Attaining the Resting of the Shechinah

Tanya Perek 35. In this perek the Baal HaTanya talks about the matter of Hashroas HaShechinah, the Resting of the Shechinah. In very brief summary, the Baal HaTanya brings from the Zohar that the Shechinah rests upon a person when they’re doing mitzvos, and when one is involved with doing mitzvos and learning Torah. This is similar to an oil lamp, where the person is the wick, the Shechinah is the fire, and the oil is mitzvos. Even if one is a complete Tzaddik, they’re not completely dissolved into Hashem’s Light, because this would necessitate that the Tzaddik no longer exist at all. Rather, the whole Hashroas HaShechinah is the revelation of Divinity and Ohr Ain Sof (Light of the Limitless) in a given object, be it a person, animal, or any other thing in the universe, where a mitzva is performed with that thing, since the mitzvos are entirely Hashem’s Will, hence the object becomes nullified to the Ohr Ain Sof and the state of Hashroas HaShechinah happens. From here we can see that when a person learns Torah he becomes connected to Hashem completely and gains Hashroas HaShechinah in the mind, and when he does mitzvos this expands through the whole Nefesh and the body to the degree that our internal wickedness becomes crushed and forced to fulfill Hashem’s Will as well. In the Gemoro in Sanhedrin the Shechinah is compared to the sun casting rays of light through windows in every house.
Practically speaking, there’s so much to take out from this wonderful piece of Tanya, as well as much inspiration and chizuk. To address the last shtikl (bit) first, the concept of the Shechinah shining her presence into all places at once, rather than being split into multiple aspects, as the heretic in that part of the gemoro asks Rabban Gamliel, is a beautiful visualization. Considering what it says in the Gemoro in Brochos as well, that the Shechinah sits above even a single person learning, we could perhaps say that even if a person sits and learns alone, even outside of shul, that they have the same Hashroas HaShechinah as those in shul. The true ikar is the kavonno, the key thing is your intent in learning or doing a mitzvah.
In regards to doing mitzvos bringing Hashroas HaShechinah to all things, this can be hard to understand. Once last year I believe it was, a friend and I had a discussion on Shabbos about the concept that there is Ain Od Milvado (Nothing except for Him) and Tumah (impurity) and things that are ossur (forbidden). The concept al pi chassidus according to my understanding is that through avoiding Tumah and things that are ossur, a Yid elevates the Nitzotzos HaKedoshim (Sparks of Holiness) within those parts of reality through that abstinence. Rather than saying there are parts of reality that are separate from Hashem, chas v’sholom, we should rather say that yes the world is full of Him and we are completely tied up with Him, but our way of elevating those things, and indeed, even bringing Hashroas HaShechinah upon them, is through avoiding them.
Our ultimate goal must be to become completely nullified to the Rotzon Hashem (Will of Hashem). This does not mean to go and sit and do nothing like many practitioners of certain Eastern forms of though propose, which is an easy trap to fall into for a spiritual seeker. True Bittul (Nullification) is the recognition that we as physical creations are absolutely nothing on our own. Hashem is constantly renewing the world, like the Ramban says in Parshas Bo, along with many other Mekubalim throughout history. Through learning Torah and doing mitzvos we connect ourselves to Hashem, even in His aspect of Ain Sof. Through learning Torah we connect our P’nimius (internal aspects) to Him in this way, and effectively begin nullifying ourselves to Hashem; and through fulfilling the mitzvos we connect our Chitzonius (external aspects) to Hashem in this way as well.
The use of the metaphor of oil in this part of the Tanya, and the Zohar being referenced there, is very interesting. Oil, specifically olive oil, refers to Chochma in Kabbalistic literature. We can perhaps say that what’s being alluded to here is fulfilling the practical mitzvos with much thought and kavonno as well. R’ Pinchas Koritzer says over an example between two types of Yidden: the Yid who has the best quality mitzva-objects like gasos tefillin with straps painted on both sides with all the hiddurim possible, but does things without much emotion; and the Yid who has less ideal mitzva objects and maybe isn’t so big into hiddurim in everything, but he does every mitzvah with lots of feeling and excitement. He says the best is to be both, but if that’s not possible the second is more ideal, since Hashem values the heart more than everything else. This we know from the Gemoro in Brochos where it speaks of someone who had to go toivel because he had Tumas Keri (Impurity of Emission) and was running too late for z’man Krias Shma; the solution for this if it is impossible to say Shma properly due to be not being covered where needed, is to yearn with all your heart to fulfill the mitzva of Krias Shma, according to that gemoro then the person’s desire to fulfill the mitzvah counts as fulfilling the mitzva itself. So when doing a mitzvah, in order for us to merit complete Hashroas HaShechinah, we have to fulfill the mitzvah with our mental as well as physical faculties. This is one reason why every Yid must learn as much Torah as possible, especially Gemoro, sifrei Kabbalah, and chassidus, because these things teach us the reasons for mitzvos and give them more meaning on the whole.

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