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As Divided for a Leap Year
Tanya for 6 Adar II
The meaning of this analogy comparing the light of the Shechinah to the light of a candle, "[is clear... to every intelligent person," as the Alter Rebbe will conclude shortly, after a closer examination of its details. Just as it is true of the candle's flame] that it does not shed light nor is it retained by the wick, without oil.
[By nature, fire strains upward; it will not remain below unless restrained by a wick or wood, for example. But a wick alone is rapidly consumed, and the fire vanishes quickly. Moreover, the burning wick produces a dim and smoky light, for it consists of material insufficiently refined to be completely absorbed by the flame. Oil, on the other hand, is completely transformed into the flame and absorbed by it; burning steadily, it produced a pure and clear light.
This is what is meant by the Alter Rebbe's statement that without oil "the flame of the candle (a) does not shed light, (b) nor is it retained by the wick."
Returning now to the point of the analogy]:
Similarly, the Shechinah does not rest upon man's body, which is compared to a wick, except through man's performing good deeds.
[The body can only act as a wick, not as oil. It is a coarse physical being which will not be absorbed within the light of the Shechinah, but will always remain separate from it. The good deeds that man performs provide the oil].
[It is evident from the Zohar], however, [that] one's soul, [although] a part of G-d above, is insufficient to serve as oil for the wick.
[A question is implied here. Why should the soul, itself divine, and thus certainly suited to being absorbed within the light of the Shechinah, require anything external (such as good deeds) to serve as oil for that light? Surely the soul itself should constitute the oil!
But the reason for this - the Alter Rebbe now concludes the sentence begun earlier with the words "The meaning of this analogy]" - is clear and understandable to every intelligent person.
[The Alter Rebbe will now proceed to explain why good deeds can serve as oil for the light of the Shechinah, whereas the divine soul cannot.
The explanation in brief:
Man's soul is not, after all, completely nullified before G-d and one with Him to the extent that it is capable of becoming absorbed within the G-dly light.
This is true even of the soul of the tzaddik, who serves G-d with the loftiest forms of love and fear.
Indeed, it is the soul's very love of G-d that emphasizes its separateness; for love entails two separate entities, the lover and the beloved. Similarly with fear: there is one who fears, and another who is feared.
Only "good deeds" - mitzvot, which (as the Alter Rebbe will explain further on) are completely one with G-d - can therefore serve as the oil which is absorbed within the flame of the light of the Shechinah that is kindled over man.
In the Alter Rebbe's words]:
For the soul of man, even if he be a perfect tzaddik who serves G-d with fear and "love of delights" [i.e., his love consists of delighting in the experience of G-dliness - a most lofty form of love], is nevertheless not utterly nullified out of existence, so that it might be dissolved into, and absorbed within G-d's light, to be merged with it in perfect unity.
It is, rather, a separate entity, which fears G-d and loves Him. [Since it is not absorbed within G-dliness as oil is absorbed within a flame, the soul cannot serve as oil for the light of the Shechinah.]
Not so with mitzvot and good deeds, which are G-d's Will - [each commandment representing G-d's desire that a particular act be performed].
Now, G-d's Will is the source of life for all the worlds and the creatures - [they live only because G-d so desired].
[The difference between the Divine Will expressed in mitzvot and that same Will as expressed in creation lies in the latter's [descending to them by means of many contractions (tzimtzumim), [and by] concealment of the "Countenance" [i.e., the internal aspect] of the Supernal Will, [with only the external, superficial, aspect of G-d's Will expressing itself in creation], and through a descent from level to level.
[All these steps were necessary] so that it would be possible for [the worlds and creatures] to come into being and to be created ex nihilo as separate entities, without becoming nullified out of existence, as mentioned above. 
Without the previously enumerated forms of concealment of G-dliness, all created beings would be so completely nullified before the Divine Will that created them, that they would have no independent identity.
Thus the Divine Will expressed in creation can come about only through its seeming contraction, occultation and descent].
The mitzvot, on the other hand, are the internal aspect of the Divine Will. There the "Countenance" is not hidden at all, [for, on the contrary, mitzvot are the underlying purpose (the "inner aspect of will") of creation in its entirety.
To illustrate by way of example:
One engages in business so that he will realize a profit, and thereby support his family. In all, he wants the business to prosper, wants the profits, and wants to provide for his family. Yet his true, inner will lies only in supporting his family. His desire for profit is merely incidental, "external" to this will, and his desire for business even more so.
So, too, with the Divine Will as expressed in creation and as expressed in the mitzvot. The desire for creation is an external will. It is generated by the inner (i.e., ultimate) desire that Jews observe the mitzvot - obviously an impossibility without a created world.
Because the mitzvot represent G-d's true, inner Will, and because in them there is no concealment of this Will (unlike the case in creation), therefore] the [G-dly] life-force within them is by no means a separate entity, but is united with and contained within G-d's Will, and they [the mitzvot] are truly joined in perfect unity [with G-d's Will.
It is thus clear why (in the above-mentioned metaphor) the mitzvot can serve as oil for the light of the Shechinah:
for they are truly absorbed within and transformed into the light of the Divine Will just as oil is absorbed within a flame.
(The Alter Rebbe will arrive at this conclusion, after a preliminary discussion on what the Zohar means when it says that the light of the Shechinah "rests" on man. This exposition now follows:)]
The "resting" of the Shechinah means [i.e., when we single out a specific object from a world filled with the Shechinah, by saying that the Divine Presence "rests" upon that object, its uniqueness lies in] the revelation of G-dliness and the Ein Sof-light in that particular object.
This means to say that this object is comprised within G-d's light and is nullified out of existence toward Him [i.e., it has no separate identity]; for [only] then can the One G-d rest upon it [upon that object] and reveal Himself in it.
But anything not completely nullified out of existence toward [the G-dly light] cannot have G-d's light rest and reveal itself within it.
Even a perfect tzaddik, who cleaves to Him with "abundant love" - [a most lofty level of love and attachment to G-d; yet even in the case of such a tzaddik] "no thought can truly grasp Him at all]."
For the true implication of [the phrase] "G-d is the true L-rd," is His Unity and Oneness, that He alone exists and there is absolutely nothing besides Him.
[As explained in chapter 20, the statement "G-d is one" means (not only that He is the sole G-d, but also) that He is the only being that truly exists. All else is totally nullified before Him].
If so, this person [i.e., the above-mentioned tzaddik] who loves [G-d] and who is a [separate] "being" [in his own self-perception (as is evident from the very fact that he loves G-d)], rather than a "nonentity", no thought of his can grasp Him at all.
[Even the tzaddik cannot grasp G-d and thereby become one with Him through the faculties of his own soul]; therefore G-d's light does not abide or manifest itself in him except through the fulfillment of the mitzvot, which constitute His actual Will and Wisdom, without any "concealment of Countenance." *
[Since the inner aspect of the Divine Will stands revealed only in the mitzvot, it is only by means of them that the light of the Shechinah rests upon man; not through spiritual devotion alone].
* NOTE[The Alter Rebbe now returns to our subject of the light of the Shechinah which rests upon man only through the mitzvot (which alone can serve as oil for this light).
[Concerning his aforementioned statement that the Ein Sof-light reveals itself only within that which is totally nullified before G-d and absorbed within Him, the Alter Rebbe notes]:
This accords with what I heard from my teacher (the Maggid of Mezritch), peace upon him, on the meaning of and the reason behind the statement of the Etz Chayim that the Ein Sof-light does not unite itself even with the World of Atzilut (Emanation) except by first vesting itself in the attribute of Chochmah (Wisdom).
[The Maggid (a) explained the meaning of the Ein Sof's vesting itself in Chochmah; (b) provided the reason that it does not unite with Atzilut except by way of Chochmah].
This is because the Ein Sof is "the true One"; which means that He alone exists, and there is naught besides Him; and this, in fact, is the level of Chochmah.
[The attribute of Chochmah represents the perception of G-dliness as the sole existing being. This, then, is the meaning of the Ein Sof's "clothing" itself in the attribute of Chochmah: The revelation of Ein Sof as "One alone, with naught besides Him." And for this reason the Ein Sof does not unite with any world or level except by way of Chochmah; for, as stated above, G-d abides ("may be united with") only where there is no sense of self or separation from Him, only in that which is pervaded with the spirit of "He alone... and naught besides him"; and this spirit constitutes the attribute of Chochmah, as stated].
[This note expresses a profound chassidic concept; after further study of the Tanya, we will understand it more clearly].
END OF NOTE
He points out that the effect of this light upon the person performing a mitzvah, varies from one category of mitzvot to another.
Those mitzvot performed in one's thought and speech, cause the light of the Shechinah to rest upon the divine soul alone. Drawing this light upon the body and upon the animal soul requires the performance of mitzvot which involve action, where one harnesses the power of the animal, life-giving soul.  In the Alter Rebbe's words]:
When a person studies Torah, [using his powers of thought and speech], his Neshamah, his divine soul with its two inner "garments" only, viz., the faculties of speech and thought - are absorbed within the light of G-d the Ein Sof, blessed be He, and are merged within it in perfect unity.
[Thought is obviously an internal "garment", as it is connected to the soul itself. This is why thought functions ceaselessly; it is closely bound to the soul, and the soul's presence is constant. Speech too is internal, when compared with action, which acts upon objects outside the soul].
This constitutes the "resting of the Shechinah" on his divine soul; as our Sages have said:  "When even one person applies himself diligently to Torah study, the Shechinah is with him," [meaning, in this case, that the Shechinah rests upon his divine soul, and upon its faculties of thought and speech which are engaged in the mental and oral study of the Torah].
However, in order to draw the light and radiation of the Shechinah upon his body and animal soul as well, i.e., upon the vitalizing soul actually clothed in the body [and providing for it a corporeal life- force], one must fulfill the practical mitzvot [i.e., commandments involving the faculty of action], which are performed with the body itself.
In this way the actual power of the body engaged in this act [e.g., when one dons Tefillin, it is the physical strength in his arm that impels the motions that constitute the fulfillment of the mitzvah; and therefore this bodily power] is absorbed in the Divine light and Will, and merges with it in perfect unity.
This [power of the body] constitutes the third garment of the divine soul. [As mentioned in chapter 4, the divine soul expresses itself in the faculty of action through performing the mitzvot].
[When the faculty of action is absorbed within the Divine Will then] in addition the power of the vitalizing soul actually clothed within the body, [the power of that soul] derived from kelipat nogah, is transformed from evil to good, and is actually absorbed into holiness exactly like the divine soul.
For it is the [power of the animal soul] that implements and performs the act that constitutes the mitzvah.
[True, the divine soul is the force motivating one's observance of a mitzvah, yet the divine soul cannot directly activate the body to perform a physical action; to don the Tefillin, for example. It can accomplish this only through the agency of the animal soul, which serves as a medium between the divine soul and the body. In the Alter Rebbe's words]:
For without this [power of the animal soul] the divine soul would not affect the body at all, since it is spiritual and the body physical and corporeal, [so that body and divine soul are antithetical, as are the spiritual and material dimensions generally].
The intermediary between them is the vitalizing animal soul clothed in man's blood, which is in his heart and throughout his body.
[For the nature of the animal soul is such that the coarsest, most material-like level of its spiritual substance is capable of clothing itself within the blood.
Since the animal soul is the divine soul's medium of affecting the body, its active power is also absorbed into holiness when one performs a mitzvah].
Although the substance and essence of the animal soul, in his heart, i.e., its evil middot [its evil emotional character], have still not been absorbed into holiness;
[As explained in chapter 12, only in the case of tzaddikim are the evil middot themselves transformed into holiness. In others, only the animal soul's garments - its faculties of expression by means of which a mitzvah is accomplished - are absorbed into holiness; not the middot which constitute the animal soul's essence. Nevertheless, this fact does not prevent the light of the Shechinah from suffusing the entire body, as the Alter Rebbe concludes shortly].
Yet, because they [the evil middot] are subjugated to holiness and "against their will they say Amen," agreeing and acceding to the performance of the mitzvah, through the strengthening of the divine soul in the brain which masters the heart;
[As discussed in chapter 12, although the emotions of the Beinoni have not been transformed into good, he nevertheless has the power to control them by means of his mind, through contemplating G-d's greatness.
In this way the Beinoni can direct his heart as he chooses, insofar as the actual performance of the mitzvot is concerned].
And [the evil middot] are, at such time [when one exercises the natural mastery of brain over heart by contemplating G-d's greatness], in a state of "exile" and "sleep" [i.e., impotent] as mentioned above [in chapter 12], therefore this [incorrigible nature of the animal soul's evil middot] does not prevent the Shechinah from resting on one's body at this time.
[The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain how it is possible for one mitzvah to draw the Shechinah upon one's entire body].
This "[resting of the Shechinah]" means that the power of the animal soul clothed in the act that constitutes the mitzvah [e.g., the power in the hand donning Tefillin] is actually absorbed into the divine light, and merges with it in perfect unity.
Thereby one draws down a "ray" [of the light wherein the particular power has been absorbed] upon the totality of the animal soul throughout the body, and [upon] the entire body as well.
[This "ray" of divine light illuminates one's animal soul and his body] in a manner of "encompassing from above," [surrounding them from head to foot].
This explains the expression [appearing in the passage from the Zohar quoted at the beginning of this chapter]: "The Shechinah rests upon his head,"  specifically "upon" [i.e., encompassing him "from above']; and [in a similar vein], the expression "upon EVERY [assembly of] ten [Jews] the Divine Presence rests" [means that the light of the Divine Presence does not permeate them, but illuminates them "from above.]" 
[Heretofore, various levels in the "resting of the Shechinah" have been discussed:
As it rests upon the divine soul; upon the specific faculty of the animal soul that performs a mitzvah;  upon the animal soul as a whole and upon the body -
the latter two only encompassed by, but not permeated with, the light of the Shechinah.
As to the light of the Shechinah encompassing the body, within this level we find further subdivisions:
that level which is the effect of a mitzvah;
that which encompasses any gathering of ten Jews, even when not engaged in a mitzvah;
and perhaps we may distinguish yet another level -
that which rests upon even one individual Jew, even when he is not occupied with a mitzvah.
The Alter Rebbe now goes on to state that this variety of levels at which the Shechinah becomes manifest does not indicate any change or plurality in its light (G-d forbid). The variety means merely that the different objects of the light (the divine soul, the animal soul, the body, and so on) receive it in different ways.
In the Alter Rebbe's words]:
None of these various forms in which the light of the Shechinah is manifested, meaning the ways in which the Ein Sof-light is revealed, can be construed as a change in Himself, or as a plurality.
[G-d the Ein Sof is everywhere; it is only that He is concealed from His creatures. Thus, the uniqueness of the manifestation of the Shechinah lies in the revelation of the Ein Sof.
The fact that the Shechinah manifests itself at some point (e.g., in one's soul, through the performance of a mitzvah), whereas it had previously not been manifest, does not point to any change in G-d; nor do the various forms of manifestation indicate plurality within Him].
As we find in the Tractate Sanhedrin  [where it is recorded] that a certain heretic said to Rabban Gamliel: "You say that the Shechinah rests on every assembly of ten. How many Shechinahs have you?"
And Rabban Gamliel replied with an analogy of the sun's light which enters through many windows, etc.
[Despite the multitude of windows, there is but one light.
The same holds holds true even where the light appears differently from place to place: sunlight shining through stained-glass windows of various hues remains nonetheless unchanged, though it takes on the multicolored appearance of the windows; as does also water in a colored glass - once removed from the glass, it appears in its pristine clarity.
So too with the various modes in which the light of the Shechinah is manifested:
The light remains the same, without change or division; any differences in manifestation are attributable only to the way the light is received by the object in which it is manifest].
And the intelligent will understand - [and, as chassidim would add, "The devout will perceive."
- (Back to text) Chapters 21, 22.
- (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita notes: "See below, chapter 37; cf. commentary of Rabbi Korf."
- (Back to text) Berachot 6a.
- (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita notes: "From the fact that the prohibition of walking bareheaded (mentioned in the Zohar) is constant, applying even when one is not engaged in the performance of a mitzvah, it is evident that the reason for the prohibition - that the Shechinah rests on his head - is also constant. Since the Shechinah rests upon the individual constantly, independently of his performance of a mitzvah, the meaning of the Tanya here requires further study."
- (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita notes: "This, too, is unrelated to the performance of a mitzvah. (Accordingly, we can begin to understand how this [quotation] is relevant here.)"
The explanation of the Rebbe's comment is as follows: At first glance, the statement, "On every [assembly of] ten [Jews] the Divine Presence rests," seems to be totally unrelated to the subject under discussion. Our text is speaking of the light that encompasses the person from above, and descends upon him through the performance of a mitzvah. How is this related to the Shechinah's resting upon any assembly of ten Jews, even when they are not performing a mitzvah?
Quite the contrary, answers the Rebbe; this question in itself begins to provide an answer:
The Alter Rebbe seeks to emphasize that an illumination of the Shechinah encompasses the entire vivifying soul and the entire body ("from head to foot"), not only that organ of the body or the particular faculty of the animal soul that actually performs the mitzvah. He therefore quotes the saying of our Sages which speaks of "every assembly": even when the assembled are at that moment not performing a commandment, the Shechinah nevertheless rests upon them - in an encompassing fashion at least.
- (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita takes issue with this statement, because the Alter Rebbe states that "[the vital spirit as garbed in the physical body] is absorbed in the Divine light, and furthermore `it is truly absorbed.'"
- (Back to text) 39a.
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