January 22, 2016
The Rebbe in #1000, #1001, #1002, #1003, #996, #997, #998, #999, Basi L'Gani, D'var Malchus

Beis Moshiach presents the maamer the Rebbe MH”M delivered on Yud Shvat 5716, 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 sixth section of the profound and foundational Chassidic discourse.


1. “I have returned to My garden, My sister, My bride.” On these words, the Midrash Rabba, in its place, comments: “‘To My garden (l’gani)’ – to My bridal chamber (li’g’nuni) [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, in the physical world itself.

But with the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, as well as subsequent sins, a fundamental change took place: the Sh’china departed from the earth to the heavens. Afterwards, righteous people appeared in the world, tzaddikim who drew the Sh’china down from the heavens to the earth through their service of G-d. This process reached its pinnacle with Moshe Rabbeinu, 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 completed the entire process of drawing the Ikar Sh’china back down to the psychical plane, bringing it from the first firmament of the heavens to the earth. Indeed, the ultimate purpose of Creation is that G-d should have a home in the physical world, which is described as “My bridal chamber (g’nuni).”

Thus, it is written, “‘Make for Me a Sanctuary and I shall dwell among them’ – within each and every Jew.” Here the Torah charges Jews with the mission to make for G-d a home in the physical world. To that end, one of the main services that took place in the Mishkan (Sanctuary) and the Holy Temple was the offering of sacrifices, embodying the offering and sacrifice of the Animal Soul to G-d. Sacrificing the Animal Soul entails dedicating one’s skills and talents towards serving G-d, resulting in what is described in the Torah [regarding sacrifices] as “a pleasant fragrance, a nachas ruach, to G-d.” Nachas ruach signifies G-dliness being drawn down into the world [for the nachas elicited from On High is described as, “n’chus darga – going down a step,” drawing down G-dliness from above to below].

When we speak about making for G-d a home in the physical world (the purpose of the Mishkan), it refers to a revelation of G-dliness known as Ohr HaSovev Kol Almin, a revelation that is so sublime that it transcends all worlds equally. This G-dly manifestation is achieved through the Divine service of iskafia sitra achra, rejecting evil, which is followed by the avoda of is’hapcha, as in the saying, “when evil is shunned, the glory of the Alm-ghty is manifest (istalek).” The meaning of “istalek” (here) is that G-dliness is revealed below but in a manner described as “istalek – a departure, transcendence” and is manifest in all worlds equally [being infinitely beyond the worlds].

The Mishkan, where sacrifices took place, was, therefore, made of atzei shittim, standing planks of acacia wood. The word “shittim” alludes to the transformation of the ruach shtus d’l’umas zeh, an unholy spirit of folly [for it shares the same linguistic root], which gives rise to the concept of sin, as in the saying, “A person would not commit a sin were it not for being infected with a spirit of folly.”

As mentioned above, sin causes the Sh’china to depart from the earth heavenward. The correction for, in effect, vanquishing the Sh’china from the world is, therefore, avoda performed in a manner of shtus d’k’dusha, holy folly, avoda that transcends the intellect. Avoda of this sort is praised in a Talmudic story [about a sage who brought joy to the bride and groom at their wedding] with the words, “Ahanei lei shtusei – his shtus, his seeming foolishness, was beneficial to him,” insofar as it transforms unholy shtus and makes a home for G-d in the physical world.


2. My revered father in-law, the Rebbe, baal ha’hilula, continues in the maamer: “And from the above we will understand the significance of why the wood of the Mishkan is called ‘krashim,’ as it is written, ‘You shall make the krashim for the Mishkan of standing planks of acacia wood.’” From this verse it is clear that the term “acacia wood – atzei shittim” applies to the wood even prior to its having a connection to the Mishkan. In order to construct the Mishkan it was necessary to take acacia wood and make it into krashim, planks. The maamer explains that the term “keresh – plank” also alludes to the avoda of transformation, discussed above – that through iskafia (resisting the temptation towards that which unholy), which is the gateway to is’hapcha (sublimating or transforming unholiness), unholy shtus is transformed into something holy (as further discussed below).

But first we shall explain how a name (for the term “keresh – plank” is a noun, a name of something) is the mechanism by which the thing named is brought into being; it is its vitality and the force that sustains it. This idea is expressed in the Baal Shem Tov’s well-known interpretation of the verse, “Forever, O G-d, Your word stands in the Heavens”: G-d’s statement, “Let there be a firmament amidst the water, etc.,” these words and letters, stand and maintain their position forever in the heavens, and they are eternally invested within all the firmaments in order to enliven them. Were the letters to depart for a moment, G-d forbid, all the heavens would be void and nothingness, literally as before “Let there be a firmament, etc.” was uttered.

The same applies to all the creations throughout all the worlds, including the physical world and even the mineral kingdom within it (which is the lowest of the four kingdoms: human, animal, vegetable, and mineral). If the letters from the Ten Utterances with which the earth was created in the Six Days of Creation would depart for even an instance, G-d forbid, everything would literally revert to void and nothingness, precisely as it was before the Six Days of Creation.

Thus states the Arizal that even the mineral kingdom – such as stones, earth, and water – has the aspect of nefesh (spirit) and spiritual vitality. The spirituality inherent to even the mineral kingdom refers to the letters of speech of the Ten Utterances that invest themselves within it. These letters enliven and create the mineral kingdom ex nihilo, bringing it into being out of the primordial void that preceded the Six Days of Creation.

Although the term “even – rock” does not actually appear in the Ten Utterances of the Torah, nevertheless, vitality is drawn to the stone vis-à-vis permutations and substitutions of the letters, etc. The reason for this process is because a stone cannot receive Divine energy directly from the Ten Utterances as they are, but only as it descends and incrementally diminishes by means of the substitution and the exchange of letters. The permutation of the word “even – stone” is fashioned through this process, and this name embodies the vitality of the stone.

The same is true of all the creations in the world: the names by which they are called in the Holy Tongue are (not arbitrary words but) letters of speech that descend and derive from the Ten Utterances of the Torah to create them ex nihilo and to eternally enliven them.


It is this message that the Mezritcher Maggid conveys in his lengthy discussion on the verse, “All that Adam called each living creature – that was its name”: It says in the Midrash that the angels asked the
Alm-ghty what the unique quality of the first man would be. G-d answered: his wisdom shall exceed yours. In order to illustrate Adam’s preeminent wisdom, G-d brought before the angels every animal, beast, and fowl and asked the angels to state their names, but they did not know. Then, after Adam was created, G-d brought the creatures before him and asked, “What are the names of these?” Adam answered, “It is appropriate to call this one ‘shor – ox, etc.’” The Mezritcher Maggid asks that at first glance this is puzzling, for what is the great wisdom in calling creatures by their names? Moreover, it must be explained why it says, “It is appropriate to call this one, etc.” In what sense is the name he called each creature “appropriate” for it?

The explanation is that although in each of the seventy languages there are names for each thing, nevertheless, the name in those languages is not descriptive of the essence of the thing named. It is, rather, just a word assigned by convention, designated to verbally differentiate things. Whereas, in the Holy Tongue, what something is called is its true name, the name of the essence of its spiritual source. For example, the “shor – ox” that exists in this physical world is called by its name on account of the supernal “shor,” comprised of the three letters Shin-Vav-Reish. So too with regard to all others names. Thus, Adam HaRishon, who possessed extraordinary wisdom, and fathomed and had knowledge of the spiritual source of every species, was able to call them by their true names. He therefore said, “It is appropriate to call this one, etc.,” meaning that the name articulated is not just a noun or a term used to signify the thing; it is appropriate or fitting to call it that, for it is the actual name of its spiritual source. Its name is in this sense “appropriate” for it.

The Mezritcher Maggid goes on to explain how this concept applies to the names of people. At first glance, the Maggid asserts, it goes well to say that naming people only bears relevance to ancient times. That is, since the people of early generations named their children in anticipation of future events (as stated in the Midrash), it illustrates that they knew the source of the child’s soul. These people had advance knowledge of events that would occur involving their newborn child, and they named the child accordingly. Their ability to determine future events in the life of the child proves that they possessed knowledge of his or her spiritual root and source. But nowadays [in later generations] children are named after their forbearers (as the Midrash states there), indicating that the spiritual root and source is not apparent to us, etc. [Thus, the naming of our children seems to lack the same significance of earlier generations.] However, the Arizal revealed to us that even the names we give our children are not happenstance or the whim of the father and mother; it is the Alm-ghty Who provides the idea, wisdom, and intelligence in the heart of the father and mother to call the child by the name that is actually the root of the child’s soul.

And the Maggid concludes that this is also in line with what our Sages said regarding the Tanna Rebbi Meir – that he would draw inferences of character based on one’s name. Thus, in the Torah of Rebbi Meir it was written “kasnos or” (not with an Ayin [as it is correctly written in sifrei Torah, meaning “garments of skin”] but with an Alef [meaning “garments of light”] (B’Reishis Rabba 20:12)), for to Rebbi Meir there was no concept of klipa (a husk, concealing G-dliness) at all: “he discarded the husk” (Chagiga 15b). Rather, the truth was revealed to him as it is [untarnished by klipa]. Thus, Rebbi Meir was able to determine the quality of the source of a person’s soul from his or her name. He was, therefore, able to foresee events that would transpire in the person’s life.


As has been established, names in the Holy Tongue are not arbitrary, established for the sake of convention. Rather, each name is the spiritual and existential source of the thing that is called by that name, and it is also the source of the vitality by which it is created ex nihilo. In this process of creation, it is not that a thing is created by the name as a one-time act of genesis and it no longer requires the name. Rather, the name brings it into being every moment and every instant, as the Alter Rebbe discusses at length in his response to the error of the heretics who liken G-d’s creation of the heavens and the earth to the actions and dealings of Man: A craftsman forms a vessel, yet the vessel no longer requires the craftsman after it is complete. The reason for the object’s independence from its maker is because the craftsman forms it out of existing material; he merely manipulates its shape, etc. (i.e., he reveals the latent form that was concealed within it). Whereas, with regard to creation ex nihilo, there is an ongoing need for the Creator’s involvement, for the power of the Creator to be constantly within Creation. Were it not for this ongoing Divine sustenance, Creation would revert to void and nothingness.

From this discussion it is understood that the events that occur to every thing are also connected with the name in the Holy Tongue that creates it every moment and every instant, even though the events take place several years after it was so named.

The above sheds light on the term “keresh,” for this is the name the Holy Tongue has given to acacia wood once it had begun been processed for use in the construction of the Mishkan (as it is written, “You shall make the krashim for the Mishkan”), and this word is what creates and enlivens the physical planks of wood. Thus, the term “keresh” also pertains to all matters that must be accomplished with atzei shittim (namely, the transformation of unholy shtus, folly, into holiness).


3. The explanation as to how the word “keresh” also pertains to the avoda of transforming shtus emerges from a discussion of the three letters Kuf-Reish-Shin, which spell the word “keresh,” as my revered father in-law, the Rebbe, writes in the maamer. As discussed above regarding the names of things as well as people, the same principle applies to names of letters. That is, each letter in the Holy Tongue has a name, and the name conveys the meaning and significance of the letter. The significance of each letter is also expressed by its particular form and shape, as the Alter Rebbe explains: Each of the twenty-two letters in the Alef-Beis is the manifestation of a particular, unique (Divine) energy and force; no other letter can draw down that particular hamshacha. Thus, also the written form of each letter has a particular, unique shape signifying the quality of the spiritual manifestation associated with it, etc.

The Rebbe continues in the maamer that it says in the beginning of the Zohar (2b) that the letters of the Alef-Beis ascended before the Alm-ghty, presenting themselves before Him in order to participate in creating the world. [In this context, the letters comprising the word “keresh,” Kuf-Reish-Shin, are discussed.] The letters Kuf and Reish are letters that signify the Domain of Evil, being associated with the opposite of holiness. The letter Shin occupies somewhat of an ambiguous position, for of itself it is fit to have had the world created through it, being a “letter of truth.” Moreover, the letter Shin alludes to the three Avos, the very foundation of holiness. Nevertheless, it says there in Zohar that the letters Kuf and Reish took the letter Shin among them in order to sustain their existence [by harnessing its holiness]. This combination (Shin-Kuf-Reish) formed the word “sheker – falsity, lie.” The Alm-ghty told the letter Shin: since false letters took you among them, it is not appropriate to create the world with you. In fact, the Zohar concludes there: “From here we learn that a liar first takes truth as a foundation to establish his lie.” That is, (since it is the opposite of truth, it has no existence at all, therefore) falsity can only assume some sense of reality by joining with something that is truthful. For example, the letters Kuf-Reish, which signify the Domain of Evil, took the Shin among them for the sake of their preservation. But since the three letters of the word “keresh” have a connection to the opposite of holiness (needless to mention the letters Kuf-Reish, but even the letter Shin, which was joined to Kuf-Reish, letters associated with evil, as above), the word “keresh” is, therefore, connected with the avoda of atzei shittim, which symbolizes the transformation of unholy shtus into holiness.


4. The fact that the letters Kuf and Reish signify the Domain of Evil is understood in light of the distinction between the letters Kuf-Reish and the letters that resemble them in the Domain of Holiness.

To this end, my revered father in-law, the Rebbe, continues in the maamer: “Now, Kuf-Reish corresponds to Daled-Hei. (Reish resembles Daled, and Kuf resembles Hei.) Daled and Reish are similar in both shape as well as meaning.” (That is, as explained above, both the shape of the letters – their appearance – as well the names of the letters – their meaning – express the unique character and quality of the letters.) And the Rebbe explains that the likeness of Daled to Reish in terms of their meanings (their names) is that both Daled and Reish mean “poor” or “impoverished,” as the verse (Mishlei 10:15) states, “mechitas dalim reisham – the ruin of the poor is their poverty,” and it is written, “reish v’osher – poverty and affluence, etc.” (ibid 15:8).

The Rebbe cites specifically these verses because they convey (not only the similarity in the meaning of the letters Daled and Reish but) also the difference between the letters. Just as their shapes merely resemble each other and are not actually identical, the same is true of their significance and meaning. Indeed, the connotation of poverty suggested by the letter Reish is more severe than that of the letter Daled. Proof for this difference is from the verse, “mechitas dalim reisham – the ruin of the poor is their poverty,” meaning that the anguish and the dread of “dalim – the poor,” is “reisham – their poverty.” This establishes that “reishus refers to more extreme poverty than “dalus.” So too with the verse, “reish v’osher – poverty and affluence.” Here “reish” is contrasted with its antonym, “osher,” affluence, a degree of wellbeing that surpasses “providing enough for his need, whatever he lacks.” This contrast, therefore, establishes “reish” as the most severe form of poverty, “dalei dalus – extreme poverty.”

The maamer continues that although the Reish and Daled are similar in shape and meaning, they are nevertheless radically distinct and distant from each other. (That is, not only are they not wholly synonymous, but there are actually opposites.) Thus, these two words, which on the surface mean the same thing, represent opposite realms. Namely, the letter Daled exists in holiness, whereas the letter Reish signifies the Domain of Evil.


5. Although the letter Daled signifies “dalus – poverty” [something negative in the simple, literal sense], dalus is tantamount to bittul and humility [in the spiritual sense]. In fact, the entire concept of holiness hinges on attaining a state of total bittul.

To elaborate on this idea, the Rebbe writes about the positive, spiritual sense of dalus, as expressed by S’firas HaMalchus, the Divine Attribute of Majesty. Malchus is described as having “nothing of its own,” being in the ultimate state of bittul and self-annulment, to the extent that it is said of Malchus that “it diminished itself.” Malchus diminished itself in order to be in a state of total bittul. In mortal terms, Malchus is associated with the power of speech, for it too “has nothing of its own”; it is simply a receptacle and vehicle for the higher faculties to find expression, such as the intellect and emotions.

Notwithstanding the association of S’firas HaMalchus with total self-annulment and bittul, it also possesses the [seeming opposite] quality of hisnas’us (grandeur and authority, rule), from which all of Seider Hishtalshlus, the natural order of Creation, emerges. This duality allows Malchus to maintain two vastly different functions: 1) Receiving from all that is above it, which is the concept of all “all rivers flow into the sea”; 2) Creating everything beneath it.

The Mitteler Rebbe describes at great length, providing two interpretations or perspectives, how S’firas HaMalchus “has nothing of its own”: 1) Malchus has no G-dly illumination “of its own”; it has only what it receives from above. The metaphor for this dynamic is the moon, which has no light of its own; it has only the light it receives from the sun. The second interpretation is that 2) Malchus “has nothing of its own” except what it receives from the lower aspects of Creation, on the part of the devotion of the angels and souls that reside in the lower worlds. From this perspective, S’firas HaMalchus entails revealing to the other, meaning in this context, that Creation emerges from it.

To elaborate on the second interpretation: The entire general concept of Creation is, of course, infinitely remote from the Infinite G-d, may He be blessed, for which reason it is said, “The throne is established with benevolence.” That is, the concept of a throne, the throne of the King [the origin of Creation], is established by means of Supernal Benevolence, on account of the fact that “the nature of the good is to be good to others.” That is, G-d contracted and diminished Himself by means of S’firas HaMalchus, allowing His infinite and transcendent Divine light, etc., to be drawn down, as it were, in order for there to be the general concept of Creation.


Another relevant point with regard to this second interpretation of “[Malchus] has nothing of its own” – that Malchus is established by the devotion of the lower worlds – is the idea that “there is no king without a nation.” The effect of the nation, the people, on the King is that His essential hisnas’us – His quality of grandeur and authority, being aloof and transcendent – is drawn down in order for G-d to rule over humanity, which, in turn, establishes the existence of Creation, serving as its source of life and existential reality.

Similarly with regard to Malchus (kingship, royalty) in the physical world: The king is “from his shoulders and above higher than all the people.” That is, of himself, the king’s grandeur and majesty is independent of the nation on account of his inherent qualities of nobility and grandeur, being at his very essence incomparably distinguished above his people. It is, therefore, necessary to arouse and inspire in the king the will to rule, the will to be king over the people. This desire is evoked in the king by their crowning him and through their eagerness to submit to his authority. Accepting the authority of the king establishes his sovereignty and kingship (binyan ha’Malchus); it causes him to agree to rule over the nation.

The same dynamic is reflected in the supernal realm, as expressed in the saying of our Sages: “State before Me verses acknowledging [My] kingship, in order that you should cause Me to be King over you.” It is this expression of willingness on behalf of the people that elicits in G-d the will to rule over Creation, for G-d has no intrinsic connection to the entire concept of Creation.

The difference between the two functions of Malchus is as follows. The central point of the first concept, whereby Malchus has no more than what it receives from all that is above it, is expressed by the initial drawing down of Malchus, similar to the binyan ha’Malchus on Rosh HaShana [when the fate of all the worlds is determined for the year]. The dynamic here is described as Malchus having “nothing of its own” except what it receives from above, from the Divine Attribute of Benevolence, which is the concept of “The throne is established with benevolence.” The main aspect of the second concept, on the other hand, is when it is necessary to strengthen and renew the concept of Malchus (subsequent to the initial act of genesis, etc.). Also in this respect it has nothing unto itself, since this renewal is brought about by the devotion of the lower worlds of Biya to Malchus of Atzilus, the highest world.

All the above sheds light on the concept of dalus in the positive, holy sense. Dalus is symbolic of the total abnegation of self of S’firas HaMalchus, which is the embodiment of hisnas’us, grandeur and distinction. But it is from this remote transcendence that the existence of the entire Creation emerges.


6. The Rebbe continues in the maamer, explaining that the difference between the letter Daled and Reish in terms of shape is that Daled has a Yud on its upper right corner. The Yud signifies the absolute bittul and self-annulment of S’firas HaMalchus, which allows it to serve as a vessel or receptacle, as in the saying, “An empty vessel can contain; a full vessel cannot.”

And to further quote the maamer: “The same principle applies [in mortal experience] to a person receiving knowledge. In order for him to be a vessel to contain new teachings, the true hashpaa of the rav, he must be in a state of total bittul and humility. It does not suffice for the student, the talmid, to simply refrain from embracing ego and sense of self; it is specifically when there is bittul and the relinquishment of ego that the talmid can truly absorb what the rav has to offer.”

The Rebbe describes in the maamer that the true understanding of the relationship of rav and talmid, the relationship between master and disciple, is when the master is incomparably greater than the disciple. Thus, it is only when the talmid is in a state of absolute self-nullification that he is able to fathom the teachings of the rav [because left to regular means, the talmid is simply incapable of comprehending it].

Now, we’re not talking here about a talmid who only succeeds in eradicating his ego to the point that he is able to listen to the words of the rav. Nor is it enough for him to be very attentive, devoting himself to receiving the teachings of the rav, but maintaining self-awareness. Rather, when the rav teaches, the talmid must be in a state of bittul, totally devoid of self.

When listening to the lecture, the talmid must not even be in a state of being mashpia to himself, his mind thirsting to understand the words of the rav, for then he will not be able to receive the rav’s thought, which is unfathomable to the talmid. It is, rather, specifically an “empty vessel” that contains. Since we are talking about grasping and containing thought that is beyond his intellectual capacity, the talmid must be a perfectly empty vessel; there must not even be the desire to understand and comprehend the intellectual concepts the rav is teaching.


Of course, the talmid’s desire to learn from the rav [in general] is something that is necessary. This desire is fundament both with regard to the talmid as well as the rav. For the talmid, the yearning inspires him to attain bittul ha’metzius, nullification of self, thereby becoming a vessel fit to receive the teachings of the rav. Also with respect to the rav, being incomparably greater than the talmid, teaching the talmid is a vast descent for him, to such an extent that it would otherwise compel him to not even associate with the talmid. It is only when the rav sees in the talmid great thirst to learn that it evokes in him the desire to reduce himself, as it were, to bring his ideas down and to transmit them to the talmid. In fact, this process of lowering himself actually benefits the rav, insofar as it draws deeper on his intellectual prowess, revealing in him greater genius, ideas that he was not privy to prior to then, as expressed in the saying, “from my students [I have learned] more than all of them [i.e., more than his colleagues and even more than his teachers].”

Here, however, we are speaking about the importance of desiring to learn prior to the actually lecture is delivered. When the teaching isn’t actually taking place, it is indeed necessary for there to be yearning. Without it, it is impossible to bridge the vastly distant roles of rav and talmid. But when the teaching is being delivered, it is clearly observable that if the talmid maintains this passion and yearning, desiring at that moment to receive the teachings from the rav as he is delivering them, his desire distracts him from listening to and receiving the ideas the rav communicates to him. In order to receive the teachings of the rav, it is necessary to have bittul and the utter relinquishment of self, not even perceiving the desire to learn from the rav.


The latter describes the proper approach to being an “empty vessel,” which refers to the state of mind required to properly learn. The mind must be trained to take in the teachings of the rav, for in order for something [an object] to be received and contained, the space that holds it must echo its shape. This space is the mind. But it is specifically when the mind is an empty vessel that it is possible for it to assimilate the teachings of the rav, who is incomparably greater than the talmid.

In light of the above we shall understand the reason why specifically S’firas HaMalchus “has nothing of its own.” For at first glance it is difficult to understand: All of the S’firos are organized hierarchically, and the lower S’firos receive from those that are above them. In fact, even the first of the S’firos receives from the Infinite Light of G-d. Thus, why is it that specifically regarding S’firas HaMalchus it is said that “it has nothing of its own”? The answer is that Ze’ir Anpin, and in general all the S’firos above Malchus, receive from the S’firos that are above them in a manner that is causal. Cause and effect is a dynamic that relates aspects that are comparable; they are not of differing natures one to the other. Rather, the effect exists latently within the cause. Even when the effect assumes an independent existence unto itself, the cause maintains close proximity to it. The same is true of the S’firos, which receive one from the other. The manner of their receiving is in close proximity. That is, the essential quality of the S’firos is comparable or relative one to the other.

Also, the fact that the S’firos receive from the Infinite Light of G-d – this is by means of the Tzimtzum HaRishon (the Primordial Concealment of G-dliness), which is the total removal of G-dly revelation. The hashpaa to the S’firos occurs upon its return to shine forth again [in a manner that the G-dly light is compatible with the S’firos]. Whereas the S’fira of Malchus, since it is used to create the yesh, worldly existence, which is an entirely different quality of being, something that is radically different, therefore, Malchus is the true receiver, the quintessential mekabel.

In this sense, Malchus embodies the principle of “it has nothing of its own,” signified by the letter Daled, the concept of “dalus – poverty.” The bittul of Malchus is one of “it diminished itself,” utter nullification of self, by means of which it receives from the S’firos that are above it.


7. The maamer continues: “The entire concept of holiness depends on attaining a state of total bittul, and the whole concept of avoda hinges on it.” Here we are speaking about [the role and purpose of man in the world: to serve G-d and bring His holiness into the world. In particular] the ultimate purpose for the creation of man within Seider Hishtalshlus, the Natural Order, is to make for G-d a home in the physical world. The Rebbe explains that this mission is accomplished though the avoda of total bittul and humility, for the entire concept of holiness is that there should be bittul and the eradication of ego. It is specifically this state that is referred to (Tanya Ch. 6.) as the Realm of Holiness.

Interestingly, the general service of man is called “t’filla – prayer.” T’filla was established by our Sages in place of korbanos, sacrifices, which is one of the primary services in the Beis HaMikdash (as discussed above). In this sense, the general service of man is avodas ha’t’filla. Thus, it is written, “And to serve Him with all your heart.” Our Sages elaborate, “What is service that is with the heart? … it is t’filla.” T’filla entails bittul and humility, as the maamer goes on to discuss (later in Section 9).

8. In this light we will understand the Gemara that says, “To begin with (i.e., at the start of the Shmoneh Esrei prayer) one says, ‘L-rd, open my lips.’ It is like a preamble to the prayer (for which reason it is not considered an interruption between mention of redemption [“gaal Yisroel – Who has delivered the Jewish people”] and t’filla [the Shmoneh Esrei]”). Why did our Sages establish the saying of “L-rd, open my lips” at the beginning of the t’filla? It seems that this creates an unwelcome interruption, which evokes in our Sages deliberation and then a resolution to the problem. At first glance wouldn’t it be preferable to simply daven the eighteen blessings without embellishment, without the addition of the verse, “L-rd, open my lips”? The fact that it was added, however, proves that this verse pertains to the general concept of t’filla.

The explanation emerges from a parallel discussion regarding Torah study, for prior to the bittul of t’filla there is the concept of Torah. Indeed, all of existence derives from Torah, as in the saying, “He peered into the Torah and created the world.” The entire Seider Hishtalshlus exists first within Torah. And since within the Seider Hishtalshlus the avoda of man (which is the concept of t’filla) depends entirely on bittul and self-effacement, it is understood that the same is true of Torah.


To elaborate based on the saying in the Gemara cited in the maamer: “Torah is not to be found in the haughty of spirit, nor in one who expands his heart over it like the sea.” The Rebbe explains that “the haughty of spirit” are those who lack bittul.

Here the Rebbe does not mean to merely reject the concept of haughtiness as the term is typically understood, meaning arrogance, for Scripture is clear in rejecting that very base and lowly characteristic: “G-d despises the haughty hearted”; “He and I [i.e., the arrogant person and G-d] cannot occupy the same space.” Such a person is in a state that is entirely contrary to spirituality; this person in not in a position to properly relate to Torah. Rather, here the Rebbe rejects a much subtler form of arrogance, one that affects spirituality.

Although the arrogant person is at a low spiritually standing, he still possesses a G-dly Soul. In fact, [it does not merely lie dormant] it influences him and operates within him, for even the lowest aspect of the G-dly soul [which is all this person is privy to] is still spiritual. The G-dly Soul invests itself within the Animal Soul to enable it to have an impact on the body. But since only the lowest aspect of the G-dly Soul is manifest in the arrogant person, the haughtiness of the body and Animal Soul rub off on his spirituality, to the extent that it too becomes coarse and self-centered. Certainly such a person is not capable [of achieving the more elevated service] of transforming physicality into spirituality.


The advice for countering this acquired negativity is to shatter the spirit of haughtiness, as it says in Zohar, “A log that cannot be lit on fire is crushed; a body that cannot be lit up by the soul is [likewise] crushed.”

This is also the meaning of the verse, “Zivchei Elokim is a broken spirit” (T’hillim 51:19): breaking the spirit is considered “zivchei Elokim – offerings of sacrifices to the L-rd, to Elokim.” Curiously, the previous verse says, “He does not desire zevach (a sacrifice), else I would give it.” The Zohar asks, “Does the Alm-ghty not want offerings brought before Him [as the earlier verse attests]? … The answer is that Dovid HaMelech is citing here [in T’hillim] the name Elokim, and sacrifices are only offered to the name Havaya, not to the name Elokim.” All sacrifices of livestock are offered to the name Havaya, which is the Divine Attribute of Mercy; animal sacrifices are not offered to the name Elokim, the Attribute of Judgement, as it is written, “One who slaughters to Elokim shall be banished; [one may slaughter] to Havaya alone.” In order to elicit a response also from the name Elokim, the Attribute of Judgement, that it too should pardon the person’s sin, the verse teaches us, “Zivchei Elokim is a broken spirit,” the spirit of haughtiness must first be crushed. As a result, the sacrifice is graciously received On High to atone for the person even at the level of Divine Judgement.

The Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek explains that at first glance, how can one who sins, one who has failed to heed the voice of G-d, atone by means of a korban (the offering of an animal as a sacrifice)? (The underlying premise here is that the person remains in his former condition and spiritual standing. How then can a korban atone for one’s inappropriate behavior when he remains the same?) The answer is that atonement is achieved on account of the Divine Attribute of Mercy, associated with the name Havaya [which finds favor in the person even when the strict ruling of Judgement condemns him]. (Nevertheless, atonement even from the Divine Attribute of Mercy is only for inadvertent transgressions, etc.)

To be sure, “a broken spirit and a broken heart Elokim lo sivzeh,” even the Attribute of Judgment does not shun, etc. The Tzemach Tzedek explains the underlying logic here: The offering of livestock [being kosher animals that are used for a holy purpose] is an instance of the refinement of Klipas Noga, the aspect of the world that can be used either for holiness or the opposite. This form of offering appeals to the Attribute of Mercy alone. In order to appease also the Attribute of Judgement, a broken spirit is required, crushing the spirit of haughtiness. The bittul engendered from eradicating arrogance leads to the avoda of iskafia and is’hapcha of Sitra Achara, which transforms even the Three Totally Impure Klipos.

Thus, the meaning of “zivchei Elokim” is that sacrifices of this sort also appease the Divine Attribute of Judgement (which has a connection to the Three Totally Impure Klipos), that also from this more severe perspective On High, the sacrifice is accepted as atonement.


Now, just as Torah requires bittul, so too with regard to prayer. T’fillos, therefore, begin with the verse, “L-rd, open my lips and my mouth shall recount Your praise.” The meaning here, is explained by the Rebbe Maharash based on the words of Maharam Alshich. Alshich interprets the verse, “L-rd, open my lips and my mouth shall recount Your praise”: We ask of Hashem, “L-rd open my lips” to learn Torah (as Targum interprets, “open my lips in Torah”). Torah is the word of G-d. The study of Torah on the part of man is, therefore, described as “open[ing] my lips” [i.e., G-d speaks His words of Torah through the person], as in the verse, “My words, which I have placed in your mouth” – “as one who responds after the reader.” Similarly we ask regarding prayer, “and my mouth shall recount t’hilasecha (Your praise)” – that also t’filla should be in this manner [of channeling G-dliness to speak and pray through us].

Of course, the goal of t’filla is “to serve Him with all your heart”; avoda stems from the person’s own initiative and effort. Nevertheless, we ask of the Alm-ghty that “my mouth should recount (“yagid,” meaning “hagada v’hamshacha – reciting and drawing down”) t’hilasecha (as Targum puts it, “Your praise,” which is the concept of prayer).”

Our prayer should be “like one who responds after the reader,” meaning it should be as if we answer and repeat the prayer of the Alm-ghty, as our Sages teach, “The Alm-ghty prays: ‘May it be that My compassion conquers My wrath.’” Thus, our Sages established that the prayer should begin with the verse, “L-rd upon my lips and my mouth shall recount Your praise,” and it is considered an extension or preamble of the t’filla.

Alshich writes that proper t’filla should result in what was accomplished by the prayer of Rebbi Chiya and his sons. [See Bava Metzia 85b, where it describes the prayer of Rebbi Chiya and his sons. Their prayer was so intense that when they came to the words, “mechayei ha’meisim – Who resurrects the dead,” “the world shook,” “in anticipation of the imminent resurrection of the dead” ––Maharsha.] At first glance, how can it be asked of each individual to attain this lofty level of prayer, the prayer of tzaddikim, and how is it even possible to attain it? Thus, there is the prefatory request of bittul and deference to G-d, diminishing one’s sense of self: Just as one asks “open my lips in Torah” – that one’s study should be “as one who responds after the reader” – so too “my mouth should recount Your praise” – that in prayer one simply recites and elicits the prayer of the Alm-ghty, that His compassion should conquer His wrath. We ask in prayer that G-d should conquer the Attribute of Judgment, limitations and boundaries, and He should bring about the joining of the physical with the Supernal (which is the general concept of prayer), thereby establishing a home for G-d in the physical world.


9. My revered father in-law, the Rebbe, continues in the maamer to explore the concept of t’filla in greater detail: “With this we will understand what is written, ‘A prayer to Dovid: Incline Your ear, O G-d; answer me, for I am poor and I am destitute.’ ‘A prayer to Dovid’ signifies the devotion and bittul of Malchus (insofar as Dovid served as the “chariot” – the earthly vehicle – to the S’fira of Malchus). Dovid HaMelech’s prayer and request is on behalf of the entire Jewish people, for the sake of K’nesses Yisroel. The powerfully compelling nature of Dovid’s prayer, whereby he beseeches G-d to ‘Incline Your ear … and answer me,’ is on account of Dovid HaMelech’s admission that ‘I am poor and I am destitute.’” The point the Rebbe is making here is that in addition to the fact that one approaches prayer with the opening words, “my lips will recount Your praise,” there must also be the feeling and acknowledgement that “I am poor and I am destitute.”

The unique quality of the prayer of the poor and destitute is developed in Zohar, where it compares “the prayer of the rich” to “the prayer of the poor man”: In general, “the prayer of the rich” refers to the prayer of Moshe. (Moshe is called “rich,” as it says in Gemara: “The Sh’china resides only upon one who is wise and mighty, wealthy, and lofty in stature. Moshe possessed all of these qualities … He was wealthy, as it says, ‘P’sal lecha (carve for you)’ – p’sulasan (the fragments) will be yours. From these fragments of sapphire, Moshe become wealthy.”) Then there is the prayer of the poor man: “A prayer for the poor man when he is steeped in affliction.” The Zohar asserts that the prayer of the poor man takes precedent over the prayer of the rich man. That is, the prayer of Moshe (of whom it is said, “The man, Moshe, was extremely humble, more than any man on the face of the earth”) was with the bittul described as “my mouth shall recount Your praise.” Nevertheless, “A prayer for the poor man when he is steeped in affliction” supersedes even the prayer of Moshe, “the prayer of the rich man.”

Now, it is important to point out the tremendous virtue of the prayer of Moshe, which is “the prayer of the rich man.” The Rebbe (Rashab), nishmaso Eden, elaborates at length on this topic, first clarifying the true meaning of affluence. The concept of wealth, the Rebbe Rashab explains, is not as one might think – that it is merely lacking nothing; simply not lacking anything is actually not descriptive of wealth. It is, rather, as the verse outlines [the degree to which one must support his fellow through charity], “providing enough for his need, whatever he lacks.”

In general, financial means can be classified in three categories. Poverty, of course, is a state of lacking. Then there is the notion of providing for what the poor man lacks, “providing enough for his need, whatever he lacks,” “but you are not obligated to make him rich.” Beyond that level of financial means is affluence. Being wealthy means not only that one is not lacking anything – including things that were beyond his realm of experience before he acquired his wealth – he is actually overflowing with abundance, etc.

Thus, the concepts of poverty and wealth apply to spirituality: “The prayer of the rich man,” the prayer of Moshe, is that he possessed all aspects of holiness. Not only in the sense that he was not lacking anything, but in a manner of affluence, abundance. Nevertheless, the prayer of the poor man takes precedence over the prayer of the rich man, meaning that in order for t’filla to fully be heard, there must be “A prayer of a poor man,” “Incline Your ear, O G-d; answer me, for I am poor and I am destitute.” Being in a state of bittul and humility reaches deeper and higher (and as a result, it also draws down spirituality lower, into the physical world), surpassing even the prayer of the rich man, who not only is not lacking in holiness but he is abundant in it.


10. The Rebbe concludes in the maamer that the letter Daled thus signifies bittul. The letter Reish, on the other hand, has no Yud attached to it, for it is lacking bittul. On the contrary, Reish represents self-aggrandizement and arrogance. Thus, it is a letter that signifies the Realm of Unholiness. Sitra Achara is said to be impoverished and destitute in the sense that it is bereft of any connection to G-dliness. And given its impoverishment with regard to holiness, it intensifies its conceit and sense of self more and more.”

Seen in this light, the difference between the letters Daled and Reish is actually extreme; they are polar opposites. Not only is the letter Daled antithetical to Reish in terms of its spiritual alignment – Daled being on the side of holiness and Reish being on the side of Sitra Achara – but Daled actually alludes to a sublime level of holiness and Reish suggests an extreme level of arrogance, the antithesis of holiness.

Daled represents the S’fira of Malchus. Although it is an expression of dalus, poverty, “for it has nothing of its own,” it is specifically as a result of its “poverty” that it gathers within it all the revelations from above. And from S’firas HaMalchus the general concept of G-d’s authority and dominion over the world emerges, that the world should be G-d’s home and domain. (Also, by means of total bittul one reaches even higher than “the prayer of the rich,” as explained above.)

The letter Reish, on the other hand, has the ignoble quality – within the ranks of Sitra Achara itself – of being the ultimate assertion of ego, being an expression of poverty and destitution. Not only is Reish “impoverished” in all matters of holiness; it is also “destitute” of holiness. Thus, it is manifest in the physical world as coarse materialism, the ultimate assertion of ego.


11. The letter Reish is, of course, one of the letters of the word “keresh – plank,” regarding which it is said, “You shall make the krashim for the Mishkan of standing planks of atzei shittim, acacia wood [symbolic of the transformation of unholy folly to shtus d’k’dusha],” teaching that the ultimate avoda is to transform (through the avoda of iskafia and is’hapcha) the lowest aspects of the world into something that can be used for holiness, establishing a home for G-d in the physical world.

That is, one must strive to discover in the Realm of Holiness a dimension that provides the framework for such an existence, whereby through Hishtalshlus and tzimtzumim (the diminishment and concealment of G-dly light), and through the process of spiritual descent, it is possible for there to be the existence of Sitra Achara. Thus, it says in works of Kabbala that the letters Kuf and Reish correspond to the lower S’firos Netzach (Victory) and Hod (Splendor), which are expressions of g’vuros (manifestations of “severity”) and tzimtzumim (the “contraction” or concealment of G-dliness). It is from these lower levels of k’dusha (after the impact of tzimtzumim and spiritual descent is felt) that unholiness emerges in the lowest possible state. But by means of the avoda of subduing Sitra Achara and transforming it, krashim for the Mishkan are made out of this very unholiness.

In so doing, the ultimate purpose for the creation of the world is fulfilled – that there should be “I shall dwell among them” – “within each and every Jew,” as it was at the beginning of Creation (but even more sublime), when the primary manifestation of the Sh’china was present in the physical world.

(From the maamer delivered on Yud Shvat 5716,  bilti muga)






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