Famous are the numerous maamorim over the years explaining the posuk “Padoh v’sholom nafshi“, the verse which the Alter Rebbe was reading when he was notified of his release from Russian prison on Yud-Tes Kislev, 5559. This verse is also relevant to the release of his son, the Mitteler Rebbe, from arrest on Yud Kislev, some 28 years later. The maamor in this kuntres was said on Yud Kislev 5722 (the 3rd maamor of that farbrengen!) and edited and printed in 5752 in honor of that date (and also in honor of Yud-Daled Kislev, the Rebbe’s wedding anniversary).
The verse states: “He redeemed my soul with peace from the battle that came upon me, because the many were with me.”
The common thread in almost all of the maamorim, beginning with the maamor of the Mitteler Rebbe, focuses on the concept of being redeemed from battle in a way of peace, which is seemingly an oxymoron — if there is peace there is no battle! The explanation is that in fact there is a battle, a battle between the nefesh Elokis (the G-dly soul) and the nefesh habahamis (the animal soul we possess). One may attempt to overcome his animal soul using his intellect (the lower levels of his G-dly soul, nefesh, ruach, neshoma), or overpowering it with force of will, ratzon (from the level of Chaya), but in these cases the Animal Soul can fight back with its own intellect and force of will — a battle. Only when one reveals his yechida, the highest level of his soul, can he nullify the struggle of the Animal Soul and thus win the battle “in peace” — “Padoh v’sholom”.
In this maamor the Rebbe explains that there are two aspects of “sholom” (בשלום — ב’ שלום): from Above to below, and from below to Above. When there is a revelation of Ohr from Above which overwhelms and nullifies the Animal Soul, the Animal Soul ceases to oppose the G-dly Soul, but it doesn’t change the Animal Soul itself: it nullifies its reality, but doesn’t change it. The change occurs through the struggle of the G-dly Soul to overcome and transform the Animal Soul, bringing it to realize on its own terms that it should love Hashem. But even so, the Animal Soul will still remain a potential adversary. We should by now be familiar with the Rebbe’s approach: that we need both aspects, from Above to below and from below to Above; and not just independently, but a unification of the two lines of influence.
The Rebbe brings the story of the Chossid of the Tzemach Tzedek, who complained in Yechidus (private audience) that others were “trampling on him” in the Beis Midrash. The Rebbe points our attention to the fact that this Chossid’s self-importance (yeshus) was not only manifesting itself in the “mikdash me’at” of the Beis Midrash, but even in the private chamber of the Rebbe! Despite the manifestation of the Shechina in those places, this Chossid’s yeshus remained intact. This illustrates the necessity for avoidah, the work from below to Above (because despite the great revelations from Above a person can remain unchanged). As expressed elsewhere (see, for example, the sicha of Vayeira): the lofty revelations from Above only become revealed to one who makes himself into a vessel to receive them.
Nitzutzos and Hisnagdus
In the final two oisios of the maamar, the Rebbe explains the continuation of the posuk: “…because the many were with me“. The intent behind the descent of the nitzutzos, the Divine sparks, below is in order that they will be refined and return to their source (and even higher). Because of this:
…It is not possible (אין שייך) that there should be any resistance or opposition (from the nitzutzos) to their refinement. The fact that it is possible for there to be resistance and opposition is only from the side of the person (who is responsible for the refinement), for he has free choice. But as far as the nitzutzos are concerned — there is no choice involved (they must be refined).
…And more than this: the nitzutzos want and yearn to be refined. This is the meaning of “the many were with me”, that the nitzutzos found in the aspect of “the many” (רבים — implying those elements in the world which are opposed to G-dliness) yearn for their refinement… It is only because these nitzutzos are in golus in the aspect of “the many” that this is not revealed. To such a degree that sometimes it appears that the individual and the worldly matters (not only that they don’t assist, but rather) interfere with his avoidas Hashem. Because the concealment of the nitzutzos is the ultimate concealment, expressed as “a concealment that is not in existence”. But via the avoidah of “the many were with me”, the awakening of the Yechida, the essence of the soul (עצם הנפש) which is higher than our reality, this “concealment that is not in existence” of the nitzutos is awakened and is revealed, together with their yearning to be refined, and then it is seen openly that the matters of the world (not only do not interfere, but rather) assist in avoidas Hashem.
This awakening of the Yechida contains within it both of the levels that were mentioned earlier: from Above to below and from below to Above, in a way where each one contains an aspect of the other. Since the nitzutzos have a desire to be refined (from Above) — this is the admixture of “from below” in the revelation of Ohr from Above. And similarly the refinement from below is in a way where the opposition is nullified (an aspect of “from Above”), for the same reason: the desire of the nitzutzos to be refined. When we awaken our Yechida, we reveal that in truth there is no opposition from the world (including the nations of the world) to a Jew serving Hashem, even if this truth was completely hidden before.
All of this takes place via the revelation of the Yechida, which we can bring about “by thinking about the inyan of the Yechida [and the resolution that his conduct will be fitting with the aspect of Yechida in his nefesh], the redemption of his G-dly soul from the war with the Animal Soul in a way of peace.” One could say that “thinking about the inyan of the Yechida” is fulfilled by thinking about Moshiach (who possesses a soul which is the “yechida klolis” of the entire Jewish people), and making the commitment to conduct himself as Moshiach desires. (Obviously, this can be done more completely when one is aware of Moshiach’s identity and his opinion on how a Jew should conduct himself in various matters.) The Rebbe hints at this explanation in the closing words of the maamor: “then (l’asid lavo) there will be the revelation of the Yechida via Moshiach, who is the aspect of the Yechida Klolis…”, and the work is in our hands!