Introduction

The sichah to follow continues the themes mentioned in the previous two sichos: a) the importance of serving G‑d with bittul, and b) how involving oneself with the lowest dimensions of this material world and refining them fulfills G‑d’s purpose for creation, establishing a dwelling for Him in our material world.

The two themes are intertwined and each one complements the other. For G‑d’s dwelling in this world to be complete, it must be brought about not by Divine revelation, but by the service of man. Moreover, that service must extend beyond the study of the Torah and the observance of mitzvos, encompassing also a person’s ordinary worldly activities (performing “all your deeds for the sake of Heaven,”1 and “knowing [G‑d] in all your ways”).2

Now, the manifestation of G‑d’s Essence in this material world brings out the deepest level of bittul, the realization that ein od, “there is nothing else” but Him. In order for man’s Divine service to transform the world into a place where G‑d’s Essence is manifest, it must reflect a bittul of this nature.

* * *

The Rebbe originally communicated these concepts in a maamar. Only later were they adapted and published in the form below, as a sichah. For the Rebbeim, delivering a maamar was a spiritual experience, current and intense.3 This is clear to anyone who, either at the time or on a screen, ever observed the changed facial expression of the Rebbe whenever he was delivering a maamar. By contrast, a sichah was, as the name implies, a “talk.” Not only was it less formal and intense – but in content, structure, and delivery – and used less mystical terminology than a maamar, in a sichah, the Rebbe spoke to his listeners, adapting his words to them. When delivering a maamar, by contrast, he was revealing the Torah as he lived it – as spiritual truth that he was experiencing and conveying from its source Above.

Since the source of this sichah was a maamar, even after being adapted to its present form, its conceptual development remains complex. Therefore, to facilitate a reader’s understanding, we have added summaries at the end of each section.

Was Yaakov Driving a Bargain?

1. Our Torah reading states:4

Yaakov took a vow, saying: ‘If G‑d will be with me and protect me on this way… and give me bread to eat and garments to wear, and if I return to my father’s house, [then] G‑d will be my L‑rd and this stone I have erected as a monument will be the House of G‑d, and everything You will give me, I will certainly tithe.”

The commentaries question:5 How is it possible that Yaakov made his performance of good deeds – “This stone… will be the House of G‑d and everything You will give me, I will certainly tithe” – dependent on G‑d’s fulfillment of a condition – “If G‑d will be with me and protect me”?

א

אויף די פסוקים91 "וידר יעקב נדר לאמר אם יהי׳ אלקים עמדי גו׳ והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים והאבן הזאת אשר שמתי מצבה יהי׳ בית אלקים גו'״ – פרעגן מפרשים92: ווי קומט עס אַז יעקב האָט תולה געווען דעם קיום פון זיינע מעשים טובים (והאבן הזאת גו׳ עשר אעשרנו לך) אין אַ תנאי "אם יהי׳ אלקים עמדי גו'"? צי האָט דען יעקב געדינט דעם אויבערשטן נאָר, ח״ו, צוליבן שכר ותועלת – ע״מ לקבל פרס?!

The implication appears, Heaven forbid, as if Yaakov served G‑d solely for the sake of receiving a reward.

That is implausible; after all, we are speaking about Yaakov our Patriarch. Hence, it can be derived from the narrative6 that, by connecting his vow and good deeds with a condition, Yaakov was not “making a deal,” i.e., vowing to perform these good deeds so that his stipulations be met. Rather, he had the opposite intent. His objective was to fulfill his vow.7 He made his vow dependent on the conditions, “If G‑d will be with me…,” because this was the only way he would be able8 to fulfill it.9

Summary

The sichah quotes the passage: Yaakov took a vow, saying: ‘If G‑d will be with me and protect me on this way… and give me bread to eat and garments to wear, and if I return to my father’s house, [then] G‑d will be my L‑rd and this stone… will be the House of G‑d, and everything You will give me, I will certainly tithe.”

The Rebbe cites the question raised by the commentaries: How is it possible that Yaakov made his performance of good deeds – “This stone... will be the House of G‑d and everything that You give me, I will certainly tithe” – dependent on G‑d’s fulfillment of a condition, “If G‑d will be with me and protect me”?

The Rebbe resolves the question by stating that Yaakov’s objective was to fulfill his vow. He made his vow dependent on the conditions, “If G‑d will be with me…,” because this was the only way he would be able to fulfill it.

איז דערפון גופא93 געדרונגען, אַז מיט זיין פאַרבינדן דעם נדר (מעשים טובים) מיט אַ תנאי האָט יעקב ניט געמיינט אַז זיין מטרה איז צו האָבן די עניני התנאי, און בכדי זיי צו באַקומען האָט ער געגעבן אַ נדר צו טאָן מעשים טובים, נאָר להיפך: די מטרה זיינע איז געווען דער קיום הנדר94, און זיין תולה זיין דעם נדר אינעם תנאי "אם יהי׳ אלקים עמדי גו'" איז וויילע דאָס איז דער וועג דורך וועלכןד* דער נדר קען זיך אויספירן.95

Rashi or Ramban

2. A deeper understanding can be reached by prefacing two interpretations of the vow taken by Yaakov:

Rashi10 explains that the condition Yaakov made includes, and ends with, “and G‑d will be my L‑rd,” (which he interprets to mean, “there will be no imperfection in my seed”). Yaakov’s vow begins with the following verse: “This stone that I have erected as a monument….”

Ramban,11however, differs with Rashi and interprets “and G‑d will be my L‑rd,” not as the continuation of the condition stipulated by Yaakov, but rather as the beginning of his vow. The condition ends with the words, “if I return in peace to my father’s home.”

ב

וועט מען דאָס פאַרשטיין בהקדים וואָס בנוגע דעם תנאי און דעם נדר זיינען דאָ צוויי פירושים: רש״י לערנט96 אַז דער תנאי איז כולל (און ענדיקט זיך מיט) "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" ("שלא ימצא פסול בזרעי"), און דער נדר הויבט זיך אָן מיטן צווייטן פסוק – "והאבן הזאת אשר שמתי מצבה גו׳״; און דער רמב״ן97 לערנט, אַז "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" איז (ניט דער המשך התנאי "כדברי רש״י", נאָר) דער אָנהויב פון נדר, און דער תנאי ענדיקט זיך מיט די ווערטער "ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי".

Ramban’s interpretation requires explanation: Since “and G‑d will be my L‑rd,” is the beginning of Yaakov’s vow, it would seem the division of the verses should be different. “And G‑d will be my L‑rd” should not have been the end of the verse beginning with “if I return in peace…,” which is part of the condition, but rather the beginning of the verse, “This stone…,” which is part of Yaakov’s vow.

דאַרף מען פאַרשטיין לשיטת הרמב״ן: וויבאַלד "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" איז די התחלה פון דעם נדר, האָט די חלוקת הפסוקים געדאַרפט זיין אין אַן אופן אַז "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" זאָל זיין (ניט דער סיום פון פסוק "ושבתי בשלום גו׳" וואָס רעדט וועגן תנאי, נאָר) די התחלה פון פסוק "והאבן הזאת גו׳" וואָס רעדט וועגן נדר?

{In particular, this division appears preferable because, according to his interpretation, the phrase “and G‑d will be my L‑rd,” is connected to the phrase “this stone… will be the House of G‑d,” not only because they are both parts of Yaakov’s vow, but because they are thematically interrelated, as Ramban explains: Yaakov was saying, “I will serve the unique G‑d… in the place of this stone; it will be a House of G‑d for me.”

[ובפרט אַז "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" האָט (לשיטתו) ניט בלויז אַ שייכות צו "והאבן הזאת גו׳ יהי׳ בית אלקים" מצד דעם וואָס זיי זיינען טיילן פון נדר, נאָר נאָכמער – זיי זיינען איין תוכן והמשך, ובלשון הרמב״ן: אעבוד השם המיוחד . . במקום האבן הזאת שתהי׳ לי לבית אלקים].

Thus, it must be said that even according to Ramban, even though“and G‑d will be my L‑rd” is part of Yaakov’s vow, in one aspect it has a greater connection with the condition “if I return in peace” than with the continuation of the vow, “this stone….” For that reason, “and G‑d will be my L‑rd” and “if I return” are included in the same verse.

Summary

The Rebbe mentions a difference of opinion between Rashi and Ramban regarding the interpretation of this passage. Rashi explains that the condition Yaakov made ends with “and G‑d will be my L‑rd” and his vow begins with the following verse, “This stone that I have erected….” Ramban interprets “and G‑d will be my L‑rd” not as the continuation of the condition stipulated by Yaakov, but rather as the beginning of his vow.

Ramban’s interpretation requires explanation: Since he considers “and G‑d will be my L‑rd” as the beginning of Yaakov’s vow, it would seem that “And G‑d will be my L‑rd” should not have been the end of the verse beginning with “if I return in peace…,” which is part of the condition, but rather the beginning of the verse, “This stone…,” which is part of Yaakov’s vow. Therefore, it must be said that even according to Ramban, “and G‑d will be my L‑rd” shares a connection with the condition “if I return in peace.”

מוז מען זאָגן אויך לדעת הרמב״ן, אַז "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" (הגם אַז דאָס איז אַ חלק פון נדר) האָט אין אַ פרט מער שייכות מיטן תנאי "ושבתי בשלום" ווי מיטן המשך הנדר "והאבן הזאת גו׳", וואָס דעריבער שטייען זיי ("והי׳ גו׳" און "ושבתי גו׳") אין איין פסוק.

Two and Two

3. Yaakov’s vow is divided into two verses – “and G‑d will be my L‑rd” and “this stone...” – because they represent two facets of the vow, as explained above. Similarly, the conditions Yaakov stipulated are divided into two verses: a) “If G‑d will be with me…, protect me…, and give…, and garments to wear,” and b) “if I return in peace to my father’s home” (and according to Rashi, also the conclusion of that verse, “and G‑d will be my L‑rd,”) because they are of two different natures.

ג

כשם ווי דער נדר ווערט איינגעטיילט אין צוויי פסוקים ("והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" און "והאבן הזאת וגו׳") דערפאַר וואָס דאָס זיינען צוויי סוגים אין נדר, כנ״ל – עד״ז איז אויך בנוגע די תנאים וואָס יעקב האָט אויסגענומען, אַז דאָס וואָס זיי טיילן זיך אין צוויי פסוקים – (א) "אם יהי׳ אלקים עמדי גו׳ ושמרני גו׳ ונתן גו׳ ובגד ללבוש", און (ב) "ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי" (און לויט רש״י – אויך דעם סיום הפסוק "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים״) – איז עס צוליב דעם וואָס זיי זיינען צוויי סוגים.

The difference between the two is reflected in their wording. The first verse speaks about conditions G‑d was asked to fulfill: “If G‑d will be with me…, protect me…, and give me….” In contrast, the second verse states, “if I return” (not “if You return me”),12 as if Yaakovs would be returning on his own initiative.13

Summary

Yaakov’s vow is divided into two verses – “and G‑d will be my L‑rd” and “this stone...” – because they represent two facets of the vow. Similarly, the conditions Yaakov stipulated are divided into two verses: a) “If G‑d will be with me…, protect me…, and give…, and garments to wear,” and b) “if I return in peace to my father’s home….”

The difference between the latter two verses is reflected in their wording. The first verse speaks about conditions G‑d was asked to fulfill: “If G‑d will be with me…, protect me…, and give me….” In contrast, the second verse states, “if I return” (not “if You return me”), as if Yaakov was returning on his own initiative.

און ווי דאָס איז אויך מודגש אין לשון הפסוק: אין ערשטן פסוק רעדט זיך וועגן זאַכן וואָס דער אויבערשטער וועט טאָן – "יהי׳ אלקים עמדי ושמרני גו׳ ונתן לי גו׳"; משא״כ אין צווייטן פסוק איז דער לשון ״ושבתי גו׳״ (ניט – "והשיבני גו׳" וכיו״ב)98, כאילו ווי די השבה וועט זיך אויפטאָן פון זיך אַליין99.

Investing for Profits

4. To offer a resolution: Yaakov’s descent – leaving Beersheba and Eretz Yisrael and going to the Diaspora and, particularly, to Charan, a place whose name is associated with arousing “G‑d’s anger in the world”14 – was a “descent for the purpose of an ascent.”15

The ascent comprises three dimensions:

ד

די נקודת הביאור בכל זה:

די ״ירידה״ פון יעקב אבינו – זיין אַרויסגיין פון באר שבע (ארץ ישראל) קיין חו״ל ובפרט חרן (חרון אף של מקום (בעולם)100), איז געווען לצורך עלי׳. און אין דער עלי׳ זיינען דאָ דריי ענינים:

a) Though he endured living in Charan, and specifically in Lavan’s home, he nevertheless emerged “unmarred by sin,”16 without being affected by his surrounding environment. This enabled Yaakov to ascend to a higher level than his rung before this descent.

א) דורך דעם וואָס זייענדיק דאָרט, אין חרן און בית לבן, איז ער ניט מושפע געוואָרן פון זיי און איז אַרויס פון דאָרט ״שלם מן החטא״101 – איז יעקב נתעלה געוואָרן צו אַ העכערער דרגא ווי ער איז געווען פריער קודם הירידה.

{The difference in the levels of Yaakov’s Divine service resembles – though not entirely17 – the advantage a baal teshuvah (one who turns to G‑d in teshuvah) has over a tzaddik (righteous man), as reflected in the teaching that even “a perfect tzaddik cannot stand in the presence of a baal teshuvah.18 The baal teshuvah achieved this rung because “he tasted sin,” and nevertheless “distanced himself from it and overcame his natural inclination.”

[וע״ד (ולא ממש102) המעלה פון אַ בעל תשובה אויף אַ צדיק – "מקום שבע״ת עומדין אין צדיקים גמורים יכולין לעמוד בו״ – וואָס דאָס איז דערפאַר וואָס דער בעל תשובה האָט "טועם" געווען "טעם החטא" און פונדעסטוועגן ״פירש ממנו וכבש יצרו״103].

b) In Charan, Yaakov carried out the command,19Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth…, and conquer it,” as well as his father’s instructions,20 “Take a wife from there… and may the Almighty… make you fruitful” in a consummate manner, to the extent that “his bed (progeny) was perfect.”21

ב) דאָרט דוקא האָט ער דורכגעפירט דעם ציווי "פרו ורבו גו׳ וכבשוה", דעם "קח לך משם אשה גו׳ ויפרך גו'"104 ובאופן דמטתו שלימה105.

c) To use the terminology of Chassidus, through his labor with Lavan’s sheep over the course of 20 years,22 he refined and elevated23 the sparks of holiness that were invested in Lavan’s sheep.24 This service generated a spiritual echo, elevating Yaakov to greater heights, to the extent that “The man became prodigiously successful.”25

Summary

Rather than provide an immediate explanation of the above, the Rebbe introduces a chassidic interpretation of Yaakov’s journey to Charan as the foundation on which he will clarify the problematic points he raised beforehand.

Yaakov’s descent from Eretz Yisrael to the Diaspora was a “descent for the purpose of an ascent.” The ascent comprises three dimensions:

a) Through living in an undesirable environment without being affected, Yaakov ascended to a higher spiritual level. His ascent resembles the advantage a baal teshuvah has over a tzaddik. Rambam explains that a baal teshuvah achieves this rung because “he tasted sin,” and nevertheless, “distanced himself from it and overcame his natural inclination.” Similarly, Yaakov attained a higher rung by leaving Eretz Yisrael and living in a challenging environment.

b) In Charan, Yaakov carried out the command, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth…, and conquer it.”

c) To use the terminology of Chassidus, through his labor with Lavan’s sheep over the course of 20 years, he refined and elevated the sparks of holiness that were invested in Lavan’s sheep.

ג) בלשון החסידות – דורך זיין עבודה מיט די צאן לבן, במשך עשרים שנה106, האָט ער מברר ומעלה107 געווען די ניצוצות קדושה וואָס האָבן זיך געפונען אין צאן לבן – און דאָס האָט אויפגעטאָן אין אים אַן עילוי ביז אינעם אופן פון "ויפרוץ האיש מאד מאד"108.

Not Merely One Man’s Journey

5. “The actions of the Patriarchs are a sign for their descendants.”26 As such, Yaakov’s departure from Beersheba and journey to Charan are reflected in the Divine service of every person. As Or HaChayim explains,27 this journey alludes to the descent of the soul to this material plane (as well as the descent of the Jews into exile).28These, too, are descents for the sake of ascents and contain parallels to the three aspects of the ascent experienced by Yaakov:29

ה

"מעשה אבות – סימן לבנים". איז מובן, אַז דער ענין פון "ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע וילך חרנה" איז פאַראַן אויך אין עבודת כאו״א; און ווי דער אור החיים109 איז מבאר, אַז דער פסוק איז מרמז אויף כללות ירידת הנשמה למטה (און אויך אויף דער ירידה פון אידן אין גלות110), וואָס דאָס איז אַ ירידה צורך עלי׳ – און אין דעם זיינען דאָ די ענינים הנ״ל (ע״ד ווי די ענינים אין דער עלי׳ פון יעקב)111:

a) As the soul existed in the spiritual realms before its descent to the material plane, its rung was comparable to that of a tzaddik. Through carrying out its Divine service with the Torah and its mitzvos, after its descent to this plane and its enclothement in the body and the animal soul that conceal G‑dliness, the soul reaches a rung comparable to that of a baal teshuvah,30as reflected by the verse,31 “The spirit will return to G‑d Who endowed it.”

א) די נשמה זייענדיק למעלה פאַר דער ירידה איז זי בבחינת צדיק; און דורך דעם וואָס זי איז יורד למטה און ווערט נתלבש אין אַ גוף ונה״ב וועלכע זיינען מעלים ומסתיר אויף אלקות און פונדעסטוועגן טוט זי איר עבודה בתורה ומצוות – קומט אין איר צו די מעלה (פון והרוח תשוב אל האלקיםכא*), פון בעל תשובה112.

b) Through its descent to the material plane, the soul fulfills G‑d’s command, “Be fruitful and multiply,” and also the Torah and its mitzvos as a whole.

ב) בירידתה למטה איז זי מקיים דעם ציווי פרו ורבו גו׳ (און תומ״צ בכלל).

c) Through its Divine service with physical entities on the material plane, the soul makes the world into a dwelling for G‑d, “a dwelling in the lower realms.”32This accomplishment elevates the soul to a much higher rung than the one on which it previously existed.33

ג) דורך איר עבודה למטה אין דברים גשמיים טוט זי אויף אַז די וועלט זאָל ווערן אַ דירה לו ית׳ – "דירה בתחתונים", און דורך דעם ווערט זי נתעלה אַ סאַך העכער ווי זי איז געווען פריער113.

A comparison between these developments – that this world (in its lowly state) becomes a dwelling for G‑d and the ascent the soul achieves through bringing about this transformation – points to an advantage (from one standpoint), of the Divine service of carrying out “all your actions for the sake of Heaven”34 and “knowing G‑d in all your ways”35 over the Divine service of studying the Torah and observing the mitzvos.

To explain that advantage: When a person’s Divine service encompasses even his personal matters36and he carries out such activities (“your actions” and “your ways”) “for the sake of Heaven,” and in a manner through which he knows G‑d, he enables G‑d’s dwelling to encompass even the lowest dimensions of worldly existence.37

Summary

Yaakov’s journey alludes to the descent of the soul to this material plane. That also is a descent for the sake of an ascent and parallels the three aspects of the ascent experienced by Yaakov:

a) As the soul existed in the spiritual realms before its descent to the material plane, its rung was comparable to that of a tzaddik. Through carrying out its Divine service after its descent to this material plane where G‑dliness is concealed, the soul reaches a rung comparable to that of a baal teshuvah.

b) On this material plane, the soul fulfills G‑d’s command, “Be fruitful and multiply,” and also the Torah and its mitzvos as a whole.

c) Through its Divine service with physical entities on the material plane, the soul makes the world into a dwelling for G‑d. This accomplishment elevates the soul to a much higher rung than the one on which it previously existed.

A comparison between these developments – that this world (in its lowly state) becomes a dwelling for G‑d and the ascent the soul achieves through bringing about this transformation – points to an advantage of the Divine service of refining one’s material environment over the study of the Torah and the observance of the mitzvos. By refining material entities, the person enables G‑d’s dwelling to encompass even the lowest dimensions of worldly existence. By contrast, the study of the Torah and the observance of mitzvos are by definition categorized as “holy.” As such, they do not relate entirely to the material dimensions of our world.

און אין דעם ענין וואָס די וועלט ("תחתונים") ווערט אַ דירה לו ית׳ (און אין די עליית הנשמה וואָס ווערט דורך דעם), איז דאָ אַ יתרון (בפרט אחד) אין דער עבודה פון "וכל מעשיך יהיו לשם שמים״114 און ״בכל דרכיך דעהו״115 אויף דער עבודה פון לימוד התורה און קיום המצוות; וואָרום דורך דעם וואָס אויך די עניני הרשות פון מענטשן ("מעשיך" און "דרכיך") זיינען "לשם שמים" און אין אַן אופן פון "דעהו", ווערט די דירה לו ית׳ אויך אין "תחתונים" ממש116.

Shifting Directions

6. It is possible to explain that the advantage in serving G‑d in one’s personal matters over serving Him through the study of Torah and the observance of mitzvos also relates to the first point mentioned previously (that through its descent to this physical plane and involvement with material matters, the soul attains the rung of a baal teshuvah).38

ו

ויש לומר, אַז דער יתרון פון דער עבודה אין עניני הרשות לגבי דער עבודה פון תומ״צ איז אויך בנוגע דעם ערשטן עילוי (וואָס די נשמה קומט צו צו דער מעלה פון בעל תשובה)כו*:

Whenever a Jew performs a mitzvah, he is expressing his inner will, for, from the standpoint of his innermost self, every Jew “desires to fulfill all the mitzvos.”39This is true even whenhe must overcome his yetzer hara, which tries to hinder his observance to perform the mitzvah, for when he compels himself to observe the mitzvah, “his yetzer harais weakened”40 and his true desire – the desire to perform the mitzvah is revealed. Thus, the yetzer hara has no connection to the actual performance of the mitzvah. Developing this line of thinking, when a person performs a mitzvah, he is not acting as a baal teshuvah, but rather as a tzaddik.41

בשעת אַ איד טוט אַ מצוה, אפילו ווען דער קיום המצוה איז אין אַן אופן וואָס ער דאַרף זיך מתגבר זיין אויפן יצה״ר וואָס שטערט עם פון מקיים זיין די מצוה,

פונדעסטוועגן, וויבאַלד אַז נאָכדעם ווי ער איז זיך כופה צו מקיים זיין די מצוה איז "תשש יצרו"117 און עס ווערט נתגלה זיין אמת׳ער רצון – וואָס יערער איד (בפנימיותו) "רוצה הוא לעשות כל המצות״118 – קומט אויס, אַז אין דעם קיום המצוה גופא האָט דער יצה״ר קיין שייכות ניט; ובמילא איז דער קיום המצוה ניט אין דער בחי׳ פון אַ בעל תשובה נאָר אין דער בחינה פון אַ צדיק;

By contrast, when performing the Divine service of “all your actions shall be for the sake of Heaven” and “know G‑d in all your ways,” a person is involved in his everyday individual affairs. These include matters that his body inherently desires for its existence and life,42 as a result of his animal soul.43 {Therefore, even when the person carries out these activities “for the sake of heaven” and in a manner that enables him to “know” G‑d, they remain “his actions” and “his ways.”} Accordingly, such involvement in these activities follows a baal teshuvah’s mode of Divine service.44

Summary

The advantage in serving G‑d within the context of his everyday affairs by refining material existence over serving Him through the study of Torah and the observance of mitzvos also relates to the first point mentioned previously (that through its descent to this physical plane and involvement with material matters, the soul attains the rung of a baal teshuvah).

When a Jew performs a mitzvah, he is expressing his inner will, for every Jew possesses an inherent desire to fulfill the mitzvos. Even if he has to overcome his yetzer hara to fulfill the mitzvah, the yetzer hara has no connection to the actual performance of the mitzvah. Developing this line of thinking, when a person performs a mitzvah, he is not acting as a baal teshuvah, but rather as a tzaddik, because like a tzaddik, he is following his natural desire to do G‑d’s will.

By contrast, serving G‑d within the context of his everyday affairs, in matters that his body and animal soul inherently desire, the person is following a baal teshuvah’s mode of Divine service, for he is going against his natural tendency.

משא״כ די עבודה פון "כל מעשיך יהיו לש״ש" און "בכל דרכיך דעהו", וויבאַלד אַז זיין טאָן די עניני הרשות קומט מצד דעם וואָס בטבעו איז ער מתאווה צו זיי מצד דעם גוף וקיומו וחיותו119, מצד נפשו הבהמית120 [וואָס דערפאַר, איז אויך ווען ער טוט זיי "לשם שמים" און אפילו אין אַן אופן פון ״דעהו״ – פארבלייבן זיי "מעשיך" און "דרכיך"] – איז בשעת אַז ער טוט די עניני הרשות לשם שמים אָדער אין אַן אופן פון "דעהו״, דאַן איז די עשי׳ עצמה אין אַן אופן פון אַ "בעל תשובה".

How Deep Is the Bond?

7. To provide a more detailed explanation of the advantage of the teshuvah achieved through the Divine service of carrying out “all your actions for the sake of Heaven” and “knowing G‑d in all your ways,” over the teshuvah involved in conquering one’s yetzer hara so it will not impede the person’s Divine service of Torah and its mitzvos:

ז

דער ביאור בפרטיות יותר אין דעם עילוי ה״תשובה" וואָס ווערט דערגרייכט דורך דער עבודה פון "וכל מעשיך כו׳" "בכל דרכיך כו׳" אויף דער "תשובה" פון "כבישת היצר" וואָס איז דאָ אויך אין דער עבודה פון תורה ומצוות:

One of the advantages of teshuvah in a simple sense, i.e., teshuvah in repentance for sin, is that it brings out the strength of a Jew’s connection with G‑d. Even though the person, Heaven forbid, committed a sin,45 the connection between him and G‑d is not lost. Indeed, it is because of the strength of this ongoing connection that, after the sin, the person can repent.46

איינע פון די מעלות אין עבודת התשובה (כפשוטה) איז, וואָס תשובה ברענגט אַרויס דעם תוקף פון דער התקשרות פון אַ אידן מיטן אויבערשטן, אַז די התקשרות פאַרלירט זיך ניט ח״ו אפילו דורך אַ חטא און וואָס דערפאַר קען ער121 אפילו לאחרי החטא נאָך אַלץ תשובה טאָן122.

Similar concepts apply regarding the teshuvah which is the goal of the soul’s Divine service when it descends to this material plane. Carrying out its Divine service expresses and reveals the power of the soul’s bond to G‑dliness – that even when enclothed in a body, an animal soul, and a yetzer hara, it remains connected to G‑d through that service.

ועד״ז איז אויך בנוגע דעם ענין ה״תשובה" וואָס איז דאָ אין דער עבודת הנשמה בירידתה למטה אַז אין דעם זאָגט זיך אַרויס בגילוי דער תוקף ההתקשרות פון דער נשמה מימן אויבערשטן, אַז אויך ווען זי איז אָנגעטאָן אין גוף ונה״ב (און יצה״ר) איז זי פאַרבונדן מיטן אויבערשטן דורך עבודת ה׳.

Based on the above, it is possible to appreciate the advantage of the teshuvah achieved through carrying out “all your actions for the sake of Heaven” over the teshuvah involved in the Divine service of Torah and mitzvos.

ועפ״ז איז פאַרשטאַנדיק דער עילוי פון דער "תשובה" וואָס ווערט דערגרייכט דורך טאָן עניני הרשות לשם שמים, לגבי דער "תשובה" וואָס איז דאָ אין דער עבודה פון תומ״צ:

The Divine service of Torah and mitzvos expresses the strength of the soul’s bond with G‑d – that even when enclothed in a body and an animal soul, the soul has the potential to overcome them and break out of their constraints, weakening the yetzer hara. Nevertheless, the teshuvah involved in carrying out one’s personal matters “for the sake of Heaven” reflects a deeper bond. The soul demonstrates that its connection to G‑d encompasses even those matters in which the will of the animal soul holds sway.

Summary

Expanding the concepts developed in the previous section, the Rebbe explains the advantage the teshuvah achieved by serving G‑d within the context of one’s everyday affairs has over the teshuvah involved in conquering one’s yetzer hara so it will not impede his Divine service of Torah and its mitzvos. One of the advantages of teshuvah in a simple sense, i.e., teshuvah in repentance for sin, is that it brings out the strength of a Jew’s connection with G‑d. Even though the person, Heaven forbid, committed a sin, the connection between him and G‑d is not lost.

The Divine service of Torah and mitzvos expresses the strength of the soul’s bond with G‑d – that even when enclothed in a body and an animal soul, the soul has the potential to overcome them and break out of their constraints, weakening the yetzer hara.

Nevertheless, the teshuvah by serving G‑d within the context of his everyday affairs reflects a deeper bond. The soul demonstrates that its connection to G‑d encompasses even those matters in which the will of the animal soul holds sway.

אין דער עבודה פון תומ״צ זאָגט זיך אַרויס דער תוקף ההתקשרות פון דער נשמה אין דעם, וואָס אויך זייענדיק אין גוף ונה״ב האָט זי בכח צו שטאַרקן זיך איבער זיי און "אַרויסגיין" פון זיי, "תשש יצרו"; דורך דעם אָבער, וואָס אויך די עניני הרשות טוט זי "לשם שמים" וכו׳ ברענגט זיך אַרויס, אַז איר התקשרות איז אפילו אין די ענינים וואו ס׳איז נרגש דער רצון פון נפש הבהמית.

Beyond One’s Own Desire for G‑dliness

8. Nevertheless, even this spiritual peak achieved by the soul – i.e., the elevated level of teshuvah that is achieved through carrying out one’s personal matters “for the sake of Heaven” – is not comparable to the spiritual peak achieved through the third quality mentioned above47 – making the world a dwelling for G‑d.48

ח

אָבער אעפ״כ, איז אויך דער עילוי פון דער נשמה – דער עילוי פון תשובה וואָס ווערט דורך עשיית עניני הרשות לשם שמים וכו׳ – קומט ניט צו דעם עילוי (ענין הג׳ דלעיל סעיף ה׳) וואָס טוט זיך אויף אין איר דורך דעם וואָס זי מאַכט די וועלט פאַר אַ דירה לו ית'123.

To focus on one of the explanations of the virtues achieved through such Divine service: The bond the soul shares with G‑d is connected with its being and nature. The soul is fundamentally “an actual part of G‑d”49 and is therefore so strongly bonded with Him that the bond remains intact despite the soul being enclothed in the animal soul. Nevertheless, since this bond is a result of its nature and its being, it has a limit.50

איינער פון די ביאורים בזה:

די התקשרות פון דער נשמה מיטן אויבערשטן איז פאַרבונדן מיט איר "מציאות" און "טבע״. און דעריבער, הגם אַז די טבע ההתקשרות איז מיט אַ תוקף (וואָס בלייבט בשלימותו אפילו ווען זי איז מלובש אין נה״ב), וויבאַלד אָבער אַז דאָס איז די "טבע" פון איר "מציאות", איז דאָ אין דעם אַ הגבלה124.

In contrast,51 by transforming elements of material existence into mediums for G‑dliness, the soul attains an even higher rung.52 The very existence of material entities conceals G‑dliness, for they are part of this world, and this world – as its Hebrew name olam, עולם, implies – brings about the concealment (העלם) of G‑dliness.53Accordingly, the transformation of such entities into mediums for G‑dliness does not stem from their nature and being. It is possible only because of G‑d. Since His oneness is utterly unlimited, even this world – despite the concealment of G‑dliness it inherently causes – can become a dwelling for Him.54

משא״כ125 דורך דעם וואָס די נשמה פּועלט אַז די עניני העולם זאָלן ווערן כלים לאלקות – וויבאַלד אַז דאָס (וואָס זיי ווערן כלים צו אלקות) קומט ניט מצד זייער "טבע" און "מציאות" [וואָרום אדרבה: די "מציאות" פון "עולם" (מלשון העלם126) איז מעלים ומסתיר אויף אלקות], נאָר מצד דעם אויבערשטן, וואָס היות אַז זיין "אחדות" האָט ניט קיין הגבלות קען דעריבער אויך דער "עולם" זיין אַ דירה לו ית׳127,

By transforming the world into a dwelling for G‑d and bringing out G‑d’s absolute and unlimited oneness, the soul elevates its bond with G‑d to a loftier level. That bond stems not only from the soul’s being and nature,55 but also from G‑d’s unlimited unity.56

Summary

Even the elevated level of teshuvah the soul achieves by serving G‑d within the context of everyday affairs is not comparable to the spiritual peak achieved through making the world a dwelling for G‑d.

The bond the soul shares with G‑d is connected with its being and nature, because the soul is fundamentally “an actual part of G‑d.” Since this bond is a result of the soul’s nature and its being, it has a limit.

Through the service of transforming elements of material existence into mediums for G‑dliness, the soul attains an even higher rung. The transformation of material entities into mediums for G‑dliness does not stem from their nature and being, for by nature, they conceal G‑dliness. This transformation is possible only because of G‑d’s unlimited oneness. As a result of that infinite oneness, even this world – despite the concealment of G‑dliness it inherently causes – can become a dwelling for Him

By bringing about this transformation, the soul bonds with G‑d, not only within the limits of its being and nature, but it also connects to His unlimited oneness.

איז דורך דעם וואָס די נשמה מאַכט פון וועלט אַ דירה צום אויבערשטן און ברענגט דערמיט אַרויס דעם בל״ג פון אחדותו של הקב״ה – ווערט אויך איר התקשרות מיטן אויבערשטן (ניט נאָר וויס׳איז מצד איר "מציאות", נאָר) ווי דאָס איז מצד אחדותו של הקב״ה הבלתי מוגבל128.

Not For Its Own Sake

9. All the lofty levels that the soul reaches through its descent to the material plane are not the ultimate objective of that descent, for the soul does not exist for its own sake. Instead, as our Sages taught:57 “Everything that the Holy One, blessed be He, created (in His world), He created solely for His glory” and “I was created to serve my Creator.”58 Accordingly, it is understood that the ultimate purpose of man’s creation and the descent of the soul to this material plane is not for the sake of the soul’s ascent but rather to carry out G‑d’s purpose.59

ט

אָט די עליות, צו וועלכע די נשמה קומט צו דורך איר ירידה למטה, זיינען נאָך ניט דער תכלית המכוון פון איר ירידה. וואָרום וויבאַלד אַז "כל מה שברא הקב״ה (בעולמו) לא בראו אלא לכבודו״129 – און "אני נבראתי לשמש את קוני״130 – איז פאַרשטאַנדיק, אַז דער תכלית המכוון פון (בריאת האדם און) ירידת הנשמה למטה איז (ניט צוליב דער עלי׳ פון דער נשמה, נאָר) בכדי דורכצופירן דעם אויבערשטנ׳ס כוונה131.

In a similar vein, the Alter Rebbe states in Tanya60that the soul did not descend to this material plane for its own sake, but rather to transform the body, the animal soul, and its portion in the world,61 “to connect and unite them with G‑d’s infinite light.” Through these efforts, the soul carries out G‑d’s intent in creation, fulfilling His desire for a dwelling in the lower realms.62

און ע״ד ווי דער אַלטער רבי זאָגט אין תניא132, אַז ירידת הנשמה למטה איז ניט לצורך הנשמה, נאָר בכדי צו איבערמאַכן דעם גוף ונפש החיונית און חלקו בעולם – "לקשרם ולייחדם באוא״ס ב״ה", וואָס דורך דעם וועט זיך אויספירן די כוונה פון "נתאווה133 הקב״ה להיות לו דירה בתחתונים".

The soul will benefit from carrying out the service described above. Since this service brings about the fulfillment of G‑d’s ultimate intent, the soul therefore63 receives “an immeasurably good reward”64 and is enabled to experience an “infinitely great and wondrous ascent.” However, this reward is peripheral to the fundamental purpose of its existence – to fulfill G‑d’s intent in creation.

עס איז נאָר, וואָס היות אז די נשמה איז די וואָס פירט אויס די כוונה הנ״ל, קומט איר פאַר דעם אַ "שכר טוב לאין קץ״, דערפאַר134 האט אויך זי אַן "עלי׳ גדולה ונפלאה לאין קץ"135.

Explanation is necessary: How can the above concepts be reconciled with the statements in many sources65 that the soul descends to the material plane for the sake of an ascent? From these sources, it appears that the ascent the soul will experience is not a peripheral matter, but the rationale for and purpose of its descent.

Summary

The ultimate purpose of man’s creation and the descent of the soul to this material plane is not for the sake of the soul’s ascent but, as our Sages state, “I was created to serve my Creator.“ In a similar vein, the Alter Rebbe states in Tanya that the soul did not descend to this material plane for its own sake, but rather to transform the body, the animal soul, and its portion in the world, “to connect and unite them with G‑d’s infinite light.” Through these efforts, the soul carries out G‑d’s intent in creation, fulfilling His desire for a dwelling in the lower realms.

True, the soul benefits from this service. As mentioned above, through carrying out this service, the soul ascends to a higher level. Nevertheless, this reward is peripheral to the fundamental purpose of its existence – to fulfill G‑d’s intent in creation.

This leads to a question, for in many sources, it is stated that the soul descends to the material plane so that it can ascend to a higher rung, and that ascent is the purpose of its descent.

דאַרף מען פאַרשטיין: ווי איז דאָס מתאים דערמיט וואָס עס שטייט בכמה מקומות136, אַז די ירידת הנשמה למטה איז בשביל העלי׳, וואָס דאָס מיינט לכאורה אַז די עליית הנשמה איז ניט קיין ענין צדדי, נאָר דער טעם ותכלית פון איר ירידה?

Identifying with Utter Self-Transcendence

10. To offer a resolution to the above – at least in brief:

י

איז דער ביאור אין דעם (בקצרה עכ״פ):

As is well-known,66 the concept of “a dwelling for G‑d in the lower realms” unites two extremes. Specifically, the lower realms in which concealment prevails become a dwelling for G‑d’s Essence, G‑d’s Being, as He transcends all rungs. In the higher, spiritual realms, merely the revealed levels of G‑dly light shine forth. This lowly realm, by contrast, becomes a dwelling for G‑d’s very Essence.

ס׳איז ידוע137 אין דעם ענין פון "דירה לו ית׳ בתחתונים", אַז דוקא "תחתונים" ווערן אַ דירה לו ית׳ – לו לעצמותו. אין "עליונים" זיינען מאיר "גילויים", משא״כ "תחתונים" ווערן אַ דירה לעצמותו ית׳.

The concept that G‑d’s Essence is manifest in this lowly, material plane is connected to the concept that it is specifically in this world that the bittul of ein od (“there is nothing else”67) is expressed. By contrast, the higher, spiritual realms express onlythe bittul, that they are kilo, “as nothing,” in relation to G‑d.68

און דער ענין, וואָס עצמות "געפינט" זיך דוקא למטה, איז פאַרבונדן דערמיט וואָס דוקא אין עוה״ז איז דאָ דער ביטול פון "אין עוד", ניט ווי אין עולמות עליונים וואָס אין זיי איז דער ביטול פון "כלא"138.

G‑d’s intent is that His dwelling in the lower realms be brought about specifically through man’s Divine service.69 Therefore, the Divine service that brings about that dwelling must be carried out with utter bittul, including bittul so encompassing that it is comparable to the bittul of ein od. In chassidic terminology, this is explained as the bittul of a “simple servant,”70which does not come because he appreciates the lofty qualities of the master or the like and therefore devotes himself to the master, but stems from the master himself.71

און היות אַז די כוונה איז אַז די דירה זאָל זיך אויפטאָן דורך עבודת האדם דוקא139 – דאַרף דעריבער אויך די עבודה (דורך וועלכער עס טוט זיך אויף די "דירה") זיין בבחינת ביטול לגמרי [ביז צו אַ ביטול וואָס איז "מעין" פונעם ביטול פון "אין עוד", אַזוי ווי דער ביטול פון אַן עבד פשוט140 וואָס קומט (ניט מצד דעם וואָס ער איז מרגיש הפלאת האדון וכיו״ב, נאָר) מצד דעם אדון אַליין141].

On this basis, it is possible to reconcile the statements in many sources that the soul descends to this material plane in order to ascend to a higher plane72 and the statement in Tanya that the soul descends to carry out G‑d’s intent for a dwelling in the lower realms. The soul’s ascent is that it attains a level of utter bittul and serves G‑d not as an expression of its own being – i.e., as a result of its own understanding or feeling – but as an expression of His oneness.73 And to carry out the intent of establishing a dwelling for G‑d in the lower realms, it is necessary that the soul carry out the service that brings about that dwelling with such utter bittul.74

Summary

The Rebbe answers the question raised at the end of the previous section by explaining the concept of a dwelling in this lowly realm, that it becomes a place where G‑d’s very Essence is manifest. The manifestation of G‑d’s Essence on this lowly, material plane brings out the deepest level of bittul, the realization that ein od, “there is nothing else” but Him.

For G‑d’s dwelling in the lower realms to be complete, it must be brought about specifically through man’s Divine service. Therefore, the Divine service must be characterized by that same utter bittul. In chassidic terminology, this is explained as the bittul of a “simple servant,” whose submission to his master does not come about because he appreciates the master’s lofty qualities, but stems from the master himself.

This is the ascent the soul achieves by descending to this material plane and carrying out G‑d’s intent for a dwelling in the lower realms. It attains a level of utter bittul and serves G‑d not as an expression of its own being, but as an expression of His oneness.

ועפ״ז יש לומר אַז דאָס וואָס שטייט בכ״מ אַז ירידת הנשמה למטה איז "בשביל העלי׳"142 איז פאַרבונדן דערמיט וואָס שטייט אין תניא אַז ירידת הנשמה למטה איז בכדי צו דורכפירן די כוונה פון "דירה בתחתונים": וואָרום די עליית הנשמה איז דאָך וואָס זי קומט צו צו בחינת ביטול [אַז איר עבודה איז ניט מצד איר "מציאות" נאָר מצד אחדותו של הקב״ה143 (כנ״ל ס״ח)] – און אין דער כוונה פון "דירה בתחתונים" איז דאָך נוגע אַז די עבודת הנשמה וואָס טוט אויף די "דירה" זאָל זיין בבחי׳ ביטול144.

What Yaakov Was Saying

11. Based on all the above concepts, it is possible to understand the four points mentioned originally in the verses describing Yaakov’s vow. There are two facets of the condition Yaakov postulated: a) “If G‑d will be with me…, protect me…, and give me food to eat and garments to wear,” and b) “if I return in peace to my father’s home.” As explained above, the fact that they are divided into two verses indicates that they are of a different nature.

Similarly, there are two aspects of Yaakov’s vow (as understood by Ramban): a) “G‑d will be my L‑rd,” and b) “This stone that I have erected as a monument will be the House of G‑d.” These, too, are divided into two verses.

יא

ע״פ כל הנ״ל וועלן פאַרשטאַנדיק ווערן די פיר ענינים הנ״ל וואָס אין המשך הכתובים פון "וידר יעקב נדר״ –

סיי די צוויי ענינים פונעם תנאי – (א) "יהי׳ אלקים עמדי ושמרני גו׳ ונתן לי לחם לאכול ובגד ללבוש", און (ב) ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי" [וואָס פון זייער פאַנאַנדערטיילונג אין צוויי פסוקים איז מובן אַז זיי זיינען צוויי סוגים, כנ״ל] און סיי די צוויי ענינים פון דעם ״נדר״ (לפירוש הרמב״ן) – (א) "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים", און (ב) "והאבן הזאת אשר שמתי מצבה יהי׳ בית אלקים" [וואָס אויך זיי טיילן זיך אין צוויי פסוקים]:

As mentioned above,75Yaakov’s ultimate intent was to fulfill his vow. The conditions he postulated were merely means that would enable him to carry out his vow.

As explained above, the ultimate purpose of the descent of the soul to this material plane is two-dimensional: a) to enable the soul to ascend, and b) to bring about a dwelling for G‑d in the lower realms. Similarly, the Divine service that leads to the accomplishment of these purposes is twofold: serving G‑d through carrying out the Torah and its mitzvos, and serving Him by carrying out all one’s actions for the sake of Heaven. A parallel exists between the two conditions Yaakov established and the two general categories of Divine service performed by the Jewish people.

דער תכלית המכוון איז (כאמור לעיל סעיף א׳) דער נדר, און דער תנאי איז נאָר די וועג ווי צו קענען דורכפירן דעם נדר. וע״פ הנ״ל אַז דער תכלית פון ירידת הנשמה באַשטייט פון צוויי פרטים [(א) בשביל עליית הנשמה, (ב) בכדי צו אויפטאָן די "דירה בתחתונים"] און אַזוי אויך אין איר עבודה וואָס ברענגט צו דעם זיינען דאָ צוויי ענינים [די עבודה פון תומ״צ און די עבודה פון כל מעשיך לש״ש] – דאַרף אויסקומען, אַז די צוויי ענינים פון דעם תנאי זיינען די צוויי סוגי עבודה הנ״ל:

If G‑d will be with me…, protect me…, and give me food to eat and garments to wear” conveys the potential from Above for man to serve G‑d through the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos, which are alluded to by the terms “food” and “garments” respectively76 – “turning away from evil,”77 guarding himself from sin (alluded to by Yaakov’s words “protect me”78), and “doing good.”

The conditionif I return in peace to my father’s home” relates to serving G‑d in one’s personal matters, which, as explained above, is comparable to teshuvah. {Indeed, vishavti (ושבתי), if I return,”79shares the same root letters as teshuvah (תשובה).}

True, a person involves himself in these matters because his animal soul desires them. Nevertheless,80 this involvement does not draw him into the realm of evil, (to refer to Rashi’s interpretation of Yaakov’s words,81If I return in peace:” “unmarred by sin, without having learned from Lavan’s ways,”) because he did not involve himself in these matters to fulfill his desires, but for the sake of Heaven.

"יהי׳ אלקים עמדי ושמרני גו׳ ונתן לי לחם לאכול ובגד ללבוש״ – דאָס איז דער נתינת כח מלמעלה אויף סור מרע, אויסצוהיטן זיך פון עבירות (ושמרני גו׳145) און אויף עשה טוב, לימוד התורה וקיום המצוות ("לחם" ו״בגד"146); און "ושבתי בשלום גו'״ – די עבודה אין דברי הרשות [וואָס איז דוגמת ענין התשובה ("ושבתי")]147, טראָץ דעם וואָס זיין התעסקות אין דברי הרשות איז דערפאַר וואָס דער נפש הבהמית איז רוצה בהם פונדעסטוועגן148 זיינען אויך די ענינים אים ניט מוריד אין רע ("שלם מן החטא שלא אלמוד מדרכי לבן"149), וואָרום ער טוט זיי ניט למלאות תאוותו נאָר "לשם שמים";

Carrying out the two categories of Divine service alluded to in the conditions Yaakov stipulated leads to the realization of the two points alluded to in Yaakov’s vow, which reflect the intent and purpose of the descent of the soul to this material plane: a) “G‑d will be my L‑rd”; this refers to the ascent the person, i.e., his soul, will experience, and then b) “This stone… will be the House of G‑d”; the establishment of a dwelling in the lower realms.

און די צוויי סוגי עבודה ברענגען־צו צו די צוויי ענינים פון ״נדר״ – די כוונה און תכלית פון ירידת הנשמה למטה: פריער ״והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" – די עלי׳ פון (מענטשן – ) דער נשמה; און דערנאָך ו״האבן הזאת גו׳ יהי׳ בית אלקים" – די "דירה לו ית׳ בתחתונים".

As explained above,82 the primary ascent of the soul is the transcendence of its individual existence and identity, serving G‑d not because its own nature dictates so, but because He is G‑d, Who is found everywhere, even in worldly matters that are not outwardly G‑dly.

[און היות אַז עיקר עליית הנשמה איז (כנ״ל סעיף ח׳) וואָס זי "גייט אַרויס" פון איר "מציאות" און זי איז עובד את ה׳ (ניט מצד איר "טבע" נאָר) מצד דעם אויבערשטן וואָס ער איז נמצא בכל מקום אויך אין עניני העולם (וואָס זיינען ניט אלקות) –

Therefore, the verse mentions “G‑d will be my L‑rd” in connection with “This stone… will be the House of G‑d,” which Ramban interprets as meaning “I will serve the unique G‑d… in the place of this stone which will be a House of G‑d for me.” The implication is that Yaakov’s Divine service will not be carried out because it is motivated by his own nature, but with the awareness that it should resemble “This stone…” becoming “the House of G‑d.” The stone does not become the House of G‑d because of any input of its own, but solely as an expression of G‑d’s oneness that has absolutely no limits. Similarly, a person should carry out his Divine service with no consciousness of self, but solely as a medium to express G‑d’s oneness.

Even so, “G‑d will be my L‑rd” is included in the same verse as “if I return in peace,” and not in the verse beginning “This stone.” This placement highlights that the ultimate intent in the soul’s descent to this material plane is not the ascent the soul will experience, but the fulfillment of G‑d’s desire for a dwelling in the lower realms.83

דעריבער איז דער סדר הכתוב אַז "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" קומט אין איין המשך מיט "והאבן הזאת גו׳ יהי׳ בית אלקים", ובלשון הרמב״ן: אעבוד השם המיוחד . . במקום האבן הזאת שתהי׳ לי לבית אלקים – אַז זיין עבודה וועט זיך אָנהערן ווי זי איז (ניט מצד זיין טבע נאָר) בדוגמת "האבן הזאת שתהי׳ לי לבית אלקים", וואָס דאָס וואָס "אבן הזאת" וועט זיין "בית אלקים" איז דאָך נאָר מצד דעם וואָס אחדותו של הקב״ה איז בלי גבול].

For this reason, even though the reward, “G‑d will be my L‑rd,” comes as a result of the person’s Divine service, however, in one way, it bears a similarity to the condition – i.e., the Divine service expected of man – namely, “I will return in peace,” for they both do not constitute the ultimate purpose. Hence, they are included in the same verse. By contrast, “This stone… will be the House of G‑d” is a verse of its own, because it – i.e., the establishment of a dwelling for G‑d in the lower realms – reflects the ultimate purpose of all existence.

Summary

Based on all the above concepts, it is possible to understand the four points mentioned originally in the verses describing Yaakov’s vow. There are two facets of the condition Yaakov postulated: a) “If G‑d will be with me…, protect me…, and give me food to eat and garments to wear,” and b) “if I return in peace to my father’s home.” As explained above, the fact that they are divided into two verses indicates that they are of a different nature.

A parallel exists between the two conditions Yaakov stipulated and the two general categories of Divine service performed by the Jewish people. “If G‑d will be with me…, protect me…, and give me food to eat and garments to wear” conveys the potential from Above for man to serve G‑d through the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos, which are alluded to by the terms “food” and “garments.” The condition “if I return in peace to my father’s home” relates to serving G‑d in one’s personal matters, which, as explained above, is comparable to teshuvah.

As mentioned above, Yaakov’s ultimate intent in stipulating these conditions was to fulfill his vow. The conditions were merely means that would enable him to carry out his vow.

The two aspects of Yaakov’s vow (as understood by Ramban): a) “G‑d will be my L‑rd,” and b) “This stone… will be the House of G‑d,” are divided into two verses. These two aspects parallel and allude to the two dimensions that reflect the ultimate purpose of the descent of the soul to this material plane. “G‑d will be my L‑rd” refers to the ascent the person’s soul will experience. “This stone… will be the House of G‑d” refers to the establishment of a dwelling in the lower realms.

Carrying out the two categories of Divine service alluded to in the conditions Yaakov stipulated leads to the realization of the two purposes for the descent of the soul alluded to in Yaakov’s vow.

The verse mentions “G‑d will be my L‑rd” in connection with “This stone… will be the House of G‑d.” Ramban understands the linkage of the two as implying that just as the stone’s place in the House of G‑d comes – not because of any input of its own, but – solely as an expression of G‑d’s oneness, so too, Yaakov’s Divine service will not be carried out because it is motivated by his own nature, but as an expression of His oneness. This type of bond with G‑d is the ultimate ascent the soul can experience.

Even so, “G‑d will be my L‑rd” is included in the same verse as “if I return in peace,” and not in the verse beginning “This stone,” because the ultimate intent in the soul’s descent to this material plane is not the ascent the soul will experience, but the fulfillment of G‑d’s desire for a dwelling in the lower realms.

“G‑d will be my L‑rd,” man’s reward, bears a similarity to the condition – i.e., the Divine service expected of man, “I will return in peace” – for they both do not constitute the ultimate purpose. Hence, they are included in the same verse. By contrast, “This stone… will be the House of G‑d” is a verse of its own, because it – i.e., the establishment of a dwelling for G‑d in the lower realms – reflects the ultimate purpose of all existence.

אָבער אעפ״כ איז "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" אין איין פסוק מיט "ושבתי בשלום גו׳" און ניט מיט ״והאבן הזאת גו׳״ – ווייל היות אַז דער תכלית המכוון אין ירידת הנשמה למטה איז ניט די עליית הנשמה, נאָר צו דורכפירן די כוונה פון דירה בתחתונים, (כנ״ל סעיף ט׳), דעריבער, איז דער ענין פון "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" (אע״פ אַז דאָס איז אַ תוצאה פון דער עבודה) שייך מער (בפרט אחד – היינו מצד דערויף וואָס ס׳איז נאָך ניט דער אמת׳ער תכלית) צום "תנאי" (עבודה) "ושבתי בשלום" ווי צום תכלית המכוון פון "והאבן הזאת גו׳ יהי׳ בית אלקים" (דירה בתחתונים).

Part of the Ultimate Purpose

12. Even according to Rashi, who interprets “G‑d will be my L‑rd,” not as part of Yaakov’s vow, i.e., the realization of the purpose, but as part of the conditions Yaakov was asking G‑d to fulfill, “G‑d will be my L‑rd”84can be understood in a manner resembling the explanation given above according to Ramban’s interpretation. The intent is that “G‑d will be my L‑rd” is not an aspect of the soul’s Divine service to be carried out when descending to this physical plane, but rather an element of the ascent that comes as a result of that Divine service.

Rashi interprets that phrase as meaning “that G‑d’s name should rest upon me from the beginning to the end and that no blemish be found among my descendants.” Such a result is only possible when one’s bond with G‑d is utterly without limits.

יב

ויש לומר: אויך לויט פירוש רש״י – אַז "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" איז (ניט דער נדר, נאָר) דער תנאי – איז "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" אַ פרט (ניט אין עבודת הנשמה בירידתה למטה, נאָר) אין דער עלי׳ וואָס ווערט דורך דער עבודה, ע״ד ווי לפירוש הרמב״ן

[וואָרום דער ענין פון "שיחול שמו עלי מתחלה ועד סוף שלא ימצא פסול בזרעי" (אַז שמו של הקב״ה זאָל חל זיין ניט נאָר אין זיין "תחילה", נאָר אויך אין זיין "סוף", ביז אפילו אין "זרעו" וואָס קומען אַרויס פון אים), קען זיין נאָר דורך דעם וואָס אין זיין התקשרות מיטן אויבערשטן איז ניטאָ קיינע הגבלות];

According to Rashi’s interpretation, “G‑d will be my L‑rd” is part of the conditions Yaakov asked G‑d to fulfill and not part of Yaakov’s vow, as Ramban understood. The rationale for that distinction is that the ascent the soul will experience is merely a preparation for the ultimate purpose, “This stone… will be the House of G‑d,” the establishment of a dwelling for G‑d in the lower realms. Thus, the soul’s ascent parallels one of the conditions stipulated by Yaakov, i.e., it is merely a means for the ultimate purpose to be realized.

Summary

Even according to Rashi, “G‑d will be my L‑rd” can be understood in a manner resembling the explanation given above according to Ramban’s interpretation. The intent is that “G‑d will be my L‑rd” is not an aspect of the Divine service carried out by the soul in its descent to this physical plane, but rather an element of the ascent that comes as a result of that Divine service.

Therefore, Rashi considers “G‑d will be my L‑rd” as part of the conditions Yaakov was asking G‑d to fulfill. The rationale is that the ascent of the soul to which it alludes is merely a preparation for the ultimate purpose, “This stone… will be the House of G‑d,” the establishment of a dwelling for G‑d in the lower realms. Thus, the soul’s ascent parallels one of the conditions stipulated by Yaakov, i.e., it is merely a means for the ultimate purpose to be realized.

און דאָס וואָס לפי פירוש רש״י גייט דער ענין ("והי׳ ה׳ לי גו׳") אַריין אין "תנאי" און ניט אין נדר (ווי לפירוש הרמב״ן) איז – וויילע די עלי׳ פון דער נשמה איז נאָר אַ הכנה צום (תכלית ה)מכוון פון "והאבן הזאת גו׳ יהי׳ בית אלקים", דירה בתחתונים.

Towards a Simple Understanding

13. It is possible to say that the difference of opinion between Rashi and Ramban – whether “G‑d will be my L‑rd” is part of the conditions Yaakov asked G‑d to fulfill or part of Yaakov’s vow, i.e., the realization of the purpose – revolves around the following:

יג

ויש לומר, אַז דער טעם פאַרוואָס לפירוש רש״י איז "והי׳ ה׳ לי לאלקים" אַ פרט אין ״תנאי" און לפירוש הרמב״ן איז עס אַ פרט אין "נדר":

Ramban’s commentary on the Torah does not only focus on the simple meaning of the text, but also includes “delightful matters… for those who know favor.”85 Thus, it relates to the revealed dimension of G‑dliness.86 And from the perspective of the revealed levels of G‑dliness, the ascent to be experienced by the soul is also a significant purpose.87 Hence, he considers “G‑d will be my L‑rd” as part of the vow, together with “This stone… will be the House of G‑d.”

אין פירוש הרמב״ן זיינען דאָ ניט נאָר ״פשטים״ נאָר אויך ״דברים נעימים . . ליודעים חן"150, וואָס דאָס איז פאַרבונדן מיט בחי׳ ״גילויים״151 – און מצד הגילוים איז אויך די עלי׳ פון דער נשמה אַ תכלית152;

Rashi’s commentary, by contrast, focuses on the straightforward meaning of the text. The parallel to that in man’s Divine service is the Divine service of “a simple servant,”88 who does not seek out his own benefit89 and desires solely to carry out the will of his Master.90 As a result, according to his conception, the vow focuses solely on G‑d’s ultimate purpose: “This stone… will be the House of G‑d.”

Summary

The difference between Rashi’s approach and Ramban can be explained as follows: Ramban’s commentary also includes “delightful matters… for those who know favor.” Thus, it relates to the revealed dimension of G‑dliness. And from the perspective of the revealed levels of G‑dliness, the ascent to be experienced by the soul is also a significant purpose. Hence, Ramban considers “G‑d will be my L‑rd” as part of the vow, i.e., the realization of the purpose, together with “This stone… will be the House of G‑d.”

Rashi’s commentary, by contrast, focuses on the straightforward meaning of the text. This parallels the Divine service of “a simple servant,” who seeks solely to carry out the will of his Master and focuses on His desire for a dwelling on this material plane. As a result, according to his conception, the vow focuses solely on G‑d’s ultimate purpose: “This stone… will be the House of G‑d.”

משא״כ פירוש רש״י איז פשוטו של מקרא, וואט אין עבודת האדם איז עס די עבודה פון אַן עבד פשוט וואָס זוכט ניט קיין תועלת לעצמו153 און וויל נאָר דורכפירן דעם רצון האדון.

Likkutei Sichos, Volume 15, P. 243ff. (Adapted from the maamar entitled Veshavti BeShalom, 5738 [1977] and the sichos delivered during the winter of 5724 [1963])

(ממאמר ד״ה ושבתי בשלום תשל״ח, ומשיחות חורף תשכ״ד)