Ch. 41, Class # 1

Continuation of Chapter 41

As mentioned in the title-page of Tanya, this work is based on the verse, “For this thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.” This means that observing the Torah and the mitzvot with one’s heart, with a love and fear ofG‑d, is very “near” — within simple reach.

The Alter Rebbe devoted the first twenty-five chapters of his work to an explanation of the role of love and fear (awe) in a Jew’s divine service. He also explained how they may be readily attained.

It is the love of G‑d, wrote the Alter Rebbe, that motivates one to fulfill all the positive mitzvot. In order for a Jew to perform them properly and eagerly he must be imbued with a love for G‑d and a desire to cleave to Him, for performing them willenable him to cleave to G‑d.

Similarly, fear of G‑d lies at the root of one’s observance of the prohibitive mitzvot:when one stands in true fear and awe of G‑d, he will refrain from transgressing, and thereby rebelling against His Will.

In the last few chapters the Alter Rebbe went on to explain that love and fear are the wings that elevate one’s mitzvot, causing them to ascend to the Sefirot of the upper Worlds. Conversely, mitzvot fulfilled without the spiritual intent fostered by the love and fear of G‑d, are likened to a body bereft of its soul.

In ch. 41, the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that fear of G‑d is the beginning and core of divine service. This is so not only regarding the negative precepts, but also with regard to the positive precepts. While it is true that love of G‑d motivates one’s observance of the positive commands, nevertheless, the observance of these commands too must be impelled by some measure of fear as well. For avodah (“divine service”) implies an analogy with the manner in which an eved (“servant”) serves his master — service out of fear. Fear of G‑d is therefore the beginning and the mainstay of spiritual service.

ברם צריך להיות לזכרון תמיד ראשית העבודה ועיקרה ושרשה

One must, however, constantly bear in mind what is the beginning of [divine] service, as well as its core and root.

והוא: כי אף שהיראה היא שרש לסור מרע, והאהבה לועשה טוב

This means: Although fear is the root of “turn away from evil” and love [is the root of] “do good,”

I.e., fear of G‑d is what basically urges one to refrain from evil and not to transgress the negative precepts, while love of G‑d is what basically motivates one to perform good deeds and positive commands,

אף על פי כן לא די לעורר האהבה לבדה לועשה טוב

nevertheless, it is not sufficient to awaken the love alone to “do good,”

ולפחות צריך לעורר תחלה היראה הטבעית המסותרת בלב כל ישראל, שלא למרוד במלך מלכי המלכים, הקב״ה, כנ״ל

but at the very least, before performing the positive command, one must first arouse the innate fear which lies hidden in the heart of every Jew not to rebel against the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, as has been stated above,

שתהא בהתגלות לבו, או מוחו על כל פנים

so that [this fear] should manifest itself in his heart or, at least, in his mind.

Optimally, a Jew should be able to create a feeling of fear in his heart through meditating upon G‑d’s greatness. If, however, this proves to be beyond his capacity, he should at least arouse the innate fear which lies hidden in his heart. This degree of fear is attainable to all, inasmuch as it does not require such profound meditation.

This innate fear may be aroused either (a) to such a degree that it is actually felt in hisheart, or (b), if the individual is incapable of evoking palpable fear in his heart, he will at least be able to summon up his innate fear in his mind, so that he will be able to apprehend and experience the fear of G‑d intellectually.

דהיינו להתבונן במחשבתו על כל פנים גדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא ומלכותו

This means that in order to arouse within himself the latter category of fearhe should at least contemplate in his mind the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof and His Kingship,

To arouse the former category of fear, that which is palpably felt in the heart, one must engage one’s Daat in profound meditation. He who is unable to do so should contemplate, at least superficially, G‑d’s greatness:

אשר היא מלכות כל עולמים עליונים ותחתונים

which extends to all worlds, both higher and lower, bearing in mind that the greater the king’s dominion, the more awe it inspires in his subjects;

ואיהו ממלא כל עלמין

and let him further consider that “He fills all worlds,” animating them with an indwelling life-force that created beings can experience and comprehend,

וסובב כל עלמין

“and encompasses all worlds,” i.e., He also animates them with a life-force that transcends the experience and comprehension of created beings,

וכמו שכתוב: הלא את השמים ואת הארץ אני מלא

as it is written:1 “Do I not fill heaven and earth?”

ומניח העליונים ותחתונים

Yet He leaves aside [the creatures of] the higher [worlds] and [the creatures of] the lower [worlds],

Neither the higher nor the lower creatures represent the Creator’s ultimate intention. He therefore does not bestow His Kingship upon them, so that He be called their G‑d and King; rather:

ומייחד מלכותו על עמו ישראל בכלל, ועליו בפרט, כי חייב אדם לומר: בשבילי נברא העולם

He uniquely bestows His Kingship upon His people Israel, in general —for G‑d is known as “King of Israel” — and upon him in particular, for a man is obliged to say:2 “For my sake was the world created.”

A Jew should remind himself that the whole purpose and intent of creation, viz., G‑d’s Sovereignty, relates to himself specifically, that G‑d become King over him. This is no mere hyperbole. Since the Jewish people collectively constitute a complete body comprised of individual organs, it follows that if even one Jew — one particular organ — is blemished, then the whole body, even the head, is blemished as well.

Similarly with regard to G‑d’s bestowing His Kingship upon all of Israel: if one solitary Jew is found wanting in this matter, this will affect the whole body of the Jewish people.

The realization that G‑d bestows His Kingship upon each individual in particular touches a responsive chord within one; he is then more apt to demand of himself that he accept the heavenly yoke.

והוא גם הוא מקבל עליו מלכותו, להיות מלך עליו, ולעבדו ולעשות רצונו בכל מיני עבודת עבד

And he for his part accepts His Kingship upon himself, that He be King over him, to serve Him and do His Will in all kinds of servile work.

This acceptance of the yoke of divine service is required of all Jews.

The Rebbe points out that the Alter Rebbe will go on to say that the above meditation — aimed at awakening innate awe in one’s mind — does not suffice: an individual must also realize that G‑d not only bestows His Kingship upon him in a general manner, but that He also does so in a (so-to-speak) personal manner.

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Footnotes

1. Yirmeyahu 23:24.
2.  Sanhedrin 4:5.

 

 

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