Ch. 35, Class # 2

Continuation of Chapter 35

והוא בהקדים לשון הינוקא (בזהר פרשת בלק) על פסוק: החכם עיניו בראשו

[The above-mentioned difficulties will be resolved] by clarifying first the comment of the Yenuka (quoted in the Zohar, Parshat Balak1) on the verse:2“The wise man’s eyes are in his head.”

וכי באן אתר עינוי דבר נש כו׳, אלא קרא הכי הוא ודאי

The Zohar comments: “Where else are a man’s eyes?… Surely, then, the meaning of the verse is as follows:

דתנן: לא יהך בר נש בגילויא דרישא ארבע אמות. מאי טעמא, דשכינתא שריא על רישיה

We have learned that a man must not go four cubits while bareheaded. Why? Because the Shechinah (the Divine Presence) rests upon his head.

וכל חכם עינוהי ומילוי ברישיה אינון, בההוא דשריא וקיימא על רישיה

[Therefore,] every wise man has his eyes i.e., his interest and concern and hence alsohis speech [concentrated] ”in his head,“ i.e., in that light of the Shechinah which rests and abides above his head.

וכד עינוי תמן, לנדע דההוא נהורא דאדליק על רישיה אצטריך למשחא

Now, when his “eyes” i.e. his interest and his concern are there, he must know that this light kindled above his head i.e., the light that shines upon his soul requires oil.

בגין דגופא דבר נש איהו פתילה, ונהורא אדליק לעילא

For man’s body is the wick that retains the luminous flame and the light is kindled above it;

ושלמה מלכא צוח ואמר: ושמן על ראשך אל יחסר

and [thus] King Solomon cried out, saying,3 ”Let there be no lack of oil above your head.“

דהא נהורא דבראשו אצטריך למשחא, ואינון עובדאן טבאן

For the light over his head requires oil, meaning good deeds — the good deeds that man performs are the oil which supplies the light illuminating his soul,

ועל דא החכם עיניו בראשו

and for this reason “The wise man’s eyes are in his head.” — to ensure that he never lacks oil (good deeds) for this light.

עד כאן לשונו

The quotation from the Zohar ends here.

והנה ביאור משל זה שהמשיל אור השכינה לאור הנר

The meaning of this analogy comparing the light of the Shechinah to the light of a candle, “is clear… to every intelligent person,” as the Alter Rebbe will conclude shortly, after a closer examination of its details. Just as it is true of the candle’s flame

שאינו מאיר ונאחז בפתילה בלי שמן

that it does not shed light nor is it retained by the wick, without oil,

By nature, fire strains upward; it will not remain below unless restrained by a wick or wood, for example. But a wick alone is rapidly consumed, and the fire vanishes quickly. Moreover, the burning wick produces a dim and smoky light, for it consists of material insufficiently refined to be completely absorbed by the flame. Oil, on the other hand, is completely transformed into the flame and absorbed by it; burning steadily, it produced a pure and clear light.

This is what is meant by the Alter Rebbe’s statement that without oil “the flame of the candle (a) does not shed light, (b) nor is it retained by the wick.”

Returning now to the point of the analogy:

וכך אין השכינה שורה על גוף האדם שנמשל לפתילה, אלא על ידי מעשים טובים דווקא

similarly, the Shechinah does not rest upon man’s body, which is compared to a wick, except through man’s performing good deeds.

The body can only act as a wick, not as oil. It is a coarse physical being which will not be absorbed within the light of the Shechinah, but will always remain separate from it. The good deeds that man performs provide the oil.

ולא די לו בנשמתו, שהיא חלק אלוה ממעל, להיות היא כשמן לפתילה

It is evident from the Zohar, however, that one’s soul, although a part of G‑d above, is insufficient to serve as oil for the wick.

A question is implied here. Why should the soul, itself divine, and thus certainly suited to being absorbed within the light of the Shechinah, require anything external (such as good deeds) to serve as oil for that light? Surely the soul itself should constitute the oil!

מבואר ומובן לכל משכיל

But the reason for this — the Alter Rebbe now concludes the sentence begun earlier with the words “The meaning of this analogy” — is clear and understandable to every intelligent person.

The Alter Rebbe will now proceed to explain why good deeds can serve as oil for the light of the Shechinah, whereas the divine soul cannot. The explanation in brief:

Man’s soul is not, after all, completely nullified before G‑d and one with Him to the extent that it is capable of becoming absorbed within the G‑dly light. This is true even of the soul of the tzaddik, who serves G‑d with the loftiest forms of love and fear. Indeed, it is the soul’s very love of G‑d that emphasizes its separateness; for love entails two separate entities, the lover and the beloved. Similarly with fear: there is one who fears, and another who is feared.

Only “good deeds” — mitzvot, which (as the Alter Rebbe will explain further on) are completely one with G‑d — can therefore serve as the oil which is absorbed within the flame of the light of the Shechinah that is kindled over man.


1. Zohar III, 187a.
2. Kohelet 2:14.
3. Ibid. 9:8.

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