Parched, My Soul Yearns for You (i)

Alone in the torrid wastes of the Judean Desert, David HaMelech prayed:. Tehillim 63:2. צמאה לך נפשי כמה לך בשרי בארץ צי' ועיף בלי מים — “My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a parched and weary land without water.” And indeed, like a wanderer in the wilderness, it is in exile that a Jew experiences a burning thirst for G‑d.

This thought brings to mind a mystical teaching in the Zohar.1 Speaking of Tamar, there is a verse that says,2 הוציאוה ותשרף — “Take her out and let her be burnt....” Interpreting these two Hebrew words on the level of sod, the Zohar adds: בשלהובי טיהרא בגלותא — “ the midday flames of exile.” That is to say: הוציאוה — “When a soul is taken out into a state of exile,” ותשרף — “she is aflame with a passionate love of G‑d.”

Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar 2c

Parched, My Soul Yearns for You (ii)

A man is not near so thirsty when in a populated area as he is when in a dry desert. It is likewise in the time of exile, when G‑d’s presence is obscured, and when materiality is at its coarsest, that a man longs most intensely to serve his Creator. As David HaMelech writes,134 “My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a parched and weary land without water.”

Sefer HaMaamarim 5700 [1940], p. 11

Revealing the Potential for Self-Sacrifice (i)

The above-quoted verse is followed in the Book of Tehillim by the phrase,3 כן בקדש חזיתיך — “Thus have I beheld You in the Sanctuary.”

The Baal Shem Tov understands these words to mean: “If only in the times of the Beis HaMikdash I had beheld You!”

In other words: If only, in those times, I could have perceived the same lofty level of revealed divine light which we now, in the times of exile, draw down into this world. For in the times of the Beis HaMikdash divine service involved the mind and the heart, and was thus a pleasurable experience. In these times of exile, however, divine service is motivated by one’s acceptance of the yoke of heaven, and by self-sacrifice.4

And when a Jew undergoes self-sacrifice for the study of the Torah and the observance of its commandments, especially when he risks the punishments meted out in times of religious persecution,5 the lights he draws down into this world are far more intense than the lights that were brought down in the times of the Beis HaMikdash.

Sefer HaMaamarim — Kuntreisim, Vol. I, p. 106

Revealing the Potential for Self-Sacrifice (ii)

“My soul thirsts for You,... in a parched and weary land without water. If only in the times of the Beis HaMikdash I had beheld You!”

These verses speak of the divine service of the Jewish people during the times of exile.

Their soul thirsts for G‑d “in a parched and weary land”; i.e., they are weary of the bothers of making a livelihood, weary of the yoke of the exile, when they are “without water,”6 i.e., unable to engage in Torah study and the service of G‑d. Nevertheless, despite all odds, they do serve Him out of self-sacrifice, and of this self-sacrifice they say, “If only in the times of the Beis HaMikdash I had beheld You thus!”

Sefer HaMaamarim 5700 [1940], p. 11

Revealing the Potential for Self-Sacrifice (iii)

In the times of the Beis HaMikdash, when the divine light was revealed for all to see, the divine service of the Jewish people mainly involved the soul’s revealed faculties: the people actually experienced G‑dliness in their minds and with their spiritual emotions.7 And since this kind of divine service is prompted by reason and feeling, the yechidah within the soul, the soul’s very essence, did not play a perceptible role in it.

It is specifically in times of exile — when the divine light is hidden, when obstacles to divine service abound, and when the intellect and spiritual emotions are inactive — that the yechidah within the soul is aroused. For it is this innermost faculty of the soul that fortifies a man with the self-sacrifice that can overcome all the difficulties and trials that beset him.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XVI, p. 36

Revealing the Soul’s Transcendent Potential


Chassidus explains that the time of exile resembles a dream. Just as when dreaming a man can fuse two opposites, so too in the present time of exile: one can imagine that he loves G‑d and at the same time he can love his body, despite the paradox involved.9

Nevertheless, Chassidus warns, one should not make an easy mistake. A person might conclude that since after davenen he can act in ways that contradict his status while at prayer, it follows that his endeavors at prayer, his Torah study and his fulfillment of the mitzvos are all worthless. This is not true. Dreams stem from a lofty source indeed — from the makkif, i.e., from the intense, transcendent spiritual dimension that is not consciously vested in the body. This dimension of the soul shines forth specifically during the time of exile, and its infinite perspective tolerates the existence of paradoxes.

In this sense, then, the current time of exile is superior to the time of the Beis HaMikdash. During that time, the spiritual faculties which actively radiated within a man were those which were consciously invested within him. These kochos pnimiyim (“indwelling faculties”) are finite. This explains, for example, why an impure person was forbidden to enter the Beis HaMikdash. During the time of exile, however, the spiritual faculties that radiate within a man are from the higher reaches of his soul — the kochos makkifim, the transcendent faculties.10 From their perspective, since they are infinite, opposites can coexist. Thus it is that the Torah can assure the Jewish people that G‑d “dwells with them within their impurity.”11

Ibid., Vol. I, p. 86

A True Union

The union between the Jewish people and G‑d that found expression at the time of the Giving of the Torah was not intrinsic. True, they said “We shall do” before they said “We shall hear,”12 and they did in fact accept the Torah — but in these decisions they were prompted by an arousal which shone upon them from Above, not by their own initiative. For this reason their bond with G‑d did not permeate their essence, nor, so to speak, His Essence.

The time of exile is different, in that the divine light does not shine down in a manifest manner. The Jewish people neverthe­less continue to observe the Torah through a humble acceptance of the yoke of heaven and in a spirit of self-sacrifice — because G‑dliness is their very essence.

And it is through this level of divine service that the true union of G‑d and His people finds expression.

Ibid., Vol. IX, p. 150

Loftier Perceptions

Tzaddikim of stature can now attain loftier perceptions in the Land of Israel than comparable tzaddikim could attain in the time of the Beis HaMikdash. The AriZal, for example, soared to heights that tzaddikim of previous generations never reached.

The reason is that during the time of the Beis HaMikdash two modes of divine light shone forth: that which is called “Supernal Thought”13 (from the realm known in Aramaic as alma de’iskasya — “the hidden world”) and that which is called “Supernal Speech”14 (from the realm known as alma de’isgalya — “the revealed world”). It was the divine “speech” that was dominant; after the divine “thought” became enclothed in it, it then became manifest. (This explains why in that period there was a revelation of divine light in the Beis HaMikdash, and why in that period there were people blessed with divine inspiration.15 ) It is thus clear that the tzaddikim of those times attained a perception of divine “thought” only insofar as it was enclothed in divine “speech”.

In the time of exile, by contrast, the divine “speech” is not revealed, and what remains is the divine “thought”. (However, since it derives from “the hidden world,” the revelation of divine light in the Land of Israel at present is not revealed as it was in the time of the Beis HaMikdash.) Accordingly, tzaddikim attain perceptions of the divine “thought” itself, at its own level, where it transcends any possibility of being enclothed in “speech”.

Torah Or, Vayeitzei 22d

The King on his Travels

As we can see for ourselves, when a king is in his palace not everyone is granted an audience with him. When he is on his travels, however, and staying at an inn, even a simple villager can approach him.

So too during the exile, when G‑d is “on the road,” so to speak, it is easier to attain divine inspiration than it was when the Beis HaMikdash was standing. As soon as a man meditates upon cleaving to G‑d, G‑d rests upon him and abides with him.

Likkutei Amarim (by the Maggid of Mezritch), sec. 77

The Possibility of Repentance

In the time of the Beis HaMikdash, repentance was of no avail to an individual who killed unintentionally or willfully. As is explained in the Responsa entitled Noda BiYehudah,16 teshuvah is of no avail in the case of transgressions punishable by the terrestial court, for17 “the judge can only go by what his eyes observe.” Teshuvah, by contrast, belongs to the category of “things (or: words) that reside in the heart,”18 those inarticulated intentions that carry no weight in a court of law.

In the time of exile, however, when the earthly beis din no longer has jurisdiction over capital cases, and the four kinds of capital punishment are meted out only from Above, teshuvah is effective. As our Sages taught:19 “If a man has transgressed and is liable to the death penalty at the hands of the Omnipresent, what should he do in order to live? If he was accustomed to study one page, let him study two, and so on.”

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, p. 624

Your Seed Shall Remain

“For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, says G‑d, so shall your seed and your name remain.”20

The “new heavens” which will be revealed in future time allude to the diffusion of a new or makkif, a Divine light that transcends the finitude of the created universe; the “new earth” alludes to the diffusion of a new or pnimi, a Divine light that is immanent within the finitude of the created universe. Even then, however, “your seed and your name shall remain” before G‑d: the spiritual labors of the era of exile, which consist of sowing seeds in preparation for the Days of Mashiach, will be prized then, too.

Likkutei Torah on Shir HaShirim

Halachic Regulations


The later a generation, and the lower its spiritual status, the loftier is the Divine light which is garbed in the halachic ordinances of the Sages of that generation. For it is precisely by observing these takkanos that the Jewish people arrive at all the goals and revelations of future time.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1089

Nostalgia for the Days of Exile (i)

When Mashiach comes, people will start hankering after the bygone days of exile. It is then that they will start feeling regret for not having devoted themselves to avodah; it is then that people will feel anguish over their lack of avodah. As for now, during the era of galus, these are the days of avodah — to prepare oneself for the coming of Mashiach.

Likkutei Dibburim (in English translation), Vol. I, p. 292

Nostalgia for the Days of Exile (ii)

The teaching of my father-in-law the [Previous] Rebbe is well-known, that when Mashiach comes people will regret that the best days, the last days of the period of exile, have passed. For those were times when one was able to engage in Torah and mitzvos despite all obstacles and all obscurity; times when one’s divine service was more gratifying and more lovable, both for the mortal who did it and for his Maker Who commanded that it be done; times unlike the future time, when22 “I shall remove the spirit of impurity from the earth,” and when there are no antagonists to contend with.

Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 388

Nostalgia for the Days of Exile (iii)

My revered father-in-law, the [Previous] Rebbe, once said: The time will soon come...This recalls something said by my revered father-in-law, the [Previous] Rebbe, in one of his talks: The time will soon come when people will suddenly and regretfully grasp that the divine service of just a short while earlier had been pleasurable, and the opportunity for engaging in it had not been exploited.

It is true that this statement refers specifically to the time of the ultimate Redemption, when people will regret that they had not fully utilized the time of exile. Nevertheless, the same may be said on a smaller scale regarding any individual within the time of exile, for there are things which are becoming revealed through the removal of the obscurity which had surrounded them.

Igros Kodesh (Letters) of the Rebbe Shlita, Vol. VIII, p. 268

G‑d Calculated the End of the Exile

In the Haggadah of Pesach we say: “Blessed be He Who keeps His promise to Israel, blessed be He. For the Holy One, blessed be He, calculated the end of the exile....”

So pleasurable does G‑d find the divine service of the Jewish people during the time of exile, that the exile could have been made endless, G‑d forbid. For this reason we thank Him Who “calculated the end of the exile.”

Sefer HaMaamarim 5708 [1948,] p. 151