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Iggeret HaKodesh, beginning of Epistle 7

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Iggeret HaKodesh, beginning of Epistle 7

אשרינו מה טוב חלקנו, ומה נעים גורלנו כו׳

“Fortunate are we. How good is our portion, how pleasant is our lot....”1

In this prayer, which is recited as part of the introductory morning prayers preceding Hodu, we offer thanks to G‑d for our “portion” and “lot” — His self-revelation to every individual Jew. These same terms appear together in a similar context in the following two successive verses:2

ה׳ מנת חלקי וכוסי וגו׳, חבלים נפלו לי וגו׳

“G‑d is the allotment3 of my portion and of my cup; [You support my lot]. The tracts [apportioned by lot] have fallen unto me pleasantly; [yea, I have a goodly heritage].”

These verses together indicate that the Jews’ pleasant portion and lot is an irradiation of G‑dly light. A question, however, arises: Why is the G‑dliness that illumines our souls referred to by both terms, both as “our portion” and as “our lot,” when “portion” can refer to any one of several identical benefactions, while “lot” indicates something which is granted exclusively to a particular individual who wins a lottery, for example, having been chosen by “lot”?

להבין לשון חלקנו וגורלנו

In order to understand the terms “our portion” and “our lot,”

צריך לבאר היטב לשון השגור במאמרי רז״ל: אין לו חלק באלקי ישראל

one must properly explain a common4 expression in the teachings of our Sages, of blessed memory, viz.: “He has no part in the G‑d of Israel.”

כי הגם דלכאורה לא שייך לשון חלק כלל באלקות יתברך

Now it would seem that a term like “part” cannot possibly be applied to G‑d,

שאינו מתחלק לחלקים, חס ושלום

because He is not divisible into parts, Heaven forfend.

G‑d is the ultimate in simple and uncompounded unity, the very antithesis of divisibility; nevertheless we find that our Sages here use the term “part” in relation to G‑d. How can this be?

We must perforce conclude that though G‑d Himself is indivisible, the G‑dly illumination that descends into Jewish souls can be described with the word “part”, inasmuch as it is revealed in parts, so to speak, as shall soon be explained.

אך הענין, כמו שכתוב ביעקב: ויקרא לו אל אלקי ישראל

This concept can be understood by considering a verse concerning Jacob:5 “And he called Him ‘E‑l, G‑d of Israel.’ ”

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain the meaning of the verse in order to answer a number of simple questions: (a) Until this verse the name “Jacob” is used consistently; why does this verse suddenly change to “Israel”? (b) How does this conclusion of the verse relate to its beginning, “And he set up an altar”? (c) What is novel about the epithet, “E‑l, G‑d of Israel”?

פירוש

The meaning [of this verse is as follows]:

כי הנה באמת הקב״ה כשמו כן הוא

In truth, the Holy One, blessed is He, is true to His Name.

On the one hand, the phrase “Holy One” (in the Hebrew original, קדוש) implies that G‑d stands above and apart from creation, while “blessed be He” (where the Hebrew ברוך, lit., “blessed”, also means to descend and be revealed) implies that the level of G‑dliness which previously was “holy” and “apart” — the indirect “He” in the phrase quoted — is drawn down into the world in a revealed manner, as will soon be explained.

כי אף דאיהו ממלא כל עלמין עליונים ותחתונים

Though He permeates all the upper and lower worlds,

מרום המעלות עד מתחת לארץ הלזו החומרית

from the peak of all levels to this lowly corporeal world,

G‑d permeates and is present to an equal degree in all worlds. It should be noted that the term “permeates all worlds” used here, does not refer to the degree of contracted G‑dliness that is generally said to “fill all worlds” according to their individual capacity to retain it. Rather, here the Alter Rebbe refers to G‑d’s permeating all worlds to an equal degree.

כמו שכתוב: הלא את השמים ואת הארץ אני מלא

as it is written,6 “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth” —

אני ממש

i.e., “I, My very self,”

דהיינו מהותו ועצמותו, כביכול, ולא כבודו לבד

meaning G‑d’s very Being and Essence, as it were, and not only His glory —

In another verse we find,7 “The earth is filled with His glory.” That verse alludes merely to the “glory” and radiation of G‑dliness. Here, however, the words “I fill” refer to G‑d’s very Essence permeating all worlds.

Now, although G‑d Himself permeates and is to be found in all worlds:

אף על פי כן הוא קדוש ומובדל מעליונים ותחתונים, ואינו נתפס כלל בתוכם, חס ושלום

He is nevertheless “holy” in the sense of “apart from” the upper and lower worlds, and is not at all contained in them, Heaven forfend,

כתפיסת נשמת האדם בגופו, על דרך משל

in the way, by analogy, that the soul of man is contained in his body, and is affected by the changes within it. Unlike the soul, G‑d is not at all affected by the worlds in which He is to be found,

כמו שכתוב במקום אחר באריכות

as explained elsewhere at length.8

ולזאת

For this reason, i.e., since G‑d is entirely distinct and apart from all worlds,

לא היו יכולים לקבל חיותם ממהותו ועצמותו לבדו, כביכול

they could not receive their life-force from His Being and Essence in itself, as it were.

רק התפשטות החיות אשר הקב״ה מחיה עליונים ותחתונים

Rather, the diffusion of the life-force whereby the Holy One, blessed be He, animates the upper and lower worlds

הוא, על דרך משל, כמו הארה מאירה משמו יתברך

is, metaphorically speaking, like a radiation shining forth from His Name,

G‑d’s Name is itself a mere radiation; from it there emanates yet another radiation.

שהוא ושמו אחד

for He and His Name are One — for which reason a ray that emanates from His Name is able to animate the various worlds.

וכמו שכתוב: כי נשגב שמו לבדו

Thus it is written,9 “For [even] His Name alone is exalt-ed”; i.e., G‑d’s Name is exalted “alone”, standing apart from all the worlds which it transcends,

רק זיוו והודו על ארץ ושמים וגו'

while only His reflection and10 “His splendor are on the earth and the heavens.”

Thus, all of creation exists from but a radiation of G‑d’s Name, which, as previously mentioned, is itself merely a radia-tion.

והארה זו מתלבשת ממש בעליונים ותחתונים, להחיותם

This radiation actually vests itself in the upper and lower worlds in order to animate them.

At this level, the G‑dly life-force is not merely present in created beings and worlds, but actually vests itself in them: it contracts and adapts to the spiritual capacity of each particular world in which it is vested, and is integrated within it.

ונתפסת בתוכם על ידי ממוצעים רבים

It is contained in them by means of many intermediaries, i.e., levels that are related both to the levels above and below them, thereby enabling them to serve as conduits for the transference of the radiation,

וצמצומים רבים ועצומים

and by means of numerous and intense contractions,

“Numerous” describes the quantitative diminution of Divine light and life-force; “intense” alludes to their qualitative diminution, whereby the light that emerges after the contraction is entirely different from the light that originally emanated before being screened and contracted.

בהשתלשלות המדרגות, דרך עלה ועלול וכו׳

in a downward, chainlike progression through the levels of the various worlds, in a sequence of cause and effect, and so on.

Within every world the lower level develops from the higher level by way of cause and effect, the higher level serving as the cause and source of the lower.

After all these contractions and descents, then, the light manifests itself within the various worlds by becoming vested in them.

Footnotes
1.
Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 17.
2.
Tehillim 16:5-6.
3.

The Rebbe here refers the reader to Tanya, Part I, ch. 18, which states that “the blessed Ein Sof is garbed in the faculty of wisdom in the human soul, of whatever sort of a Jew he may be, ...[and this faculty of Chochmah] is beyond any graspable knowledge or intelligence.”

[I.e., G‑d apportions His light to various individuals in a superrational manner — by lot, so to speak.]

4.
Commenting on the term “common”, the Rebbe notes: “So far, I have found the above-quoted expression (‘He has no part...’) in one place only (in Midrash Tanchuma, end of Parshat Tazria). In many places, by contrast, we find, ‘You have no part [in the G‑d of Israel],’ (as in Bereishit Rabbah 2:4, with further references indicated there, and as quoted in Torah Or, beginning of p. 30a). We likewise find, ‘They have no part [in the G‑d of Israel]’ (Berachot 63b). [Why, then, does the Alter Rebbe quote the less frequent form?] It is quite possible that [with a statement as drastic as this] the Alter Rebbe did not want [to address the reader in] the second person nor [apply it to others in] the plural form — a reluctance that may readily be appreciated.”
5.
Bereishit 33:20.
6.
Yirmeyahu 23:24.
7.
Yeshayahu 6:3.
8.
Likkutei Amarim, Part I, ch. 42.
9.
Tehillim 148:13.
10.
Tehillim 148:13.


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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