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As Divided for a Regular Year
Tanya for 1 Shevat
Now Chochmah [which, as explained in ch. 3, is the initial flash of intellect, the nebulous, seminal glimmer of an idea], is the source of intelligence and comprehension [which first begin to emerge in the faculty of Binah, for, as explained there, Binah represents the ability to grasp an idea in all its details and ramifications]; it [Chochmah] is higher than Binah, which is the faculty of understanding an idea and grasping it.
[So that in its relation to the soul's lower faculties, this single level of Chochmah comprises two opposite aspects]: On one hand Chochmah is above comprehension and understanding - [thus it transcends the lower faculties of the soul, and it is this aspect of Chochmah which enables it to be the recipient of the light of the Ein Sof, as will soon be explained]; while on the other hand Chochmah is the source of intelligence and comprehension [and is thus connected to the lower faculties.
It is this latter aspect of Chochmah which enables it to suffuse the entire soul (as stated earlier), and, in its active state, to affect even one's thought, speech and action (which are even lower than the soul's lowest faculties, being merely the "garments", the organs of expression, for the soul), as will be stated further, in chapter 19].
The etymological composition of the word Chochmah indicates this [dual nature]. Chochmah contains two words: Koach Mah -"the faculty of the unknown."
[Literally, Mah means "What?" - as one would ask of something he cannot comprehend, "What is it?" Hence, while it is an intellectual faculty and thus related to the other, lower faculties, yet it is a faculty which cannot as yet be comprehended or grasped by the intellect, and is therefore also above and beyond the others]. 
For this reason, the light of the Ein Sof, blessed be He, who can in no way be comprehended by any thought, is vested in Chochmah.
[Those faculties whose functions are intelligence and comprehension cannot serve as receptacles for the light of the Ein Sof, for knowledge cannot grasp the unknowable. Only Chochmah, which itself is higher than comprehension, can receive this light].
Hence all Jews, even the women and the illiterate, [who have no knowledge of G-d's greatness], believe in G-d, since faith is beyond understanding and comprehension; [i.e., faith represents the ability to grasp that which the intellect cannot].
For, as Scripture states:  "The fool believes everything, but the clever man understands."
[That is, the fool, lacking understanding, grasps every subject through the medium of faith, while the clever man's grasp is based on reason.
However, this derogation of the fool for approaching every idea with faith, can apply only where the subject of his belief is within the grasp of reason.
In this case the basis for his faith is his own lack of understanding, and he is therefore called a fool.
When dealing with G-dliness, however, which is essentially beyond comprehension, there is no other approach, as the Alter Rebbe goes on to say]:
In relation to the Almighty, Who is beyond intelligence and knowledge, and Who can in no way be comprehended by any thought - all men are like fools before Him, [and they can therefore grasp Him only through faith].
As it is written,  "I am foolish and ignorant, I am as a beast before You - and I am constantly with You....," meaning that "because I approach You as a fool and a beast - [i.e., through the irrational power of faith] - precisely therefore and thereby am I constantly with You."
Therefore, as a rule, even the most worthless of the worthless and the sinners among Israel sacrifice their lives for the sanctity of G-d's Name and suffer harsh torture rather than deny G-d's unity, even if they be boors and illiterates who are ignorant of G-d's greatness.
Even the little knowledge that they do possess [is not what motivates them, for] they do not delve into it at all; so that by no means does their self-sacrifice result from any knowledge or contemplation of G-d.
Rather, [they are prepared to sacrifice their lives] without any knowledge or reflection, but as though it were absolutely impossible to renounce the one G-d, without any reason or rational argument whatsoever.
[Were their readiness to face martyrdom intellectually motivated, the benefits and costs of the act would first be carefully weighed.
But in fact we see that the decision to sacrifice oneself is not based on such rational arguments, stemming instead from a non-intellectual resolve that it is simply impossible to do otherwise].
This is so because the one G-d illuminates and animates the entire soul, through being clothed in its faculty of Chochmah, which is beyond any graspable knowledge or intelligence.
[Since the light of the Ein Sof is vested in every Jew's soul, everyone, regardless of his level of knowledge, is prepared to sacrifice his life for his faith in G-d].
- (Back to text) Our interpretation of the foregoing passage follows a comment by the Rebbe Shlita, where the Rebbe dismisses the notion that the Alter Rebbe speaks here of two sub-levels within Chochmah. The Rebbe maintains that neither the context nor the wording permit such an interpretation.
- (Back to text) Mishlei 14:14.
- (Back to text) Tehillim 73:22-23.
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