Tanya Chapter 27: The negation of depression from evil lusts & The service of Iskafya

Chapter 27: The negation of depression from evil lusts & The service of Iskafya

23rd Shevat/(LY)2nd Adar 1

1. Sadness and depression that results from one having evil lusts and passions in his heart:

  • In the previous chapter, we explained the absolute necessity of serving G-d with joy in order to overcome the evil inclination and the negation of sadness or depression even due to serious sins. In this current chapter the Alter Rebbe will give advice for one who suffers from sadness and depression due to the evil lusts and passions that he entertains in his heart even if he has not been brought to sin.
  • If the depression and sadness that one has is not due to one’s worry of the sins that he is committed but rather because one’s entertaining of evil thoughts and forbidden lusts which fall into one’s mind, then the following is the advice for him to follow.

2. Removing one’s mind from evil thoughts of forbidden lusts and passion during mundane activity:

  • Rejoicing in the fact that he pushes the thoughts away and fulfills the verse in Scripture: If the evil lusts fall into his mind not during times of service of G-d but rather during his business dealings and day-to-day activities, then on the contrary he should rejoice over the fact that he overcomes these lusts and pushes them out of his mind. Through doing so he fulfills the negative command of “thou shall not straight after is your heart and after your eyes which you lust after.”
  • A Beinoni naturally suffers from sexually forbidden thoughts: This verse is not talking to the righteous G-d forbid, as it would not refer to them as people who lust after the forbidden. Rather it is talking to the Beinoni and the like who have lustful sexual thoughts fall into their mind, whether it be in a permissible manner [such as with one’s wife] or a forbidden manner [such as with another woman]. When the Beinoni pushes away such thoughts he fulfills the above negative command.
  • One who does not sin is considered like one who has fulfilled the positive command: Now, our sages teach us that one who sits and does not transgress a negative command is given reward if he did a mitzvah. Accordingly, the Beinoni is to rejoice in the fact that by him controlling his evil lusts he has fulfilled a negative command and is hence to rejoice just as he would rejoice when he fulfills a positive command, to the same extent.


(LY)3rd Adar 1

3. Being Happy with one’s Avoda of pushing away evil-The depression which results from having forbidden lusts is due to arrogance:

  • Not knowing one’s place: Accordingly, not only is there no reason to be depressed over the fact that one has forbidden thoughts, but on the contrary this depression is from the evil inclination and comes from arrogance, being that the person believes that he is someone whom he is not.
  • Grandeur-A desire to be a tzaddik: He is not satisfied with his position and purpose as a Beinoni and has grandiose desires to rather be on the level of a Tzaddik which certainly do not have such forbidden and vein thoughts such as these falls into to their minds. In truth, if he knew and recognize his true position and purpose, and that he is very distanced from the level of a tzaddik, then he would not be depressed over this at all, as he would understand that this is his level and purpose.
  • Focus on being a Beinoni prior to fantasizing about being a tzaddik: A person on this level rather than having fantasy thoughts of being a tzaddik should focus on at the very least trying to be a Beinoni for his entire life, and not be a Rasha for even one moment.
  • The purpose of the Beinoni is to banish the forbidden lusts: The entire job of the Beinoni and their service in this world is exactly for this purpose, to overcome their evil inclination, and push away with two hands the evil thoughts that enter their mind from their heart and completely remove one’s mind from it.


(LY)4th Adar 1

4. The great effect in heaven when an evil lust is controlled and pushed away:

  • Subjugating and humbling the power of evil: Every single time that a person pushes away a forbidden thought from his mind he consequently subjugates the side of evil and pushes it below.
  • The effect in heaven: This subjugation of evil below in this world in turn causes a mirroring effect above in the spiritual worlds in which there too, the side of evil that exists above and inflates itself with arrogance like an eagle, becomes subjugated. This hence fulfills the verse which states “if you raise yourself high like an eagle, from there I will take you down says G-d.”
  • The great satisfaction G-d receives from this subjugation of evil: The Zohar elaborates on the great satisfaction that G-d receives when the side of evil becomes humbled and subjugated. This causes G-d’s glory to shine above throughout all the world’s, much more than his glory shines after any other type of praise, [such as the fulfillment of mitzvahs]. This in fact is the greatest satisfaction that G-d can receive from man’s divine service below.

24th Shevat

5. Born for the battle-Not to be demoralized even if you will have to battle evil lusts your entire life:

  • Based on all the above it is understood that one should not be demoralized and downtrodden to too much of an extent over the fact that he may need to battle his evil lusts throughout his entire life. The reason for this is because perhaps this is the entire purpose for which he was created, and this is his mission in life, to constantly overcome and subjugate the side of evil.
  • G-d created ReshaimPeople who need to battle with forbidden lusts for their entire lives: It is on this possibility [that one may have been created with intent to battle evil lusts for his entire life] that it states in Iyov that G-d created Reshaim. This does not refer to actual Reshaim who transgress G-d’s laws heaven forbid, but rather to individuals who are constantly troubled with thoughts of the evil lusts and passions that are committed by Reshaim, the purpose of which is for them to constantly battle these thoughts and remove their minds from it in order to subjugate and humble the side of evil.
  • These individuals will not be able to ever completely banish and nullify these forbidden thoughts and lusts, being that such accomplishments are only achieved by those on the level of a tzaddik.

(LY)5th Adar 1

6. The two types of Nachas Ruach for Hashem-From Tzadikim, Ishapcha, and from Beinonim, Iskafya:

  • There are two different types of distinct pleasures that G-d receives above in heaven from the service of man below.
  • First-Is’hapcha/Tzaddikim-The pleasure received from evil being transformed to good: One type of pleasure that G-d receives is from the complete nullification the side of evil and its transformation into G-d, in which one turns the bitter to sweet and darkness to light. This is the divine service of the tzaddik.
  • Second-Beinonim-Pleasure from Iskafya of evil and descending it from its heights: A second type of pleasure is the pleasure G-d receives when the side of evil is subjugated and humbled from its state of strength and intensity; and from it being brought down from its state of arrogant elevation like an eagle. G-d brings it down from this level of arrogance through the arousal of the Beinoni below when he subjugates the evil.

7. Parable-The pleasure of sweet foods versus the pleasure of sharp foods:

  • Make me tasty foods: Based on the above we can understand the verse which states regarding Isaac asking from his son Esav “and make for me tasty foods that I enjoy.” The word tasty in this verse and Scripture is written in the plural tense to teach us that there are two types of satisfaction that one can receive from the taste of the food. Now, this verse in turn is really the divine presence speaking to children which is in general souls the Jewish people, and informing Them that there are two different types of tasty foods that they can make to be of two different sources of satisfaction for G-d.
  • The two types of taste sweet versus sharp: Now, just as in the world of cuisine there exist two different types of delicacies, so too it is regarding our spiritual service of G-d. The first pleasure of taste is from sweet foods and dishes, and the second pleasure is from sharp and sour foods and dishes in which the food is properly spiced and prepared well until it becomes a delicacy and is able to revive the soul. [The pleasure received from the sweet foods and dishes is similar to the pleasure that G-d receives from the work of the Tzaddikim who perform the divine service of Ishapcha, in which the bad is transformed into good without any that remaining in them. The second type of pleasure received from sour and sharp dishes is similar to the pleasure that G-d receives from the divine service of the Beinoni in which they subjugate the evil with the performance of Iskafya.]
  • Even the Rasha has a divine purpose: The verse states that all that G-d does is for his honor and that even a Rasha adds to his honor. The intent of this verse is that even evil can become a source of pleasure for G-d when is it is subjugated by the work of the Beinoni, in which one repents from his evil and turns his evil into day and Revelation above in heaven. As explained earlier that when the evil is subjugated below in this world this causes a ripple effect in heaven that the glory of G-d is expanded and shines throughout the upper worlds.

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8. The effect of Iskafya in even permitted matters:

  • The divine service of subjugating evil known as Iskafya is not just limited to withholding oneself from performing matters that are forbidden according to Jewish law but applies even towards withholding oneself from completely permissible matters. Whenever a person decides to slaughter his inclination for even a mere moment with intention to subjugate the side of evil that is found in the left ventricle of his heart, this causes the above ripple effect in heaven achieved through Iskafya.
  • Delaying one’s meal for Iskafya purposes: For example, when one desires to eat a meal and he delays his meal for an hour or less and instead he studies Torah during that time, he has performed Iskafya through doing so, as the Talmud states that the fourth Hour of the day is the time for meals for all people, while the sixth hour of the day is the time of meals for Torah scholars. Hence, we see that the Torah scholars would starve themselves for an extra two hours for the sake of the above intent of performing Iskafya. Hence, although they would study Torah throughout the entire day, even after they finished their meal, they would still delay their meal for the above intent.
  • Abstaining from unnecessary speech or thoughts for Iskafya purposes: Another example of performing Iskafya with the permitted is one who holds back his tongue from speaking unnecessary words that his heart very much desires to speak regarding matters of the world. The same applies regarding one who controls his thoughts regarding such matters.
  • Even a little Iskafya causes G-d’s glory to shine: While these matters may seem trivial, in truth, even a slight amount of subjugation of the side of evil here below causes the glory of G-d to shine above to a disproportionate extent.

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9. Iskafya sends one a jolt of Elokus to assist him in his service of G-d:

  • The above holiness of G-d which expands and shines throughout the upper worlds as a result of one’s service of Iskafya, also reaches the person below. A supernal holiness resides upon this person below to greatly and immensely assist him in his divine service.
  • On this the sages state that a person who sanctifies himself a little bit below, is sanctified a lot from above.

10. Iskafya fulfills a positive command to sanctify oneself:

  • All the above is aside for the fact that one who withholds himself from even permitted lusts and pleasures fulfills a positive command of the Torah “and you shall be holy.” The meaning of this word instruction “that you shall be holy” is that one should do actions which sanctify and refine him.
  • Not fully sanctified as one retains the natural evil of the heart: Now, the above does not mean that as a result of one service of Iskafya one ends up becoming permanently sanctified from evil. In truth, the person is not sanctified and separated from the side of evil as a result of the Iskafya which he performs against his evil inclination, as he still retains his naturally born evil lusts within the left ventricle of his heart in their full strength and power. Nonetheless, for that moment, he is considered to have sanctified himself.
  • Reaching eventual sanctification from evil: Now, the above verse concludes with the words “and you will be holy.” This is because when a person does Iskafya, Hashem helps him to eventually banish the evil, a little at a time, to the point that he is fully cleansed and separated from the side of evil. This is achieved through G-d sanctifying the person here below, and granting him a great assistance from above, to help banish the evil from his heart one step at a time.

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