In the previous chapters, the Alter Rebbe discussed the difference between the tzaddik and the beinoni. The tzaddik has no evil inclination. Since there is no longer any evil in his own soul, evil holds no attraction for him. In the beinoni, however, the evil remains strong. The beinoni therefore finds evil desirable, and it is only through the constant vigilance and struggle of his divine soul that he is able to prevent his animal soul from implementing its desires in thought, speech, and action.

With this distinction in mind, we may understand the verse:

וּבָזֶה יוּבַן מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב:

“And you will return and see the difference between the righteous man and the wicked one, between he who serves G‑d and he who serves Him not.”1

"וְשַׁבְתֶּם וּרְאִיתֶם בֵּין צַדִּיק לְרָשָׁע, בֵּין עוֹבֵד אֱלֹהִים לַאֲשֶׁר לֹא עֲבָדוֹ",

The Talmud2 raises the question: The term “righteous man” is identical with “he who serves G‑d,” and “the wicked man” is obviously “he who serves Him not.” Why, then, does the text repeat the contrast? In answer, the Talmud states: “Both ‘he who serves G‑d’ and ‘he who serves Him not’ are fully righteous, yet one who reviews his studies one hundred times cannot compare to he who reviews his studies 101 times.”3

However, this answer seems to clarify only the second set of seemingly repetitive terms—“the wicked man” and “he who serves Him not.” Far from being wicked, “he who serves Him not” is so described only because he reviews his Torah studies no more than one hundred times. Yet we remain with the difficulty posed by the first set of identical descriptions—“the righteous man” and “he who serves G‑d.” In fact, the above-quoted Talmudic interpretation of the verse adds yet a third category: “he who serves Him not,” yet is also righteous! It is this difficulty that the Alter Rebbe now resolves, based on his previous distinction between the tzaddik and the beinoni.

The difference between “he who serves G‑d” (oved) and a righteous man (tzaddik) is that “he who serves G‑d,” written in the present tense, describes one who is still presently laboring in his divine service.

שֶׁהַהֶפְרֵשׁ בֵּין "עוֹבֵד אֱלֹהִים" לְ"צַדִּיק" הוּא, שֶׁ"עוֹבֵד" הוּא לְשׁוֹן הֹוֶה – שֶׁהוּא בְּאֶמְצַע הָעֲבוֹדָה,

This service consists of the struggle against one’s evil nature with the aim of overpowering it and banishing it from the “small city” i.e., the body, which is like a city whose conquest is the objective of both the good and the evil nature,4

שֶׁהִיא הַמִּלְחָמָה עִם הַיֵּצֶר הָרָע, לְהִתְגַּבֵּר עָלָיו וּלְגָרְשׁוֹ מֵהָ"עִיר קְטַנָּה"

Lessons In Tanya (Kehot Publication Society)

Lessons in Tanya is a well-lit and accessible gateway to the Tanya - the fundamental, classic work upon which all concepts of Chabad Chasidism are based.

so that it should not vest itself in the organs of the body through evil thought, speech, or action.5 Doing battle against his evil nature is the avodah (“service”) of “he who serves G‑d.”

שֶׁלֹּא יִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּאֵבְרֵי הַגּוּף,

This constant battle with one’s evil nature truly entails much effort (“service”) and toil.

שֶׁהוּא בֶּאֱמֶת עֲבוֹדָה וְעָמָל גָּדוֹל לְהִלָּחֵם בּוֹ תָּמִיד,

This is the beinoni.

וְהַיְינוּ – הַבֵּינוֹנִי.

It is he who must wage this battle; it is the beinoni who is called “he who serves G‑d,” for he is actively engaged at present in his service.

The tzaddik, on the other hand, is designated “a servant (eved) of G‑d,” as a title conferred on the person himself; it is not merely a description of one’s active role as is the designation “one who serves.”

אֲבָל הַצַּדִּיק, נִקְרָא "עֶבֶד ה'" – בְּשֵׁם הַתּוֹאַר,

The term “servant” is similar to the title “sage” or “king,” bestowed on one who has already become a sage or king.

כְּמוֹ שֵׁם חָכָם אוֹ מֶלֶךְ, שֶׁכְּבָר נַעֲשָׂה חָכָם אוֹ מֶלֶךְ,

So, too, he (the tzaddik) has already effected and completely accomplished his “service” of waging war with the evil in him. He has banished it, and it is gone from him, leaving the seat of evil nature in his heart “void within him.”6 Having completed this task, the tzaddik has earned the title “servant of G-d.”

כָּךְ זֶה, כְּבָר עָבַד וְגָמַר לְגַמְרֵי עֲבוֹדַת הַמִּלְחָמָה עִם הָרָע, עַד כִּי וַיְגָרְשֵׁהוּ וַיֵּלֶךְ לוֹ, וְלִבּוֹ חָלַל בְּקִרְבּוֹ.

We now see that the expressions “a righteous man” and “he who serves G‑d” are not repetitious; “he who serves G‑d” is not a description of a tzaddik but of a beinoni.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to discuss the difference between “he who serves G‑d” and “he who serves Him not,” who, as the Talmud declares, is not wicked.

In the category of beinoni, there are also two levels: “he who serves G‑d” and “he who serves Him not.”

וּבַבֵּינוֹנִי יֵשׁ גַּם כֵּן שְׁתֵּי מַדְרֵגוֹת: "עוֹבֵד אֱלֹהִים", וַ"אֲשֶׁר לֹא עֲבָדוֹ",

Yet he who “serves Him not” is not wicked, although he does not wage war with his evil nature,

וְאַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן – אֵינוֹ רָשָׁע,

for never in his life has he committed even a minor transgression in the realm of negative commandments.

כִּי לֹא עָבַר מִיָּמָיו שׁוּם עֲבֵירָה קַלָּה,

He has also fulfilled all the positive commandments which he was able to fulfill, including the precept of Torah study—which is equal to all the other commandments combined—

וְגַם קִיֵּים כָּל הַמִּצְוֹת שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לְקַיְּימָן, וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה כְּנֶגֶד כּוּלָּם,

to the extent that his mouth never ceased from study, despite the difficulty involved in this.

וְלָא פָסִיק פּוּמֵיהּ מִגִּירְסָא.

Yet he is still described as one who “does not serve G-d,” for

אֶלָּא

he does not wage any battle against his evil inclination

שֶׁאֵינוֹ עוֹשֶׂה שׁוּם מִלְחָמָה עִם הַיֵּצֶר

to vanquish it through the aid of the Divine light that illuminates the G‑dly soul abiding in the brain, which rules over the heart—as explained above7 that the G‑dly soul and the Divine light illuminating it are the beinoni’s answer to his evil inclination. He (“who serves Him not”) does not struggle with it

לְנַצְּחוֹ, עַל יְדֵי אוֹר ה' הַמֵּאִיר עַל נֶפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹהִית שֶׁבַּמּוֹחַ הַשַּׁלִּיט עַל הַלֵּב כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

for his evil inclination does not oppose him at all in an attempt to deter him from his Torah study and divine service, and thus, he need not wage any war against it.

מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין יִצְרוֹ עוֹמֵד לְנֶגְדּוֹ כְּלָל לְבַטְּלוֹ מִתּוֹרָתוֹ וַעֲבוֹדָתוֹ, וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לִלְחוֹם עִמּוֹ כְּלָל,

So it is, for example, with one who is by nature an assiduous student due to his stolid temperament

כְּגוֹן שֶׁהוּא מַתְמִיד בְּלִמּוּדוֹ בְּטִבְעוֹ מִתּוֹלַדְתּוֹ עַל יְדֵי תִּגְבּוֹרֶת הַ"מָּרָה שְׁחוֹרָה",

and who is also free of conflict with sexual desire due to his frigid nature,

וְכֵן אֵין לוֹ מִלְחָמָה מִתַּאֲוַת נָשִׁים מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא מְצוּנָּן בְּטִבְעוֹ,

and similarly with other mundane pleasures he need not exert himself to master a desire for them, for he naturally lacks any feeling for enjoyment.

וְכֵן בִּשְׁאָר תַּעֲנוּגֵי עוֹלָם הַזֶּה – הוּא מְחוּסַּר הֶרְגֵּשׁ הֲנָאָה בְּטִבְעוֹ.

For this reason, he does not need to contemplate so much on the greatness of G‑d to consciously create a spirit of knowledge and fear of G‑d in his mind

וְלָכֵן, אֵין צָרִיךְ לְהִתְבּוֹנֵן כָּל כָּךְ בִּגְדוּלַּת ה', לְהוֹלִיד מִבִּינָתוֹ רוּחַ דַּעַת וְיִרְאַת ה' בְּמוֹחוֹ –

in order to guard himself from transgressing any prohibitive commandments.

לְהִשָּׁמֵר שֶׁלֹּא לַעֲבוֹר עַל מִצְוֹת לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה,

He also need not create a love of G‑d in his heart, which would motivate him to bind himself to Him through fulfilling the positive commandments and through Torah study, which equals all the other commandments together.

וְאַהֲבַת ה' בְּלִבּוֹ – לְדָבְקָה בוֹ בְּקִיּוּם הַמִּצְוֹת, וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה כְּנֶגֶד כּוּלָּן,

The hidden love of G‑d found in the heart of all Jews, who are called “the lovers of His name,”8 is sufficient for him to motivate his fulfilling the commandments, since he is naturally so inclined.

אֶלָּא דַּי לוֹ בְּאַהֲבָה מְסוּתֶּרֶת אֲשֶׁר בְּלֵב כְּלָלוּת יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁנִּקְרְאוּ "אוֹהֲבֵי שְׁמוֹ".

For a Jew who must engage in battle with his evil inclination, the love hidden in his heart is not enough. He must arouse it to an active, conscious state. For the person who is free of conflict with evil, however, this hidden love (together with his naturally favorable character traits) is sufficient.

For this reason, he is not considered “one who is serving G‑d” at all,

וְלָכֵן אֵינוֹ נִקְרָא "עוֹבֵד" כְּלָל,

for this latent love is not of his making or achievement by any means. It is our inheritance, bequeathed by our Patriarchs to the entire Jewish nation, as will be explained further.9

כִּי אַהֲבָה זוֹ הַמְסוּתֶּרֶת, אֵינָהּ פְּעוּלָּתוֹ וַעֲבוֹדָתוֹ כְּלָל, אֶלָּא הִיא יְרוּשָּׁתֵנוּ מֵאֲבוֹתֵינוּ לִכְלַל יִשְׂרָאֵל, וּכְמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר לְקַמָּן.

With this, the Alter Rebbe concluded the thought that within the level of beinoni, there are two subcategories—“he who serves G‑d” and “he who serves Him not.”

He now goes on to say that even one who is not naturally endowed with traits favorable to G‑d’s service may yet come under the category of “he who serves Him not.”

So, too, he who is not inherently studious but has accustomed himself to study diligently so that this habit has become his second nature; thus, diligence is now natural for him,

וְכֵן אַף מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מַתְמִיד בְּלִמּוּדוֹ בְּטִבְעוֹ, רַק שֶׁהִרְגִּיל עַצְמוֹ לִלְמוֹד בְּהַתְמָדָה גְדוֹלָה, וְנַעֲשָׂה הַהֶרְגֵּל לוֹ טֶבַע שֵׁנִי,

for him, too, the hidden love of G‑d is now sufficient, unless he wishes to study more than he usually does.

דַּי לוֹ בְּאַהֲבָה מְסוּתֶּרֶת זוֹ, אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן רוֹצֶה לִלְמוֹד יוֹתֵר מֵרְגִילוּתוֹ.

To do so, he must arouse a conscious love of G‑d in his heart. Only such a love can supply the strength necessary to free himself from the restraints of his acquired nature.

This explains the Talmudic statement2 that “he who serves G‑d” refers to one who reviews his studies 101 times, while “he who serves Him not” refers to one who reviews his studies only one hundred times.

וּבָזֶה יוּבַן מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב בַּגְּמָרָא, דְּ"עוֹבֵד אֱלֹהִים" – הַיְינוּ מִי שֶׁשּׁוֹנֶה פִּרְקוֹ מֵאָה פְעָמִים וְאֶחָד, וְ"לֹא עֲבָדוֹ" – הַיְינוּ מִי שֶׁשּׁוֹנֶה פִּרְקוֹ מֵאָה פְעָמִים לְבַד.

It seems strange that this 101st revision should outweigh all the previous hundred and should earn the student the designation of “he who serves G‑d.” However, when we appreciate the struggle one must face in order to learn more than is his custom, this is readily understood, as the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain.

This is so because in those Talmudic days, it was customary to review each lesson one hundred times.

וְהַיְינוּ, מִשּׁוּם שֶׁבִּימֵיהֶם הָיָה הָרְגִילוּת לִשְׁנוֹת כָּל פֶּרֶק מֵאָה פְעָמִים,

Thus, to review one hundred times did not require any effort; it was second nature. Only the 101st revision, which required effort beyond the student’s custom, could gain him the appellation of “he who serves G‑d.”

The Talmud illustrates this by the analogy of the market of the donkey drivers. The drivers would charge one zuz for ten parsi (Persian miles) but demanded two zuz for driving eleven parsi, for driving an eleventh mile exceeded their customary practice.

כִּדְאִיתָא הָתָם בַּגְּמָרָא מָשָׁל מִשּׁוּק שֶׁל חַמָּרִים שֶׁנִּשְׂכָּרִים לְעֶשֶׂר פַּרְסֵי בְּזוּזָא וּלְאַחַד עָשָׂר פַּרְסֵי בִּתְרֵי זוּזֵי, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא יוֹתֵר מֵרְגִילוּתָם,

Therefore, this 101st revision, which is beyond the normal practice to which the student has been accustomed since his childhood, is equivalent to all the previous one hundred revisions combined.

וְלָכֵן, זֹאת הַפַּעַם הַמֵּאָה וְאַחַת, הַיְתֵרָה עַל הָרְגִילוּת שֶׁהוּרְגַּל מִנְּעוּרָיו – שְׁקוּלָה כְּנֶגֶד כּוּלָּן,

In fact, its quality surpasses them in its greater strength and power so that it is only this one extra revision which entitles the student to be called “he who serves G‑d.”

וְעוֹלָה עַל גַּבֵּיהֶן בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת וְיֶתֶר עֹז, לִהְיוֹת נִקְרָא "עוֹבֵד אֱלֹהִים";

For in order to change his habitual nature, he must arouse within himself the love of G‑d by contemplating G‑d’s greatness in his mind

מִפְּנֵי שֶׁכְּדֵי לְשַׁנּוֹת טֶבַע הָרְגִילוּת, צָרִיךְ לְעוֹרֵר אֶת הָאַהֲבָה לַה' עַל יְדֵי שֶׁמִּתְבּוֹנֵן בִּגְדוּלַּת ה' בְּמוֹחוֹ,

in order to master the nature that is in the left part of the heart, the seat of the animal soul, which is full of the blood of the animal soul originating in kelipah,

לִשְׁלוֹט עַל הַטֶּבַע שֶׁבֶּחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי הַמָּלֵא דַּם הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַבַּהֲמִית שֶׁמֵּהַקְּלִיפָּה,

whence comes this nature, and the power of his love enables him to transcend his nature.

שֶׁמִּמֶּנָּה הוּא הַטֶּבַע,

And this—to overpower one’s animal soul through a love of G‑d generated by meditationis a perfect service for a beinoni.

וְזוֹ הִיא עֲבוֹדָה תַמָּה לַבֵּינוֹנִי.

An alternate type of service for a beinoni is to arouse to a revealed state the love of G‑d inherently found hidden in his heart,

אוֹ לְעוֹרֵר אֶת הָאַהֲבָה הַמְסוּתֶּרֶת שֶׁבְּלִבּוֹ,

thereby to control the nature that is in the left part of the heart.

לִמְשׁוֹל עַל יָדָהּ עַל הַטֶּבַע שֶׁבֶּחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי,

This, too, is called serving G‑d, although an imperfect service—

שֶׁזּוֹ נִקְרָא גַּם כֵּן עֲבוֹדָה,

to wage war against his nature and inclination by arousing the love hidden in his heart.

לְהִלָּחֵם עִם הַטֶּבַע וְהַיֵּצֶר, עַל יְדֵי שֶׁמְּעוֹרֵר הָאַהֲבָה הַמְסוּתֶּרֶת בְּלִבּוֹ.

If, however, he wages no war at all—not engaging even in the lesser struggle of arousing the love hidden within him, e.g., when he studies only to the limits of his natural diligence, then although he employs his hidden love of G‑d in his divine service,10 yet

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן כְּשֶׁאֵין לוֹ מִלְחָמָה כְּלָל,

this love in itself can in no way be credited to his service, and he is therefore called “he who serves Him not.”

אֵין אַהֲבָה זוֹ מִצַּד עַצְמָהּ נִקְרֵאת עֲבוֹדָתוֹ כְּלָל:

To be designated “one who serves G‑d,” the beinoni must engage in a struggle with his evil inclination, either through a love of G‑d born of meditation or at least by arousing his hidden love.