Weekly Tanya lecture: Chap. 39, class 6

Tanya study will put you on the road to a healhy spiritual lilfe.

HaRav Shneur Zalman Miliadi,

Rav Shneur Zalman Miliady
Rav Shneur Zalman Miliady


The Alter Rebbe now proceeds to amplify his previous statement.

והיינו אפילו אם אינו עוסק שלא לשמה ממש לשום איזו פניה, חס ושלום

This inability of one’s divine service to ascend to the Sefirot applies not only where one’s motive for engaging in Torah and mitzvot is actually shelo lishmah (“not for its own sake”), i.e., for some ulterior motive, heaven forbid, in which case one is actually serving himself, not G‑d, and his service surely cannot ascend “to stand before G‑d.”

אלא כמו שכתוב: ותהי יראתם אותי מצות אנשים מלומדה

It also applies even if, as the verse describes it,11 “Their fear of Me was like commandments of men done by rote,”

פירוש: מחמת הרגל שהורגל מקטנותו

meaning [that one serves G‑d] out of a habit acquired in his youth,12

שהרגילו ולימדו אביו ורבו לירא את ה׳ ולעבדו

having been trained and taught by his father and teacher to fear G‑d and to serve Him,

ואינו עוסק לשמה ממש

but he does not really do it for its own sake [lishmah].

כי לשמה ממש אי אפשר בלא התעוררות דחילו ורחימו הטבעיים, על כל פנים

For it is impossible to serve G‑d truly lishmah without arousing one’s natural fear and love, at least,

להוציאן מהסתר הלב אל הגילוי במוח ותעלומות לבו, על כל פנים

by bringing them out from the concealment of the heart into revelation, at least in the mind and the latency of the heart.

If one cannot arouse his natural love of G‑d to the point where it is actually felt in the heart, he must try, as discussed above, to arouse it at least so that it be felt in the conscious mind and in the substratum of the heart. Even this low-level arousal can produce a will and resolve to study the Torah and fulfill the mitzvot. Thus, the resulting divine service contains (at least to some degree) the force and kavanah of his natural love, since it was this love that created the resolve which he is now implementing.

If, however, one does not produce even this minimal level of arousal, the love, although naturally found in his heart, has no bearing on his divine service, and he cannot, therefore, do this service lishmah (“for its own sake”).

כי כמו שאין אדם עושה דבר בשביל חבירו למלאת רצונו, אלא אם כן אוהבו או ירא ממנו

For just as one does not do something for his fellow, to carry out his [friend’s] will, unless he loves him or fears him,

כך אי אפשר לעשות לשמו יתברך באמת למלאת רצונו לבד

so, too, is it impossible to act truly for G‑d’s sake, solely in order to carry out His Will,

בלי זכרון והתעוררות אהבתו ויראתו כלל, במוחו ומחשבתו ותעלומות לבו על כל פנים

unless he remembers and arouses his love and fear of G‑d to some degree — in his mind, thought and the latent level of his heart, at least, if he cannot arouse these emotions openly in his heart.

One who observes the mitzvot out of habit, however, lacking even this minimal arousal of love, cannot be described as serving G‑d for His sake even though his performance is impelled by no ulterior motive.

וגם אהבה לבדה אינה נקראת בשם עבודה בלי יראה תתאה לפחות, שהיא מסותרת בלב כל ישראל, כמו שיתבאר לקמן

Furthermore, [the arousal of] love alone, without [the arousal of] at least the lower-level fear of G‑d hidden in every Jewish heart, is not called “service”, as will be explained later.

Divine “service” connotes the relationship of a servant to his master, whom he serves chiefly out of fear, unlike a child, who carries out his father’s wishes mainly because he loves him. When one performs a mitzvah out of the love of G‑d alone, without fear of Him, he is indeed acting for G‑d’s sake — but he is not serving Him.

וכשעוסק שלא לשמה ממש, לשום איזו פניה לכבוד עצמו

However, when one engages in divine service explicitly not lishmah but for an ulterior motive of self-glorification,

כגון להיות תלמיד חכם וכהאי גוונא

as, for example, in order to become a scholar, and the like,

אזי אותה פניה, שמצד הקליפה דנוגה, מתלבשת בתורתו

then this motive, which is derived from kelipat nogah, clothes itself in his Torah study,

והתורה היא בבחינת גלות בתוך הקליפה

and the Torah studied for this motive is in a state of exile within the kelipah;

לפי שעה, עד אשר יעשה תשובה, שמביאה רפואה לעולם

but only temporarily, until he repents, since13 “Repentance brings healing to the world.”

שבשובו אל ה׳, גם תורתו שבה עמו

For when he returns to G‑d, his Torah returns with him from kelipah to holiness.

ולכן אמרו רז״ל: לעולם יעסוק אדם וכו׳ שמתוך שלא לשמה בא לשמה בודאי

Therefore our Rabbis, of blessed memory, said,14 “One should always engage [in Torah and mitzvot,even shelo lishmah], for out of shelo lishmah he will certainly arrive at [study and observance] lishmah,

שבודאי סופו לעשות תשובה, בגלגול זה או בגלגול אחר

since it is certain that he will ultimately repent, whether in this incarnation or another,

כי לא ידח ממנו נדח

because15 “No one banished from Him by his sins will remain banished,” but will ultimately repent.

The Alter Rebbe thus perceives two novel insights in the statement that one should always engage in Torah andmitzvot even shelo lishmah, etc.

(a) Progress from shelo lishmah to lishmah is a certainty, not a possibility, since every sinner will ultimately repent (— and the Alter Rebbe therefore adds the word “certainly” to the quotation);

(b) Not only will the person advance from the state of shelo lishmah to lishmah, but even the Torah that he studiedshelo lishmah will be elevated, so that it attains the quality of lishmah; for when one repents and returns to G‑d, his Torah “returns” with him.

The aforesaid applies to one who engages in divine service for an ulterior motive, strictly shelo lishmah.

אך כשעושה סתם לא לשמה, ולא שלא לשמה, אין הדבר תלוי בתשובה

But if one acts neutrally, neither lishmah nor shelo lishmah, then the matter is not contingent on repentance.

אלא מיד שחוזר ולומד דבר זה לשמה, הרי גם מה שלמד בסתם מתחבר ומצטרף ללימוד זה, ופרחא לעילא

Rather, as soon as he reviews the subject lishmah, then even that which he had studied neutrally soars on high, attaching itself to and joining his present study,

מאחר שלא נתלבש בו עדיין שום קליפה דנוגה

since no kelipat nogah had yet clothed itself in [his previous study].

Because his earlier study was not motivated by selfish reasons, the Torah studied is not in exile within the kelipah; it merely lacks the quality of lishmah. This fault is remedied by reviewing the subject lishmah.

ולכן לעולם יעסוק אדם כו׳

Therefore, “A man should always occupy himself [with Torah...even shelo lishmah, for out of shelo lishmah he will come to lishmah”] — the Torah that he studied will itself be elevated to the level oflishmah. In this case, the lishmah “comes” automatically when one reviews his studies; it is not contingent on repentance (as it is in the case of Torah studied for personal motives).

וכן הענין בתפלה שלא בכוונה, כמו שכתוב בזהר

The same is true of prayer without kavanah, as discussed in the Zohar.16

When one recites the prayer once again, this time with kavanah, his earlier prayer ascends as well. Further in Tanya,the Alter Rebbe states that even if from all one’s prayers throughout the year, only one full prayer with kavanah can be assembled piecemeal (from one part of prayer said with kavanah one day, another part on another day, and so on), this one prayer is sufficient to elevate all the prayers of the entire year. For even where specific kavanah is lacking, the prayer is endowed with the comprehensive kavanah that one is praying to G‑d.



11. Yeshayahu 29:13.

12. The Rebbe explains that the Alter Rebbe uses the word “youth” judiciously. Were he referring to a habit acquired when one grew older (as described in ch. 15), then it might well be said that the lishmah at the outset of his service (before it became a habit) elevated his current service as well. This would be similar to assembling piecemeal — from all one’s prayers throughout the year — one complete prayer with kavanah, which would suffice to elevate all the prayers of the entire year. (See end of the present chapter.)

The Rebbe queries, however, whether the lishmah of one’s youth is indeed similar to the aforementioned example of prayer, and whether this was indeed the Alter Rebbe’s reason for using the word “youth”.

The Rebbe therefore offers an alternative reason. In the normal course of events parents train their children in the observance of Torah and mitzvot. This training (unlike an adult’s unthinking habituation to doing good deeds) is laudable, for the Torah commands us: “And you shall teach them to your children....”

13. Cf. Yoma 86a.

14. Pesachim 50b.

15. Cf. II Shmuel 14:14.

16. The Rebbe notes: “It would seem that the reference is toZohar II, 245b.”