Likutei Amarim Chapter 18, Class # 1

Chapter 18

 In the previous chapter the Alter Rebbe discussed the verse,

1 “For this thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it” (i.e., it is simple for you to fulfill the mitzvot with your heart, with love and awe of G‑d). He explained that through contemplating G‑d’s greatness every person can come to experience such love and awe. Not every man, to be sure, is a tzaddik, with his heart under his control. But everyone’s mind is under his control, and he can focus his mind in meditation on any subject he chooses. Even if the love and awe produced by such meditation do not make themselves felt in the heart in a revealed way, they will at least appear in his mind, and in the recesses of his heart, as an attitude of love and awe. Even this detached form of love and awe is sufficient to motivate one to observe the mitzvot, and will enable the mitzvot so motivated to soar heavenward as though he had observed them with a true love and awe of G‑d actually felt in the heart.

But it cannot truly be said of love and awe which must be created by way of meditation, that their attainment is “very near” to everyone. Meditation requires knowledge of the subject at hand, and intellectual predisposition. If one’s understanding of G‑d’s greatness is scant, or if he lacks the intellectual capacity for meditation, how is it “very near” to him to observe the mitzvot with love and awe of G‑d?

In the following chapters the Alter Rebbe will therefore explain an alternative method of attaining the love and awe of G‑d, a method that may be used even by one with the aforementioned shortcomings. It consists of arousing the natural love of G‑d that lies hidden in the heart of every Jew, a love that is his birthright, his inheritance from our Patriarchs. No meditation is needed to arouse it; all that is required of him is to recall and to make himself aware of this love — and he will be motivated by this recollection to observe the mitzvot. Since no meditation is required to create them, such love and awe of G‑d are indeed “very near.” They are accessible to all.

ולתוספת ביאור באר היטב מלת מאד שבפסוק: כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד וגו׳

To explain more clearly and more precisely the word “very” in the verse,2 “For this thing is very near to you…,”

The word “very” indicates that it is an extremely simple matter to serve G‑d “with one’s heart” — with love and fear of G‑d. In the previous chapter the Alter Rebbe explained that a love of G‑d is readily attainable through meditation on G‑d’s greatness, whereby one can generate at least an “intellectual love” —tevunah. Yet it cannot be said of profound meditation that it is “very near to you.”

צריך לידע נאמנה כי אף מי שדעתו קצרה בידיעת ה׳, ואין לו לב להבין בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא

one should recognize with certainty that even the person who has only a limited understanding of G‑d’s greatness, so that he lacks the materials necessary for meditation, and he has no heart to comprehend the greatness of the blessed infinite G‑d — his mind and heart are not suited to meditation, so that he lacks the tools of meditation,

להוליד ממנה דחילו ורחימו, אפילו במוחו ותבונתו לבד

to produce, through meditation, a fear and love even in his mind and understanding alone — how much more so is he unable to produce a vibrant, fervent love and fear:

אף על פי כן קרוב אליו הדבר מאד לשמור ולעשות כל מצות התורה, ותלמוד תורה כנגד כולן

yet it is a “very near thing” for him to guard himself from transgressing the prohibitive commandments, through a fear of G‑d, and to practice the positive commandments, which require a love of G‑d — these together comprising all the commandments of the Torah, and in particular the study of Torah which counterbalances them all.

בפיו ובלבבו ממש, מעומקא דלבא באמת לאמיתו, בדחילו ורחימו

He can fulfill all this in his mouth and in his heart — in the true sense of “heart” — that is, not only in the superficial sense of the word “heart,” which means to say “in his thoughts”; but in the true sense of “with heart” — namely, “with feeling,” from the depths of his heart, in absolute sincerity, with love and fear, as opposed to the tevunah-emotions, which cannot properly be called love and fear; they are so designated only insofar as they motivate one’s actions.

The love and fear of which the Alter Rebbe will now speak are emotions in the fullest sense of the word. But how can one acquire a true love and fear of G‑d if he is incapable of meditation? In answer, the author continues:

שהיא אהבה מסותרת שבלב כללות ישראל שהיא ירושה לנו מאבותינו

This is the hidden love present in the heart of all Jews, which is an inheritance to us from our Patriarchs.

Since every Jew already possesses this love as an inheritance, he need not create it through meditation; all that is required of him is that he arouse it and implement it in his observance of the mitzvot. In order to explain how one goes about doing so, the author first discusses the characteristics of this love.

רק שצריך לבאר ולהקדים תחלה באר היטב שרש אהבה זו ועניינה

But we must first preface a clear and precise explanation of the origin of this love, i.e., which level of the soul it stems from, and its character, i.e., what sort of striving this love constitutes.

There is a love of G‑d which seeks a unity with G‑d while still remaining a separate entity — a soul clothed in a body; there is another kind of love which is a yearning for self-extinction; and so forth. What drive is contained in this love which is our inheritance?

ואיך היא ירושה לנו, ואיך נכלל בה גם דחילו

Also, how did this love become our inheritance? How does one inherit a love? And how is fear also incorporated in it?

For, as stated previously, observance of the prohibitive commandments requires a fear of G‑d. Therefore, the statement that the hidden love in every Jew will lead him to observe all the commandments, implies that this love also contains an element of awe.

והענין: כי האבות הן הן המרכבה

The explanation is as follows:3 The Patriarchs were truly the “chariot” of G‑d, i.e., they were completely subservient to Him and had no other will but the Divine Will, just as a chariot has no will of its own but is directed solely by the will of the rider.

ועל כן זכו להמשיך נפש רוח ונשמה לבניהם אחריהם עד עולם, מעשר ספירות דקדושה שבארבע עולמות אצילות בריאה יצירה עשיה, לכל אחד ואחד כפי מדרגתו וכפי מעשיו

Therefore, they merited the privilege of drawing down, for all subsequent generations of their descendants, forever, a Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah from the ten holy Sefirot of the Four Worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.4 In which of the Four Worlds, and from which Sefirah within these Worlds, does the soul originate? Each individual — according to his level and according to his deeds.

“His level” refers to the level of the root of his soul; “his deeds” refers to one’s efforts towards refining himself — as the Zohar states: “When one betters himself, he is given a higher order of soul.”

ועל כל פנים אפילו לקל שבקלים ופושעי ישראל נמשך בזיווגם נפש דנפש דמלכות דעשיה

At any rate, even the unworthiest and most sinful Jews draw down, by their marital union, a Nefesh from the level of Nefesh of Malchut deAsiyah (“the Attribute of Royalty in the World of Action”).

This means to say that the union of every Jewish couple, no matter how low their spiritual level, brings forth a soul from, at the very least, the lowest level of holiness. This lowest level is Nefesh deMalchut deAsiyah. For Asiyah is the lowest of the Four Worlds, and Malchut is the lowest Sefirah within that World.Malchut itself is further composed of three levels — Nefesh, Ruach andNeshamah, Nefesh being the lowest of the three. In addition, as we have seen in the previous chapters, the soul itself consists of the three levels of Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah. Thus, one who has been given only a Nefesh which stems from Nefesh deMalchut deAsiyah, has the lowest order of soul deriving from the lowest level in the spiritual hierarchy — as the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say.

שהיא מדרגה התחתונה שבקדושת העשיה

This is the lowest level of holiness in the world of Asiyah.

ואף על פי כן, מאחר שהיא מעשר ספירות קדושות

Yet, since [Malchut] is one of the ten holy Sefirot, and since holiness is the realm of unity, where every level is comprised of all the other levels, perforce

היא כלולה מכולן, גם מחכמה דעשיה

it (the lowest level in Asiyah) is compounded of all the other levels in Asiyah,including Chochmah deAsiyah (“Wisdom of the World of Action”), the highest Sefirah inAsiyah.

שבתוכה מלובשת חכמה דמלכות דאצילות

Within [Chochmah deAsiyah] is clothed Chochmah deMalchut deAtzilut (“Wisdom of Royalty in the World of Emanation”).

As the author explains in ch. 52, the Sefirah of Malchut deAtzilut clothes itself in, and illuminates, the World of Asiyah. Since Malchut deAtzilut contains all theSefirot of Atzilut, the illumination of Asiyah by Malchut thus means that eachSefirah of Atzilut as it is contained in Malchut deAtzilut, garbs itself in the corresponding Sefirah of Asiyah — Chochmah deMalchut deAtzilut inChochmah deAsiyah, Binah deMalchut deAtzilut in Binah deAsiyah, and so forth.

שבתוכה חכמה דאצילות, שבה מאיר אור אין סוף ברוך הוא ממש

In Chochmah deMalchut deAtzilut is clothed Chochmah deAtzilut, since all theSefirot of Atzilut incorporate each other, which, in turn, is illuminated by the actual light of the blessed Ein Sof,

כדכתיב: ה׳ בחכמה יסד ארץ, וכולם בחכמה עשית

as it is written,5 “G‑d, in His wisdom, founded the earth”; The words “G‑d in His wisdom” show that the light of the Ein Sof illuminates the Sefirah of Chochmah, while the words “wisdom founded the earth” indicate that Chochmah is clothed in Malchut, which is called “earth” (for, like the earth, Malchut is the lowest level in its hierarchy); and it is further written,6 “In wisdom you have made them all” (the word “made” indicating thatChochmah is clothed in Asiyah — action).

ונמצא כי אין סוף ברוך הוא מלובש בבחינת חכמה שבנפש האדם, יהיה מי שיהיה מישראל

Thus we see that the light of the blessed Ein Sof is garbed in the faculty of wisdom in the human soul, of whatever sort of a Jew he may be. (Further in the chapter, the Alter Rebbe explains why it is the faculty of wisdom in the soul that receives the illumination of the Ein Sof.)

ובחינת החכמה שבה, עם אור אין סוף ברוך הוא המלובש בה, מתפשטת בכל בחינות הנפש כולה להחיותה מבחינת ראשה עד בחינת רגלה

In turn, the soul’s faculty of wisdom, together with the light of the blessed Ein Softhat is garbed in it, suffuses all the levels of the soul in its entirety, from head to foot, as it were, i.e., from the highest level of the soul to the lowest, to animate them with G‑dly vitality,

כדכתיב: החכמה תחיה בעליה

as it is written,7 “Wisdom gives life to those who possess it” — the soul, which possesses the faculty of wisdom, receives its life by means of this faculty, as stated above.

ולפעמים ממשיכים פושעי ישראל נשמות גבוהות מאד שהיו בעמקי הקליפות, כמו שכתוב בספר גלגולים

(8At times, the sinners of Israel may even bring down for their children very lofty souls which had been in the depths of the kelipot, as is explained in Sefer Gilgulim.)9

A soul that has fallen captive in the hands of the kelipot remains in this state until the kelipot release it of their own will. Anything in the hold of the kelipotcannot be wrested from them against their will, for the principle that10 “G‑d does not make unjustifiable demands of His creations,” holds true even with regard tokelipot. In the case of a child to be born to sinful parents, the kelipot willingly release the soul, in the hope that such a child will be influenced by its parents, and will become a sinner like them. In this way, the kelipot stand to extract an even greater measure of vitality from the holiness of the soul by means of its eventual sins. However, having such a lofty soul, the child is able to overcome the obstacles imposed by its parents‘ wickedness, and may rise to the level of atzaddik. In this way, paradoxically, it comes to pass that a tzaddik may be born to wicked parents because of their wickedness.11

1. Devarim 30:14.
2. Devarim 30:14.
3. See ch. 23.
4. These terms are explained above, ch. 2.
5. Mishlei 3:19.
6. Tehillim 104:24.
7. Kohelet 7:12.
8. Parentheses are in the original text.
9. Book on Transmigration, by R. Chayim Vital.
10. Avodah Zarah 3a.
11. The relevance of this point here is clarified by the explanation given by the Rebbe of the final passage of ch. 2. See there.


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