Yud-Alef Nissan, 5722
Sefer HaMaamarim — Yud-Alef Nissan, p. 53ff.

וידבר הוי' אל משה...

“And spoke to Moshe after the death of the two sons of Aharon when they drew close before G‑d and died.”1 As is well known, the maamarim of Chassidus2 focus on the seeming redundancy in the verse: “after the death of” and “when they… died.” After the first phrase, the second seems unnecessary. Why then is it stated?

Also, we must understand the reason for the death [of Aharon’s sons]. The Midrash offers3 several opinions. ([These points are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary,] “these and these are the words of the living G‑d,”4 [and each one contributes to our comprehension of the subject].) Among the reasons given are:

a) they entered the innermost chamber;5

b) they entered while intoxicated;

c) they entered without wearing the required garments;

d) they did not have children; and

e) they did not marry.

None of these matters are explicitly stated in the Torah. Instead, they are alluded to by the [seemingly] redundant wording [in the verse,] “After the death… when they died.” It follows from this, that the concept of “drawing close to G‑d” (which led to) “and they died” contains several particulars, and yet the entire matter is considered as one sin. The rationale for this requires explanation.

Moreover, explanation is necessary with regard to the general concept of the death of Aharon’s two sons. In this context, Moshe told Aharon:6 “This is what G‑d spoke, saying: “I will be sanctified by those close to Me, and before the entire nation will I be glorified.” [Rashi7 interprets this as follows:]

Moshe told Aharon: “I knew that [G‑d’s] dwelling would be consecrated with [the death of] those familiar with the Omnipresent. I thought that it would be with my [death] or yours. Now I see that that they are greater than me and than you.”

Since [the death of Aharon’s sons] is described with the verse: “I will be sanctified by those close to Me,” how could their death be considered something undesirable?


In general, a person’s Divine service must be carried out in a manner through which “he draws close to G‑d,” i.e., it should be characterized by a desire and yearning to ascend upward. For example, with regard to the Sefirah of Malchus (which is called K’nesses Yisrael, the source for the souls of Jewish people,8) it is said:9 “The lower light calls to the higher light and is not satisfied.” [Malchus] is constantly in a state of yearning and thirst for the upper light.10 “It is not satisfied,” i.e., it is characterized by the state of ratzu, the thirst to ascend upward, one peak after another. Therefore it remains “unsatisfied” with every level which it attains.

In general, a person’s Divine service must be characterized by a similar thrust of ratzu and yearning to ascend upward. [This reflects man’s positive potential, as it is written:11] “The spirit of man ascends upward.” Nevertheless, [this reflects only one element of our nature]. In addition to the G‑dly soul, referred to as “the second soul within the Jewish people,”12 [a person possesses] an animal soul, a body, and a portion within the world at large. Therefore a person’s Divine service must reflect the pattern:13 “He did not create it for chaos; He formed it to be inhabited.” The ratzu, the desire to cling to G‑d, should be tempered by a movement towards shuv, [an appreciation of G‑d’s intent when] “form[ing] it to be inhabited. [This thrust should be reflected in efforts] to refine one’s animal soul, body, and portion in the world at large.14 This is the ultimate object of the sublime will, for “the Holy One, blessed be He, desired (— not ratzu [taking man away from the world], but rather,) a dwelling within the lower worlds.”15

This concept (that the ratzu should be followed by [a thrust toward] shuv) represents the general distinction between the ratzu of the realm of Tohu and the ratzu of Tikkun. In the realm of Tikkun , there must also be a thrust of ratzu (as explained above), and in the realm of Tohu, there are also keilim , which are in general characterized by the thrust of shuv. The difference between them is that the ratzu of the realm of Tohu lacks the sensation that the ultimate purpose is shuv. This is the positive contribution of the ratzu of the realm of Tikkun , that even the ratzu possesses a [tendency to] shuv.

Such distinctions between the nature of the ratzu and the shuv exist within every realm of existence, even the most sublime. The same motif also applies with regard to the soul as it enclothes itself in the body on this material plane. The ratzu which it must possess should also retain a dimension of shuv.


To explain: The Zohar states:16 “The truthful are meritorious. Each day, they look upon themselves as if they will depart from the world that day.”

The maamar [entitled Acharei]17 explains that the concept “as if they will depart from the world that day” is not identical with the concept of mesirus nefesh, self-sacrifice. [In that latter instance,] all of the [person’s] potentials and senses [are active]. His body and his capacities function, and yet he resolves within his soul with a genuine commitment that he is prepared and ready to sacrifice his soul to sanctify G‑d’s name. Such an approach cannot be considered “as if he will depart from the world.” On the contrary, when a person proceeds with a commitment of mesirus nefesh, there is a powerful connection between the body and the soul to the extent that the soul effects the powers of the body and causes them to agree to the concept of mesirus nefesh. ([In this phase,] however, mesirus nefesh is merely a potential.)

Therefore [the maamar] explains that the concept of “as if he will depart from the world” resembles the state of Yitzchak when he was bound as a sacrifice on the altar, and his soul actually expired18 from his body. There remained within his body merely a trace of life-energy19 which would allow his soul to return to his [body] when it was given back to him.

In a similar way, there is the potential for [a person] through his Divine service to divest himself of the material dimension of the life of the body, [no longer seeing it] as an independent entity and [losing all] will for it, until it is as if he has departed. This is exemplified in the “ascents of the soul” experienced by great tzaddikim like the Baal Shem Tov. [In the midst of such a spiritual experience,] he was divorced from all material [consciousness] and [awareness of] his physical life; it was as if he had fainted.

This is the intent of the phrase “as if they will depart from the world,” that the animal soul also ascends upward and it is not enclothed in the body at all. It is as if the person is no longer alive. It is not, however, a state of death, for his soul can return to him, because a trace of life-energy remains. This is reflected in the expression:20 “It appeared to him as if he departed.”

This all is possible because of the attribute of yechidah within the soul which actually clings to the essence of G‑dliness. When the yechidah ascends upward, it has the potential to elevate all the dimensions of the animal soul until only a trace of life-energy remains.

It must be added that this concept is not relevant only to persons of unique spiritual stature. This is reflected in the Alter Rebbe’s statements21 (— not in the Tanya, but —) in his Shulchan Aruch22 which has been described as “the Golden Table,” and “the Pure Table,” in the laws concerning prayer. [There he writes] that the pious and the men of meritorious conduct would reach a state where they divested themselves of material consciousness entirely during prayer.

This concept is relevant to every individual on his own rung [of Divine service], as reflected in the fact that every person declares [his commitment to “Love G‑d] with all your might”23 (twice each day24) in the recitation of the Shema. This reflects Divine service on behalf of the yechidah which brings about an ascent in every dimension of [the person’s] natural soul.

After this, however, the thrust of shuv must follow. The maamar explains that [the thrust toward shuv] should not come as a result of calculation. [For example, a person] may experience an ultimate spiritual ascent and state of ratzu — e.g., a great tzaddik whose Divine service is characterized by ahavah bitaanugim, love with delight. [He should endeavor that] restraint prevail within him, causing at least a trace of life to remain so that the soul (even the level of yechidah) will be able to return to the body.}

[This should not be a deliberate process, i.e.,] he should not intend that the ratzu be of a limited and restricted nature, so that it can be followed by shuv, for this is not [love] “with all your might.” Instead, the ratzu should not be bound by any medium at all. ([Such love] is expressed by a very great tzaddik; his ratzu exceeds the limits of his mediums of expression.) Nevertheless, despite [this unbounded drive], the ratzu should enable a trace of life to remain. Afterwards, the thrust of shuv becomes manifest.

The rationale for [the intrinsic limitation within the ratzu] is that the ratzu does not come from the person’s own will alone, and indeed, is not motivated by his will at all. Instead, [it comes about] because his will is entirely focused on harmony with the Sublime Will. As the Rebbe Rashab explains in the sichah that is related to the maamar,25 the person’s will is not the will identified with Aharon (אהרן) whose letters can be transposed to produce the word נראה (“perceived”), for that would reflect the person’s individual will. Instead, his [own] will is nothing but a reflection of the Sublime Will. The Sublime Will desires [life within the material realm, as it is written:] “He did not create it for chaos; He formed it to be inhabited.” Therefore as a natural consequence, the person’s ratzu, his desire to cling to G‑d, becomes shaped in a manner that will allow the soul to return to the body afterwards.


The above also relates26 to our Sages’ teaching:27

Four entered the Pardes.28 Ben Azzai peered in and died…. Ben Zoma peered in and became deranged…. Rabbi Akiva entered in peace and departed in peace.

As is well-known, [the Rebbeim] have focused [on this passage]. On the surface, the difference between Rabbi Akiva and the others who shared his experience was only in the departure. Therefore the Talmud should have said: “Rabbi Akiva departed in peace.” Why did it also mention that he “entered in peace”?

Explanation is also necessary why it was only Rabbi Akiva who “departed in peace,” while Ben Azzai “peered in and died” (and similarly, Ben Zoma [suffered unfortunate consequences]). Ben Azzai was also on a very elevated spiritual level. As the Midrash states29 when Ben Azzai would sit and study, fire would flame around him. This points to the greatness of his Divine service and his great spiritual level. Nevertheless, he peered in and died. It was only Rabbi Akiva who was able to depart in peace.

The concept is, however, explained as follows: The difference between Rabbi Akiva and the others was reflected also in the way they entered. Rabbi Akiva entered in peace; i.e., his ratzu also contained the potential for shuv. This enabled him to depart in peace. With regard to the others, by contrast, they — including ben Azzai — did not enter in peace, for their ratzu did not contain [the potential for] shuv.

Additional insight can be gained with regard to Rabbi Akiva’s “enter[ing] in peace and depart[ing] in peace” by focusing on the statement of Rabbi Akiva to his colleagues quoted by the Talmud: “When you reach the stones of pure marble, do not say: “Water, water.’” With this statement, Rabbi Akiva clarified how it was possible to “enter in peace and depart in peace” as will be explained.


The above can be understood by first explaining the concept of parsaos , “dividers which veil,” which exist in the spiritual cosmos. [This is relevant, because] “the stones of pure marble” reflect an interruption [of the flow of Divine light] (a parsah).30 For the purpose of the parsaos is to interrupt the flow of light. For this reason, the flow of influence [that penetrates and continues] after the parsaos is described with the analogy of hairs (or garments), [terms which show that the influence is no longer directly connected with its source].

With regard to this, it is written:31 “Rise before an elderly man and honor the presence of a sage.” (For the Hebrew terms, seivah — translated as elderly man — and zakein — translated as sage — are both associated with hair.32)

To explain: In Or Torah, the Maggid [of Mezeritch] interprets the above verse, associating it with the phrase:33 “Wait (כתר) for me a little.” כתר is associated with waiting. When a person desires to tell a colleague something, he will tell him to wait and then he will tell him.

[Why is this waiting necessary?] Because a person’s thought processes are continually functioning. When a person wants [to communicate with another person, he wants] that person to clear his mind — i.e., focus his thoughts — so that he can hear his words. While [focusing, the listener’s] thoughts ascend to a higher level, to a rung called efes (“void”). This is the intent of the phrase: “Rise before an elderly man” — elevate your thought and raise it to the level of efes.

The verse continues: “And honor the presence of a sage (zakein).” A zakan (beard) refers to supplementary intellectual powers. This can be explained by an analogy to a father who has a son with whom he would like to share an intellectual concept. The concept is, however, too deep for the son to grasp. Therefore the father has to communicate it to him with different wording, employing an analogy, which reflects a different conceptual framework. Hidden within [the analogy], however, is deep wisdom which enables the son to grasp the lofty concept,34 enabling even the son to approach the level of zakein which is associated35 with the phrase zeh shekanah chochmah , “the one who acquired wisdom.” (For [as explained,36] this term can also refer to “a youth who is wise.”)

The above can be understood in a more particular manner based on the Alter Rebbe’s explanations37 of the statements in the texts of Kabbalah38 that the concept of a beard exists on the level of Arich Anpin39 and on the level of Za’er Anpin,40 but not on the level of Chochmah (wisdom). Thus Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim,41 when interpreting the verse: “Rise before an elderly man,” cites the Likkutei Torah of the AriZal42 which explains this phrase as referring to the level of the beard of Arich Anpin.

{In that source,43 the AriZal explains, that the phrase “elderly man” refers to a person of 6044 (in contrast to the common text of the Mishnah45 [which states: “At 50, to give counsel, at 60, sagacity,” the AriZal follows] the version: “At 50, to sagacity, at 60, to old age.”46) The rationale for that version is that in the spiritual realms, there is no revelation from the first six attributes at all. Therefore, it is only when a person attains the age of 60 that the attribute of Arich begins to be revealed.}

“Honor the presence of a sage” refers to the beard of Za’er Anpin (“a youth who is wise,” for we are speaking about a youth, the level of Za’er Anpin. It is, nevertheless, called “wise,” because it has acquired the wisdom of the Father47). The verse concludes “And you shall fear your G‑d (Elokecha),” which is interpreted by Likkutei Torah as referring to the feminine dimension, the level of Malchus.

To explain these concepts: In general, the concept of hair refers to drawing down lofty influence. [Indeed, this influence is so lofty] that it cannot be expressed in an ordinary sequential pattern of revelation. There must be an interruption, as exists with regard to the life-energy in hairs which is very minimal. Therefore when hairs are cut off, a person does not feel any pain at all. For the life energy in the hairs is not clinging and at one with its source, since it must flow through the skull which serves as an interruption.48

Thus the level of Arich [Anpin] has a beard. Arich [Anpin] is identified with the Sefirah of Kesser. On a more general level, it refers to the worlds of Ein Sof that exist above Atzilus. Influence [cannot] be drawn down [from this level] to Atzilus in a sequential manner. [Instead,] an interruption via a parsah is necessary. As stated in other sources,49 Kesser itself becomes a parsah. This is [the implication of the analogy of] the hairs of the beard [to] Arich Anpin.

When, however, the influence reaches the level of the Father (Chochmah), which is the beginning of the world of Atzilus,50 it is drawn down throughout the entire world of Atzlius. As it is said:51 “The Sublime Father nests in Atzilus. ” Within the world of Atzilus — the world of unity, Divine influence is drawn down in a sequential order without interruption through hairs. Thus “the Sublime Father does not have a beard.” Nevertheless, “Za’er Anpin has a beard.” For as explained52 with regard to the verse,53 “one cherub from one end and one cherub from the other end,” Za’er Anpin represents the final level of the worlds of Ein Sof (for it is the last level of Atzilus). From it, [influence] is drawn down to the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah as they exist within Atzilus ,54 until it is actually drawn down to Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah themselves through the attribute of Malchus.

Drawing down influence to these levels [involves a radical transition]. Therefore, it involves interruption through hairs. This is the intent of the beard of Za’er Anpin. The beard of Za’er Anpin is, however, drawn down from the Sublime Father, as explained above with regard to the phrase “the one who acquired wisdom.” For the beard of Za’er Anpin exists in order to convey influence to Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah through the medium of Malchus. (This is alluded to by the conclusion of the verse: “And you shall fear your G‑d.”) For the source of Malchus is from Chochmah, as it is said:55 “The Father lays the foundation for the daughter.” [The influence from Chochmah to Malchus] is, however, conveyed through the medium of Za’er Anpin.


In general, drawing down influence from the higher realms to the lower ones, and in particular, drawing down influences through parsaos and tzimtzumim is evoked through a movement of ratzu , [a yearning to] ascend. With regard to this, is applied the verse:56 “As water [reflects] the image of a face, so too, one man’s heart reflects another’s.”

To explain this concept,57 there is a level described as adam (the man) of the world of Beriah. In a more general sense, this is the adam of the worlds Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah. There is also an adam in the realm of Atzilus , [as alluded to in Yechezkel’s vision58 of the image of] a man on the throne, which refers to Za’er Anpin of Atzilus. Concerning this, it is said: that the way one man’s heart is affected by another’s resembles the way water reflects the image of a face.

When a person looks into water, he sees his own face. This is because the water is a refined type of matter, clear, and simple, without any color. This [makes it possible] for it to reflect the face which looks into it. [One can infer that] there are not two separate faces — the face of the person looking into the water and the face the water reflects. Instead, the face which the water reflects is, in all its particulars, the face of the person looking into it.

Moreover, the face which is seen in the water is not a separate entity from the water itself. It is not considered as an entity created from the water. For the image of the person looking into the water does not become part or engraved in the water, even momentarily. All there is, is water.

[The reflection of the image is less of a separate entity] than fish in the sea, concerning which there is a difference of opinion in the tractate of Mikvaos,59 One opinion maintains that they are not considered as a chatzitzah (intervening substance) between an object immersed in a mikveh and the water.60 The rationale for this opinion is that [fish] came into being from water.61 The differing opinion maintains that they are considered as an intervening substance, because although they were brought into being from water, they have become a separate entity. Even as they exist as a separate entity, their existence is associated with the water. Hence, as soon as they separate themselves from the water, they die.62 [Nevertheless, they are a separate entity.]

When, however, an image is reflected in the water, no separate entity is brought into being, not even an entity made from water. All that is there is water.

With regard to this, it is said: “So too, one man’s heart reflects another’s.” Man’s efforts in Divine service expressing his yearning for G‑d arouse influence from the Sublime Man upon the throne (Za’er Anpin of Atzilus). That influence is expressed according to the image of the face which appears in the water (i.e., the influence is of the same nature as the ratzu in all of its particulars). The world of Atzilus is incomparably [higher] than the worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, for they are drawn down from it through an interruption. ([This is necessary,] because the world of Beriah is the beginning, i.e., the granting of the potential for yesh, independent existence.) Thus [Atzilus] is like water which is simple and does not possess a color or form. Therefore it reflects [exactly] the face which gazes at it.

Similar concepts apply in the higher realms, including even the levels before the tzimtzum, and even in the levels before the arousal of G‑d’s desire [for the existence of the worlds]. For the influence that is drawn down after the tzimtzum must originate there. This is brought about by the elevation of mayin nukvin within the light itself63 from the pleasure that will [ultimately result] from the deeds of the creations of the lowly worlds. This is the intent of the statement64 that [before creating the world, G‑d] “consulted with the souls of the righteous.” This evoked the desire: “I will rule.”65

With regard to this, it is said: “As water [reflects] the image of a face.” For water is simple, without any form or color. Thus the image which appears in the water (which is not a separate entity, not even an entity that was made from water, but is the water itself,) comes as a result of the face of the person [gazing].

[To explain the analogue:] Or Ein Sof is the ultimate of true simplicity. Thus it is not appropriate that it should have any will at all. The awakening of a will comes solely because of “the consultation with the souls of the righteous,” (the face of the person gazing). It is true that before “consulting,” there already exists an arousal of will. For the order [of Divine revelation] begins from His “desire for kindness,”66 which is in a state of ultimate concealment. The beginning of the arousal of [His] will is His desire to manifest generosity.67 Only after that does He “consult with the souls of the righteous,” i.e., the face of the person gazing, and then an image is made within the water.68 This refers to His will to rule.

Nevertheless, “the consultation with the righteous” is not in a manner that were He to decide against the creation, the will to be generous would remain (if after the consultation He would decide against [the creation], heaven forbid). Instead, the consultation is carried out in a way that if the decision were not to create, it would be as if He never was aroused with a desire to manifest generosity.

Since even the arousal of G‑d’s will is dependent on “consultation,” the decision resulting from that “consultation” is equivalent to the original arousal of G‑d’s will. Moreover, from a deeper perspective, the very fact that He “consulted” with the souls of the righteous [is significant]. (For in a consultation, the words of the person with whom one consults define and decide whether one’s desire will be aroused.) This shows that the person with whom one is consulting is on a higher level and possesses more depth than the one doing the consulting.

Thus in the order of revelation, the consultation comes after the arousal of [G‑d’s] will. Nevertheless, in a concealed way and in the source (as much as it is appropriate to use these terms before the tzimtzum), the souls of the righteous (with whom G‑d consulted) are on a higher level than G‑d’s desire to be generous, and indeed, are higher than His desire for kindness. Therefore they can determine whether His will to be generous will be expressed and be revealed within the desire to rule or not, heaven forbid. [If not,] it would be as if it never had existed.

Thus the will to be generous and the will to rule on which are dependent all the levels of the spiritual cosmos after the tzimtzum, including the lowest levels, can be compared to an image that appears in the water because of the face of the one who gazes in it. [The face which appears in the water can be described as G‑d] estimating the potential for everything that was later actually [created]. [As explained above,] “consulting with the souls of the righteous” refers to the pleasure that would be generated by the Divine service of the Jewish people that arouse in G‑d’s thought. As it is said:69Israel arose in [His] thought.”


In relation to the above, [we can appreciate] Rabbi Akiva’s statement: “When you reach the stones of pure marble, do not say: “Water, water.’”

To explain: “The stones of pure marble” refer to the parsah of Kesser which is between the Or Ein Sof, the source of the emanation of light, and the worlds brought into being by that emanation. This parsah definitely makes an interruption. Therefore, it is referred to as stones, concerning which it is said:70 “Wearing away stones [produces] water.” [This indicates that] the stones possess water, but they are hidden and greatly concealed to the extent that much effort and labor is necessary to reveal the element of water that they possess. Nevertheless, they are not like ordinary stones, but they are “stones of pure marble” which appear to an observer like water. As the Talmud71 states with regard to the Beis HaMikdash built by King Herod, [the marble] looked like the waves of the sea.

[On this basis, we can understand why] Rabbi Akiva said: “When you reach the stones of pure marble, do not say: “Water, water.’” In the writings of the AriZal,72 it is explained that Rabbi Akiva’s primary adjuration was not to say water twice, [i.e., not to see them as two types of water]. For there are not two types of water, the water is all one. A distinction should not be made between the upper water above the parsah and the lower water that is beneath the parsah. For this parsah only brings about a reflection of the image in the waters. Since the upper waters are simple (for they transcend even G‑d’s desire to be generous [to the creations]), the image of the one gazing — the souls of the righteous who arose in G‑d’s thought — appears not as a separate entity, nor as an entity that came into being from water, but as the water itself.

The ratzu , man’s striving to become close to G‑d must be characterized by a similar motif. The person should not have a desire for ratzu in and of itself. Instead, his ratzu should be “as water [reflects] the image of a face.” The face is not a distinct entity. It cannot even be compared to fish in the sea that came into being from the water. Instead, its entire existence is water.

“As water [reflects] the image of a face, so too, one man’s heart reflects another’s,” [motivating even the heart of] a mortal on this physical plane.73 Accordingly, the ratzu is motivated in a manner that leads to it being followed by a shuv. Within the spiritual cosmos, G‑d’s will is that there be a dwelling in the lower worlds, including also our physical and material world. This indicates, “as water [reflects] the image of a face,” [that this thrust exists] also before the tzimtzum, [even] at the levels where [G‑d] “consulted with the souls of the righteous,” and “Israel arose in [G‑d’s] thought.”

[The fusion of ratzu and shuv] is reflected by [the conduct of] Rabbi Akiva [who] “entered in peace and departed in peace.” As explained in the maamar entitled Acharei,74 even his ratzu was characterized by peace. It contained also the tendency toward shuv , so that a movement of shuv could follow it.

[This can be clarified through an explanation of the concept of peace.] Peace represents the fusion of two opposites,75 joining the very lowest extreme and the highest extreme (and also what is above and below these extremes). Peace is the receptacle that contains the blessing of the Holy One, blessed be He.76 The term blessing is used, because it reflects influence which is drawn down from above.

Moreover, blessing itself is not sufficient, the response Amen is also necessary. As our Sages commented:77 “A person who answers Amen is greater than one who recites the blessing. Know that this is so. [To cite a parallel:] Weak people challenge in battle, but the mighty emerge victorious.”

[Our Sages imply] that blessing (drawing down influence from above) is only the beginning of the battle. Afterwards, [it must be complemented] by the victory of the mighty. As explained at length in the series of maamarim published in connection with the Previous Rebbe’s hilula,78 Netzach, “victory,” [is a unique quality]. Thus for the sake of victory in war, [a king] will open up the most precious royal treasures, his treasurestores and those of his ancestors, which were until this moment hidden and sealed away from all eyes, and squander them for the sake of victory in war.

All of this is relevant on a spiritual plane where there is an opponent, i.e., on the very lowest levels. In these rungs, the highest potentials are revealed.

The concept of entering in peace and departing in peace was manifest only by Rabbi Akiva, and it was he who said: “When you reach the stones of pure marble, do not say: “Water, water.’” This [approach] came because his ratzu did not stem from his own initiative, but came about “as water [reflects] the image of a face,” [i.e., as a response to G‑d’s desire] as explained above at length.


Based on the above,79 we can appreciate the concept [of the death] of Aharon’s two sons, concerning whom it is written: “When they drew close before G‑d and died,” which the Midrash interprets as entering the innermost chambers. The spiritual counterpart of this concept is the achievement of ahavah bitaanugim, “love with delight,” which is the highest level of ratzu. Because they had reached this level, Moshe thought that [Aharon’s sons] were on a higher level than he and Aharon. Nevertheless, their ratzu reflected the ratzu of the world of Tohu, i.e., it was not modulated with the quality of shuv. This is reflected in their entry into the innermost chambers without thinking at all about the departure.

Thus their ratzu was characterized by a consciousness of their own identity. As explained in Tanya,80 even a perfect tzaddik who serves G‑d with ahavah bitaanagim retains his personal identity. [Although he is consumed with the love of G‑d,] the identity of the lover remains. The sense of personal identity (yeshus) that exists [on this level is very refined]; it is appropriate for [a person who serves G‑d] with ahavah bitaanagim. It can be described with the analogy of an entity which is brought into being from water. Nevertheless, in such an instance, there is a distinct entity that comes into being [aside] from the water. [Similarly, in the analogue, the person is submerged in feelings of love; nonetheless, his personal identity remains.]

[To apply these concepts to the death of Aharon’s sons:] They “drew close to G‑d and died.” [Their drawing close came on their own initiative.] They did not appreciate the concept of “as water [reflects] the image of a face,” that there is no sense of one existing as a separate entity, even an entity brought into being from the water. All that exists is the higher waters, [and the existence on this earthly plane is merely a reflection of this higher plane].

On this basis, we can also explain the implications of the other opinions mentioned in the Midrash (and cited in sec. I):

[They entered without wearing the required garments:] Drawing down influence [from the higher realms to the lower realms,] “as water [reflects] the image of a face” is brought about through the garments of the Torah and its mitzvos.81 [Aharon’s sons entered] without the required garments, i.e., this concept was not of fundamental importance to them

They did not marry and did not bear children: The general concept of the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos (through which influence is generated “as water [reflects] the image of a face”) comes through the union of the body and the soul, [which can be compared to marriage]. This also involves the approach of “He did not create it for chaos; He formed it to be inhabited,” which is associated with bearing children.82

With regard to this, it is written: “And G‑d spoke to Moshe after the death of the two sons of Aharon when they drew close before G‑d and died. Speak to Aharon your brother. He should not enter the Sanctuary at all times…. In the following manner (Bizos), Aharon should enter the Sanctuary.”

Bizos refers to the fear of G‑d.83 This is “the gate to ascend,”84 [the means of drawing close to G‑d]. Fear leads to bittul , “selflessness.” [This makes possible the approach of “as water [reflects] the image of a face,” i.e., that one’s Divine service is not associated with one’s own identity, but reflects G‑d’s desires. This approach is alluded to in our Sages’ statement85] that one’s fear should precede one’s wisdom.

With this approach, one will enter the Sanctuary in a manner that allows one to also depart in peace. The emphasis is on peace, for peace is a receptacle for G‑d’s blessings, drawing down G‑d’s blessings from above. [This thrust was manifest by] the High Priest who after entering the Holy of Holies [on Yom Kippur] would recite a prayer on behalf of the material welfare of the Jewish people,86 [asking for blessings for them] as they exist in this world, within the contexts of their earthly concerns.


The above can be connected with the verses:87 “From the ends of the earth, I will call You…. He will dwell forever before G‑d.” To explain: “From the ends of the earth” can be interpreted as referring to the lowest levels which exist in this physical and material world. From these points (“the ends of the earth”), “I will call,” referring to the highest levels of ratzu, “to You,” referring to G‑d’s essence itself. In this vein, on the phrase:88 “Whenever we call to Him,” our Sages comment89 that our calls must be directed: ““To Him,’ and not to His attributes.” As the Alter Rebbe explains,90 this refers to His very essence. (This resembles the fusion of two opposites, as explained above with regard to the concept of peace.)

[These efforts] draw down G‑dly influence [which parallels] the thrust of shuv. This is reflected in the phrase “He will dwell forever before G‑d.” For that phrase refers to drawing down G‑dly influence from a level which transcends the spiritual cosmos. This is reflected in the phrase “before G‑d (Elokim).” [Elokim refers to the Divine attribute of judgment.] (The tzimtzum is the highest expression of this attribute.) [The influence drawn down, however, has its roots in a level] “before Elokim, i.e., above the tzimtzum. [This influence will “dwell forever.” עולם , the Hebrew for “forever,” also means “world.”] Thus the influence is drawn down throughout the spiritual cosmos until the lowest levels, our material world. Moreover, עולם , also [shares the root of the word העלם and thus] has the connotation of concealment and hiddenness.91 [Influence is drawn down even to levels where G‑dliness is concealed.]

[תישב translated as “dwell,” also has the connotation of “settled.”] The influence is drawn down in a settled manner, reflecting the pattern: “He formed it to be inhabited.”

This concept also relates to the statements of the maamar [entitled Acharei92] with regard to the explanations of the Mitteler Rebbe93 concerning the extended nun in the phrase:94 ובו תדבקון , “And you shall cling to Him.” An extended nun refers to drawing down G‑dly energy into the lowest levels, even in rungs outside the realm of holiness. The extended nun is written with regard to a phrase that concerns the highest levels. For after speaking of a series of rungs of Divine service: “Proceed after G‑d, your L-rd,”… “And you shall serve Him,” the verse concludes: “And you shall cling to Him.” This represents mesirus nefesh of the highest level, transcending even the mesirus nefesh of Shemoneh Esreh. And from this level comes the extended nun which appears to indicate drawing down [G‑dly energy] to the lowest levels in a manner of ישב עולם. This means that this [G‑dly energy] will be drawn down in a settled manner even to this world which is characterized by concealment and hiddenness.

This [fusion of opposites] also relates to the verse: “Rise before an elderly man.” For as the Tzemach Tzedek explains [in his additions to] Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim,95 after the verse states: “And you shall fear your G‑d,” which refers to the Sefirah of Malchus, the lowest possible level, it states “I am Havayah. ” And as is well known,96 the expression “I am Havayah ” refers to G‑d’s very essence.

On this basis, we can also understand the verse:97 “Add days to the lifetime of the king, [prolong] his years for generations.” This refers to an extension [of his life], following the opinion of our Sages98 that if a person merits, his lifetime is prolonged. Tosafos99 explains that although our Sages state:100 “Children, life, and sustenance are not dependent on one’s merit, but on one’s mazal, ”101 great merit can bring about an increase even with regard to such matters.

A question, however, arises: How is it possible for a Jew to have a merit greater than his mazal ? For it is said:102 ain mazal liYisrael, which is interpreted103 to mean that the mazal of the Jewish people is associated with the level of ayin. [How can a mortal reveal a level higher than this?]

[This question] can be resolved on the basis of the concepts explained above [with regard to] “As water [reflects] the image of a face,” [that a person should not see himself at all as a separate entity]. [This is a level of selflessness] above that [possessed by] an entity created from water]. The person’s approach should be that all that exists is water — and therefore the face can be seen in all its particulars [i.e., his conduct reflects Divine influence perfectly].

This makes possible an increase in “the lifetime of the king” (as it is written: “Add days to the lifetime of the king”). [This is relevant to every Jew,] for “all Jews are kings.”104

[They have the potential to tap a source of blessing that] transcends the mazalos and transcends all merit, a level above [all the restraints stemming from G‑d’s name,] Elokim. It will be “as water reflects a face,” relating to water as it exists in a state of ultimate simplicity, without any form at all. [This serves as an analogy for] G‑d’s essence.

This is also reflected in the Previous Rebbe’s quotation of his father, the Rebbe Rashab,105 which states that the teachings of Chassidus (for which the Alter Rebbe endured self-sacrifice — and [endowed as the heritage] of every member of the Jewish people) places a chassid face to face with G‑d’s essence.

From this level, influence is drawn down “to dwell forever,” in this earthly realm, “Add[ing] days to the lifetime of the king, [prolonging] his years for generations.” [“For generations” can be interpreted as referring to] “the generation of the King Mashiach (see the Targum to the verse:106 “G‑d is at war with Amalek from generation to generation). Through P’nimiyus HaTorah which is revealed through the teachings of Chassidus, G‑d’s essence is drawn down bringing about the complete and ultimate redemption, with kindness and mercy, with apparent and obvious good, in the near future, in this generation, the generation of the King Mashiach. May he come, redeem us, and lead us upright to our land.