שֶׁבַּנֶּפֶשׁ הַמַּשְׂכֶּלֶת, כְּשֶׁמִּתְבּוֹנֵן וּמַעֲמִיק מְאֹד בִּגְדוּלַּת ה',

how He fills all worlds,

אֵיךְ הוּא "מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין"

I.e., how G‑d animates all of creation with an immanent divine light and life-force (just as the soul fills and gives life to every part of the body)—a life-force which clothes itself in and unifies itself with each creature and which adapts itself to the individual needs of that creature.

or when one contemplates how He encompasses all worlds,7

וְ"סוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין"

He illuminates the worlds with a G‑dly light and life-force that is far beyond the capacity of the worlds to receive internally; rather, it affects them in an encompassing manner.

or, when one contemplates another aspect of G‑d’s greatness, namely, how in His presence all creation is considered as naught—8

וְ"כוּלָּא קַמֵּיהּ כְּלָא חֲשִׁיב"

upon contemplating and immersing oneself in any of the abovementioned aspects of G‑d’s greatness, the middah of awe for the Divine Majesty will be born and aroused in one’s mind and thought,

נוֹלְדָה וְנִתְעוֹרְרָה מִדַּת יִרְאַת הָרוֹמְמוּת בְּמוֹחוֹ וּמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ,

to fear and be humble before His blessed greatness, which is without end or limit,

לִירֹא וּלְהִתְבּוֹשֵׁשׁ מִגְּדוּלָּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ שֶׁאֵין לָהּ סוֹף וְתַכְלִית,

I.e., the fear will be coupled and permeated with humility, as in the awe one feels in the presence of a very wise or righteous person, which expresses one’s bashfulness and humility before him,

and there will also be born a dread of G‑d in his heart.

וּפַחַד ה' בְּלִבּוֹ.

This explains how contemplating G‑d’s greatness arouses a fear and dread of Him—an expression of the attribute of gevurah.

Next, his contemplation will give birth to the attribute of chesed, expressed as a love of G‑d, so that his heart will glow with an intense love of G‑d like fiery flames, with a passion, desire, and longing, and a yearning soul

וְשׁוּב יִתְלַהֵב לִבּוֹ בְּאַהֲבָה עַזָּה כְּרִשְׁפֵּי אֵשׁ, בַּחֲשִׁיקָה וַחֲפִיצָה וּתְשׁוּקָה וְנֶפֶשׁ שׁוֹקֵקָה,

(each of these expressions—“fiery flames,” “passion,” and so on, denoting a different grade of love) toward the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof.

לִגְדוּלַּת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא.

This is what is meant by the term kalot hanefesh (“a consuming passion of the soul”), as it is written: “My soul longs [for You]; indeed, it faints…,”9 and “My soul thirsts for G‑d…,”10 and again, “My soul thirsts for You….”11

וְהִיא כְּלוֹת הַנֶּפֶשׁ, כְּדִכְתִיב: "נִכְסְפָה וְגַם כָּלְתָה נַפְשִׁי וְגוֹ'", וּכְתִיב: "צָמְאָה נַפְשִׁי לֵאלֹהִים וְגוֹ'", וּכְתִיב: "צָמְאָה לְךָ נַפְשִׁי וְגוֹ'".

So intense can one’s love become that the soul risks being consumed in the fiery flames of its love of G‑d and totally leaving the body. In fact, were one not to forestall this danger and contain this great love, he would indeed expire. But he restrains himself so that his soul will remain clothed in his body—the only condition in which it is possible for him to fulfill his G‑d-given mission.

This loving thirst is derived from the element of Fire in the divine soul.

וְהַצִּמָּאוֹן, הוּא מִיסוֹד הָאֵשׁ שֶׁבַּנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית,

As students of natural science affirm, and so it is in Etz Chaim, the element of Fire is in the heart,

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתְבוּ הַטִּבְעִיִּים, וְכֵן הוּא בְּעֵץ חַיִּים, שֶׁיְּסוֹד הָאֵשׁ הוּא בַּלֵּב,

while the source of [the element of] Water and moisture is in the brain.

וּמְקוֹר הַמַּיִם וְהַלֵּיחוֹת מֵהַמּוֹחַ,

As explained in Etz Chaim, Portal 50, [the source of the element of Water] is the level of chochmah, which is called ‘‘the water of the divine soul.”

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּעֵץ חַיִּים שַׁעַר נ', שֶׁהִיא בְּחִינַת חָכְמָה שֶׁנִּקְרָא מַיִם שֶׁבַּנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית.

Inasmuch as the heart is the seat of the emotions—of warmth—we say that it is the abode of the element of Fire. In contrast, the brain—being the seat of “cold” intellect, calm and measured intelligence—is the source of the element of Water. One can readily observe this by comparing the demeanor of an emotional person to that of an intellectual.

So, too, with the intellect and emotions of the divine soul: the heat and passion of one’s love of G‑d is expressed in the heart, ultimately leading him to expire in kalot hanefesh. The mind, however, remains cool. This capacity of the intellect for calm appraisal of a situation leads it to comprehend that G‑d’s intent is that the soul remain clothed in the body so that it will be able to fulfill the Torah and its commandments. This realization cools the fiery ardor of the heart and thus prevents the soul from actually expiring in kalot hanefesh.

The Alter Rebbe’s discussion of the birth of middot from the intellect has thus far been centered on two emotions: love and fear of G‑d. What of the others?

The rest of the remaining five middot are all offshoots and derivatives of fear and love (and obviously, they, too, are born of chochmah and binah), as is explained elsewhere.

וּשְׁאָר הַמִּדּוֹת כּוּלָּן, הֵן עַנְפֵי הַיִּרְאָה וְהָאַהֲבָה וְתוֹלְדוֹתֵיהֶן, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר.

All the above explains why chochmah and binah are called the “father” and “mother” of the middot, for it is through the contemplation exercised by chochmah and binah that the middot are born. Chochmah is called the “father.” Just as the drop of semen which derives from the father’s brain comprises, in concentrated and concealed form, all the organs of the child’s body, similarly the seminal point of chochmah contains, in a concealed manner, all the details of an idea, as explained above. And just as it is the mother who reveals the child’s organs from their concealed state and brings them to a state of completion, similarly, binah reveals, expands, and elucidates the concept in all its details.

But what of daat, the third of the intellectual faculties? Daat, too, as explained earlier, is a “mother” and source of middot. What does it contribute to their birth? This issue is now addressed.

Daat, whose etymology may be found in the verse, “And Adam knew (יָדַע) Eve,”3 implies attachment and union.

וְהַדַּעַת, הוּא מִלְּשׁוֹן "וְהָאָדָם יָדַע אֶת חַוָּה", וְהוּא לְשׁוֹן הִתְקַשְּׁרוּת וְהִתְחַבְּרוּת,

(As applied to daat of the divine soul, this means) binding one’s mind with a very firm, strong bond and firmly fixing one’s thought on the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof without diverting his mind from it (i.e., the subject matter conceived in chochmah and developed in binah is absorbed in the mind by concentration, daat).

שֶׁמְּקַשֵּׁר דַּעְתּוֹ בְּקֶשֶׁר אַמִּיץ וְחָזָק מְאֹד, וְיִתְקַע מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ בְּחוֹזֶק בִּגְדוּלַּת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, וְאֵינוֹ מַסִּיחַ דַּעְתּוֹ.

For even one who is wise (by utilizing his faculty of chochmah) and understanding (by exercising his faculty of binah) in the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof, yet, unless he applies his daat and fixes his thought firmly and diligently on his understanding of G‑d’s greatness,

כִּי אַף מִי שֶׁהוּא חָכָם וְנָבוֹן בִּגְדוּלַּת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, הִנֵּה אִם לֹא יְקַשֵּׁר דַּעְתּוֹ וְיִתְקַע מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ בְּחוֹזֶק וּבְהַתְמָדָה –

he will not produce in his soul true fear and love, but only vain fancies.

לֹא יוֹלִיד בְּנַפְשׁוֹ יִרְאָה וְאַהֲבָה אֲמִיתִּית, כִּי אִם דִּמְיוֹנוֹת שָׁוְא.

He will only imagine that he fears G‑d and loves Him. True fear and love are attained only by way of daat.

Thus, daat provides the substance and vitality of the middot (and is therefore termed a “mother” of the middot, another parent side by side with chochmah and binah).

וְעַל כֵּן, הַדַּעַת הוּא קִיּוּם הַמִּדּוֹת וְחַיּוּתָן,

It comprises chesed and gevurah, that is to say, love with those other middot that are its offshoots and fear with its offshoots.

וְהוּא כּוֹלֵל חֶסֶד וּגְבוּרָה, פֵּירוּשׁ, אַהֲבָה וַעֲנָפֶיהָ וְיִרְאָה וַעֲנָפֶיהָ: