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As Divided for a Regular Year
Tanya for 26 Adar
Each spark did not descend into this world [to perfect itself but to perfect the body and vital soul - as the Alter Rebbe will soon conclude.
Having touched upon the subject of the soul's descent, however, he adds a parenthetical comment emphasizing the magnitude of this descent.
On entering this world, a soul may perhaps attain the loftiest heights of love and fear of G-d that are experienced by a perfect tzaddik - but even this cannot compare to the love and fear that it experienced while in the spiritual worlds, before its descent].
Though it is indeed a great descent, a veritable exile [for the soul]; for even if it become, [in this world], a perfect tzaddik, serving G-d with fear and abundant love of delights, it will not attain to the quality of its attachment to G-d with fear and love [that the soul experienced] prior to its descent into this corporeal world, nor even [to] a fraction of [its earlier fear and love].
In fact, there is no comparison or similarity whatever between them - [between the love and fear of G-d experienced by a soul on earth, and that of the soul above; for] as is obvious to every intelligent man, the body could not bear etc. [a love and fear of such intensity as the soul experienced above, in the spiritual realms.
Having concluded his comment on the formidable nature of the soul's descent, the Alter Rebbe returns to his original point:
The descent of the soul is thus undertaken not for its own sake] - but its descent into this world, to be clothed in a body and vital soul, is for the sole purpose of perfecting them; to separate them from the evil of the three impure kelipot, by observing the 365 prohibitions and their "offshoots" [i.e., by observing the Biblical and Rabbinic prohibitions].
And to elevate his vital soul, together with the portion of the world at large that belongs to it, binding and uniting them with the Ein Sof-light which he draws into them by performing all the 248 positive mitzvot through the agency of the vital soul, since [the vital soul] is the one that performs all mitzvot involving action, as explained above, [in chapter 36 - that the divine soul can activate the body in performance of the mitzvot only by way of the vital soul].
It is likewise written (in Etz Chayim, Portal 26) that the [divine] soul itself does not need perfecting at all...; and there is no need for it to be embodied in this world, [in a body and vital soul...] except to draw down light to perfect them - [the vital soul and the body...]
And this parallels exactly  the mystery of "the exile of the Shechinah," whose purpose is to refine the sparks of holiness which fell into the kelipot;
So too does the divine soul enter into exile within the body and vital soul in order to perfect them, and to extract from them the sparks of holiness which they contain.
The foregoing discussion enables us to understand the particular virtue of mitzvot performed through action:
Creation, and the soul's descent into the body, were both intended for the purpose of elevating the body and vital soul, and thereby the entire world; moreover, this objective is reached primarily through the mitzvot involving action, inasmuch as these mitzvot are performed by the body and vital soul; these mitzvot are therefore of primary importance].
- (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita explains how "the mystery of `the exile of the Shechinah'" relates to the subject at hand.
On the surface, the soul's descent into this world, and its concomitant suffering, is truly inexplicable. The soul is an entity which is truly a part of G-d Above, emanating, as it does, from Supernal Wisdom which is wholly at one with G-d Himself.
That such a holy being should descend into this world merely to rectify the vitalizing soul and the body whose source is in kelipat nogah, strains the bonds of credulity. For even after the divine soul completely rectifies them - as in the divine service of a consummate tzaddik - the body is still unable to harbor the same love of G-d which the soul felt prior to its descent. Why, then, did the soul descend into this world?
The Alter Rebbe addresses this question, writes the Rebbe Shlita, by stating that the soul's descent parallels exactly the mystery of the exile of the Shechinah, whose purpose is to refine the sparks of holiness which fell into the kelipot. We shall soon learn that the Shechinah is the source of the divine soul. Furthermore, all things found within this world were created from the sparks of holiness, including the body and the vitalizing soul. Hence the parallel. The soul, whose source is the Shechinah, descends into this world to refine the body and vitalizing soul, whose source is the holy sparks. And just as the exile of the Shechinah is deemed a mystery, for its descent defies logic, so, too, is the soul's descent into the body and vitalizing soul a mystery: it defies mortal reason.
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