Ch. 18, Class # 2

Middle of Chapter 18

Returning to his original point, that every Jew has a soul which stems from the holy Sefirot, and that ultimately each soul is animated by the light of the Ein Sof by way of the soul’s faculty of wisdom (Chochmah), the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain why it is Chochmah that is the original recipient of the light of the Ein Sof. The explanation is based on a discussion of the nature of the soul’s faculty of wisdom, which now follows:

הנה החכמה היא מקור השכל וההבנה

Now Chochmah which, as explained in ch. 3, is the initial flash of intellect, the nebulous, seminal glimmer of an idea, is the source of intelligence and comprehension which first begin to emerge in the faculty of Binah, for, as explained there, Binah represents the ability to grasp an idea in all its details and ramifications;

והיא למעלה מהבינה, שהוא הבנת השכל והשגתו

it is higher than Binah, which is the faculty of understanding an idea and grasping it.

והחכמה היא למעלה מההבנה וההשגה, והיא מקור להן

So that in its relation to the soul’s lower faculties, this single level of Chochmah comprises two opposite aspects: On one hand Chochmah is above comprehension and understanding — thus it transcends the lower faculties of the soul, and it is this aspect ofChochmah which enables it to be the recipient of the light of the Ein Sof, as will soon be explained; while on the other hand Chochmah is the source of intelligence and comprehension and is thus connected to the lower faculties.

It is this latter aspect of Chochmah which enables it to suffuse the entire soul (as stated earlier), and, in its active state, to affect even one’s thought, speech and action (which are even lower than the soul’s lowest faculties, being merely the “garments”, the organs of expression, for the soul), as will be stated further, in ch. 19.

וזהו לשון חכמה כ״ח מ״ה, שהוא מה שאינו מושג ומובן ואינו נתפס בהשגה עדיין


The etymological composition of the word Chochmah indicates this dual nature.Chochmah contains two words: כ׳׳ח מ׳׳ה — “the faculty of the unknown.” (Literally,מה means “What?” — as one would ask of something he cannot comprehend, “What is it?”) Hence, while it is an intellectual faculty (and thus related to the other, lower faculties, yet it is a faculty which cannot as yet be comprehended or grasped by the intellect, and is therefore also above and beyond the others.12

ולכן מתלבש בה אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, דלית מחשבה תפיסא ביה כלל

For this reason, the light of the Ein Sof, blessed be He, who can in no way be comprehended by any thought, is vested in Chochmah.

Those faculties whose functions are intelligence and comprehension cannot serve as receptacles for the light of the Ein Sof, for knowledge cannot grasp the unknowable. Only Chochmah, which itself is higher than comprehension, can receive this light.

12. Our interpretation of the foregoing passage follows a comment by the Rebbe where the Rebbe dismisses the notion that the Alter Rebbe speaks here of two sub-levels within Chochmah. The Rebbe maintains that neither the context nor the wording permit such an interpretation.

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