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As Divided for a Regular Year
Tanya for 10 Av
The reason that not every person merits this rank [in the service of the heart] - service from the depth of the heart in a state of pnimiyut - is that within him this faculty is in a state of exile and captivity. And this is actually the state of the exile of the Shechinah, for it is precisely the [Shechinah] which is the spark of Divinity that is in one's Divine soul.
[Thus, when the "spark" is in exile, the Shechinah is in exile as well. Moreover, being in exile, the spark cannot rouse the soul to serve G-d with the loftier manner of love that stems from the innermost depths of the heart.]
The cause of the exile [of the Divine spark of the soul] is,  as in the words of our Sages, of blessed memory:  "When [the Jewish people] were exiled to Babylon, the Shechinah went with them."
[In terms of the individual sparks of the soul this means that when a spark is in a state of "Babylon" - i.e., when an individual acts in a "Babylonian" manner - then the Shechinah is in exile together with him.]
This is so because he has vested the innermost point of his heart in [that aspect of the universe which is] the opposing counterpart [to holiness], namely, in the soiled garments - mundane matters and worldly desires - which are known as "Babylon". [He has thereby banished the Divine spark within his soul - the personal Shechinah within himself, so to speak - to this all-pervasive "Babylon".]
This [exile] corresponds to the "foreskin" that covers the covenant and the innermost point of the heart. Of this it is written,  "And you shall excise the foreskin of your heart." [In principle, the spiritual service of circumcision is that of repentance.  With regard to exile our Sages teach that  "if Israel repent they will be immediately redeemed." Repentance thus leads to the redemption (on a personal scale) of the Divine spark within each individual soul, and (on a cosmic scale) of the Shechina, from their respective exiles. In spiritual terms, the act of circumcision likewise removes a veil of concealment, and allows the innermost point of the heart to be revealed.]
Now, in circumcision there are two stages: milah ["excision"] and periah ["uncovering", which remove respectively] the coarse foreskin and the thin membrane.
With respect to the "foreskin" of the heart, [which the Torah commands us similarly to circumcise,] there are like-wise coarse and subtle desires, [corresponding to the two grades of skin.]
[These two grades of worldly desire respectively require] milah and periah, and  "if one performed milah [circumcision] without periah [uncovering], it is as if he had not circumcised,"
[Just as this is the law with regard to actual circumcision, so too is it true when it comes to circumcising the desires of the heart: if a person removes only his coarse desires and does not proceed to remove the subtler ones as well, it is as if he had not circumcised his heart at all,] because, after all is said and done, the innermost point of the heart is still covered by a garment of thin sack-cloth [of kelipah]; it is in a state of exile and captivity. [And there it will remain - until the individual redeems it by performing a spiritual periah, and removing his subtler desires as well.]
Now, concerning the excision of the foreskin itself it is written: "And you - [yourselves] - shall excise the foreskin of your heart." [Each and every Jew is able to remove this himself, for repentance tears down the veil with which his desires obscure the innermost point of his heart.]
But the removal of the thin membrane is a difficult matter for man, and of this it is written  that with the coming of Mashiach, "The L-rd your G-d will circumcise your heart", to love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and all your soul, for the sake of your life," because G-d alone is literally your whole life.
[In this state, the individual's love of G-d will not be a mere manifestation of his soul, but a love that constitutes his very life. And just as a person does not regard his life as being something apart from himself, so too will this love not be sensed as a distinct entity, but as an intrinsic component of himself.]
That is why this love, [the love that follows the Divine excision of the heart's thin membrane,] stems from the depth of the heart, from the truly innermost point, as mentioned above, and transcends the faculty of Daat. Therefore, too, Mashiach will come when Israel in general are  "caught unawares."
[His coming] is the manifestation of the innermost point which is universal [to all Jews], and [likewise] the emergence of the universal Shechinah [of the entire community of Israel] from exile and captivity forever more.
[Just as each individual's Divine spark - his personal Shechinah, so to speak - is redeemed from captivity through means that transcend reason and Daat, in such a manner too will the universal Shechinah, and with it the entire House of Israel, be redeemed.
Thus, the ultimate circumcision of the heart, and in its wake the ultimate manifestation of the love of G-d, will take place when Mashiach comes. Nevertheless, it is possible even now to liberate one's personal Shechinah - one's Divine spark - at least on a temporary basis, during the time of prayer. This the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say.]
Similarly, every particular spark of the Shechinah, inherent in the soul of every individual Jew, emerges for the moment from exile and captivity during that  "momentary life which is prayer" - during the service of his heart, from the depth of his heart, from the innermost point which becomes divested of the [concealing] "foreskin" - and soars upwards to cleave to Him with a fierce passion, in the spirit of the phrase, "for the sake of your life," for the individual senses that G-dliness is his entire life.
And [in] this, too - [in this momentary deliverance of the innermost point of the heart during the service of prayer] - a man may be considered to be in a state of hessech daat, ["unaware" or "absentminded", so to speak,] for this state, [the state in which the Divine spark within man, his personal Shechinah, is momentarily revealed,] transcends the Daat of man and his meditation on the greatness of G-d.
Rather, it is a kind of gift granted by G-d from heaven from the radiation of the Supernal Countenance, as it is written,  "May G-d make His countenance shine upon you," and as it is written, "And the L-rd, your G-d, will circumcise [i.e., remove the insensitivity of [your heart]" - and this is a state which exists even now on a temporary basis.]
- (Back to text) "It would seem that the text should read, Kemamar - `as our Sages...'" (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)
- (Back to text) Megillah 29a.
- (Back to text) Devarim 10:16. The same Hebrew word means both "excision" and "circumcision".
- (Back to text) See Sefer HaLikkutim Dach: Tzemach Tzedek, s.v. Milah.
- (Back to text) Sanhedrin 98a; Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah 7:5.
- (Back to text) Mishnah, Shabbat 137b.
- (Back to text) Devarim 30:6.
- (Back to text) Sanhedrin 97a. The phrase Hesech Hadaat commonly implies that Daat is absent because it has been forgotten; the Alter Rebbe's interpretation makes Daat absent because it has been transcended.
- (Back to text) See Shabbat 10a.
- (Back to text) Bamidbar 6:25.
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