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     Sichos In English -> Books -> Mysticism -> The Tree of Life — Kuntres Etz HaChayim


Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XIX

Chapter XX

Chapter XXI

Chapter XXII

Chapter XXIII

Chapter XXIV

Chapter XXV

Chapter XXVI

Chapter XXVII

Chapter XXVIII

Chapter XXIX

Chapter XXX

Chapter XXXI

Chapter XXXII

Chapter XXXIII

The Tree of Life — Kuntres Etz HaChayim
A classic chassidic treatise on the mystic core of spiritual vitality
by Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneersohn of Lubavitch

Chapter XXVII

Translated by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger

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  Chapter XXVIChapter XXVIII  

Behold, the unfamiliar atmosphere [mentioned in ch. 23] “has conceived and has given birth to darkness,”[373] allowing an approach to study that is totally undesirable to creep into the house of study. The greater sages of the earlier (rishonim) and later (achronim) generations abhorred this approach to study and set themselves apart from it with the ultimate of disdain and distance. All of those who study the Torah as they should are extremely careful not to stumble [onto this undesirable path].

The desirable approach to study should have as its objective to know the subject which one is studying with thorough and developed knowledge, without trying to develop chiddushim (innovative explanations) or to build intricate [conceptual] structures. Instead, [the intent] is to know the subject being studied.

(When one of the students whose approach is undesirable will honestly take stock of his spiritual state, he will find that his ultimate desire is to develop chiddushim and to become a contributory influence with regard to the subject being studied. {In doing so, he makes the halachah a recipient of the influence of his folly. Woe is he; may G-d protect us.}

[These students] have a desire — indeed, a powerful desire — for study, but their desire is only that they develop chiddushim. This is the desire which they take to their study.

And if they cannot develop a chiddush, their desire for study will abate. One of two results will ensue. Either they will focus on another subject, hoping to develop a chiddush in that area, or their [egocentric and] impure desire will emerge and motivate them to speak and think of chiddushim that are utter foolishness that no ear will hear.)

[Instead, a student] should be a recipient from the halachah which he studies, and should not try to convey influence to it. (And ultimately, he will receive honor from his studies, when he develops true chiddushim. This, however, is possible only when one develops a genuine knowledge of the halachah.)


[This chapter] emphasizes that the ultimate purpose of knowledge is to know the concepts [as they truly are], and not to try to develop chiddushim, innovative explanations.



  1. (Back to text) Cf. Shmos Rabbah 15:22.

  Chapter XXVIChapter XXVIII  
     Sichos In English -> Books -> Mysticism -> The Tree of Life — Kuntres Etz HaChayim

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