HaRav Shneur Zalman MiliadiRav Shneur Zalman (September 4, 1745 – December 15, 1812) of Liadi, was the founder of Chabad hassidism and the author of many works, among them Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Tanya and the Siiddur Torah Or . Chabad became a worldwide Jewish spiritual outreach movement.
In ch. 31, the Alter Rebbe discussed various means of arousing joy to counteract the sadness brought on by contemplation of one’s spiritual failings. Ch. 33 resumes this discussion.
עוד זאת תהיה שמחת הנפש האמיתית, ובפרט כשרואה בנפשו בעתים מזומנים שצריך לזככה ולהאירה בשמחת לבב
Yet another means of leading one’s soul to true joy, especially at those specific times when one finds it necessary to purify his soul and illuminate it with a gladness of heart:
אזי יעמיק מחשבתו ויצייר בשכלו ובינתו ענין יחודו יתברך האמיתי
Let him then think deeply and picture in his intellect and understanding the subject of G‑d’s true unity.
True unity means not only that there is but one G‑d, one Creator, but that furthermore, G‑d is the only existing being — nothing truly exists outside of Him, as will be explained further.
איך הוא ממלא כל עלמין עליונים ותחתונים
Let him consider how He permeates all worlds, both upper and lower.
Just as the soul pervades the body, thereby animating it, so does G‑d permeate all the worlds. This indwelling refers to the divine life-force which adapts itself to each individual creation’s capacity to receive it, and for this reason the Alter Rebbedistinguishes here between the “upper worlds” and “lower worlds”: in the “upper (more spiritual) worlds” the revelation of this life-force is greater, since their capacity is greater.
ואפילו מלא כל הארץ הלזו הוא כבודו יתברך
Let him further consider how even this world is filled with His glory —
This refers to the divine life-force which “encompasses” all worlds, and which animates them as if “from above,” without adapting itself to the particular nature of each created being, so that even this physical world is “filled with His glory”1 —
וכולא קמיה כלא חשיב ממש
and how everything is of no reality whatever in His presence.
והוא לבדו הוא בעליונים ותחתונים ממש כמו שהיה לבדו קודם ששת ימי בראשית, וגם במקום הזה שנברא בו עולם הזה, השמים והארץ וכל צבאם, היה הוא לבדו ממלא המקום הזה
He is One alone in the upper and lower realms, just as He was alone prior to the six days of Creation, when nothing existed apart from G‑d; so too now, when all the worlds have come into being, He is still One alone since all of creation is naught before Him, as will be explained further. Even in the very place where this world — the heaven, the earth and all their host — was created, He alone then filled this space.
וגם עתה כן הוא לבדו בלי שום שינוי כלל, מפני שכל הנבראים בטלים אצלו במציאות ממש
The same is true now; He is One alone, without any change whatever. For in relation to Him, the very existence of all created beings is utterly nullified — so that from His perspective, as it were, everything remains just as it was prior to creation.
The Alter Rebbe here introduces an analogy which traces the early evolution of an idea or a desire from the moment that it first occurs in one’s mind and heart. At that stage the idea or desire is formless, not yet having the shape or form of words. It is pure desire, pure idea. The desire of an English-speaking person, for example, feels no different from that of a Hebrew speaker.
It is only when it reaches the stage of applied, or practical thought, that the idea or desire takes on the form of what are called “letters of thought,” which may later be expressed in speech.
Now, the “letters” of thought and speech are, of course, seminally contained in the original idea or desire — it is only that at that point their existence is completely nullified; it is as though these “letters” were non-existent; only the idea or desire is felt.
Stated in the terms which the Alter Rebbe employs, the idea and desire are described as part of the “ten soul-powers,” of which three (ChaBaD) belong to the intellect, and seven (the middot) comprise one’s emotional range. These ten faculties are the “source and root” of thought and speech, for one thinks and speaks of that which he understands or feels. These faculties are called the “substance and essence of the soul,” in comparison with thought and speech which are merely the soul’s “garments,” i.e., its modes of external expression.
To relate the analogy to the point under discussion: Every created being derives its existence and life from Divine “speech”, i.e., the “letters” of G‑d’s command that created it. Since nothing is “outside” G‑d, this creative “speech” and the beings created thereby are contained within G‑d, in the same way as the words one speaks were previously contained within the desire of the heart. All of creation is therefore nullified before G‑d, just as the “letters” of speech are nullified within the idea or desire which is their source, where only the desire is felt, not the “letters.”
1. This interpretation follows Kitzur Tanya by Rabbi M.M. Schneerson of Lubavitch (author of Tzemach Tzedek).