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Monday, 19 Tishrei 5778 / October 9, 2017

Daily Tanya

Daily Tanya

Iggeret HaKodesh, end of Epistle 22

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Iggeret HaKodesh, end of Epistle 22

ועוד זאת אדרוש ממעלתכם

Furthermore, I earnestly ask of my esteemed listeners

On the above matters between man and G‑d, the Alter Rebbe referred to himself as merely “repeating reminders.” Here, however, as he begins to speak of the relationship between man and man, he uses stronger terms.

שלא להשליך דברי אחריכם, אשר ערכתי שיח להיות כל איש ישר והולך בתומו, כאשר עשה האלקים את האדם ישר

not to cast aside my words, in which I have asked that every man be upright and walk with integrity, just as1 “G‑d made man upright”;

ולא לבקש חשבונות רבים מעלילות מצעדי גבר, ומחשבות אדם ותחבולותיו

nor to seek2 “numerous calculations” regarding3 “the pretexts of man’s steps and a person’s thoughts and devices.”

It is not man’s task to weigh the motives of his fellow.

כי זו מלאכת שמים היא, ולא מלאכת בשר ודם

For that is the work of heaven and not an occupation for flesh and blood.

ולהאמין באמונה שלימה במצות חז״ל: והוי שפל רוח בפני כל אדם, בכלל

Rather, every one should believe with absolute faith in the precept of our Sages,4 of blessed memory: “And be humble of spirit before every man,” without exception.5

כי יציבא מלתא ותקין פתגמא, שכל אחד מתוקן מחבירו

For it is a true statement and a correct proverb that every man becomes better through his fellow.

Since every individual possesses specific qualities that others lack, the realization by disparate people that in essence they comprise one whole, enables them all to be complemented and perfected by each other.

* * *

The above form of address, “Furthermore, I earnestly ask of my exalted listeners...,” is expounded by the Previous Rebbe, the saintly Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, on the non-literal level of derush. Noting that אדרוש ממעלתכם can also be understood as speaking of “calling forth exalted qualities,” the Previous Rebbe once remarked:6 “This form of address does not mean that the Alter Rebbe was confining his appeal to an exclusive group of exalted individuals; after all, he was addressing this letter to his chassidim at large. Rather, in using this phrase he was implying an underlying plea: Call forth your exalted qualities!”

With regard to the following pair of phrases, “not to cast aside my words, in which I have asked...,” the Previous Rebbe explains that the former phrase refers to the indirect and transcendent (makkif) mode in which the Alter Rebbe influenced his chassidim, while the second phrase refers to his simultaneously direct and internalized (pnimi) mode of influence.

Finally, the Previous Rebbe points out that the Alter Rebbe’s following affirmation that “every man [literally:] is better than his fellow,” really means that one’s fellows enable one to become a better person; i.e., as translated above, “every man becomes better through his fellow.”

* * *

וכתיב: כל איש ישראל כאיש אחד חברים

Thus too it is written,7 “All the men of Israel associated together like one man.”

כמו שאיש אחד מחובר מאברים רבים, ובהפרדם נוגע בלב, כי ממנו תוצאות חיים

Just as one man is composed of many limbs and when they become separated this affects the heart, for from it there issues life,

אם כן אנחנו היות כולנו כאיש אחד ממש, תיכון העבודה בלב

therefore, by our truly being all like one man, the service [of G‑d] in the heart i.e., prayer will be firmly established.

To consider both this divisiveness and this harmony on the cosmic level, in terms of the relation of souls to the Divine Presence: The above sentence means8 that divisiveness among Jews affects, as it were, the Divine Presence, the “heart” of the Jewish people; conversely, since the task of prayer is to connect a soul with its source in the Divine Presence, cultivating one’s sense of unity with one’s fellows — which in turn connects all souls with the Shechinah — enhances the divine service of prayer.

ומכלל הן כו׳

And from the affirmative [you may infer the negative].9

(In keeping with Rabbinic usage, the bracketed clause is euphemistically omitted in the Hebrew original, and merely hinted at by “etc.”) I.e., when unity is lacking, the service of prayer is likewise imperfect.

ועל כן נאמר: לעבדו שכם אחד דוקא

That is why it is said,10 “To serve Him with one purpose” (literally, “with one part” or “with one shoulder”): only when all Jews fully unite in this way can it be said that they “serve Him.”

ועל כן, אהוביי ידידיי, נא ונא לטרוח בכל לב ונפש לתקוע אהבת רעהו בלבו

The Alter Rebbe resumes his plea to his chassidim: Therefore, my beloved and dear ones, I beg again and again that each of you exert himself with all his heart and soul to firmly implant in his heart a love for his fellow Jew,

ואיש את רעת רעהו אל תחשבו בלבבכם, כתיב

and, in the words of Scripture,11 “let none of you consider in your heart what is evil for his fellow.”

ולא תעלה על לב לעולם

Moreover, [such a consideration] should never arise in one’s heart [in the first place];

ואם תעלה

and if it does arise, for even a person who has attained the rank of a Beinoni cannot prevent a thought from presenting itself to his mind,

יהדפנה מלבו כהנדוף עשן, וכמו מחשבת עבודה זרה ממש

one should push it away from his heart12 “as smoke is driven away,” as if it were an actual idolatrous thought.13

כי גדולה לשון הרע כנגד עבודה זרה וגילוי עריות ושפיכות דמים

For to speak evil [of another] is as grave as idolatry and incest and bloodshed.14

ואם בדבור כך כו׳

And if this be so with speech, [then surely thinking evil about another is even worse15];

וכבר נודע לכל חכם לב יתרון הכשר המחשבה על הדבור

for all the wise of heart are aware of the greater impact [on the soul] of thought over speech,

הן לטוב והן למוטב

whether for the good or for the better.

This really means, “whether for good or for bad.” Here, too, however, the Alter Rebbe uses a traditional euphemism (“for the better”), which could be understood to mean, “for that which needs to become better.16

Thought is a soul-garment that is more intimately involved with the soul than speech. For this reason, (a) good thoughts leave a deeper impression on oneself than good speech, and conversely evil thoughts leave a deeper impression than evil speech; (b) thought is a constant, just as the soul itself is a constant, whereas with regard to speech,17 “There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”

וה׳ הטוב, המברך את עמו בשלום, ישים עליכם שלום וחיים עד עולם

May the good L‑rd, Who blesses His people with peace, bestow peace and life upon you forever more,

כנפש אוהב נפשם מלב ונפש

as is the wish of him who loves you deeply from heart and soul.

Footnotes
1.
Kohelet 7:29.
2.
Kohelet 7:29.
3.
From the Mussaf prayer of Rosh HaShanah; Machzor for Rosh HaShanah (Kehot, N.Y., 1983; bi-lingual edition), p. 135.
4.
Avot 4:10.
5.

In Tanya ch. 30, this same teaching of the Sages (a) is not introduced by an injunction that one “believe [in it] with absolute faith”; (b) it is followed by a consideration of the conduct of others.

Concerning these differences the Rebbe notes: “Ch. 30 speaks of man’s service with regard to himself — his battle with the evil inclination and his efforts to refrain from evil and to do good, and so on. This demands the kind of meditation outlined there, that will lead to proper thought, speech and action — a detailed consideration of the conduct of another individual, who is less righteous, [and yet whose divine service one has to learn to regard as being in fact superior to one’s own]. Belief plays no part in this; all that matters there is that one’s mind should compel him to conduct himself as he ought.“

Here, however, in Iggeret HaKodesh, our text speaks of the need to become one with every other Jew — all of us like actually one man. The Alter Rebbe therefore has to make provision for the possibility that if one individual imagines a flaw in another or in a group of people, he should not think about it, etc., as is soon stated; rather, he should believe in this teaching of the Sages. Indeed, in order for it to be truly internalized he should believe in it ‘with absolute faith,’ and certainly not contemplate the details of the conduct of this individual or the other.”

6.
Sefer HaSichot 5705, p. 51.
7.
Shoftim 20:11.
8.
See below at length in Epistle XXXI.
9.
Sifrei, Eikev 11:19.
10.
Zephaniah 3:9.
11.
Zechariah 8:17.
12.
Tehillim 68:3.
13.
Note of the Rebbe: “This comparison is perhaps explained by the statement of our Sages that one is punished only for idolatrous thoughts (Kiddushin 40a).”
14.
Arachin 15b.
15.
Here, too, the bracketed words are euphemistically omitted in the Hebrew original, and merely hinted at by “etc.”
16.
Note of the Rebbe: “On this meaning of למוטב, see Likkutei Torah (conclusion of Parshas Korach).”
17.
Kohelet 3:7.


Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, all rights reserved.
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