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Friday
Jan172014

BASI L’GANI 5714

Beis Moshiach presents the maamer the Rebbe MH”M delivered on Yud Shvat 5714, in accordance with the custom established by the Rebbe to review each year a section of the Rebbe Rayatz’s maamer Basi L’Gani of 5710. • This year we focus on the fourth section of the profound and foundational chassidic discourse.

Translated by Boruch Merkur

ATZEI SHITTIM: PROVIDING THE FRAMEWORK FOR FREE CHOICE

1. “I have returned to My garden, My sister, My bride.” On these words, the Midrash (in its place) comments: “‘To My garden’ – to My bridal chamber, to the place where My essence was [revealed] in the first days of Creation,” for the Ikar Sh’china (the essence of the Divine Presence) was manifest then in the lower realms. But with the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, which is the source of [all] subsequent sins, a fundamental change took place: the Sh’china departed from the earth to the first firmament [of heaven]. The sins of later generations caused the Sh’china to be further removed [from the earth], eventually reaching the seventh firmament. Then, righteous people arose, tzaddikim, who began to draw the Sh’china back down to earth through their service of G-d. This process reached its pinnacle with Moshe Rabbeinu, [the leader of] the seventh [generation from Avrohom Avinu], and [as our Sages teach] “all sevenths are beloved.” Moshe Rabbeinu’s epic accomplishment is that he succeeded in [completing the entire process] drawing the Sh’china back down to earth.

Indeed, that is the ultimate Divine intent, as expressed in the verse, “Make for Me a Mikdash so that I may dwell among you,” within each individual [in the physical world]. To shed light on this concept, my revered father in-law, the Rebbe, elucidates the verse, “The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell forever (v’yishkenu la’ad) upon it”: “The righteous shall inherit the land,” i.e., Gan Eden, [a reward] for their avoda of drawing down G-dliness at the level of “shochen ad [marom v’kadosh]” until it is revealed below.

This process of drawing down G-dliness into the world, described in the verse, “Make for Me a Mikdash so that I may dwell among you,” is accomplished through the Divine service of iskafia sitra achra, shunning evil, for “when evil is shunned, the glory of the Alm-ghty is manifest (istalek) in all the worlds.” The Rebbe, my father in-law, explains in the maamer of the day of the histalkus and the day of the yahrtzait [i.e., Basi L’Gani 5710] that this refers to “the glory of the Alm-ghty” that is present in all worlds equally, a reference to Ikar Sh’china. The Ikar Sh’china is manifest in the world through the Divine service associated with the Mikdash, or Mishkan, the service of iskafia, embodied in the Temple service of offering sacrifices, especially incense.

Of course, in order for there to be the avoda of iskafia, shunning evil, sitra achara must be granted the opportunity to oppose [the person’s service of G-d]. It is a ruach shtus, a spirit of folly, that provides the framework for choosing between good and evil, as our Sages say, “A person does not commit a sin unless a ruach shtus, a spirit of folly, enters him.”

Since the correction of this breach must relate to the root of the problem, the ruach shtus, the Mishkan was, therefore, made specifically of the wood of Acacia trees, atzei shittim, alluding to the Divine service of shtus d’k’dusha, the use of folly for the sake of holiness.

SHTUS D’K’DUSHA: AN AVODA THAT IS FOR EVERYONE

The avoda of shtus d’k’dusha is not exclusive to the spiritually elite, nor is it a height attainable only at auspicious times. [Rather, it is the correction for succumbing to a ruach shtus, which is a universal pitfall.] Indeed, “A person does not commit a sin” – any sin at all – “unless a ruach shtus, a spirit of folly, enters him.” Moreover, it says that “there is no righteous person in the land who [only] does good and does not sin.” Each person must, therefore, serve G-d with shtus d’k’dusha – for two reasons. Firstly, Jews are mutually responsible for one another, for “each Jew is a guarantor for each other.” It is for this reason that even tzaddikim g’murim, the entirely righteous, say Vidui (liturgical confession), “Ashamnu, bagadnu, etc.” (“we are guilty, etc.”), including themselves in the whole spectrum of confession expressed by articulating one’s guilt with words beginning with each letter of the Alef-Beis. From this fact alone, everyone, including the tzaddik, must have the avoda of shtus d’k’dusha. But in addition, “there is no righteous person…who [only] does good and does not sin” [meaning no one is free from some form of inadequacy or shortcoming, some lack], and every transgression comes about as a result of a ruach shtus. Therefore, even with respect to the avoda of a tzaddik, he must have the tikkun, the correction, brought about specifically through shtus d’k’dusha

WORLDLINESS IS ACCEPTED AS REALITY, BUT WE NEED TO BE CONVINCED ABOUT G-DLINESS

2. Sitra achara has the capacity to incite a ruach shtus, the desire for material things, including the desire for things that are permitted. Though it is not so much the desire itself for physical things that is the threat, but the enjoyment and exhilaration in these things. Materialism desensitizes the person’s enjoyment of holiness as well as his enthusiasm for it, increasingly stifling the person until the ruach shtus enters him, enabling him to commit a sin. The ruach shtus within him gives him the impression that his Judaism [his connection to G-d] remains intact even when he commits a sin.

In a broader sense, temptation to sin is reflected in the Animal Soul’s ability to eclipse the G-dly Soul. In fact, this dynamic is traced all the way back to Creation, insofar as the worlds in general, especially the lower worlds [known collectively as] Bi”YA, conceal G-dliness. This concealment results in the condition articulated in the well-known saying: Worldliness is accepted by us as reality, whereas we need to be convinced about G-dliness.

THE ULTIMATE GIFT FROM G-D

The Divine purpose for the concealment of G-dliness, culminating in the sitra achara’s ability to entice the person to sin, is in order for there to be iskafia sitra achara, in order for the person to have the opportunity to overcome temptation, as the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya: power is [only] granted to sitra achara in order for it to be [opposed and] defeated. To that end, G-dliness is concealed to the point that there can be free choice. Thus, it is written, “Behold I have granted before you today life and goodness, as well as death and evil.” This dichotomy is needed for there to be the possibility to “choose life.”

G-d established the world in this way so there should not be “bread of shame” [the feeling of being given “handouts” from On High, bestowed with underserved grace]. Rather, there should be the concept of avoda, serving G-d, as our Sages teach, “Commensurate with the painstaking effort is the reward” (Avos 5:21). Since G-d is the essence of goodness, He wishes to bestow the ultimate good [to His creations, which entails feeling deserving of G-d’s beneficence].

All of the above, however, only explains why sitra achara and the Animal Soul have been granted the power to conceal; how it is possible for the Animal Soul to conceal the G-dly Soul must still be understood. Indeed, the G-dly Soul is a true existence, it is G-dliness, whereas the Animal Soul is [a subsidiary existence] merely intended to allow there to be the concept of avoda. Similarly, the world as a whole is created only to provide an environment whereby “commensurate with the painstaking effort is the reward,” as above. Thus, [being that they are only “secondary” existing creations] how do sitra achara and the Animal Soul have the power to conceal G-dliness, resulting in a ruach shtus that conceals the truth and makes it appear to the person that when he commits a sin his Judaism remains intact? 

MAN’S DEPENDENCE ON PHYSICALITY, IN BODY AND IN SPIRIT

3. The answer will emerge from a discussion of the dependence of man on the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms (when he commits a sin with physical things or when he uses them in order to refine them and use them for a G-dly purpose, etc.). A person requires the physical things he consumes and interacts with for the sake of his subsistence, his survival. The mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms are also dependent on man, for specifically through being utilized for man’s avoda is their purpose achieved. (As is known, the mineral kingdom achieves its purpose when it is consumed by plant life; plants achieve their purpose by being consumed by animals; the purpose of animals is fulfilled by being consumed and utilized by human beings; and through man – by means of his service of G-d – the animal kingdom is subsumed within G-dliness.) But the dependency of the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms on man is only for the sake of their elevation and achieving their purpose, not for their subsistence, whereas man’s need for the three lower kingdoms is not only for the sake of his avoda and for fulfilling his purpose, but also for his subsistence and survival.

The three lower kingdoms preserve man’s bodily life by keeping the soul attached to it. In this respect, man’s need for physical things resembles the need of fire for fuel. The nature of fire, of course, is to ascend. Only by means of its connection to the wick [or some form of fuel] does it remain below. Similarly, the soul, of its own accord, wishes to [leave the body and] ascend, cleaving to its source and point of origin, etc. (as explained in Tanya, Ch. 19, beg.), but the consumption [of food and drink comprised] of the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms serve to ground the soul in the physical body, keeping the body alive.

HUNGRY FOR “THEIR SOULS”

Man’s dependence on the three lower kingdoms, however, is not only for the sake of his body, but also for the sake of his soul. The neshama needs the spark of G-dliness contained within physical things, as the Alter Rebbe teaches in Torah Ohr, on the verse, “man does not live on [the physical aspect of] bread alone but on all that issues forth from the mouth of G-d [i.e., the sparks of G-dliness] does man live” (Eikev 8:3).

In Kesser Shem Tov (siman 194), the Baal Shem Tov cites, in the name of the Arizal, the difficulty of the Chokrim in understanding the soul’s need for physical consumption: It is apparent that the soul needs physical food, for without it the soul departs from the body. But why is the life of the soul, which is spiritual, dependent specifically on physical foods? The Arizal answers that their error is apparent in their question, for the soul does not require the physical aspect of food, but the sparks of G-dliness it contains.

The Baal Shem Tov elaborates that this sheds light on the verse, “They are hungry and also thirsty; their soul is garbed within them.” Here Scripture questions why man is hungry and thirsty for physical things, and it answers because “their soul is garbed within them”: “Their soul” referring to the G-dly spark within them [within food and drink]; “is garbed” – for it is hidden within them. It is the role of man to reveal this spark, being within his sphere of influence. Thus, he is “hungry and also thirsty” [to fulfill his mission and reveal the spark of G-dliness within his food and drink].

There, in Torah Ohr, the Alter Rebbe observes that, at first glance, it is still difficult to understand: Although the hunger and thirst of man for food is not on account of its physical aspect, but for the G-dly spark within it, nevertheless, the difficultly persists, for there is a G-dly spark also within (man and) the body of man (in particular). So why does he specifically need the spark contained within the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms? [He already possesses G-dliness on his own!] The Alter Rebbe answers that the G-dly spark within the three lower kingdoms is greater, loftier.

In any case, from all the above it is understood that man needs the three lower kingdoms (not just for the sake of his physical survival but) also for the sake of his spiritual subsistence. This point, however, requires further elucidation. 

TOHU: A HOUSE WITH MORE LIGHT, MORE POWER

The explanation of why man depends on the three lower kingdoms, even for his spiritual subsistence, pertains to the fact that the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms are rooted in the [primordial] world of Tohu, which precedes [man’s place of origin] the world of Tikkun.

The difference between the two worlds is expressed in the saying, “He builds in order to demolish and demolishes in order to build.” The [original] building that is demolished [Tohu] precedes the building that is constructed at the site of the demolition [Tikkun]. The intent here is not to trace the sequence of the origination of these worlds, but to establish the causal relationship between them, for there cannot be a construction at the site of the demolition if there first were not an original structure that was demolished.

In fact, the original structure precedes the new building not only causally but also qualitatively, as in the saying, “In Tohu there is a multitude of lights but insufficient vessels [to contain them], whereas in Tikkun there are few lights but many vessels.” The concept of the many lights of Tohu is not just in terms of quantity (which is reminiscent of a physical condition) but also in quality (reminiscent of a spiritual condition); it is a different kind of emanation, one that is far superior.

What originates in Tohu is primordial in a manner akin to the way a peel precedes the fruit itself – not only physically but also spiritually. The vitality of the peel precedes the vitality of the fruit in the same manner whereby Tohu precedes Tikkun.

Thus, also in terms of his spiritual needs, man [whose soul is rooted in Tikkun] needs the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms, for they originate in Tohu, which precedes Tikkun, and therefore contain [lofty] sparks of G-dliness.

This explanation resolves how it is possible for the Animal Soul to cover over and conceal the G-dly soul. Namely, insofar as the origin of the Animal Soul vastly transcends the origin of the G-dly Soul. It is within the power of the Animal Soul, the Mitteler Rebbe explains, to conceal the G-dly Soul because the Animal Soul originates from Tohu, whose power far exceeds that of Tikkun. Thus, it is said that the Evil Inclination is “first to plead his case” (Zohar I 179b) [appearing in a person from infanthood, whereas the Good Inclination is only introduced at the age of thirteen, the time of bar mitzva], for its source is Tohu, which precedes Tikkun. Since the Evil Inclination originates from Tohu, which precedes Tikkun, a ruach emerges from it – a spirit that is (ultimately) only shtus, folly – that covers over the truth, obscuring the truth as it is manifest in the Seider Hishtalshlus and as it is drawn into the soul of man. 

EVEN THE IGNORANT ARE FEARFUL OF CERTAIN SINS

4. However, according to the above it would follow that a ruach shtus would be able to conceal the entire truth, no truth being able to penetrate its veil of obscurity and concealment. But we see that that is not so. Rather, when Jews are put to the test on a matter of faith, when confronted with an overt and utter departure from G-dliness, then, even the most frivolous Jew, who spends the majority of his life wallowing in the mire of extremely heinous sins, is unaffected by the ruach shtus; in such a pivotal case, it possesses no power to conceal from him the truth, etc.

The power of faith brings the Jew to stand up to the test (not only with regard to faith itself, but) even in terms of thought, speech, and action. The Jew stands up to the challenge of self-sacrifice, not even going through the motions of an action that is contrary to the faith in one G-d. The same applies to uttering something that detracts from G-d’s unity, G-d forbid, even if he does not mean what he is saying, etc. (as the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya, Ch. 19, end, 25b).

Furthermore, even among the masses, the ignorant, and the shallow there are numerous prohibitions that Jews are fearful and petrified of transgressing. Now, this reluctance and trepidation is not on account of their possessing an intellectual appreciation of the severity of the sin. (They do not even possess the capacity for that kind of thought, having a much greater affinity with physical and material concerns than intellectual matters. That is, even the [spiritually accomplished] Beinoni is subject to the cumulative impact of simply eating and drinking, as well as partaking of other worldly activities, as explained in Tanya Ch. 13 (18b). [The mere interaction with physical things, especially on a prolonged basis, strengthens the person’s compulsion towards materialism.] How much more does this apply to those who are still striving to attain the level of Beinoni!) Rather, their naturally ingrained fear of sin predisposes them toward the dread of committing particular sins, especially those punishable by soul excision or death, etc.

[What comes out from the above discussion is that clearly there are prohibitions that Jews naturally resist transgressing, and matters of faith that are not at all within the power of enticement of a ruach shtus. What accounts for this only partial dominion of the Animal Soul? If its source transcends that of the G-dly soul, what power is there that protects a Jew from its total domination, exposing him more readily to these more serious sins?]

The answer is that Tohu precedes Tikkun only within Seider Hishtalshlus. Both Tohu and Tikkun are created worlds [each possessing qualities that can be ranked within a hierarchy]. But it is only in this context, within Seider Hishtalshlus, that Tohu is antecedent to Tikkun. Beyond the Seider Hishtalshlus (it is not that the two worlds are equal, but) Tikkun actually comes first. At that level [higher than the entire Seider Hishtalshlus, the natural order of Creation], the ruach shtus has no influence, etc.

THE WORLD IS 613, BECAUSE THE SOUL IS 613, BECAUSE THE BODY IS 613

5. The above will be brought to light through the analysis of the verse, “For the portion of G-d is His nation; Yaakov is the rope of His inheritance” (Haazinu 32:9). The two parts of this verse refer to two different aspects of the soul: “For the portion of G-d is His nation” is one aspect and “Yaakov is the rope of His inheritance” is another.

My revered father in-law, the Rebbe, in the maamer of 5710, interprets the latter part of the verse, “Yaakov is the rope of His inheritance,” as follows. The soul of man is a rope that connects him to G-dliness, a rope whose one end is tied above and the other is tied below. The soul connects the person below, in the physical world, with his spiritual source and place of origin above. 

The Rebbe goes on to explain that the soul is a rope that is entwined with 613 strings, meaning that it possesses 613 soul-powers. The reason for this particular composition is as our Sages say, “A man is obligated to say, ‘For my sake the world was created” (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5, 37a, end): “World – olam” alludes to “helem – concealment, hiding,” referring to the Tzimtzum HaRishon, the Initial Focusing and Containment of the revelation of G-dliness. Although the Tzimtzum HaRishon is the root of all concealments [the concealment of G-d that enables the possibility for evil], it was created for the sake of man – in order that he may correct it by refining and purifying it. Since man is composed of 248 limbs and organs, as well as 365 sinews, totaling 613, his soul also possesses 613 powers. (To note the innovative concept presented in the maamer – that it is on account of the human anatomy being composed of 613 parts that the soul possesses 613 powers [and not vice-versa].) And since the entirety of Hishtalshlus was created for the sake of man [to correct, using his 613 soul-powers], all the levels of Hishtalshlus also number 613.

The Rebbe continues in the maamer that the 613 Mitzvos are dependent upon them [the body and soul of man, which both number 613]. Thus, the metaphor of the rope – “Yaakov is the rope of His inheritance” – takes on another interpretation, referring [not only to the soul but also] to Mitzvos, which number 613. The two interpretations of rope in this verse complement each other: Since man, for whose sake “the world was created” (beginning with the Tzimtzum HaRishon), is of a form that is quantified by the number 613, therefore, also the Mitzvos – the pathways, channels, and hamshachos through which man corrects the world (beginning with the Tzimtzum HaRishon and below) – are also numbered 613.

Now, the rope of Mitzvos is composed of 613 strands; each Mitzva is an individual strand. When a person commits a sin, rachmana litzlan, (only) a single strand (albeit the entire essence of that strand) is broken and severed, but the rope as a whole remains intact. Those sins, however, that are punishable by soul excision or capital punishment pertain to the general connection of the soul with its source and root above. Therefore, even average people, the ignorant, and the shallow are fearful and tremulous about violating them – not on account of intellectual appreciation, but because of a natural, ingrained fear of sin (as discussed above in Section 4), feeling that the general connection of the person below with the source of his vitality above is liable to be compromised (as discussed in the maamer).

However, on account of the nature of the world (olam, meaning concealment, helem, beginning from the Tzimtzum HaRishon), which is the general concept of the Seider Hishtalshlus, wherein Tohu precedes Tikkun (as above, Section 4), it is possible for a ruach shtus (which is the vehicle of the Animal Soul, whose source is Tohu, which precedes Tikkun) to cover over the truth even with regard to sins that are punishable by soul excision and capital punishment. The ruach shtus makes it appear that one maintains his Judaism and remains connected with the source of his vitality despite transgressing these severe prohibitions. This folly is described in the verse, “he will bless himself in his heart, saying, ‘I will have peace, even if I follow my heart’s desires,’” even going so far as saying, “in order to add the [punishment for one’s] unintentional sins to that of [his] intentional sins” (Nitzavim 29:18), intending thereby [i.e., through sinning] to draw down to himself additional vitality (see Kuntres U’Maayan, maamer 10, Ch. 1).

WE WEAR THE SAME CROWNS

All of this discussion – derived from, “Yaakov is the rope of His inheritance” – only describes the hierarchy within Seider Hishtalshlus. However, the first part of the verse, “For the portion of G-d is His nation – Ki cheilek Havaya amo,” alludes to a much more sublime dynamic, as it pertains to a dimension of the soul that totally surpasses the natural order, transcending the entire Seider Hishtalshlus.

In general, the name Havaya, which means, “haya, hoveh, v’yihyeh k’echad – He was, is, and shall be – as one” (Zohar III 257b, end), [refers to a level of G-dliness that] is beyond Hishtalshlus [namely, atzmus, the essence of G-d]. The significance of the phrase, “Cheilek Havaya – the portion of G-d,” referring to this higher aspect of the soul, is that it is speaking about a “portion” of the essence, of which it is said, “The essence, when you grasp a part of it, you grasp its entirety” (as in the saying of the Baal Shem Tov). Since “Cheilek Havaya amo – the portion of G-d is His nation,” “a veritable portion of G-d above, literally,” the Jewish soul is, therefore, one with G-d’s essence.

This concept is illustrated in the teaching of the Mezritcher Maggid on the Midrash (VaYikra Rabba 24:9), “[Scripture enjoins the Jewish people to] ‘Be holy.’ Yachol kamoni? You might think that the intent here is that you [the Jewish people] are being commanded to be as holy as Me [i.e., G-d himself]. Thus, the Torah teaches, ‘for I am holy’ – k’dushasi l’maala mi’k’dushas’chem – [translated according to the simple reading as] My holiness is more exalted than yours.” (“K’dushasi” – the aspect of “I am holy,” is more exalted than your holiness” – the aspect of “Be holy.” This is understood from an allegory of royal subjects presenting the king with three crowns, etc. The king places one on his own head (“I am holy”) and the other two upon the heads of the Jewish people. (Ibid 24:8)): Sh’k’dushaso l’maala (His exalted holiness) – ha’kol hu mi’k’dushas’chem (is entirely from your holiness).

The inference here in the Mezritcher Maggid’s teaching is that he interprets the words Yachol kamoni” as not being stated rhetorically, as a question or as a declaration of its implausibility [as if to say: obviously your holiness cannot possibly approach Mine!], but as a statement of fact [i.e., you indeed possess the same sanctity as Me, G-d]. To that end, the Maggid brings support for learning the Midrash in this manner from what is written, “‘for I am holy’ – k’dushasi l’maala (hi) mi’k’dushas’chem – My exalted holiness is [derived] from your holiness.”

EISAV MAY BE HIS BROTHER, BUT G-D LOVES YAAKOV

G-d and the Jewish people share the same holiness in virtue of the fact that the essence of the Jewish soul is connected with the essence of G-d, may He be blessed, a concept expressed in the first part of the verse, “cheilek Havaya amo – the portion of G-d is His nation.” Every single Jew possesses a “cheilek Havaya.” Thus, it is written, “cheilek Havaya amo,” referring to the Jewish people here as “His nation” [a term that includes all Jews, irrespective of their spiritual standing, etc.].

Now, there is a positive interpretation of “amo – His nation,” as stated in the Midrash (Shmos Rabba 31, end), “‘Amo – His nation’ is like ‘imo – [being] with Him.’” But there is also a derogatory connotation, insofar as “amo” is linguistically connected with the word “omemos,” as in “gechalim omemos – embers.” This sense of “amo” is invoked in the saying, “Ein melech b’lo am – there is no king without a nation,” referring to the royal subjects as individuals who are separate, distinct, distant from the king’s majesty.

The latter part of the verse, “Yaakov is the rope of His inheritance,” specifies “Yaakov” to teach that the connection of the rope of the soul extends to the lowest levels, the “akvayim – heels” (as mentioned in the maamer). Similarly, the concept “cheilek Havaya – the portion of G-d” pertains specifically to “amo – His nation,” for even those who are like separate, foreign bodies, notwithstanding their [lowly] state and standing, are “cheilek Havaya,” a part of the essence, which is one with the whole essence of G-d.

On account of the fact that “cheilek Havaya amo” – that each and every Jew transcends the natural order, the Seider Hishtalshlus, being one with the essence of G-d – it is impossible for the Animal Soul’s ruach shtus to distort the truth, etc. That is, the Animal Soul’s capacity to cover over and conceal the truth, etc., is only in virtue of its originating in the World of Tohu, which precedes Tikkun. But the antecedence of Tohu is only within the framework of Hishtalshlus; beyond Hishtalshlus, Tikkun takes precedence. Although [the comparison is made in Scripture between Eisav and Yaakov, representing Tohu and Tikkun respectively, in the verse], “Was not Eisav a brother to Yaakov?” nevertheless, “and I loved Yaakov” (Malachi 1:2), because “cheilek Havaya amo.”

The sublime preference for Yaakov over Eisav, as well as Tikkun over Tohu, the G-dly soul over the Animal soul, is expressed in terms of Divine service, as follows. The ruach shtus can cover over and conceal only matters connected to the Seider Hishtalshlus within the person, affecting only his soul-powers. Its influence only extends to the service of G-d that stems from reason, matters that are subject to debate, arguments and responses. It has no power, however, over anything that transcends the Seider Hishtalshlus, meaning service of G-d that stems from the essence of the soul.

This level of the soul is called Yechida, for it receives from Yachid, G-d’s singularity, His oneness, which is the concept of “a single spark of a created being that receives from a single spark of the Creator” (though not as two separate entities, but as they become one). At this level, the notion of hiding and concealing G-dliness has absolutely no bearing.

This concept is discussed at length by the Tzemach Tzedek: Eisav’s birthright is only with respect to the Ayin [spirituality, bittul] that refines the Yesh [physicality, concept of self, being separate from G-d]. Since the Ayin is manifest and drawn down for the sake of refining the Yesh, it follows that the Yesh actually precedes the Ayin [in importance, because the purpose of the Ayin is for the sake of the Yesh]. Only after there is the existence of the Yesh can the Ayin come and refine it. However, the Ayin of the Yesh HaAmiti, G-d, the true existence, certainly precedes the Yesh HaNivra, the created existence. With respect to this level of G-dliness, Yaakov gets (not only Yitzchok’s blessing, as it is written [describing Eisav’s horror with Yaakov’s intrigues], “Behold, now he has taken my blessing!” but also) the birthright (“he has taken my birthright”); [at this level] it is specifically Yaakov who is the firstborn.

“AS WAX THEY HAVE MELTED”

Above we have discussed the dynamic of the Ayin and Yesh as they relate to the worlds. Now the discussion turns to how this dynamic is expressed in man. The Ayin that refines the Yesh within man is haaras ha’Chochma, the illumination of Wisdom. This light invests itself within the parts of the body, beginning with the brain, where this ray of Wisdom constitutes the mind, the intellect. In terms of Divine service, haaras ha’Chochma is associated with serving G-d as it accords with reason. At this level, the Yesh precedes the Ayin in quality, permitting there to be a ruach shtus, etc. Whereas, with respect to etzem ha’Chochma, the essence of Wisdom, which is [beyond Seider Hishtalshlus, at] the level of the Ayin of the Yesh HaAmiti, the hiding and concealment on the part of the ruach shtus has no bearing, etc. The distinction between the illumination of Wisdom and the essence of Wisdom is described in Tanya (Ch. 19, 25a): Only the aspect that extends from Chochma can be exiled within the sackcloth garment of klipa, the place from which the ruach shtus enters the person to cause him to sin, etc. However, with respect to etzem ha’Chochma, all klipos are nullified and eradicated, etc., “as wax they have melted.”

When any Jew is tested on a matter of faith (even a Jew who, on account of his low spiritual level, is called “amo,” like something that is separate, foreign [from G-dliness]), the etzem ha’Chochma is revealed in him. Such a test, awakens the Jew’s faith, an experience that transcends Hishtalshlus, connecting him with G-d’s essence. Since at this level, Tohu is not antecedent [and therefore lacks the leverage it needs to overpower the G-dly Soul], it is impossible for the ruach shtus to cover over and conceal, etc. The Jew, therefore, stands up to the test.

In fact, when the power of faith is aroused in him and openly expressed, when the essence of Chochma is revealed and its illumination shines throughout his entire body – this has an impact on his approach to even individual Mitzvos, single strands of the rope of his soul. The principle underlying this ripple effect is that the essence extends to everything (a point that appears in the Rebbe’s maamer in parentheses, “and within this detail is all the essence of the detail”). Thus, the Jew stands up to the test even when it comes to overcoming the temptation to merely go through the motions of sin, to sin without his heart being into it, transgressing just in deed or speech alone.

THE INHERITANCE WE ARE GIVEN

6. Further analysis of the verse, “Ki cheilek Havaya amo,” focuses on the word “cheilek,” meaning “chaluka – apportioning,” as opposed to “netina – giving.” Among the differences between the two terms, “chaluka” and “netina,” is as stated in Brachos (58a): Upon seeing a Jewish sage, one says, “Blessed is He Who apportions of His wisdom”; upon seeing a Jewish king, one says, “Blessed is He Who apportions of His Glory.” However, with regard to Gentiles, one says of a Gentile sage, “Who gives of His wisdom,” and of a Gentile king, “Who gives of His glory.” The reason for this difference is stated in Magen Avrohom (Orach Chayim 224:4): A Jew is a “cheilek Eloka – a part of G-d.” Jews cleave to G-d, therefore, in blessings about Jews one says, “sh’chilek – Who apportions,” whereas regarding Gentiles the term used is “matana – gift,” alluding to something separate and distinct.

In light of this distinction we can explain the specific use of the term “cheilek” in the verse, “cheilek Havaya amo.” Namely, it alludes to the fact that every Jew cleaves to G-d (even those Jews who are at the level of “amo – His nation”). Moreover, since a Jew is “cheilek Havaya,” even the gifts he receives are not characterized by separateness, but by cleaving, connecting to G-d. The Rebbe Maharash (based on the teachings of the Tzemach Tzedek) sheds further light on the special quality associated with a gift. Although there is a difference between a gift and an inheritance, for a gift is subject to interruption [i.e., when given upon the condition that the gift transfers to someone else upon the original recipient’s death, the original gift is “interrupted” and becomes the property of the second recipient] (Bava Basra 129b) (reminiscent of the concept of separation), whereas an inheritance is not subject to interruption [i.e., bequeathal is never “interrupted” in the sense that the legal heirs of the original beneficiary inherit it after his death], nevertheless, when one gives a gift to a person fit to inherit him, then it too is not subject to interruption (ibid 133a).

This distinction will be understood in greater detail through a discussion of how it applies to Torah, for Torah [in addition to be called an inheritance] is also described as a gift (e.g., Brachos 5a). When nigleh d’Torah, the revealed, exoteric aspect of Torah, is studied on its own [without the insights of the mystical, esoteric dimension of Torah], then the first three levels of Torah, p’shat, remez, drush (literal, exegesis, homily) – whose acronym spells “pered,” meaning pirud, separate – the person, while studying Torah in this manner, may remain separate from G-dliness, etc. (as discussed in Zohar (III 275b, end)). This concept finds expression in the saying of our Sages (Yoma 86a): “Woe to he who studied Torah, etc. See how corrupt his deeds are, etc. (since his learning was not with fear of Heaven)!” They go so far as to say (ibid 72b): If one does not merit, (the Torah) is for him the opposite of “an elixir of life.” This reflects the concept of a gift that is subject to interruption.

However, when nigleh d’Torah is studied along with p’nimius ha’Torah, the esoteric, inner dimension of Torah, which is unaffected by the hiding and concealment of the ruach shtus, being at the level of the Tree of Life (Zohar III 124b), beyond the concept of birurim (refining the world through interacting with it) – then even the study of p’shat, remez, and drush is with connection and cleaving to G-d, etc. That is, even the “gift” – nigleh d’Torah – is not subject to interruption, being a gift given to one who is fit to inherit. This special status is granted to nigleh d’Torah on account of its connection to the inner dimension of Torah, which is an inheritance that is not subject to interruption.

Moreover, the study of nigleh d’Torah accompanied by p’nimius ha’Torah brings out a positive aspect of “gift” as well. That is, a gift is not a function of the degree of exertion and effort on the part of the one who receives the gift; it is, rather, in a measure that is “drawn down from above” as a gift [i.e., left to the whim of the generous benefactor]. This concept applies to Torah as follows. As a result of the study of Torah, “osi atem lokchim – you are taking Me (the very essence of G-d) [bringing G-d within the mind and soul of the one who learns it]” (Shmos Rabba 33:6; Tanya Ch. 47 (67a)), for “Ana Nafshi K’savis Yehavis – [the first word of the Aseres HaDibros, “Anochi – I (G-d),” being an acronym for] I have written Myself [into the Torah] and given [it to you, the Jewish people].” G-d invested His essence into the Torah, as described in the Midrash (Shmos Rabba 33:1) on its commentary on the verse, “V’yikchu li truma” (Truma 25:2): Consider an allegory of a king, who had an only daughter, etc.: “To part from her, I cannot do, etc. Do for me this favor. Make for me a single chamber where I may dwell among you, etc.” Thus, the Alm-ghty tells the Jewish people: “I have given you the Torah. To part from it, I cannot do, etc. Make for Me a single temple that I might dwell within it, etc.” That is, the gift of Torah contains within it the presence of the One Who bequeaths [it to us]. Then there are both virtues: The virtue of an inheritance, which has no interruption, as well as the virtue of a gift, which surpasses one’s work and effort, etc. (in addition to the fact that the gift has no interruption when it includes the study of the inner dimension of the Torah). 

FROM G-D’S PERSPECTIVE, SIN IS NO BARRIER

7.  This then is the meaning of the verse, “For the portion of G-d is His nation; Yaakov is the rope of His inheritance”: Typically, the ruach shtus is capable of covering over and concealing, etc., to the extent that it can even entice someone to commit sins that are punishable by the severing of the [spiritual] rope connecting him to G-d, rachmana litzlan. However, that is only so with regard to [the dimension of the soul within Seider Hishtalshlus, as described in the latter part of the verse] “Yaakov is the rope of His inheritance.” But even then, after a Jew has succumbed to sin, he still maintains an essential connection to G-d. The essence of a Jew’s soul, alluded to in the first part of the verse, “the portion of G-d is His nation,” is bound to G-d in a way that is not subject to hiddenness and concealment, etc. Moreover, this dimension of the soul brings a Jew to eventually come to correct [any shortcomings in the lower aspect of his soul] “the rope of His inheritance.” As a result, even the individual strands that were severed because of sin are reconnected, reestablishing their ability to join the person below with his source of vitality above.

This concept is expressed in the teachings of the Rebbe Rashab, nishmaso Eden, in his interpretation of the verse, “But your iniquities were separating between you and your L-rd” (Yeshayahu 59:2): The separation caused by sin is specifically “between/among you,” but from the perspective of “your L-rd,” even sin does not interfere with the connection. The Alter Rebbe writes in Igeres HaT’shuva (Ch. 5, 95b) that actually, nothing acts as a barrier or interruption, “but/except your iniquities, etc.,” insofar as they are in opposition to the Supernal will, etc. On these words, the Rebbe, nishmaso Eden, adds that this is only with respect to the transcendent light of Sovev Kol Almin, and in terms of it not being overtly revealed, but it is not so to Atzmus Ohr Ein Sof, the infinite essence of G-d’s light.

The point here is not only that the separation imparted by sin is only from the perspective of mortals (“among you”), but also that sin only separates you from “your G-d – Elokeichem,” which means “your [source of] strength and your [source of] vitality,” a reference to G-dliness at the lower level of Memalei Kol Almin. “Elokeichem” can even be said to refer to Sovev Kol Almin (insofar as sins are opposed to the Supernal will [which corresponds to the level of Sovev]), but only with respect to it not being overtly revealed, just manifest in a concealed way. However, with respect to Atzmus Ohr Ein Sof Itself, there is nothing at all that conceals or hides. From the perspective of G-d’s essence, the concealment of G-dliness is utterly eradicated, even below, in the physical dimension.

I, G-D SHALL REDEEM YOU – AND NO OTHER

This concept is reflected in the exodus from Mitzrayim, as it is written, “I passed through the land of Mitzrayim…I, Havaya” (Bo 12:12). Our Sages teach on these words: “I and not an angel, etc.; I and not a saraf, etc.; I and not an emissary, etc.; I and nothing else.” The exodus was carried out by G-d Alm-ghty Himself, “bi’ch’vodo u’v’amtzmo.” That is, there needed to be none other than hamshachas ha’Atzmus, the manifestation of G-d’s essence, in order to free the Jewish people from the clutches of the klipa of Mitzrayim, for they were steeped in forty-nine Gates of Defilement, rachmana litzlan. To redeem the Jews from Mitzrayim, G-d’s essence had to be drawn down to even the darkness and evil of Mitzrayim, and in a manner whereby there would not be any yenika, any nourishment siphoned off to the dark forces, G-d forbid. (Should the exodus have been accomplished by a mere revelation of G-dliness – as opposed to G-d Himself, His essence – it could have resulted in a yenika, etc., strengthening the forces of evil.) G-d’s direct role in the exodus amounted to the utter destruction of the klipa, together with the exodus and redemption of the Jewish people from Mitzrayim, expressed in the verse, “And G-d shall plague Mitzrayim, plaguing and healing” (Yeshayahu 19:22).

The same concept applies to the spiritual sense of being redeemed from Mitzrayim (which pervades every aspect and detail in man’s service of G-d – see Tanya Ch. 47). That is, even when the ruach shtus prevails over a person to commit a sin, bringing about the state whereby “your iniquities were separating etc.,” to the extent that the rope connecting man below with his source of life above is severed – then the essence of the soul of even the most frivolous Jew remains connected with G-d’s essence (a bond of one essence to another essence). Regardless of the sin committed, on account of the soul’s essential bond with G-d, there is no concept of interruption or separation at all.

And this concept (that sin does not interfere) permits no possibility for yenika, G-d forbid. In fact, the ruach shtus is utterly nullified before the essence of the soul (reflecting the manner whereby “G-d shall plague Mitzrayim”). Indeed, in a single moment and in a single instant, a Jew rises up from the depths of the abyss to the most sublime height (“healing” for the Jewish people). The Rebbe Rashab, nishmaso Eden, explains further in Kuntres HaAvoda (Ch. 5) that when one comes to a test in a matter of faith, which calls forth the soul’s Yechida, not only does he stand up to the challenge, overcoming that particular test, but more so – the revelation of the Yechida causes him to change completely with regard to all areas of serving G-d.

COGNIZANCE OVERCOMES KLIPA

8.  In addition to what was stated above – that when tested in a matter of faith, the ruach shtus is nullified, etc. – there must be an avoda that from the outset leaves no room for a ruach shtus to surface. As explained at length in the maamer, it is a lack of Daas, Cognizance, that gives rise to a ruach shtus.

Now, the majority of the souls of our generation (and a good portion of the souls of previous generations) are (not at the level of “zera adam – the seed of man” but) at the level of “zera beheima – the seed of an animal”), animals having no Daas with regard to G-dliness. That is to say that the deficiency is (not a lack of knowledge per se but) in recognition and awareness (i.e., appreciating the significance of G-dly concerns with a clarity that can reach the point that is akin to the sense of sight). The lack of Daas in these souls enables the ruach shtus to prevail. Thus, the advice to counter this condition, whereby one is prone to the onslaught of the ruach shtus, is to draw down the attribute of Daas.

THE REBBE: THE FAITHFUL SHEPHERD

Assistance in this endeavor is granted by Moshe Rabbeinu himself, the “first redeemer,” the “shepherd” of the Jewish People. As discussed in Tanya, Moshe Rabbeinu is one of the Seven Shepherds, and the totality of them all. Moshe is called the Faithful Shepherd, insofar as he channels Daas to all the Jewish people, even souls at the level of zera beheima.

The following verse [articulated by Moshe Rabbeinu] conveys this concept: “I will give grass in your field for your livestock” (Eikev 11:15). “Grass – eisev” alludes to Daas, insofar as its letters spell “Ayin-Beis,” the name of G-d [that totals seventy-two, Sheim Av] along with a Shin in the middle of the word (whose three branches symbolize the middos – Chesed, G’vura, and Tiferes – which are sustained through Daas). Moshe Rabbeinu, the Faithful Shepherd, draws down G-dly Daas into “your field” for the sake of “your livestock,” the souls that are called “zera beheima.”

In T’hillim (37:3) it states, “u’r’ei emuna – and be nourished by faith,” meaning that Moshe Rabbeinu, the Faithful Shepherd, nourishes his “flock” and provides faith to the Jewish people in a manner that is not makif (ephemeral, not internalized) – which could give rise to a condition whereby “a thief, prior to stealing, calls out to G-d” (Brachos 63a) – but in a manner that can be internalized. When faith is properly internalized, one cannot commit a sin, for it opposes the Supernal will.

The same role is provided by “the incarnation of Moshe in each and every generation,” a reference to the Rebbeim, the leaders of the generation, including my revered father in-law, the Rebbe, whose hilula we are marking. The Rebbe’s avoda was with each and every Jew, even those who are at the status of separate – “amo” meaning “omemos” – those who have become distant [from the path of Torah and Mitzvos] and steeped in lusts, with delight and passion. The Rebbe reached out even to those whose rope of their souls had been severed on account of sins punishable by soul excision or death.

The concern of a Rebbe is to help Jews internalize faith in G-d. Being an “adjoining intermediary” – as it is written, “I stand between G-d and you” (VaEs’chanan 5:5). Moreover, a Rebbe brings Jews to a state whereby the Yechida is overtly manifest in order to perform its function, beginning with confronting a test. The Rebbe communicates to a Jew the necessity of standing up to the challenge. Afterwards, over the course of time, the Rebbe reconnects “the rope of his soul,” rejoining even the individual strands that had been severed. How much more so does the Rebbe have an impact on those who reflect the positive aspect of “amo” (as above Section 5), helping them attain a state whereby the ruach shtus is unable to cover over the truth, etc.

Indeed, the Rebbe has imparted this assistance to the “chevel nachalaso,” to the next generation, giving them the merit to continue his activities “in the path he has set forth for us that we should go in its ways” (Tanya Igeres HaKodesh, siman 27, 146a), after having paved the path and provided instructions of what to do in the case outlined above. The Rebbe grants tremendous success – surpassing nature, but within nature – to fulfill the ultimate intent of Creation, to make for G-d a dwelling place in the lower realms. And may all of this be with kindness and mercy, and with tremendous success, “below ten handbreadths.”

Reader Comments (2)

thank you so much for this translation. its helping me a lot with the maamar.
a correction:
there is a section titled: "THE WORLDS’ EXISTENCE IS A GIVEN WHEREAS G-DLINESS IS SURMISED". i see these words are taken from the last line there.
now in the Hebrew this is a translation from עולמוות בפשיטות אלקות בהתחדשות. i think to translate בהתחדשות as "surmised" is a mistake. surmised means "suppose that something is true without having evidence to confirm it". whereas אלקות בהתחדשות means that G-dliness isn't a give, however it is something we can actually comprehend through intellectual contemplation...
Jan 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMendel
Thank you very much Mendel for your thoughtful comment. I am going to think it over and talk to my advisors on it.
Boruch Merkur
Jan 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterBoruch Merkur

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