מְסִירוּת נֶפֶשׁ הָרְאוּיָה לִבְנֵי תּוֹרָה הוּא כִּדְרָשַׁת רַזַ"ל: אָדָם כִּי יָמוּת בְּאֹהֶל, לְהָמִית אֶת כָּל הַתַּעֲנוּגִים בְּעִנְיָנֵי עוֹלָם. כִּי אֲפִילוּ דְּבָרִים קַלֵּי הָעֶרֶךְ בְּתַעֲנוּגֵי עוֹלָם, מוֹנְעִים הֵמָּה מִלִּהְיוֹת מָסוּר וְנָתוּן בְּאָהֳלָהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה.

The [extent of the] self-sacrifice1 appropriate for Torah scholars2 is indicated by our Sages’ interpretation3 of the phrase,4 “If a man dies in a tent.” The Sages taught that [if one seeks to dedicate himself to the tents of Torah,5 ] he must kill [i.e., eradicate] the desire for all worldly pleasures. For even insignificant worldly pleasures prevent one from being utterly devoted to the tents of Torah study.6

Living as a Chassid

The above teaching is an excerpt from a letter addressed by the Rebbe Rayatz to yeshivah students who had escaped the Holocaust and migrated to Canada. He warns them against becoming lax in their Divine service,7 by imagining that G‑d had brought them there in order “to rest, ‘to eat of its fruit and be satiated with its goodness,’8 and receive honor,” rather than to dedicate themselves to their spiritual purpose with renewed self-sacrifice.

In the maamar beginning with the words Basi LeGani,9 the Rebbe Rayatz explains how physical and spiritual desires are contradictory: “The force of one’s physical drives and the burning urgency of the animal soul’s desires cool one’s [spiritual] ardor and dull one’s sensitivity to sacred matters.”

We cannot have it both ways: either we direct our energies to physical goals or to spiritual ones. This does not mean that one who seeks spiritual fulfillment cannot derive satisfaction from his material pursuits. He may, but they will not be the focus of his life. His spiritual sensitivity will determine the goals and direction for all his energies.