Parshas Bereishis-Torah Or-Selected teachings

1. Desiring that God dwell in one’s midst:[1]

The verse states, “Who is to me in the heavens and with you I do not desire.” This verse expresses the deep longing that a Jew has, and that he is meant to have, in which he solely desires that the infinite light of God himself be his God and dwell within him. Meaning, that one desires that there be a revelation of the infinite light of God upon his soul, and does not suffice with the revelation of a mere glimmer. A Jew’s heart should yearn to attach to God and to reveal his Godliness upon his soul and inside of his soul. [This teaching is of most fundamental importance in Chabad philosophy, and is one of the main novel teachings of the Alter Rebbe. In this teaching we are instructed to not be bought off with pleasurable and enjoyable revelations of God which are really not a revelation of His true self, but rather a mere glimmer of Him. Rather, one is to desire to cleave to God himself and to unite with Him.]


A parable:

A grandmother arrived from out of country for her annual visit of her grandchildren and brought with her many presents. Naturally, the children were most excited for their grandmother’s arrival and especially for receiving of the presents. This time, the grandmother bought them their most exciting games and toys that they’ve been wanting for so long. When the grandmother arrived, they pounced on her with alacrity to help bring in the suitcases and unpack the toys. They were so busy with their new presents that they completely forgot to give their grandmother a hug and a kiss and ask her as to how she’s doing, and spent time with her. This, however, was with exception to her four-year-old grandson who after a few minutes left the toys aside for his siblings to play with and gave his grandmother a big hug and cuddled with her on the couch. Needless to say, as happy as the grandmother was to make her grandchildren happy with the new presents, the act that touched her heart the most was her grandsons love and embrace. This is a parable for the above teaching of the Alter Rebbe. The grandmother represents God, while the presents represent all of God’s various gifts to humanity in which they can take pleasure in, both physical and spiritual, including even the highest spiritual gifts such as the revelations of the ray of godliness in the garden of Eden. Nonetheless, all of these gifts are not God himself. God truly desires that the Jewish people desire Him, and Him alone. This in truth is the innate desire of every Jew, although remains dormant deep inside the heart, and remains dormant when the Jew is satisfied with all the “presents” that he receives from God. The Alter Rebbe taught us not to be satisfied with the above, not to be satisfied with the external, and to rather seek the internal, which is a Jew’s true quest and God’s true desire.


The Divine lesson:

Don’t serve God for the sake of reward, even the spiritual reward received in the garden of Eden. Rather, serve Him for the sake of cleaving to Him and bonding with Him, and act to reveal this yearning every single day, praying that you should merit to house the divine light within you.  



2. All levels are interconnected and contain advantageous aspects-Acupuncture of the feet affects the brain:[2]

The general souls of the Jewish people are referred to as a leg and at the same time are also referred to as the children of God. The reason for this is because children are considered like the leg and extension of their father. Another reason behind the reference of the Jewish people to a leg is to emphasize the incorporation of all the Jewish souls, as can see from a parable regarding the body. Although certainly the head is considered the higher and more important limb in comparison to the legs, nonetheless, the legs also contain advantages over the head, as the head cannot go anywhere without the legs and the legs are able to carry the head to anywhere he wishes. It is thus found that the head needs the legs. Also in medicine we find a similar advantage in the legs over the head, as the legs and feet contain certain pressure points and nerve endings that are rooted in the brain and directly affect it. Thus, we find that in the treatment of bloodletting, that releasing blood from the feet helps to heal the head, and likewise there are many other medical treatments done to the feet that help heal the head. From this respect, it is the feet that is considered the head and the head that is considered the feet being that it is dependent on it in this respect. Now, just like we find this interconnection in the physical body and how even lower body parts have advantages aspects over higher body parts, so too it is spiritually that God created all levels intertwined and that even lower levels contain advantages aspects over higher levels, and hence from a certain perspective the lower level is higher than the higher level.


The Divine lesson-Never belittle another even if you feel greater than they:

It is common for societies to create hierarchy levels, and different levels of classes such as the high-class, middle class, and lower class. The higher class can be tempted to look at the lower class with scorn and belittlement, viewing them as unimportant and worthless. In truth, God created all classes and races and peoples with a purpose and advantageous aspects, and there are many things that the high-class cannot do on their own and require the lower class to do for them, hence making them vulnerable and submissive to the lower class, and having the lower class be higher than them in this aspect. Thus, our sages teach us in the books of ethics that one should never belittle any person as he never knows when the tables may turn, and he may become in need of something from that person. Being racist and prejudice against a certain class of people defies the Godly intent of creation.


3. The divine lights that were lost due to the sin of the golden calf, and their return on Shabbos:[3]

The sin of the golden calf caused Moshe to lose 1000 Divine lights that he was able to experience. On Shabbos, however, these lights are returned to him as a gift. On this it says in the Shabbos Shemoneh Esrei prayer “Yismach Moshe Bematnas Chelko,” that Moshe rejoices in his portion.

4. Action of Mitzvos has ability to refine one’s mind and heart 1000 times:[4]

Through one refining his actions, which is this power of action, through performing physical action which is the aspect of “feet” his mind and heart become 1000 times clearer refined. [This famous statement of the Alter Rebbe was repeated by the Rebbe on numerous occasions especially in relevance to the mitzvah of doing Tzedaka, and all the more so in assisting another Jew in becoming closer to Judaism and teaching him Torah, which is considered spiritual Tzedaka. The Rebbe stated that by giving physical charity or by giving spiritual charity to another Jew by teaching him Torah, one affects that his mind and heart become a thousand times more refined, and hence one should not view the giving of charity and the learning Torah with another, as if it takes away from his time for learning, as in truth it helps him accomplish a thousand times more in his learning than he would’ve accomplished without it. Meaning, in very simple terms, that which would’ve taken him a thousand hours to comprehend will now only take him one hour.[5] The advantage is both in quality and quantity, and likewise helps him reach a level in which he is fit to Pasken.[6]]

5. Losing one’s feelings of love after Davening:[7]

On occasion it occurs that although one is successful in arousing deep feelings of love and passion during the prayer, after the prayers it completely subsides to the point that he is able to act as if it never existed and turn his love to matters of the world. The reason that this occurs is because one’s emotions and arousal of love for God is dependent on his intellect, and the time of prayer is a time that the intellect is greatly revealed. However, after the prayer concludes and this power of intellect ceases, the emotions likewise subside, being that the emotions are now independent from the intellect.

Mamar “Ki Kasher Hashamayim Hachadashim”

6. The concept of Ratzo and Shuv:[8]

The sages state that both the heavens and earth were created for the sake of Torah and for the sake of the Jewish people. Being that this is the case, one must say that there is an aspect of heaven and earth that is found in the Torah as well as in service of God through one is able to establish the physical heaven and earth. The matter is as follows: There exist two different modes of service of God, one called Ratzo and the second called Shuv. The service called Ratzo refers to the passion and desire of the heart to cleave to God. It comes from the word Ratz, which means to run, as one who is overcome with passion runs towards the subject of his passion to be nullified to it. In general, all the souls of Israel have a subconscious deep passionate desire to cleave to God. The divine service of Shuv refers to drawing down godliness below, in which we return the Godliness back onto the earth. So, while in the mode of Ratzo we run towards God, in the mode of Shuv, we draw Him down to us. The Divine service of Ratzo is the service that corresponds to the earth while the divine service of Shuv is the divine service that corresponds to the heavens. In today’s times, prior to the redemption, the service of Shuv in which we draw down Godliness is dependent on preceding it with Ratzo. However, in the future this order will change.

7. The purpose of Pesukei Dezimra-To tear the concealments of evil:[9]

Within the prayer, we fulfill the divine services of both Ratzo and Shuv, with the blessings of Shema and Shema representing the passion of Ratzo, and Shemoneh Esrei representing the return of Shuv. What then does Pesukei Dezimra represents and what is coming to accomplish? The answer is that Pesukei Dezimra accomplishes something very fundamental and necessary to facilitate the future divine services of Ratzo and Shuv in the coming parts of the prayer. In Pesukei Dezimra we sing the praise of God as it states, “And he elevates G-d in his throat.” Now, through singing this praise we accomplish the tearing of all the curtains of concealment that hide and darken the revelation of Godliness from our souls. The singing of praise is comparable to one holding a double edge sword which he uses to whip at the curtain of concealment, until the curtain is torn down, and allows the light to shine through.

8.  The state of concealment of the Godly soul when it is within the body:[10]

Although the Godly soul contains a deep passion and desire to cleave to G-d, this is only consciously constantly felt in its root, which is the level of the soul that exists prior to its descent below to this world. However, after its descent below to the physical world in which it is invested in a physical body and animal soul which conceals the divine light, it loses this conscious feeling, as it becomes constantly persuaded by the animal soul and body to draw after the various involvements of the material world which are dark and void of any revealed godliness, and this causes its passion and desire for godliness to become concealed and dormant. It is for this reason that it takes a very long time to restart the engine of passion of one’s G-dly soul as is done in prayer.

9. Spiritual idol worship- placing one’s focus on materialism:[11]

The sages state that the Jewish people who live in the Diaspora are considered to be serving idols in purity [i.e. in a legally permitted way]. This means as follows: When one completely diverges himself from desire and passion for spirituality and rather places all his focus on materialism and the nonsense of the physical world, even if they are essentially permitted and are included within the good of Kelipas Nogah, it is equivalent to idolatry. This is because it causes divinity to be drawn down into the Kelipa of Noga, and this is considered as if one is prostrating himself to other gods, as the idea of prostration is drawing down energy into them. On this it says in the Shema prayer, “do not allow your hearts to be seduced to go after other gods, otherwise God’s wrath will be revealed, and He will stop the heavens from giving dew.” This means to say that through performing spiritual idolatry it causes that divinity from heaven will stop being channeled into the chambers of holiness, and will rather go to the chambers of impurity.

Mamar “Ki Kasher Hashamayim Hachadashim” Biur

10. The purpose of the descent of the soul below:[12]

It is known that the purpose of the descent of the soul below into the body in this world is in order to refine and elevate the Divine sparks, through the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvah’s in which is invested the infinite light of G-d. Through doing so, one draws the infinite light onto his actual soul. Now, prior to the descent of the soul, the soul was incorporated in its maker, and was engaged in the emotions of love and fear, as the soul is made up of intellect and emotions. The descent and investment of the soul into the body and animal soul conceals this love, and causes it to now be garbed with filthy garments, which are the emotions that come from the side of evil. Nonetheless, this descent is for the sake of an ascent, as through the work in this world it gets to unite with the infinite light of God, as explained above.

11. The world of Atzilus:[13]

The world of Atzilus is considered to be called by God’s name, as it is in this world that the infinite light of God actually resides. The infinite light of God unites with that world with absolute unity in both its light and vessels. Every aspect of that world is nullified and incorporated within the infinite light of God Himself. This concept is known as “Ihu Vechayohi Chad,” that He and his lights are one, and “Ihu Vegramohi Chad,” that he and His vessels are one. Notwithstanding this, the world of Atzilus is infinitely distanced from the essence of God himself and is considered like actual action in its comparison. It is only a mere ray of infinity that descends below and unites with the world of Atzilus without any separation until the entire world is filled with this ray, and nothing else can independently exist there other than this ray. The word Atzilus comes from the word Vayetzal which means to extend and separate, as in this world God extends his infinite light and separates a ray from it so it resides in it. The vessels of this world are there to define the various divine lights to specific jobs and focuses, although nonetheless does not contradict the infinite Divine light that resides on them, and hence the character traits of the world of Atzilus are all considered the characters of God, such as the wisdom of Atzilus is considered the wisdom of God. This is in contrast to the world of Beriyah and down which do not enjoy this level of unity with God’s infinite light, and indeed God’s divinity is hidden and concealed in these world’s, within various garments of concealment, each to their degree and level. It is for this reason that these worlds are considered the worlds of separation, as they appear separate from God’s unity.


[1] Torah Or p. 1a [lines 21-31]

[2] Torah Or p. 1b lines 16-24

[3] Torah Or p. 1b lines 32-34

[4] Torah Or p. 1b lines 40-43

[5] Sichas 18th Elul 5712, printed in Keser Shem Tov Hashaleim p. 548; 12th Tamuz 5711 [Printed in Toras Menachem 3:203]; See also Toras Menachem 10:306; 11:94; 28:300, and many more areas

[6] Toras Menachem 3:203

[7] Torah Or p. 1b lines 52-55

[8] Torah Or p. 1c-d

[9] Torah Or p. 1d

[10] Torah Or p. 1d

[11] Torah Or 2b

[12] Torah Or p. 2d

[13] Torah Or p. 3A

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