Ch. 30, Class # 2


Middle of Chapter 30

והנה באמת היא מלחמה גדולה ועצומה לשבור היצר הבוער כאש להבה, מפני פחד ה׳, וכמו נסיון ממש

Truly, it is a great, fierce struggle to break one’s [evil] nature which burns like a fiery flame, for the fear of G‑d; indeed, it is like a veritable test.

והלכך צריך כל אדם לפי מה שהוא מקומו ומדרגתו בעבודת ה׳ לשקול ולבחון בעצמו

Therefore, every man ought to weigh and examine his own position, according to the standards of his place and rank in divine service,

אם הוא עובד ה׳ בערך ובחינת מלחמה עצומה כזו ונסיון כזה

as to whether he serves G‑d in a situation requiring a comparable struggle in a manner commensurate with the dimensions of such a fierce battle and test as the kal shebekalim faces.

For even the most dispassionate and cloistered of men must often engage in battle with his evil inclination, both in the area of6 “doing good” and in that of “turning away from evil,” as the Alter Rebbe goes on to illustrate.

בבחינת ועשה טוב, כגון בעבודת התפלה בכוונה, לשפוך נפשו לפני ה׳ בכל כחו ממש

In the realm of “do good” — in the service of prayer with kavanah (devotion), for example, he must battle his evil inclination daily, in order to pour out his soul before G‑d with his entire strength,

עד מיצוי הנפש

to the extent of “wringing out” his soul,7 i.e., exhausting all of his intellectual and emotional power in his devotion.

ולהלחם עם גופו ונפש הבהמית שבו המונעים הכוונה במלחמה עצומה, ולבטשם ולכתתם כעפר קודם התפלה שחרית וערבית מדי יום ביום

This battle must be waged both before (i.e., preparatory to) and also during prayer, as follows:He must wage a great and intense war against his body and the animal soul within it which impede his devotion, crushing and grinding them like dust every single day, before the morning and evening prayers.

וגם בשעת התפלה, לייגע עצמו ביגיעת נפש ויגיעת בשר, כמו שכתוב לקמן באריכות

Also during prayer he must exert himself with an exertion of the spirit, so that his spirit should not grow weary of lengthy contemplation on the greatness of G‑d, and an exertion of the body to remove the hindrances to devotion imposed by the body, as will be explained further at length.8

וכל שלא הגיע לידי מדה זו להלחם עם גופו מלחמה עצומה כזו

Anyone who has not attained this standard of waging such a strenuous war against his body,

עדיין לא הגיע לבחינת וערך מלחמת היצר הבוער כאש להבה

has not yet measured up to the quality and dimension of the war waged daily within the kal shebekalim against the evil nature which burns like a fiery flame,

להיות נכנע ונשבר מפני פחד ה׳

so that it (this powerful evil impulse) be humbled and broken through the fear of G‑d.

This, then, is the standard by which everyone must judge himself: Does he battle against his evil impulse (during prayer, and similarly in the other areas of divine service that the Alter Rebbe will soon discuss), as intensely as the kal shebekalim must battle against his?

וכן בענין ברכת המזון וכל ברכות הנהנין והמצות בכונה

So, too, with one’s kavanah in the Grace after Meals and in the benedictions, whether those said prior to eating, or those recited before performing amitzvah, all of which requires a battle with one’s evil impulse;

ואין צורך לומר כונת המצות לשמן

not to mention one’s intention in performing a mitzvah — that it be done (solely) for the sake of a mitzvah, i.e., for G‑d’s sake; this requires a still greater effort, and in this one will surely find himself wanting.

וכן בענין עסק לימוד התורה, ללמוד הרבה יותר מחפצו ורצונו לפי טבעו ורגילותו על ידי מלחמה עצומה עם גופו

Similarly with regard to the battle required in the matter of one’s occupation in Torah study, one must struggle to study far more than what is demanded by his innate or accustomed desire, by means of a mighty battle with his body.

When one studies Torah only as much as his natural inclination or habituated diligence dictates, he requires no effort or struggle at all. But in order to match the struggle of the kal shebekalim one must study far, far more than he would by nature or habit, as the Alter Rebbe continues:

כי הלומד מעט יותר מטבעו הרי זו מלחמה קטנה, ואין לה ערך ודמיון עם מלחמת היצר הבוער כאש

For to study a fraction more than is one’s wont entails but a minor tussle. It neither parallels nor bears comparison with the war of the kal shebekalim against his evil impulse which burns like fire,

דמקרי רשע גמור אם אינו מנצח יצרו, להיות נכנע ונשבר מפני ה׳

for which he is nonetheless called utterly wicked (rasha gamur), if he does not conquer his impulse so that it be subdued and crushed before G‑d.

Similarly, unless one struggles with his evil impulse to study much more than his nature or habit demands, he is no less wicked than the kal shebekalim.

But one may object to this reasoning. How, one may say, can I in all honesty compare my shortcomings to those of the kal shebekalim? I am lacking merely in the quality of the good that I do, whilst he actually and actively violates prohibitions enumerated in the Torah. To this the Alter Rebbe counters:

ומה לי בחינת סור מרע ומה לי בחינת ועשה טוב

What difference is there between the category of “turn away from evil” — in which the kal shebekalim fails, by active violation, and the category of “do good” — in which he fails, by neglecting to exert himself in prayer, Torah study and the like?

To be sure, there are differences between the two categories. Each has its own unique spiritual effects, its own specific intentions. But these differences pertain only to the person performing the mitzvah. The essential point in amitzvah, however, is that it is an expression of the Will of the Only and Unique G‑d, and in this there is no difference whatsoever between the two categories, as the Alter Rebbe continues.

הכל היא מצות המלך הקדוש, יחיד ומיוחד, ברוך הוא

Both are the commandments of the Holy King, the Only and Unique One, blessed be He.

The failings of the observant individual in the quality of his prayer, Torah study, and so on, are therefore comparable to the transgressions of the kal shebekalim.

וכן בשאר מצות, ובפרט בדבר שבממון

So, too, with other commandments requiring a struggle, one may find that he does not wage war adequately against his evil impulse, especially in matters involving money,

כמו עבודת הצדקה, וכהאי גוונא

such as the service (“labor”) of charity, i.e., giving charity in a manner involving “labor” — far more than in his wont, and the like.

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FOOTNOTES
6. Tehillim 34:15.
7. Sifrei on Devarim 6:5.
8. Ch. 42.
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