Likutei Amarim Chapter 16 Class # 1

Beginning of Chapter 16 

וזה כלל גדול בעבודת ה׳ לבינונים

This, then, is the important principle regarding the divine service of the Beinoni:

העיקר הוא למשול ולשלוט על הטבע שבחלל השמאלי

The essential thing is to govern and rule the nature that is in the left part of the heart,

על ידי אור ה׳ המאיר לנפש האלקית שבמוח

by means of the Divine light that illuminates the divine soul abiding in the brain,

ולשלוט על הלב

and to rule the desires of the heart.

To enable him to master his desires the Beinoni requires (in addition to the natural ability of one’s mind to govern his heart) the help of the Divine light which illuminates his mind1 upon contemplating G‑d’s greatness.

כשמתבונן במוחו בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא, להוליד מבינתו רוח דעת ויראת ה׳ במוחו

This mastery of one’s nature and desires is achieved when he meditates in his mind on the greatness of the blessed Infinite G‑d, so as to create through his understanding a spirit of knowledge and fear of G‑d in his mind.

להיות סור מרע דאורייתא ודרבנן, ואפילו איסור קל של דבריהם חס ושלום

This knowledge and fear will cause him to turn away from the evil condemned by the Torah or by our Sages, even from a minor Rabbinic prohibition, heaven forbid.

ואהבת ה׳ בלבו בחלל הימני

Contemplation on G‑d’s greatness will bring about also a love of G‑d which will reveal itselfin the right part of his heart — the seat of the G‑dly soul’s emotional faculties,

בחשיקה וחפיצה לדבקה בו בקיום המצות דאורייתא ודרבנן, ותלמוד תורה שכנגד כולן

with a longing and desire to cleave to Him by fulfilling the precepts of the Torah and of the Rabbis, and the study of Torah which is equivalent to them all.

As the Alter Rebbe has already pointed out,2 the commandments cannot be performed fully, that is, with the totality of one’s being, unless the performance is motivated by love of G‑d (for the fulfillment of the positive commandments) and fear of G‑d (for avoiding transgression of the negative commandments). When one’s observance is so motivated, his love and fear of G‑d permeate the performance of the commandments, and enhance them with their power.

Seemingly, however, this is true only of a love and fear that are openly felt in one’s heart. What if, despite one’s efforts in meditating on G‑d’s greatness, he cannot excite himself to an arousal of love or fear of G‑d? In answer, the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that even if the love and fear born of one’s meditation remain hidden in one’s mind and heart (in a state which the Alter Rebbe refers to as tevunah — an “intellectual love”), they still permeate his performance of the commandments, as though these emotions were open and aroused.

ויתר על כן צריך לידע כלל גדול בעבודה לבינונים

Furthermore, one must know an additional important principle in the Beinoni’s service of G‑d:

שגם אם אין יד שכלו ורוח בינתו משגת להוליד אהבת ה׳ בהתגלות לבו

Even if one’s intellect and understanding are incapable of producing a revealed love of G‑d in his heart,

שיהיה לבו בוער כרשפי אש, וחפץ בחפיצה וחשיקה ותשוקה מורגשת בלב לדבקה בו

to make it burn as it ought with fiery flames, with a desire and a longing and a passion manifestly felt in the heart, to cleave to G‑d;

רק האהבה מסותרת במוחו ותעלומות לבו

instead, the love is hidden in his mind and in the recesses of his heart* —3

At this point the Alter Rebbe inserts a note, stating that one’s inability to reveal the love in his heart does not indicate a fault in his meditation; the cause may well be inherent in the spiritual root of his soul.


והסיבה לזה הוא מפני היות המוחין שלו ונפש רוח נשמה שלו מבחינת עיבור והעלם תוך התבונה, ולא מבחינת לידה והתגלות, כידוע ליודעי ח״ן


The reason for this [inhibition] is that this person’s intellect and Nefesh, Ruachand Neshamah derive from the so-called ibbur (conception) and concealment within the [Supernal] understanding, and not from the quality of leidah (birth) and revelation — as is known to those familiar with the Kabbalah.


Briefly, this means:

In human emotions born of the intellect (e.g., a love of G‑d is “born” through meditation on G‑d’s greatness), there are two states: (1) where the emotion has already been born and revealed, and (2) an earlier stage, where the emotion is still part of the intellect. In this latter state, the “emotion” consists merely of an intellectual inclination toward the object of one’s understanding.

These two stages are similarly found in the Divine attributes, to which the human emotions are analogous. The Divine attributes — the middot of kindness(Chesed), severity (Gevurah), etc. — prior to their existence in a revealed state, are concealed within and encompassed by the Supernal Intellect (Binah) which is their source. The soul, in turn, stems from the Divine attributes, and hence reflects their characteristics. Thus, those souls which derive from the attributes as they are in their revealed state possess the quality of revelation, i.e., they are capable of bringing their love of G‑d into a revealed state; whereas the souls deriving from the concealed state of the attributes lack this capacity, and their emotions remain concealed within their intellect.

* * *

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to describe a love of G‑d as it is concealed within one’s intellect.

דהיינו שהלב מבין ברוח חכמה ובינה שבמוחו

This means that the heart comprehends, with the spirit of wisdom and understanding in the brain (i.e., instead of being excited with the love of G‑d, as it ought to be, the heart merely experiences an understanding of)

גדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא, דכולא קמיה כלא חשיב ממש

the greatness of the blessed Infinite G‑d, before Whom all else is as naught,

אשר על כן יאתה לו יתברך שתכלה אליו נפש כל חי לידבק ולהכלל באורו

for which reason it is fitting and due unto Him, blessed be He, that the soul of every living thing should pine for Him, to cleave to and become absorbed in His Divine light.

וגם נפשו ורוחו אשר בקרבו, כך יאתה להן, להיות כלות אליו בחשיקה וחפיצה לצאת מנרתקן הוא הגוף, לדבקה בו

It is likewise fitting for his own soul, the Nefesh and Ruach within him,4 to languish for Him with a fervent desire to leave their sheath, i.e., the body, which surrounds and conceals the soul like a sheath, in order to cleave to Him.

רק שבעל כרחן חיות הנה בתוך הגוף, וצרורות בו כאלמנות חיות

So intensely, his thoughts continue, should his Nefesh and Ruach long for G‑d, that only against their will do they dwell in the body; they are bound to it like deserted wives (literally, “living widows,” who are bound to their husbands and are forbidden to remarry as long as the husbands who left them are alive).

ולית מחשבה דילהון תפיסא ביה כלל, כי אם כאשר תפיסא ומתלבשת בתורה ובמצותיה

In their present state their thought cannot grasp G‑d at all, except when it grasps and vests itself in the Torah and its commandments. By studying Torah and observing its commandments, one grasps G‑d’s Will and His wisdom, which are one with G‑d Himself,

כמשל המחבק את המלך, הנזכר לעיל

as illustrated previously5 by the example of one who embraces the king.

Although the king is dressed in his robes, this does not detract from the royal embrace; similarly, although the Torah and its commandments are clothed in material matters, yet, since they express G‑d’s Will and wisdom, when one grasps them it is as though he grasped G‑d Himself.

ואי לזאת יאתה להן לחבקו בכל לב ונפש ומאד

All the above thoughts pass through his mind and heart, and lead him to resolve that: It is therefore fitting and proper for them — for his Nefesh and Ruach — to embrace G‑d with all their heart, soul and might.

דהיינו קיום התרי״ג מצות במעשה ובדבור ובמחשבה, שהיא השגת וידיעת התורה כנזכר לעיל

This means, in a practical sense, to fulfill the 613 commandments in act, speech and thought, the thought being the comprehension and knowledge of the Torah, as explained above in the previous chapters, that through Torah and the commandments one grasps G‑d Himself, so to speak.

Thus we see that what motivates this person’s actual observance of the commandments is meditation on G‑d’s greatness; this brings about the realization that one ought to strive to bind himself to G‑d — a bond which can be achieved only through the commandments.

1. See above, ch. 13.
2. In ch. 4.
3. Not to be confused with the “hidden love” mentioned in ch. 15. The love mentioned there is inherent, and cannot be said to constitute avodah — divine service — while in its latent (“hidden”) state. The love spoken of here is of man’s making and does, indeed, constitute avodah. It is “hidden” only in the sense that it is marked by the reserve characteristic of the intellect, and thus lacks the intensity and the force of expression of an emotionally-charged love.
4. Neshamah is omitted here, for it is already alluded to in the “hidden love in the brain and the recesses of the heart,” just mentioned.
5. Ch. 4.

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