Through the above explanation, we can appreciate why the Mishkan, the Sanctuary in the wilderness, was built of acacia wood.

As we have seen, the primary function of the divine service in the Mishkan and in the Beis HaMikdash was the transformation of darkness into light — by means of the sacrificial offerings (and particularly through the incense offering).

This service revealed the light of G‑d in the world.

The word used in the Torah for "acacia" is Shita, the root of which implies deviation in either direction, higher or lower, from a middle path.

The same root also implies foolishness, for foolishness (Shtus) is a deviation from the middle path of knowledge and wisdom.

There is a foolishness that stems from the unholy side of the universe.

The Torah therefore uses a derivative of the same root (Tisteh) when speaking of the unfaithful wife who "turns aside," for, as Rashi explains there, "she deviated from the paths of modesty."

The same root appears again in the name of the location (Shitim) in which the Jewish people encamped [on their way out of Egypt, and where they sinned through idolatry and licentiousness].

Their conduct there is another instance of foolishness that stems from unholiness.

In this vein our Sages comment on the above-mentioned wife who "turns aside" (Tisteh): "No human commits a sin unless a spirit of folly (Shtus) enters him."

This spirit of folly derives from the kelipah, from the unholy side of creation, and it covers over the truth.

It is advisedly called a spirit of foolishness, just as the Evil Inclination is called "an old and foolish king."

This unholy spirit of folly veils the revelation of Divine light; it obscures the truth and the vitality of G‑dliness.

For G‑dliness is both truth and life, as in the verse, "HaShem is the true G‑d, the living G‑d."

For this reason, the evil spirit of folly is called [by the Kabbalists] kelipah, for like a peel or shell that covers the fruit within, it obscures and conceals the revelation of Divine light.

For otherwise, how could a person ever sin?

Indeed, this is possible only because he lacks the sensitivity to realize that he thereby separates himself from G‑d; it seems to him that his Jewishness remains intact.

If he would only realize the plain truth, that by sinning he becomes separate from G‑d, then on no account would he sin.

For by his very nature, a Jew neither wants to be separate from G‑d, nor can he be separate from G‑d. The proof of that statement is seen when a Jew is put to the trial of being forced to deny his faith. Then, when there is no room for the mistaken thought that he will not be separated thereby from G‑d, he is willing to risk his life, to undergo suffering and pain, and to give up his very life in Sanctification of the Divine Name.

This phenomenon is observable even at the lowest levels of spiritual attainment, even among the most lightminded and most sinful of Jews.

Why? — Because they know and sense that in such a case compliance would sever them from the G‑d of Israel, and this no Jew can tolerate.

In the case of other sins, however, people lack the awareness and the sensitivity that these too separate them from G‑d; they imagine that they are still as fully Jewish as they were before they sinned.

This delusion emanates from the spirit of folly described above, that obscures the light and revelation of G‑dliness to the point that they are not felt.

This spirit of folly deadens one's sensitivity.

The power of one's physical drives and the burning urgency of the animal soul's desires cool one's ardor and numb one's sensitivity for spiritual things. A person can become so bound up and excited by his passions and material desires that his awareness of spiritual feelings becomes utterly hidden to the point of total insensitivity. He no longer feels the pleasant sweetness and the goodly value of fulfilling the mitzvos.

Likewise, he no longer senses the lowliness of his distance from G‑d, which has been brought on by his misdeeds. And the underlying cause of this entire process is the animal soul, which covers up and obscures the light of the G‑dly soul.

Now the fundamental nature of the G‑dly soul is G‑dliness.

This is especially true of the unique spark of G‑d that is related to the body of any particular individual.

By means of this spark, the soul appreciates all G‑dly things, and is keenly aware of anything that opposes G‑dliness.

It wants no part of anything in which G‑dliness is not manifest; when faced with something that actually opposes G‑dliness, he flees as if from danger or from death.

Indeed, it is clear to the G‑dly soul that spiritual death is much worse that physical death.

Its only desire is to connect with G‑dliness and to make vessels for G‑dliness.

However, the gross materiality and the self-assertiveness of the animal soul, muzzle the spiritual tastes of the G‑dly soul.

This is self-evident: pleasure-seeking worldly enjoyment obscures one's sensitivity to G‑dliness.

Indeed, in the Holy Tongue, the very word for "world" (Olam) is related to the word for "obscurity" (He'elem).

This situation is the very opposite of the ultimate purpose for which the universe was created, for "G‑d desired to have a dwelling place in the lower worlds" by means of man's labor of refining his body and animal soul, his physical nature.

Man was placed in this world in order to sift it and refine it.

Instead, the very opposite can occur.

The world covers up the light of truth within him, to the point where he becomes so coarse and so materially oriented that he loses every trace of spiritual perceptiveness.

This contrary course of behavior is brought about when a person is dominated by his animal soul, which is firmly fixed and rooted in worldly desires.

That is its nature and its goal.

That is what such a person ponders on and thinks about and talks about with zest.

Exercise of these feelings, and in particular the enjoyment of worldly things, negates the divine soul's sensitivity to G‑dliness.

This happens mainly because the animal soul is intrinsically frigid with respect to spiritual matters.

That is how the animal soul is constituted.

Its very name, the animal soul, describes it.

All its vigor and all its feelings are directed only toward things that are animal in nature. This is what we in fact observe in people who are dominated by their animal nature: not only are they devoid of the Torah's wisdom and of upright character, but they moreover act like animals, trampling and scorning spiritual matters of which they have no conception.

Like an animal that lacks the sensitivity or the discernment to know whether it is trampling on the ground or on plants or on men, these people scoff at the Torah and the mitzvos.

(Some of these people choose their own paths: one mitzvah they decide to observe, another mitzvah they spurn, and so on.)

This behavior results from the brazenness and cold insensitivity of the animal soul and the spirit of folly that it induces.

They can cover the light of truth to the degree where a person will sin, thus achieving the very opposite of the divine plan for creation.

For G‑d desired that the world be created in order that it be refined, thus becoming a vessel for His presence.

Instead, the animal soul effects the exact opposite.

The world is not only left unrefined and unpurified, but it serves moreover to cover the light of truth. Thus, the spirit of folly of the animal soul causes the truth to be hidden.


This chapter explains how the spirit of folly and one's powerful desires — and the animal soul in its entirety — obscure the truth, thus dulling one's sensitivity to G‑dliness, one's appreciation of the value of the mitzvos, and one's awareness of the lowliness of being separate from the mitzvos.