Likutei Amarim Chapter 3, Class # 1

Likutei Amarim, beginning of Chapter 3

והנה כל בחינה ומדריגה משלש אלו, נפש רוח ונשמה, כלולה מעשר בחינות

Now, each of these three distinctions and grades — Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah — consists of ten faculties1

כנגד עשר ספירות עליונות שנשתלשלו מהן

corresponding to the Ten Supernal Sefirot (divine manifestations,2in which they originate and whence they descend.

הנחלקות לשתים

The Ten Sefirot are subdivided into two general categories.

שהן שלש אמות ושבע כפולות

These two categories are: three “mothers”, i.e., three of these Sefirot are termed “mothers” for they are the source and root of the other seven Sefirot, as a mother is the source of her offspring, and seven “doubles” — the seven divine attributes, called “doubles” inasmuch as each of the emotional attributes manifests itself in a twofold manner, as shall presently be explained.

פירוש: חכמה בינה ודעת, ושבעת ימי הבנין: חסד גבורה תפארת כו׳

Namely: Chochmah (“wisdom”), Binah (“understanding”) and Daat(“knowledge”) are called “mothers”; and the seven “doubles” are [the emotional attributes known as] the “seven days of Creation”:Chesed (“kindness”), Gevurah (“severity”), Tiferet (“beauty”), and so on, the other four being: Netzach (“endurance”), Hod (“splendor”), Yesod(“foundation”), and Malchut (“royalty”).

These seven attributes are known as the “seven days of Creation,” for it was through these seven attributes that G-d created the world. Each day’s creation came about through a particular attribute: during the first day Chesed was dominant, the second day Gevurah, and so on.

וכך בנפש האדם שנחלקת לשתים — שכל ומדות

Just as the Ten Supernal Sefirot are divided into two general categories, so, too, with the human soul [and its ten faculties]; they are divided into two general categories: seichel (“intellect”) and middot(“emotional attributes”).

השכל כולל חכמה בינה ודעת, והמדות הן אהבת ה׳ ופחדו ויראתו ולפארו כו׳

The [category of] intellect includes the three all-inclusive intellectual powers Chochmah, Binah and Daat (ChaBaD), whilst the middot,which bear the same names as their corresponding seven Sefirot: Chesed, Gevurah, etc., represent the following emotions: love of G-d, dread and awe of Him, glorification of Him, and so forth.

Love corresponds to Chesed (“kindness”), as they are, respectively, the internal (i.e., emotional) and external (i.e., practical) aspects of the same trait; the dread and awe of G-d correspond to Gevurah, as they are its inner aspect; so too the glorification of Him corresponds to Tiferet.

וחב״ד נקראו אמות ומקור למדות כי המדות הן תולדות חב״ד

ChaBaD (the intellectual faculties) are called the “mothers” and source of the middot, for the middot are “offspring” of (i.e., derive from) ChaBaD.

At this point it would be worthwhile to explain briefly the function of the faculties Chochmah, Binah and Daat (abbreviated as ChaBaD), mentioned frequently in the coming chapters.

Chochmah is the first flash of intellect. It is the seminal and inner point of an idea. This seminal point of intellect already includes within it all the details and ramifications of the idea, but as yet they are concentrated and obscured. (This is analogous to a dot, in which the dimensions of length and breadth are not evident — all that is seen is the dot — although for the dot to exist it must certainly contain length and breadth.)

Chochmah is also called barak hamavrik — the intuitive flash of illumination which is the beginning of intellectual revelation. For instance, we may observe how a person striving to answer an intellectual question suddenly realizes in a flash of intuition that the question can be answered along a particular line of reasoning. At the moment of illumination he is as yet unaware exactly how the particular question is answered: he knows only that he has found an adequate solution to the problem.

Thereafter the faculty of Binah (“understanding”) comes into play. Through cogitation, Binah apprehends, crystallizes and clarifies the details of the idea which were obscured in Chochmah, until the whole edifice of the idea, in all its length and breadth, becomes manifest. For this reason the function of Binah is described as meivin davar mitoch davar — “to understand (or deduce) one matter out of another” — i.e., that which was previously concentrated in the obscure intuitive flash of Chochmah is now revealed and understood.

After the person fully understands the idea with all its details and ramifications, he must then immerse himself in it, binding and unifying himself with it to the extent that he not only understands it but also feels it. Only in this way can he be affected by the idea; if his understanding points to the desirability of a particular thing, it will give birth to a love for it; if his understanding indicates instead the harmfulness of a particular thing, he will react with a feeling of fear and flee from it; and similarly with other emotions. The faculty with which one thus immerses himself in an idea is called Daat (“knowledge”), which is etymologically related to the expression,3 “and Adam knew (ידע) Eve,” a verb which denotes attachment and union. We now return to the text:

וביאור הענין: כי הנה השכל שבנפש המשכלת, שהוא המשכיל כל דבר

The explanation of the matter (i.e., of the three intellectual processes described above — inspiration, cogitation, and contemplation) is as follows: that intellectual faculty of the rational soul that first conceives any matter (i.e., the faculty which produces the seminal point of an idea and the first flash of illumination, as explained above)

נקרא בשם חכמה — כ״ח מ״ה

is given the appellation of Chochmah [which is composed of the two words] כח מה — the potential of “what is.”4

It is a faculty concerning which one can only pose the question “Mah?”(“What is it?”) — for at this stage the idea in question is not yet clear or comprehensible logically, since its details are still in potentia, emerging only at a later stage.

וכשמוציא כחו אל הפועל, שמתבונן בשכלו להבין דבר לאשורו

When one brings forth this concentrated idea from the potential into the actual, that is, when one cogitates with his intellect on the seminal point in order to understand a matter full well —

That is: when he ponders all the details which make up the totality of the particular idea in its length and breadth. “Length” involves the range of an idea; when one draws down a concept from a lofty level to a lower one (by way of a parable, for example) in order to make it more readily understood, he is “lengthening” it, giving it a greater range of accessibility, so that it will be more readily intelligible to a student. For a student whose capacity is more limited, one parable may not suffice; it may be necessary to provide a second parable to explain the first, thereby “lengthening” the concept still further downward. (As Scripture writes concerning King Solomon:5 “He spoke three thousand parables.” So great was Solomon’s wisdom that to explain one of his thoughts he had to give three thousand parables; one parable to explain the basic concept, a second parable to explain the first parable, and so forth, until ultimately giving three thousand parables — an extreme example of the “length” of an idea.)

The “breadth” of an idea means the multitude of details which the concept comprises, as well as all its ramifications. For example, the logic behind a halachic ruling in the laws of kashrut may also apply to laws governing financial disputes.

This is the meaning of the word לאשורו (“full well”) — understanding the intellectual concept completely, in both its length and breadth.


[Thus, when one cogitates on a concept in its length and breadth] and delves to its very depths

מתוך איזה דבר חכמה המושכל בשכלו

as it evolves from the concept which he had conceived in his intellect (i.e., when he apprehends in a detailed manner the seminal point of intellect, which prior to his cogitation was but a nebulous point of Chochmah),

נקרא בינה

this is called Binah. (Binah is that faculty which elucidates the details of any concept and apprehends it “full well” and “in depth.”)

והן הם אב ואם המולידות אהבת ה׳ ויראתו ופחדו

They (Chochmah and Binah) are the very “father” and “mother” which give birth to love of G-d, and awe (yirah) and dread(pachad) of Him.6

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