Weekly Tanya lecture: Chap. 37, class 3

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HaRav Shneur Zalman Miliadi,

Rav Shneur Zalman Miliady
Rav Shneur Zalman Miliady
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Up till here, the Alter Rebbe has spoken of the effect of a mitzvah on the power of one’s animal soul used in performing it. He now states that not only does one’s animal soul ascend from kelipat nogah to holiness when he performs a mitzvah, but also all the food and drink that sustained one and gave him the strength to perform the mitzvah, are likewise elevated from the dominion of kelipat nogah.

Based on this idea, the Alter Rebbe explains how the vitality of all physical objects of this world — which currently draw their vitality from kelipat nogah — will be elevated to the realm of holiness.

Every Jewish soul is given the ability and responsibility to elevate a portion of this physical world which “belongs” to it. This elevation is accomplished by means of the 613 mitzvot, as mentioned. There are, however, two categories in mitzvot: the 248 positive commandments and the 365 prohibitive commandments. Similarly, the elevating effect of mitzvot on physical matter takes two forms: one positive and the other negative (i.e., restrictive).

To explain these two aspects of elevation accomplished by the two categories ofmitzvot, the Alter Rebbe uses for each category an analogy drawn from the human body. The 248 positive commandments correspond to the body’s 248 limbs; and, indeed, the function of these mitzvot resembles that of the limbs. Every organ of the body is a vehicle for a particular faculty of the soul, and brings that faculty into active expression. Similarly, every (positive) mitzvah is a vehicle for the expression of a particular aspect of Divine Will, and brings about a G‑dly revelation.

The prohibitive commandments, numbering 365, correspond to the 365 blood vessels of the body; their function, too, is like that of the blood vessels. The blood vessel acts as a conduit, channeling blood in the right direction so that it will not be randomly, wastefully dispersed through the body. Similarly, the prohibitive commandments prevent the life-force of holiness from being funneled off into the kelipot, thereby increasing their power; they channel the life-force toward deserving recipients.

When all the souls of Israel, representing the vitality of all physical matter, fulfill all the commandments — drawing down G‑d’s light by performing the positive mitzvot,and confining it to the realm of holiness by observing the prohibitive mitzvot — they elevate the vitality of the entire world from kelipat nogah to holiness.

This, in summary, is the subject of the following discussion.

זאת ועוד אחרת

An additional [virtue] in mitzvot involving action (aside from their function in elevating one’s animal soul, mentioned above):

שכח נפש החיונית המתלבש באותיות הדבור בתלמוד תורה או תפלה וכיוצא בהן או מצות מעשיות

the vitalizing soul’s energy clothed in the utterance of letters of one’s speech in Torah study, prayer or the like, or the energy clothed in the performance of mitzvot involving action

הרי כל גידולו וחיותו מהדם, שמקליפת נוגה ממש

derives its entire growth and vitality from the blood, which is of kelipat nogah itself,

שהן כל אוכלין ומשקין שאכל ושתה, ונעשו דם

meaning all the food and drink that one has eaten and drunk, and which have become blood.

שהיו תחת ממשלתה, וינקו חיותם ממנה

These were under the dominion of kelipat nogah and drew their vitality from it.

ועתה היא מתהפכת מרע לטוב ונכללת בקדושה, על ידי כח נפש החיונית הגדל ממנה, שנתלבש באותיות אלה או בעשיה זו, אשר הן הן פנימיות רצונו יתברך בלי שום הסתר פנים

Now that the person performs a mitzvah with the energy derived from this food and drink this kelipah is transformed from evil to good and is absorbed into holiness, by means of the energy of the animal soul that grows from it (i.e., the energy nourished by those objects that derive their vitality from this kelipah), which has now clothed itself in these letters of Torah and prayer or in the performance of this mitzvah, which actually constitute the unveiled expression of the inner aspect of G‑d’s Will.

וחיותן נכלל גם כן באור אין סוף ברוך הוא, שהוא רצונו יתברך

For their vitality (the vitality expended in performing mitzvot) is also absorbed (like the mitzvot themselves) into the blessed Ein Sof-light, which is His Will as expressed in mitzvot,

ובחיותן נכלל ועולה גם כן כח נפש החיונית

and with their vitality the energy of the animal soul is likewise elevated and absorbed into the Ein Sof-light; and since the energy necessary for performing mitzvot was supplied by food and drink, the vitality of the food and drink is likewise absorbed in the Ein Sof-light, together with the mitzvahwhose performance it made possible.

ועל ידי זה תעלה גם כן כללות קליפת נוגה, שהיא כללות החיות של עולם הזה הגשמי והחומרי

Thereby, all of kelipat nogah, which constitutes the vitality of this physical and corporeal world as a whole, will ascend as well. When will this come about?

כאשר כל הנשמה ונפש האלקית שבכל ישראל, המתחלקת בפרטות לששים רבוא, תקיים כל נפש פרטית כל תרי׳׳ג מצות התורה

When the whole neshamah, the divine soul4 in all of Israel, which is divided into 600,000 particular offshoots (the standard figure for the members of the Jewish nation, all individual souls being further subdivisions of these 600,000 “general” souls, as will be explained further) will fulfill, each individual soul thereof, the 613 mitzvot of the Torah:

___________

FOOTNOTES    

4.  The Rebbe asks the following question: We are speaking here of the vital soul’s energy which is clothed in the letters of Torah study, prayer, and the performance of divine commandments. This energy comes from the person’s food and drink, which is under the dominion of kelipat nogah.And it is through the vitalizing soul that the life-force of kelipat nogah is transformed and absorbed into holiness. Moreover, the Alter Rebbe is now about to explain more specifically how the vitalizing soul (and through it the general vitality of this world) is united with G‑d’s Will and infinite light through the performance of both the positive and prohibitive commands of the Torah.

This being so, why does the Alter Rebbe interpolate the phrase, “When the whole neshamah, the divine soul in all of Israel,” when we are in reality speaking of the vitalizing soul?

The Rebbe says that the answer may possibly lie in the fact that a certain number of the 613 commandments are carried out through a person’s thought processes. The effect of the vitalizing soul, however, is felt mostly in those matters that relate to speech and action, inasmuch as the vitalizing soul is bound up with the corporeal limbs and organs. These are utilized for those commandments that are performed through action or speech. Conversely, the commandments performed through the person’s thought are for the most part carried out by the divine soul without the intermediacy of the vitalizing soul. The term “divine soul” is therefore used here, for the ultimate source of power that enables a person to perform all the commandments is the divine soul.






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