Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, p. 20ff.

I. In many years,1 Parshas Vayikra is read on a Shabbos which is close to Purim. This leads to the conclusion that the significance and positive quality of Purim is alluded to in this Torah reading.2

What is the unique dimension of Purim? One of the obligations of Purim (and the obligations of the day reflect its spiritual content) is that “A person is obligated to become intoxicated on Purim to the extent that he does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai.’”3

The obligation to become intoxicated differs from all the other obligations of Purim in that:

a) it is the only obligation that is entirely unlimited, “to the extent that one does not know”; and

b) the intoxication which knows no limits is “(to the extent that he does not know the difference) between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai.’” (The fact that a person “does not know” about other matters does not indicate that he has fulfilled the mitzvah of becoming intoxicated [on Purim].)

From this, we can conclude that the obligation to become intoxicated reflects the inner and unique import of Purim which distinguishes it entirely from the other festivals.4

II. There is another point to be mentioned. The obligation to become intoxicated on Purim [has its source in the Megillah’s description5 of the celebrations as] “days of feasting and celebration.” “Becoming intoxicated” reflects the manner in which the feast must be held.6

It is possible to explain that the mitzvah of “feasting and celebrating” is distinguished from all the other mitzvos ordained by our Sages to be observed on Purim in that the obligation to observe this mitzvah applies during every moment of the festival of Purim.7 The observance of the other mitzvos of the day, by contrast, [is associated with a specific time]. For example, with regard to the mitzvah of reading the Megillah, when a person reads the Megillah once at night and once during the day, he has fulfilled the mitzvah entirely. Even with regard to the mitzvah of matanos l’evyonim, gifts to the poor, about which it states8 that it is a mitzvah to give them profusely, there is no obligation to give them the entire day.

With regard to feasting and celebration, by contrast, since the Megillah describes the days9 of Purim as “days of feasting and celebration” — and “feasting and celebration” is stated directly after the term yimei (“days of”), (in contrast to “sending gifts of food and gifts to the poor” which is stated afterwards), it is possible to explain that the obligation to feast and celebrate applies every moment of the day. [The fact that we do not spend the entire day “feasting and celebrating” can be explained as follows:] Through observing the mitzvah once during the day, its observance is extended10 throughout the entire day.11

Since the obligation of feasting is “to become intoxicated ... to the extent that one does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai,’” it follows that this obligation applies throughout the entire day. This further expresses the concept (in addition to the points mentioned in sec. I) that the mitzvah to become intoxicated to the extent that one does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai,’” reflects the inner content of Purim, more than the other mitzvos associated with that day.

III. [The obligation to become intoxicated raises a fundamental question:] Why is it that the Torah will obligate a Jew to become intoxicated “to the extent that he does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai’”? The commentaries explain12 that this means that a person should become intoxicated to the point that he does not know how to calculate that the Hebrew phrase inv rurt (“Cursed be Haman”) is numerically equivalent to the phrase hfsrn lurc (“Blessed be Mordechai”).

This explanation itself raises questions:

a) Seemingly, becoming intoxicated to the point that one cannot calculate a numerical equivalent is not necessarily connected to “Cursed be Haman” and “Blessed be Mordechai.” When a person is intoxicated, he is not capable of calculating any numerical equivalents,13 even one that is much easier than that shared by “Cursed be Haman” and “Blessed be Mordechai.” Why then does the Talmud cite this as the measure?

b) When the Torah cites a numerical equivalent, it is not coincidental, Heaven forbid. Instead, the numerical equivalence indicates that the two subjects share an inner connection.14 This can be understood from the explanation in Tanya15 that the created beings are given a name which is the numerical equivalent of certain words which are stated in the Ten Utterances of Creation. For the life-energy of every created being is drawn down from select words in these Ten Utterances. It is thus understandable that there is an connection between entities whose names share the same numerical equivalence.

A question thus arises: What is the inner connection between “Cursed be Haman” and “Blessed be Mordechai”? Seemingly, they are direct opposites.

These questions can be resolved as follows: The life-energy of every entity is the Divine intent for which that entity was created. The Divine intent in bringing Haman into being is that he [— and the situation which he brought about —] be transformed16 into a [positive influence], i.e., that the Jews, through their Divine service should transform “Cursed be Haman” into “Blessed be Mordechai.” ([This reflects a motif of greater scope,] for the intent in bringing into being all evil entities is that they be transformed into “day” and “light.”17) Thus the Divine life-energy (and intent) for “Cursed be Haman” is “Blessed be Mordechai.”18

This is the inner meaning of “to the extent that he does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai.’” One must transform “Cursed be Haman” into “Blessed be Mordechai,” to the extent that one cannot detect the difference between them.19 “Cursed be Haman” will have become “Blessed be Mordechai.”

On a deeper level, when seeing [a situation which reflects] “Cursed be Haman,” it is possible to appreciate that its intent is20 — and indeed, that will be one’s sole perception — “Blessed be Mordechai.”21

IV. Explanation is still required: When one transforms “Cursed be Haman” into “Blessed be Mordechai,” there is no real difference between them. Why then do our Sages say: “To the extent that he does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai’”? This expression implies that there is a difference between the two, but because the person is intoxicated, he is incapable of appreciating that difference.

This question can be resolved through explaining our Sages’ statement:22 “Great is teshuvah, for [the person’s] intentional sins become considered as merits for him.” Through teshuvah (motivated by love), the sparks of holiness found in intentional sins23

[Although a baal teshuvah can elevate these sparks of G‑dliness. He] cannot elevate the sins themselves, Heaven forbid. [On the contrary, they are against G‑d’s will and cannot become an element of holiness.] (See the maamar entitled Ner Chanukah, 5670; see also note 31.) are transformed into merits.

This reflects the advantage baalei teshuvah possess over tzaddikim, as indicated by the ruling:24 “In the place where baalei teshuvah stand, perfect tzaddikim cannot stand.” For tzaddikim can refine only the Divine sparks found in permitted entities, whose life-energy is derived from kelipas nogah. The sparks which have fallen into forbidden entities stemming from the three impure kelipos, by contrast, cannot be refined according to the Torah’s directives. (On the contrary, according to the Torah, these entities must be rejected.)25

A baal teshuvah, by contrast, elevates also the Divine sparks that have fallen into the three impure kelipos (even the sparks which fell into intentional sin; this reflects a far lower level than the forbidden entities themselves, for intentional sin involves the violation of G‑d’s will26) and transforms them into merits.27

V. The reason why teshuvah has the potential to refine even the sparks that are present within intentional sins — although they are opposed to G‑d’s will — is because teshuvah reaches G‑d’s essence, the Master of the will.28 [At this level, G‑d] is not required [to express Himself in any particular way]; He is not bound [even] by His desire [for the Torah and its mitzvos].29

G‑d Himself, however, is not dependent on His will. Therefore, even after He has deemed an entity as undesirable, that entity does not cause complete concealment which would prevent the G‑dly sparks within that entity from relating to Him.]

From the standpoint of G‑d’s essence, “I do not know which He desires, [the deeds of the righteous or the deeds of the wicked].”30 It is only that He chose (with [absolute] free choice) to desire “the deeds of the righteous” and not to desire “the deeds of the wicked.” Therefore it is not possible to say that the intentional sins will be considered significant and that they will have the power to conceal the sparks of holiness contained in them.31

[Trans. Note: From the perspective of the revealed levels of G‑dliness, although evil is not desired, one might find some redeeming virtues within it. From the standpoint of His essence, since it is rejected, the rejection is complete.]

The level of “Master of the will” which is not bound by the desire for the Torah and its mitzvos is drawn down through the Divine service of teshuvah.

The Divine service of tzaddikim, even those who have reached the level of servants of G‑d with great love and pleasure [cannot relate to this peak]. For the fact that they feel pleasure in their service indicates that [their personal identity remains intact]. [G‑d is Beloved,] but there is a person with an individual identity who loves [Him].32 The person is a yesh, an entity of holiness. Therefore he is capable of drawing down only G‑d’s will.33

The Divine service of baalei teshuvah, by contrast, is characterized by bittul — they are not satisfied with their situation, and they seek to sever connections with it, “I will turn away from here.”34 Therefore they draw down the level of the Master of the will.35

[Trans. Note: A baal teshuvah seeks to transcend his personal existence. This thrust opens him up to the potential for ultimate self-transcendence, and enables Him to relate to the aspects of G‑dliness that are similarly unbounded.]

[On this basis, we can appreciate] the meaning of “to the extent that he does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai.’”36 The potential to transform “Cursed be Haman” to “Blessed be Mordechai” comes from the Divine service of not knowing, bittul which transcends reason and logic.

This relates to the level of G‑dliness which “does not know which He desires.”37 And from that level is drawn down the potential to transform “Cursed be Haman”38 to “Blessed be Mordechai.”39

VI. The concept of “to the extent that one does not know” is also reflected in the apparent contrast between the beginning and the conclusion of Parshas Vayikra. The beginning of the parshah speaks about a very high level, as Rashi interprets the phrase:40 “And He called to Moshe”:

All of [G‑d’s] statements, declarations, and com­mandments were preceded by “calling,” an expression of endearment.

The precedence of this “calling” is not merely chrono­logical,41 but also reflects a higher [spiritual] level. Calling to Moshe as an expression of endearment is a separate matter.42

(The reason why this explanation was written in a second entry — and not in the first entry which explains that calling is an expression of endearment — although the question raised depends on the concept stated in the first entry, is clarified in Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayikra, 5725.) It is [not merely a preparation for] the statements, declarations, and commandments in the Torah, but instead represents a higher level than they.43

This is also understood from the fact that the verse states “And He called,” and not “And G‑d called.” All the statements, declarations, and commandments state whuv rnthu whuv rcshu, “And G‑d spoke,” “And G‑d said.” This calling which expresses endearment, by contrast, [does not mention any name of G‑d], for it comes from G‑d Himself, a level which is above [all names], even the name Havayah,44 and is not alluded to by any letter, [or point].45

The conclusion of the parshah,46 by contrast, speaks about “a soul who sins,” and the intent is not merely a sin committed unintentionally (as mentioned in some of the previous passages of the parshah, but a sin committed intentionally; a person who “acts treacherously against G‑d,”47 taking a false oath. And the very last words of the parshah are: “to incur guilt.”

A conceptual difficulty thus arises: The name of a parshah does not reflect merely the content of the beginning of the parshah, but that of the reading in its totality,48

In practice, however, we find that the first reading is called Noach, and the second, Toldos, because these names reflect the thematic content of the Torah readings as explained in other sources. including its final words.49 On the contrary, based on the principle:50 “The beginning is implanted in the end, and the end in the beginning,” it follows that the conclusion shares a special connection to the beginning of the parshah, the calling to Moshe out of endearment. How is that sign of Divine closeness reflected in the words “to incur guilt”?

VII. This question can be resolved by prefacing the continuation of Rashi’s commentary. After Rashi states that “And He called” is an expression of endearment, and that this expression preceded “all [G‑d’s] statements, declarations, and commandments,” he states: “But to the prophets of the gentile nations, He reveals Himself using a transient and impure wording.”

Questions arise: Why would one think that G‑d would grant such an expression of endearment — endearment which transcends even the Torah — to the prophets of the gentile nations? Why is it necessary for Rashi to negate this supposition and explain that they were never called to in this manner?

The explanation is that precisely because [this calling reflects a transcendent level] is this possible. Were the calling to come from the same level as the Torah, it would be obviously apparent that it has no connection to the gentiles, for “He did not make known His judgments to them.”51 Indeed, a gentile who studies the Torah is liable for death.52

Nevertheless, since the calling stems from a higher level than the statements which follow (— a level which transcends even G‑d’s name Havayah,53

See also Torah Or, the maamar entitled Chayiv Inish, p. 100b, which explains that the reason the name Havayah is not mentioned in the Megillah is that “On Purim, through their mesirus nefesh (“self-sacrifice”), they reached the essence of Ein Sof which transcends the name Havayah. as stated in sec. VI), one might think that [it could also relate to the gentile nations]. For since, from the standpoint of G‑d’s essence, “I do not know which He desires [the deeds of the righteous or the deeds of the wicked],” it is possible to think that G‑d’s call would also be addressed to the prophets of the gentile nations. Therefore Rashi clarifies that the gentile prophets were not granted such an expression of endearment. On the contrary, “He reveals Himself to them using a transient and impure wording.”

For even with regard to the level concerning which it is said:54 “Is not Esav Yaakov’s brother?” i.e., the two are equal in His eyes, it is nevertheless said, “I love Yaakov and I hate Esav.”55

This also explains the connection between the beginning of the parshah and its conclusion, for “The beginning is implanted in the end, and the end in the beginning.” [Although the passage concludes:] “To incur guilt,” [the intent is that] the intentional sins be transformed into merits, [as that verse states:] “[And the priest] shall provide atonement ... and it shall be forgiven.” For the ultimate concept of atonement and forgiveness comes through the transformation of the sins into merits.

This is an [appropriate] conclusion for the passage which begins “And He called,” using an expression of endearment. For [the transformation of sin into merit] expresses the true endearment that G‑d shows the Jewish people — how they stand above the Torah itself, as it were. Because of this love, even when a Jew transgresses one of the Torah’s commandments, and performs a deed appropri­ate for Esav, [G‑d] “love[s] Yaakov,” [the G‑dly spark] in that Jew and [grants] him [the potential for] atonement and forgiveness for his sins, indeed, allowing even the transfor­mation of the sins to merits.

VIII. This common factor — the transformation of darkness into light — which is shared by Parshas Vayikra and Purim, is alluded to in the verse:56 Lo tashbis melech..., “Do not refrain [from placing] the salt of your G‑d’s covenant.”

The maamar beginning with this verse in Likkutei Torah57 states that salt is referred to as lhvk-t ,hrc, “the salt of your G‑d’s covenant,” because there are 120 forms of the letters of G‑d’s name ohvk-t.58 From them, 120 permutations in the realm of kelipas nogah derive their nurture. Twice 120 — the forms of ohvk-t and their permutations in nogah — equals 240, rn, “bitter.” This is also the numerical equivalent of Amalek (ekng).

Salt is thus called “the covenant of lhvk-t,” for it transforms the severe judgments and bitterness (rn) which stems from G‑d’s name ohvk-t into sweetness.

IX. Based on the above, we can appreciate a wondrous insight stemming from the maamar in Likkutei Torah mentioned in the previous section. The maamar states59 that the Torah is G‑d’s wisdom “in which is enclothed the Or Ein Sof itself.” To this, the Tzemach Tzedek adds a parenthetic statement:

Therefore the Torah is called hbunsev kan, “the primordial analogy,” for it is a medium for Or Ein Sof, okug ka ubunse, the Primordial One of eternity,”60 as explained in the maamar of Purim.

[The Tzemach Tzedek’s statement] requires explanation:

a) An analogy combines two contrasts. On one hand, it is a medium for the analogue, and the analogue is enclothed in it; [i.e., from the analogy, one can appreciate and grasp the analogue]. On the other hand, the analogy is not the analogue; it is another entity. Indeed, it conceals the analogue. As Torah Or, (in the maamar of Purim which the Tzemach Tzedek cites,61) states:62 “It is not the substance of the analogue,” and “It conceals the analogue.”63 Thus, explanation is required: the maamar in Likkutei Torah speaks of the advantage the Torah possesses, that “in [it] is enclothed the Or Ein Sof itself.” What does [the Tzemach Tzedek] add by stating that the Torah is called the “primordial analogy”? On the contrary, this indicates that [since the Torah is] an analogy, it conceals the analogue, “the Primordial One of eternity.”

b) Generally, when a maamar is cited in Chassidus (by the Tzemach Tzedek as well), it is referred to by its opening words. Thus [the Tzemach Tzedek] should have said, “as explained in the maamar entitled Chayiv Inish Livisumei.” Why does he use the expression “the maamar of Purim”?

These questions can be resolved as follows: By stating that the Torah is called the “primordial analogy,” and by citing “the maamar of Purim,” the Tzemach Tzedek alludes to a concept associated with the transformation of darkness into light. This is the theme of the maamar entitled Lo Tashbis Melech.

X. As mentioned above, an analogy conceals the analogue. From a certain perspective, it can be said that the concealment of an analogy is more comprehensive than that of a riddle. For the riddle is obviously a matter that in and of itself — without its solution — does not make sense. Indeed, it may contradict logic, for example, Shimshon’s riddle:64 “From the brash will emerge sweetness.” This indicates that the riddle alludes to a concept that is invested in it. In contrast, an analogy itself has a certain degree of intellectual content, and the possibility exists that a person will not appreciate that it is a medium65 for the analogue.66

This is implied by the Tzemach Tzedek’s description of the Torah as “the primordial analogy” and saying that “it is a medium for Or Ein Sof.” For through the study of P’nimiyus HaTorah (which is called “salt”), the analogy (the study of Nigleh) may become a medium for Or Ein Sof as explained further on (like salt that prepares meat). See Kuntres Etz Chayim, ch. 12ff., which explains similar concepts.

(In certain sources, it is explained that an analogy conceals the analogue less than a riddle conceals its solution. This applies when a person knows that the analogy [is an analogy, and appreciates that] there is an analogue. In such an instance, it is far easier to appreciate the analogue of an analogy than the solution of a riddle. It is, however, possible when looking at an analogy to think that it is self-contained and does not allude to an analogue. From this perspective, the analogy causes more concealment than a riddle.)

It is possible to explain that this is the Tzemach Tzedek’s intent in writing that the Torah is called: “‘the primordial analogy,’ for it is a medium for Or Ein Sof,” implying that the concealment of the analogy has to be transformed into a “medium” [for revelation].

For this reason, the Tzemach Tzedek refers to the source as “the maamar of Purim.”67

* It must be noted that in this maamar (p. 99d), it is explained that the explanation of “to the extent that one does not know” is to reach mesirus nefesh that transcends the bounds of intellect. (See sec. XI which explains that the Tzemach Tzedek’s intent in citing “the maamar of Purim” was to allude to this level of “not knowing.”) This Divine service reaches the essence of Or Ein Sof with regard to which everything [— light and darkness —] is equal. For the theme of Purim is — as stated in secs. III and V — the transformation of “Cursed be Haman” to “Blessed be Mordechai.” And this alludes to [the transformation that is necessary with regard to this study].

XI. As explained previously (sec. III ff.), the obligation to “become intoxicated on Purim to the extent that one does not know the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai’” {which, as stated in sec. II, applies every moment of Purim and expresses the theme of the holiday} contains two dimensions:

a) that “Cursed be Haman” must be transformed into “Blessed be Mordechai”; [and]

b) this transformation is accomplished through the Divine service of “not knowing” (the bittul which transcends intellect).

Since both of these concepts express the fundamental theme of Purim, we can understand that by referring to the maamar as “the maamar of Purim,” the Tzemach Tzedek had in mind the Divine service of “not knowing.”

The beginning of the section of the maamar in Likkutei Torah (to which the Tzemach Tzedek adds the parenthetic remark concerning “the primordial analogy”) focuses on the concept of mesirus nefesh, explaining that it has its root in “the essence of the soul which transcends intellect.” Accordingly, it is possible to say that the Tzemach Tzedek’s note relates (not only to the words which immediately precede it, that the Or Ein Sof itself is actually enclothed in the Torah), but to the beginning of the section which speaks about the concept of mesirus nefesh.

For the two concepts — mesirus nefesh and “the primordial analogy” — are interrelated. Mesirus nefesh stems from “the essence of the soul that transcends intellect that is butel to the essence of Or Ein Sof which utterly transcends wisdom,” i.e., the dimension of “not knowing” within man. This level [within man] relates to the level [within G‑dliness] concerning which it is said: “I do not know which He desires....” This generates the potential for — and is expressed through — the Divine service of “the primordial analogy,” making the analogy a medium for “the Primordial One.”68

This is alluded to by the Tzemach Tzedek through the reference to “the maamar of Purim.” For this reflects two concepts: the Divine service of transforming “Cursed be Haman” to “Blessed be Mordechai,” and also the factor that generates the potential for this transformation, the Divine service of “not knowing” which is mentioned at the beginning of the section.

XII. This reflects (as is obvious from other sources) how all concepts in Chassidus, even those which are seemingly parenthetic, are precise and refer to wondrous concepts. Even the verses (or quotes from our Sages) with which the maamarim begin, (and even the parshiyos when the maamarim were recited or with regard to which they are printed in the texts of Chassidus) share an inner connection to the concepts which are discussed in the maamarim.69 As explained above, the concept of “the primordial analogy” shares a connection to the concept “Do not refrain [from placing] the salt” (with which the maamar begins) and to Parshas Vayikra (where the maamar is printed). And as explained above, “salt” and vayikra reflect the concept of the transformation of darkness to light which stems from the Divine service which transcends knowledge and understanding.

This shows us the extent to which we must focus and probe when studying the teachings of our Rebbeim, including even those matters which on the surface appear to have been cited incidentally. As our Sages70 comment on the verse:71 “It is not an empty matter for you”: “[If you perceive it] as empty, the emptiness stems from you,... because you are not laboring in Torah study.” For even these [seemingly] incidental matters are very precise, contain significant lessons, and allude to wondrous matters.

(Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayikra, 5725)