Chapter 18

פרק יח

In the previous chapter, the Alter Rebbe discussed the verse, “For this thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it”1 (i.e., it is simple for you to fulfill the mitzvot with your heart, with love and awe of G‑d). He explained that through contemplating G‑d’s greatness, every person can come to experience such love and awe. Not every man, to be sure, is a tzaddik, with his heart under his control. But everyone’s mind is under his control, and he can focus his mind in meditation on any subject he chooses. Even if the love and awe produced by such meditation do not make themselves felt in the heart in a revealed way, they will at least appear in his mind, and in the recesses of his heart, as an attitude of love and awe. Even this detached form of love and awe is sufficient to motivate one to observe the mitzvot and will enable the mitzvot so motivated to soar heavenward as though he had observed them with a true love and awe of G‑d actually felt in the heart.

But it cannot truly be said of love and awe, which must be created by way of meditation, that their attainment is “very near” to everyone. Meditation requires knowledge of the subject at hand and intellectual predisposition. If one’s understanding of G‑d’s greatness is scant or if he lacks the intellectual capacity for meditation, how is it “very near” to him to observe the mitzvot with love and awe of G‑d?

In the following chapters, the Alter Rebbe will therefore explain an alternative method of attaining the love and awe of G‑d, a method that may be used even by one with the aforementioned shortcomings. It consists of arousing the natural love of G‑d that lies hidden in the heart of every Jew, a love that is his birthright, his inheritance from our Patriarchs. No meditation is needed to arouse it; all that is required of him is to recall and to make himself aware of this love—and he will be motivated by this recollection to observe the mitzvot. Since no meditation is required to create them, such love and awe of G‑d are indeed “very near.” They are accessible to all.

To explain more clearly and more precisely the word “very” in the verse, “For this thing is very near to you…,”1

וּלְתוֹסֶפֶת בֵּיאוּר, בַּאֵר הֵיטֵב, מִלַּת "מְאֹד" שֶׁבַּפָּסוּק: "כִּי קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר מְאֹד וְגוֹ'",

The word “very” indicates that it is an extremely simple matter to serve G‑d “with one’s heart”—with love and fear of G‑d. In the previous chapter, the Alter Rebbe explained that a love of G‑d is readily attainable through meditation on G‑d’s greatness, whereby one can generate at least an “intellectual love”—tevunah. Yet it cannot be said of profound meditation that it is “very near to you.”

one should recognize with certainty that even the person who has only a limited understanding of G‑d’s greatness, so that he lacks the materials necessary for meditation, and he has no heart to comprehend the greatness of the blessed infinite G‑d—his mind and heart are not suited to meditation, so that he lacks the tools of meditation,

צָרִיךְ לֵידַע נֶאֱמָנָה, כִּי אַף מִי שֶׁדַּעְתּוֹ קְצָרָה בִּידִיעַת ה', וְאֵין לוֹ לֵב לְהָבִין בִּגְדוּלַּת אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

to produce, through meditation, a fear and love even in his mind and understanding alone—how much more so is he unable to produce a vibrant, fervent love and fear:

לְהוֹלִיד מִמֶּנָּה דְּחִילוּ וּרְחִימוּ אֲפִילוּ בְּמוֹחוֹ וּתְבוּנָתוֹ לְבַד,

yet it is a “very near thing” for him to guard himself from transgressing the prohibitive commandments, through a fear of G‑d, and to practice the positive commandments, which require a love of G-d—these together comprising all the commandments of the Torah, and in particular the study of Torah, which counterbalances them all.

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, קָרוֹב אֵלָיו הַדָּבָר מְאֹד לִשְׁמוֹר וְלַעֲשׂוֹת כָּל מִצְוֹת הַתּוֹרָה וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה כְּנֶגֶד כּוּלָּן,

He can fulfill all this in his mouth and in his heart—in the true sense of “heart”—that is, not only in the superficial sense of the word “heart,” which means to say “in his thoughts,” but in the true sense of “with heart”—namely, with feeling, from the depths of his heart, in absolute sincerity, with love and fear, as opposed to the tevunah-emotions, which cannot properly be called love and fear; they are so designated only insofar as they motivate one’s actions.

בְּפִיו וּבִלְבָבוֹ מַמָּשׁ, מֵעוּמְקָא דְלִבָּא, בֶּאֱמֶת לַאֲמִיתּוֹ, בִּדְחִילוּ וּרְחִימוּ,

The love and fear of which the Alter Rebbe will now speak are emotions in the fullest sense of the word. But how can one acquire a true love and fear of G‑d if he is incapable of meditation? In answer, the author continues:

This is the hidden love present in the heart of all Jews, which is an inheritance to us from our Patriarchs.

שֶׁהִיא "אַהֲבָה מְסוּתֶּרֶת" שֶׁבְּלֵב כְּלָלוּת יִשְׂרָאֵל, שֶׁהִיא יְרוּשָּׁה לָנוּ מֵאֲבוֹתֵינוּ.

Since every Jew already possesses this love as an inheritance, he need not create it through meditation; all that is required of him is that he arouse it and implement it in his observance of the mitzvot. In order to explain how one goes about doing so, the author first discusses the characteristics of this love.

But we must first preface a clear and precise explanation of the origin of this love, i.e., which level of the soul it stems from, and its character, i.e., what sort of striving this love constitutes.

רַק שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לְבָאֵר וּלְהַקְדִּים תְּחִלָּה בַּאֵר הֵיטֵב, שֹׁרֶשׁ אַהֲבָה זוֹ, וְעִנְיָינָהּ,

There is a love of G‑d which seeks a unity with G‑d while still remaining a separate entity—a soul clothed in a body; there is another kind of love which is a yearning for self-extinction; and so forth. What drive is contained in this love which is our inheritance?

Also, how did this love become our inheritance? How does one inherit a love? And how is fear also incorporated in it?

וְאֵיךְ הִיא יְרוּשָּׁה לָנוּ, וְאֵיךְ נִכְלָל בָּהּ גַּם דְּחִילוּ.

As stated previously, observance of the prohibitive commandments requires a fear of G‑d. Therefore, the statement that the hidden love in every Jew will lead him to observe all the commandments implies that this love also contains an element of awe.

The explanation is as follows: The Patriarchs were truly the “chariot” of G‑d, i.e., they were completely subservient to Him and had no other will but the Divine will, just as a chariot has no will of its own but is directed solely by the will of the rider.2

וְהָעִנְיָן, כִּי הָאָבוֹת – הֵן הֵן הַמֶּרְכָּבָה,

Therefore, they merited the privilege of drawing down, for all subsequent generations of their descendants, forever, a nefesh, ruach, and neshamah from the ten holy sefirot of the Four Worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah.3 In which of the Four Worlds, and from which sefirah within these Worlds, does the soul originate? Each individual—according to his level and according to his deeds.

וְעַל כֵּן זָכוּ לְהַמְשִׁיךְ נֶפֶשׁ־רוּחַ־נְשָׁמָה לִבְנֵיהֶם אַחֲרֵיהֶם עַד עוֹלָם מֵעֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת דִּקְדוּשָּׁה שֶׁבְּאַרְבַּע עוֹלָמוֹת אֲצִילוּת־בְּרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה, לְכָל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד כְּפִי מַדְרֵגָתוֹ וּכְפִי מַעֲשָׂיו.

“His level” refers to the level of the root of his soul; “his deeds” refers to one’s efforts toward refining himself—as the Zohar states: “When one betters himself, he is given a higher order of soul.”

At any rate, even the unworthiest and most sinful Jews draw down, by their marital union, a nefesh from the level of nefesh of malchut d’Asiyah (“the Attribute of Royalty in the World of Action”).

וְעַל כָּל פָּנִים, אֲפִילוּ לְקַל שֶׁבְּקַלִּים וּפוֹשְׁעֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל נִמְשָׁךְ בְּזִיוּוּגָם נֶפֶשׁ דְּנֶפֶשׁ דְּמַלְכוּת דַּעֲשִׂיָּה,

This means to say that the union of every Jewish couple, no matter how low their spiritual level, brings forth a soul from, at the very least, the lowest level of holiness. This lowest level is nefesh d’malchut d’Asiyah, for Asiyah is the lowest of the Four Worlds, and malchut is the lowest sefirah within that World. Malchut itself is further composed of three levels—nefesh, ruach, and neshamah, nefesh being the lowest of the three. In addition, as we have seen in the previous chapters, the soul itself consists of the three levels of nefesh, ruach, and neshamah. Thus, one who has been given only a nefesh which stems from nefesh d’malchut d’Asiyah has the lowest order of soul deriving from the lowest level in the spiritual hierarchy—as the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say.

This is the lowest level of holiness in the world of Asiyah.

שֶׁהִיא מַדְרֵגָה הַתַּחְתּוֹנָה שֶׁבִּקְדוּשַּׁת הָעֲשִׂיָּה.

Yet, since [malchut] is one of the ten holy sefirot, and since holiness is the realm of unity, where every level is comprised of all the other levels, perforce

וְאַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, מֵאַחַר שֶׁהִיא מֵעֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת קְדוֹשׁוֹת,

it (the lowest level in Asiyah) is compounded of all the other levels in Asiyah, including chochmah d’Asiyah (“Wisdom of the World of Action”), the highest sefirah in Asiyah.

הִיא כְּלוּלָה מִכּוּלָּן, גַּם מֵחָכְמָה דַעֲשִׂיָּה,

Within [chochmah d’Asiyah] is clothed chochmah d’malchut d’Atzilut (“Wisdom of Royalty in the World of Emanation”).

שֶׁבְּתוֹכָהּ מְלוּבֶּשֶׁת חָכְמָה דְּמַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת,

As the author explains in ch. 52, the sefirah of malchut d’Atzilut clothes itself in, and illuminates, the World of Asiyah. Since malchut d’Atzilut contains all the sefirot of Atzilut, the illumination of Asiyah by malchut thus means that each sefirah of Atzilut as it is contained in malchut d’Atzilut garbs itself in the corresponding sefirah of Asiyahchochmah d’malchut d’Atzilut in chochmah d’Asiyah, binah d’malchut d’Atzilut in binah d’Asiyah, and so forth.

In chochmah d’malchut d’Atzilut is clothed chochmah d’Atzilut, since all the sefirot of Atzilut incorporate each other, which, in turn, is illuminated by the actual light of the blessed Ein Sof,

שֶׁבְּתוֹכָהּ חָכְמָה דַאֲצִילוּת, שֶׁבָּהּ מֵאִיר אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מַמָּשׁ,

as it is written, “G‑d, in His wisdom, founded the earth”4; the words “G‑d in His wisdom” show that the light of the Ein Sof illuminates the sefirah of chochmah, while the words “wisdom founded the earth” indicate that chochmah is clothed in malchut, which is called “earth” (for, like the earth, malchut is the lowest level in its hierarchy); and it is further written, “In wisdom you have made them all”5 (the word “made” indicating that chochmah is clothed in Asiyah—action).

כְּדִכְתִיב: "ה' בְּחָכְמָה יָסַד אָרֶץ", וְ"כּוּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ".

Thus, we see that the light of the blessed Ein Sof is garbed in the faculty of wisdom in the human soul of whatever sort of a Jew he may be. (Further in the chapter, the Alter Rebbe explains why it is the faculty of wisdom in the soul that receives the illumination of the Ein Sof.)

וְנִמְצָא, כִּי אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מְלוּבָּשׁ בִּבְחִינַת חָכְמָה שֶׁבְּנֶפֶשׁ הָאָדָם – יִהְיֶה מִי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל,

In turn, the soul’s faculty of wisdom, together with the light of the blessed Ein Sof that is garbed in it, suffuses all the levels of the soul in its entirety, from head to foot, as it were, i.e., from the highest level of the soul to the lowest, to animate them with G‑dly vitality,

וּבְחִינַת הַחָכְמָה שֶׁבָּהּ, עִם אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בָּהּ, מִתְפַּשֶּׁטֶת בְּכָל בְּחִינוֹת הַנֶּפֶשׁ כּוּלָּהּ, לְהַחֲיוֹתָהּ מִבְּחִינַת רֹאשָׁהּ עַד בְּחִינַת רַגְלָהּ,

as it is written, “Wisdom gives life to those who possess it”6the soul, which possesses the faculty of wisdom, receives its life by means of this faculty, as stated above.

כְּדִכְתִיב: "הַחָכְמָה תְּחַיֶּה בְעָלֶיהָ".

(7At times, the sinners of Israel may even bring down for their children very lofty souls which had been in the depths of the kelipot, as is explained in Sefer Gilgulim.8)

[וְלִפְעָמִים מַמְשִׁיכִים פּוֹשְׁעֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל נְשָׁמוֹת גְּבוֹהוֹת מְאֹד שֶׁהָיוּ בְּעִמְקֵי הַקְּלִיפּוֹת, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּסֵפֶר גִּלְגּוּלִים]:

A soul that has fallen captive in the hands of the kelipot remains in this state until the kelipot release it of their own will. Anything in the hold of the kelipot cannot be wrested from them against their will, for the principle that “G‑d does not make unjustifiable demands of His creations”9 holds true even with regard to kelipot. In the case of a child to be born to sinful parents, the kelipot willingly release the soul in the hope that such a child will be influenced by its parents and will become a sinner like them. In this way, the kelipot stand to extract an even greater measure of vitality from the holiness of the soul by means of its eventual sins. However, having such a lofty soul, the child is able to overcome the obstacles imposed by its parents’ wickedness and may rise to the level of a tzaddik. In this way, paradoxically, it comes to pass that a tzaddik may be born to wicked parents because of their wickedness.10

Returning to his original point, that every Jew has a soul which stems from the holy sefirot and that ultimately each soul is animated by the light of the Ein Sof by way of the soul’s faculty of wisdom (chochmah), the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain why it is chochmah that is the original recipient of the light of the Ein Sof. The explanation is based on a discussion of the nature of the soul’s faculty of wisdom, which now follows:

Now chochmah which, as explained in ch. 3, is the initial flash of intellect, the nebulous, seminal glimmer of an idea, is the source of intelligence and comprehension which first begin to emerge in the faculty of binah, for, as explained there, binah represents the ability to grasp an idea in all its details and ramifications;

הִנֵּה, הַחָכְמָה הִיא מְקוֹר הַשֵּׂכֶל וְהַהֲבָנָה,

it is higher than binah, which is the faculty of understanding an idea and grasping it.

וְהִיא לְמַעְלָה מֵהַבִּינָה שֶׁהוּא הֲבָנַת הַשֵּׂכֶל וְהַשָּׂגָתוֹ,

In its relation to the soul’s lower faculties, this single level of chochmah comprises two opposite aspects: On one hand, chochmah is above comprehension and understanding—thus, it transcends the lower faculties of the soul, and it is this aspect of chochmah which enables it to be the recipient of the light of the Ein Sof, as will soon be explained, while on the other hand, chochmah is the source of intelligence and comprehension and is thus connected to the lower faculties.

וְהַחָכְמָה – הִיא לְמַעְלָה מֵהַהֲבָנָה וְהַהַשָּׂגָה, וְהִיא מָקוֹר לָהֶן.

It is this latter aspect of chochmah which enables it to suffuse the entire soul (as stated earlier) and, in its active state, to affect even one’s thought, speech, and action (which are even lower than the soul’s lowest faculties, being merely the “garments,” the organs of expression, for the soul), as will be stated further in ch. 19.

The etymological composition of the word chochmah indicates this dual nature. Chochmah contains two words: כֹּ"חַ מָ"ה—“the faculty of the unknown.” (Literally, מַה means “What?”—as one would ask of something he cannot comprehend, “What is it?”) Hence, while it is an intellectual faculty (and thus related to the other, lower faculties), it is a faculty which cannot as yet be comprehended or grasped by the intellect and is therefore also above and beyond the others.11

וְזֶהוּ לְשׁוֹן חָכְמָה – "כֹּ"חַ מָ"ה", שֶׁהוּא מַה שֶּׁאֵינוֹ מוּשָּׂג וּמוּבָן, וְאֵינוֹ נִתְפָּס בְּהַשָּׂגָה עֲדַיִין,

For this reason, the light of the Ein Sof, blessed be He, Who can in no way be comprehended by any thought, is vested in [chochmah].

וְלָכֵן מִתְלַבֵּשׁ בָּהּ אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא דְּלֵית מַחֲשָׁבָה תְּפִיסָא בֵיהּ כְּלָל.

Those faculties whose functions are intelligence and comprehension cannot serve as receptacles for the light of the Ein Sof, for knowledge cannot grasp the unknowable. Only chochmah, which itself is higher than comprehension, can receive this light.

Hence, all Jews, even the women and the illiterate, who have no knowledge of G‑d’s greatness, believe in G‑d, since faith is beyond understanding and comprehension, i.e., faith represents the ability to grasp that which the intellect cannot,

וְלָכֵן, כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲפִילוּ הַנָּשִׁים וְעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ, הֵם מַאֲמִינִים בַּה', שֶׁהָאֱמוּנָה הִיא לְמַעְלָה מִן הַדַּעַת וְהַהַשָּׂגָה,

For as Scripture states: “The fool believes everything, but the clever man understands.”12

כִּי "פֶּתִי יַאֲמִין לְכָל דָּבָר, וְעָרוּם יָבִין וְגוֹ'",

That is, the fool, lacking understanding, grasps every subject through the medium of faith, while the clever man’s grasp is based on reason. However, this derogation of the fool for approaching every idea with faith can apply only where the subject of his belief is within the grasp of reason. In this case, the basis for his faith is his own lack of understanding, and he is therefore called a fool. When dealing with G‑dliness, however, which is essentially beyond comprehension, there is no other approach, as the Alter Rebbe goes on to say:

In relation to the Almighty, Who is beyond intelligence and knowledge and “Who can in no way be comprehended by any thought”—all men are like fools before Him, and they can therefore grasp Him only through faith.

וּלְגַבֵּי הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, שֶׁהוּא לְמַעְלָה מִן הַשֵּׂכֶל וְהַדַּעַת וְלֵית מַחֲשָׁבָה תְּפִיסָא בֵיהּ כְּלָל – הַכֹּל כִּפְתָיִים אֶצְלוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

As it is written, “I am foolish and ignorant, I am as a beast before You—and I am constantly with You…,”13

כְּדִכְתִיב: "וַאֲנִי בַעַר וְלֹא אֵדָע, בְּהֵמוֹת הָיִיתִי עִמָּךְ, וַאֲנִי תָּמִיד עִמָּךְ וְגוֹ'",

meaning that “because I approach You as a fool and a beast—i.e., through the irrational power of faith—precisely therefore and thereby am I constantly with You.”

כְּלוֹמַר, שֶׁבָּזֶה שֶׁאֲנִי "בַּעַר" וּ"בְהֵמוֹת" – "אֲנִי תָּמִיד עִמָּךְ".

Therefore, as a rule, even the most worthless of the worthless and the sinners among Israel sacrifice their lives for the sanctity of G‑d’s Name and suffer harsh torture rather than deny G‑d’s unity,

וְלָכֵן, אֲפִילוּ קַל שֶׁבְּקַלִּים וּפוֹשְׁעֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מוֹסְרִים נַפְשָׁם עַל קְדוּשַּׁת ה', עַל הָרוֹב, וְסוֹבְלִים עִינּוּיִם קָשִׁים שֶׁלֹּא לִכְפּוֹר בַּה' אֶחָד.

even if they be boors and illiterates who are ignorant of G‑d’s greatness.

וְאַף אִם הֵם בּוּרִים וְעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ וְאֵין יוֹדְעִים גְּדוּלַּת ה',

Even the little knowledge that they do possess is not what motivates them, for they do not delve into it at all, so that by no means does their self-sacrifice result from any knowledge or contemplation of G‑d.

וְגַם בַּמְעַט שֶׁיּוֹדְעִים אֵין מִתְבּוֹנְנִים כְּלָל, וְאֵין מוֹסְרִים נַפְשָׁם מֵחֲמַת דַּעַת וְהִתְבּוֹנְנוּת בַּה' כְּלָל,

Rather, they are prepared to sacrifice their lives without any knowledge or reflection but as though it were absolutely impossible to renounce the one G‑d,

אֶלָּא בְּלִי שׁוּם דַּעַת וְהִתְבּוֹנְנוּת, רַק כְּאִלּוּ הוּא דָּבָר שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר כְּלָל לִכְפּוֹר בַּה' אֶחָד,

without any reason or rational argument whatsoever.

בְּלִי שׁוּם טַעַם וְטַעֲנָה וּמַעֲנֶה כְּלָל.

Were their readiness to face martyrdom intellectually motivated, the benefits and costs of the act would first be carefully weighed. But, in fact, we see that the decision to sacrifice oneself is not based on such rational arguments, stemming instead from a nonintellectual resolve that it is simply impossible to do otherwise.

This is so because the one G‑d illuminates and animates the entire soul

וְהַיְינוּ, מִשּׁוּם שֶׁה' אֶחָד מֵאִיר וּמְחַיֶּה כָּל הַנֶּפֶשׁ,

through being clothed in its faculty of chochmah, which is beyond any graspable knowledge or intelligence.

עַל יְדֵי הִתְלַבְּשׁוּתוֹ בִּבְחִינַת חָכְמָה שֶׁבָּהּ, שֶׁהִיא לְמַעְלָה מִן הַדַּעַת וְהַשֵּׂכֶל הַמּוּשָּׂג וּמוּבָן:

Since the light of the Ein Sof is vested in every Jew’s soul, everyone, regardless of his level of knowledge, is prepared to sacrifice his life for his faith in G‑d.