In the previous chapter the Alter Rebbe described yet another manner in which a person can perform Torah and mitzvot “with his heart” — with the love and fear of G‑d — and that is, by utilizing the attribute of Jacob, which is the quality of mercy. In this case the individual arouses compassion within himself upon his exiled soul and upon its source, the Ein Sof, and in this frame of mind he studies Torah and performs mitzvot. This endeavor extricates his soul from its spiritual exile (whither it has been banished by his own inappropriate thoughts, words and deeds), and restores it to its source in the blessed Ein Sof.

In this chapter the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain how very, very close it is for every Jew to reveal his hidden love of G‑d. The approach explained in this chapter is novel (as the Rebbe clarifies), inasmuch as it utilizes the Jew’s very nature, thereby obviating the need for a specific manner of contemplation; a relatively general and tangible manner of contemplation will do, as will soon be explained. Indeed, the lower the spiritual level of the individual, the easier it is for him to awaken this hidden love — a paradox that will also be explained presently.

This manner of contemplation enables a Jew to serve G‑d with fiery, passionate love, leading him to excel in his study of Torah and performance of mitzvot. It also enables him to overcome all obstacles, whether from within or from without, that seek to hinder his service of G‑d.

Let a man think along these lines: It is in the nature of a human being that when he feels a strong emanation of love from his fellow he will respond in kind. And if the manifestation of love is showered by an exalted personage upon a very lowly individual, the responsive chord of the lowly person’s love will be all the more vibrant.

In a like manner, but infinitely more so, should this obtain when a human being is enveloped by G‑d’s boundless love for him. Such is the case with the Jewish people. G‑d showed His boundless love for His people by choosing them from all created beings, from the highest level to the lowest. This love manifested itself by His taking them out of Egypt and bestowing the Torah and its mitzvot upon them alone. And so too does G‑d show this love to every individual Jew at all times and in all places.

Such boundless love should surely awaken within a Jew an ardent reciprocal love for G‑d. Moreover, just as G‑d, because of His love for the Jewish people, “overcame all obstacles” which stood in the way of creating this world (as will be explained in ch. 49), so too should each Jew strive to overcome all obstacles that hinder his service of G‑d.

ויש דרך ישר לפני איש, שוה לכל נפש, וקרוב הדבר מאד מאד

There is yet another straight way i.e., simple and straightforward, that is equally applicable and suitable to every man, and this matter is very, very nigh, inasmuch as the technique involved is uncomplicated,

לעורר ולהאיר אור האהבה התקועה ומסותרת בלבו

to arouse and kindle the light of the love that is implanted and concealed in his heart,

This love is already found in the heart of every Jew in a concealed state; utilizing the approach about to be described, makes it very simple for every Jew to reveal and actualize it.

להיות מאירה בתוקף אורה, כאש בוערה, בהתגלות לבו ומוחו

that it may shine forth with its intense light, like a flaming fire, in the consciousness of the heart and mind,

למסור נפשו לה׳ וגופו ומאודו

ultimately enabling the person to surrender his soul to G‑d together with his body and [material] possessions,

בכל לב ובכל נפש ומאד

this being done with all his heart, and all his soul and all his “might” — with the boundless devotion of his soul’s essence,

מעומקא דלבא באמת לאמיתו

from the depth of the heart, in absolute truth,

ובפרט בשעת קריאת שמע וברכותיה, כמו שיתבאר

and especially, i.e., a most propitious time for the person to kindle this love in such a manner is, at the time of the recital of the Shema and its blessings, as will be explained later, on the particular connection of the Shema and its blessings to the arousal of this love.


And this technique for revealing this love is,

כאשר ישים אל לבו מה שאמר הכתוב: כמים הפנים לפנים, כן לב האדם אל האדם

to take to heart the meaning of the verse:1 “As water mirrors the face to the face, so does the heart of man to man.”

פירוש: כמו שכדמות וצורת הפנים שהאדם מראה במים, כן נראה לו שם במים אותה צורה עצמה

This means2 that as [in the case of] the likeness and features of the face which a man presents to the water, the identical face is reflected back to him from the water,

That image mirrors not only the person’s external features, but also the nuances of facial expression that signify joy, sorrow, and so on, thus revealing not only his physical state but his mental state as well.

ככה ממש לב האדם הנאמן באהבתו לאיש אחר

so indeed is also the heart of a man who is loyal in his affection for another person,

הרי האהבה זו מעוררת אהבה בלב חבירו אליו גם כן, להיות אוהבים נאמנים זה לזה

for this love which he has for the other awakens a loving response for him in the heart of his friend also, so that they come to love each other loyally,

Even the love harbored in one’s heart arouses a reflected love in another.

בפרט כשרואה אהבת חבירו אליו

especially when he sees his friend’s love for him, freely revealed.

והנה זהו טבע הנהוג במדת כל אדם, אף אם שניהם שוים במעלה

Such is the common nature in the character of every man, even when they are equal in status.

ועל אחת כמה וכמה, אם מלך גדול ורב מראה אהבתו הגדולה והעצומה לאיש הדיוט ונבזה ושפל אנשים, ומנוול ומוטל באשפה

How much more so is this the case if a great and mighty king who rules over many lands displays his great and intense love for a commoner who is despised and lowly among men, a disgraceful creature cast on the dunghill,

The king depicted here rules not over one land but over many; his love for the person is not only harbored in the heart but is manifest; the manner of love is not ordinary but “great and intense”; and the love is shown not to an ordinary person but to a truly despicable character. The Alter Rebbe goes on to state how his love is displayed:

ויורד אליו ממקום כבודו עם כל שריו יחדיו

yet he the king comes down to him from the place of his glory, together with all his retinue,

ומקימו ומרימו מאשפתו, ומכניסו להיכלו, היכל המלך, חדר לפנים מחדר, מקום שאין כל עבד ושר נכנס לשם

and raises him and exalts him from his dunghill and brings him into his palace — the royal palace, and within the palace itself he leads him in the innermost chamber, a place such as no servant nor lord ever enters,

ומתייחד עמו שם ביחוד וקירוב אמיתי, וחיבוק ונישוק, ואתדבקות רוחא ברוחא בכל לב ונפש

and there shares with him the closest companionship with mutual embraces and kisses and attachment of “spirit to spirit,” with their whole heart and soul, —

When a mighty king shows such great affection and companionship to such a lowly person, then,

על אחת כמה וכמה שתתעורר ממילא האהבה כפולה ומכופלת בלב ההדיוט ושפל האנשים הזה אל נפש המלך, בהתקשרות הנפש ממש, מלב ונפש, מעומקא דלבא לאין קץ

how much more so will there be aroused, of itself, a doubled and redoubled love in the heart of this most common and humble individual for the person of the king,3 with a true attachment of spirit, from heart and soul, from the infinite depths of his heart.

ואף אם לבו כלב האבן, המס ימס והיה למים, ותשתפך נפשו כמים בכלות הנפש ממש, לאהבת המלך

Even if his heart be like a heart of stone, and not easily roused to tender feelings of love for another, yet, in such a situation, it will surely melt and become [like] water, and his soul will pour itself out like water, with soulful longing for the love of the king.

The Alter Rebbe goes on to explain that all the details mentioned in the parable of the king are infinitely more applicable with regard to the object of the parable — the relationship of G‑d with each and every Jew. For G‑d, the King of kings, showed his unending love of the Jewish people by taking them out of their nethermost level, in Egypt, and exalting them to the highest of levels by giving them the Torah. Through study of Torah and performance of mitzvot, Jews are united with G‑d to the utmost possible degree.

This was so not only at the time the Torah was given. But at all times, as shall soon be explained, contemplating this matter will arouse within every Jew — “as water mirrors the face to the face” — a parallel love of G‑d.

והנה ככל הדברים האלה, וככל החזיון הזה, וגדול יתר מאד בכפלי כפליים לאין קץ, עשה לנו אלקינו

In a manner corresponding in every detail to the said figure and image of the love shown by the mighty king to this most lowly individual, but to a much greater degree, doubled and redoubled infinitely more than in the parable, has our G‑d dealt with us.

כי לגדולתו אין חקר

For His greatness is beyond comprehension,

Just as G‑d is infinitely greater than any physical king, so too does his kingdom extend over an infinitely greater territory, so to speak.

ואיהו ממלא כל עלמין וסובב כל עלמין

and He pervades all worlds and encompasses i.e., transcends all worlds;

ונודע מזהר הקדוש והאר״י ז״ל ריבוי ההיכלות והעולמות עד אין מספר, ובכל עולם והיכל, ריבוא רבבות מלאכים לאין קץ ותכלית

and from the holy Zohar, as also from our Master, Rabbi Isaac Luria of blessed memory, it is known of the multitude of Heichalot — these being the specific levels within each spiritual world — and worlds which are infinite, and of the myriads of myriads of angels found in each world and Heichal, countless and without end.

וכמו שכתוב בגמרא: כתיב, היש מספר לגדודיו, וכתיב, אלף אלפין ישמשוניה, וריבו רבבן קדמוהי גו׳

So does the Gemara note:4 “It is written:5 ‘Is there any numbering His regiments of angels?’ Yet it is also written:6 ‘A thousand thousands minister unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before Him....’”

The second verse indicates that there is indeed a finite number of angels, albeit a very great number, while the rhetorical question in the first verse implies that the number is truly infinite.

ומשני: אלף אלפין וכו׳ מספר גדוד אחד, אבל לגדודיו אין מספר

The Gemara answers: “‘A thousand thousands...’ is the quota of one regiment, but His regiments are innumerable.” The second verse, then, speaks of the number of angels within one regiment, while the first verse alludes to the number of regiments, which is truly infinite.

וכולם קמיה כלא ממש חשיבי, ובטלים במציאות ממש, כביטול דבור אחד ממש לגבי מהות הנפש המדברת ועצמותה, בעוד שהיה דיבורה עדיין במחשבתה, או ברצון וחמדת הלב, כנ״ל באריכות

Yet, before Him, all of them are accounted as nothing at all and are nullified in their very existence, just as one word is truly nullified in relation to the essence and being of the articulate soul, the soul possessing the power of speech, while the speech of the soul was still present in [the soul’s] faculty of thought, or in the will and desire of the heart, as has been explained above at length.

In chs. 20 and 21 the Alter Rebbe explained at length how a single utterance is as absolutely nothing when compared to the infinite capacity of the articulate soul. This is so even when the word has already been uttered and has thereby become a distinct entity. Even more so, in the case when the person’s speech is in potentia in the person’s thought or heart’s desire (which are the sources of speech, since a person thinks before he speaks, and speaks about things that he desires). In such an instance, the single word is totally nullified in its source and is not at all perceptible as an entity separate from it.

So too with Divine speech that creates and animates angels, the various worlds, and all creatures. Divine speech is always absolutely united with its source, and is therefore always in a state of total nullification to it.

וכולם שואלים: איה מקום כבודו, ועונים: מלא כל הארץ כבודו, הם ישראל עמו

All these [angels] ask: “Where is the place of His glory?” And they answer:7 “The whole physical earth is full of His glory”; that is — i.e., How is this world “full of His glory?” — because of His people, Israel.

כי הניח הקב״ה את העליונים ואת התחתונים

For the Holy One, blessed be He, forsook the higher and lower creatures that are not the ultimate purpose of His creation,

ולא בחר בכולם, כי אם בישראל עמו, והוציאם ממצרים, ערות הארץ, מקום הזוהמא והטומאה

choosing none of them but Israel His people, whom He brought out of Egypt8 — “the obscenity of the earth,” the place of filth and impurity —

Like the lowly and disgraceful individual who was raised from the dunghill by the king in person, the Children of Israel were brought forth out of Egypt by the King Himself:

לא על ידי מלאך ולא על ידי כו׳, אלא הקב״ה בכבודו ובעצמו ירד לשם

“not9 through an angel which is a created being whose abode is in the World of Beriah, Yetzirah or Asiyah, nor through a messenger from the level of the World of Atzilut, but the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself in His glory” descended there.

כמו שכתוב: וארד להצילו וגו׳

as it is written:10 “And I descended to save him from the hand of the Egyptians,”

Just as the king in the parable, after raising the individual from the dungheap, takes him into his palace and shares with him the closest companionship, in a like manner did G‑d treat His people.

כדי לקרבם אליו בקירוב ויחוד אמיתי, בהתקשרות הנפש ממש

in order to bring them near to Him in true closeness and unity, with a real attachment of soul — so that the Jew’s soul will be truly bound up with the Almighty,

This is also so regarding the Torah, concerning which G‑d says: “I have written and given My ’soul‘” to the Jewish people, by giving them the Torah. Thus, not only is the Jew’s soul truly bound up with G‑d, but G‑d’s “soul”, too, is united with the Jew.

בבחינת נשיקין פה לפה, לדבר דבר ה׳, זו הלכה

on the level of “kisses” of mouth to mouth, so that the Jew’s mouth be united with the “mouth” and speech of G‑d, by uttering “the word of G‑d, namely, the Halachah,”

When a Jew speaks and studies the words of the Torah his speech is united with Supernal speech in a manner of “kisses” of mouth to mouth. This unity, however, is external in comparison with the deeper and more inward “union of spirit and spirit,” as explained in the previous chapter. This deeper level of unity is also attained through Torah study:

ואתדבקות רוחא ברוחא, היא השגת התורה, וידיעת רצונו וחכמתו

and the fusion of “spirit” of man with “spirit” of G‑d, namely, the comprehension of the Torah and the knowledge of His Will and wisdom,

When Torah is studied with comprehension, the person knows both G‑d’s Will and wisdom. Knowing the halachah, the law that determines that an object is (say) either kosher or non-kosher, constitutes the knowledge of G‑d’s Will, while comprehending the reason for the halachah relates to G‑d’s wisdom.

דכולא חד ממש

which are truly one; G‑d’s Will and wisdom are truly one with Him. Hence, through Torah study, Jews become united with G‑d in a manner of “union of spirit and spirit”;

וגם בבחינת חיבוק

also with a form of “embrace”, for Torah and mitzvot also effect the unity of an “embrace”, similar to a person embracing his friend with his body and arms,

הוא קיום המצות מעשיות ברמ״ח אברים

namely, the fulfillment of the positive precepts with the 248 organs which the human being possesses. Performance of the 248 positive commandments brings about a state of “embrace” wherein G‑d’s 248 “organs” embrace man’s,

דרמ״ח פיקודין הן רמ״ח אברין דמלכא, כנזכר לעיל

for the 248 ordinances are the 248 “organs” of the King, as mentioned earlier, in ch. 23.

Each organ of the body is an appropriate vessel for the particular faculty of the soul that resides therein, such as the eye for the faculty of sight, the ear for the faculty of hearing, and so on. So too, each mitzvah is an appropriate vessel for the specific emanation of the Divine Will that desires the Jew to perform the particular commandment.

ודרך כלל נחלקין לשלש בחינות: ימין ושמאל ואמצע, שהן חסד דין רחמים

In a general manner, these 248 positive mitzvot are divided into three categories — right, left, and center — namely, Chesed (“kindness”), Din (“stern justice”), and Rachamim (“mercy”).

There are mitzvot which are in the category of the “right side” — Chesed; others in the category of the “left side” — Din; still others, in the category of the “center” — Rachamim. These are:

תרין דרועין וגופא וכו׳

the two arms and the body.

Chesed is the right arm; Gevurah, or Din, is the left; and Rachamim represents the body (the center). Just as when a person embraces another he does so with both arms and his body, so too, do the “two arms” and “body” of the mitzvot embrace the Jew who performs them.

וזהו שאומרים: אשר קדשנו במצותיו

This is the meaning of the text of the various blessings pronounced before one fulfills a mitzvah: “[Blessed be He] Who has betrothed us by His commandments”:

The Hebrew word kidshanu — generally rendered, “Who has sanctified us” — is here rendered, “Who has betrothed us,” from the Hebrew word kiddushin (“betrothal”). For mitzvot too, are:

כאדם המקדש אשה, להיות מיוחדת עמו ביחוד גמור, כמו שכתוב: ודבק באשתו והיו לבשר אחד

like a man who betrothes a wife, so that she be united with him in a perfect bond, as it is written:11 “And he shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.”

ככה ממש, ויתר על כן לאין קץ, הוא יחוד נפש האלקית העוסקת בתורה ומצות, ונפש החיונית ולבושיהן הנ״ל, באור אין סוף ברוך הוא

Exactly similar to the unity achieved through betrothal, and even infinitely surpassing it, is the union of the divine soul that is engaged in Torah and the commandments, and of the vivifying soul, and their garments referred to above, viz., thought, speech and action — all of them becoming united with the light of the blessed Ein Sof.

This spiritual union infinitely surpasses the physical union of man and wife. The correlation to a physical union is valid only in the sense that in this world there can be no greater union than that of man and wife. This union is termed kiddushin.

ולכן המשיל שלמה עליו השלום בשיר השירים יחוד זה ליחוד חתן וכלה

Therefore did Solomon, peace unto him, in the Song of Songs compare this union of G‑d and Jews through Torah and mitzvot with the union of bridegroom and bride,

בדביקה חשיקה וחפיצה, בחיבוק ונישוק

this union being with attachment — an external level of unity, with longing — a more inward level of unity, and desire — an even more inward level of unity, with embrace and kissing.

All the above manners of union are found in the Jew’s relationship to G‑d through Torah and mitzvot.

Until now the Alter Rebbe expounded on the theme of unity, understanding kidshanu as deriving from kiddushin (“betrothal”). The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that the word kidshanu also alludes to the sanctification a Jew achieves through Torah and mitzvot, sanctification implying a state of exaltation and separation from all worlds.

וזהו שאומרים: אשר קדשנו במצותיו

This is also the meaning of the blessings alluded to above: “Who has sanctified us by His commandments,” the verb kidshanu (“Who has sanctified us”) here meaning:

שהעלנו למעלת קודש העליון, ברוך הוא, שהיא קדושתו של הקב״ה בכבודו ובעצמו

that He has elevated us to the heights of the Supreme Holiness, which is the holiness of the Holy One, blessed be He, Himself.

וקדושה היא לשון הבדלה, מה שהקב״ה הוא מובדל מהעולמות

Kedushah (“holiness”) is a term indicating separateness, in that the Holy One, blessed be He, is apart from the worlds,

והיא בחינת סובב כל עלמין, מה שאינו יכול להתלבש בהן

this being the quality of “encompassing all worlds,” being unable to clothe Himself within them.

Because of the inability of created beings to absorb the extreme holiness of this transcendent level, G‑d (as it were) cannot enclothe Himself within the worlds, and therefore affects them in an encompassing manner. It is to this lofty level that Jews are elevated through their performance of mitzvot.

כי על ידי יחוד הנפש והתכללותה באור אין סוף ברוך הוא, הרי היא במעלת ומדרגת קדושת אין סוף ברוך הוא ממש

For through the union of the soul with, and its absorption into, the light of the Ein Sof, it attains the quality and the degree of holiness of the blessed Ein Sof Himself,

מאחר שמתייחדת ומתכללת בו יתברך, והיו לאחדים ממש

since it unites itself with Him, and is integrated into Him, and they become truly one.

וזהו שכתוב: והייתם לי קדושים כי קדוש אני ה׳, ואבדיל אתכם מן העמים להיות לי

This is the meaning of the verse:12 “And you shall be holy unto Me, for I the Lord am holy; the verse gives us the reason for the Jew’s sanctity, connecting it with G‑d’s Supreme Holiness, which Jews can attain through Torah and mitzvot; and I have separated you from other peoples that you should be Mine.” Here we see that holiness implies separation, as mentioned earlier.

ואומר: ועשיתם את כל מצותי והייתם קדושים לאלקיכם, אני ה׳ אלקיכם וגו׳

Another verse states:13 “You shall fulfill all My commandments and be holy unto your G‑d: I am the Lord your G‑d....” The term “your G‑d,” in the possessive form, recalls the relationship set up when a man betrothes a woman, whereby she becomes his wife.14

-פירוש: כי על ידי קיום המצות הריני אלוה שלכם

The meaning is that “through the fulfillment of the commandments I become ‘your’ G‑d,” in the same manner

כמו אלקי אברהם, אלקי יצחק וכו׳

as G‑d is called “the G‑d of Abraham,” “the G‑d of Isaac,” and so on,

שנקרא כן מפני שהאבות היו בחינת מרכבה לו יתברך

called thus because the Patriarchs were on the level of a “vehicle” unto Him,

The Patriarchs were totally dedicated to G‑d, and nullified before Him, like a vehicle (lit., “chariot”) which is totally nullified to its driver, possessing no independent will.

ובטלים ונכללים באורו

and they were nullified and absorbed in His light.

וככה הוא בכל נפש מישראל, בשעת עסק התורה והמצות

So it is with the soul of every Jew at the time he is occupied with Torah and the commandments.

When a Jew occupies himself with Torah study and the performance of its commandments he is totally nullified and absorbed in G‑d’s light. The only difference between the Patriarchs and other Jews is that the Patriarchs were in this state constantly, while other Jews attain this level only at the above-mentioned times.

ולכן חייבו רז״ל לקום ולעמוד מפני כל עוסק במצוה, אף אם הוא בור ועם הארץ

Therefore the Sages, of blessed memory, made it obligatory to rise and remain standing15 in the presence of anyone who is engaged in fulfilling a commandment, even if the latter is uncultured and illiterate. When such a person performs a mitzvah, such as bringing Bikkurim (the First Fruits) to the Beit HaMikdash, one must rise before him.

והיינו מפני ה׳ השוכן ומתלבש בנפשו בשעה זו

This is because G‑d dwells and clothes Himself in this man’s soul at such time.

רק שאין נפשו מרגשת

It is only that his soul is unconscious of this sanctity that resides within him at the time of his performance,

מפני מסך החומר הגופני שלא נזדכך, ומחשיך עיני הנפש מראות מראות אלקים

because of the barrier of the bodily grossness within which the soul dwells, which has of yet not been refined, and which dims the eyes of the soul preventing it from seeing Divine visions,

כמו האבות וכיוצא בהן, שראו עולמם בחייהם

as experienced by the Patriarchs and others of their stature, who “saw their world the spiritual World to Come during their lifetime.”

These great tzaddikim were able in this world to see Divine visions normally seen only in the World to Come. This was so because their bodies, having been purified, did not conceal G‑dliness. Truly, each and every Jew would be capable of witnessing such visions of holiness during the performance of a mitzvah, were it not for the coarseness of his body.

וזה שאמר אסף ברוח הקדש בעד כל כנסת ישראל שבגולה

This is also the meaning of what Asaf said,16 under Divine inspiration, on behalf of the whole community of Israel who were later to be in exile:17

The barriers that conceal holiness are particularly strong during the time of exile. Concerning that time Asaf said:

ואני בער ולא אדע, בהמות הייתי עמך, ואני תמיד עמך

“And I am foolish and know and feel not; I was as a beast before You. [Yet] I am continually with You.”

כלומר, שאף על פי שאני כבהמה בהיותי עמך

This means18 that even though I am as a “beast” when I am with You,

Even when I perform a mitzvah and am thus united with You, I am still like a beast.

ולא אדע ולא ארגיש בנפשי יחוד זה

my soul being unaware of, and insensitive to, this union achieved between my soul and G‑d through performing a mitzvah; for were I to be aware and sensitive, my soul would be affected in a manner

שתפול עליה אימתה ופחד תחלה, ואחר כך אהבה רבה בתענוגים או כרשפי אש

which should bring down upon it fear and awe first, followed by a great love of delights, a love wherein the soul derives great pleasure from G‑dliness, or a love like fiery flames of ardent longing for G‑dliness,

כמדת הצדיקים שנזדכך חומרם

like the quality of the tzaddikim whose corporeality has been refined;

When tzaddikim perform a mitzvah they actually feel how it unifies their soul with G‑d. This, in turn, awakens within their soul a feeling of fear and awe of G‑d, followed by a feeling of intense love of Him. This, of course, is not the case with these who “feel not.”

וכנודע שדעת הוא לשון הרגשה בנפש, והוא כולל חסד וגבורה

for, as is known, the term Daat connotes a sensitivity of the soul, and this is comprised of Chesed and Gevurah.

Chesed gives rise to love and Gevurah to fear. Only when one possesses the attribute of Daat and spiritual sensitivity, will one experience the kinds of love and fear of G‑d described above.

אף על פי כן אני תמיד עמך, כי אין החומר מונע יחוד הנפש באור אין סוף ברוך הוא, הממלא כל עלמין

Nevertheless, “I am continually with You,” for the corporeality of the body does not prevent the union of the soul with the light of the blessed Ein Sof, Who fills all worlds,

Corporeality can only prevent the soul from being conscious of its unity with G‑d, inasmuch as it hinders the revelation and awareness of the unity accomplished during the performance of a mitzvah. It cannot, however, hinder the actual unity objectively effected.

וכמו שכתוב: גם חושך לא יחשיך ממך

and as it is written:19 “Even darkness cannot obscure You.”


Accordingly,20 since (as above) every Jew who performs a mitzvah is granted the unity and sanctity of “Supreme Holiness,” even when he does not perceive it, as does a tzaddik,

יובן חומר עונש איסור מלאכה בשבתות וחמץ בפסח, השוה לכל נפש

one will be able to understand the severity of the punishment for transgressing the prohibition of work on Sabbath or that of leavened bread on Passover, which equally applies to all.

The very same severe punishment applies equally to the loftiest tzaddik and to the coarsest boor, were either of them, heaven forfend, to transgress one of the above-mentioned prohibitions. The reason:

-לפי שאף בנפש בור ועם הארץ גמור מאיר אור קדושת שבת ויום טוב, ונידון בנפשו בכרת וסקילה על חילול קדושה זו

For even in the soul of an uncultured and completely illiterate person shines the light of the sanctity of Sabbath or Festival; hence he faces capital punishment by Karet for eating leavened bread on Passover and stoning for doing a prohibited form of labor on Sabbath, for the profanation of this sanctity which illuminates his soul.

Though a particular individual may not feel this sanctity, still, as explained earlier, this sanctity does indeed illuminate his soul. This being the case, the soul of this individual is tainted by his misdeed in a manner equal to that of a tzaddik in similar circumstances. It is for this reason that the manner of punishment applies equally to all.

וגם משהו חמץ, או טלטול מוקצה, פוגם בקדושה שעל נפשו כמו בקדושת נפש הצדיק

Similarly, the transgression involving the slightest amount of leaven on Passover, or the moving of muktzeh on Sabbath, blemishes the sanctity which rests on his (the uncultured person’s) soul just as it would the sanctity of the soul of a tzaddik,

כי תורה אחת לכולנו

for we all have one Torah: the laws of the Torah apply equally to all Jews.

From all the above it becomes eminently clear that though a person may not feel the sanctity brought about by the performance of a mitzvah, so much so that he is likened to a beast, nevertheless, through his performance of a mitzvah, this “beast” is unified with G‑d to the same degree as the greatest sage. Indeed, this is the implication of the verse, “Beasts I am with You, [yet] I am constantly with You.”

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that there is a definite reason why the similarity to a beast is described in the plural (“beasts I am with you”). This tells us that the performance of a mitzvah on the level of a beast — with neither comprehension nor feeling — is related to the spiritual level which transcends comprehension and feeling, this level too being termed “beast” since it is not in the realm of comprehension, rather transcending it. Thus there are two levels of “beasts”, that which is lower than the realm of comprehension and that which is above it. Both are alluded to by the same word, since the two are connected.

ומה שכתוב: בהמות, לשון רבים

(21And as for the use of the plural form “beasts”, which is inconsistent both with the singular form mentioned earlier (“and I am a fool”) and with the singular form mentioned later (“And I am constantly...”),

לרמז כי לפניו יתברך גם בחינת דעת העליון, הכולל חסד וגבורה, נדמה כבהמות ועשייה גופנית לגבי אור אין סוף

this intimates that before Him, even Daat Elyon (“Supernal Knowledge”) — which comprises Chesed and Gevurah — is like “beasts” and a physical creation (i.e., the physical world of Asiyah, not its spiritual counterpart), when compared with the light of the Ein Sof,

כמו שכתוב: כולם בחכמה עשית

as it is written:22 “You made (עשית) them all with wisdom,” thereby comparing the level of Chochmah (“wisdom”) with Asiyah (“physical creation”). From G‑d’s perspective, Chochmah and Asiyah are equally distant.

ונקרא בהמה רבה, כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

And this is called Behemah Rabbah (“a great beast”), denoting that level of “beast” which transcends understanding rather than that which lacks comprehension, as is explained elsewhere.

והוא שם ב״ן, בגימטריא בהמ״ה, שלפני האצילות

And this is the level of the Supernal Name of “Ban” (one of the four variations of the Tetragrammaton, corresponding with the number 52), with the same numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word Behemah (“beast”), which is on a level even preceding Atzilut).

We thus see that even one who performs mitzvot on the level of a “fool” or “beast”, neither comprehending nor sensing the unity and holiness achieved and drawn down through his actions, — even such a person, too, attains a union with the level of “beast” that transcends even that most lofty of levels — Daat of Atzilut.