By the Grace of G‑d

Shabbos Parshas Eikev
20 Menachem-Av, 5727

והי'ה עקב תשמעון את המשפטים האלה ושמרתם ועשיתם אתם

“And it shall come to pass that when (eikev) you heed these ordinances, and you observe and perform them.”1

The question regarding the wording of this verse is well known:2 Since man is given free choice with regard to the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos, the verse should have said “...if you heed these ordinances,” {as it is written:3 אם בחוקותי תשמעו “If you will walk in My statutes...” והיה אם שמוע תשמעו, “And it will be, if you will diligently obey...”}. Why is it written: “And it shall come to pass that when you heed...”, implying that the Jews’ observance is a definite certainty?

The Tzemach Tzedek interprets4 the word eikev as referring to the time of ikvesa diMeshicha (the era in which Mashiach’s approaching footsteps can be heard). Therefore it is written: “And it shall come to pass that when you heed...,” i.e., you will certainly heed. For “the Torah has promised that ultimately, in the end of their exile, Israel will turn [to G‑d] in teshuvah and they will immediately be redeemed.”5 [And thus the Jews’ observance can be considered as a certainty.]

The [Tzemach Tzedek] continues in his maamar,6 explaining that the three verbs the verse employs: heed, observe, and perform, refer to the three [“garments of the soul”7 ]: thought, speech, and deed.“Heed[ing],” [literally, listening,] refers to thought, for hearing is primarily a function of the mind. (The ear is merely a sensor which enables the sound [waves]to enter one’s thought.)

“Observ[ing]” [ush’martem] refers to speech. For observance is primarily a function of the mouth. This is reflected in the verse:8 “Arranged in all things and preserved [shemurah],” [which our Sages9 associate with studying the Torah vocally]. And “perform[ing]” refers to deed.

[As a result of the Jews’ Divine service in these three means of expression, they will merit the reward alluded to in] the continuation of the verse: “And G‑d will safeguard [vishomar] for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your ancestors.” As the maamar explains, the three terms referred to by the verse: covenant, kindness, and oath (“swore”) reflect the thought, speech, and deed of G‑d, as it were. Through man’s Divine service in thought, speech, and deed, he draws down the [parallels and the source for] these potentials in G‑dliness: the covenant, kindness, and oath.

Nevertheless,10 this (— that the sublime thought, speech, and action shall be drawn down for man —) is not sufficient. For the soul also [shared a connection] to the highest expression of these potentials, G‑d’s thought before its descent to the material realm, as it is said:11 “Israel arose in thought.” Instead, the descent is for the purpose of an ascent, so that through Divine service on the material plane, the soul can ascend to a higher level than it enjoyed before its descent.

Before the soul’s descent, its level is described as “pure.”12 Through the descent, it ascends to an even higher level,13 “and You preserve it (mishamrah) within me.”14

On this basis, we can understand the intent of the promise: “And G‑d will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your ancestors.” The intent is that [these rewards will be drawn down] through the Jews “heed[ing] these ordinances, and... observ[ing] and perform[ing] them...,” i.e., Divine service employing the three means of expression: thought, speech, and deed, performed by the “heel of the soul,” i.e., the aspect of the soul which descends into the body.15 In particular, this applies in the era of ikvesa diMeshicha, (for the additional descent will lead to an even [greater] ascent).

The descent [of the G‑dly soul] into the body and the animal soul (and in particular, [the descent caused by] exile) causes our Divine service in the three means of expression: thought, speech, and deed, to be performed with sublime desire and mesirus nefesh (which transcends the limits of the spiritual cosmos). This will lead to G‑d “safeguard[ing] [i.e., vishomar] for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your ancestors.” This implies that the sublime thought, speech, and action [which our Divine service will draw down] will [be permeated by] the revelation of [the level] “and You preserve (mishamrah) it within me,” which in general refers to the revelation of G‑d’s essence.

II

The interpretation the Tzemach Tzedek offers to the verse “And it shall come to pass that when you heed...,” (that eikev refers to the ultimate Future, and thus this alludes to “the end of days”16 ) can be connected to the interpretation of this verse in the Midrash17 which states:

The Holy One, blessed be He, says: “The mitzvos you perform... it will be [in the era referred to as] eikev that I will grant you their reward...”

What is the source [for this teaching]? (The verse:) “And it shall come to pass that when you heed.”

According to this interpretation the focus is on the reward for the mitzvos, and the term eikev is referring to the “end of days,” the era after Mashiach’s coming. According to the simple meaning of the verse, it refers to [a previous era, an age when] mitzvos are observed (as implied by the continuation of the verse, “you heed these ordinances, and you observe and perform them”). Thus the term eikev (“the end of days”) refers to the conclusion of the era of exile, the period of ikvesa deMeshicha.

These two interpretations share a connection:18 The reward for the mitzvos that will be experienced in the Era of the Redemption, the revelation of G‑d’s essence as explained in Tanya,19 will come through the Divine service of ([observing] the Torah and its mitzvos with) mesirus nefesh. Therefore, heeding these ordinances in eikev, the interpretation of the Tzemach Tzedek, i.e., our Divine servicein ikvesa deMeshicha, when mesirus nefesh is emphasized,20 will lead to the revelations of the Era of the Redemption, when “It will be [in the era referred to as] eikev that I will grant you their reward.”

III

The above concepts can be understood based on the explanations in Tanya,21 that “the ultimate perfection of the Era of the Redemption and the Resurrection of the Dead is dependent on our deeds and Divine service throughout the duration of the exile.”

The gloss which my revered teacher, my father, whose yahrzeit [is associated with the date of the publication of this maamar] wrote on the margins of his text of the Tanya [explains the precise wording chosen by the Alter Rebbe].22 ([The Tanya belonging to my revered teacher, my father,] and several of his other books [which contain his glosses] were held in captivity. Only recently were they redeemed from this captivity, brought here, [and published].)

[My revered teacher, my father,] interprets the two terms: “our deeds and our Divine service” within the context of Epistle 12 of Iggeres HaKodesh, which begins, “And the deed of tzedakah....” Afterwards, he explains that “our deeds” [is the catalyst leading to the revelations of] “the era of Mashiach” and our “Divine service” [is the catalyst leading to] the Resurrection of the Dead.23

The intent of [my revered teacher, my father,] in citing Epistle 12 of Iggeres HaKodesh, which begins. “And the deed of tzedakah....” appears to refer to the distinction that Epistle makes between maaseh, “deed” and avodah, “Divine service.” To quote:24

The term “maaseh” refers to an act which has already been performed or an act which is performed continually as a matter of course, something that has become a constant and familiar matter.

The term “avodah,” by contrast, refers only to an act which a person performs with great effort, against his natural tendency and will, because it is G‑d’s will.

This same distinction can be applied to the use of these same terms in [ch. 37] of Tanya. The term “maaseinu,” “our deeds,” refers to the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos that has already become a natural and habitual aspect of our lives. Avodaseinu, “our Divine service,” refers to laboring in the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos beyond what is natural and habitual.

[This, however, is not the entire intent of my revered father and teacher.] For he states that “The use of these two terms (maaseinu and avodaseinu) can be understood on the basis of what is stated in Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 12,” and concludes after mentioning that source: “Look there.” This implies that his intent in referring to the Epistle in Iggeres HaKodesh is (not only to point out the distinction between the terms maaseh and avodah mentioned there), but also to the concept explained there with regard to the expression maaseh hatzedakah, “the deed of tzedakah.25 Considering this concept will provide us with a deeper understanding of the distinction between the terms “maaseinu” and “avodaseinu.

In the Epistle from Iggeres HaKodesh, with regard to the expression maaseh hatzedakah, the following explanation is given:

Jews are by nature merciful26 and doers of kindness,27 because their souls are drawn down from G‑d’s attributes, regarding which we find that the attribute of kindness overpowers the attribute of judgment.... Therefore a soul is referred to28 as “the daughter of a priest” (for a priest is identified as “a man of kindness”).29

The Epistle continues, explaining that:

When tzedakah is motivated by this quality, it is described as maaseh hatzedakah (“the deed of tzedakah”), because the term maaseh refers to an act which has become a constant and familiar practice. [This comes as a result of the] qualities of kindness and mercy which have been imprinted within the souls of the Jewish people from the very beginning of their creation30 and their coming into being from [G‑d’s] attributes.

The tendency towards kindness [that a Jew possesses] stems, (not from his animal soul, but from) his G‑dly soul. Nevertheless, the tzedakah performed as a result of this natural tendency is referred to as maaseh hatzedakah.31 The term “avodas hatzedakah” refers to giving tzedakah in a manner that transcends even the natural tendency of one’s G‑dly soul.

From this, we can conclude that the distinction between the terms maaseinu, “our deeds,” and “avodaseinu,” “our Divine service,” when [employed in Tanya](with regard to the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos as a whole) [follows a similar pattern]. Even when a person’s animal soul conceals the nature of his G‑dly soul, and he must labor to remove the concealment and hiddenness brought about by his animal soul and reveal the nature of his G‑dly soul, [his efforts] are still properly termed “maaseinu,” because his efforts are only to reveal the nature of his G‑dly soul. Avodaseinu refers to efforts which transcend even the nature of his G‑dly soul.

IV

The above can be understood on the basis of the explanations in other sources32 with regard to the two advantages baalei teshuvah possess over perfect tzaddikim:

a) Teshuvah reveals the intensity of the soul’s bond with G‑d, [that the bond is so powerful] that even the separation caused by sin (as it is written: “Your sins separate between you and your G‑d”33 ) affects only the revealed aspects of the soul, but not its essence. This is evidenced by the fact that even after committing sins, in one moment,34 [through teshuvah, all traces of sin can be erased and even a wicked man]35 can become a perfect tzaddik. This advantage which a baal teshuvah possesses — that teshuvah reveals the intensity of his soul’s connection to G‑d — is possessed (albeit in a hidden manner) by a tzaddik.36

b) When [a person] turns in teshuvah in a manner that his sins become transformed into merits,37 he gains a new positive potential that tzaddikim do not possess even in a hidden manner. For as is well known,38 the merits [that come about through the transformation of sin] are higher than the merits [achieved by the Divine service of] tzaddikim.39

Similar concepts apply with regard to the heights of teshuvah attained by the soul’s descent to the worldly plane. For as is well known,40 before the souls’ descent to the worldly plane, they can be considered as perfect tzaddikim, and through the descent into the body, they attain the higher level of baalei teshuvah. Here, too, we find parallels to the two concepts explained above:

a) Because the body and the animal soul conceal and veil the light of the soul, the soul’s hidden powers — and even its essential powers which surpass its hidden powers — are aroused.41

b) Through the soul’s descent to the worldly plane, it can achieve a new [mode of service], the refinement and perfection of the body, the animal soul, and its portion of the world. Since it is a new [mode of service] (and not merely the revelation of hidden [powers]), it reflects a higher rung than the revelation of the soul’s hidden powers. {Moreover, it is the refinement and perfection of the body which fulfills the intent for the soul’s descent to this worldly plane [through] establishing a dwelling [for G‑d] in the lower realms.}42

Since the attainment of this high level (— the new service of refining the body, the animal soul, and one’s portion of the world —) is also achieved by the efforts of the soul, therefore the ascent granted to the soul by virtue of its Divine service on the material plane is also an [entirely] new rung (and not merely the revelation of inner or essential powers which it possesses).

This concept is explained in other sources43 with regard to the advantage of the love for G‑d which the G‑dly soul brings about within the animal soul over the love experienced by the G‑dly soul itself. The love of the G‑dly soul allows for a sense of self. Even the love experienced by the soul in which it desires to cling to its root and source although in doing so, it will become void and nothingness, losing all sense of its individual existence,44 [does not represent complete self-transcendence]. For since this is a natural desire, this does not cause [the soul] to nullify its fundamental form. The love [for G‑d] experienced by the animal soul, by contrast, does represent a negation of the animal soul’s fundamental form. For by nature, [the animal soul] is drawn after material things, and the love for G‑d runs contrary to its nature.45 Thus, its experience of a love for G‑d represents complete and utter self-nullification.

[Bringing the animal soul to such love has a reciprocatory effect on] the G‑dly soul,46 nullifying its fundamental form, and causing its love to be characterized by self-nullification.47 Instead of the love being motivated by the natural tendencies and characteristics of the lover (i.e., the soul), the love becomes inspired by the object of love (G‑d).

Similar concepts apply with regard to the refinement and perfection [achieved by the soul] within its portion of the world. Causing material entities to become vessels for G‑dliness represents a new development, a fundamental change in the nature of the world. [For the nature of the world is to conceal G‑dliness. Indeed, this is alluded to in the Hebrew word which means “world”] עולם which relates to the word העלם, meaning “concealment” or “veiling.”48 This (— that the world becomes a vessel for G‑dliness —) does not come about because of the world’s [natural tendency], but rather is inspired by G‑dliness. Since G‑d’s oneness is totally unlimited, it can also encompass the existence of our [material] world.49

Endeavoring to bring about this oneness has a reciprocal effect on the person (who brought about the refinement and perfection within his portion of the world) and enables his Divine service to be characterized by complete bittul: self-nullification that does not stem from his individual identity, but from G‑dliness.50

V

Based on the above, it is possible to explain the elevated rung attained by those who merited to die in actual self-sacrifice for the sanctification of G‑d’s name.51 {As is a matter of public knowledge, my revered teacher, my father, whose yahrzeit [is associated with the date of the publication of this maamar], was imprisoned and exiled to a far-removed corner of a distant country for his efforts to strengthen and spread Yiddishkeit. There (i.e., in prison and afterwards, in exile52 ), he suffered severe hardship and torment until this suffering and torment caused him to pass away before the time (which would otherwise have been dictated by the rules of nature).}

On the surface, this concept requires explanation. Self-sacrifice is a natural tendency of every single Jew, for it is impossible [for any Jew] to deny the one G‑d. Rather than do this, [every member of our people] is prepared to sacrifice his life and suffer torment.53 (And if there are [Jews] who have not sacrificed themselves in this matter, it is because their [life circumstances] did not require it.) If so, why are those who actually underwent martyrdom considered to have reached such a high level?

Moreover, explanation is required with regard to the statements of Rabbi Akiva, who said:54

For my entire life, I was agitated with regard to the verse:55 “And you shall love G‑d... with all your soul,” which is interpreted as “even if your soul is taken.” I would say: “When will I have the opportunity to fulfill it?”

On the surface, the very fact that [Rabbi Akiva’s] entire life was spent in genuine yearning to fulfill this verse came about because the power of mesirus nefesh shined within his soul. What was so lacking with regard to his mesirus nefesh (before he had an opportunity to actually express it — the reasons were not dependent on him)? Why was he agitated about [the matter]?

[These questions] can be resolved [as follows]:56 The willingness of every Jew to sacrifice his life rather than deny G‑d comes from the soul. Even when a person arouses his power of mesirus nefesh until it is revealed (i.e., he reaches a commitment for which, if necessary, he is prepared to sacrifice his life), this is the power of mesirus nefesh within his soul which is being revealed. And the very nature of the soul is to seek mesirus nefesh; thus it is not a new development.

When, however, a person actually undergoes martyrdom, it is a new development. [One of the elements of newness is that his mesirus nefesh]is prompted by the concealment and opposition created by those who [attempt to] force him to deny G‑d. By sacrificing his life and accepting the suffering they inflict, [the martyr] extracts the sparks [of G‑dliness] within them, and elevates them to holiness.57 This (— the elevation of sparks [of G‑dliness] which descended so low —) is a new development.58

In addition, actual mesirus nefesh brings about a new development with regard to the person involved himself. For when he actually undergoes martyrdom, the natural soul is also involved. Not only does [the natural soul] not stand in the way of the soul’s commitment to martyrdom, but it also desires actual martyrdom.59

Now the [most fundamental] inherent desire of the natural soul is to live. Thus the martyrdom to which the G‑dly soul inspires it represents a new development that runs contrary to its nature. This represents the height achieved by mesirus nefesh expressed in actual martyrdom.

The commitment to mesirus nefesh of the G‑dly soul, since it reflects its natural desire, still preserves the individual’s identity. Mesirus nefesh expressed in actual martyrdom, by contrast, since it runs contrary to the inherent nature of the natural soul, nullifies the person’s identity entirely. This also elevates the G‑dly soul (for it inspired the commitment to mesirus nefesh within the natural soul), causing its self-sacrifice to be characterized by bittul.

VI

Similar concepts can be explained with regard to the descent that characterizes the first tzimtzum (the first descent within the spiritual cosmos). The intent of the tzimtzum is for the sake of revelation {and therefore all the subsequent descents are all for the sake of revelation}. Thus we see parallels to the two concepts explained above:60

a) The tzimtzum brought about a new development, enabling the Or Ein Sof to be revealed within the worlds as well.

Before the tzimtzum: Or Ein Sof filled the place of the empty cavity, and there was no place (i.e., it was impossible) for the worlds to come into being.”61 Thus the revelation did not permeate the worlds. The tzimtzum brought about a new development, that Or Ein Sof could be revealed within the worlds themselves. This represents a new development for the worlds, but not for G‑d’s light, because this light was revealed previously in the levels above the tzimtzum.

b) [The Jewish people’s] efforts to refine [the world’s material substance] will bring about the revelation of a new light that was not revealed before the tzimtzum. Indeed, this light will transcend, not only the light which spreads out in a revealed manner, but also the essence of the light. Indeed, it will reveal the hiddenness at G‑d’s very essence.

VII

It is well known that these two developments: the revelation of the light which shined before the tzimtzum, and the revelation of the hiddenness at G‑d’s very essence, will take place in the Era of the Redemption, and that era will be comprised of two different periods.

This concept [— that there will be two periods in the Era of the Redemption —] enables us to resolve several [seemingly] conflicting Midrashic passages with regard to this era. [For example,] it is stated62 that “In the Future, the Holy One, blessed be He, will make a feast for the righteous,” and it is said:63 “The World to Come will have neither eating nor drinking.”

[The apparent contradiction between these two quotes can be resolved by] explaining64 that they are speaking about two separate periods. In the first stage, there will be a revelation of pleasure that can be sensed [by ordinary mortal perception] (a feast). This reflects the revelation of the Or Ein Sof that shone previously. Afterwards, there will be a revelation of a level of pleasure that transcends [mortal] sensation, which reflects the revelation of the hiddenness at G‑d’s very essence.

In general, [these two periods] can be explained as [reflecting] the differences65 between the Era of Mashiach, and the Era of the Resurrection of the Dead,66 as reflected in our Sages’ statement:67 “All the prophets prophesied only with regard to the Era of Mashiach, but with regard to the World to Come, [one may apply the verse:]68 ‘No eye saw, but Yours, O G‑d.’”

Thus it is possible to say that in the Era of Mashiach, there will be a revelation of the Or Ein Sof which was revealed before the tzimtzum, and in the World to Come (the Era of Resurrection), will be revealed the level of Eden about which it is said: “No eye saw, but Yours, O G‑d,” the hiddenness at G‑d’s very essence.69

VIII

Based on the above, it is possible to explain that the revelations of the Era of Mashiach are dependent on maaseinu, “our deeds,” and those of the Era of the Resurrection are dependent on avodaseinu, “our Divine service.” For the factor which brings about the reward for a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself.70 Thus the mitzvah (the Divine service) must also reflect the reward (the Divine energy which is drawn down as a result).

Accordingly, drawing down the revelation of the Or Ein Sof which shone previously is accomplished by the efforts to reveal the true nature of the [G‑dly] soul, for [this nature] also existed previously. [These type of efforts are referred to by the term] maaseinu.

Drawing down the hiddenness at G‑d’s very essence, which is a new light, is accomplished by the efforts which transcend even the nature of the [G‑dly] soul. (This brings about a totally new type [of Divine service] that did not exist even [within the potential] of the G‑dly soul.) [These type of efforts are referred to by the term] avodaseinu.

IX

On this basis, we can understand the verse “And it shall come to pass that when you heed,” which implies that the Jews will definitely observe the commandments. For it is definitely certain that G‑d’s intent for a dwelling in the lower worlds will ultimately be realized.71

This will encompass both matters mentioned above — the revelation of the Or Ein Sof which was revealed before the tzimtzum (the revelations of the Era of Mashiach),and the revelation of the hiddenness at G‑d’s very essence (the revelations of the Era of the Resurrection).

These revelations are dependent on maaseinu viavodaseinu, “our deeds and our Divine service.” Concerning these, it is said: “free choice is granted to every person.”72 Nevertheless, we have been promised,73 “None will ever be estranged from You.”74 Every member of the Jewish people will fulfill the Divine intent in maaseinu, laboring in the Torah and its mitzvos beyond the natural limits of the animal soul, and avodaseinu, laboring in the Torah and its mitzvos beyond the natural limits of the G‑dly soul.

Thus we can understand the connection between the verse “And it shall come to pass...” and the era of ikvesa deMeshicha. (In that era, the promise that the Jews will certainly heed [G‑d’s commandments] will be fulfilled.) Moreover, the ultimate perfection of our Divine service (— bringing about a new development [in our Divine service] that [broadens the spiritual horizons of] even the G‑dly soul) — will be achieved (primarily) by refining the darkness of exile, and in particular, the darkness that characterizes the era of ikvesa deMeshicha.

{Surely this is true according to the interpretation of the Tzemach Tzedek75 who associates the verse “And when it shall come to pass...” with the verse76 “and his hand was holding on to the heel of Esav, his brother,” explaining (according to the first interpretation) that this refers to the actual heel of Esav.}

Tzaddikim are not affected bythe darkness of the exile to the same degree. Certainly, they do not possess [the advantage produced by] the Divine service of transforming sins into merits. Moreover, the advantage achieved through refining and perfecting the animal soul is not as powerful for them (for their animal soul is not as materially oriented, even before their Divine service).

Thus [the manner in which] the tzaddikim refine [the sparks of G‑dliness enclothed within] the three impure kelipos is through challenges, and, more specifically, through actual mesirus nefesh.

After several tzaddikim were able to refine [the sparks of G‑dliness enclothed within] the three impure kelipos through actual mesirus nefesh, the heights which they achieved are drawn down to their descendants {as implied by the continuation of the verse: “And G‑d will safeguard... as He swore to your ancestors”}. This also includes those who studied their teachings, for students are also considered as sons.77 And thus challenges, and particularly, [challenges involving] actual mesirus nefesh, will no longer be necessary. The [onlyform of mesirus nefesh that will be necessary is] mesirus haratzon, giving over one’s will.

And they and the entire Jewish people will be able to carry out maaseinu viavodaseinu, “our deeds and our Divine service,” amidst true tranquillity and prosperity, with happiness and joy. We will merit the fulfillmentof the prophecy:78“You who rest in the dust: ‘Arise and sing,’”among them [will be my revered father and teacher], whose yahrzeit [is commemorated on the date of the release of this maamar]. And then we will all proceed upright to our land with the coming of Mashiach; may this take place in the immediate future.