After elaborating in the previous chapter on the ongoing battle between the divine and animal soul over mastery of a Jew’s body, the Alter Rebbe now proceeds to explain that one who vanquishes his animal soul and transforms its evil into good — is a tzaddik.

This level of tzaddik comprises two general categories. The “perfect tzaddik,” also called the “tzaddik who knows only good,” is he who has transformed all the evil of his animal soul to good; while he who has not completely eradicated and converted the evil within him is termed “an imperfect tzaddik” and “a tzaddik who knows (i.e., possesses some vestige of) evil.”

The difference between the two sets of descriptive terms — “complete” and “incomplete” tzaddik, and the tzaddik “who knows only good” or “who knows evil” — is as follows. The former set describes the degree of the tzaddik’s love of G‑d, for it is this love that earns for him the title “tzaddik”. In the case of the “complete tzaddik” it is a complete and perfect love; while the love of the “incomplete tzaddik” is imperfect. The latter set of terms refers to the conversion of the animal soul’s evil to good; an individual in whom it has been entirely transformed is termed “a tzaddik who knows only good,” whereas one in whom a vestige of evil remains is termed “a tzaddik who knows evil.”

It goes without saying that “evil” in this context refers only to the promptings of evil that may be harbored in the heart; not, of course, to actual evil expressed in thought, speech, or action.

והנה כשהאדם מגביר נפשו האלקית

When a person causes his divine soul to prevail over the animal soul,

ונלחם כל כך עם הבהמית עד שמגרש ומבער הרע שבה מחלל השמאלי

and when he wages war against the animal soul to the extent that he banishes and eradicates its evil from its abode within him, namely, the left part [of the heart],

כמו שכתוב: ובערת הרע מקרבך

as is written:1 “And you shall eradicate the evil from your midst,” which implies that one ought to eradicate the evil within himself;

(The person who has in fact eradicated evil from his heart has not only banished the external, practical expression of evil — evil thoughts, words or actions — but has eradicated the evil itself: it has no place in his heart; he no longer desires evil.)

ואין הרע נהפך לטוב ממש

as to one who achieves this goal, but finds that the evil has nevertheless not actually been converted into good, in which case his entire capacity for desire would now be directed only toward good and holiness; since with him this is not the case,

נקרא צדיק שאינו גמור

he is called “an incomplete tzaddik.”

וצדיק ורע לו, דהיינו שיש בו עדיין מעט מזער רע בחלל השמאלי

[He is also called] “a tzaddik who knows evil,” meaning that some vestige of evil still lingers within him, in the left part [of his heart],

אלא שכפוף ובטל לטוב מחמת מיעוטו

except that it finds no expression at all, not even in evil desires, because [the evil,] by reason of its minuteness, is subjugated and nullified by the good, and cannot therefore be sensed.2

ולכן נדמה לו כי ויגרשהו וילך לו כולו לגמרי

Hence, he (the tzaddik) may imagine that he has driven it out and it has quite disappeared.

אבל באמת אלו חלף והלך לו לגמרי כל הרע שבו, היה נהפך לטוב ממש

In truth, however, had all the evil in him departed and disappeared, it would have been converted into actual good.3

This requires explanation: Perhaps the incomplete tzaddik feels no desire for evil because he indeed no longer has any evil, having converted it to good; why must we say that he only imagines himself to be altogether free of evil?

To explain this, the Alter Rebbe continues with a clarification of the term “complete tzaddik.” The explanation in brief:

As stated in the previous chapter, the complete tzaddik is able to convert his evil to good only by dint of his great love of G‑d, a love known as “love of delights.” Accordingly, the “incomplete tzaddik,” who has yet to attain to this lofty level of love, has obviously not yet accomplished this conversion.

“Love of delights,” then, is the ultimate criterion of where the tzaddik stands vis-a-vis the eradication of his evil.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

וביאור הענין

The explanation of the matter is as follows:

כי הנה צדיק גמור שנהפך הרע שלו לטוב, ולכן נקרא צדיק וטוב לו

A “complete tzaddik,” in whom the evil has been converted into good, and who is consequently called “a tzaddik who knows [only] good,”

הוא על ידי הסרת הבגדים הצואים לגמרי מהרע

has attained this level by completely removing [his] filthy garments from evil.

דהיינו למאוס מאד בתענוגי עולם הזה, להתענג בם בתענוגות בני אדם

This means: he despises utterly the pleasures of this world, finding it repugnant to derive from them that pleasure which other people derive,

למלאת תאות הגוף בלבד, ולא לעבודת ה׳

namely, the pleasure of merely gratifying the physical appetite, instead of using this pleasure toward the service of G‑d.

For physical pleasures dedicated to serving G‑d are in fact holy; e.g., the pleasure of “enjoying the Shabbat with food and drink. It is not such pleasure that is repugnant to the tzaddik, but pleasure for the sake of self-indulgence.

מפני היותם נמשכים ונשפעים מהקליפה וסטרא אחרא

He despises such pleasures for they are derived from and receive their spiritual sustenance from the kelipah and sitra achra, the very antithesis of holiness.

וכל מה שהוא מהסטרא אחרא, הצדיק גמור הוא שונאו בתכלית השנאה

For the “complete tzaddik” utterly hates whatever is of the sitra achra,

מחמת גודל אהבתו לה׳ וקדושתו, באהבה רבה בתענוגים וחיבה יתרה הנזכרים לעיל

because of his great love, a “profuse love of delights,” and his superior degree of affection for G‑d and His holiness, as mentioned above (in ch. 9, where the Alter Rebbe explained that “love of delights” is the ultimate level in the love of G‑d). To resume: Because of the tzaddik’s great love for G‑d and holiness he utterly hates the kelipah and sitra achra —

כי הם זה לעומת זה

since they, i.e., holiness and kelipah, are antithetical; his love of G‑d therefore evokes a commensurate degree of hatred for sitra achra.

כדכתיב: תכלית שנאה שנאתים, לאויבים היו לי, חקרני ודע לבבי וגו׳

So it is written:4 “I hate them with a consuming hatred, says King David of those who oppose G‑d, they have become enemies to me; search me, he says to G‑d, and know my heart.”

This means: “By searching me and knowing how great is the love of You borne in my heart, You will know how great is my hatred toward Your enemies”; for, as stated, love is the measure of hate.

וכפי ערך גודל האהבה לה׳, כך ערך גודל השנאה לסטרא אחרא והמיאוס ברע בתכלית

Hence, according to the abundance of love towards G‑d, so is the extent of hatred toward the spiritual sitra achra which nurtures the physical pleasures, and the utter repugnance of the evil of physical pleasures;

Since the sitra achra is spiritual, and hence distant from physical man, the term “hatred” is appropriate to it; with regard to the evil of physical pleasures, which are closer to man, the term “repugnant” is applicable: the repugnance of having something odious placed before one’s very eyes.

כי המיאוס הוא הפך האהבה ממש כמו השנאה

for repugnance is as much the exact opposite of love as is hatred.

In any event, we have established that this tzaddik’s utter despisal of evil is predicated on his loving G‑d to the greatest degree. He is therefore called a “complete tzaddik,” since the quality by virtue of which he is termed a tzaddik, i.e., his love of G‑d, is on the highest and most complete level. He is also called a “tzaddik who knows only good” — he possesses only good, having transformed all the evil within him to good.

Hence the “incomplete tzaddik,” whose “love of delights” is imperfect, must also be lacking in his hatred of evil. This, in turn, indicates that he retains some vestige of evil, albeit unfelt. He is therefore called “a tzaddik who knows evil.”

וצדיק שאינו גמור הוא שאינו שונא הסטרא אחרא בתכלית השנאה

The “incomplete tzaddik” is he who does not hate the sitra achra — the spiritual kelipot — with an absolute hatred;

ולכן אינו מואס גם כן ברע בתכלית

therefore he also does not find evil — physical desires and pleasures — absolutely repugnant.

וכל שאין השנאה והמיאוס בתכלית, על כרחך נשאר איזה שמץ אהבה ותענוג לשם

As long as his hatred and abhorrence of evil are not absolute, perforce he must have retained some vestige of love and pleasure towards it.

ולא הוסרו הבגדים הצואים לגמרי מכל וכל

The “filthy garments” in which the animal soul had been clothed, meaning (as explained above) the evil inclination and the lusting after worldly pleasures, have [obviously] not been completely shed from it.

ולכן לא נהפך לטוב ממש, מאחר שיש לו איזה אחיזה עדיין בבגדים הצואים

Therefore, too,[ the evil] of the animal soul has not actually been converted to good, since it still has some hold on the “filthy garments,” i.e., the desires for pleasure in which the animal soul had previously “clothed” and expressed itself,

אלא שהוא בטל במיעוטו וכלא חשיב

except that this vestige of evil is imperceptible and cannot express itself in evil desires, etc., because [the evil] is nullified [in the good] by reason of its minuteness, and is accounted as nothing, i.e., the overwhelming preponderance of good prevents the evil from being sensed and from finding expression.

ולכן נקרא צדיק, ורע כפוף ובטל לו

Indeed, he is therefore called צדיק ורע לו, which means (not only “tzaddik who knows (retains) evil,” but also) “a tzaddik whose evil is [his”; i.e.,] subjugated and surrendered to him,“ to the good within him. Such a tzaddik is identified with the good, since he is overwhelmingly good.

ועל כן גם אהבתו לה׳ אינה בתכלית

Perforce, then, the fact that he retains some evil indicates that his love of G‑d is also not complete, for a complete love of G‑d would have converted all the evil within him to good.

ולכן נקרא צדיק שאינו גמור

He is therefore called an “incomplete tzaddik.”

For, as explained above, the terms “complete” and “incomplete” denote the tzaddik’s level of love for G‑d, and the terms “who knows only good” and “who knows evil” denote the degree of his eradication and transformation of evil.

והנה מדרגה זו מתחלקת לרבבות מדרגות, בענין בחינת מיעוט הרע הנשאר מאחד מארבעה יסודות רעים

Now, this level — that of the “incomplete tzaddik” who “knows evil” — is subdivided into myriads of levels, consisting of [varying degrees in] the quality of the minute remaining evil [deriving] from [any] one of the four “evil elements” of which the animal soul is composed (see ch. 1).

In one tzaddik the remaining evil may consist of the element of Water, in another the evil may consist of a spark of the element of Fire, and so on. This subdivision of levels is qualitative, based on the type of remaining evil.

The Alter Rebbe will now describe (as it were) a quantitative subdivision, depending on the degree to which the evil loses its identity within the good. In one tzaddik the vestigial evil may be such that the proportion of good to evil could be described as 60:1; the evil in another tzaddik may be more minute, so that it is overwhelmed by a proportion of good that is 1000:1; and so on.

Yet, to borrow a term from the law concerning non-kosher foodstuffs, where in certain cases of error the rule is that even a preponderance of 60 parts (kosher) to 1 (non-kosher) is sufficient to render the entire mixture kosher (since the non-kosher food is no longer capable of tainting the mixture with its flavor), we may likewise say in our case that a preponderance of good over evil to the degree of 60:1 is also capable of preventing the expression and perception of the remaining evil.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

ובענין ביטולו במיעוטו

[The subdivision] also takes into account the degree to which [the remaining evil] is nullified [in the good] because of its minuteness,

בששים על דרך משל, או באלף ורבבה וכיוצא, על דרך משל

whether in sixty [times as much good], for example, or in a thousand, or ten thousand, and so on.

והן הם בחינת צדיקים הרבים שבכל הדורות

These various sublevels in the ranks of “incomplete tzaddikim are the levels of the numerous tzaddikim found in all generations, all of whom belong to the category of the “incomplete tzaddik,”

כדאיתא בגמרא, דתמניסר אלפי צדיקיא קיימי קמיה הקדוש ברוך הוא

as we find in the Gemara,5 “Eighteen thousand tzaddikim stand before the Holy One, blessed be He.”

Thus, though many attain the level of tzaddik, they are in fact “incomplete tzaddikim.”

אך על מעלת צדיק גמור, הוא שאמר רבי שמעון בר יוחאי: ראיתי בני עליה והם מועטים כו׳

But concerning the rank of the “complete tzaddik,” Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s statement6 applies: “I have seen ’superior men‘ (bnei aliyah) and they are but few.”

שלכן נקראים בני עליה, שמהפכין הרע ומעלים אותו לקדושה

The reason that [the complete tzaddikim] are called bnei aliyah (literally: “men of ascent”) is that they convert evil and make it ascend to holiness.

כדאיתא בזהר בהקדמה, שכשרצה רבי חייא לעלות להיכל רבי שמעון בן יוחאי שמע קלא נפיק ואמר

It is similarly written in the introduction to the Zohar,7 that when Rabbi Chiyya wished to ascend to the heichal (heavenly shrine) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, he heard a voice come out and say:

מאן מנכון די חשוכא מהפכן לנהורא, וטעמין מרירו למיתקא עד לא ייתון הכא וכו׳

“Whichever of you, before coming here, have converted the darkness of the world to light (holiness), and [have transformed] the bitter taste of their animal soul and evil inclination to sweetness (holiness)[only these may enter].”

ועוד נקראים בני עליה

Another reason for their designation of bnei aliyah:8

מפני שגם עבודתם בבחינת ועשה טוב, בקיום התורה ומצותיה, הוא לצורך גבוה ומעלה מעלה עד רום כל המעלות

Even their divine service in the area of “doing good,” in their fulfillment of Torah and its mitzvot, is for the sake of the Above, and their service is directed toward a most high level, toward the loftiest heights.

ולא כדי לדבקה בו יתברך בלבד, לרוות צמאון נפשם הצמאה לה׳

[Their divine service] is not [intended] merely to attach themselves to G‑d by serving Him through Torah and mitzvot, so as to quench the thirst of their soul which thirsts for G‑d,

The divine service of tzaddikim of lower levels may indeed be for the purpose of stilling their thirst for G‑d and their desire to cleave to Him; for indeed, the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot satisfies these needs —

כמו שכתוב: הוי כל צמא לכו למים

as it is written:9 “Ho, exclaims the prophet, all who are thirsty for G‑dliness, should go to the waters of Torah,” i.e., let them engage in Torah, which is likened to water,

וכמו שכתוב במקום אחר

as is explained elsewhere, that the “thirsty ones” of this verse refer to those who thirst for G‑dliness.

The prophet’s words prove this point. Were he addressing those who thirst for Torah, he need not exclaim “Ho,” nor direct them to its “waters”. Whoever thirsts for Torah will find it readily available for study. Rather, the prophet is addressing those who thirst for G‑d, advising them to slake their thirst for Him through Torah, which binds one to G‑d.

The “men of ascent,” however, whom we have been discussing, are beyond this level of divine service. They do not study Torah or perform mitzvot with the intention of quenching their own thirst for G‑dliness, for such service is — in a subtle sense — self-serving, as it is motivated by one’s desire for a certain spiritual profit, namely, the bliss of closeness to G‑d.

אלא כדפירשו בתיקונים: איזהו חסיד, המתחסד עם קונו, עם קן דיליה

Rather their service of G‑d is as the Tikkunei Zohar10 explains that which our Sages have said: “Who is a pious one (chassid)? He who is benevolent (mischassed) with his Creator (kono).” The Tikkunei Zohar comments, that kono (usually translated “his Creator”) is here to be interpreted as “his nest” (derived from the root ken — “nest”), and thus, the chassid is he who is benevolent “with his nest” — i.e., his Source, G‑d. This “benevolence” towards G‑d consists of —

לייחדא קודשא בריך הוא ושכינתיה בתחתונים

“uniting the Holy One, blessed be He, with His Shechinah (the Divine Presence), so that the light of this union reach and be felt even in the lowest worlds.”

וכמו שכתוב ברעיא מהימנא, פרשת תצא: כברא דאשתדל בתר אבוי ואימיה, דרחים לון יתיר מגרמיה ונפשיה ורוחיה ונשמתיה כו׳

As is also explained in Ra‘aya Mehemna on Parshat Tetze: “In the manner of a son who exerts himself for his father and mother, whom he loves more than himself, [more than] his own Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah,

ומסר גרמיה למיתה עלייהו למיפרק לון כו׳, וכמו שכתוב במקום אחר

and who sacrifices his life for their sake to redeem them, should they be held in captivity,“ and as is also explained elsewhere.

Such is the divine service of “men of ascent”: it is wholly altruistic, motivated only by a desire to please G‑d and make His presence felt everywhere.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain that the two aforementioned interpretations of the term “men of ascent” accord with each other and are in fact complementary.

It is a kabbalistic axiom that the “elevation of mahn” (מ"ן — initials of mayin nukvin, lit., “feminine waters”) effects a corresponding “descent of mahd” (מ"ד — initials of mayin dechurin, lit., “masculine waters”). This means that the arousal of the “feminine” level, i.e., the recipient (which in our case means the efforts of man below, in actions directed “upward” toward G‑d), causes a reciprocal arousal of the “masculine” level, i.e., the giver (meaning, in our case, G‑d’s benevolence as it “flows downward” and is bestowed upon man).

Applying this to the service of “men of ascent” we find the following. That aspect of their service mentioned in the first interpretation — that they elevate evil and convert it to good — constitutes an “ascent of mahn.” The aspect mentioned in the second interpretation — that by their service of love they draw down G‑d’s Presence upon earth — constitutes a “descent of mahd,” for every mitzvah that they perform (as a channel for the descent of G‑d’s Presence) is an expression of G‑d’s benevolence. Thus, the two interpretations are complementary, since the “ascent of mahn” is what causes the “descent of mahd” as stated above.

(The Alter Rebbe employs kabbalistic terms in his explanation, which are explained in Chassidut at length; they will become clearer in the course of further study.)

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

ושניהם עולים בקנה אחד. כי על ידי הבירורים שמבררים מנוגה מעלים מיין נוקבין

(11Both interpretations are complementary. For by refining [the good found in] kelipat nogah, as the “men of ascent” do by converting their animal soul (which is derived from kelipat nogah) to good, one elevates “feminine waters” (mahn),

ונעשים יחודים עליונים להוריד מיין דכורין

effecting unions in the higher realms, so as to cause “masculine waters” (mahd) to descend to this world.

שהם הם מימי החסדים שבכל מצוה ומצוה מרמ״ח מצות עשה, שכולן הן בחינת חסדים ומיין דכורין

These [“masculine waters”] are the “waters” of kindness that flow into and are contained in each of the 248 positive mitzvot, which are all in the nature of “kindness”, or benevolence, and “masculine waters.”

דהיינו המשכת קדושת אלקותו יתברך מלמעלה למטה להתלבש בתחתונים, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

This term “masculine waters” as applied to mitzvot means that the mitzvot draw G‑d’s holiness from above, i.e., from the higher realms, downward, so that [G‑d’s holiness] be clothed in and revealed within the lowest realms, i.e., our physical world, as explained elsewhere.) Thus the two interpretations of the term “men of ascent” are complementary.

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