Likutei Amarim Chapter 12, Class # 3

Likutei Amarim, middle of Chapter 12

רק מפני שלא לו לבדו משפט המלוכה והממשלה בעיר, אינו יכול להוציא תאותו מכח אל הפועל להתלבש באברי הגוף

Yet, because the evil of the animal soul has not the sole authority and dominion over the “city”, for the good of the divine soul (situated in the brain) has its say as well, it is unable to implement this desire by clothing itself in the limbs of the body,

במעשה דבור ומחשבה ממש

[to engage] in deed, speech, or actual thought —

להעמיק מחשבתו בתענוגי עולם הזה, איך למלאת תאות לבו

“actual” thought meaning: to concentrate his attention on worldly pleasures [with a view to] devising means of satisfying the lust of his heart,

The Beinoni’s desire for worldly pleasures will cause thoughts of such matters to rise from the heart to his mind; these thoughts are beyond his control, beyond the sphere of dominance of his divine soul. He can, however, control his “actual” — i.e., conscious and wilfull — thought, so that immediately as he becomes aware of the forbidden thoughts he dismisses them from his mind, not permitting himself to dwell on them, nor to think how to implement them (as the Alter Rebbe will state at greater length further in this chapter).

Returning now to his statement that the divine soul of the Beinoni keeps the desires of his animal soul in check, preventing their expression in deed, speech and actual thought, the Alter Rebbe explains why this is possible.

כי המוח שליט על הלב כמו שכתוב ברעיא מהימנא פרשת פנחס בתולדתו וטבע יצירתו

because the brain rules over the heart (as it is written inRa‘aya Mehemna, Parshat Pinchas1) by virtue of its innately created nature.

שכך נוצר האדם בתולדתו, שכל אדם יכול ברצונו שבמוחו להתאפק ולמשול ברוח תאותו שבלבו

For man was so created from birth, that every person may, with the power of the will in his brain — i.e., the will created of his mind’s understanding — restrain himself and control the drive of his heart’s lust,

שלא למלאת משאלות לבו במעשה דבור ומחשבה

preventing his heart’s desires from finding expression in deed, word and thought, when the mind understands the evil inherent in such deed, word or thought,

ולהסיח דעתו לגמרי מתאות לבו אל ההפך לגמרי

and [he can, if his mind will it] divert his attention completely from that which his heart craves [and turn his attention] to the exactly opposite direction.

This principle of mind over heart holds true even where the restraint of one’s desires is dictated by simple logic, without motives of holiness; the demands of the mind’s logic are, alone, sufficiently powerful to steer one’s attention in a direction diametrically opposite to that which his heart craves.

ובפרט אל צד הקדושה

If this is true whatever his motives, it is true particularly in the direction of holiness.

When, motivated by the knowledge that his lustful thoughts are sinful, and thoughts of Torah and mitzvot good and praiseworthy, one seeks to divert his attention from the former to the latter, so that both his goal and his motives are holy, his mind’s will is particularly effective in mastering his heart and thoughts.

כדכתיב: וראיתי שיש יתרון לחכמה מן הסכלות, כיתרון האור מן החושך

[For] thus is it written:2 “Then I saw that wisdom surpasses folly as light surpasses darkness.”

Clearly, the use of analogy indicates that a difficult and unfamiliar idea is to be clarified by comparison with a simple, familiar one. However, nothing seems to be gained by equating wisdom and folly with light and darkness; both are equally comprehensible.

Even assuming that the reference here is to a deeper aspect of “wisdom”, namely holiness (as in Ecclesiastes‘ depiction of man’s inclination for good as “a poor and wise child”3), and that “folly” refers to evil (as in his portrayal of the evil inclination as “an old and foolish king”), there is still no need for analogy. Clearly, holiness is vastly superior to evil.

Rather, the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain, the analogy is used here to illustrate how wisdom is superior to folly: The superiority of light over darkness is manifest in the ability of a tiny ray of light to banish a great deal of darkness. Furthermore, the light need not battle darkness to banish it; the darkness disappears as a matter of course with the appearance of light. In the same way is the wisdom of holiness superior to the folly of evil. A mere ray of holiness suffices to banish — as a matter of course — a great deal of evil folly.

In the Alter Rebbe’s words:

פירוש: כמו שהאור יש לו יתרון ושליטה וממשלה על החושך

This [analogy] means that just as light has superiority, power and dominion over darkness,

שמעט אור גשמי דוחה הרבה מן החשך, שנדחה ממנו מאליו וממילא

so that a little physical light banishes a great deal of darkness, which is displaced automatically and inevitably,without any effort on the part of the light,

כך נדחה ממילא סכלות הרבה של הקליפה וסיטרא אחרא שבחלל השמאלי

so is there driven away, automatically, much foolishness of the kelipah and sitra achra of the animal soul located in the left part of the heart,

כמאמר רז״ל: אלא אם כן נכנס בו רוח שטות וכו׳

(as indeed our Sages say,4 “A man does not sin unless a spirit of folly enters him”).

מפני החכמה שבנפש האלקית שבמוח

Thus our Sages described the desires of the animal soul as “folly”. Hence they are automatically banished by the wisdom of the divine soul that is in the brain,

אשר רצונה למשול לבדה בעיר ולהתלבש בשלשה לבושיה הנ״ל בכל הגוף כולו כנ״ל

which desires to rule alone over the “city” — the body — and to pervade the entire body by means of its aforementioned5 three garments,

שהם מחשבה דבור ומעשה של תרי״ג מצות התורה כנ״ל

namely thought, speech and action connected with the 613mitzvot of the Torah, as discussed above.6

In the Beinoni, this desire of the divine soul in the brain — that it alone pervade his thought, speech and action, and hence his entire body — controls the lustful desires which the animal soul arouses in his heart. Moreover, it prevents their actual expression because of the natural supremacy of mind over heart and of holiness over evil.

But if the divine soul of the Beinoni indeed dominates his every area of practical expression, alone dictating his every thought, word and deed, why is he not considered a tzaddik?

The Alter Rebbe explains:

1. Zohar III, p. 224a. The doctrine of the inherent supremacy of “intellect over emotion” is one of the basic, though not original, tenets of ChaBaD. Cf. Rambam, Moreh NevuchimIII, 8.
2. Kohelet 2:13.
3. Kohelet 4:13.
4. Sotah 3a.
5. Ch. 4.
6. Ch. 9.


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