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"Intellect and Emotions" and "Divine Farewell"

Adapted from Sefer Hamamarim Melukat 5:199ff by Rabbi Yossi Marcus[1]

The following two essays are taken from the discourse Eileh Pikudei 5730, which was published in 5751 in honor of 25 Adar, the birthday of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka.

The first essay is an in-depth analysis of the difference between emotion and intellect, while the second essay sheds light on the dynamic of exile and redemption.


“These are the accounts of the Mishkan [tabernacle], the Mishkan of Testimony…” (Ex. 38:21)

The verse hints to the fact that there are two aspects to the mishkan: One aspect is called “the Mishkan,” the other “Mishkan of Testimony.”

The two mishkans refer to two levels of Divine light: one that is revealed and one that remains hidden. These two levels are called lower shechinah and higher shechinah. (In Tikunei Zohar (1b), lower shechinah is identified with Malchus and higher shechinah with Binah.)

The first mishkan implies revelation, since it is called, “the mishkan” [not “a mishkan”], i.e., a mishkan that is known.

[In Hebrew this idea is referred to grammatically as hey hayediah (“the hey [that implies] knowledge”). When a word such as “ish” (man) is prefaced by the letter hey, which means “the,” to form the word haish, it refers to a specific, known man, “the man,” one that has been referred to earlier perhaps. Ish  without a hey would refer to any man.

In this context, the fact the first mishkan is called hamishkanthe mishkan” implies that not only is it known in the informational sense but that it is known in the spiritual sense, i.e., it is a revealed being and can be “known” and grasped.]

The second mishkan implies concealment, since it is called the mishkan of testimony—testimony is only necessary when a matter is unknown or concealed.

Man in his service of G-d, in building his personal mishkan, accesses the lower shechinah through the fulfillment of “active” mitzvos, such as putting on tefillin, giving charity. He accesses the higher shechinah through the fulfillment of “passive” mitzvos, such as refraining from eating non-kosher foods or not working on Shabbos.

This is because the higher shechinah, the mishkan that is concealed, cannot be “known” through man’s active deeds. It is beyond human reach. It can only be accessed through non-action.

The passive mitzvos are therefore associated with yud and hey, the first letters of the Name Havayah [y-h-v-h], while the active mitzvos are associated with the latter letters, vov and hey:

Yud and hey refer to the hidden spheres, while vov and hey refer to the revealed spheres (Tikunei Zohar 10, 25b commenting on Deut. 29:28: “Hidden things are to G-d…while revealed things are to us….”):

Yud and hey refer to the intellect, while vov and hey refer to the emotions. In relation to others, the intellect is concealed. The intellect serves the person as a distinct individual, disconnected from others. Emotions, love and fear, are revealed to others. Their very being presupposes the existence of others.

In other words, it is not only the enactment of emotional drives, such as kindness, that requires other beings; the very existence of emotions is dependent upon the existence of others. Without others, the concept of kindness does not exist. True, once there are others, one can experience the desire to do kindness even when no other is present (such as Avraham who was saddened by the fact that no travelers had passed his tent during the first two days after his circumcision and he was unable to perform the kindness of inviting them in). But if there were no others in the world, the emotion of kindness would not exist.

Intellect, on the other hand, is a self-involved attribute. One does not need the existence of others to think. Most sages are reclusive by nature. True, one can gain from discussing or teaching an idea (“and from my students [I learned] more than all of them”—Taanis 7a), but in the invention of new insights, the presence of others can often disturb one’s concentration. The judges of the Sanhedrin would therefore deliberate over night in solitude (according to Rashi Sanhedrin 40a).

The same is true of supernal intellect and emotions. Supernal intellect, yud and hey, are self-oriented and concealed from creation. Supernal emotions, by contrast, are for the purpose of revelation to the created beings.

Because emotions exist for the purpose of revelation and connection with others, they are in the realm of the revealed even while they have not yet been actually displayed and are still in the heart.

Conversely, because intellect is inherently self-oriented, it remains hidden even when it is technically revealed and conveyed: a) one never reveals the essence of one’s intellect to another person—only a secondary manifestation of the intellect is conveyed; b) the revelation of the intellect has no intrinsic connection to the intellect itself. It is incidental to it (unlike the emotions for which revelation is the ultimate purpose.)

More. The fact that intellect is inherently beyond interaction with others refers not only to others that are outside the person; it refers also to the “others” within oneself. In order to truly ponder a concept, the sage must silence all of his other faculties (even the desire to understand the concept). For since they are “others” in relation to the intellect, they interfere with the intellectual process (just as actual “others” would disturb him.) And once he grasps the concept, his understanding of it remains isolated and concealed from the rest of his being, so much so that he can behave contrary to the conclusions of his intellect. The fact that intellect usually does create emotions and does affect one’s behavior is not because this is its function. It is incidental to it. It is like light, which shines everywhere. [Not because it is “actively” casting its light, but because such is its nature. It is oblivious to its own glow. Similarly, the fact that the intellect permeates the emotions and behavior is the result of its illuminative nature, not because of any association with the emotions and behavior.]

So in the effect of intellect on the rest of the person one does not see the soul of the intellect. The intellect is of the realm of concealment even in relation to the rest of the person.


So “the mishkan,” the revealed mishkan, refers to the service of G-d that involves the emotions, the heart—the realm of the revealed. “Mishkan of testimony” refers to the service of G-d that involves the mind, the realm of the concealed.

[Adapted and summarized by Rabbi Yosef Marcus from Sefer Hamamarim Melukat 5:199ff.]

{Divine Farewell}

“These are the accounts of the Mishkan [tabernacle], the Mishkan of Testimony…” (Ex. 38:21)

Rashi relates the word mishkan to mashkon, collateral. The two mishkans of this verse, says Rashi, allude to the two temples which were “taken as collateral” by G-d from the Jewish people. So in Rashi’s reading, the verse alludes to a time of darkness and exile.

By contrast, the Alter Rebbe explains the word pekudei (“accounts”) of this verse to mean  “intimacy.” He cites the talmudic instruction: “A man is required to be intimate (lifkod) with his wife before he goes on a trip” (Yevamos 62b). The verse alludes to the intimacy of the cosmic couple: G-d and Man.

(The Torah places three responsibilities upon a husband: 1) to provide food for his wife (shi’eir); 2) clothing (kisus); and 3) marital relations (onah). The Tzemach Tzedek explains that these three responsibilities on the supernal level refer to three levels of Divine communication. Food, which enters the person internally, refers to a lower level of Divine influx, which can be assimilated by the recipient. Clothing, which remains outside the person, refers to a more sublime influx that remains beyond, transcendent from the person. Marital relations, which is performed without clothing (see Kesubos 48a), refers to an even loftier revelation of the Divine, one that transcends even the transcendence of clothing.)

How do we reconcile Rashi’s understanding of the verse, in which it alludes to the exile, when the temples would be taken as collateral from the Jewish people, with the explanation of the Alter Rebbe, who sees the verse as an allusion to the most intimate unity between man and G-d?


The ultimate purpose of the destruction of the two temples—caused by the sins of Israel—was that ultimately Israel would reach a state of teshuvah, return, and the temple would be restored to an even greater level than it had been before its destruction. For through teshuvah, the essence of the soul, the dimension that never experienced separateness, is revealed. 

This is the convergence of Rashi’s interpretation and that of the Alter Rebbe. Through teshuvah, which comes as the result of G-d’s removal of the temples, the essence of the soul is revealed, thereby effecting the most intimate unity between G-d and Israel.

In truth, this unity is not suspended until the end of exile, when the temple is rebuilt. Rather, the unity—at least in a concealed way—is effected even at the time of destruction and exile.

We therefore find that at the time of the exile, when the invaders entered the temple, they saw the cherubs in embrace (Yoma 54b). Now, it is known that the position of the cherubs reflected the state of the relationship between G-d and Israel (ibid 54a). Why then were they embracing at the time of destruction [cf. Maharsha ad loc.]?

The answer is that at the time of the destruction, when G-d so to speak is leaving his people, Israel is like “a woman whose husband has gone across the sea” (Taanis 20a; Zohar 2:122a). So before the Husband (G-d) “leaves” his “wife,” He is obligated to be intimate with her. The cherubs were therefore in an embrace. But that intimacy and unity was not manifest. What was manifest was destruction and exile, the purpose of which is to ultimately lead to teshuvah, which in turn will cause the revealed intimacy and unity through the rebuilding of the third temple, when both mishkans will be returned—“the mishkan,” and “mishkan of testimony”—with the coming of the righteous Mashiach very soon.


[1] From a discourse of Rabbi Shneur Zalman, "the Alter Rebbe."


Rabbi Yossi Marcus is director of Chabad outreach activities in S. Mateo, California. He is also the editor of the Q&A database at AskMoses.com and is one of the translators at Kehot Publication Society.



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