Likutei Amarim Chapter 40, Class # 1

Beginning of Chapter 40

In ch. 39 the Alter Rebbe explained that the ascent of one’s Torah and mitzvot is commensurate with the level of kavanah that one invests in study and performance. If one’s kavanah stems from love and fear of G‑d created by one’s understanding of His greatness, his Torah and mitzvot ascend to the Sefirot of Beriah, a World of intellect. If one’s kavanah stems from natural love and fear, his Torah and mitzvot ascend to theSefirot of Yetzirah, a World of emotion.

If, however, one’s study and observance are not lishmah (“for its own sake”), because he feels no love or fear of G‑d, his Torah and mitzvot cannot ascend at all to “stand before G‑d” by being absorbed in the Sefirot. This is true even where his observance is not strictly shelo lishmah (not for its own sake), i.e., for some selfish motive, but even where he acts out of habit. In the case of Torah studied by rote, however, the Torah ascends before G‑d when he reviews the subject lishmah, joining it to his present study.

אך כל זמן שלא חזר ולמד דבר זה לשמה

But as long as he does not review this subject lishmah,

אין לימודו עולה אפילו בי׳ ספירות המאירות בעולם היצירה והעשיה

his study does not ascend even to the Ten Sefirot which radiate in the Worlds of Yetzirah and Asiyah (not to mention the Sefirot of Beriah).

כי הספירות הן בחינת אלקות, ובהן מתלבש ומתייחד אור אין סוף ברוך הוא ממש

For the Sefirot are a level of G‑dliness, and the blessed Ein Sof-light is clothed within them and is united with them; and therefore, were this person’s Torah to ascend into the Sefirot, it would actually ascend to the Ein Sof-light,

ובלא דחילו ורחימו לא יכלא לסלקא ולמיקם קדם ה׳, כמו שכתוב בתיקונים

and without fear and love [the Torah] cannot rise to stand before G‑d —the Ein Sof-light — as is written in Tikkunei Zohar.

רק לימודו עולה להיכלות ומדורין, שהן חיצוניות העולמות

Instead, his Torah study rises to the “chambers” and “abodes” of Yetzirahand Asiyah, which are the externality of the Worlds,

The Sefirot are the internal aspect of each World, i.e., its divine creative power; the “chambers” constitute the (created) World itself.

שבהן עומדים המלאכים

where the angels are situated.

וכמו שכתב הרב חיים ויטל ז״ל בשער הנבואה פרק ב׳, שמהתורה שלא בכוונה נבראים מלאכים בעולם היצירה, ומהמצות בלי כוונה נבראים מלאכים בעולם העשיה

Rabbi Chayim Vital, of blessed memory, writes in ch. 2 of his Shaar HaNevuah (“The Portal of Prophecy”) that from Torah [studied] withoutkavanah angels are created in the World of Yetzirah, and from mitzvot[performed] without kavanah angels are created in the World of Asiyah.

This indicates that Torah and mitzvot without kavanah are not absorbed in theSefirot, but rise only to the level of angels, who are created beings and are thus on the level of the “externality” of the Worlds.

But one might argue that Rabbi Chayim Vital’s statement cannot be cited in support of the Alter Rebbe’s statement: the former speaks of Torah and mitzvot “withoutkavanah,” while the latter deals with Torah and mitzvot that were not observed“lishmah”. Perhaps the meaning of “without kavanah‘” is that one recited words of Torah or performed a mitzvah in a mechanical manner, without involving his thought at all. Accordingly, we might say that only such a lowly level of observance is incapable of rising any higher than the level of angels, whereas Torah and mitzvot lacking only the quality of “lishmah” may indeed — we might argue — rise to be absorbed into theSefirot.

To forestall such an argument the Alter Rebbe adds to Rabbi Chayim Vital’s words:

וכל המלאכים הם בעלי חומר וצורה

Now, all angels are possessed of matter and form.

Similarly with angels created of Torah and mitzvot: the angels‘ “matter” is formed by the “matter” of Torah and mitzvot, and their “form” — by the “form” of Torah andmitzvot.

Thus, any mitzvah of which an angel is created must consist of more than meremechanical action, which is the “matter” of a mitzvah; it must also contain some thought (such as an understanding of the words of Torah that one recites, or the realization that he is performing a mitzvah); and this thought is the “form” of the mitzvah.

Clearly, then, Rabbi Chayim Vital is not dealing with mechanical observance when he says that Torah and mitzvot “without kavanah” produce angels in Yetzirah or Asiyah.The term “without kavanah” (as used here) must refer to Torah and mitzvot lacking the intention of lishmah.1 Yet, for lack of lishmah the Torah and mitzvot can ascend only to the level of angels, not to the Sefirot.

All the aforesaid concerns Torah and mitzvot which lack the intention of lishmah, but which were not performed expressly shelo lishmah, for personal motives.

אבל תורה שלא לשמה ממש, כגון להיות תלמיד חכם, וכהאי גוונא

But Torah [studied] strictly shelo lishmah, for selfish reasons, as, for example, for the purpose of becoming a scholar and the like,

אינה עולה כלל למעלה, אפילו להיכלות ומדור המלאכים דקדושה

does not ascend on high at all, not even to the “chambers” or to the abode of the holy angels (for even the “externality” of the Worlds is, after all, in the realm of holiness; therefore Torah studied with such intention does not ascend even to this level),

אלא נשארת למטה בעולם הזה הגשמי, שהוא מדור הקליפות

but remains instead below, in this physical world, which is the abode of the kelipot.* Since the selfish motive stems from kelipah, the Torah study that it elicits remains in the abode of kelipot.


כמו שכתוב בזהר חלק ג׳, דף ל״א עמוד ב׳, ודף קכ״א עמוד ב׳, עיין שם:


Note Zohar, Part III, pp. 31b and 121b, where it is similarly written,

ההיא מלה סלקא ובקעא רקיעין כו’ ואתער מה דאתער

“That [spoken] word ascends and pierces the heavens…and evokes what it evokes:

אי טב טב כו’ ע”ש

if [the word is] good — a word of Torah or the like — [it evokes] good…“; note there.

ודף ק”ה ע”א מלה דאורייתא אתעביד מיניה קלא וסליק כו’

Note also on p. 105a: “From a word of Torah a voice is formed which rises…”;

וד’ קס”ח ע”ב קלין דאורייתא וצלותא בקעין רקיעין כו’

and on p. 168b: “The voices of Torah and prayer [ascend on high and] pierce the heavens….”


All three passages from the Zohar indicate that words of Torah ascend on high, rending the heavens.

וכמו שכתוב בזהר על פסוק: מה יתרון לאדם מכל עמלו שיעמול תחת השמש

It is similarly written in the Zohar, commenting on the verse,2 “What profit has a man of all his toil that he labors under the sun?”

Our Sages point out that only man’s labor “under the sun,” i.e., toil in mundane matters, does not realize any profit; the labor of Torah, however, is “above the sun” and does indeed profit a man. The Zohar, though, stipulates:

דאפילו עמלא דאורייתא, אי עביד בגין יקריה כו׳

“Even with the toil of Torah, if one does it for his own glory… it belongs to the category of ‘labor under the sun,’ and there is no profit in it.”

וזה שאמרו: אשרי מי שבא לכאן ותלמודו בידו

This is also the meaning of the saying [of our Sages]:3 “Happy is he who arrives here on high with his Torah study in his hand,”

פירוש: שלא נשאר למטה בעולם הזה

meaning that [his Torah study] did not remain below in this world.

The saying thus means: “Happy is he who studies Torah lishmah, so that his Torah ascends on high.” Had he not studied Torah lishmah his Torah would not be with him (“in his hand”) when his soul ascends, but would have remained in this world.



1. The commentary on the phrase, “all angels are possessed of matter and form,” is from the distinguished rav of Yekaterinoslav, Rabbi Levi Isaac Schneerson, of blessed memory, as transmitted by his son, the Rebbe.
2.  Kohelet 1:3.
3. Pesachim 50a.

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