Likutei Amarim Chapter 22, Class # 1

Beginning of Chapter 22

In the previous chapter the Alter Rebbe contrasted human speech and Divine speech. He pointed out that human speech is marked by two characteristics: (1) it reveals to the hearer that which was previously hidden in the speaker’s thoughts; (2) the spoken word becomes a distinct entity, separate from the speaker. Divine speech, however, cannot become separate from G‑d, since nothing exists “outside” G‑d. G‑d’s Word, even after being “spoken” and revealed (whether in Creation or in prophecy), is thus still united with Him, and nullified before Him, to the same degree that a word spoken by a human being is united with the speaker before he speaks, while the word was still within its source, viz., the desire or understanding that prompted the thought that ultimately produced the spoken word.

In this chapter the Alter Rebbe goes on to say that since, after all, the Torah does use the term “speech” with regard to Divine revelation, we must say that Divine speech contains, to some extent at least, the second characteristic of human speech as well (i.e., that it becomes separated from the speaker). He explains that this is in fact so, but only with respect to the beings created by Divine “speech” — they perceive G‑d’s Word that created them, and consequently also themselves, as being separate from G‑d. This is specifically the case with the kelipot and the sitra achra, which represent a denial of G‑d’s unity.

רק שהתורה דברה כלשון בני אדם, ונקרא בתורה דבורו של מקום ברוך הוא בשם דבור ממש כדבורו של אדם

Yet1 “the Torah employs human language,” and in the Torah the “Word” of G‑d is actually called “speech”, like the speech of a human being which is characterized by separation from the speaker; indicating that, in some way at least, G‑d’s “Word” is also separated from Him.

לפי שבאמת כך הוא דרך ירידת והמשכת החיות לתחתונים

For in truth it is so — that G‑d’s Word is separated from Him; not indeed with respect to Himself, but only with respect to the various creations, as will soon be explained; and this separation comes about by way of the descent and flow of the life-force to the lower planes.

בצמצומים רבים ועצומים, מינים ממינים שונים, להבראות מהם ברואים רבים, מינים ממינים שונים

This descent is accomplished through many powerful contractions with each successive contraction increasingly veiling the Divine life-force; and these contractions are of various kinds, in order that many diverse creatures may be created through them.

Thus the diversity found in creation stems from the diverse contractions of the creative power.

וכל כך גברו ועצמו הצמצומים והסתר פנים העליונים

Indeed, so great and powerful are the contractions and the concealment of the “Supernal Countenance,” i.e., the inner, deeper aspect of the Divine life-force is so heavily veiled,

עד שיוכלו להתהוות ולהבראות גם דברים טמאים וקליפות וסטרא אחרא

that even unclean things, and kelipot and the sitra achra, can come into being and be created.

No amount of contractions could give rise to kelipot. Even at its lowest level, the Divine life-force would not ordinarily produce creations that deny G‑d. It is the quality and intensity of the tzimtzumim, rather than their numerousness, that permits the kelipot to come into being,

ולקבל חיותם וקיומם מדבר ה׳ ורוח פיו יתברך, בהסתר פנים וירידת המדרגות

and to receive their life and existence from the Divine Word and the breath of His mouth, through the concealment of His Countenance and through the downward gradations.

ולכן נקראים אלהים אחרים מפני שיניקתם וחיותם אינה מבחינת פנים אלא מבחינת אחוריים דקדושה

For this reason the kelipot are called אלהים אחרים — “other gods,” for their nurture and vitality which they draw from the realm of holiness — since every existing being draws its life-force from holiness — does not derive from the “Countenance”, i.e., the inner aspect of the Divine Will, but from the אחוריים — the2 “hinder-part” of holiness, i.e., the external, superficial aspect of the Divine Will.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain the terms “Countenance” and “hinder-part” as relating to the Divine Will. The explanation in brief: An “inner” will is a direct, pleasurable yearning for the object of one’s desire. An “external” will is one that is, as it were, “forced”; i.e., the object is desired only as a means to an end — the fulfillment of the “inner” will — and not as an end in itself.

ופירוש אחוריים: כאדם הנותן דבר לשונאו שלא ברצונו, שמשליכו לו כלאחר כתפו, כי מחזיר פניו ממנו משנאתו אותו

The meaning of “hinder-part” is exemplified in the act of a person who gives something unwillingly to his enemy with an ulterior motive; he throws the object to him over his shoulder, while he turns his face away from him, out of his hatred for him.

For one’s bodily actions express the feelings of his soul. Thus, when the act of giving is motivated by an external will, the giver turns away his face, which is where the inner facets of one’s soul express themselves.

כך למעלה: בחינת פנים הוא פנימית הרצון העליון וחפצו האמיתי, אשר חפץ ה׳ להשפיע חיות לכל הקרוב אליו מסטרא דקדושה

So too on high, the term “Countenance” represents the3 inner quality of the Supernal Will and its true desire; namely, the desire of G‑d to dispense life to all who belong to the realm of holiness, who are close to Him.

אבל הסטרא אחרא והטומאה היא תועבת ה׳ אשר שנא

But the sitra achra, and so too unholiness, is4 “an abomination before G‑d, which He hates.”

ואינו משפיע לה חיות מפנימית הרצון וחפצו האמיתי אשר חפץ בה, חס ושלום

He does not give it life from His inner Will and true desire as if He delighted in it, Heaven forbid,

כי אם כמאן דשדי בתר כתפוי לשונאו שלא ברצונו

but in the manner of one who unwillingly throws something over his shoulder to his enemy. This He does not out of His inner Will,

רק כדי להעניש את הרשעים וליתן שכר טוב לצדיקים דאכפיין לסטרא אחרא

but merely to punish the wicked who subjugate themselves to the kelipot, and derive their power from them, and to grant a rich reward to the righteous who subdue thesitra achra.

In order that there may be freedom of choice for one to be either righteous or wicked, the existence of the sitra achra is necessary, and for this reason G‑d gives it life.


1. Berachot 31b.
2. This teaching is based on the similarity betweend אחרים and אחוריים
3. This teaching is based on the similarity betweend פנים and פנימיות.
4. Devarim 12:31.

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