In the previous chapter the Alter Rebbe explained why our Sages compare the performance of a mitzvah to a body, and one’s kavanah in performing the mitzvah to a soul.

He stated that kavanah can be classified into two categories, analogous to the two classes of creatures which possess a soul — animals and man.

The higher level of kavanah is that created by an intellectual appreciation of G‑dliness. Upon contemplating G‑d’s greatness, a love and fear of Him is born in one’s heart, which translates into a desire to cleave to Him. This desire in turn motivates one to fulfill the Torah and mitzvot, since they bind him to G‑d, and this motivation is the kavanah in his fulfillment of the Torah and mitzvot. Such kavanah, born of reason and produced by one’s own volition, is analogous to the soul of man, the intelligent being who determines his actions by choice.

The lower level of kavanah is that which stems from an arousal of the soul’s natural, instinctive love and fear of G‑d. Such kavanah is comparable to the soul of an animal, which is ruled by its natural instincts.

The Alter Rebbe now opens ch. 39 by stating that for this reason the angels, who fear and love G‑d by their very nature, are metaphorically called “animals”.

ומפני זה גם כן נקראים המלאכים בשם חיות ובהמות, כדכתיב: ופני אריה אל הימין וגו׳ ופני שור מהשמאל וגו׳

For this reason, too, the angels are called chayyot (“beasts”) and behemot (“animals”), as it is written,1 “and an angel with the face of a lion is to the right of the divine chariot... and the face of an ox is on the left....”

לפי שאינם בעלי בחירה, ויראתם ואהבתם היא טבעית להם, כמו שכתוב ברעיא מהימנא, פרשת פינחס

For they have no freedom of choice between good and evil, as man has. And their fear and love [of G‑d] is natural to them; they need not create fear and love of G‑d through intellectual contemplation of G‑d’s greatness, as is written in Ra‘aya Mehemna (Parshat Pinchas). Because their fear and love of G‑d are natural and instinctive to them, they are compared to animals.

ולכן מעלת הצדיקים גדולה מהם, כי מדור נשמות הצדיקים הוא בעולם הבריאה, ומדור המלאכים בעולם היצירה

Therefore, tzaddikim are on a higher level than them (the angels):2 the abode of the souls of tzaddikim is in the World of Beriah (Creation), whereas the abode of the angels is in the World of Yetzirah (Formation).*


והיינו בסתם מלאכים, אבל יש מלאכים עליונים בעולם הבריאה, שעבודתם בדחילו ורחימו שכליים


This is so [only] in the case of ordinary angels. There are, however, higher angels in the World of Beriah, whose service [of G‑d] is with intelligent fear and love.

כמו שכתוב ברעיא מהימנא שם, שיש שני מיני חיות הקדש, טבעיים ושכליים, וכמו שכתוב בעץ חיים

It is written so in Ra‘aya Mehemna, ibid., that there are two kinds of holy chayyot, instinctive and intelligent (i.e., those whose love and fear are instinctive, and those who create love and fear intellectually), as is also written in Etz Chayim.


The abode of ordinary angels, however, is in the World of Yetzirah; and they are thus lower than the souls of the tzaddikim, whose abode is in Beriah. The Alter Rebbe now explains how intellectually created love and fear are related to Beriah, and instinctive love and fear to Yetzirah.

וההבדל שביניהם הוא

The difference between [Beriah and Yetzirah] is as follows:

כי בעולם היצירה, מאירות שם מדותיו של אין סוף ברוך הוא לבדן, שהן אהבתו ופחדו ויראתו כו׳

In Yetzirah, only the middot of the Blessed Ein Sof radiate (i.e., only the Sefirot of Chesed (kindness), Gevurah (Severity), etc.) — meaning the love of Him (corresponding to Chesed), dread and fear of Him (corresponding to Gevurah), and so on (with the other four middot).

וכמו שכתוב בתקונים ועץ חיים דשית ספירין מקננין ביצירה

For it is thus written (in Tikkunei Zohar and in Etz Chayim) that the six Sefirot (i.e., the six middot, from Chesed through Yesod) “nest” in (i.e., pervade) the World of Yetzirah.

The four partzufim (lit., “countenances”; i.e., configurations of Sefirot) of the Sefirot of Atzilut (the World of Emanation) radiate in the four Worlds — Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and (the World of Action, viz.,) Asiyah; one partzuf predominates in each World, representing the manifestation of G‑dliness in that World.

These partzufim are: (a) Chochmah (Wisdom); (b) Binah (Understanding); (c) Ze‘er Anpin (lit., “The Small Image”; i.e., the six middot); (d) Malchut (Sovereignty).

In Atzilut, Chochmah is the dominant partzuf. Atzilut is thus pervaded with an atmosphere of utter self-nullification before G‑d; for Chochmah, the dominant influence in that World, represents the perception that “Ein Sof is One alone, and there is naught besides Him” (as discussed in ch. 35).

In Beriah (also called the “World of the Throne”), Binah is the dominant partzuf. Beriah is therefore a World of intellect; the souls and angels of Beriah are distinguished by superior intellectual appreciation of G‑dliness.

Yetzirah is dominated by the six middot (which together constitute the partzuf of Ze‘er Anpin ). It is therefore a World of emotion; the creatures of Yetzirah serve G‑d with great emotional intensity.

Asiyah, the lowest World, is dominated by the partzuf of Malchut. G‑d’s attribute of Sovereignty evokes subservience in His subjects; therefore, in our service of G‑d in this World, the emphasis is on “accepting the yoke of heaven.”

To return to our subject: Middot are the dominant influence in Yetzirah.

ולכן זאת היא עבודת המלאכים, תמיד יומם ולילה לא ישקוטו, לעמוד ביראה ופחד וכו׳

Therefore, this is the service of the angels whose abode is in Yetzirah, as mentioned above, constantly, never ceasing day or night, to stand in fear and dread [of G‑d].

והיינו כל מחנה גבריאל, שמהשמאל

This refers to the entire host of [angels under] Gabriel, which is on the left. “Left” represents the middah of Gevurah, which evokes fear and awe. Therefore all these angels stand in constant fear of G‑d.

ועבודת מחנה מיכאל היא האהבה כו׳

The service of the host of [angels under] Michael, on the other hand, is love [of G‑d]; they stand in constant adoration of G‑dliness, corresponding to the middah of Chesed, and so on.

Thus, because middot constitute the dominant partzuf in Yetzirah, the service of the creatures of Yetzirah consists of emotion.

אבל בעולם הבריאה מאירות שם חכמתו ובינתו ודעתו של אין סוף ברוך הוא, שהן מקור המדות, ואם ושרש להן

But in the World of Beriah radiate the Chochmah, Binah and Daat of the Blessed Ein Sof (i.e., the upper three Sefirot — ChaBaD of Atzilut), which are the source of middot, and their “mother” and root.

וכדאיתא בתקונים דאימא עילאה מקננא בתלת ספירן בכרסיא, שהוא עולם הבריאה

For it is written thus in Tikkunei Zohar, that Imma Ila‘ah (lit., “The Supernal Mother”; i.e., the Sefirah of Binah, described as “mother” of the World of Atzilut) “nests” (radiates) in “the Throne,” meaning the World of Beriah, with three Sefirot of Atzilut: Chochmah, Binah and Daat.

ולכן הוא מדור נשמות הצדיקים, עובדי ה׳ בדחילו ורחימו הנמשכות מן הבינה ודעת דגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא

Because these three Sefirot — ChaBaD — of the Ein Sof radiate in the World of Beriah, it is therefore the abode of the souls of those tzaddikim who serve G‑d with a fear and love that stem from understanding and knowledge of G‑d’s greatness,

שאהבה זו נקרא רעותא דלבא, כנ״ל

this love being called re‘uta delibba (lit., “the heart’s desire,” i.e., a desire created by intellect, as opposed to desire that transcends intellect), as mentioned above.

ומרעותא דלבא נעשה לבוש לנשמה בעולם הבריאה, שהוא גן עדן העליון, כדלקמן, וכמו שכתוב בזהר, ויקהל

From this re‘uta delibba a garment is formed for the soul in the World of Beriah, which is the Higher Garden of Eden, as will be discussed further, and as is written in the Zohar, Parshat Vayakhel. The Lower Garden of Eden is in Yetzirah, and the Higher Garden of Eden in Beriah.

Ultimately, the souls of those who serve G‑d with intellectual love and fear are privileged to abide in the Higher Garden of Eden — Beriah. For the reward given in the Garden of Eden (Paradise) is that the souls “delight in the radiance of the Shechinah,” i.e., they delight in their perception of G‑d’s glory. Since one’s reward is commensurate with his level of divine service, the delight in intellectual perception of G‑dliness is reserved for the souls of those who served G‑d with intellectual love and fear during their lifetime on earth.

At this point the Alter Rebbe qualifies his earlier statement: Only those tzaddikim whose souls are on the level of Neshamah (i.e., the highest of the three soul-levels — Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah) abide in Beriah. Neshamah represents Mochin deGadlut — a “superior intellectual grasp” of G‑dliness; those on the level of Neshamah understand G‑dliness directly as it is, without recourse to analogy or anthropomorphic terms. Love and fear follow from such direct understanding of G‑dliness as its natural extensions; they are not products of intellect, a generation removed. In this case, in fact, the emotions may be considered as part of an intellectual process, rather than emotion proper.

אך היינו דווקא נשמות ממש

However this statement, that the abode of tzaddikim who serve G‑d with intellectual love and fear is in the World of Beriah, applies only to those souls which are actually on the level of Neshamah — the level of Neshamah being that of intellect, as the verse states,3 “The divine Neshamah will give them discernment” —

שהן בחינת מוחין דגדלות אין סוף ברוך הוא

and which represent a “superior intellectual perception” of the Blessed Ein Sof.

אבל בחינת הרוח של הצדיקים

But the tzaddikim who are at the level of Ruach,

וכן שאר כל נשמות ישראל, שעבדו את ה׳ בדחילו ורחימו המסותרות בלב כללות ישראל

and similarly all the other souls of Israel, who served G‑d with the natural fear and love hidden in the heart of all Israel, not with love and fear born of intellect,

אין עולות לשם רק בשבת וראש חודש לבד

ascend thereto (to Beriah) only on Shabbat and the New Moon when all creation ascends to a higher level (as it is written, “...every month, on the New Moon, and every week, on the Shabbat, all flesh will come to prostrate themselves before Me, says G‑d”); it is only then that these souls ascend to the World of Beriah, the Higher Garden of Eden,

דרך העמוד שמגן עדן התחתון לגן עדן העליון, שהוא עולם הבריאה, הנקרא גן עדן העליון

by means of the pillar that extends from the Lower Garden of Eden (Yetzirah) to the Higher Garden of Eden, i.e., the World of Beriah, which is called the Higher Garden of Eden.4

להתענג על ה׳ וליהנות מזיו השכינה

By means of this pillar, these souls ascend thereto to delight in G‑d, and to bask in the radiance of the Shechinah.

Such pleasure is the prerogative of the souls in Beriah, since the soul’s delight is from its understanding and appreciation of G‑dliness — to the extent that a soul is capable of such understanding.

כי אין הנאה ותענוג לשכל נברא אלא במה שמשכיל ומבין ויודע ומשיג בשכלו ובינתו

The intellect of a created being delights and derives pleasure only in that which it conceives, understands, knows (— corresponding to ChaBaD) and grasps with its intellect and understanding,

מה שאפשר לו להבין ולהשיג מאור אין סוף ברוך הוא, על ידי חכמתו ובינתו יתברך המאירות שם, בעולם הבריאה

as much as it can grasp of the Blessed Ein Sof-light, through His wisdom and His understanding which radiate there (in Beriah), enabling the soul to perceive G‑dliness. For, as mentioned earlier, the ChaBaD of Atzilut (to which the Alter Rebbe refers as “His wisdom,” “ His understanding”) radiate in Beriah, for which reason Beriah is the “World of understanding.”

With this the Alter Rebbe concludes his statement that on Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh the souls of other Jews (who had not served G‑d with intellectual love and fear) ascend to Beriah.

ומה שזוכות נשמות אלו לעלות למעלה מהמלאכים, אף שעבדו בדחילו ורחימו טבעיים לבד

These souls (who served G‑d with natural love and fear) are privileged to rise occasionally to Beriah, higher than the angels, whose abode is in Yetzirah, as mentioned above, never rising to Beriah, although they too, like the angels, served G‑d only with natural fear and love; why, then, is their service of G‑d considered superior to that of the angels?

היינו מפני שעל ידי דחילו ורחימו שלהם, אתכפיא סטרא אחרא המלובשת בגופם

because through their fear and love, the sitra achra clothed in their body is subdued,

בין בבחינת סור מרע, לכבוש התאוות ולשברן

whether (in the case of fear) in the realm of “turning away from evil” (refraining from doing evil, and thereby) conquering and crushing their desires through not giving their illicit desires expression in thought, speech and action,

ובין בבחינת ועשה טוב, כנ״ל

or whether (in the case of love) subduing the sitra achra in the realm of “doing good” as mentioned above, i.e., actively pursuing the observance of the mitzvot out of love for G‑d, despite the contrary desire of the animal soul which is rooted in the sitra achra.

והם היו בעלי בחירה, לבחור ברע, חס ושלום

These souls, while in the physical world, had freedom of choice; they might have chosen evil, G‑d forbid,

ובחרו בטוב, לאכפיא לסטרא אחרא, לאסתלקא יקרא דקודשא בריך הוא כו׳ כיתרון האור כו׳, כנ״ל

yet they chose good — to subdue the sitra achra, so that G‑d’s glory be elevated... [in all Worlds], with an elevation similar to the superiority of light... [emerging from the darkness] over ordinary light, as mentioned above. By dispelling the darkness of sitra achra, these souls added to the light of holiness.

Thus, although these souls served G‑d as angels do, with love and fear that are natural, not intellectual, yet their service ranks higher than that of an angel; for the soul acts out of free choice, while the angel is a creature of compulsive instinct (albeit holy instinct). Therefore it is occasionally granted to the soul, unlike the angel, to rise to the Higher Garden of Eden in Beriah.

In the following paragraphs, the Alter Rebbe will differentiate between the respective stations of the souls on the one hand, and of their divine service (i.e., the actual Torah and mitzvot that the soul studies and observes) on the other. But before examining his words, an introduction is in order:

Although we spoke above of the Sefirot of each of the Four Worlds, it must nevertheless be understood that the Sefirot of each World do not constitute that World itself. The Sefirot represent, rather, the G‑dliness inherent in each World — its divine life-force. The World itself, on the other hand, is a Yesh, a separate being, which comes about through the Sefirot.

The significance of this distinction with regard to our discussion is as follows: The Alter Rebbe spoke above of the abode of the soul in either the World of Yetzirah or the World of Beriah (depending on the level of its divine service). The emphasis here is on the word “World”: the soul’s abode is in the World of Beriah or Yetzirah (also described as the heichalot (“Chambers”) of these Worlds), not in the Sefirot of these Worlds.

The soul’s divine service, on the other hand, ascends to the Sefirot (of the appropriate World); this means, in effect, that it is absorbed in the Ein Sof.

In fact, the soul’s reward in the Garden of Eden, described before as the pleasure of “basking in the radiance of the Shechinah,” is actually the radiance of the Torah and mitzvot that the person observed while in this physical world, which have ascended to the supernal Sefirot.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

והנה כל זה הוא במדור הנשמות ומקום עמידתן

All the aforesaid concerns the abode and station of the souls. (The Rebbe notes: “Station” is not necessarily synonymous with “abode”; a soul whose abode is in Yetzirah may rise periodically (on Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh) to a temporary station in Beriah, as said above.)

אך תורתן ועבודתן נכללות בי׳ ספירות, שהן בחינת אלקות, ואור אין סוף מתייחד בהן בתכלית היחוד

Their Torah and divine service, however, are actually absorbed in the Ten Sefirot, which are a manifestation of G‑dliness, and with which the Ein Sof-light unites, in perfect unity i.e., the Ein Sof-light radiating in each World is completely unified with the Sefirot of that World.

והיינו בי׳ ספירות דבריאה על ידי דחילו ורחימו שכליים, ובי׳ ספירות דיצירה על ידי דחילו ורחימו טבעיים

Specifically, this means that one’s Torah and divine service ascend to the Ten Sefirot of Beriah, when generated by intellectual fear and love, and to the Ten Sefirot of Yetzirah when prompted by natural fear and love.

ובתוכן מלובשות י׳ ספירות דאצילות, ומיוחדות בהן בתכלית

Now, within them (within the Sefirot of Beriah and Yetzirah) are clothed the Ten Sefirot of the World of Emanation Atzilut, and they are completely unified with them: the Sefirot of Atzilut are clothed in, and completely unified with, the Sefirot of Beriah and Yetzirah.

וי׳ ספירות דאצילות מיוחדות בתכלית במאצילן, אין סוף ברוך הוא

The Ten Sefirot of Atzilut are, in turn, perfectly united with their Emanator, the Blessed Ein Sof. It follows, then, that by ascending to the Sefirot of Beriah or Yetzirah, the soul’s Torah and divine service actually unite with the Ein Sof.

מה שאין כן הנשמות אינן נכללות באלקות די׳ ספירות

The souls, on the other hand (in contrast with their Torah and divine service), are not absorbed into the G‑dliness of the Ten Sefirot,

אלא עומדות בהיכלות ומדורין דבריאה או יצירה

but stand instead in the “chambers” and “abodes” of Beriah or Yetzirah, which are the Worlds of Beriah and Yetzirah, separate beings that are not united with G‑d as are the Sefirot.

ונהנין מזיו השכינה, הוא אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, המיוחד בי׳ ספירות דבריאה או דיצירה

There [the souls] delight in the radiance of the Shechinah, meaning the Blessed Ein Sof-light [as it is] unified with the Ten Sefirot of Beriah or Yetzirah;

והוא זיו תורתן ועבודתן ממש (עיין זהר, ויקהל, )דף ר״י

and this radiance that they enjoy is actually a “ray” of [the light of] their own Torah and divine service (see Zohar, Parshat Vayakhel, p. 210),

כי שכר מצוה היא מצוה עצמה

for “The reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself.

A “ray” issuing from the mitzvot that they have performed, and that have become united with the Ein Sof, shines forth upon the tzaddikim in the Garden of Eden; it is the revelation of this ray that delights the soul.

From this we may catch a glimpse of the stature of a mitzvah performed in this world. From a mere glimmer of the light radiated by a mitzvah, a soul in Paradise derives pleasure so exquisite that, as our Sages say, all the suffering of Purgatory — a suffering so acute that one moment of it is worse than enduring seventy years of Job’s afflictions — is worthwhile, so long as it enables one subsequently to experience the boundless delight of Paradise.

In fact, were the soul when in Paradise to apprehend the essence of the mitzvah instead of a mere ray of it, it would expire — it would dissolve out of existence in the intensity of its light.

This is the meaning of the Mishnah,5 “Better one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world, than all the life of the World to Come.” For in the World to Come the soul has only a glimmer of the light of mitzvot, whereas in this world we have the essence of mitzvot, whereby we are united with G‑d Himself.

The soul’s great pleasure in Paradise is due only to its clear perception of the ray of light given off by the mitzvah, a perception that we lack in this physical world; wherefore the Mishnah concludes, “Better one hour of bliss in the World to Come, than all the life of this world” — better even than the bliss of fulfilling the Torah and mitzvot in this world, for true bliss can be experienced only in Paradise, where the soul actually perceives and grasps the G‑dliness of the Torah and mitzvot.

Having explained that Beriah is the abode of souls that served G‑d with intellectual love and fear, and Yetzirah — of souls that served Him with natural love and fear, the Alter Rebbe will now discuss the divine service of those souls whose abode is the World of Atzilut. The quality of their divine service, he explains, surpasses even that of intellectual love and fear. This is the level of those tzaddikim who become veritable “chariots” for G‑d: they have no will save His Will, and their every act testifies to their utter self-nullification before Him.

ועולם האצילות, שהוא למעלה מהשכל וההשגה וההבנה לשכל נברא

The World of Atzilut is beyond the intelligence, grasp and understanding of a created being’s intellect. Even a spiritual being in the World of Beriah is after all a created being, and Atzilut is beyond its grasp as well.

כי חכמתו ובינתו ודעתו של אין סוף ברוך הוא מיוחדות שם בו בתכלית היחוד

For the Chochmah, Binah and Daat of the Ein Sof are united with Him there (in Atzilut) in perfect unity,

ביחוד עצום ונפלא, ביתר שאת ויתר עז לאין קץ מבעולם הבריאה

in a profound and wonderful unity infinitely superior to that [unity] found in Beriah.

כי שם ירדו להאיר בבחינת צמצום

For there they descended to illuminate [only] to a restricted (“contracted”) degree. The ChaBaD of Atzilut (referred to here as “ChaBaD of Ein Sof”) radiate in Beriah only after their light is “contracted”,

כדי שיוכלו שכלים נבראים לקבל מהן חב״ד, לידע את ה׳ ולהבין ולהשיג איזו השגה באור אין סוף ברוך הוא

so as to enable the intellect of created beings (namely, the angels and souls of Beriah) to receive ChaBaD — wisdom, understanding and knowledge — from [these Sefirot of Atzilut], so that they might know G‑d, and so that they might grasp and comprehend something of the Ein Sof-light,

כפי כח שכלים הנבראים, שהם בעלי גבול ותכלית

to the extent that the intellect of finite, limited, created beings is capable of understanding.

שלא יתבטלו במציאותם ולא יהיו בגדר נבראים כלל, רק יחזרו למקורם ושרשם, שהוא בחינת אלקות ממש

To achieve this purpose a “contraction” of ChaBaD of Atzilut was necessary, lest they (the created beings of Beriah) dissolve out of existence and lest they furthermore cease altogether to exist as created beings, reverting instead to their source and root, namely G‑dliness itself.

Were the ChaBaD of Atzilut to shine forth in Beriah without being “contracted”, allowing the creatures of Beriah to grasp G‑dliness as it radiates in the Sefirot of Atzilut, these creatures would be overwhelmed by the G‑dly illumination beyond their capacity to absorb, and would dissolve out of existence.

Hence, the Alter Rebbe will now continue, it is only the G‑dliness in a “contracted” ChaBaD that creatures of Beriah can grasp and absorb (and even then, only to the extent of their limited capacity); the light of ChaBaD in its pristine state, as in Atzilut, is beyond them.

והנה צמצום זה היא סבת ההארה שמאירות שם חב״ד של אין סוף ברוך הוא לנשמות אלו בעולם הבריאה

This contraction (which ChaBaD of Atzilut undergo in order to radiate in Beriah) thus causes the souls in the World of Beriah to be illuminated by a glow of ChaBaD of Ein Sof (i.e., ChaBaD of Atzilut); it is this contraction that enables them to have some perception of the Ein Sof-light.

מה שאין כן באצילות, שאינם בבחינת צמצום כל כך, אי אפשר לשכלים נבראים לקבל מהן

The created intellectual beings [of Beriah] cannot, however, apprehend ChaBaD as they are (i.e., in all their undimmed intensity) in the World of Atzilut, where the ChaBaD are not contracted to such a great degree as in Beriah.

“To such a great degree” — for the very fact of their being Sefirot (i.e., individual, defined categories) indicates that ChaBaD are merely contracted, limited manifestations of the undefinable Ein Sof; the degree of contraction, however, is much less than that of Beriah, and therefore the creatures of Beriah cannot receive intellectual illumination from ChaBaD of Atzilut.

ולכן לית מחשבה דלהון תפיסא שם כלל

Therefore, their thought cannot grasp there at all, i.e., the thought and intellect of the created beings of Beriah can in no way grasp the light radiating in Atzilut.

לכן הוא מדור לצדיקים הגדולים

For this reason, [Atzilut] is the abode of the great tzaddikim,

שעבודתם היא למעלה מעלה אפילו מבחינת דחילו ורחימו הנמשכות מהבינה ודעת בגדולתו יתברך

whose service of G‑d is far superior even to fear and love derived from understanding and knowing His greatness,

כמו שעולם האצילות הוא למעלה מעלה מבחינת בינה ודעת לשכל נברא

just as Atzilut transcends by far the level of the understanding and knowledge of a created being’s intellect.

אלא עבודתם היתה בבחינת מרכבה ממש לאין סוף ברוך הוא

Their service is, rather, on the level of an actual “chariot” of the blessed Ein Sof,

וליבטל אליו במציאות, ולהכלל באורו יתברך, הם וכל אשר להם

nullifying their very existence before Him, and incorporating themselves, and all that they possess, within His light,

על ידי קיום התורה והמצות

through the observance of the Torah and the mitzvot.

על דרך שאמרו: האבות הן הן המרכבה, והיינו לפי שכל ימיהם היתה זאת עבודתם

Our Sages applied such a description to the Patriarchs, saying that6 “they themselves constituted the divine chariot,” for this was the Patriarchs‘ level of service, throughout their lives.

The Patriarchs were constantly in that state of self-nullification before G‑d denoted by the term “chariot”. Similarly, in the case of the tzaddikim spoken of here. Through their Torah and mitzvot, they effect the highest degree of self-nullification before G‑d in themselves and in all their affairs. The abode of their souls, therefore, is likewise in a World pervaded with this spirit of self-nullification, namely the World of Atzilut.

אך מי ששרש נשמתו קטן מהכיל עבודה תמה זו

But he whose soul’s root is of too limited a capacity for this perfect service on the level of a “chariot”,

ליבטל וליכלל באורו יתברך בעבודתו בקביעות

so that through his service of Torah and mitzvot he be constantly nullified before and absorbed in G‑d’s light,

רק לפרקים ועתים שהם עת רצון למעלה

[and he can therefore attain this state] only intermittently and [only] at times of divine favor on high,

וכמו בתפלת שמונה עשרה, שהיא באצילות

such as during the Shemoneh-Esreh prayer, which is at the level of Atzilut,

The four rungs in the ladder of prayer correspond to the four Worlds: The prayers preceding Baruch She‘amar correspond to Asiyah; the Psalms of Praise to Yetzirah; the Shema to Beriah, and the Shemoneh-Esreh is at the level of Atzilut.

ובפרט בהשתחוואות שבה, שכל השתחוואה היא בבחינת אצילות כמו שכתוב בפרי עץ חיים, בקבלת שבת

and especially when bowing in the four designated places in this prayer, for every such act of bowing represents the level of Atzilut (7as is written in Pri Etz Chayim, in the section dealing with the welcoming of the Sabbath),

כי היא ענין ביטול באורו יתברך, להיות חשיב קמיה כלא ממש

for it embodies the idea of self-nullification in G‑d’s light — to be accounted as absolutely naught before Him;

אזי גם כן עיקר קביעות נשמתו הוא בעולם הבריאה

In the case of he who can attain the level of a “chariot” only at such propitious times, then even at these times, the principal abode of his soul is in the World of Beriah (for we are dealing here with a soul associated with the World of Beriah),

רק לפרקים, בעת רצון, תעלה נשמתו לאצילות בבחינת מיין נוקבין, כידוע ליודעי ח״ן

(8and only occasionally, at a time of divine favor, will his soul rise to Atzilut as “feminine waters,” as is known to the initiates of Kabbalah).

Having discussed the various “abodes” of souls — three Worlds in which the souls receive a reward commensurate with the level of their divine service during their life on earth — the Alter Rebbe now returns to the theme begun in ch. 38. There he noted that kavanah in mitzvot (which is the “soul” of the mitzvot) can be classified into various categories, corresponding to the different levels of soul found in living beings — the souls of animals, of man, and so on. A kavanah which consists of intellectual love and fear is like the volitional soul of man; a kavanah consisting of natural love and fear, like the instinctive soul of an animal.

To support this contention, he discussed the various levels of “abodes” where souls receive their reward commensurate with their divine service on earth.

Returning now to his original theme, the Alter Rebbe points out that from the varying levels of reward, we can deduce the respective levels of divine service motivated by the different levels of kavanah.

והנה שכר מצוה מצוה

“The reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself.”

Unlike wages paid to a laborer, for example, which are no index of the nature of the work performed, the reward for a mitzvah — i.e., the revelation of G‑dliness experienced by the soul that performed the mitzvah — is actually the fruit of the mitzvah itself; the revelation consists of a ray of the G‑dly light emitted by the mitzvah.

פירוש, שמשכרה נדע מהותה ומדרגתה

This means that we can know the essential nature and rank [of the mitzvah] by its reward (by the nature of the light generated by the mitzvah, and revealed to the soul as its reward).

ואין לנו עסק בנסתרות

Now, we will not concern ourselves with explaining hidden matters,

שהם צדיקים הגדולים שהם בבחינת מרכבה

meaning the great tzaddikim who are at the level of a “chariot”, whose divine service comes under the heading of “hidden matters” because it transcends understanding,

רק הנגלות לנו, שאחריהם כל אדם ימשוך

but only with those matters revealed to us, to which every man must aspire i.e., only with those levels of divine service which may — and ought to — be attained by every Jew; as follows:

לידע נאמנה מהות ומדרגת עבודת ה׳ בדחילו ורחימו בהתגלות לבו

One must know with certainty that the essential nature and rank of divine service with fear and love revealed in the heart,

הנמשכות מן הבינה ודעת בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא

derived from understanding and knowledge of the greatness of the Blessed Ein Sof, and of which it was said earlier that the reward for divine service motivated by such love and fear is on the level of the World of Beriah, —

מקומה בי׳ ספירות דבריאה

from this reward we know that its place i.e., the level of such service — of mitzvot performed with such motivation, is in the Ten Sefirot of Beriah;

ועבודה בדחילו ורחימו הטבעיים שבמוחו

and the service motivated by natural fear and love hidden in one’s mind (not emotions experienced in the heart, but mental awareness of one’s inborn love and fear of G‑d), of which it was said earlier that such service is rewarded in the World of Yetzirah, —

בי׳ ספירות דיצירה

from this reward we know that its place is in the Ten Sefirot of Yetzirah.

אבל עבודה בלי התעוררות דחילו ורחימו, אפילו במוחו בבחינת גילוי

But divine service performed without arousing one’s fear and love to a revealed state even in one’s mind,

דהיינו לעורר האהבה הטבעית המסותרת בלב, להוציאה מההעלם והסתר הלב

meaning that the service is done without arousing the natural love hidden in one’s heart so that it will emerge from the hidden recesses of the heart,

אל הגילוי אפילו במוחו ותעלומות לבו על כל פנים

to be revealed at least in one’s conscious mind and in the latency of his heart, so that it might evoke (if not passionate fervor, then at least) a mental resolve to cleave to G‑d by fulfilling the mitzvot;

רק היא נשארת מסותרת בלב כתולדתה, כמו שהיתה קודם העבודה

if instead, the love remains hidden in the heart as in its native state, as it was before the divine service when it was surely concealed, not expressing itself in divine service; if the love is similarly hidden when he engages in divine service, and the mitzvot that he does are in no way affected by the love, then —

הרי עבודה זו נשארת למטה, בעולם הפירוד, הנקרא חיצוניות העולמות

such service remains below in this “World of Separation,”9 in the level called the externality of the worlds10 (as opposed to the Sefirot which are the internal aspect of the Worlds);

ואין בה כח לעלות וליכלל ביחודו יתברך, שהן עשר ספירות הקדושות

it has not the power to rise and to be absorbed in G‑d’s Unity, meaning the ten holy Sefirot,

וכמו שכתוב בתקונים, דבלא דחילו ורחימו לא פרחא לעילא, ולא יכלא לסלקא ולמיקם קדם ה׳

as is written in Tikkunei Zohar, that “Without fear and love it does not fly upward, and it cannot rise to stand before G‑d.”

As explained at length further, love and fear are the “wings” of one’s divine service; lacking the wings, it cannot soar aloft.

The Alter Rebbe now proceeds to amplify his previous statement.

והיינו אפילו אם אינו עוסק שלא לשמה ממש לשום איזו פניה, חס ושלום

This inability of one’s divine service to ascend to the Sefirot applies not only where one’s motive for engaging in Torah and mitzvot is actually shelo lishmah (“not for its own sake”), i.e., for some ulterior motive, heaven forbid, in which case one is actually serving himself, not G‑d, and his service surely cannot ascend “to stand before G‑d.”

אלא כמו שכתוב: ותהי יראתם אותי מצות אנשים מלומדה

It also applies even if, as the verse describes it,11 “Their fear of Me was like commandments of men done by rote,”

פירוש: מחמת הרגל שהורגל מקטנותו

meaning [that one serves G‑d] out of a habit acquired in his youth,12

שהרגילו ולימדו אביו ורבו לירא את ה׳ ולעבדו

having been trained and taught by his father and teacher to fear G‑d and to serve Him,

ואינו עוסק לשמה ממש

but he does not really do it for its own sake [lishmah].

כי לשמה ממש אי אפשר בלא התעוררות דחילו ורחימו הטבעיים, על כל פנים

For it is impossible to serve G‑d truly lishmah without arousing one’s natural fear and love, at least,

להוציאן מהסתר הלב אל הגילוי במוח ותעלומות לבו, על כל פנים

by bringing them out from the concealment of the heart into revelation, at least in the mind and the latency of the heart.

If one cannot arouse his natural love of G‑d to the point where it is actually felt in the heart, he must try, as discussed above, to arouse it at least so that it be felt in the conscious mind and in the substratum of the heart. Even this low-level arousal can produce a will and resolve to study the Torah and fulfill the mitzvot. Thus, the resulting divine service contains (at least to some degree) the force and kavanah of his natural love, since it was this love that created the resolve which he is now implementing.

If, however, one does not produce even this minimal level of arousal, the love, although naturally found in his heart, has no bearing on his divine service, and he cannot, therefore, do this service lishmah (“for its own sake”).

כי כמו שאין אדם עושה דבר בשביל חבירו למלאת רצונו, אלא אם כן אוהבו או ירא ממנו

For just as one does not do something for his fellow, to carry out his [friend’s] will, unless he loves him or fears him,

כך אי אפשר לעשות לשמו יתברך באמת למלאת רצונו לבד

so, too, is it impossible to act truly for G‑d’s sake, solely in order to carry out His Will,

בלי זכרון והתעוררות אהבתו ויראתו כלל, במוחו ומחשבתו ותעלומות לבו על כל פנים

unless he remembers and arouses his love and fear of G‑d to some degree — in his mind, thought and the latent level of his heart, at least, if he cannot arouse these emotions openly in his heart.

One who observes the mitzvot out of habit, however, lacking even this minimal arousal of love, cannot be described as serving G‑d for His sake even though his performance is impelled by no ulterior motive.

וגם אהבה לבדה אינה נקראת בשם עבודה בלי יראה תתאה לפחות, שהיא מסותרת בלב כל ישראל, כמו שיתבאר לקמן

Furthermore, [the arousal of] love alone, without [the arousal of] at least the lower-level fear of G‑d hidden in every Jewish heart, is not called “service”, as will be explained later.

Divine “service” connotes the relationship of a servant to his master, whom he serves chiefly out of fear, unlike a child, who carries out his father’s wishes mainly because he loves him. When one performs a mitzvah out of the love of G‑d alone, without fear of Him, he is indeed acting for G‑d’s sake — but he is not serving Him.

וכשעוסק שלא לשמה ממש, לשום איזו פניה לכבוד עצמו

However, when one engages in divine service explicitly not lishmah but for an ulterior motive of self-glorification,

כגון להיות תלמיד חכם וכהאי גוונא

as, for example, in order to become a scholar, and the like,

אזי אותה פניה, שמצד הקליפה דנוגה, מתלבשת בתורתו

then this motive, which is derived from kelipat nogah, clothes itself in his Torah study,

והתורה היא בבחינת גלות בתוך הקליפה

and the Torah studied for this motive is in a state of exile within the kelipah;

לפי שעה, עד אשר יעשה תשובה, שמביאה רפואה לעולם

but only temporarily, until he repents, since13 “Repentance brings healing to the world.”

שבשובו אל ה׳, גם תורתו שבה עמו

For when he returns to G‑d, his Torah returns with him from kelipah to holiness.

ולכן אמרו רז״ל: לעולם יעסוק אדם וכו׳ שמתוך שלא לשמה בא לשמה בודאי

Therefore our Rabbis, of blessed memory, said,14 “One should always engage [in Torah and mitzvot, even shelo lishmah], for out of shelo lishmah he will certainly arrive at [study and observance] lishmah,

שבודאי סופו לעשות תשובה, בגלגול זה או בגלגול אחר

since it is certain that he will ultimately repent, whether in this incarnation or another,

כי לא ידח ממנו נדח

because15 “No one banished from Him by his sins will remain banished,” but will ultimately repent.

The Alter Rebbe thus perceives two novel insights in the statement that one should always engage in Torah and mitzvot even shelo lishmah, etc.

(a) Progress from shelo lishmah to lishmah is a certainty, not a possibility, since every sinner will ultimately repent (— and the Alter Rebbe therefore adds the word “certainly” to the quotation);

(b) Not only will the person advance from the state of shelo lishmah to lishmah, but even the Torah that he studied shelo lishmah will be elevated, so that it attains the quality of lishmah; for when one repents and returns to G‑d, his Torah “returns” with him.

The aforesaid applies to one who engages in divine service for an ulterior motive, strictly shelo lishmah.

אך כשעושה סתם לא לשמה, ולא שלא לשמה, אין הדבר תלוי בתשובה

But if one acts neutrally, neither lishmah nor shelo lishmah, then the matter is not contingent on repentance.

אלא מיד שחוזר ולומד דבר זה לשמה, הרי גם מה שלמד בסתם מתחבר ומצטרף ללימוד זה, ופרחא לעילא

Rather, as soon as he reviews the subject lishmah, then even that which he had studied neutrally soars on high, attaching itself to and joining his present study,

מאחר שלא נתלבש בו עדיין שום קליפה דנוגה

since no kelipat nogah had yet clothed itself in [his previous study].

Because his earlier study was not motivated by selfish reasons, the Torah studied is not in exile within the kelipah; it merely lacks the quality of lishmah. This fault is remedied by reviewing the subject lishmah.

ולכן לעולם יעסוק אדם כו׳

Therefore, “A man should always occupy himself [with Torah...even shelo lishmah, for out of shelo lishmah he will come to lishmah”] — the Torah that he studied will itself be elevated to the level of lishmah. In this case, the lishmah “comes” automatically when one reviews his studies; it is not contingent on repentance (as it is in the case of Torah studied for personal motives).

וכן הענין בתפלה שלא בכוונה, כמו שכתוב בזהר

The same is true of prayer without kavanah, as discussed in the Zohar.16

When one recites the prayer once again, this time with kavanah, his earlier prayer ascends as well. Further in Tanya, the Alter Rebbe states that even if from all one’s prayers throughout the year, only one full prayer with kavanah can be assembled piecemeal (from one part of prayer said with kavanah one day, another part on another day, and so on), this one prayer is sufficient to elevate all the prayers of the entire year. For even where specific kavanah is lacking, the prayer is endowed with the comprehensive kavanah that one is praying to G‑d.