Ch. 19, Class # 1

Chapter 19

In the previous chapter the Alter Rebbe began to discuss the “hidden love of G‑d” inherent in every Jew, by virtue of which it is indeed “very near” to us to fulfill all the commandments out of a spirit of love and awe of G‑d. He stated that this love originates in the divine soul’s faculty of Chochmah where the light ofEin Sof is vested, and that it is this love which causes every Jew to choose death rather than repudiate his faith in G‑d. It was further explained that the divine soul, and thus also the love of G‑d intrinsic to it, is every Jew’s inheritance from the Patriarchs, who merited to bequeath it to their descendants, eternally.

Thus, of the four questions raised in the previous chapter concerning the “hidden love,” two have been answered: (1) What is the root of this love? (2) How did we come to inherit it?

Two questions remain: (1) What is the nature of this love (i.e., what does it strive for)? (2) How is fear of G‑d incorporated in it?

They will be dealt with in this chapter.

ולתוספת ביאור צריך לבאר היטב מה שכתוב: נר ה׳ נשמת אדם

To further elucidate [the nature of the “hidden love”], it is necessary to clarify the meaning of the verse,1 “The soul (Neshamah) of man is a candle of G‑d.”

פירוש: שישראל, הקרוים אדם, נשמתם היא למשל כאור הנר

This means that the souls of Jews, who are called “man”, (as our Sages remark,2“You — the Jewish people — are called ‘man’”) are, by way of illustration, like the flame of a candle

שמתנענע תמיד למעלה בטבעו

whose nature it is always to flicker upwards;

מפני שאור האש חפץ בטבע ליפרד מהפתילה, ולידבק בשרשו למעלה ביסוד האש הכללי שתחת גלגל הירח, כמו שכתוב בעץ חיים

for the flame of the fire intrinsically seeks to part from the wick that holds it, and to unite with its source above — in the universal element of Fire which is in the sublunar sphere, as is explained in Etz Chayim.

The four elements — Earth, Water, Air, and Fire — are so positioned that the higher and more ethereal elements surround and encompass the lower, coarser elements.

Earth is the coarsest of the elements; it is therefore physically the lowest. Water, the next highest element, should, by right, surround and be located above the earth: it is only because of G‑d’s kindness that the earth is above the waters, as it is written:3 “He spreads the earth over the waters, for His kindness is everlasting.” The element of Air is higher than Water and therefore surrounds it. Fire, the highest element, surrounds the entire atmosphere and is found in the sublunar sphere. The flame’s constant drawing upwards thus represents its desire to unite with its source.

ואף שעל ידי זה יכבה ולא יאיר כלום למטה, וגם למעלה בשרשו יתבטל אורו במציאות בשרשו

Although thereby — by parting from the wick and becoming part of its source — it would be extinguished, and would emit no light at all here below; also above, in its source, its identity would be lost within that of its source.

I.e., it would cease to be a luminary — for since a candle is ineffective in illuminating its environment when surrounded by the overwhelmingly greater brilliance of daylight, surely within the element of fire itself its identity is completely nullified. The flame’s striving to unite with its source cannot, therefore, be construed as seeking a higher form of existence. Furthermore, this desire for unification with its source which can be achieved only through self-annihilation, defies the axiom that “Every existing being desires its continued existence.” Logically, then, the flame ought not to draw upwards, to its source.

אף על פי כן, בכך הוא חפץ בטבעו

Yet this is what it “desires” by nature, i.e., it constantly strains upwards as though this were its conscious “desire”.

כך נשמת האדם, וכן בחינת רוח ונפש

Just as the candle constantly seeks to reunite with its source, so also the Neshamah of a Jew, and also the levels of Ruach and Nefesh.

Although the verse states that the Neshamah of man is the candle of G‑d, this comparison is not limited to one within whom the higher soul-level ofNeshamah is actively revealed. The word Neshamah is used here in the broader sense of “soul”, which includes also the levels of Ruach and Nefesh;thus the analogy of the candle extends also to those within whom only the lower soul-level of Ruach or Nefesh is revealed.

חפצה וחשקה בטבעה ליפרד ולצאת מן הגוף, ולידבק בשרשה ומקורה בה׳ חיי החיים ברוך הוא

[The soul] naturally desires and yearns to separate itself and depart from the body, and to unite with its origin and source in G‑d, blessed be He, Who is the fountainhead of all life.

The soul whose very essence is life is thus especially drawn to G‑d, the Source of all life, and desires to sever its connection with the body which hinders its ability to become one with G‑d.

הגם שתהיה אין ואפס ותתבטל שם במציאות לגמרי, ולא ישאר ממנה מאומה ממהותה ועצמותה הראשון

Though thereby it would become null and naught, and its identity would there —in its source — be completely nullified, with nothing at all remaining of its original essence and self,

אף על פי כן זה רצונה וחפצה בטבעה

yet this is its will and desire by its nature.

Note the expression, “with nothing at all remaining of its original self.” Unity with its source would not cause the soul to cease to exist. On the contrary, this is the soul’s true quintessence. However, in this state the soul ceases to exist as it exists while clothed in the body — a distinct entity, with its own intellectual and emotional powers, and so on. Therefore it cannot be postulated that the soul’s yearning to unite with its essence merely represents a desire for self-elevation, for self-elevation is possible only where the original self remains. For example, a person may well strive to better himself — to become wiser, stronger, etc. — but he cannot strive to become something which is not himself (e.g., an angel). Why then should the soul desire to leave the body and unite with its source, since this union causes the cessation of its original self? Indeed, there is no rational explanation for this desire. It comes only as a result of the soul’s intrinsic nature.

The term “nature” is usually used derogatorily, in the sense that it denotes irrationality (phenomena lacking any rational basis are usually ascribed to “nature”). In our case, however, the term is used complimentarily, as it describes the soul’s supra-rational desire. This the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say:

וטבע זה הוא שם המושאל לכל דבר שאינו בבחינת טעם ודעת

“Nature” is an applied term for anything that is not in the realm of reason and comprehension.

וגם כאן הכוונה שרצון וחפץ זה בנפש אינו בבחינת טעם ודעת ושכל מושג ומובן, אלא למעלה מהדעת ושכל המושג והמובן

Here, too — with regard to the soul’s desire to unite with its source — the inference of the word “nature” is that the soul’s will and desire is not based on reason, knowledge and intelligence that can be understood, but rather is beyond the grasp and comprehension of rational intelligence,

והיא בחינת חכמה שבנפש, שבה אור אין סוף ברוך הוא

for this (nature) is the soul’s faculty of Chochmah and, as discussed in the previous chapter, Chochmah is a faculty that transcends comprehension — a faculty wherein the light of the blessed Ein Sof abides; and as a result, the soul is drawn to its Source, theEin Sof, with a longing beyond comprehension.

Thus we see that the “nature” of the “hidden love,” i.e., its quest, is the longing of the soul to be united with its Source. The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain the designation “hidden love.”

וזהו כלל בכל סטרא דקדושה שאינו אלא מה שנמשך מחכמה, שנקראת קודש העליון

Now this is a general principle in the whole realm of holiness: Holiness (קדושה) is only that which derives from Chochmah, called קודש העליון — “supernal holiness.”

The word קודש refers to Chochmah, while קדושה refers to any manifestation of holiness as derived from Chochmah. As Chochmah represents nullification of self before G‑d, only those matters that manifest this character of Chochmahmay be said to possess holiness. Those matters in which this characteristic is lacking, lack holiness as well. The Alter Rebbe continues, speaking ofChochmah:

הבטל במציאות באור אין סוף ברוך הוא המלובש בו, ואינו דבר בפני עצמו כנ״ל

Its very existence is nullified in the light of the blessed Ein Sof which is clothed in it, and it is not a thing apart — as explained earlier.4

ולכן נקרא כ״ח מ״ה

Therefore, this faculty is called Chochmah, which consists of the two words כ׳׳ח מ׳׳ה (the power of humility and abnegation).

The word מה — literally meaning “What?” — denotes immateriality, as one might say when belittling himself: “What am I?” Thus “holiness” refers to anything which, like Chochmah, draws down from G‑d, and nullifies itself before Him.

והוא הפך ממש מבחינת הקליפה וסיטרא אחרא, שממנה נפשות אומות העולם

This stands in direct contrast to the kelipah and sitra achra, from which are derived the souls of the gentiles5

דעבדין לגרמייהו ואמרין הב הב והלעיטני, להיות יש ודבר בפני עצמו כנ״ל, הפך בחינת החכמה

who act only for themselves, saying,6 “Give, give!” and (as Esau said:7) “Feed me!” — in order to be independent beings and entities (separated from G‑d), as mentioned earlier, that kelipah is a separate and distinct entity, far removed from G‑d, in direct contrast to Chochmah (whose nature is humility and self-nullification).

ולכן נקראים מתים, כי החכמה תחיה, וכתיב: ימותו ולא בחכמה

Therefore they (those of the realm of kelipah) are described8 as “dead,” for9“Wisdom (Chochmah) gives life” (hence that which is the opposite of Chochmah lacks life),and it is written:10 “They die, without wisdom”; i.e., “death” is a direct result of lack of wisdom — Chochmah — therefore the nations that receive their life-force from kelipah are considered “dead.”

וכן הרשעים ופושעי ישראל קודם שבאו לידי נסיון לקדש השם

(Just as the heathen nations are called “dead”) so too are the wicked and the sinners of Israel11 — (but only) before they are put to the test of sanctifying G‑d’s Name.

For, facing such a test, the Chochmah within them is aroused until it fills the entire soul with its spirit of self-nullification before G‑d. At this point, they are “alive” once again. However, as long as they do not face this test, the level ofChochmah is dormant within them, as the Alter Rebbe continues:

כי בחינת החכמה שבנפש האלקית, עם ניצוץ אלקות מאור אין סוף ברוך הוא המלובש בה

For the faculty of Chochmah in the divine soul, with the spark of G‑dliness from the light of the blessed Ein Sof that is clothed in it,

הם בבחינת גלות בגופם, בנפש הבהמית מצד הקליפה שבחלל השמאלי שבלב, המולכת ומושלת בגופם

are in a state of exile in their body, within the animal soul of the realm of kelipahin the left part of the heart, which reigns over them and dominates their body.

בסוד גלות השכינה כנ״ל

This “exile” of the faculty of Chochmah while the animal soul dominates the body echoes the esoteric doctrine of the exile of the Shechinah (since the Ein Sof abides inChochmah), as mentioned earlier.12

ולכן נקראת אהבה זו בנפש האלקית, שרצונה וחפצה לדבק בה׳ חיי החיים ברוך הוא, בשם אהבה מסותרת

For this reason, this love found in the divine soul, whose wish and desire is to unite with G‑d, “the fountainhead of all life,” is called “hidden love” — an apparent contradiction in terms; love denotes a manifest emotion and is not at all hidden.

It is called “hidden” only when it is obstructed by an alien entity, and not because of any inherent quality of concealment, as the Alter Rebbe goes on to say:

כי היא מסותרת ומכוסה בלבוש שק דקליפה בפושעי ישראל

For it is hidden and veiled, in the case of the transgressors of Israel, in the sackcloth of the kelipah.

וממנה נכנס בהם רוח שטות לחטוא, כמאמר רז״ל: אין אדם חוטא כו׳

From the kelipah, there enters into them a “spirit of folly” which leads them to sin, as our Sages remark:13 “A person does not sin unless a spirit of folly enters into him.”

As the Alter Rebbe explains further, the foolishness consists of the self-delusion that one remains “a good Jew” in spite of his sins — an insensitivity to the serious breach that his sins create between himself and G‑d. If a Jew felt how each sinful act tore him away from G‑d, he would never sin; for after all, every Jew’s love of G‑d is so strong that he is prepared to sacrifice his very life for G‑d (as discussed in the previous chapter). It is only that the “spirit of folly” dulls his senses so that he does not feel the wrench caused by each sin.

However, if his senses are so dulled, why is it that even the worst sinner will willingly sacrifice his life for G‑d, when his faith is put to the test? In answer, the Alter Rebbe explains that the kelipah can obstruct only those matters that do not directly affect the G‑dly soul’s level of Chochmah. However, in such matters as faith — a derivative of Chochmah — kelipah can neither penetrate nor obstruct. Consequently, in such matters the Jew is aware that to succumb to sin would mean being torn away from G‑d, and therefore he will readily lay down his life rather than sin. This the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain:

אלא שגלות הזה לבחינת חכמה אינו אלא לבחינה המתפשטת ממנה בנפש כולה להחיותה

But this exile of the faculty of Chochmah affects only that aspect of it which is diffused throughout the Nefesh and animates it [with Divine vitality].

Being in exile, it is unable to pervade the entire soul, and through it the entire body, with the feeling of self-nullification before G‑d characteristic of Chochmah;thus, in this state of exile, it is unable to prevent one from sinning.

אבל שרש ועיקר של בחינת חכמה שבנפש האלקית הוא במוחין, ואינה מתלבשת בלבוש שק דקליפה שבלב בחלל השמאלי בבחינת גלות ממש

Yet, the root and core of the Chochmah in the divine soul is in the brain, and does not clothe itself in the sackcloth of the kelipah in the left part of the heart, in a true state of exile, i.e., so that it be powerless to prevent one from sinning.

FOOTNOTES
1. Mishlei 20:27.
2. Yevamot 61a.
3. Tehillim 136:6.
4. In ch. 6.
5. Cf. ch. 1.
6. Mishlei 30:15.
7. Bereishit 25:30.
8. Berachot 18b.
9. Kohelet 7:12.
10. Iyov 4:21.
11. Berachot 18b.
12. In ch. 17.
13. Sotah 3a.

 

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