Basi Legani

By: Jonah James  |  February 2, 2023

By Jonah James, Staff Writer

Yud Shvat (the 10th of Shvat) marks the passing of the Previous Chabad Rebbe and the beginning of the Rebbe’s leadership. On this auspicious day, the Rebbe would expound one section of the Previous Rebbe’s 20 Chapter discourse known as Basi Legani. Basi Legani defines the overarching purpose of creation and these teachings lie at the core of Chassidus for this generation. The Rebbe plumbed the depths of this verse from Shir Hashirim for 40 years, explaining how Gd inhabits earth through us claiming stewardship of His garden.

While Basi Legani literally translates to “I have come into my garden,” the Midrash translates it  as “I have come into my bridal chamber.” This bridal chamber, the Rebbe explains, refers to Gan Eden before the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, when the Essence of the Shechinah was originally revealed. It is specifically the Shechinah that inhabits this physical world, as Shechinah comes from the word “in-dwelling.” Hence, Gd later instructed the Jews to build a sanctuary so He would inhabit (Shochanti) them, each person’s body. 

After the Sin of the Tree of Knowledge, the Shechinah departed from earth to heaven, and the sins of the next six generations caused the Shechinah to withdraw to the seventh level of heaven. It was only Avraham who began to draw down the Shechinah, starting by bringing it from the seventh heaven to the sixth. He was followed by Yitzchak, and then Yaakov, until finally, Moshe brought it down back to earth at Mount Sinai, seven generations later, as “All who are seventh are beloved.” G-d returned to His garden, the bridal chamber.

In his discourse from 5712, the Rebbe explains how korbanos (sacrifices) represent Hashem’s plan for creation in this seventh and final generation before Moshiach.

Although korbanos have not been offered for millenia, we can still sacrifice our animalistic desires to Hashem today. However, before sacrificing our inner animal, it must first be checked for any blemishes. After we deem it a healthy animal, though, it must still be slaughtered. This represents using physicality solely for Gd without deriving any selfish pleasure, which allows our spiritual faculties to draw closer (karov/korban) to Gd. As such, our animal ascends above, just like how animals in the Holy Temple would ascend before (and higher than) Havaya (YKVK). From our fire that seeks transcendence, Hashem provides a fire from Himself in return. 

These two fires correspond to the two fires described in Sefer Yetzirah. There is a flame that burns on the outside of a coal, and there is a flame that burns inside a coal, which we only see after blowing on it. Halachically, we find a parallel to this. On Shabbos, one is exempt (patur) from carrying an isolated flame outside a private domain, because a disconnected flame has no substantive existence. But it is forbidden (assur) to carry both a burning coal and its fire inside, because the fire has a foundational source it is attached to (Beitzah 39a).

In other words, when we serve Gd with our own independent, spiritual passion, it is incomplete, like a fire disconnected from its source. We also need Gd’s perfect fire; through uniting our fire with His, our fire is rendered complete (based on the idea that He and His Life Forces are One, and He and His Causations are One; Tikkunei Zohar, Introduction 3b). 

This ability to take our passions and sacrifice them to Hashem, the Rebbe explains, uniquely applies to korbanos. While other mitzvos may involve animals, like tefillin, or tzitzis, donning tefillin affects no visible change in the tefillin itself. Though the body puts on the tefillin, the body functions only as an intermediary to access the soul. Being a spiritual entity, it makes sense that the soul should serve Hashem, but it is supra-logical that the body should be able to serve Hashem. It is only by sacrificing one’s inner animal, by bringing a korban from one’s self, that the body also connects to Hashem. 

However, there’s a catch. Because the body comes from a loftier source than the soul (Tanya, Iggeres Hakodesh Epistle 20), and the neshama knows this, this service remains within the limits of logic. If we recognize through reason that there exists a concept above reason, then we stay connected to reason. The Rebbe asserts, then, that a truly supranational divine service is accomplished via a child-like relationship; specifically, when a child understands the reason behind his father’s commands, but still fulfills the command purely to actualize the father’s will.

Through our effort, combined with Moshe Rabbeinu who binds us with our Source, we bring a perfect korban before Hashem. We do not just transform our inner animal, but we reveal the holiness in the body itself, and thus Gd inhabits us. Rather than ascend to heaven, or even bring heaven down to earth, we reveal how the earth is in fact heaven.