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As Divided for a Regular Year
Tanya for 14 Shevat
Chapter Twenty-Four[In chapter 18 the Alter Rebbe began to explain how it is very near and accessible to each of us to serve G-d out of a feeling of love and awe, by means of awakening the hidden love latent in us all.
To clarify how this hidden love can lead to the observance of all the mitzvot, the Alter Rebbe proceeded to discuss the relationship of all the mitzvot to the precept of belief in G-d's unity and to the prohibition against idolatry.
The unity of G-d, he explained, means not only that there is but one G-d; rather that G-d is the only existing being, and all else is contained within Him.
Conversely, idolatry does not necessarily mean a denial of G-d's existence, or of His being unique. *Any* assertion that something exists beyond and separate from G-d also constitutes idolatry.
In chapter 23, the Alter Rebbe went on to state that through Torah and mitzvot, in which the Divine Will stands revealed, one reaches a perfect union with G-d.
In this chapter (24) he explains that a transgression has exactly the opposite effect of a mitzvah.
Whereas a mitzvah joins one to G-d, a transgression severs one from Him; whereas a mitzvah attests to G-d's unity, a transgression implies idolatry].
[Since] everything [in the realm of holiness has its counterpart in the unholy realms of the sitra achra, there is also an unholy counterpart to the observance of the mitzvot and to Torah study, which produce union with G-d. Their counterpart is]: the 365 prohibitions stated in the Torah, and all the Rabbinical prohibitions.
Since they are contrary to and the very opposite of G-d's Will and wisdom, they represent total and complete separation from His unity and oneness.
They are the same as the sitra achra and the kelipah which are called "idolatry" and "other gods," since the internal aspect of the Divine Will is concealed from them, as explained above  - [that they receive their life-force from the "hinder-part" of the Divine Will, the level of Achorayim and for this reason they are called Elokim Achairim -"other gods."
Just as the forbidden actions themselves represent separation from G-dliness] so too the three garments of a Jew's animal soul, which stems from the kelipah of nogah - namely, the thought, speech and action that are clothed in [i.e., that think, speak or act in violation of] the 365 Torah-prohibitions, or any of the Rabbinic injunctions, and similarly the essence of the soul itself which is clothed in its garments, [since it is the soul itself, after all, which thinks, speaks and acts through its "garments" - the faculties of thought, speech and action],
- all of them become completely united with this sitra achra and kelipah called "avodah zarah," i.e., idolatry.
[Not only are they united with the kelipah, and thus equal to it, but] furthermore they become secondary and subordinate to it, and much lower and more debased than it.
For the kelipah is not clothed in a corporeal body [and hence is more exposed to the divine light]; it knows its Master and does not rebel against Him (G-d forbid) by any independent act of sending its evil messengers, other than in the service of G-d.
[Any evil act of the sitra achra is performed only in the service of G-d. Thus, the kelipot that are not clothed in a body cannot rebel against G-d's Will; only the animal soul clothed in the human body can do so. Hence, it is even lower than the kelipah].
So did Bilaam say:  "I cannot violate the Word of G-d ...."
[Although Bilaam was a kelipah clothed in a body, yet when he spoke for the spiritual kelipah within him, viz., the unholy prophetic power with which he wished to curse the Jewish people, he said, "I cannot violate the Word of G-d]."
Although the kelipot are called avodah zarah, idolatry, [which is a denial of G-d], yet they refer to Him as "the G-d of gods," [indicating that they do not deny Him completely].
They cannot violate G-d's Will, for they know and perceive that He is their life and sustenance, since they derive their nurture from the "hindermost aspect" of the Divine Will which encompasses them.
It is only the sustenance and life-force that is within them, [i.e., the internal life-force which constitutes the identity of every created being], as explained in chapter 22, that is in a state of exile, so that they regard themselves as gods - which is a denial of G-d's unity.
But they are not so completely heretical as to deny G-d and to assert that He does not exist. On the contrary, they regard Him as "the G-d of gods," recognizing that their life and existence ultimately derive from His Will. Therefore they never rebel against G-d's Will.
It follows, then, that the person who does violate G-d's Will is greatly inferior to and more debased than the kelipah and sitra achra which are called avodah zarah and "other gods."
He is separated completely from G-d's unity and oneness even more than they are, as though denying His unity even more radically than they, G-d forbid.
This is similar to what is written in Etz Chayim, Portal 42, end of ch. 4, that the evil in this corporeal world is the dregs of the coarse kelipot; it is the sediment of the purifying process, and so on.
[I.e., after whatever sparks of good that are found in the kelipot have been isolated and elevated, what remains is kelipah in its lowest, coarsest form. This kelipah is the evil found in this material world].
For this reason, all matters of this world are harsh and evil, and the wicked prevail in it, and so forth.
- (Back to text) Ch. 22.
- (Back to text) Bamidbar 22:18.
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