Chapter 11

פרק יא

Having described in ch. 9 the ongoing battle between the divine and animal souls to capture and dominate the body, the Alter Rebbe proceeded, in ch. 10, to define the term tzaddik within the context of this struggle.

He explained there that tzaddikim are classified in two general categories. The first is that of the “complete tzaddik,” also known as the “tzaddik who possesses (only) good.” Such a tzaddik has succeeded in completely transforming the evil of his animal soul to good and holiness. A tzaddik of the second category, that of the “incomplete tzaddik” or the “tzaddik who possesses evil,” is one who has not yet completely converted his animal soul to good; he still retains a vestige of its native evil. This remaining fragment of evil, however, is completely nullified within the far greater proportion of good.

In ch. 11, the Alter Rebbe now addresses himself to the definition of the rank that is the antithesis of the tzaddik—that of the wicked person, the rasha. In direct contrast to the tzaddik, whose divine soul overpowers his animal soul, the rasha is one whose animal soul overwhelms his divine soul.

The rank of rasha, too, is divided into two general categories: the “complete rasha” or the “rasha who possesses only evil” and the “incomplete rasha” or the “rasha who possesses some good.” These categories will be defined in this chapter.

(Note: Following the Talmudic expressions which the Alter Rebbe employs, these terms are henceforth translated as the “rasha who knows (only) evil” and the “rasha who knows good,” respectively.)

“One is the opposite of the other”1: the “rasha who knows good” is the antithesis of the “tzaddik who knows evil.”

וְזֶה לְעוּמַּת זֶה, רָשָׁע וְטוֹב לוֹ לְעוּמַּת צַדִּיק וְרַע לוֹ.

This means that the good that is in [this rasha’s] divine soul, which is in his brain and in the right part of his heart (these being the chief dwelling places of the divine soul, as explained in ch. 9),

דְּהַיְינוּ, שֶׁהַטּוֹב שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ הָאֱלֹהִית שֶׁבְּמוֹחוֹ וּבֶחָלָל הַיְמָנִי שֶׁבְּלִבּוֹ,

is subservient to, and nullified within, the evil of the animal soul, which stems from the kelipah, which is in the left part [of the heart], as explained in ch. 9.

כָּפוּף וּבָטֵל לְגַבֵּי הָרָע מֵהַקְּלִיפָּה שֶׁבֶּחָלָל הַשְּׂמָאלִי.

Thus, in the “rasha who knows good,” the evil of the animal soul overpowers the good of the divine soul to the extent that the good is subservient to the evil and is nullified within it.

This rank, too, is subdivided into myriads of degrees which differ.

וְזֶה מִתְחַלֵּק גַּם כֵּן לְרִבְבוֹת מַדְרֵגוֹת חֲלוּקוֹת,

Just as the rank of the “tzaddik who knows evil” is subdivided into myriads of degrees with respect to the nullification within him of the evil to good, so, too, are there numerous subdivisions within the rank of the “rasha who knows good” with respect to the nullification of good to evil, as the Alter Rebbe continues:

[The difference between these myriad degrees lies] in the quantity i.e., the extent and the quality of the nullification and subservience of the good to the evil, G‑d forbid.

בְּעִנְיַן כַּמּוּת וְאֵיכוּת הַבִּיטּוּל וּכְפִיפַת הַטּוֹב לָרַע חַס וְשָׁלוֹם.

The “quantitative” difference between one “rasha who knows good” and another is indicated by whether the good is merely outweighed by a majority of evil or whether the evil is (say) sixty times more prevalent than the good, and so on. The “qualitative” classification hinges on what aspect of the divine soul is subservient to its evil counterpart: in one rasha, the divine soul’s holy capacity for affection may be subservient to the animal soul’s affection for forbidden matters, while in another rasha, the subservience may lie in another area. The Alter Rebbe now provides practical illustrations of different levels within the ranks of the “rasha who knows good.”

There is one in whom the subservience and nullification of good to evil are exceedingly minor,

יֵשׁ מִי שֶׁהַכְּפִיפָה וְהַבִּיטּוּל אֶצְלוֹ מְעַט מִזְּעֵר,

and even these minor degrees are not permanent nor recurrent at frequent intervals.

וְאַף גַּם זֹאת אֵינוֹ בִּתְמִידוּת, וְלֹא תָּדִיר לִפְרָקִים קְרוֹבִים,

Rather, only on infrequent occasions does the evil prevail over the good, conquering the “small city,” i.e., the body which, as mentioned in ch. 9, is likened to a small city, whose conquest is the objective of both the divine and animal souls.

אֶלָּא לְעִתִּים רְחוֹקִים מִתְגַּבֵּר הָרָע עַל הַטּוֹב, וְכוֹבֵשׁ אֶת הָעִיר קְטַנָּה הוּא הַגּוּף,

Furthermore, even when the evil does conquer the body, yet not all of the body falls under its dominion but only part of it,

אַךְ לֹא כוּלּ‏וֹ אֶלָּא מִקְצָתוֹ לְבַד,

subjecting it—that part of the body—to its discipline and causing it to be a “chariot” to the evil, i.e., as subservient to the evil as is a chariot to its driver,

שֶׁיִּהְיֶה סָר לְמִשְׁמַעְתּוֹ, וְנַעֲשֶׂה לוֹ מֶרְכָּבָה

and further causing that part of the body to serve as a “garment,” wherein one of the animal soul’s aforementioned three garments will be clothed.

וּלְבוּשׁ, לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בּוֹ אֶחָד מִשְּׁלֹשָׁה לְבוּשֶׁיהָ הַנִּזְכָּרִים לְעֵיל.

As mentioned in ch. 6, the garments of the animal soul are sinful thought, speech, and action. In the case of the rasha now described, the evil of the animal soul, even on those rare occasions when it does prevail over the good, can do no more than express itself in one of these areas or “garments.”

Furthermore, even in this restricted field of expression, the evil is further limited in that it can motivate this rasha to commit only minor transgressions, as the Alter Rebbe now continues:

Namely, the animal soul prevails either in deed alone, in the commission of minor transgressions [only], not major ones, G‑d forbid—for his animal soul has not the power to prevail to such an extent,

דְּהַיְינוּ, אוֹ בְּמַעֲשֶׂה לְבַד, לַעֲשׂוֹת עֲבֵירוֹת קַלּוֹת וְלֹא חֲמוּרוֹת חַס וְשָׁלוֹם;

or it may prevail in speech alone [but merely] in the utterance of that which borders on slander or scoffing, the evil being too weak to cause him to engage in actual slander or scoffing and the like,

אוֹ בְּדִיבּוּר לְבַד, לְדַבֵּר אֲבַק לָשׁוֹן הָרָע וְלֵיצָנוּת וּכְהַאי גַּוְונָא;

or the evil may prevail in thought alone, in contemplations of sin, which are in certain respects worse than actual sin.2

אוֹ בְּמַחֲשָׁבָה לְבַד, הִרְהוּרֵי עֲבֵירָה הַקָּשִׁים מֵעֲבֵירָה.

Thought is more refined than speech and action, and of the soul’s three garments, it is the one most intimately connected with the soul itself. Therefore, contemplations of sin can befoul the soul even more than the sinful deed itself.

[This is the case] even where one does not actually contemplate committing a sin but merely indulges in contemplation on the carnal union of male and female in general,

וְגַם אִם אֵינוֹ מְהַרְהֵר בַּעֲבֵירָה לַעֲשׂוֹתָהּ אֶלָּא בְּעִנְיַן זִיוּוּג זָכָר וּנְקֵיבָה בָּעוֹלָם,

whereby he violates the admonition of the Torah, “You shall guard yourself from every wicked thing,”3 which our Sages interpret as an injunction that “one must not harbor impure fancies by day so that he will not become polluted at night”4; thus, contemplation on such matters violates a command of the Torah.

שֶׁעוֹבֵר עַל אַזְהָרַת הַתּוֹרָה: "וְנִשְׁמַרְתָּ מִכֹּל דָּבָר רָע" – "שֶׁלֹּא יְהַרְהֵר בַּיּוֹם כוּ'";

Or another area in which the evil may prevail in the case of such a partial rasha: When, at a time fitting for Torah study, he turns his heart to inane matters,

אוֹ שֶׁהִיא שְׁעַת הַכּוֹשֶׁר לַעֲסוֹק בַּתּוֹרָה וְהוּא מְפַנֶּה לִבּוֹ לְבַטָּלָה,

as stated in the Mishnah, Tractate Avot: “He who awakens at night when he has time to study Torah…and turns his heart to vanity is guilty against his own soul.”5

כְּדִתְנַן בְּאָבוֹת: "הַנֵּיעוֹר בַּלַּיְלָה כוּ' וּמְפַנֶּה לִבּוֹ כוּ'"

In the latter two instances, then, the animal soul’s garment of thought has prevailed and manifested itself in his body.

In any one of all these instances or their like, i.e., whenever one commits even a minor transgression in thought, speech, or action, he is called rasha, wicked, at that time;

שֶׁבְּאַחַת מִכָּל אֵלֶּה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָהֶן נִקְרָא "רָשָׁע" בָּעֵת הַהִיא,

the term rasha meaning that the evil of his animal soul prevails within him, clothing itself in his body, inducing it to sin, and defiling it.

שֶׁהָרָע שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ גּוֹבֵר בּוֹ וּמִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּגוּפוֹ וּמַחֲטִיאוֹ וּמְטַמְּאוֹ.

Afterward, after this person has transgressed in any of the abovementioned matters, the good that is in his divine soul asserts itself, and he is filled with remorse over his transgression in thought, word, or action;

וְאַחַר כָּךְ גּוֹבֵר בּוֹ הַטּוֹב שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ הָאֱלֹקִית, וּמִתְחָרֵט

he will seek pardon and forgiveness of G‑d for his transgression, and if he repents with the appropriate penitence, in accordance with the counsel of our Sages, of blessed memory, G‑d will indeed forgive him with [one of] the three forms of pardon expounded by Rabbi Yishmael,6 as explained elsewhere.7

וּמְבַקֵּשׁ מְחִילָה וּסְלִיחָה מֵה', וַה' יִסְלַח לוֹ, אִם שָׁב בִּתְשׁוּבָה הָרְאוּיָה עַל פִּי עֲצַת חֲכָמֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה חִלּוּקֵי כַפָּרָה שֶׁהָיָה רַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל דּוֹרֵשׁ כוּ', כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר.

The three forms of pardon: (a) If one transgresses a positive precept and repents, he is pardoned at once; (b) if he transgresses a prohibitive commandment and repents, the Day of Atonement together with his repentance atones; (c) if his transgression carries the penalty of karet (spiritual excision) or execution at the hands of the court, then after having repented and undergone the spiritual cleansing of Yom Kippur, suffering brings about full atonement.

However, as the Rebbe notes, the divine pardon elicited by this person’s repentance does not change his status of rasha in the true sense of the term but only in the borrowed sense of the terms rasha and tzaddik as applied to reward and punishment. Indeed, when weighed on the scales of merits and sins, such a person—who sins rarely, only in minor matters, and then repents immediately—is deemed a tzaddik and deserves reward, since the overwhelming majority of his deeds are good.

But this usage of tzaddik is merely a borrowed term, as explained in ch. 1. As true, definitive terms, tzaddik and rasha describe the quality of the good or evil in one’s soul. Viewed in this perspective, the person described above is classified as a rasha even after he repents and is pardoned, for he still retains his predisposition toward sin, and his animal soul still tends to dominate him.

Thus far, the Alter Rebbe has discussed a higher-level rasha—the “rasha who knows good”—one in whom the animal soul rarely prevails and then only in one of the three soul-garments of thought, speech, and action.

There is, however, another [type of “rasha who knows good”], in whom the evil prevails more strongly.

וְיֵשׁ מִי שֶׁהָרָע גּוֹבֵר בּוֹ יוֹתֵר,

All three garments of evil clothe themselves in him—he transgresses in thought, in speech, as well as in action; also, the evil causes him to commit more heinous sins and [to sin] more frequently.

וּמִתְלַבְּשִׁים בּוֹ כָּל שְׁלֹשָׁה לְבוּשִׁים שֶׁל הָרָע, וּמַחֲטִיאוֹ בַּעֲבֵירוֹת חֲמוּרוֹת יוֹתֵר, וּבְעִתִּים קְרוֹבִים יוֹתֵר.

Yet he, too, is nevertheless described as arasha who knows good,” for intermittently between one sin and the next, he experiences remorse, and thoughts of repentance enter his mind, arising from the aspect of good that is still in his soul that gathers a degree of strength in the interim.

אַךְ בֵּינְתַיִים מִתְחָרֵט, וּבָאִים לוֹ הִרְהוּרֵי תְשׁוּבָה מִבְּחִינַת הַטּוֹב שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ, שֶׁמִּתְגַּבֵּר קְצָת בֵּינְתַיִים,

However, the good within him does not strengthen itself sufficiently to vanquish the evil

אֶלָּא שֶׁאֵין לוֹ הִתְגַּבְּרוּת כָּל כָּךְ לְנַצֵּחַ אֶת הָרָע

so that he can rid himself entirely of his sins and be as one who confesses his sins and abandons them once and for all.

לִפְרוֹשׁ מֵחֲטָאָיו לְגַמְרֵי לִהְיוֹת "מוֹדֶה וְעוֹזֵב".

Concerning such a person, the Rabbis of blessed memory, have said, “The wicked are full of remorse,”8 i.e., between sins. It is also possible that even while sinning, they regret their actions but feel themselves unable to master their desires.

וְעַל זֶה אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה: "רְשָׁעִים מְלֵאִים חֲרָטוֹת",

These represent the majority of the wicked, in whose soul there still lingers some good—and it is this good which causes these feelings of vexation and remorse in their mind and heart.

שֶׁהֵם רוֹב הָרְשָׁעִים, שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּחִינַת טוֹב בְּנַפְשָׁם עֲדַיִין.

We thus see that there are many levels within the rank of the “rasha who knows good,” ranging from one who sins only rarely, only in minor matters and with the involvement of only one soul-garment, to he who sins often, grievously, and with all three soul-garments. Yet they all come under the same heading of the “rasha who knows good,” the difference between them being to what degree the good within them is dominated by the evil—in direct contrast to the rank of the “tzaddik who knows evil,” where there are various degrees of dominance of the evil by the good.

Having defined the “rasha who knows good,” the Alter Rebbe now turns to consider the “rasha who knows (only) evil”:

But he who never feels contrition, and in whose mind no thoughts of repentance at all ever enter, is called a “rasha who knows (only) evil,”

אַךְ מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מִתְחָרֵט לְעוֹלָם, וְאֵין בָּאִים לוֹ הִרְהוּרֵי תְשׁוּבָה כְּלָל – נִקְרָא "רָשָׁע וְרַע לוֹ",

for only the evil in his soul has remained in him, having so prevailed over the good that the latter has departed from within him,

שֶׁהָרָע שֶׁבְּנַפְשׁוֹ הוּא לְבַדּוֹ נִשְׁאַר בְּקִרְבּוֹ, כִּי גָּבַר כָּל כָּךְ עַל הַטּוֹב עַד שֶׁנִּסְתַּלֵּק מִקִּרְבּוֹ

and the good now stands in a manner of makif over him, i.e., the good hovers over him, so to speak, in an aloof and external manner, so that he has no conscious awareness of it.

וְעוֹמֵד בִּבְחִינַת מַקִּיף עָלָיו מִלְמַעְלָה.

Yet, since he still possesses good, albeit as a makif, for after all, he possesses a divine soul—

Therefore have the Sages said, “Over every gathering of any ten Jews rests the Shechinah (the Divine Presence).”9

וְלָכֵן אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "אַכָּל בֵּי עֲשָׂרָה שְׁכִינְתָּא שַׁרְיָא":

That is to say, even if they are all in the category of the “rasha who knows (only) evil,” the Shechinah still hovers over them, for they too possess good in a manner of makif. Since at such a gathering, the Shechinah is present only in the externally encompassing way of makif, not entering the consciousness of those assembled, therefore, their correspondingly makif level of good is sufficient to enable them to receive this revelation.

With regard to the subject of the Jew whose animal soul prevails over his divine soul, the following story bears mention.

A certain freethinker once asked of the Tzemach Tzedek: The word Yehudim (“Jews”) is normally spelled in the Book of Esther with one letter yud before the final letter. Why is it that when the word is used there in connection with the harsh decree against the Jews, it is spelled with two letters yud?

The Tzemach Tzedek answered: Yud is numerically equivalent to ten; it represents the ten soul-powers possessed by both the divine and animal souls. There are Jews who conduct their lives solely according to the dictates of the divine soul’s ten powers, while in other Jews, the animal soul prevails, and their conduct is dictated also by the animal soul’s ten powers. Haman planned to exterminate all the Jews, even those who were of two yuds. i.e., those ruled by the ten evil soul-powers, as well.

But the man persisted: Why then is the word spelled several times with two yuds even after the decree was repealed? To which the Tzemach Tzedek responded: After suffering under Haman’s evil decree and ultimately witnessing G‑d’s salvation, even those Jews repented and became equals of their brethren, whose lives were led by the dictates of the divine soul and good inclination. Thus, concluded the Tzemach Tzedek, the two yuds (yud, or yid, which is also Yiddish for “Jew”) became equal.10