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Chapter 49, class 4. Previous chapters can be accessed by clicking the link below.

HaRav Shneur Zalman Miliadi, | updated: 09:07

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Chapter 49

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ואיך יבא האדם החומרי למדה זו

But how can physical man attain this level? — of G‑dly love that nothing can obstruct.

לכך סידרו תחלה ברכת יוצר אור, ושם נאמר ונשנה באריכות ענין וסדר המלאכים העומדים ברום עולם

It is to this end, therefore, that the blessing of Yotzer Or was introduced to be recited first, for in this blessing there is stated and repeated at length — and this meditation must indeed be a lengthy one, taking into account all the specific details — the account and order of the angels “standing at the world’s summit,”

להודיע גדולתו של הקב״ה, איך שכולם בטלים לאורו יתברך, ומשמיעים ביראה כו׳ ומקדישים כו׳ ואומרים ביראה: קדוש כו׳, כלומר שהוא מובדל מהם ואינו מתלבש בהם בבחינת גילוי

in order to proclaim the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He — how they are all nullified in His blessed light and “pronounce in fear...” “and sanctify...” G‑d’s Name, and “declare in fear, ‘Holy’,”... meaning8 by saying “Holy...” that He is apart from them, and does not clothe Himself in them in a revealed state,

אלא מלא כל הארץ כבודו, היא כנסת ישראל למעלה, וישראל למטה, כנ״ל

but where is G‑d revealed? — “The whole earth is full of His glory,” namely, the Community of Israel above i.e., Malchut of Atzilut, the source of Jewish souls, which is called “earth”, and Israel on this earth below, wherein Jews perform Torah and mitzvot, for which reason specifically is this world filled with His glory: it is here that G‑d clothes and reveals Himself, as has been explained earlier.

All the above refers to the comprehension of the supernal angels, the serafim, who are able to comprehend how G‑d is apart from them and that only the earth is charged with His glory.

וכן האופנים וחיות הקודש ברעש גדול וכו׳: ברוך כבוד ה׳ ממקומו, לפי שאין יודעים ומשיגים מקומו

So, too, we find related in the9 blessing of Yotzer Or, regarding other categories of angels, whose place is in a lower world than the serafim, and who are therefore unable to comprehend how G‑dliness is separate and apart, that “the ofanim and the holy chayyot with a mighty sound” declare:10 ‘Blessed be the glory of the L‑rd and may it be drawn down from its place,’" for they neither know, nor do they apprehend His place — the place from which G‑dliness is revealed, for which reason they say ”from its place,“ wherever that place may be,

וכמו שאומרים: כי הוא לבדו מרום וקדוש

as we say a few lines later, “For He alone is exalted and holy.”

The various degrees of nullification of these angels are thus spoken of in the first of the two blessings preceding the Shema. When a person meditates on this matter he will begin to understand G‑d’s greatness, for all the lofty angels are nullified to Him.

ואחר כך ברכה שניה

Then follows the second blessing, which declares G‑d’s great love of the Jewish people.

Notwithstanding the lofty service and the subjugation of all the heavenly angels, G‑d saw fit to set them all aside, as it were, choosing instead to delight in the service of His people below. This blessing begins:

אהבת עולם אהבתנו ה׳ אלקינו, כלומר, שהניח כל צבא מעלה הקדושים

“L‑rd our G‑d, You have loved us with everlasting love.” That is to say, that He set aside all the supernal, holy hosts — the heavenly angels, for they are not the ultimate intent of creation,

והשרה שכינתו עלינו, להיות נקרא אלקינו, כמו: אלקי אברהם כו׳, כנ״ל

and caused His Shechinah to dwell upon us, the Jewish people, so that He be called “our G‑d” in the same sense that He is called11 “the G‑d of Abraham,...” as explained earlier.12

Abraham was completely nullified to G‑d. To the same degree that G‑d is called “the G‑d of Abraham,” He is also called “our G‑d.” This is accomplished, as explained earlier, through the performance of Torah and mitzvot.

והיינו כי אהבה דוחקת את הבשר

This is because “love impels the flesh.”

Love effects concealment and contraction. So, too, did G‑d’s love for His people bring about a certain contraction, in that He chose the service of Jewish souls in the state in which they are found here below — enclothed in physical bodies, and in the finite world.

ולכן נקראת אהבת עולם, שהיא בחינת צמצום אורו הגדול הבלתי תכלית, להתלבש בבחינת גבול הנקרא עולם

Therefore this love on G‑d’s part is called ahavat olam, literally, “a love of the world,” for it refers to the “contraction” of His great and infinite light, by assuming the garb of finitude, which is called olam (“world”) — the concept of “world” signifying the finitude of space and time. G‑d brought about this “contraction”:

בעבור אהבת עמו ישראל, כדי לקרבם אליו, ליכלל ביחודו ואחדותו יתברך

for the sake of His love for His people Israel, in order to bring them near to Him, that they might be absorbed into His blessed Unity and Oneness through Torah and mitzvot.

וזהו שאומרים: חמלה גדולה ויתירה

This is also the meaning of what we say a little later on in the same blessing of Ahavat Olam, and in connection thereto: “Exceedingly abounding compassion,” i.e., more than You have bestowed upon others, “have You bestowed upon us,”

פירוש: יתירה על קרבת אלקים שבכל צבא מעלה

namely, [a compassion] exceeding the nearness of G‑d toward all the hosts above.

G‑d’s nearness to them comes out of His sense of compassion for them. This can in no way compare to the compassion G‑d feels for us, for which reason He draws us closer to Him. The same blessing of Ahavat Olam then goes on to say:

ובנו בחרת מכל עם ולשון, הוא הגוף החומרי הנדמה בחומריותו לגופי אומות העולם

“And You have chosen us from among all nations and tongues”: this refers to the material body which, in its corporeal aspects, is similar to the bodies of the gentiles of the world.

True freedom of choice can only come about when one has two completely equal choices. When two things, however, are unequal, one does not freely choose one over the other — the qualities found in one and lacking in the other compel the choice.

It is therefore impossible to say that “You have chosen us” refers to Jewish souls, for there can be no comparison between Jewish and non-Jewish souls, inasmuch as a Jew’s soul13 “is truly part of G‑d Above.” Rather, “You have chosen us” refers to the Jew’s material body, which in its corporeality is similar to the bodies of non-Jews.

G‑d freely chose Jewish bodies to be the proper receptacle for Jewish souls, desiring that through the deeds performed by the body (for all physical mitzvot demand bodily participation) the Jew should become united with Him. This the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain, first continuing to quote from Ahavat Olam:

וקרבתנו וכו׳ להודות וכו׳, ופירוש הודאה יתבאר במקום אחר, וליחדך כו׳, ליכלל ביחודו יתברך כנ״ל

“And you have brought us near...to give thanks...” (the interpretation of “thanks” will be given elsewhere, where the quality of abnegation found in thanksgiving will be explained), “...and proclaim your Oneness...,” which means to be absorbed in His blessed Unity, as has been explained above.

The Alter Rebbe will soon conclude that meditating on the concepts appearing in the blessings of the Shema leads a Jew to the proper realization of the Shema — attaining an ardent love for G‑d.

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FOOTNOTES

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8. The Rebbe comments: The Alter Rebbe adds the word ”meaning“ in order to tell us that the declaration ”Holy“ does not mean here, as it does in other places, that notice is being given that the one spoken of is holy, or the like. For to make it known that someone is holy implies that the speaker is aware of and grasps the other’s holiness. (Likewise, regarding the Shunamite woman who called Elisha holy, the Gemara asks: ”How did she know?“)

Here, however, when the angels proclaim ”Holy“ the intent is the very opposite: they do not know Him, for He is Holy — i.e., separate, and apart from them.

(This incidentally deflects another possible question: Since the angels are in a state of self-nullification, how is it conceivable that they ”proclaim and announce“? According to the above, however, this may be understood: They ”proclaim and announce“ that they are nullified to G‑d, that He is separate and apart from them, and that they have no conception of Him.)

9. In the passages preceding the Shema.

10. Yechezkel 3:12.

11. In the Shemoneh Esreh.

12. Chs. 46, 47.

13. Ch. 2, above.





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