Likutei Amarim Chapter 31, Class # 2

Continuation of chapter 31

ולכן כתב האר״י ז״ל שאפילו דאגת העונות אינה ראויה כי אם בשעת הוידוי

3For this reason the AriZal writes that even worry over one’s sins is appropriate only during confession,

ולא בשעת התפלה ותלמוד תורה, שצריכים להיות בשמחה שמצד הקדושה דווקא

but not during prayer and Torah study. These must be conducted with a joy deriving exclusively from the realm of holiness, as opposed to frivolity and the like.)

Why then should one strive to crush the spirit of sitra achra with methods that lead to depression, which itself stems from the sitra achra of nogah


אף על פי כן, הרי כך היא המדה, לאכפיא לסטרא אחרא במינה ודוגמתה

Yet, this is precisely the method of humbling the sitra achra — through something of its own species and kind; i.e., the sitra achra is most effectively attacked by utilizing the good contained within it as a weapon against itself.

כמאמר רז״ל: מיניה וביה אבא לשדיה ביה נרגא, ופגע בו כיוצא בו

As our Sages expressed it: 4 “From the forest itself comes [the handle for] the ax [which fells the forest]”; and in a similar vein, 5 “He encountered one of his own kind.”

ועל זה נאמר: בכל עצב יהיה מותר, והיתרון היא השמחה הבאה אחרי העצב, כדלקמן

Of this sadness resulting from contemplation of one’s spiritual state it is written, 6 “In every sadness there will be profit.” The profit lies in the joy which follows the sadness, as will be explained later — i.e., in what way the sadness itself leads to joy.

אך באמת אין לב נשבר ומרירות הנפש על ריחוקה מאור פני ה׳ והתלבשותה בסטרא אחרא נקראים בשם עצבות כלל בלשון הקודש

In truth, however, the state of being contrite of heart and bitter of soul i.e., remorseful over one’s remoteness from G‑d, and over the fact that one’s soul is clothed in the sitra achra, — this state can by no means be described in the Holy Tongue (Hebrew) by the term “atzvut”.

The word atzvut, meaning “melancholy”, stems from a root which means “constricted”. In this context, it refers to a numbing depression that constricts one’s heart, blocking out all feeling, as the Alter Rebbe continues:

כי עצבות היא שלבו מטומטם כאבן ואין חיות בלבו

For “atzvut” means that one’s heart is as dull as a stone, and that there is no vitality — arousal of feeling — in his heart.

אבל מרירות ולב נשבר, אדרבה, הרי יש חיות בלבו להתפעל ולהתמרמר

But “bitterness” (merirut) and contrition are just the opposite, since the very fact that one is moved to be embittered is itself a sign of life,

רק שהיא חיות מבחינת גבורות קדושות, והשמחה מבחינת חסדים,כי הלב כלול משתיהן,

except that this vitality derives from the holy attributes of severity (gevurot) and it therefore expresses itself as bitterness, whereas joy derives from the holy attributes of kindness (chasadim), for the heart contains both these attributes — kindness and severity.

At any rate, we see that the dejection accompanying one’s disappointment with his spiritual situation stems from the realm of holiness, unlike atzvut, which derives from kelipat nogah. 7



3. Parentheses are in the original text.
4. Cf. Sanhedrin 39b.
5. Shabbat 121b.
6 Mishlei 14:23.
7. Now that the Alter Rebbe has established that sadness arising from one’s spiritual stocktaking is not atzvut (depression) but merirut (bitterness), several difficulties arise: (1) Earlier, the Alter Rebbe stated that one ought not be perturbed by such sadness, even though it is in fact atzvut(which stems from the sitra achra), because “this is precisely the method for humbling the sitra achra - through something of its own kind…” Why the need to justify atzvut if this sadness is notatzvut at all, but merirut.” (2) Several lines further, the Alter Rebbe states that the opportune time for dwelling on one’s failings is when one is in any case depressed over some material concern; the depression that such contemplation arouses will rid him of his materially-inspired depression. But the Alter Rebbe has just pointed out that this is not depression at all; how, then, does this dispel any other depression?

A possible explanation:

When one dwells on his spiritual failings, and concludes that he is indeed worse than the kal shebekalim, his first reaction will be despondency; he will feel utterly worthless and disgraced in his own eyes. In this state, there is no stirring of feeling, no vitality; it is, indeed, classic atzvut. But if this stocktaking was undertaken in its proper spirit, the despondency will last only momentarily. Immediately after sinking into depression the individual will feel the stirrings of bitterness, of anger at his having allowed himself to fall so low; he will begin to seek means of extricating himself from this sorry state. It is with regard to the momentary atzvut that the Alter Rebbe advises one not to be perturbed, since his atzvut is an effective weapon against the sitra achra. Regarding the bitterness and anger that follow it, the Alter Rebbe states that they are not atzvut at all, inasmuch as they are alive and active. Likewise, when the Alter Rebbe states that depression over one’s spiritual failings is effective in ridding one of depression due to other causes, he again refers to the aforementioned temporary depression which immediately follows one’s spiritual stocktaking. (- From a comment by the Rebbe.)

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