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As Divided for a Regular Year
Tanya for 27 Tevet
"For this thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it."
[The verse states that it is easy for one to fulfill Torah and mitzvot with all three "garments" of the soul - thought, speech and action.
The words "with your mouth" refer to speech, "with your heart" -to thought, and "that you may do it" refers to action.
In a deeper sense, however, "your heart" refers not only to the power of thought, but also to the heart as the seat of the emotions -love, fear, and so on. The verse is telling us, then, that it is within easy reach of every Jew to fulfill the mitzvot with a feeling of awe and love of G-d. Concerning this, the Alter Rebbe poses the question]:
At first glance, [the statement that "this thing is very near to you] .... in your heart" seems contrary to our experience - [in our experience we find that it is no simple feat to acquire a spirit of love and fear of G-d].
In our experience we see that] it is not a "very near thing" to change one's heart from worldly desires to a sincere love of G-d, [for by nature one is inclined toward the former.
And as is written in The Duties of the Heart,  "Desires for worldly pleasures are unable to dwell in the heart together with a love of G-d." In order to attain a love of G-d, therefore, it is necessary for one to change his nature from one extreme to the other - by no means an easy matter]!
Indeed, [commenting on Moses' statement: "What does G-d ask of you, but to fear Him?"] the Talmud queries:  "Is fear of heaven a small matter?"
[This indicates, as the Rebbe Shlita points out, that even in Moses' generation (and surely in subsequent generations) it was no simple matter to acquire a fear of G-d. And if this is true of fear of G-d, then] how much more so - a love of G-d, [for fear of G-d is generally more easily attainable than love of G-d.
Thus, not only our experience, but also this quotation from the Talmud seems to contradict the verse which states that fear and love of G-d are "very near to you]."
Moreover, our Sages also said  that only *Tzadikim* have control over their hearts - [to arouse a love and fear of G-d whenever they so desire.
This latter quotation intensifies the question, as the Rebbe Shlita points out. Not only is it not "very near" to us to achieve a love of G-d, but on the contrary, it is possible only for tzaddikim, who are a minority. Surely the Torah does not address only tzaddikim;
how, then, can it state that a love of G-d is very near to us, indicating that our heart is in our control, that we can divert it from mundane desires to a love of G-d]?
But the words "that you may do it" refer to a love which merely leads to the fulfillment of the commandments, [although, strictly speaking, it is not an actual love].
[The author thus interprets the words "that you may do it" as a qualification of the earlier phrase "for it is near to you .... with your heart." What is "near to you with your heart" (i.e., What sort of love is easily attainable)? That love which pertains to action ("that you may do it").
Thereby we may also understand the order of the words in the verse. The words "in your mouth, in your heart, that you may do it" refer to the three "soul-garments" of thought, speech, and action, as we have observed earlier. However, the order in which they are listed in the verse is difficult to understand, for it seems to be neither an ascending order (action, speech, thought) nor a descending order (thought, speech, action). Why is the middle faculty, speech, put first, followed by thought ("in your heart"), and then action ("that you may do it")? However, according to the interpretation of the words "that you may do it" given here, this is readily understood. These words follow immediately after the words "in your heart," for they serve to explain and to qualify them: the love of which the verse speaks here ("in your heart"), is that which leads to action ("that you may do it")].
This means the hidden desire of the heart; even if it does not burn openly like a flaming fire, [yet it can still lead one to fulfill the commandments].
This matter [of arousing a love which remains hidden in the heart] is very easy and very near to every man who has a brain in his head.
For his mind is under his control [even if his heart is not], and with it he can meditate as he pleases, on any subject.
If, then, he will contemplate with it on the greatness of the Almighty, he will inevitably generate - in his mind, at least - a love of G-d, to cleave to Him through the performance of His commandments and the study of His Torah.
This [Torah study and fulfilling the mitzvot] constitutes  "the whole purpose of man," for it is written:  "[I command you these mitzvot], that you do them this day'" - "this day" referring specifically to this world of physical action.
[The Alter Rebbe's point is that the main objective in the commandment to love G-d lies, not in the love itself, but in the practical and wholehearted fulfillment of the commandments that is motivated by this love, for the main thing in this world is action].
Only "tomorrow" [i.e., in the afterlife] is the time of reward,  as is explained elsewhere.
[Hence the true love of G-d, which is in itself a partial reward for one's serving Him, is not as important in this life as the actual performance of the mitzvot, which can be generated even by a love which remains hidden in the mind and heart. This, then, is the love referred to in the verse, "for it is very near to you in your heart that you may do it" - a love which, though it may not find overt expression in the heart, is yet sufficient to motivate the performance of the mitzvot, and within reach of every Jew.
How does this love motivate one to perform the commandments? This the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain]:
The mind, by virtue of its inherent nature, is master over the left part of the heart, [the seat of the animal soul, whence come one's mundane desires and evil thoughts], and over the mouth and the other bodily organs, which are the instruments of action.
[Hence by having - in his mind, at least - a love of G-d and a desire to fulfill the mitzvot, one can utilize the natural mastery of the mind to overcome the desires of his heart, and to motivate his mouth and other bodily organs to study Torah and fulfill its commandments. We thus see that this can be done even by one whose heart is not under his control, as is a tzaddik's].
- (Back to text) Devarim 30:14.
- (Back to text) Parentheses are in the original text.
- (Back to text) Maimonides, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, 9:1.
- (Back to text) Chovot HaLevavot, introduction to Shaar Ahavat HaShem.
- (Back to text) Berachot 33b; Megillah 25a.
- (Back to text) Bereishit Rabbah 34:10; 67:8.
- (Back to text) Kohelet 12:13.
- (Back to text) Devarim 7:11.
- (Back to text) Eruvin 22a.
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