From The Principles of Education and Guidance (Kehot),
by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn.
Translation and commentary by Rabbi Y. Eliezer Danzinger
Man's essential character is rational. This is the key distinction between
humans and animals, and it is what makes man superior. All of man's
deeds, speech and thoughts are in accordance with his understanding.
His emotions, as well: to love and to hate; to extol, to give thanks
and to vanquish; to choose the good and the beautiful, and to despise
the bad and the repugnant - are all dictated by his rational judgment.
Nevertheless, [the power of intellect notwithstanding,] the strength,
the power and the force of man's will control everything within man.
Man's soul-powers are divided into four groups. These are: 1) delight
[in Hebrew, "oneg"] and will ["ratzon"]; 2) wisdom,
understanding and knowledge; 3) emotive attributes: love, hate, pride,
gratitude, tenaciousness, etc.; 4) thought, speech and action. This
is all in addition to the vital soul that animates the limbs of the
body, enabling them to carry out their respective functions of providing
man with sight, hearing, ambulation, touch, and so on.
These four groups are further divisible into two general classifications:
1) internal [in Hebrew, "pnimi"], and 2) encompassing ["makif"].
Though Chassidut makes use of the term "makif"
(encompassing) to describe a certain category of soul-powers, it is
not to be understood in a physical, spatial sense - that these soul-powers
somehow surround the person - rather, in a figurative sense, as the
text proceeds to describe. Only the first group of soul-powers, oneg
and ratzon, are "encompassig"." The other three categories
are considered "internal".
The differences between these two classifications are in four matters:
The internal powers are particular, whereas the encompassing powers
The internal soul-powers have specific limbs upon and through which
they act, whereas the encompassing powers do not, for they affect all
The intellectual attributes - wisdom, understanding
and knowledge (chochma, bina, and daat) - are contained within the brain.
The emotive attributes are found in the heart. Thought, speech and action,
too, have their respective channels within the body. Oneg and ratzon,
in contrast, are not limited to any particular part of the body; there
is no specific "limb" of the body through which will or delight
are exclusively expressed.
Although both are soul-powers, the depth of their respective roots
in the soul itself differs. Encompassing powers are rooted deeper [in
Oneg and ratzon are rooted within the essence of the
soul. Although they are not the essence of the soul itself, but an extension
and reflection of it, they are nonetheless the first state of movement
from the pure soul toward expression.
For the most part, the influence and effects of the internal powers
come about pleasantly, and from a position of closeness to what they
are influencing and affecting. The encompassing powers, on the other
hand - especially the power of ratzon - influence and affect forcefully
Since each internal soul-power has its particular channel
of expression within the body, its influence on the person is direct
and smooth. Oneg and ratzon, however, which do not have a particular
channel of expression, influence the person in a coercive and forceful
Oneg and ratzon, though both encompassing powers, and hence different
from the internal powers in the four ways outlined above, are themselves
different from one another. It is beyond the scope of this work, however,
to elaborate on the soul-powers, their influence and their divisions;
only to the extent necessary to sufficiently clarify the subject of
education. As such, suffice it to present two general maxims that convey
the particular motif of oneg and ratzon:
1) Nothing [i.e. no soul-power] ranks higher than oneg.
2) Nothing is as forceful as ratzon. [A variant text: Nothing stands
in the way of ratzon].
These two succinct sayings express clearly the differences between oneg
and ratzon, notwithstanding their similarity in that they are both encompassing
powers. Namely, the main point of oneg is its elevation over all, being
the initial manifestation of the soul, even though it too is but a faculty
of the soul. The outstanding feature of ratzon is that it is forceful,
and nothing - no faculty of the soul or a limb of the body - can oppose
The powers of the soul are divisible into two classes: internal and
encompassing. The advantage of oneg is in its rank; the advantage of
ratzon is in its forcefulness.
Intrinsic and Figurative Attributes
Two adages describing ratzon were mentioned above: "Nothing is
as forceful as ratzon" and "Nothing stands in the way of ratzon".
They give us detailed insight into the main aspect of ratzon, i.e. an
appreciation of its broad and forceful influence, both on oneg - which
is higher than ratzon - as well as on the faculties below it. They are
all equally affected by ratzon, which acts upon them as if by decree
All faculties, without exception, can be intrinsic or figurative. This
is as equally true of the highest of powers - the power of oneg, which
because of its pre-eminence is termed a "revelation of the soul"
- though it too is still just a power of the soul - as it is true of
the lowest of the soul-powers, the power of propulsion, a power possessed
also by animals.
The difference between an intrinsic characteristic and a figurative
one is that an intrinsic one is all-pervasive, both inwardly and externally,
while a figurative term is ascribed - for the sake of comparison - to
an external and adjunctive attribute. For example, the cleverness of
the fox as likened to the intelligence of man and his understanding.
This is the case with regard to ratzon as well. Intrinsic ratzon extends
into all the powers and limbs in a forceful way, compelling them to
act even contrary to their nature. Figurative ratzon, on the other hand,
applies only to the simple aspect of wanting, and is influenced by what
is outside of it, by the dictates of the power of oneg, or the power
of the intellect. As such, figurative ratzon which, in addition to lacking
this inherent forcefulness, is actually influenced and affected by external
stimuli - figurative ratzon also extends itself broadly and most forcefully.
Hence, an educator or counselor must not only proceed slowly with a
pupil, as one who teaches an infant to walk, one step at a time, but
he must also apply discernment and keen understanding in selecting what
to correct first in a pupil. An educator or counselor must be cautious
not to attempt to rectify two things at the same time - be it the elimination
of a deficiency or the invigoration of a virtue.
In other words, since a pupil's ratzon is forcefully
bent on expressing itself and strongly resists any attempts to restrict
it, an educator is well advised to leave an avenue open through which
a pupil's ratzon can indeed express itself, even if this avenue be a
negative behavior of some sort. In this way, the ratzon's resistance
to curtailment in the selected critical area is minimized, and possible
rectification of the more serious deficiency facilitated.
For example, if a pupil has two deficiencies: a) he exaggerates and
lies; b) he is irascible and hot tempered. And in keeping with the nature
of all who do not perceive their own blemishes, the pupil's ratzon extends
with great force into both.
In such a situation, an educator must choose the imperfection to rectify
first, giving priority to the more dangerous failing. Given a choice
between lying and a hot temper, for example, one should select the hot
temper as the shortcoming to focus on initially; this is because it
contains within it the germs of sins and transgressions, such as the
wasteful emission of semen, and the like. In turn, these precipitate
many maladies, leading to, Heaven forefend, the ruination of body and
soul, and mental imbalance, may the Merciful One protect us.
The educator or counselor who is mindful of the importance of prioritization
in behavioral modification methodology - in the reinforcement of virtues
and surely in the elimination of deficiencies - possesses a firm basis
upon which to anticipate positive results, the achievement of the benefits
of educational objectives.