Likutei Amarim Chapter 38, Class # 4

Continuation of Chapter 38

ולא שדבקות המחשבה ושכל האדם בו יתברך היא מצד עצמה למעלה מדבקות קיום המצות מעשיות בפועל ממש

It is not that attachment of man’s thought and intellect to G‑d is intrinsically superior to attachment through the actual, practical fulfillment of the mitzvotdependent on action —

כמו שיתבאר לקמן

for as will be explained further on the unity with G‑d achieved by performance of mitzvotis described in the same terms as the unity of husband and wife — “kiddushin”, as we say in the blessing preceding the fulfillment of a mitzvah: “…G‑d,… Who sanctified us (קדשנו) with His commandments….” Naturally, man cannot attain this degree of unity with G‑d by his own efforts. It is only by G‑d’s kindness in charging us with the mitzvot that we become united with Him thereby.

Obviously, the quality of man’s attachment to G‑d through kavanah cannot surpass that of the performance of mitzvot, which possesses the G‑d-given ability to unite man with Him. Where, then, lies the superiority of kavanah over actual performance of mitzvot (described earlier as paralleling the superiority of soul over body)?

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that, like the actual mitzvotthemselves, man’s kavanah in performing them expresses G‑d’s Will. It is the illumination of Divine Will contained in kavanah that is superior. In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

אלא מפני שזהו גם כן רצונו יתברך, לדבקה בשכל ומחשבה וכוונת המצות מעשיות ובכוונת קריאת שמע ותפלה ושאר ברכות

Rather kavanah is superior because this, too, is G‑d’s Will — that one attach himself to Him by intellect and thought, and [by] the kavanah of the activemitzvot, and by one’s kavanah during the recital of Shema, and in prayer and other blessings;

והארת רצון העליון הזה המאירה ומלובשת בכוונה זו

and the illumination of the Supernal Will that radiates and is clothed in thiskavanah

היא גדולה לאין קץ למעלה מעלה מהארת רצון העליון המאירה ומלובשת בקיום המצות עצמן במעשה ובדבור בלי כוונה

is infinitely greater and loftier than the illumination of the Supernal Will that radiates and is clothed in the performance of the mitzvot themselves, in action and speech, without kavanah.

כגודל מעלת אור הנשמה על הגוף שהוא כלי ומלבוש הנשמה, כמו גוף המצוה עצמה שהוא כלי ומלבוש לכוונתה

This superiority of kavanah is similar to the superiority of the light of the soul over the body, which is a vessel and garment for the soul — just as the body of the actual mitzvah is a vessel and garment for its kavanah. For this reason, then, the performance of a mitzvah is likened to a body, and its kavanah to a soul.

ואף שבשתיהן, במצוה ובכוונתה, מלובש רצון אחד, פשוט בתכלית הפשיטות בלי שום שינוי וריבוי, חס ושלום, ומיוחד במהותו ועצמותו יתברך בתכלית היחוד

True, although both the actual mitzvah and its kavanah contain the same [Supernal] Will, which is perfectly simple, i.e., changeless and indivisible so that it cannot be said that kavanah contains “more” of G‑d’s Will and performance contains “less”,and [this Will] is united with G‑d’s essence and being in perfect unity,

אף על פי כן ההארה אינה שוה בבחינת צמצום והתפשטות

nevertheless, the illumination of the Supernal Will in one’s soul is different in terms of its contraction and expansion.*

In the performance of a mitzvah this illumination is in a state of “contraction”; one’s attachment to G‑d’s Will is not readily apparent. In thekavanah, however, the illumination is in a state of “expansion” and revelation in one’s soul: here, clearly, one’s thought and intellect are attached to G‑d.


In the note which follows, the Alter Rebbe traces the difference betweenmitzvot and their kavanah to their source in the Supernal Sefirot.

Each Sefirah consists of an or, a “light”, and a keli, a vessel or receptacle for the or. The kelim of the Sefirot have a well-defined character: one isChochmah, another Binah, and so forth. The orot, however, are G‑dly energy, “simple” in the sense that they are devoid of definition, unlimited, and not restricted to any specific character.

Restated, this means that kelim are “contracted” and limited, while “orot” are “expanded” and unconfined — the very traits that differentiate betweenmitzvot and their kavanah.


וכמו שכתוב בעץ חיים שכוונת המצות ותלמוד תורה היא במדרגת אור, וגוף המצות הן מדרגות ובחינת כלים

It is also so explained in Etz Chayim that kavanah in mitzvot and in Torah study is on the level of “light”, while the “body” i.e., performance of the mitzvotis the level and category of “vessels”.

שהם בחינת צמצום, שעל ידי צמצום האור נתהוו הכלים

These [vessels] represent “contraction”, for it is through contraction of the light that the vessels came into being,

כידוע ליודעי ח”ן

as is known to those familiar with the Kabbalah (lit., “esoteric wisdom”).

Similarly, the difference between mitzvot and their kavanah is one of contraction and expansion respectively, as explained above.


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