In the previous chapters the Alter Rebbe discussed the distinctive merit of mitzvot performed by speech and action, for by means of them the vitalizing soul is elevated to holiness. The mitzvot have this ability for they are performed with the power of the vitalizing soul that vivifies the physical limbs that perform them, and with the physical tongue and lips etc. that utter the words of Torah and prayer.

Since the ultimate intent of the soul’s descent is not for the sake of the soul alone but in order to elevate the vitalizing soul and the corporeal body, this is accomplished specifically through mitzvot that require physical action and speech.

והנה, עם כל הנ״ל יובן היטב פסק ההלכה הערוכה בתלמוד ופוסקים דהרהור לאו כדבור דמי

In light of all that has been said above concerning the particular virtue of mitzvot performed in action and speech, in their elevation of the vital soul to holiness, one will clearly understand the halachic decision expressly stated in the Talmud and the Codes1 that meditation is not valid in lieu of verbal articulation.

ואם קרא קריאת שמע במחשבתו ובלבו לבד בכל כח כוונתו לא יצא ידי חובתו, וצריך לחזור ולקרות

Thus, if one recited the Shema in his thought and heart alone, even if he did so with the full power of his concentration, he has not fulfilled his obligation of reciting the Shema, by merely meditating on the words that comprise it; he must repeat it [verbally].

וכן בברכת המזון דאורייתא

The same is true of the grace after meals,2 ordained by the Torah,3

Although the Torah does not state with regard to grace, as it does of Shema: “And you shall speak these words,” yet one cannot fulfill this duty by mere thought.

ובשאר ברכות דרבנן, ובתפלה

and [similarly with] other blessings,4 although they are merely Rabbinic in origin; and so too with prayer;5 although prayer is “a service of the heart,” it cannot be confined to the heart but must be articulated orally.

The Rebbe comments that this halachah poses no intrinsic difficulty, since one can no more ask why G‑d stipulated that a particular thought (Shema, prayer, and the like) must also be verbalized, than one can ask why the mitzvah was ordained at all. However, we must understand why it is that when a mitzvah is composed of both speech and thought the law states that verbalization without intent does fulfill the obligation; intent without verbalization does not.

For this reason, the Alter Rebbe continues the question, as follows:

ואם הוציא בשפתיו ולא כיון לבו, יצא ידי חובתו בדיעבד, ואין צריך לחזור

If, on the other hand, one spoke the words (of Shema, prayer, etc.) but did not concentrate his thought, he has, post facto, fulfilled his obligation (although he was initially required to concentrate), and need not repeat them with concentration,

לבד מפסוק ראשון של קריאת שמע, וברכה ראשונה של תפלת שמונה עשרה

except for the first verse of Shema6 and the first blessing in Shemoneh-Esreh7 where the law requires one to repeat them if he did not concentrate on their meaning while reciting them.

וכדאיתא ברפ״ב דברכות : עד כאן מצות כוונה, מכאן ואילך מצות קריאה וכו׳

It is thus written (Tractate Berachot, beginning of ch. 2):8 “Until here i.e., until the end of the first verse of Shema, the mitzvah is one of concentration, from here on the mitzvah consists of recitation...,” and one has fulfilled his obligation even if he did not concentrate.

How, then, are we to reconcile both halachot? Why is thought without speech not as acceptable as speech without thought? The answer lies in the discussion of the unique status of mitzvot performed in action and speech, as explained in the previous chapter.

והיינו משום שהנשמה אינה צריכה תיקון לעצמה במצות

This is because the [divine] soul does not need to perfect itself through mitzvot;

רק להמשיך אור לתקן נפש החיונית והגוף

rather, the goal of mitzvot is to draw down [G‑dly] light to perfect the vital soul and the body.

על ידי אותיות הדבור שהנפש מדברת בה׳ מוצאות הפה, וכן במצות מעשיות שהנפש עושה בשאר אברי הגוף

This is accomplished by means of the letters of speech, which the soul utters by means of the five organs of verbal articulation, and through the mitzvot of action which the soul performs by means of the body’s other organs.

The mitzvot involving speech and action, which utilize the power of the vital soul and the organs of the body, serve to elevate them. Since the ultimate goal is the perfection of the vital soul and the body, thought alone, being the province of the divine soul, cannot satisfy the demands of the mitzvot of speech; they require verbal articulation. Speech alone, however, without thought, is sufficient, since the vital soul and the body are elevated thereby.

* * *

From the beginning of ch. 35 until here, the Alter Rebbe has expounded the phrase “to do it,” — the conclusion of the verse, “For the matter (of observing Torah and mitzvot) is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart that you may do it.” He explained that the mitzvot of action (and of speech, which is also deemed “action”) are of paramount importance, since it is through them that we achieve the goal of transforming this physical world into a “dwelling place for G‑d in the lower realms,” i.e., a place where G‑dliness will be revealed to an even greater degree than it is in the higher, spiritual worlds.

This goal will be realized when the energy of the vital soul and the body of every Jew will ascend from kelipat nogah to holiness. Thereby all of kelipat nogah, meaning the vitality of the entire world, will ascend to holiness, and automatically the three impure kelipot will cease to exist. Thus, there will be no obstruction of G‑dliness in the world; G‑dliness will radiate throughout; the world will be G‑d’s “dwelling place.”

Since the entire process hinges on the elevation of a Jew’s body and his vital soul, and since their elevation is accomplished only by means of the mitzvot of action, which require their power in performance of the mitzvot, therefore the mitzvot of action are, as said, of paramount importance.

In the discussion that now follows, the Alter Rebbe will examine the other side of the coin. He will explain the importance of kavanah — “devout concentration,” or “intention” — in the performance of mitzvot. As used in this context, kavanah refers to the motivating intention that by performing a mitzvah one is united with G‑d, Whose command and Will each mitzvah represents.

אך אף על פי כן אמרו: תפלה או שאר ברכה בלא כוונה הן כגוף בלא נשמה

Yet nevertheless, it has been said9 that prayer, or any other blessing, said without kavanah, is like a body without a soul.


This comparison of the words of prayer to a body, and of kavanah to its soul, means [as follows]:

כי כמו שכל הברואים שבעולם הזה שיש להם גוף ונשמה

Just as all the creatures of this world possessing a body and a soul

שהם נפש כל חי, ורוח בשר איש, ונשמת כל אשר רוח חיים באפיו מכל בעלי חיים

— meaning the Nefesh of every living being, the Ruach of all human flesh, and the Neshamah of all that has the breath of life in its nostrils among all living creatures —

וה׳ מחיה את כולם, ומהוה אותם מאין ליש תמיד באור וחיות שמשפיע בהם

G‑d animates them all, and creates them constantly out of nothingness by the light and vitality which He bestows upon them i.e., upon both the soul and the body; and in support of his contention that the body, too, has a G‑dly life-force (aside from the soul), the Alter Rebbe adds parenthetically:

שגם הגוף החומרי, ואפילו אבנים ועפר הדומם ממש, יש בו אור וחיות ממנו יתברך, שלא יחזור להיות אין ואפס כשהיה

— for even the material body, and furthermore even the very stones and earth which are absolutely inanimate, lacking even that sign of life found in plant-life, i.e., growth,— even the totally inanimate being has within it light and vitality from G‑d, so that it should not revert to naught and nothingness, as it was before it was created.

(Further in Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains that every existing being would instantly revert to absolute nothingness, were it not for the G‑dly life-force constantly creating it, and keeping it in existence. Thus, even the inanimate beings contain a life-force, and so surely, do the bodies of living creatures.)

ואף על פי כן אין ערך ודמיון כלל בין בחינת אור וחיות המאיר בגוף, לגבי בחינת אור וחיות המאיר בנשמה, שהיא נפש כל חי

(The Alter Rebbe now concludes the sentence begun earlier:) Just as in all the creatures of this world possessing a body and a soul, there is, nevertheless, i.e., despite the fact that body and soul are alike in that they both contain a divine life-force, there is nevertheless no comparison or similarity between the quality of the light and life-force radiating in the body, and the light and life-force radiating in the Neshamah, which is the soul of every living thing.

It is axiomatic that the physical is incomparable to the spiritual (so much so, that philosophers agree that the evolution of the material from the spiritual is the most radical form of creation ex nihilo). The body, being physical, is thus incomparable to the soul, which is spiritual.

This difference between them is obviously due to the difference between the respective divine life-forces creating them. The Alter Rebbe will now explain in what way these life-forces differ. The difference is surely not one of varying degrees of revelation of the divine life-force — that in the body this life-force is in concealment, while in the soul it stands revealed. In this respect body and soul are alike. The veil of kelipat nogah, which obscures G‑dliness in this physical world as a whole, envelops both body and soul. Therefore, just as the body does not attest to the fact that it is the product of divine creative power, so does the soul of living creatures belie the fact that its life-giving properties are G‑dly. Thus, the divine life-force is concealed equally in body and soul. The difference between them lies, rather, in the intensity of G‑dly life-force that each contains: in the body the life-force is contracted, so that the body is a physical being; in the soul the life-force is freely bestowed, and the soul is therefore a spiritual, life-giving being.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

ואף שבשניהם אור אחד שוה בבחינת הסתר פנים

True, in terms of the “concealment of Countenance” i.e., the degree to which the “Countenance,” the inner aspect of the divine life-force, is concealed, the light i.e., the divine creative life-force is the same in both [body and soul] — it is concealed equally in both.

ולבושים שוים שהאור מסתתר ומתעלם ומתלבש בהם

The garments in which the light hides, conceals and clothes itself are identical [in body and soul].

כי שניהם הם מעולם הזה, שבכללותו מסתתר בשוה האור והחיות שמרוח פיו יתברך

For both [body and soul] are of this world where, throughout the world and all its creatures (spiritual as well as physical), the light and life-force issuing from “the breath of [G‑d’s] mouth” are equally concealed,

בבחינת הסתר פנים, וירידת המדרגות בהשתלשלות העולמות ממדרגה למדרגה בצמצומים רבים ועצומים

by “concealment of the Countenance,” and [by] the descent of the life-force from level to level, by means of numerous powerful tzimtzumim (contractions) through the various levels [constituting] the chain-like succession of worlds,

עד שנתלבש בקליפת נוגה, להחיות כללות עולם הזה החומרי

finally clothing itself in kelipat nogah, in order to give life to the totality of this material world.

The Alter Rebbe has here described the process whereby the divine life-force descends from its lofty, G‑dly origin to the point where it creates and gives life to physical matter; i.e., from “the breath of G‑d’s mouth” — a reference to Malchut of the World of Atzilut — to the World of material Asiyah.

He defines various steps in this process: (1) “descent from level to level”; (2) “numerous tzimtzumim”; (3) “powerful tzimtzumim”; (4) “clothing itself in kelipat nogah.”

Let us examine them individually:

(1) “Descent from level to level:” To reach down to the level of Asiyah, the life-force must first descend form the World of Atzilut to Beriah, thence to Yetzirah, and finally to Asiyah. Within each of these Worlds there are many levels, and the life-force must descend through them all before reaching the next lowest World.

(2) “Numerous tzimtzumim:” Each descent of the life-force entails a “contraction” of the light and life-force, lessening its intensity.

But descent and tzimtzumim alone, no matter how numerous, will still not make possible the creation of a physical being; the divine life-force would still be at a level where anything created by it would be a spiritual being, albeit of a lower grade of spirituality. The creation of physical matter presupposes another condition, viz.:

(3) “Powerful tzimtzumim:” I.e., tzimtzumim which entirely change the character of the life-force (and not only its intensity), to the point where it can create and give life to material beings. But even this type of tzimtzum cannot produce a world like ours, in which it is not apparent that G‑d is the Creator, and where, in fact, G‑d’s creations can be used in defiance of His Will. This is achieved only when —

(4) “The life-force... clothes itself in kelipat nogah” (and thereby also in the other kelipot, as will soon be explained). As defined in the first chapter of Tanya, kelipat nogah is a mixture of good and evil. Therefore, whatever receives its G‑dly life-force through the veil of kelipat nogah (in which the life-force is clothed) can be utilized either for a holy purpose, in serving G‑d’s Will through performing a mitzvah, or for an unholy purpose, in violating His Will through a sinful act.

In summary: Through many descents and powerful tzimtzumim, the G‑dly life-force clothes itself in kelipat nogah, and thereby gives life to all the creatures of this world.

The Alter Rebbe now distinguishes between permitted and forbidden objects. The former receive their life-force directly through kelipat nogah; for the latter to receive the G‑dly life-force clothed in kelipat nogah, it must first descend still further, to be veiled in the three completely impure kelipot.

דהיינו כל דברים המותרים והטהורים שבעולם הזה, וממנה ועל ידה מושפעים דברים הטמאים כי היא בחינה ממוצעת, כנ״ל

This means: (1) all things of this world that are permitted and pure which receive their vitality directly via kelipat nogah; and from and through [kelipat nogah] evolve (2) all impure, forbidden things, which derive their vitality from the three impure kelipot; yet their vitality too, stems from nogah since it is the intermediary level between holiness (where all life originates) and the three impure kelipot, as mentioned above.

We can conclude from this that there is no difference between the life-force of the soul and that of the body in terms of revelation or concealment. Since both body and soul are of this world, the life-force in them is equally concealed in the veil of kelipat nogah.

אף על פי כן, ההארה, שהיא המשכת החיות אשר ה׳ מאיר ומחיה דרך לבוש זה

Nevertheless, the [G‑dly] illumination, meaning the flow of vitality by which G‑d illumines and gives life to all creatures of this world by way of this garment i.e., kelipat nogah,

אינה שוה בכולן, בבחינת צמצום והתפשטות

is not the same for them all, and the difference between the life-force of the various creatures is in terms of contraction and expansion. In some creatures the life-force is constricted and limited, while in others it finds broader expression.

The difference between “concealment” (hester) of the life-force and its “contraction” (tzimtzum) can be expressed as follows:

Suppose one hangs a thick curtain on a window to screen out the sunlight. The light entering the room through the curtain will be of an entirely different quality; in fact it might be described as a mere echo of the original light. This is “concealment”.

If on the other hand, one boards up the window and leaves only a tiny hole by which the light may pass, the light shining through the hole, though greatly restricted, will be the same, qualitatively, as the original light. This is what is meant by “contraction”.

So it is too with regard to our subject: Kelipat nogah is the thick curtain which veils the divine creative power equally from all creatures of this world. This “curtained” light varies, however, from one creature to another in degree of contraction. The Alter Rebbe now goes on to enumerate these differences:

כי בגוף הגשמי והדומם ממש כאבנים ועפר

In the physical body [of a living creature], and in an absolutely inanimate [being] such as stones or earth, in which no life or spirituality are apparent, since they lack even the power of growth,

ההארה היא בבחינת צמצום גדול אשר אין כמוהו

the ray of the divine creative power is in a state of unparalleled contraction.

והחיות שבו מועטת כל כך עד שאין בו אפילו כח הצומח

So minute is the life-force within these inanimate beings that they lack even the power of growth.

ובצומח ההארה אינה בצמצום גדול כל כך

In vegetation, the ray is not so greatly contracted; the phenomenon of growth indicates the presence of something more than mere physical matter; some degree of spirituality is in evidence.

ודרך כלל נחלקות לארבע מדרגות: דומם, צומח, חי, מדבר

In general [all things in this world] are divided into four categories: mineral, vegetable, animal and man (lit., “the speaker”),

כנגד ד׳ אותיות שם הוי׳, ברוך הוא, שממנו מושפעים

corresponding to the four letters of the Divine Name (the Tetragrammaton) from which they are derived. Each of these four categories receives its vitality from one of the four letters.

וכמו שאין ערך ודמיון ההארה והמשכת החיות שבדומם וצומח, לההארה והמשכת החיות המלובשות בחי ומדבר

Now, just as the illumination and the flow of vitality found in the mineral and vegetable [categories] bears no comparison or likeness to the illumination and flow of vitality clothed in animals and man (since in the latter two categories it is clearly apparent that they are alive) —

אף שבכולם אור אחד שוה בבחינת הסתר פנים, ומלובש בלבוש אחד בכולם, שהוא לבוש נוגה

although in all [four categories] the [divine animating] light is the same in terms of the “concealment of Countenance” i.e, in all four categories the inner aspect of the divine light is concealed equally, and in all [four categories the light] is clothed in the same garment, namely the garment i.e., veil of nogah; hence, in none of these categories is it apparent that their vitality is actually G‑dliness — yet despite this equality, the vitality of inanimate beings and plants is incomparable to that of animals and man;

כך אין ערך ודמיון כלל בין הארת והמשכת אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, שהוא פנימיות רצונו יתברך, בלי הסתר פנים ולבוש כלל

similarly, there is no comparison or likeness between the illumination and flow of the blessed Ein Sof-light — meaning the inner aspect of His Will, without “concealment of Countenance” and with no garment whatsoever —

המאירה ומלובשת במצות מעשיות ממש. וכן במצות התלויות בדבור וביטוי שפתיים בלי כוונה, שהוא נחשב כמעשה ממש, כנ״ל

as it radiates in and is clothed within the mitzvot consisting of action — whether actual action, or mitzvot performed through speech and verbal articulation which is regarded as actual action as mentioned above — when performed without kavanah,

לגבי ההארה והמשכת אור אין סוף ברוך הוא המאירה ומלובשת בכוונת המצות מעשיות

[The illumination of Ein Sof found in these mitzvot bears no likeness or comparison] with the [superior] illumination and flow of the blessed Ein Sof-light radiating and clothed in the kavanah of the mitzvot of action,

שהאדם מתכוין בעשייתן כדי לדבקה בו יתברך על ידי קיום רצונו, שהוא ורצונו אחד

meaning man’s intention to attach himself to G‑d by fulfilling His Will as expressed in the mitzvot, since He and His Will are one.

וכן בכוונת התפלה, וקריאת שמע וברכותיה, ושאר הברכות, שבכוונתו בהן מדבק מחשבתו ושכלו בו יתברך

Similarly with regard to kavanah in prayer, the recital of Shema and its blessings, and in other blessings, where, through one’s kavanah in them, he attaches his thought and intellect to G‑d.

ולא שדבקות המחשבה ושכל האדם בו יתברך היא מצד עצמה למעלה מדבקות קיום המצות מעשיות בפועל ממש

It is not that attachment of man’s thought and intellect to G‑d is intrinsically superior to attachment through the actual, practical fulfillment of the mitzvot dependent on action —

כמו שיתבאר לקמן

for as will be explained further on the unity with G‑d achieved by performance of mitzvot is described in the same terms as the unity of husband and wife — “kiddushin”, as we say in the blessing preceding the fulfillment of a mitzvah: “...G‑d,... Who sanctified us (קדשנו) with His commandments....” Naturally, man cannot attain this degree of unity with G‑d by his own efforts. It is only by G‑d’s kindness in charging us with the mitzvot that we become united with Him thereby.

Obviously, the quality of man’s attachment to G‑d through kavanah cannot surpass that of the performance of mitzvot, which possesses the G‑d-given ability to unite man with Him. Where, then, lies the superiority of kavanah over actual performance of mitzvot (described earlier as paralleling the superiority of soul over body)?

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that, like the actual mitzvot themselves, man’s kavanah in performing them expresses G‑d’s Will. It is the illumination of Divine Will contained in kavanah that is superior. In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

אלא מפני שזהו גם כן רצונו יתברך, לדבקה בשכל ומחשבה וכוונת המצות מעשיות ובכוונת קריאת שמע ותפלה ושאר ברכות

Rather kavanah is superior because this, too, is G‑d’s Will — that one attach himself to Him by intellect and thought, and [by] the kavanah of the active mitzvot, and by one’s kavanah during the recital of Shema, and in prayer and other blessings;

והארת רצון העליון הזה המאירה ומלובשת בכוונה זו

and the illumination of the Supernal Will that radiates and is clothed in this kavanah

היא גדולה לאין קץ למעלה מעלה מהארת רצון העליון המאירה ומלובשת בקיום המצות עצמן במעשה ובדבור בלי כוונה

is infinitely greater and loftier than the illumination of the Supernal Will that radiates and is clothed in the performance of the mitzvot themselves, in action and speech, without kavanah.

כגודל מעלת אור הנשמה על הגוף שהוא כלי ומלבוש הנשמה, כמו גוף המצוה עצמה שהוא כלי ומלבוש לכוונתה

This superiority of kavanah is similar to the superiority of the light of the soul over the body, which is a vessel and garment for the soul — just as the body of the actual mitzvah is a vessel and garment for its kavanah. For this reason, then, the performance of a mitzvah is likened to a body, and its kavanah to a soul.

ואף שבשתיהן, במצוה ובכוונתה, מלובש רצון אחד, פשוט בתכלית הפשיטות בלי שום שינוי וריבוי, חס ושלום, ומיוחד במהותו ועצמותו יתברך בתכלית היחוד

True, although both the actual mitzvah and its kavanah contain the same [Supernal] Will, which is perfectly simple, i.e., changeless and indivisible so that it cannot be said that kavanah contains “more” of G‑d’s Will and performance contains “less”, and [this Will] is united with G‑d’s essence and being in perfect unity,

אף על פי כן ההארה אינה שוה בבחינת צמצום והתפשטות

nevertheless, the illumination of the Supernal Will in one’s soul is different in terms of its contraction and expansion.*

In the performance of a mitzvah this illumination is in a state of “contraction”; one’s attachment to G‑d’s Will is not readily apparent. In the kavanah, however, the illumination is in a state of “expansion” and revelation in one’s soul: here, clearly, one’s thought and intellect are attached to G‑d.


In the note which follows, the Alter Rebbe traces the difference between mitzvot and their kavanah to their source in the Supernal Sefirot.

Each Sefirah consists of an or, a “light”, and a keli, a vessel or receptacle for the or. The kelim of the Sefirot have a well-defined character: one is Chochmah, another Binah, and so forth. The orot, however, are G‑dly energy, “simple” in the sense that they are devoid of definition, unlimited, and not restricted to any specific character.

Restated, this means that kelim are “contracted” and limited, while “orot” are “expanded” and unconfined — the very traits that differentiate between mitzvot and their kavanah.


וכמו שכתוב בעץ חיים שכוונת המצות ותלמוד תורה היא במדרגת אור, וגוף המצות הן מדרגות ובחינת כלים

It is also so explained in Etz Chayim that kavanah in mitzvot and in Torah study is on the level of “light”, while the “body” i.e., performance of the mitzvot is the level and category of “vessels”.

שהם בחינת צמצום, שעל ידי צמצום האור נתהוו הכלים

These [vessels] represent “contraction”, for it is through contraction of the light that the vessels came into being,

כידוע ליודעי ח"ן

as is known to those familiar with the Kabbalah (lit., “esoteric wisdom”).

Similarly, the difference between mitzvot and their kavanah is one of contraction and expansion respectively, as explained above.


The Alter Rebbe now expands the analogy of body and soul to mitzvot and kavanah. He states that just as in the analogy all existence is classified into four categories, with two of them (mineral and vegetable) belonging in turn to the broader category of “body-beings”, and two (animal and man) to the broader category of “soul-beings”, so it is also with regard to mitzvot and kavanah.

The Alter Rebbe now resumes the thought intercepted by the above Note.

ונחלקת גם כן לארבע מדרגות

They, too (the mitzvot and their kavanah), are differentiated into four levels.

כי גוף המצות עצמן ממש הן ב׳ מדרגות, שהן מצות מעשיות ממש

For the “body” of the mitzvot themselves comprises two levels, namely, mitzvot consisting of real action (as opposed to speech, which is merely “regarded as action”),

ומצות התלויות בדבור ומחשבה, כמו תלמוד תורה וקריאת שמע ותפלה וברכת המזון ושאר ברכות

and mitzvot performed with speech and thought, such as Torah study, reciting the Shema, praying, saying the grace after meals, and other blessings. Both these levels — (a) action, and (b) thought and speech — are subdivisions of the category of the “body” of mitzvot.

וכוונת המצות, לדבקה בו יתברך, שהיא כנשמה לגוף

The kavanah of mitzvot, i.e., one’s intention to attach oneself to G‑d by performing the mitzvah, this (the kavanah) being like a soul for the body of the mitzvah,

נחלקת גם כן לשתי מדרגות, כמו שתי מדרגות הנשמה שהן בגוף החומרי שהן חי ומדבר

is likewise divided into two levels — corresponding to the two levels of soul found in material bodies, namely (a) in animals, and (b) in man.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to discuss two levels in kavanah, the higher one of which is comparable to the soul of man, and the lower to the soul of animals.

כי מי שדעתו יפה לדעת את ה׳ ולהתבונן בגדולתו יתברך

The first level is that of a person discerning enough to know G‑d and to reflect on His greatness,

ולהוליד מבינתו יראה עילאה במוחו, ואהבת ה׳ בחלל הימני שבלבו

and to create out of his understanding a lofty fear in his mind and a love of G‑d in the right part of his heart (the seat of the divine soul’s emotions),

להיות נפשו צמאה לה׳ לדבקה בו

so that his soul thirsts for G‑d [seeking] to cleave to Him

על ידי קיום התורה והמצות, שהן המשכת והארת אור אין סוף ברוך הוא על נפשו לדבקה בו

by fulfilling the Torah and mitzvot, which are the extension and illumination of the Ein Sof-light upon one’s soul by which one may cleave to Him.

In other words, this person’s desire to cleave to G‑d through the only means of doing so, viz., Torah and mitzvot, stems from a love and awe of G‑d created by intellectual appreciation of His greatness. His kavanah in mitzvot (i.e., his desire to cleave to G‑d through mitzvot) thus has an intellectual basis.

ובכוונה זו הוא לומד ומקיים המצות, וכן בכוונה זו מתפלל ומברך

When he studies [Torah] and fulfills the mitzvot [it is] with this kavanah, and likewise when he prays and recites blessings [it is] with this kavanah of cleaving to G‑d Whose greatness he has come to understand.

הרי כוונה זו על דרך משל כמו נשמת המדבר, שהוא בעל שכל ובחירה, ובדעת ידבר

Such kavanah is analogous to the soul of a human being, who possesses intelligence and freedom of choice and who speaks with wisdom, for such kavanah is likewise based on intellect and choice.

ומי שדעתו קצרה לידע ולהתבונן בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא

The second level of kavanah is that of a person whose understanding is too limited to know and to reflect on the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof,

להוליד האהבה מבינתו בהתגלות לבו, וכן היראה במוחו, ופחד ה׳ בלבו

so as to create out of his understanding a revealed love in his heart, and also awe in his mind and dread of G‑d in his heart. His level of understanding is inadequate to create a palpable spiritual emotion.

Since one’s observance of the mitzvot is contingent on love of G‑d, and refraining from sin is contingent on fear of G‑d, how can one who cannot evoke these emotions because of his limited understanding fulfill the Torah and mitzvot? What motivates him?

Such a person, the Alter Rebbe will say, is motivated by his arousal of the “hidden love,” the love of G‑d (which also comprises an aspect of fear) hidden in the heart of every Jew.

Even if he cannot arouse this love to a revealed state, where he can actually feel this love (and fear) in his heart, he can surely arouse it in his mind, so that at that level he will experience a conscious desire to attach himself to G‑d. This desire will lead him to study Torah and fulfill the mitzvot, since this is the only way for him to realize his wish.

In this case, his kavanah in Torah study and in mitzvot (i.e., his desire to cleave to G‑d) is based on “instinct”, i.e., on the innate love of G‑d found in his heart. This level of kavanah therefore resembles the soul of an animal, whose actions are instinctive, not rational.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

רק שזוכר ומעורר את האהבה הטבעית המסותרת בלבו

He merely recalls and arouses the natural love hidden in his heart,

ומוציאה מההעלם והסתר הלב אל הגילוי במוח, על כל פנים

and brings it out of concealment in his heart to a state of consciousness, in his mind at least (even if he cannot arouse a revealed feeling of love in his heart, surely he can summon it to mental consciousness),

שיהיה רצונו שבמוחו ותעלומות לבו מסכים ומתרצה בריצוי גמור באמת לאמיתו

so that his will in his mind and in the recesses of his heart should approve and consent, with complete willingness and perfect sincerity

למסור נפשו בפועל ממש על יחוד ה׳

to surrender his life in martyrdom, in actual fact (not merely as a figure of speech), for his affirmation of the unity of G‑d (rejecting belief in any other divinity),

כדי לדבקה בו נפשו האלקית ולבושיה, ולכללן ביחודו ואחדותו

in order to attach to Him his divine soul and its garments of thought, speech and action, and to unite them with His unity —

שהוא רצון העליון המלובש בתלמוד תורה וקיום המצות, כנ״ל

which is identical with the Supernal Will that is clothed in Torah study and performance of the mitzvot, as explained above.

Like martyrdom that one undergoes out of love for G‑d, study of the Torah and performance of the mitzvot unite the soul with G‑d. Therefore, one’s arousal of his natural love of G‑d (to the point where he is prepared to offer his life for G‑d’s unity) will also motivate him to fulfill the Torah and mitzvot.

וגם היראה כלולה בה, לקבל מלכותו, שלא למרוד בו, חס ושלום

This [natural love] also comprises fear [of G‑d]: acceptance of His dominion, so as not to rebel against Him, G‑d forbid, through sin.

ובכוונה זו הוא סר מרע ועושה טוב, ולומד ומתפלל ומברך

When, motivated by this kavanah (which is born of his innate love and fear of G‑d), one “turns away from evil” (by refraining from sin) and “does good” (by observing the mitzvot), and studies, prays, and recites the blessings,

בפירוש המלות לבדו, בלא דחילו ורחימו בהתגלות לבו ומוחו

thinking merely of the meaning of the words, without conscious love and fear of G‑d in his heart and mind, which would lend emotional intensity to his prayer; lacking revealed love and fear, he prays only with the meaning of the words; when one fulfills the Torah in this manner,

הרי כוונה זו, על דרך משל, כמו נשמת החי שאינו בעל שכל ובחירה

this level of kavanah is analogous to the soul of an animal, which possesses neither intelligence nor freedom of choice,

וכל מדותיו, שהן יראתו מדברים המזיקים אותו ואהבתו לדברים הנאהבים אצלו, הן רק טבעיים אצלו, ולא מבינתו ודעתו

and whose emotions — its fear of harmful things and its love of pleasing things — are merely natural to it, not a product of its intelligence or understanding.

וכך הן, על דרך משל, היראה והאהבה הטבעיות המסותרות בלב כל ישראל

So, too, by way of example, are the natural love and fear hidden in the heart of every Jew; they, too, are not a product of intelligence or choice,

כי הן ירושה לנו מאבותינו, וכמו טבע בנפשותינו

for they are our inheritance from our Patriarchs, and are like a natural instinct in our souls,

כנזכר לעיל

as mentioned above, in ch. 18.

The Alter Rebbe explained there that the Patriarchs bequeathed to their descendants as an eternal inheritance, a divine soul with an intrinsic love (and fear) of G‑d. Because this love is merely instinctive and natural, its function as motivation (kavanah) for the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot is likened to the soul of an animal.

To summarize: Both the performance and kavanah of mitzvot are divided into two categories.

The two levels in performance (the “body” of the mitzvot) are analogous to the two classes of “body”-creatures — inanimate beings and plants. They are (a) mitzvot performed with action and (b) mitzvot performed through speech or thought.

The two levels in kavanah (the “soul” of the mitzvot) correspond to the two classes of “soul”-creatures — animals and man. They are: (a) kavanah generated by one’s intellectual contemplation of G‑dliness, and (b) kavanah arising from one’s natural love (and fear) of G‑d.