Chapter 14, Class # 1

Beginning of chapter 14

In previous chapters the Alter Rebbe explained that though the Beinoni is unsullied by sin in thought, speech or action, the internal evil of his animal soul remains strong enough to desire evil. That these desires do not find any practical expression is due only to the divine soul’s restraining them, with the aid given it by the Almighty. The Alter Rebbe now continues:

והנה מדת הבינוני היא מדת כל אדם ואחריה כל אדם ימשוך

Now, the rank of Beinoni is one that is attainable by every man; each person should strive after it if he has not yet attained it, and should not think it beyond his reach,

שכל אדם יכול להיות בינוני בכל עת ובכל שעה

for every person can, at any time or hour, be a Beinoni,

כי הבינוני אינו מואס ברע

because a Beinoni does not abhor evil; unlike the tzaddik, he does not find worldly pleasures revolting and loathsome.

שזהו דבר המסור ללב

For this is a matter entrusted to the heart, and as explained earlier, the Beinoni has yet to conquer [the evil in] his heart; consequently, he does not loathe evil.

ולא כל העתים שוות

Also, not all times are alike.

There are times — such as during prayer — when one’s heart is open and receptive; at such time he may evoke a loathing towards evil. At other times the heart may be “blocked” and spiritually insensitive, and one is incapable of loathing evil.

Inasmuch as the Beinoni’s attitude towards evil varies, while his status ofBeinoni remains constant, it is understood that loathing evil is not the measure of the Beinoni.

אלא סור מרע ועשה טוב דהיינו בפועל ממש במעשה דבור ומחשבה

Rather, the task of the Beinoni is only to “turn away from evil and do good,” in actual practice — in deed, speech and thought.

שבהם הבחירה והיכולת והרשות נתונה לכל אדם

In these matters, as opposed to “matters of the heart,” every man is given the choice, ability and freedom

לעשות ולדבר ולחשוב גם מה שהוא נגד תאות לבו והפכה ממש

to act, speak and think even that which is contrary to the desire of his heart and diametrically opposed to it.

כי גם בשעה שהלב חומד ומתאוה איזו תאוה גשמיית בהיתר, או באיסור חס ושלום

For even when one’s heart craves and desires a material pleasure, whether permitted, in which case it is only the lustful nature of the desire that is evil (instead of desiring the pleasure “for the sake of heaven,” as he should, he seeks self-gratification), or whether, G‑d forbid, he desires that which is forbidden, and the desire is intrinsically evil; whatever sort of craving it is —

יכול להתגבר ולהסיח דעתו ממנה לגמרי, באמרו ללבו

he can conquer [this desire] and divert his attention from it altogether, by declaring to himself (“saying to his heart”) [as follows]:

אינני רוצה להיות רשע אפילו שעה אחת

“I do not want to be a rasha — in succumbing to the blandishments of the animal soul —even for a moment,

כי אינני רוצה להיות מובדל ונפרד חס ושלום מה׳ אחד בשום אופן, כדכתיב: עונותיכם מבדילים וגו׳

because under no circumstances do I want to be parted and severed, heaven forbid, from the One G‑d; as is written,1 “Your iniquities separate. [you from G‑d].”

By reflecting that sin separates one from G‑d, one will conclude that he does not wish to be a rasha, since he will thereby sever his bond with Him. In this way, one can always “turn away form evil” and refrain from sin although his heart craves it.

Similarly, in order for one to “do good” and actively perform the mitzvot, he should declare to himself:

רק אני רוצה לדבקה בו נפשי רוחי ונשמתי, בהתלבשן בשלשה לבושיו יתברך

“I desire, instead, to unite my Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah with G‑d through investing them in ‘His’ three garments,

שהם מעשה דבור ומחשבה בה׳ ותורתו ומצותיו

namely, action, speech and thought dedicated to G‑d, His Torah and His commandments.

These are called “His” (G‑d’s) three garments because they lend expression to His wisdom (Torah) and Will (mitzvot), which are one with G‑d Himself.

מאהבה מסותרת שבלבי לה׳, כמו בלב כללות ישראל שנקראו אוהבי שמך

“This desire to unite with G‑d arises out of the love of G‑d that is (surely) hidden in my heart though I do not feel it, just as [this love is found] in the heart of all Jews, who are called2 ‘lovers of Your (G‑d’s) Name’ by reason of their inherent love of G‑d, although they do not all feel this love consciously.

ואפילו קל שבקלים יכול למסור נפשו על קדושת ה׳, ולא נופל אנכי ממנו בודאי

“For this reason, even a kal shebekalim (a most unworthy Jew) is capable of sacrificing his life for the sanctity of G‑d should he be forced to deny Him, G‑d forbid.Surely I am not inferior to him.

As will be explained in later chapters, the ability of even the lowliest Jew to give up his very life for G‑d stems from every Jew’s innate, hidden love of G‑d, which is activated and aroused whenever he feels that he is being torn away from Him. But if the kal shebekalim does indeed love G‑d so deeply that he will surrender his life for Him, why is he a kal shebekalim? Why does he sin? Why does he not observe the mitzvot?

אלא שנכנס בו רוח שטות, ונדמה לו שבעבירה זו עודנו ביהדותו, ואין נשמתו מובדלת מאלקי ישראל

“It is only that a spirit of folly has overcome (lit., ‘entered’) him, as our Sages say:3 ‘No man sins unless overcome by a spirit of folly’; he imagines that committing this sin will not affect his Jewishness, and that his soul will not be severed thereby from the G‑d of Israel.

In fact, at the moment that a Jew sins he becomes separated from G‑d. Were the kal shebekalim to realize this, he would never sin. The “spirit of folly,” however, deludes him into thinking otherwise.

וגם שוכח אהבתו לה׳ המסותרת בלבו

“Similarly, the kal shebekalim neglects the positive mitzvot, although his natural love of G‑d dictates that he fulfill them, because he also forgets the love of G‑d hidden in his heart. Were he aware of this love, he would seek out mitzvot to perform in order to unite with G‑d.

אבל אני אינני רוצה להיות שוטה כמוהו לכפור האמת

All this applies to the kal shebekalim. “But as for me — one should say to himself — I have no desire to be such a fool as he, to deny the truth!”

For the truth of the matter is that sin does separate man from G‑d, and that one does have a natural love of G‑d that dictates the performance of mitzvot.“These truths,” one must say to himself, “I do not wish to deny.”

Such arguments are effective in a conflict with one’s animal soul over actual thought, speech and action. Using the above-mentioned reasoning one can prevail over his evil inclination at all times (in both “turning from evil” and “doing good”), and thereby attain the rank of the Beinoni.

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FOOTNOTES
1. Yeshayahu 59:2.
2. Tehillim 5:12.
3. Sotah 3a.

 

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