Likutei Amarim Chapter 10, Class # 1

Likutei Amarim, beginning of Chapter 10

After elaborating in the previous chapter on the ongoing battle between the divine and animal soul over mastery of a Jew’s body, the Alter Rebbe now proceeds to explain that one who vanquishes his animal soul and transforms its evil into good — is a tzaddik.

This level of tzaddik comprises two general categories. The “perfect tzaddik,”also called the “tzaddik who knows only good,” is he who has transformed all the evil of his animal soul to good; while he who has not completely eradicated and converted the evil within him is termed “an imperfect tzaddik” and “a tzaddik who knows (i.e., possesses some vestige of) evil.”

The difference between the two sets of descriptive terms — “complete” and “incomplete” tzaddik, and the tzaddik “who knows only good” or “who knows evil” — is as follows. The former set describes the degree of the tzaddik’s love of G‑d, for it is this love that earns for him the title “tzaddik”. In the case of the “complete tzaddik” it is a complete and perfect love; while the love of the “incomplete tzaddik” is imperfect. The latter set of terms refers to the conversion of the animal soul’s evil to good; an individual in whom it has been entirely transformed is termed “a tzaddik who knows only good,” whereas one in whom a vestige of evil remains is termed “a tzaddik who knows evil.”

It goes without saying that “evil” in this context refers only to the promptings of evil that may be harbored in the heart; not, of course, to actual evil expressed in thought, speech, or action.

והנה כשהאדם מגביר נפשו האלקית

When a person causes his divine soul to prevail over the animal soul,

ונלחם כל כך עם הבהמית עד שמגרש ומבער הרע שבה מחלל השמאלי

and when he wages war against the animal soul to the extent that he banishes and eradicates its evil from its abode within him, namely, the left part [of the heart],

כמו שכתוב: ובערת הרע מקרבך

as is written:1 “And you shall eradicate the evil from your midst,” which implies that one ought to eradicate the evil within himself;

(The person who has in fact eradicated evil from his heart has not only banished the external, practical expression of evil — evil thoughts, words or actions — but has eradicated the evil itself: it has no place in his heart; he no longer desires evil.)

ואין הרע נהפך לטוב ממש

as to one who achieves this goal, but finds that the evil has nevertheless not actually been converted into good, in which case his entire capacity for desire would now be directed only toward good and holiness; since with him this is not the case,

נקרא צדיק שאינו גמור

he is called “an incomplete tzaddik.”

וצדיק ורע לו, דהיינו שיש בו עדיין מעט מזער רע בחלל השמאלי

[He is also called] “a tzaddik who knows evil,” meaning that some vestige of evil still lingers within him, in the left part [of his heart],

אלא שכפוף ובטל לטוב מחמת מיעוטו

except that it finds no expression at all, not even in evil desires, because [the evil,] by reason of its minuteness, is subjugated and nullified by the good, and cannot therefore be sensed.2

ולכן נדמה לו כי ויגרשהו וילך לו כולו לגמרי

Hence, he (the tzaddik) may imagine that he has driven it out and it has quite disappeared.

אבל באמת אלו חלף והלך לו לגמרי כל הרע שבו, היה נהפך לטוב ממש

In truth, however, had all the evil in him departed and disappeared, it would have been converted into actual good.3

This requires explanation: Perhaps the incomplete tzaddik feels no desire for evil because he indeed no longer has any evil, having converted it to good; why must we say that he only imagines himself to be altogether free of evil?

To explain this, the Alter Rebbe continues with a clarification of the term “complete tzaddik.” The explanation in brief:

As stated in the previous chapter, the complete tzaddik is able to convert his evil to good only by dint of his great love of G‑d, a love known as “love of delights.” Accordingly, the “incomplete tzaddik,” who has yet to attain to this lofty level of love, has obviously not yet accomplished this conversion.

“Love of delights,” then, is the ultimate criterion of where the tzaddik standsvis-a-vis the eradication of his evil.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

וביאור הענין

The explanation of the matter is as follows:

כי הנה צדיק גמור שנהפך הרע שלו לטוב, ולכן נקרא צדיק וטוב לו

A “complete tzaddik,” in whom the evil has been converted into good, and who is consequently called “a tzaddik who knows [only] good,”

הוא על ידי הסרת הבגדים הצואים לגמרי מהרע

has attained this level by completely removing [his] filthy garments from evil.

דהיינו למאוס מאד בתענוגי עולם הזה, להתענג בם בתענוגות בני אדם

This means: he despises utterly the pleasures of this world,finding it repugnant to derive from them that pleasure which other people derive,

למלאת תאות הגוף בלבד, ולא לעבודת ה׳

namely, the pleasure of merely gratifying the physical appetite, instead of using this pleasure toward the service of G‑d.

For physical pleasures dedicated to serving G‑d are in fact holy; e.g., the pleasure of “enjoying the Shabbat” with food and drink. It is not such pleasure that is repugnant to the tzaddik, but pleasure for the sake of self-indulgence.

מפני היותם נמשכים ונשפעים מהקליפה וסטרא אחרא

He despises such pleasures for they are derived from and receive their spiritual sustenance from the kelipah and sitra achra, the very antithesis of holiness.

וכל מה שהוא מהסטרא אחרא, הצדיק גמור הוא שונאו בתכלית השנאה

For the “complete tzaddik” utterly hates whatever is of thesitra achra,

מחמת גודל אהבתו לה׳ וקדושתו, באהבה רבה בתענוגים וחיבה יתרה הנזכרים לעיל

because of his great love, a “profuse love of delights,” and his superior degree of affection for G‑d and His holiness, as mentioned above (in ch. 9, where the Alter Rebbe explained that “love of delights” is the ultimate level in the love of G‑d). To resume: Because of thetzaddik’s great love for G‑d and holiness he utterly hates the kelipah and sitra achra —

כי הם זה לעומת זה

since they, i.e., holiness and kelipah, are antithetical; his love of G‑d therefore evokes a commensurate degree of hatred for sitra achra.

כדכתיב: תכלית שנאה שנאתים, לאויבים היו לי, חקרני ודע לבבי וגו׳

So it is written:4 “I hate them with a consuming hatred, says King David of those who oppose G‑d, they have become enemies to me; search me, he says to G‑d, and know my heart.”

This means: “By searching me and knowing how great is the love of You borne in my heart, You will know how great is my hatred toward Your enemies”; for, as stated, love is the measure of hate.

וכפי ערך גודל האהבה לה׳, כך ערך גודל השנאה לסטרא אחרא והמיאוס ברע בתכלית

Hence, according to the abundance of love towards G‑d, so is the extent of hatred toward the spiritual sitra achra which nurtures the physical pleasures, and the utter repugnance of the evil of physical pleasures;

Since the sitra achra is spiritual, and hence distant from physical man, the term “hatred” is appropriate to it; with regard to the evil of physical pleasures, which are closer to man, the term “repugnant” is applicable: the repugnance of having something odious placed before one’s very eyes.

כי המיאוס הוא הפך האהבה ממש כמו השנאה

for repugnance is as much the exact opposite of love as is hatred.

In any event, we have established that this tzaddik’s utter despisal of evil is predicated on his loving G‑d to the greatest degree. He is therefore called a “complete tzaddik,” since the quality by virtue of which he is termed a tzaddik,i.e., his love of G‑d, is on the highest and most complete level. He is also called a“tzaddik who knows only good” — he possesses only good, having transformed all the evil within him to good.

Hence the “incomplete tzaddik,” whose “love of delights” is imperfect, must also be lacking in his hatred of evil. This, in turn, indicates that he retains some vestige of evil, albeit unfelt. He is therefore called “a tzaddik who knows evil.”

1. Devarim 21:21.
2. See ch. 1, note 6.
3. The Rebbe notes the apparent contradiction between the two statements made here concerning the tzaddik’s evil nature: on the one hand we are told that the evil is completely driven out and eradicated, and on the other hand it is stated that it is converted to good. The Rebbe remarks:There are actually two aspects to the “evil nature”: the power of the animal soul, and its “filthy garments,” the evil desires into which the animal soul’s energy has been channeled. These “garments” cannot be elevated or converted; they must be removed and eradicated. The energy of the animal soul and its tendency to find evil outlets for its energy can then be converted to good by “clothing it in clean garments,” i.e., channeling this energy into holy outlets. If the energy has not yet been transformed into good, clearly some of the “filthy garments” must have remained.
4. Paraphrase of Tehillim 139:22-23.

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