Hakdama to Shaar HaEmunah & Shaar HaYichud
Introduction to The Gate of Faith & The Gate of Unity
The Holy Rabbi Dov Ber of Lubavitch
Translated and Annotated by Shimon Markel
Edited by Rabbi A. Markel
It is written, “And Tzion said, Hashem has left me and Hashem has forgotten me.” Now, at first glance, this is very astonishing. How is it applicable to say that there is an aspect of forgetfulness above in the living G-d, since HaShem, blessed be He, is above time, as indicated by the name of HaShem – “Was, Is and Will be – as One”, whereas forgetfulness applies only when something comes into the bounds of time? We therefore say, “There is no forgetfulness before the throne of Your glory” or, “He remembers all things forgotten etc.”
However, the explanation of the matter is that this forgetfulness is not in essence, but is rather only like the forgetfulness of the Jewish people, who are called, “The community of Israel”. However, their forgetfulness is astonishing too! For, how is it possible for there to be a matter of forgetting HaShem in the community of Israel if there is an aspect of G-dly light which dwells within them? As known, this is called the Divine Presence (Shechinah), which dwells within them even when they are in exile “in their impurities etc.”
This refers to the G-dly spirit which gnaws within each and every Jew to return to HaShem with all his heart and to adhere to Torah and Mitzvot. Though they may be overpowered by the yoke of earthly ways and deep preoccupation, which confuse the mind and heart completely, nevertheless, one who falls will not be cut off and fall completely, G-d forbid. This is as stated, “Many waters cannot extinguish the love.” – that even the many waters of preoccupation in earning a livelihood cannot extinguish the light of the great essential love of HaShem, which is rooted in our souls as a nature, as explained elsewhere. This is because it literally is an aspect of G-dly light (that is called “the spirit imprinted like wax etc.”). It is called the Indwelling Presence (Shechinah) within which there is no change or exchange. This is as stated, “I Hashem have not changed and you the children of Israel have not ceased.” That just as “I Hashem have not changed”, so too, the G-dly light which dwells within the children of Israel “has not ceased”. Therefore, even when they are in exile “I have not despised them to destroy them by abrogating my covenant with them etc”. This being the case, how can the community of Israel fall into an aspect of forgetfulness?
Indeed we observe that even those who serve HaShem can completely forget about HaShem when they are very preoccupied in their occupation, until it can appear to a person that, “My strength and the power of my own hand accomplished all this greatness for me”. Therefore, it is written, “Guard yourself, lest you forget Hashem etc.” This ailment especially applies to those who are successful in their endeavors, as known.
However, as known, the explanation of the matter is that there are two levels here: The first is a level that forgetfulness can fall into. This is because the matter of forgetfulness comes about mainly through the removal of the attention (Heseach HaDa’at) when one totally removes the attention of his mind and heart from the matter of G-dliness. Now, at first glance, this is not understood because of a seeming contradiction in the first and second paragraphs of the Shma recital. The first paragraph states, “You shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul”, whereas the second paragraph states, “You shall collect your grain”. In addition, the second paragraph also states, “To love Hashem and serve Him with all your hearts etc.” However, if one falls into forgetfulness because of preoccupation with earning a livelihood, as in the verse “you shall collect your grain,” how then is it possible to actually fulfill one’s obligation to love HaShem with all one’s soul? It seems as if these two statements are at odds.
However, we must say that the aspect of forgetfulness only applies to something that comes into the realm of knowledge and awareness which is achieved through a thorough comprehension and understanding in the vessels of one’s mind and heart. This is as stated, “You shall know today and place it upon your heart that Hashem, He is G-d, in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is nothing else” or the verse “You have been shown to know that HaShem, He is G-d, there is nothing besides Him etc.” Knowledge (Da’at) is the aspect of strong recognition and feelings toward G-dliness in the vessels of the mind and heart. This is as stated, “Even an ox knows his master” – and is drawn toward him – “but Israel does not know, My folk do not contemplate etc.”
Now, on this level of knowledge there may be change and exchange, which is the aforementioned matter of the removal of the attention (Heseach HaDa’at). That is, his attention becomes moved and removed from its current position. For instance, when a person becomes deeply preoccupied with something, he removes the attention of his mind and heart completely from his previous concern, such as learning Torah. Even in regard to Torah learning itself, it states that “because Rebbi was preoccupied in this tractate, he forgot what was written in that tractate etc.” It is for this reason that we are commanded, “Guard yourself, lest you forget etc.”, which indicates that it is indeed possible for there to be forgetfulness of HaShem, which is the removal of our attention from Him. For this reason we were commanded to know, which is the opposite of forgetting.
In other words, we should always strive to “know and pursue knowledge of HaShem etc,” and not remove the attention of our hearts from this G-dly knowledge for even a moment. This is as David said to Shlomo, “Know the G-d of your father etc.” This being the case, the positive commandment to know HaShem and the negative commandment not to forget Him are all one, because they are interdependent. By continually fulfilling the positive commandment to know HaShem one does not come to transgress the commandment not to forget, which is the removal of one’s attention. Obviously, transgressing the negative commandment not to forget Him is the direct consequence of not fulfilling the positive commandment to know Him. This is because forgetfulness is merely the outcome of the removal of the attention.
Moreover, due to forgetfulness a person will come to cast off the yoke of obedience to HaShem altogether and even transgress grave sins, as stated, “Israel does not know, my folk do not contemplate. Woe to a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity.” Now, At first glance this is a shocking statement! How is it that because of a mere lack of knowledge (Da’at) and contemplation (Hitbonenut) they are called sinful and laden with iniquity?
However, it is because removal of one’s attention and recognition (which constitutes forgetfulness), brings about a complete casting off of the yoke. This is why we were warned, “Guard yourself lest you forget etc.” Therefore the prophet admonished the children of Israel, “Even an ox knows his master and a donkey recognizes his master’s trough, but Israel does not know, My folk do not contemplate”, the outcome of which is, “Woe to a sinful nation, a folk laden with iniquity etc.” In other words, falling into complete wickedness is merely the outcome of complete forgetfulness, which is the removal of the attention. This will suffice for the understanding.
Now, the second level that exists in the community of Israel is much higher than the aspect of knowledge and comprehension of G-dliness grasped in the vessels of the mind and heart of each person according to his capacity. This is as written, “You shall love Hashem your G-d with all your soul,” that is, with actual self-sacrifice which transcends knowledge and recognition and is equal in every Jewish soul, from the greatest to the smallest. This is the aspect of the G-dly light imbedded in the essence of the soul in its innermost essence. This is called, “The recesses of the heart” or “The essential point of the heart,” as known. It is from this essential power that every Jew is capable of self-sacrifice for the sanctification of HaShem’s name.
On this level the matter of forgetfulness does not apply altogether since here there is no change or exchange whatsoever, because this G-dly light radiates constantly in the essential point of the heart without cessation or change whatsoever. As known, this is the aspect of the Yechidah of the soul. Regarding this the community of Israel says, “Place me as a seal upon your heart.” Just as the letters of a seal are engraved into it, so likewise, the essential light of the soul is engraved and imbedded in the heart.
In the words of the Zohar, “Even though you wander here and there, My impression remains within you etc.” “Wandering here and there,” refers to the aspect of the mind and heart which become completely preoccupied in other matters until they fall into the category of the forgetfulness and removal of the attention, mentioned above. Nonetheless, “My impression” – which is the aspect of the essential inner point of the heart, which is the essential point of the desire that even transcends the arousal of desire – “remains within you”. This is because within aroused desires there can be changes and exchanges, such as preoccupation in earning a livelihood, whereas within the essential point of the heart at its ultimate depth, no change at all is applicable. Rather, it always cleaves to its source in HaShem above. This is called the “Indwelling Presence” (Shechinah) within the souls of the Jewish people, as known. Regarding this it states, “She hugs and cleaves to You”, in other words, “My impression remains within you like a seal etc.”
As known, this essential point of the soul becomes openly recognized when a Jew sacrifices himself for the sanctification of HaShem’s name or in true penitents such as Rabbi Elazar Ben Dordiya, whose soul departed through weeping, and the like. In this way we may now understand the matter of, “you shall collect your grain”, in that it does not at all contradict this light of the great love “with all your soul”. This will suffice for the understanding.
This then, is the meaning of the above verse, “And Tzion said”. This refers to the aspect of the essential inner point of the heart, which is called, “Tzion the Excellent” (Tziyon HaMetzuyenet). The verse continues, “Hashem has left me and Hashem has forgotten me” – which is said in a way of astonishment. In other words, how could it be that Hashem has left me? Certainly, “Just as waters reflect the face to the face, so does the heart of man reflect to the heart of man.”
That is, even if there is forgetfulness in the community of Israel, because of the aforementioned aspect of G-dly knowledge which can sometimes fall into a state of forgetfulness and is generally called “the falling Sukkah of David,” nonetheless, this only applies to the minds and hearts of the Jewish people, which are like a receptacle. That is, due to deep preoccupation their minds and hearts become totally confused until they come to totally forget. This is the matter of the removal of attention mentioned above, wherein there can always be cessation and change.
However, from the aspect of the essential inner point of their hearts, there is no change or exchange whatsoever, since it is an aspect of actual G-dliness that is called, “The Indwelling Presence” (Shechinah) as mentioned above. Therefore, certainly “as waters reflect the face to the face”, above there also radiates from the aspect of the inner light and essential G-dliness that is called, “Encompassing all worlds” (Sovev Kol Almin), which is above the G-dly light enclothed within time and space, as known. There, the aspect of forgetfulness is altogether not applicable, as we say, “There is no forgetfulness before the throne of Your glory,” – this applies specifically “before” the throne of Your glory. How then can it be that “Hashem has forgotten me?” Does the verse not state, “I Hashem have not changed” just like “you the children of Israel have not ceased?” Similarly it states, “I have not despised them to destroy them by abrogating my covenant with them” for the above mentioned reason. This will suffice for the understanding.
Rather, the explanation must be that according to all of the above, the matter is not dependant only on the “waters that reflect a face to a face etc.” For were that the case, then why is it that during the Egyptian exile the Jewish people were enslaved under the ultimate pressure and were not redeemed until G-d knew and felt their anguish? This is as it states, “And their cry went up etc, and G-d knew etc.” He similarly said to Moshe, “And I have also heard the cry of the children of Israel etc, and I have remembered my covenant etc.” This makes it sound as if for the entire duration of their difficult exile He did not remember them, yet how can there be forgetfulness before Him when He literally dwells with them in the aspect of their inner essence, which transcends the aspect of “knowledge” wherein it is not applicable for there to be an aspect of forgetfulness for the reason explained above? Moreover, at that time the Jewish people only possessed this “essential bond” that transcends G-dly knowledge, for they did not yet know HaShem and his Torah until they subsequently received the Torah at Mount Sinai.
Now, it is known that the Jewish people were only redeemed from Egypt specifically because of the power and merit of their simple faith. This faith was rooted and imbedded in their souls solely as an inheritance from their forefathers. Regarding this it states, “I have remembered for you the affection of your youth, how you followed me in the desert, in a land not sown.” The “affection of your youth” refers specifically to the exile in Egypt, and it is this that is remembered with an eternal remembrance. This aspect of remembrance transcends forgetfulness, and will never be forgotten.
The explanation of all of this, as known, is that there are two types of “knowledge” (Da’at). There is the “upper knowledge” (Da’at Elyon), and there is “lower knowledge” (Da’at Tachton). This is as stated, “For Hashem is a G-d of knowledges” – in the plural. The explanation of this is that these represent two types of influences. The first is the coming into being from the G-dly nothing (Ayin) into the aspect of something (Yesh), wherein G-dliness becomes concealed. This is the “lower knowledge,” which is according to the perception of the recipients of existence.
The “upper knowledge” however, is the aspect of the supernal light and influence as it is drawn from the essence of His being, before whom “all that exists is as nothing.” In the “future to come” (l’Ateed lavo) this aspect of the Essence of G-dliness will be revealed as it is. Regarding this it states, “They all shall know me,” – quite literally, “For the glory of Hashem Himself shall be revealed.” Similarly it states, “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of Hashem,” – quite literally. However, during the exile in Egypt, this was only in an aspect of simple but strong faith which they inherited from their forefathers. It was because of this that they merited the revelations of the actual Essence of His being during the exodus (as will be explained at length in the discourse on the matzah and the splitting of the sea).
This, then, is the meaning of “and G-d knew.” That is, He knew in the “upper knowledge” as He is in His Glory and Essence, just as it will be in the “future to come”. This is to say that He felt and knew their sufferings just as He knows and feels the aspect of the Essence of His being, literally. This is like the verse, “In all their afflictions, He was afflicted.”
In contrast, the aspect of the “lower knowledge” is the aspect of the G-dly knowledge and supervision, in that He knows and understands all the deeds of mankind. This is like the order of the chaining down and creation of the worlds to bring them into being from nothing to something, which is in a way of constriction (Tzimtzum) and concealment until it is possible for there to be external forces. This is like how during every exile He is in a state of concealment, as it states, “I shall surely hide my face,” and as it states in the Zohar, “During exile the Holy One Blessed is He withdraws far above etc.” Similarly it states, “I will go and return to my place etc,” for “He grasps all the worlds, but there is no one that grasps Him,” and as the statement, “He is the place of the world, but the world is not His place,” as known.
However, specifically by means of simple faith, because it is in an aspect of the essential innerness in which forgetfulness does not at all apply, we are able to arouse the corresponding aspect of the Essence of His being above, where there likewise is no change, even in the face of the accusing angels, G-d forbid. This is as stated, “I have not despised them to destroy them by abrogating my covenant with them” and “you the children of Israel have not ceased,” as discussed above. Therefore, He is pained by their sufferings just as a father feels the suffering of his child as his own pain, literally, as it states, “In all their afflictions, He is afflicted.”
Such is not the case in the “lower knowledge”. Rather, it is as if it is outside of Himself, similar to the knowledge of the chaining down of the worlds, in which case the same verse may also be read, “In all their afflictions, He is not afflicted.” This is like the verse, “He has made us and we are His” which can also be read, “He has made us, and not we.” Similarly it states, “Actions are accounted by Him” which can also be read, “Actions are of no account”. For although “His eyes are open to all the ways of man,” nevertheless, in this “lower knowledge” it is possible for there to be an aspect of forgetfulness and removal of attention. And it is regarding this that the community of Israel stated, “Hashem has left me and Hashem has forgotten me” – for they too had forgotten and left Hashem, as it states, “they have left Me.”
However, in the aspect of the inner point of the heart wherein the strong faith is truly imbedded like an essential nature, regarding this it states, “There is no forgetfulness before the throne of Your glory.” It is for this reason that HaShem responded to Tzion, “Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should not have compassion on the child of her womb? These too may be forgotten, but I will not forget you”, for “You are the children of Hashem your G-d.” This will suffice for the understanding.
Now, because at the time of the Egyptian exile the Jewish people had this simple faith, therefore in the “future to come” they will merit to behold His essence and whatness, literally. At the giving of the Torah they merited a small foretaste of this as it states, “And the entire nation saw etc,” (as will be explained on the subject at length). This, then, is the meaning of “I have remembered for you” – in the “future to come” – “the affection of your youth” – specifically their simple faith during the exodus, a faith that transcends knowledge and recognition in the mind and heart, as explained above. Therefore the children of Israel are commanded to remember the exodus from Egypt for all days. This is as written, “So that you remember the day you left the land of Egypt all the days of your life,” which even includes the days of Moshiach and the “world to come”, as is explained in the words of our sages of blessed memory. The reason is because these two matters are interdependent. That is, just as from “above to below”, HaShem remembers in an aspect of a remembrance that has no change, so likewise, from “below to above” the Jewish people will even remember in the “world to come”, in which they will come to actually see, as it states, “Here, this is our G-d”, in His presence, with no more changes whatsoever. This will suffice for the understanding.
We now must understand further regarding this remembrance of “I have remembered the affection of your youth,” and that aside for their powerful faith in believing Moshe while they were still in Egypt, they also followed Hashem in the desert, in a land not sown, as written, “You followed me in the desert, in a land not sown.”
This may be understood through the famous parable of a father who has a small son who is very precious and dear to him and he wants to test him regarding two matters. The first is in his wisdom and knowledge and the second is in the goodness and faithfulness of his heart, to see whether he is bound with true love to his father to the point of actual self-sacrifice. Now, how shall he test him? For, if the father is always in close proximity to his son and bestows his sons with all his heart’s desires, then it is no wonder that the heart of the son is faithful to his father in every way. Therefore, the father conceals and distances himself from his son in a most hidden and concealed place, so that his son will be anguished and seek him out. Through this the father will discern the essential depth of his son’s love towards him.
Now, immediately upon the concealment of the father from the son, the son will be very anguished and pursue and seek out his father with all his strength. In this we can see the inner heart of the son, in that he thoroughly seeks out his father. However, after the son has searched for his father in all of the places and paths where he knows his father is regularly found and he nonetheless does not find him, it is certain that he will be agonized by this and will continuously bemoan the great loss of his father, who is the very light of his eyes and the life of his head. He will constantly weep in private from the depths of his soul and will inconsolable; until in his soul he despairs of ever seeing his father again. After having despaired, as time passes, the bitterness of his heart begins to cool, until slowly but surely he forgets and completely ceases searching out his father or weeping over it. We therefore find that the bond and connection of the son to his father eventually becomes severed completely.
Now, two things cause this. The first is the small attention (Da’at) of the child. He has a short attention span and does not understand or recognize that his father is just testing him or that the concealment in which he hides himself is not in essence, nor is the distance that he distanced himself true – that, in truth, he is destined to be close once again, because his father did not distance himself out of hatred, but only to test him and know what is in his heart.
The second is the despair of the child in that he gives up hope within his soul. In this we see that his love is small and that his bond to his father was not that faithful, because if his bond was strong he would not fall into loss of hope altogether. A faithful son will strengthen his resolve and will seek out his father with all his might. Although his father is hidden and concealed from his eyes he will not fall into despair at all. In his heart he knows that if his own love, faith and bond are strong, then certainly, as “waters reflect a face to the face,” then certainly, his father must only be concealing himself to test him.
This kind of son is wise and faithful with all of his heart. He understands that ultimately the concealment is not true. He therefore always searches for his father on all the paths he knows his father frequents. Even if he does not find him, he does not weep or despair in his soul. On the contrary, he constantly seeks him out with all his heart, searching in all of his father’s ways and paths. He follows the footsteps of his father and on the paths that his father travels and in all the places that his father is regularly found, and even if he does not find his father in any of his paths, he nonetheless rejoices in his soul and is confident that since he is traveling the paths of his father he will certainly find him. At times, perhaps he will glimpse his father off in the distance, and then he will follow behind him and attach himself to him. Although he may not see the face of his father from up close, he will nevertheless follow from behind and at a distance, and will rejoice as if he saw him up close and face to face. Since he knows that these are the paths of his father, he will strengthen himself in pursuit of him even if he only sees him from behind.
Now, when the father sees the strength of effort of the son to seek him out in his paths, even if only to behold him from behind and that he does not ever despair, he discerns the great strength of his son’s bond and faith – that he pursues him even in the thick of darkness, even when he cannot see his father’s face or see him at all. Nevertheless, he pursues him with all of his strength and might. This arouses the great love of the father to his son in a double and quadrupled measure compared to how it was at first, until he cannot no longer contain himself and reveals himself from his hiding place and shows his son the radiance of his countenance and the inner depths of his heart with great love that cannot be contained within his vessels, to the point that he kisses him with multiple kisses. This is like a father who plays with his precious son and kisses him with multiple kisses, because a single kiss is simply not enough. He kisses him again and again because of his great and abundant love. In this case, the love he had for his dear son already was in his heart, but when he hid himself he distanced and concealed the light of this great love so as not to reveal it.
Now, because of this restraint, after he sees the strong bond of the faithful son in the test that he tested him and he sees that his heart is faithful and that he seeks him out with all his heart, even when he is concealed from him, as discussed above, then when the father finally reveals his face, he becomes aroused with a great love toward his son to a much greater measure than before, so that he kisses him with a double measure. This is because the light of his great love was doubled and quadrupled from its original condition prior to distancing himself from his son. This is because the great love that is now revealed after the test of “distance and concealment” comes from the inner essence and depth of his heart, much more than when his son was always with him.
This is to say that it is specifically the concealment and distance that brought out the faith of the son in his father with greater strength, to a greater degree than when they were together. The same thing applies to the father’s feelings toward his son; the distance itself brings about additional love for his son in a double measure, when he subsequently reveals the light of his countenance to his son, after the son has shown the faithfulness of his heart. This is because of the above mentioned reason and is specifically called “doubled kisses” (Nesheekeen Kfulim). This will suffice for the understanding.
Let us now understand the analogue in all the details of the above mentioned analogy. HaShem’s love for the Jewish people who are called His “children” is similar to this. Therefore, the verse states about the “future to come”, “He will return the heart of the fathers to the sons etc.”
In other words, the love that the Jewish people have for HaShem when they are close to him (such as the great strength of their love at the giving of the Torah when their Heavenly Father spoke to them “face to face”, or similarly, in the time of the first Temple in the days of Shlomo) is no great novelty. However, when HaShem wants to test them, he conceals His countenance, such as during exile, about which it states, “You are a G-d that hides” or as stated, “He withdraws higher and higher etc.”
During such times the Jewish people come under the harsh subjugation of preoccupation with earning their livelihood, investing their very souls to procure their sustenance with tremendous stress and duress, literally to the point of exhaustion. Albeit, though they are “at their wits end from the difficult labor…for their lives are embittered,” nonetheless, their hearts do not turn backwards nor do they despair of seeking out HaShem with all their heart and soul through Torah, mitzvot, prayer and repentance from the depths of the heart. This is as stated, “In your distress, when all these things will come upon you in the end of days, you will return to Hashem your G-d and listen to His voice…and from there you shall seek Hashem your G-d, and you shall find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
This is like the analogy of the faithful son who has a powerful love for his father and is wise. He understands that the separation between him and his father is only a test to know what is in his heart, whether he will strengthen his resolve or not, as discussed previously. He strengthens his resolve with all his might to seek out all of the paths and ways of his father. This is the matter of going after Hashem through His Torah and through serving him with the mitzvot since they are called “the ways of Hashem” and “the paths of Hashem”.
Though he does not behold the countenance of HaShem’s illumination, because the mitzvot are enclothed in physical things, such as the wool of the Tzitzit or the parchment of the four portions of the Tefillin and the like, nevertheless, he is like the child who travels upon the paths and ways of his father, for these are called “the ways of Hashem”, as king David said, “I will speak of Your precepts and will gaze upon Your ways”. In other words, these are the ways that Hashem Himself walks upon. This refers to the aspect of the “Inner Supernal Desire” that is hidden within the mitzvot which literally is called “the way of Hashem,” as stated, “They shall keep the way of Hashem.”
This is analogous to a person who walks on the paths and ways that the king walks on. Though he only sees Him from behind, he follows after him. Regarding this it states, “You shall walk after Hashem your G-d,” meaning only after Him, by going in His ways of Torah study and the fulfillment of His commandments all day long, as stated, “I will gaze upon Your ways”- literally.
Now, one must strengthen oneself to follow after Hashem in His ways of Torah and Mitzvot even during a time of distance and concealment, whether this is caused by impatience or whether it is caused by the concealment of G-dliness during exile, both of which are true. And although when he walks upon the paths of Torah and mitzvot Hashem appears to him from afar and he only perceives externally and from “behind Hashem”, as we said above, nevertheless, he must strengthen himself with all his might so that his heart will not be turned back. At the very least when he thinks and speaks the words of Torah his heart should be directed towards seeking out and search after Hashem.
Now, when the father sees the great effort of the son even when he is distant, his love for his son becomes doubly magnified. Similarly, the radiance of HaShem’s love for Israel becomes doubly magnified and is called “doubled kisses”, as previously discussed. Hashem will return His countenance and the radiance of His great love to the Jewish people in a doubled measure to radiate within our souls to a greater degree than He did at the time of the giving of the Torah, about which it states, “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth” (which, as known, refers to the hidden meaning of the Mitzvot). This is the aspect of the aforementioned “doubled kisses” which come about specifically as a result of the distance and after the test. Then the love will be doubled in comparison to the revealed love as it was when they were close and face to face. This will suffice for the understanding.
This may similarly be understood regarding prayer, which takes the place of the sacrificial offering in the Holy Temple. During the time of exile there is certainly concealment of G-dliness. Even when one toils greatly in the service of the heart and mind during prayer, nonetheless, the forces of obstruction can overpower him through extraneous thoughts that confuse his prayer. This occurs because of the depth of the connection of one’s mind and heart to matters of livelihood and the like. Certainly, he becomes overpowered by these extraneous forces that confuse the mind and heart, making it altogether difficult to reach the inner point of the heart. This is like the father who hides even when his son seeks him greatly and still the son cannot find him.
This is as stated, “On that day I shall conceal My face”. I shall conceal My face (Panay) means the concealment of the inner aspect (Pnimiyut) of HaShem, which is the aspect that “Transcends all worlds” (Sovev Kol Almin) and is not grasped in a revealed way in the heart. Rather, one only beholds Hashem from afar. Nevertheless, his heart does not turn back nor does he despair in his soul whatsoever. On the contrary, he strengthens himself with all of his might to seek and search out Hashem in the service of the heart and mind, which is prayer. Even though HaShem is greatly hidden and concealed, he pursues Hashem with all his might, drawing himself after Him with all his heart, just like the son who is drawn after his father and seeks him out.
Now, it is written, “And from there you shall seek Hashem your G-d, and you shall find Him if you search after Him with all your heart and with all your soul”. Certainly, by reason of the above mentioned parable, “Hashem will return His countenance” with a doubled inner illumination of great love that is called, “doubled kisses”. This will suffice for the understanding.
This specifically is the meaning of “I have remembered the affection of your youth…when you followed me in the desert”. For, during the exodus from Egypt they were tested with great tests from Hashem, such as how Pharaoh chased after them with his army, and likewise when they travelled without water in the desert. Nevertheless, they followed Hashem even though it was from afar, because until the giving of the Torah they had yet to behold the radiance of HaShem closely. It was only because of their pure and simple faith that they had the fortitude to follow Hashem, as stated, “And they believed in Hashem etc.” Through this, Hashem beheld the inner point of their faithful bond to Him. This is similar to the aforementioned analogy of the father who hides from his son in order to see into the heart of his son and the strength of his commitment to pursue him. This is the meaning of the verse, “You followed me”. Through this test they merited to behold Hashem face to face in a manner of great love and doubled kisses, as in the verse, “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth etc.”
Now, the giving of the Torah is only a foretaste of the “future to come”, as the sages of blessed memory stated, “The Israelites who stood at the mountain were cleansed of all impurity.” However, from this example we understand that the concealment of HaShem’s face during this long and bitter exile only increases the tremendous revelation of doubled and quadrupled love when the redemption will finally happen. As it states about the future redemption, “He will return the heart of the fathers to the sons and the heart of the sons to their fathers.” This “return” is the return of His countenance toward us with tremendous love, a love that is far greater than the former love, which is called “doubled kisses”. This will suffice for the understanding.
Now, through the above analogy we may clearly understand the great strength and power of strong faith, through which our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt. That is, “following Me in the desert” was what brought about the great revelation of the radiance of the countenance of their Father in Heaven in a doubled measure. However, all this is only applicable when there is an aspect of going and seeking the father on the paths upon which he walks, as understood from the details of the aforementioned analogy, and as stated, “You shall walk after Hashem.” In other words, although he only walks after Hashem, nevertheless it must be in a way of “walking”, in that he literally walks in the ways of Hashem, though he does not see Him up close but only from afar.
However, the sages of blessed memory stated, “Six hundred and thirteen mitzvot were given to Moshe. Chabakuk came and stood them upon one alone”. This is the mitzvah of faith, as stated, “The righteous lives by his faith.” We see that the mitzvah of faith includes all six hundred and thirteen mitzvot in it, because, “everything follows that which establishes the rest”. Furthermore, “that which establishes” establishes everything equally, those being all six hundred and thirteen mitzvot, which include both the two hundred and forty eight positive mitzvot and the three hundred and sixty five negative mitzvot.
Now, when it comes to the two hundred and forty eight positive mitzvot, it is certain that it is specifically faith that establishes and is the foundation of them all, as understood from the analogy mentioned above. That is, the son puts forth great effort to pursue his father and seek him out on his paths – which refers to the positive mitzvot, in that they are called the “ways of Hashem” and the “paths of Hashem”, as mentioned above. However, when it comes to the three hundred and sixty five negative mitzvot, which only constitute desisting from acting, which is “to sit and do nothing,” how can they be called “walking” altogether? How then would it be applicable to say that this is a “walking after Hashem” through the strength of pure and simple faith? Moreover, how are these three hundred and sixty five negative mitzvot also founded on and included specifically in the faith? Additionally, the verse “The righteous lives by his faith,” is known to refer solely to the positive mitzvot, through which a person is called righteous (Tzadik), as it states, “And it shall be a righteousness to us, if we observe to do all this commandment etc.”
Now, to understand this we must preface with the statement of the sages of blessed memory regarding the verse, “This is My name for ever and this is My remembrance for all generations.” The word “My name (Shmi-שמי)” together with the Yud-י and Heh-ה of HaShem’s name equals three hundred and sixty five, referring to the negative mitzvot. The word, “My remembrance (Zichri-זכרי)” together with the Vav-ו and Heh-ה of HaShem’s name equals two hundred and forty eight, referring to the positive mitzvot. The difficulty regarding this is known, namely, how is it that the negative mitzvot are connected to the letters Yud-Heh which are higher than the letters Vav-Heh of HaShem’s name? This is very astonishing!
Now it is known from the Zohar that the two hundred and forty eight positive mitzvot are called the two hundred and forty eight organs of the King and that these are the aspect of the five general kindnesses (Heh Chassadim) which draw forth G-dly light specifically into an aspect of lights within vessels. In contrast, the root of the negative mitzvot is in the Yud-Heh of HaShem’s name, which is the aspect of the encompassing lights which protect the supernal lights that vest within the two hundred and forty eight positive mitzvot.
We may understand this through the well known analogy of a wise father who commands his only son that for the good of his soul he should follow certain ways and practices that will help him for good in his life. He tells him that he should never deviate from these ways but should rather live them throughout his life. However, he does not reveal the reasons why he should do these good actions. They remain hidden and secret. If he were to reveal the reasons to his son, the son may come to rationalize why he should deviate from the command of his father. Moreover, he will not be as strong in his resolve to keep these commandments. However, if the son does not know the reasons, he will faithfully guard himself to do everything his father commanded, without any deviation. He will do this with pure faith because he believes in his father with all of his heart, to do his will in a manner which is completely above reason. Certainly, he will believe that these commandments are the very life of his soul, even without knowing the reason. He will not leave them or deviate from them even to a hair’s breadth, literally. This is specifically only because of his strength of faith.
The opposite is also true regarding all those things he was commanded to guard himself from because they are despicable and hateful in his father’s eyes. He simply warns him to guard himself from doing these things because they are literally damaging and destructive to the soul. Though the son does not actually understand why he must take great care to distance himself from such things or exactly how it is that they are dangerous, damaging or even fatal, nevertheless, he takes great care to guard himself from them, purely and simply by the power of his faith. This is because he trusts his father and if he tells him that these things are bad and will damage him, he believes his father and stays away from them. More so, he will even hate them, though he hasn’t the slightest understanding of the matter. Simply because of his faith and trust in his father, whatever the father despises, he too will despise. However, the primary and most salient reason is because it is specifically his father who commanded him regarding all these things, and when it comes to his father, he would never consider transgressing and going against his will.
From this we see that when the child desists from doing those things that his father prohibited him from doing, his power of faith actually becomes much more revealed than when he merely strengthens himself to fulfill the positive acts that his father commanded him to do. This is because by guarding himself in the negative commandments he fulfills his father’s will solely because of his trust and faith. In contrast, when he does the positive commandments, even though it is through his faith that he strengthens himself to do them, nonetheless, he is motivated by a degree of revelation of the reason for his father’s will. When he guards himself from things that are against his father’s will, on the other hand, it is much higher than any level of illumination of light. Rather, it is called an “encompassing light”, since it is much more concealed. It is even more concealed than the hidden reasoning of why the positive commandments are good for his soul. Therefore he needs to guard himself and be extremely careful with a much greater degree of resolve. This is because the more the matter is concealed, the more the power of his faith will need to be strengthened, just as was explained previously about the positive commandments, that the father conceals the reasons so that the son will guard himself and fulfill them even without the reasons. This will suffice for the understanding.
Another example of this is when a father who is a doctor commands his son, “You should eat such and such item because it will strengthen your health and give you vitality. On the other hand, don’t eat this other item. Instead, guard yourself from eating it, because it is dangerous to you and may actually kill you”. Certainly, the son will trust his father and will take care not to eat it, because he does not want to die. If confronted with it, he will flee from it, with an even greater strength of faith than he will have when eating the item that his father told him sustains life etc. This will suffice for the understanding.
Additionally, there will be a far greater degree of strong faith when fulfilling the negative will of his father out of honor and respect for the father. That is, there is a much greater strength in not disrespecting one’s father by not transgressing his will regarding the negative command, than the respect shown when one fulfills the father’s positive will and command, for even if he does not fulfill the positive command, at least he has not dishonored his father or caused him anguish. In contrast, when he transgresses the negative command he has causes a blemish and greatly dishonors his father. One therefore guards himself much more when it comes to negative commands than positive ones. This will suffice for the understanding.
Now, from all of details of this parable, we now understand the general difference between the positive mitzvot and the negative mitzvot. As known, the positive commandments are called, “The way of life and goodness,” whereas the negative ones are called, “The way of death and evil – literally!” This is as stated, “Behold, I have set before you today, life and goodness and death and evil.” Similarly, we were commanded to follow the way of the practical mitzvot even though we do not know the secrets and reasons for them. It is for this reason that the sages stated that the mitzvot do not require intention, for it is specifically when they are without intention and reasoning that their fulfillment is done solely because of the faith mentioned in the verse, “You shall walk after Hashem.” That is, it is called walking after Hashem from afar, in that one does not know the G-dly reasoning or “secret” for the physical action.
Now, the Torah indeed explains the reasons for some mitzvot, such as the mitzvot of Tzitzit, Tefillin, Sukkah, Lulav and Etrog and the like. For example, regarding the mitzvah of Tzitzit the Torah states, “And you shall see them and remember,” or regarding the mitzvah of Tefillin it states, “And all the nations of the world shall see that the name of Hashem is called upon you etc,” or regarding the mitzvah of Sukkah it states, “For I made the children of Israel dwell in booths etc.” Nevertheless, the hidden supernal secrets regarding the roots of these deeds were not made known to them. Examples of this are the aspect of the inner lights (Or Pnimi) and encompassing lights (Or Makif) of the Tzitzit, or the thirty-two pathways of Chochmah of Tefillin in the four chambers of the brain etc. Similar examples are the encompassing lights of Imma in the Schach (covering) of the Sukkah or the drawing down of Da’at into Nukvah by means of the Lulav and Etrog. This similarly applies to many other mitzvot. Moreover, this certainly is the case regarding those mitzvot whose reasons were not given altogether, which are called Chukim (statutes), as in the verse, “If you walk in My statutes and keep My mitzvot etc.”
Even with regards to the mitzvah to recite the Shma, which is the commandment to unify the ten supernal Sefirot with the Essence of the One who emanated them, nevertheless, the primary fulfillment of this mitzvah is accomplished by fulfilling one’s simple obligation alone, in a way which is above understanding. The statement that “the mitzvot do not require the intention of the mind,” means that not only is this not required, but, quite the contrary, it actually is far better to do them without mystical intentions, but rather to simply fulfill the Supernal will alone, because that type of fulfillment comes solely and specifically by the power of simple faith. This is like the above analogy of the son’s faith which is revealed specifically because his father commanded him to do these things without revealing the reasons for them. He therefore guards himself to fulfill his father’s will with pure and simple faith, neither deviating to the left nor to the right. This would not be the case were he to know the reasons, because he would not have the same strong resolve in his heart and he could come to deviate slightly etc. This will suffice for the understanding.
Now, it is understood from the above analogy, that in regard to those negative mitzvot which were not given with reasons at all, such as the mitzvot not to wear Sha’atnez or the mitzvah of Kilaim, or of not cooking, consuming or benefitting from the cooked admixture of meat and milk, or the prohibition against eating blood or any other forbidden food, such as pork etc., there is an even greater concealment of light, since the reasons are totally unknown. Nonetheless, one resists solely due to the decree of his Father in Heaven. The same is true of forbidden sexual relations. Though a person may lust after them, he refrains simply because his Father in Heaven commanded him against them. This is as stated, “A man should not say ‘I do not want to eat pork’, but rather ‘I do want to eat it and the only reason I don’t is because my Father in Heaven commanded me against it.”
Even in regard to negative mitzvot whose reason was given and which make intellectual sense, such as not to steal, murder, commit forbidden sexual acts, desecrate the Shabbat and the like, nevertheless, the secrets of Hashem about what great blemishes they cause supernally was not made known. Rather, they too are like the analogy above, about the father warning his son to stay away and guard his soul from them because of the great harm they will cause him. Here too, he will guard himself with greater strength of faith to a greater degree than how he strengthens himself to fulfill a positive command of his father. This is because there is a greater strength and measure of faith in this for two reasons:
The first reason is because he will also despise that which is hateful to his father, over and above the fact that it is damaging to his soul. The second reason is because the greater concealment will bring out a greater degree of his faith because this level is called the “encompassing lights” which are in a greater state of concealment. However, these two are one with a third reason, which is that he does not want to disrespect the honor of his father. In this respect, transgressing a prohibition is worse in his eyes than abstaining from the fulfillment of a positive command of his father. This will suffice for the understanding.
In the same manner, there are two reasons for abstaining from doing the negative commandments of HaShem with great resolve. First, because Hashem hates them and they are against His will. When Jews truly bind themselves to Hashem with faithfulness, as “sons,” of HaShem, then they certainly will have great strength of faith specifically in this. That is, they will despise and want to eradicate evil with all their strength and might, as stated, “And you shall eradicate the evil from your midst,” just as one flees from something that threatens his life.
The second reason is out of honor and respect for our Father in Heaven, so as not to besmirch or disrespect His honor. For although the reasons and manner of the great blemish is unknown, just as the reason for the fulfillment of the negative mitzvot is unknown, nevertheless, this itself is what empowers and strengthens a Jew to be steadfast in his faith. This is because, as said above, the primary essence of faith specifically comes out in those mitzvot the reason of which is unknown.
All in all, we understand from all the above that the fulfillment of the positive mitzvot is an aspect of inner, pervading lights invested in various vessels to fulfill the Supernal will, though this too is through simple faith. This is as stated, “The righteous lives by his faith”, referring to the positive mitzvot about which it states, “You shall live by them,” i.e. specifically eternal life. As explained above, they do not require the intent or reasoning of the mind. However, the root of the negative mitzvot is higher, to the extent that they come about through greater strength of faith. This is because they are rooted in the “encompassing light” and are exceedingly hidden. Therefore, it is the abstention from doing the negative mitzvot, through “sitting and not doing”, that draws down the aspect of the “encompassing lights” to protect the positive deeds of the positive mitzvot so that they should be established within their vessels and so that the external forces will not derive sustenance from them. This, then, is the meaning of “My name (Shmi-שמי)” with Yud-יand Heh-ה equaling the three hundred and sixty five negative commandments, which encompass the Vav-ו and Heh-ה of the two hundred and forty eight positive commandments. This will suffice for the understanding. This answers the question mentioned above of how it is that the matter of faith includes all six hundred and thirteen commandments within it. This will suffice for the understanding.
This, then, is the meaning of the verse, “You have followed Me in the desert, in a land not sown.” That is, following after Hashem with faith must be in a way that is directed, so as not to deviate to the right or left. It is of utmost importance not to veer off the straight path at all, as the verse states, “You shall go after Hashem,” meaning that this going must solely be “after Hashem” without deviation from the path, neither to the right nor to the left.
Whoever deviates from the path is said to be lost upon a crooked path. He can come to harm upon this wicked path, to the point of the death of his soul in the grave (She’ol) of ruination (Avadon) and destruction (Shachat). This is called, “The ways to the grave” or “The paths of crookedness,” as known. Therefore, this is the primary foundation for the protection of one’s soul, namely, that if he does not at all stray from the straight path (by guarding himself through the negative mitzvot) then automatically, his path will be “before HaShem” in holiness through the fulfillment of the positive mitzvot. It is for this reason that Hashem praised the Jewish people by specifically saying that “they followed after Me in the desert.” As known, a desert has no paved roads. Moreover, most desert paths are presumed to be dangerous places populated with snakes, serpents and scorpions. These represent the three totally harsh and wicked husks (Kelipot). This is as stated, “Hashem… Who led you through the great and dreadful desert, wherein were snakes, serpents and scorpions etc.”
Additionally, as known, the “desert of the nations” is where the harshest husks of wickedness can be found. This is why the goat of the Azazel offering was banished to the desert, to transport all the sins of the children of Israel there. This, then, is the meaning of the verse, “In a land not sown,” this is to say, in a land where the light of holiness does not at all shine. It is like a place of complete and utter darkness devoid of any illumination of the light. Nonetheless, through the great protection of the power of their tremendous faith, they even travelled in the desert of the snake, serpent and scorpion. This was possible because and they followed only Hashem, without any deviations, neither to the right nor to the left. Through this they subdued the husks (Kelipot) of the “Desert of the nations” at their source, which is an even greater level than the “going after Hashem” through the positive mitzvot, as was explained above. This will suffice for the understanding.
Now, all this will be remembered for the Jewish people with an eternal remembrance, because it all demonstrates the great and essential strength of their faith in the very core of their being. This is the reason why all of the six hundred and thirteen mitzvot rest upon a single mitzvah – the mitzvah of faith. Moreover, strength of faith is especially demonstrated when guarding oneself from the three hundred and sixty five prohibitions. In doing, they become an encompassing light that protects the soul from prosecution in the supernal realm.
This is analogous to a person who wears a coat of armor for protection from all arrows. Similarly, the verse states, “He enclothes himself in righteousness, like a coat of mail”. This refers to the three hundred and sixty five prohibitions that protect a person from enemy arrows, which are the harsh husks (Kelipot) of total wickedness. This guards against, “Their tongue, which is like sharpened arrows” that prosecute in the supernal realm and thus devour and siphon off vitality from the side of holiness. This is as stated, “Your wickedness will chastise you,” and as known regarding the verse, “They devour Israel with every mouth,” or as stated, “When men rose up against us… Blessed is Hashem who did not give us as prey to their teeth.” As known this also is the matter of the seven bad cows which swallowed the good cows, though “their appearance remained bad.” Similarly, the verse states, “Israel is swallowed up amongst the nations,” i.e. by the seventy angels of the nations. This, then, is the meaning of, “They devour Israel with every mouth”. This means that goodness becomes consumed by wickedness, as known.
We therefore find that the three hundred and sixty five negative, prohibitive mitzvot act as an encompassing light that protects the positive mitzvot, which are called the two hundred and forty eight organs of the King. This is so that the external forces not draw vitality from them whatsoever. This is why it is specifically “My Name (Shmi-שמי) with Yud-י and Heh-ה that corresponds to the three hundred and sixty five negative commandments. It is specifically with the Yud-י and Heh-ה of HaShem’s name, which correspond to the Divine attributes of Chochmah-Wisdom and Binah-Understanding. This is because the principal protection from all wickedness, specifically takes place within one’s thought, since it is in there that the inner unification of Abba-Father (Chochmah) and Imma-Mother (Binah) occurs, which is the source and encompassing light of the upper unity (Yichuda Ila’a) in the two hundred and forty eight positive commandments.
The opposite is also true. When a person’s thoughts are blemished, then the encompassing lights of Chochmah and Binah withdraw and he can fall into every type of wickedness. This is similar to the statement, “Thoughts of sinning are worse than the sin itself.” For, although one is only punished for the act and not for the thought, nevertheless, the thought is worse than the sin itself because it is the thought that acts as an encompassing shield and protection, as previously discussed. The proof of this is the fact that when it comes to any positive thought, “The Holy One blessed be He joins it with a deed,” as is known.
Additional proof is from the mitzvah of Torah study which is equal to all other mitzvot and as our sages of blessed memory said, “The land (of Israel) was only lost due to neglect of Torah study”, as the verse states, “Why is the land lost and laid waste like a wilderness… because they forsook My Torah etc.” The reason for this was explained above, namely, that the root of Torah is within the Chochmah (insight) of the brain in the head and is the source which encompasses all two hundred and forty eight organs, corresponding to the two-hundred and forty eight positive mitzvot. Therefore, neglect of Torah study causes blemishes in the encompassing thought and analysis of the words of Torah, the automatic result of which is that the positive mitzvot lack their root. The result is as if he has caused blemish in all the positive mitzvot.
Likewise, guarding oneself from wickedness is specifically dependent upon the thoughts of the mind. We observe that the cause of falling into total wickedness always originates in the mind, in that one deepens his thoughts into evil matters, such as licentiousness and theft or the like, and from thinking it, one comes to doing it. The matter of “turning from wickedness” primarily applies to thought. In other words, when a person pushes all bad thoughts out of his mind and completely distances himself from them, the automatic result is that he will not come to do it, G-d forbid. We therefore see that considering the sin in thought is worse than the sin itself, because it leads to it.
It is therefore understood that strong faith in the fulfillment of the positive mitzvot is as nature in our souls. However, beyond this, there is a power of faith in Chochmah (insight) and Binah (Comprehension) in the thought of the mind, which protects the soul from every type of evil, which is the power to push away and remove one’s thoughts from evil with all of one’s might and strength, solely out of faith. This faith is called an encompassing light (Makif) and is called by the term Ateret (Crown), as known.
(However, it is possible that this encompassing light of faith can be in regard to falsehood or even in regard to something evil. This is as stated, “When a burglar stands upon the breach [and is about to enter,] he calls out to the Merciful One.” Now, the fact that he calls out to HaShem to respond and assist him in the burglary is a true prayer that resulted from his faith. On the other hand, the fact that through this theft he commits an act of pure wickedness – is a result of the lust of his animal soul and does not cancel out his faith at all. This is because the encompassing light of faith radiates externally from afar and does not penetrate him in a revealed fashion at all. This is the meaning of the statement, “The name of Heaven is habitually expressed in all mouths,” – even in the mouths of false witnesses who swear falsely in HaShem’s name. Nonetheless, their power of faith is true, in and of itself. Therefore, the mitzvah of faith is specifically to bring it into a state of inner revelation within the mind and heart with great strength, even though it is inherited from our forefathers [in an encompassing fashion]. This will suffice for the understanding.)
This clarifies the statement in Midrash Eicha that at the time of the first Holy Temple, Hashem overlooked their sins of theft, licentiousness and bloodshed, but he did not overlook their sin of neglecting Torah study. This is as stated, “Why was the land [of Israel] lost and laid waste like a wilderness?…and Hashem said, because they forsook My Torah etc.” For, when there is a strong bond of thought and thorough analysis in Torah study, that is, in an aspect of the Yud-י and Heh-ה of Chochmah (insight) and Binah (contemplation), in the minds of the community of Israel in general, then they are bound with and unified with His thoughts, blessed be He. For, He too studies Torah in His essential wisdom every day, and although it is vested in physical matters, this is not concealment at all relative to His essence, as known. This is because, “His words are alive and established,” literally as they were at the giving of the Torah. Moreover, in relation to the aspect of Ma”H of Chochmah, the aspect of the garment of Nogah does not cause concealment altogether. This will suffice for the understanding.
We now must introduce one additional matter. As known, “G-d made each thing opposite the other,”- literally. Just as on the side of holiness there is the power for G-dly faith, so likewise on the side of evil there also is a power of faith, which is called “alien faith.” Thus, our sages of blessed memory said in Tractate Yoma, that the first holy Temple was destroyed due to the cardinal sins of idolatry, licentiousness and bloodshed (however, the Holy One blessed be He overlooked these sins until they specifically transgressed the sin of neglect of Torah study, as mentioned before). On the other hand, though we know that in the second Temple they were occupied in Torah study and the performance of mitzvot and charity, nonetheless it was destroyed due to the baseless hatred (Sinat Chinam) that was rampant amongst them. This teaches us that baseless hatred is equal to the three cardinal sins of idolatry, licentiousness, and bloodshed.
Now, we need to understand. Why was the second Temple destroyed due to baseless hatred if they were involved in Torah, mitzvot and charitable acts!? As we know, the vast majority of Jews at the time actually had the quality of self-sacrifice for Torah and mitzvot. One example is the Jews in the time of the Maccabees. They were totally self-sacrificing for the sake of Torah and the service of HaShem when the Greeks attempted to abrogate Torah and mitzvot. This was similarly the case in the generations of the “pairs” such as Hillel and Shammai and their students until the generation of Rabbi Akiva and his companions, such as Rabbi Chanina ben Teradion, all of whom were martyred in the sanctification of HaShem’s name and for the sake of Torah and mitzvot, as known. How then, could it be that the second Temple was destroyed for the sin of baseless hatred and that this alone was comparable to the three cardinal sins of idolatry, licentiousness and bloodshed!?
The explanation is that “G-d made each thing opposite the other.” During the time of the first Temple, the power of G-dly faith was openly revealed amongst the Jewish people. More specifically there were open revelations of G-dliness in the Holy of Holies, such as the miracles associated with the “holy ark” and the tablets. Moreover, the revelation of the spirit of prophecy was poured upon the prophets etc. Now, at the very same time, on the opposing side of evil, alien faiths were rampant, such as star worship or the worship of Ba’al and Ashera and the like. Throughout the period of the kings of Israel and Judah until the generation of the prophet Jeremiah, many Jews adhered to idolatrous practices. This is as stated, “Their wives offered to other gods,” and, “There sat there women weeping for the Tamuz idol,” or, “Since we ceased our offerings to the queen of heaven…we have been in want of all things etc.” Similarly, there were also a multitude of false prophets at the time, such as the prophets of Ba’al and Ashera in their various casts, as is known.
Moreover, even a prophet who speaks in the name of Hashem and admonishes the people not to worship idols, but says even one thing in the name of Hashem that Hashem did not command him to speak, that prophet too “has spoken iniquity in the name of Hashem, and is subject to the death penalty” no less than the prophets of Ba’al. This accords with the statement in Parshat Re’eh, “If there arises in the midst of you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams…and the sign or wonder comes to pass… and he spoke to you saying let us go after other gods… he shall be put to death because he has spoken perversion against Hashem etc.” Similarly in Parshat Shoftim it states, “But the prophet who shall speak any word presumptuously in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, ‘how shall we know the word that Hashem has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of Hashem, if the thing does not follow nor come to pass, that is the thing which Hashem has not spoken, the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you shall not be afraid of him.” From this it is understood that whether a prophet speaks in the name of Hashem that which HaShem never told him to speak, or whether a prophet speaks in the name of false gods, their judgment is equal. This, then, is the primary qualification of false prophecy. It is similar to the spirit that said, “Let me go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets etc.”
Since at the time of the first Holy temple G-dly influence descended in a manner that G-dly faith was openly revealed, through the miraculous presence of the holy ark, the tablets and true prophets of HaShem, therefore, on the opposing side of the “evil husks” there was the aspect of alien and false faiths with false prophets, such as the prophets of Ba’al. Moreover, many people believed that these alien gods were the source of physical sustenance, as the women stated, “Since we ceased our offerings to the Queen of heaven… we are in want of all things etc.” This is the diametric opposite of true G-dly faith, the primary aspect of which is to believe in Him alone, blessed be He, and that He personally supervises every detail of creation with Divine providence. This is as stated, “Your eyes are open upon all the ways of mankind,” and similarly it states, “Hashem looks down from the heavens and beholds all of mankind,” or, “[And it shall come to pass on that day, that Hashem will punish] the hosts of heaven on high, [and the kings of the earth upon the earth etc.]“ For no angel or star has the authority to effect any of its actions without HaShem’s will, for they are merely like an axe in the hand of the woodchopper or like a horse relative to its rider, as it states, “Can a hatchet glory over the one who chops with it?” Similarly it states, “Behold Hashem rides upon a swift cloud” for the hosts of heaven are called, “Clouds upon which he rides.” This is the meaning of what we say in our prayers, “He arranges the stars in their positions in the firmament according to His will” – literally.
The false prophets, one the other hand, had false beliefs and gave primary importance to the subsidiary instruments. That is, they believed in the stars and constellations and offered incense to them in the belief that power was granted to them to bestow influence upon the world and conduct it. This is as stated, “They have forsaken Me, the source of living waters, and have hewn out broken cisterns that hold no water.” This, literally, is contrary to true G-dly faith, in that “G-d made each thing opposite the other.” It is also written, “the one nation shall strive for power over the other nation,” which Rashi explains, “They will not be equal in greatness; when one rises the other will fall, as scripture states, ‘I shall become full from the destroyed city.’ That is, Tyre only became full (or gained power) with the destruction of Jerusalem.” Similarly, at that time the opposing forces struggled for power over the G-dly faith which was openly revealed during the period of the first Temple. This happened by means of false faiths which were similar in their subject, namely, they too were involved with G-dliness. In other words, they did not deny the simple unity of HaShem, G-d forbid. On the contrary, they still continued to bring the offerings in the holy Temple and even fulfilled all of the positive mitzvot. Nonetheless, they were drawn to idolatry through false prophets, and this sin resulted in the destruction of the first Temple.
This is because G-dly faith was revealed in full force, such as the revelation of the Divine Presence (Shechinah) in the Holy of Holies which was the revelation of the “Essence of G-dliness” that is called Sovev Kol Almin (transcending all worlds), as we learn that, “He constricted His Divine Presence between the two poles of the holy ark etc.” and the primary G-dly faith is specifically in the Essence of G-dliness which “is not graspable by any thought whatsoever,” and is called Sovev Kol Almin (transcending all the worlds). It is for this reason that faith is called by the term “Crown (Ateret)” because it is comparable to a beautiful crown upon the head etc. Therefore it also states, “He is truth and she is Faith”. This is because the faith of the community of Israel acts as a receptacle to contain the aspect of the Truth of the Essence of the Infinite Light, blessed be He, as He is – literally, in that He is called Truth, as it states, “Your truth, my G-d etc.”
However, the second Temple lacked five things: the ark, the tablets, prophecy etc. Only a tiny radiance of G-dly light in the form of a heavenly voice (Bat Kol) was left at their disposal. There no longer was a revelation of G-dliness as He literally is, even in the Holy of Holies. Rather there was only revelation as revealed through the filter of a “garment” that conceals the “Essential” light. Furthermore, this revelation was brought about only through the outer services in the Temple, such as the service of the altar (Mizbe’ach), the table (Shulchan), and the candelabra (Menorah), which are only the aspect of G-dly light as it is drawn down by way of the chaining down and enclothement of the worlds (Seder Hishtalshelut); in other words, HaShem’s inner light that pervades all worlds (Memale Kol Almin).
Therefore, in the husks (Kelipah) that oppose holiness there also only was opposition in an inner, pervading manner of enclothement below, rather than in a way of alien faith, as before. This is because though “Alien faiths” are false faiths, nonetheless, at least they deal with G-dliness, except that they err in believing that the star or constellation is a primary source of influence. This is a false faith in HaShem, for it is the mistaken belief that He granted actual authority to the stars and constellations or the like.
However, since during the period of the second Temple the light of G-dly faith that encompasses all worlds (Sovev Kol Almin) was not strongly revealed in the Holy of Holies, therefore the opposition to it through false prophecy was also not strong. Rather, the alien faith was manifested in worldly matters, primarily in the form of baseless hatred of one Jew to another. The reason is because baseless hatred also is caused primarily through the power of faith. That is, that a person believes the gossip and slander about his fellow Jew and thereby becomes hateful and vindictive toward him. Likewise, the other fellow also believes the gossip and slander about him and becomes hateful and vindictive too etc. If only they would not believe the slander and gossip about each other, then on the contrary, their hearts would be strengthened to seek only goodness for each other and they would remain faithful and beloved friends who only wish the best for each other.
Rather, this is caused by a spirit of delusion which can even cause divisiveness and disunity between the closest friends, thus bringing accusations from above on all of them, because when a friend becomes an enemy below in this physical realm, this arouses harsh judgments and accusations upon the spiritual life of his soul above. Thus, the sin that he has transgressed below awakens to become “a whip with which to smite him” and literally disrupts his family life, his health and his livelihood. Additionally, when one Jew hates his fellow, he also awakens supernal accusations against his fellow. All these are the work of the “Accuser” (Satan) to cause divisiveness amongst people and this is the reason for the great length of the exile. There is not a single city or place that is not embroiled in baseless hatred stemming from false beliefs, because people believe lies and become vindictive towards each other, until they “swallow each other alive” and awaken accusations which destroy everything. This is especially true of this orphaned generation, in which even the leaders of the generation have fallen into exceedingly baseless hatred. (This may be compared to how it was amongst the princes of Israel in the period of the first Temple, as stated in Tractate Yoma, “They would eat and drink together, but stab each other with the swords of their tongues etc.”)
Now, aside for the belief in gossip, lies and slander, another primary cause of hatred is envy towards whoever is wealthy and successful in earning his livelihood. The hatred and envy towards such people is tremendous. This tendency is mostly found amongst the nations of the world. About this the verse states, “Their tongue is a sharpened arrow to speak deceit; with his mouth one speaks peaceably to his neighbor, but in his heart he lays in wait for him” to overpower and kill his neighbor. Such is the punishment upon those who are wealthy and successful but show no mercy and or kindness to the poor and impoverished. Rather, he takes all sustenance for himself, but places every manner of imposition and affliction upon the poor, but is lenient on himself, may Hashem atone. This will suffice for the understanding.
Now, after all these words of truth a person may clearly understand the great power of strong faith, and how it includes and is the foundation of all the positive and negative mitzvot, as it states, “For I believe Your mitzvot.” Faith also includes all the particular levels of service of HaShem in the mind and heart, in both emotional and intellectual love and awe of HaShem, each person according to his time and place, as well as the delight in G-dliness that the soul experiences when a person is spiritually worthy. This is as known regarding the verse “My flesh and heart will sing for joy to the living G-d,” and similarly, “My soul yearns and pines for the courts of Hashem” with sweetness, pleasantness, and endearment etc. The same is true in the opposite sense, in regard to the great anguish and bitterness that is experienced when one is distant from the unity of Hashem, which touches the very essential point of the heart, as it does in the truly penitent, as known. All this comes about solely through the power of faith, which is imbedded in the very essence of the soul, and all the above mentioned matters are only like rays of light that branch out of faith in the service of the mind and heart, in deeds and in acts penitence from the depth of the heart. The same applies to the delight in Hashem that is experienced on Shabbat and holidays.
It is therefore incumbent upon each person to come close to Hashem with prayer, repentance and good deeds, and to greatly strengthen his heart with the power and might of this essential faith in HaShem’s essential Being, specifically. It is specifically through this that the light of Truth will shine in all aspects of his daily service, in his mind and heart, in his fulfillment of the positive mitzvot and in desisting from doing the negative mitzvot, and in his repentance of returning to HaShem etc. Regarding this it specifically states, “They are renewed every morning; Great is Your faithfulness etc.” That is, the G-dly soul shines every morning specifically because of the power of faith. About this it states, “The righteous lives by his faith.” In other words, it is faith that enlivens a person with G-dly life. Through this even his physical livelihood will be enlivened specifically through Divine providence. This will suffice for the understanding.
Hence, we see that the very essence and foundation of all G-dly service is specifically the mitzvah of simple faith. About this we say in the Haggadah, “This is what stood for our fathers and us etc.” “This” refers specifically to the mitzvah of faith, in that its merit is eternal and rescues us from every manner of accusation, both supernal and temporal. This is as stated, “I have not despised them to destroy them by abrogating my covenant with them etc,” This also is the meaning of the continuation of the verse, “For not only one alone rose up against us to destroy us etc,” (as explained in Shaar HaEmunah).
Therefore, it is exceedingly important for each person to strengthen and arouse the power of faith in his soul, for certainly every Jew possesses it as a nature, literally as an inheritance from our forefathers. This is why the mitzvah of faith is not explicitly mentioned in the Torah – because a “commandment” is not applicable here. Rather, all that is necessary is just to awaken what inherently is already there for its light to shines forth in a revealed manner with strength and fortitude. This will suffice for the understanding.
Now, after truly strengthening one’s faith, each person according to his ability may come to an aspect of revelation and illumination of G-dly knowledge and the specific levels of G-dly excitement which are awakened through the contemplation (Hitbonenut) of the HaShem’s upper unity (Yichuda Ila’a) and His lower unity (Yichuda Tata’a) during the recital of the Shma, this being the mitzvah to acknowledge HaShem’s unity, with G-dly comprehension and recognition in the mind and heart, each person according to his stature. Included, are the mitzvot to love and fear of HaShem during the recital of the two chapters of the Shma. This is because love and fear of HaShem, whether intellectual or emotional, are only branches that stem from the power of comprehension and recognition in the mind and heart. Therefore we first state, “Hear oh Israel,” and only afterwards we say, “You shall love HaShem your G-d etc. and serve Him” through the acceptance of the yoke of His kingdom, as known.
All of these matters are clearly evident to those who see with the eye of the intellect, and it is apparent that faith is the pillar and foundation for all G-dly service, because “everything follows that which establishes it.” The same is true regarding that which follows simple faith, which is the mitzvah to know HaShem, as it states, “I will betroth you to Me with faith and with the knowledge of Hashem.” Similarly it states, “You shall know this day and set it upon your heart,” and, “You have been shown to know etc,” as mentioned above in regard to the matter of the negative mitzvah not to forget.
With this purpose in mind I have committed myself to awaken the hearts of my brothers and friends, all those who are like me. For although they are already accustomed in their minds and hearts regarding the manner in which to receive the details of G-dly knowledge, nevertheless, they should not err in their souls to think that they have touched upon the ultimate truth of G-dly light. For although it is good for those who have tasted, and although ecstasy and G-dly pleasure is accessible at propitious times, such as on shabbat and holidays, nonetheless, they must venture to truly behold the ultimate truth, this being the true and ultimate foundation for all G-dly toil in the mind, the heart and in action, which is specifically the mitzvah of faith. I therefore I have taken it upon myself to collect words of truth regarding the matter and essence of faith. In addition, I have collected various discourses and precious expositions on the subject of the splitting of the sea and the exodus from Egypt as they relate to the subject of faith. However, my goal here is not to merely expound. Rather, these are solely words that have been gathered from or founded upon the path of light and truth that was illuminated by my father and master, the G-dly genius of blessed memory, in his expositions, that have been accepted in the hearts of all who heard and understood them. Therefore, everyone whose desire is to find serenity in his soul, especially in these difficult times, should set it upon his heart with a strong commitment, to come close to Hashem through strong faith in the very essence of his soul. This will suffice for the understanding.
In addition, I have found it fitting to join to this composition, which is called “The Gate of Faith” (Shaar HaEmunah), an additional pamphlet that speaks about the matter of the HaShem’s unity, in all the details of the chaining down of the ten Sefirot in the four worlds of Atzilut, Briyah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. It summarizes everything that a person can bring close to his intellect in a manner of comprehension that can vest within and be grasped by the mind and heart regarding every detail of the chaining down of the worlds (Seder Hishtalshelut). That is, it explains everything from the very first Tzimtzum (constriction) until the very end of the world of Asiyah (Action). This composition is generally known by the name Kuntres HaHitbonenut (The Tract on Contemplation), and many have yearned to see it in print, for there are many mistakes in the hand-copied manuscripts. I trust that my positive intentions for the good of every person who truly and honestly seeks G-d, will be desirable before Hashem and that I will be judged meritoriously in whatever may be found to not be fitting in the eyes of the wise, as it states, “Who can discern his errors etc.”
May Hashem uplift the horn of Israel and enlighten their eyes with the light of Hashem, the eternal light, with grace, kindness, and mercy. May He bless them with spiritual and physical life and may He always support and uplift them until the coming of the redeemer.
These are the words of one who speaks in truth and with the love of the light of truth and faith, “a friend that is closer than a brother,” who is bound with the bonds of great love and eternal love to all those who seek and search out Hashem in the ways of the Torah of truth, the mitzvot, prayer and repentance.
From the depths of my heart,
Dov Ber, the son of my father, master, teacher and Rabbi, the genius, our master and teacher Rabbi Shneur Zalman, may the memory of the righteous bring blessings and may his soul repose in Eden.
 Isaiah 49:14
 Tanya, Shaar HaYichud VeHaEmunah Ch. 7
 Zichronot prayers in Musaf of Rosh Hashanah
 Zichronot prayers in Musaf of Rosh Hashanah
 Leviticus 16:16
 Song of Songs 8:7
 Zohar Mishpatim 99b; Etz Chaim, Shaar 39, Drush 7 and 8. Also see Maamarei Admor HaEmtza’ee, Dvarim Vol. 1, p. 24.
 Malachi 3:6; Also see Torat Chaim, Noach 49a.
 Deuteronomy 8:17
 Deuteronomy 6:12 & 8:11
 Deuteronomy 6:5
 Deuteronomy 11:14 & 11:13
 Deuteronomy 4:39
 Deuteronomy 4:35
 Isaiah 1:3
 The lower knowledge (Daat Tachton) which receives from Abba and Imma (Chochmah and Binah) through Hitbonenut-contemplation.
 Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 3b
 Hoseah 6:3
 Chronicles I 28:9
 See Sefer HaMitzvot from Maimonides
 Isaiah 1:4
 Isaiah 1:3
 The upper knowledge (Daat Elyon) which unites Abba and Imma (Chochmah and Binah) as a gift from above.
 Tanya, Introduction in the words of Zohar, Vayera 103b.
 Psalms 44:22
 Song of Songs 8:6
 Zohar, VaYechi 244b; Mishpatim 114a.
 Hosha’ana prayer, Om Ani Choma (for day three).
 Talmud Bavli, Avoda Zarah 17a.
 Hosha’ana prayer, Even Shetia (for day two).
 Proverbs 27:19
 Amos 9:11; Also see Zohar, Tetzave 186b, and Maamarei Admor HaEmtza’ee, Na”Ch p. 352.
 Exodus 2:23-25
 Exodus 6:5
 Jeremiah 2:2
 Samuel I 2:3; Also see Maamarei Admor HaEmtza’ee, Vayikra Vol. 1, p. 262; Torat Chaim, Bereishit 18c; Shaar HaEmunah 51b.
 Jeremiah 31:33
 Isaiah 40:5
 Isaiah 11:9
 Referring to Shaar HaEmunah
 Isaiah 63:9
 Deuteronomy 31:18
 Zohar VaYigash p. 210a; Vayikra 20b; Also see Torat Chaim, Lech Lecha p. 95a.
 Hosea 5:15
 Zohar (Ra’aya MeHemna) Pinchas p. 225a.
 Bereishit Rabba 68:9
 Isaiah 63:9
 This is the matter of Kree-how the verse is read, versus Ksiv-how it is written. In this and the subsequently referenced verses, the spoken sound of the word “Lo” is the same, yet it can mean either לא – no or not, or it can mean לו – his or he is. That is, these verses are written with an Aleph-א, but read with a Vav-ו. So this same verse can mean, “in all their afflictions, He is afflicted” or “in all their afflictions, He is not afflicted.” The same is true of the subsequently quoted verses as additional examples of this.
 Psalms 100:3
 Samuel I 2:3
 Jeremiah 32:19
 Isaiah 44:15
 Deuteronomy 14:1
 Exodus 20:14
 Shaar HaEmunah
 Deuteronomy 16:3
 Isaiah 25:9
 Jeremiah 2:2
 Malachi 3:24
 Isaiah 45:15
 Zohar VaYigash 210a; VaYikra 20b
 Exodus 6:9
 Deuteronomy 4:30
 Hosea 14:10
 Psalms 25:10
 Psalms 119:15
 Genesis 18:19
 Deuteronomy 13:5
 Psalms 119:15
 Song of Songs 1:2
 See Rashi commentary to Song of Songs 1:2. Also see Maamarei Admor HaEmtza’ee, Dvarim Vol. 4, p. 1,473.
 Talmud Bavli, Brachot 26a-26b
 Deuteronomy 31:18
 Exodus 14:5
 Exodus 15:22, 17:1
 Exodus 14:31
 Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 146a.
 Talmud Bavli, Makkot 23b
 Habakuk 2:4
 Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 15b
 Deuteronomy 6:25
 Exodus 3:15
 See Likkutei Torah, Pekudei 3b; Tikkunei Zohar, introduction 4b-5a; Maamarei Admor HaEmtza’ee, Dvarim Vol. 2 p. 412; Na”Ch p. 93.
 Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 30, 74
 Deuteronomy 30:15
 Talmud Bavli, Eiruvin 95b
 Numbers 15:39
 Deuteronomy 28:10
 Leviticus 23:43
 Leviticus 26:3
 Talmud Bavli, Makot 23b
 Torat Kohanim, end of Parshat Kedoshim; Also see Shaar HaTeshuva, Shaar Tefilah p. 71d and on.
 Deuteronomy 13:6
 Leviticus 18:5
 Proverbs 15:11; 27:20; Psalms 16:10; Talmud Bavli Eruvin 19a.
 Proverbs 7:27
 Judges 5:6
 Deuteronomy 8:15; Also see Likutei Torah, Naso 20a; Shaar HaTeshuvah Vol. 1, p. 4b.
 Deuteronomy 8:15
 Ezekiel 20:35
 Leviticus 16:8-21; Maamarei Admor HaEmtza’ee, Na”Ch p. 498.
 Isaiah 59:17
 Jeremiah 9:7
 Jeremiah 2:19
 Isaiah 9:11
 Psalms 124:2-6
 Genesis 41:21
 Hosea 8:8
 Isaiah 9:11
 Zohar (Idra Zuta) HaAzinu 290b; Tanya, Igeret HaTeshuvah Ch. 4; Maamarei Admor HaEmtza’ee, Dvarim Vol. 2, p. 366 & p. 656.
 Talmud Bavli, Yoma 29a
 Talmud Bavli, Kiddushin 40a
 Introduction to Eicha Rabba; Talmud Yerushalmi Chagiga 1:7; Talmud Bavli Yoma 9b.
 Jeremiah 9:11-12
 Pardes Rimonim, Shaar 23, Atara; Also see Maamarei Admor HaZaken 5565 Vol. 2, p. 740; Vol. 1 p.4 (in the name of the early Kabbalists); Nevi’im p. 223; Likkutei Torah, V’Etchanan 5c.
 Talmud Bavli, Brachot 63a
 See Maamarei Admor HaEmtza’ee, Kuntreisim, p. 142; Shaar HaTeshuvah Vol. 1, p. 8b.
 Tanya, Ch. 18 & Ch. 33
 Introduction to Eicha Rabba
 Jeremiah 9:11-12
 Talmud Bavli, Avoda Zarah 3b
 See Kriyat Shma Blessing, Emet VeYatziv
 Ecclesiastes 7:14
 Talmud Bavli Yoma 9b
 Talmud Bavli, Brachot 61b; Avoda Zarah 18b
 Jeremiah 44:15, 19, 20, 25
 Ezekiel 8:14
 Jeremiah 44:18
 Deuteronomy 13:2, 3, 6; Also see Rambam Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah Ch. 9; Avoda Zarah Ch. 5, and the commentaries there.
 Deuteronomy 13:2, 3, 6
 Deuteronomy 18:20-22
 Kings I 22:22
 Jeremiah 32:19
 Psalms 33:13
 Isaiah 24:21
 Moreh Nevuchim, Part III, Ch. 29.
 Isaiah 10:15
 Isaiah 19:1
 Zohar, Bo 43a
 Arvit evening prayer, blessings of Kriyat Shma
 Jeremiah 2:13
 Genesis 25:23
 Ezekiel 26:2
 Talmud Bavli, Megilla 26a; Pesachim 42b.
 See Maamarei Admor HaEmtza’ee, Hanachot 5577 p. 225, and the references there.
 Bereishit Rabba 4:4
 Introduction to Tikkunei Zohar 17a.
 Zohar Balak 198b
 Psalms 71:22
 Talmud Bavli, Yomah 21b and the commentaries there.
 Talmud Bavli, Sota 48b
 Isaiah 19:14
 Zohar introduction 11b
 Talmud Bavli, Yoma 9b
 Jeremiah 9:7
 Samuel II Ch. 12
 Psalms 119:66
 Psalms 84:3
 Psalms 84:3
 Lamentations 3:23
 Haggadah Shel Pesach
 Shaar HaEmunah p. 11a
 See Siddur of Alter Rebbe, Shaar HaTefilin 15d and on; Torat Chaim, Noach 58b.
 Hosea 2:22
 Deuteronomy 4:39
 Deuteronomy 4:35
 Psalms 19:13
 Isaiah 63:9
 Proverbs 18:24