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Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 20

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Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 20

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that when the radiation descends in the third manner, it is manifest only in creatures of the lowest order, those deriving from the Element of Earth, this Element being lower than the other Elements of Fire, Air and Water. And it is mainly within the physical earth that the Divine power of creating yesh from ayin is revealed. This power derives from the essence of the Ein Sof-light; it is primarily found in the encompassing light, and is revealed through the Kav, the inner light.

This becomes apparent in the ability of the earth to make things grow: the physical growth of vegetative matter from the spiritual power of growth found in the earth is a clear demonstration of yesh resulting from ayin. Furthermore, the earth reveals this power constantly: it constantly produces vegetation as yesh from ayin. In this it differs from all living things that were created during the Six Days of Creation. Unlike all living things which, once created, simply reproduce, the earth consistently continues to reveal its creative power of yesh from ayin.

Thus, though the radiation within the earth is merely a “radiation of a radiation of a radiation,” it nevertheless demonstrates G‑d’s creative power — because it comprises both the encompassing light, and the light of the Kav which activates the power of the encompassing light to create and animate created beings.

The Alter Rebbe also explains that the distinctive power described above was revealed specifically within the earth, because Earth is the lowest Element of all. For, as explained above, it is specifically at the lowliest level of creation that the “rebounding light” manifests the essence of the original illumination with superior intensity.

ועוד זאת, יתר על כן, על כל הנ״ל

Furthermore, in addition to all that was mentioned above,1

הארה דהארה דהארה

the radiation of the radiation of the radiation, which descends into a created being utterly concealed, being then neither the mahut nor the metziut of Divinity, and nevertheless containing both the inner illumination of the Kav and the encompassing light,

וכל הנ״ל

and all the above, i.e., the manner in which both these levels of illumination ultimately radiate within created beings,

היא מראה כחה ויכלתה ביסוד העפר הגשמי, בגילוי עצום

demonstrates its power and ability, inasmuch as it is a G‑d-ly radiation descending from Malchut of Atzilut, in the Element of the physical Earth in an immense manifestation

ביתר עז מיסודות העליונים ממנו, וגם מצבא השמים

surpassing [that of] the elements (viz., Fire, Air and Water) that transcend it, and even the heavenly hosts.

שאין בכחם ויכלתם להוציא יש מאין תמיד

For they do not have it in their power and ability to constantly bring forth something from nothing (yesh me’ayin),

כיסוד העפר, המצמיח תמיד יש מאין, הם עשבים ואילנות

like the Element of Earth that constantly makes something (yesh) sprout from nothing (ayin), namely the herbs and trees that constantly grow from the earth’s vegetative power.

Even those plants that result from sowing and planting are produced in a manner that resembles yesh me’ayin, for the seed or seedling disintegrates, and serves merely to arouse the vegetative power.

(והמזל המכה ואומר: גדל

(2As for the mazal, the individual angel of destiny, “that strikes [each herb] and says, ‘Grow!’” —

Our Sages teach that3“There is no blade of grass below that does not have a mazal above that strikes it and says to it, ‘Grow!’” Would it not seem, then, that in addition to the earth’s vegetative power there is another factor in growth?

היינו, לאחר שכבר צמח העשב

this takes place [only] after the plant has already sprouted.

Once the plant exists as a created entity, it merely has to grow taller, the tree has to produce fruit with a certain taste, and so on — and these stages relate to the mazal.

ואינו אומר לו לצמוח מאין ליש, אלא מקוטן לגודל, ולשאת פרי, כל מין ומין בפרטי פרטיות

The mazal does not tell it to sprout ex nihilo into substantiality, but only to grow from being small to being large, or to bear fruit of its own particular species.

In Or HaTorah,4 the Tzemach Tzedek explains that the mazal sends forth an arousal to the power of growth that is found within the grass or tree, causing it to grow. The basic cause of growth, however, lies in the above-mentioned vegetative power.

Elsewhere,5 the Tzemach Tzedek explains that the above-quoted “smiting” means that the mazal illumines the particular tree or grass with which it is connected, causing it to be drawn to its source and hence to grow ever larger.

אבל בטרם יצמח, למי יאמר כל מזל ומזל לכל עשב ועשב בפרטי פרטיות

For before it sprouts, to whom would the individual mazal of each particular herb ordain all its details?)

מהכח הצומח שבו, שהוא אין ורוחני, והם גשמיים

[The above-mentioned plants of the earth grow, then,] from the vegetative property within it, which is insubstantial and spiritual, while they are physical.

What we have here, then, is yesh from ayin, which, as explained above, derives from the essence of the Ein Sof and finds expression in the Element of Earth. Why specifically there?

ואין זאת אלא משום דרגלי דאדם קדמון מסתיימים בתחתית עשיה

This is so only because the “feet” of Adam Kadmon culminate at the lowest level of Asiyah,

The “feet” (i.e., the last and lowliest levels) of Adam Kadmon, the Primordial Thought that encompasses all the levels of creation, concludes in the lowest degrees of the nethermost world, the World of Asiyah, and specifically, in the lowly Element of Earth within it.

ותחת רגליו מאיר אור אין סוף ברוך הוא, הסובב כל עלמין

And “below His feet,” i.e., below the lowest levels of Adam Kadmon, radiates the [infinite] Ein Sof-light which encircles (i.e., transcends) all worlds,

At the very “place” at which there ceases the indwelling Divine illumination that permeates all the worlds, there begins the “encompassing” degree of Divine light that transcends all the worlds.

בלי הפסק רב ביניהם, רק עיגולי א״ק לבדו

without any great interruption between them, except for the Iggulim of Adam Kadmon alone.

The Primordial Thought of Adam Kadmon consists of two modes of illumination — Yosher (lit., “straightness”, i.e., a permeating mode) and Iggulim (lit., “circles”, i.e., a transcendent mode). Where the former mode ceases and there remains only the latter (which is not absolute infinity like the Ein-Sof light that transcends all worlds), there is found the absolutely infinite illumination of the Ein-Sof light that transcends all worlds equally.

וגם הקו מאור אין סוף, המסתיים בסיום רגלי א״ק, מאיר ממטה למעלה, בבחינת אור חוזר

Also, the Kav of the Ein Sof-light, culminating at the end of the “feet” of Adam Kadmon, radiates from below upwards, in a mode of Or Chozer, a reflected light.

As mentioned above, this is a light that rebounds upward with increased intensity from a surface which blocks its further downward progress. Hence, for example, the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface is warmer than the atmosphere in altitudes which are nearer to the sun. In the same way, when the beam of the Kav, whose function is to infuse the inner reaches of all created beings with Divine light, reaches the furthest stages of the Divine thought that encompasses all worlds and created beings, it bounces back with sharper impetus: it is now an Or Chozer.

כמו שהמלובש באריך אנפין, ואבא ואמא, וז״א ונוקבא דאצילות, מאיר באור חוזר ממלכות דאצילות

This is like the investment [of the Kav] in Arich Anpin, Abba and Imma, and Za and Nukva of Atzilut, which radiates as an Or Chozer from Malchut of Atzilut,

ומלכות דאצילות, היא בחינת כתר ממטה למעלה

and Malchut of Atzilut, [if the Sefirot are considered] from below upwards, is [thus] a category of Keter, as mentioned earlier in this Epistle,

ונעוץ תחלתן בסופן

and “their beginning is wedged in their end.”

With regard to Malchut this means that the “beginning” of Keter which is loftier than Chochmah is to be found within Malchut. With regard to the Kav it means that the “beginning” of the Kav is wedged in the culmination of the “feet of Adam Kadmon” which ends in the nethermost levels of the World of Asiyah, in the Element of Earth.

Since the purpose of the Kav is to reveal Divinity, the Element of Earth best reveals that aspect of G‑d’s infinity which expresses itself in creating yesh from ayin, as the Alter Rebbe now concludes.

וככה הוא בסיום הקו דאור אין סוף, המסתיים בסיום היושר דרגלי אדם קדמון

It is likewise at the culmination of the Kav of the Ein Sof-light, culminating at the ending of the Yosher of the “feet” of Adam Kadmon:

I.e., when the “feet” of the lowest levels of Adam Kadmon descend into the interior of the various levels all the way down to the very lowest level, the Element of Earth at the lowest level of Asiyah,

מאיר ממטה למעלה לבחינת אור הנשמה דמלכות דמלכות דעשיה

it (i.e., the Kav) [then] radiates from below upwards, from the glimmer of a glimmer of a glimmer that is found within the physical earth, to the category of the light of the Neshamah of the Malchut of the Malchut of Asiyah,

This light, the Or HaNeshamah, is in fact the lowest level of spirituality within Asiyah. For Asiyah is the lowest of the worlds; Malchut is the final Sefirah within Asiyah; and of the ten component Sefirot that comprise Malchut, “Malchut of Malchut” is the lowest.

Nevertheless, since it is, after all, the “light of the Neshamah,” it is actual Divinity, as the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say.

שהוא אלקות ממש, מחיצוניות הכלים דמלכות דאצילות

which is actual Divinity, originating in the chitzoniyut (the exterior aspect) of the kelim of Malchut of Atzilut, which, as said above, becomes the “light of the Neshamah of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah.”

In this lowest level of “light of the Neshamah,” that which is in Asiyah, there is found the illumination of the final degrees of Asiyah (i.e., that which in created beings is the final level), and this “enables” the Ein Sof to reveal its capacity for creating yesh from ayin as demonstrated in the above-described constant power of growth.

ולפי מה שכתוב בספר הגלגולים, פרק כ׳, הובא בלקוטי אמרים

According to the statement in ch. 20 of Sefer HaGilgulim, cited in Likutei Amarim,6

מתלבשת תחלה הארה זו של הקו דאור אין סוף, באור האצילות שבעשיה

this radiation from the Kav of the [infinite] Ein Sof-light vests itself first in the light of Atzilut in Asiyah,

וממנה לבריאה ויצירה שבעשיה

and from there to the Beriah and Yetzirah in Asiyah,

ומהן לבחינת אור הנשמה, דמלכות דמלכות דעשיה

and from them to the category of the light of the Neshamah of the Malchut of the Malchut of Asiyah.

ועל ידי זה יש כח ועוז בסיום הכלי דמלכות דמלכות דעשיה, שביסוד העפר

From this derives the [creative] power and force in the culmination of the keli of the Malchut of Malchut of Asiyah, i.e., the lowest degree and Sefirah of Asiyah, within the Element of Earth.

והוא מאמר תדשא הארץ וגו׳, להיות פועל בקרב הארץ, תמיד לעולם ועד

This is the constant and everlasting effect, throughout the earth, of the creative utterance,7 “Let the earth bring forth herbs...,” this fiat being the source of the power of vegetative growth

בחינת אין סוף

(8in a mode of infinitude,

Not only is the capacity for growth an instance of yesh me’ayin and a result of G‑d’s infinitude: the same is true of its constant recurrence.

ולא בלבד בששת ימי בראשית, כמאמר: ישרצו המים, ומאמר: תוצא הארץ נפש חיה

and not only during the Six Days of Creation, as with the fiat,9 “Let the waters bring forth [an abundance of creeping creatures],” and the fiat,10 “Let the earth bring forth living beings.”

Ever since these one-time creative utterances, every living being derives from another, and not ex nihilo from the earth or water.

מחכמה דמלכות דמלכות דעשיה

[These fiats derive] from the Chochmah of the Malchut of the Malchut of Asiyah.

שבשבעת ימי בראשית האיר בעולם הזה הארה מאור אין סוף בחסד חנם

For during the Seven Days of the Beginning there shone in this world a radiation from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light in a mode of gratuitous kindness,

בלי העלאת מיין נוקבין כלל

without any [prior] elevation of mayin nukvin at all.)

During those days there was no spontaneous arousal initiated from the world below, in the form of divine service on the part of the “female” or recipient element, in order to elicit a reciprocal arousal from above. (After these seven days, however, G‑d ordained that henceforth there must first be an arousal initiated from below.) By virtue of the gratuitous and unearned Di-vine kindness of those first seven days, each of the above-quoted fiats (“Let the water bring forth...” and “Let the earth bring forth...”) effectively brought about an instance of creation ex nihilo, of yesh from ayin.

The fiat “Let the earth sprout forth...,” by contrast, operates constantly:

להצמיח עשבים ואילנות ופירות מאין ליש תמיד, מדי שנה בשנה

to make grasses and trees and fruits sprout ex nihilo into substantiality, constantly, year by year.11

שהוא מעין בחינת אין סוף

This [constancy] is a kind of infinity,

שאם יתקיים עולם הזה ריבוי רבבות שנים, יצמיחו מדי שנה בשנה

for if this world were to exist for myriads of myriads of years, they would still sprout forth from year to year.

אלא שיש מהן על ידי העלאת מיין נוקבין, והם הזרועים והנטועים

There are, though, some [plants, trees and fruit] that result from a [prior] “elevation of mayin nukvin,” i.e., whose seeds serve as the above-mentioned arousal from below which calls forth the power of vegetative growth within the earth, namely, those which are sown and planted.

ואף על פי כן, הם כמו יש מאין

Nevertheless, these [too] are like yesh me’ayin,

שהגרעין הנטוע, אין לו ערך כלל לגבי הפרי, וגם נגד כל האילן עם הענפים והעלין

for the planted seed is of no estimation whatever in relation to the fruit, nor in relation to the whole tree with the branches and leaves.

Whereas the difference between the fruit and its source in the kernel is mainly qualitative (as in the taste, for example), the difference between the kernel and the resultant tree is more quantitative. By both of these criteria, then, the growth of a tree from a seed possesses an element of yesh me’ayin.

וכן במיני זרעונים וירקות, וגם במיני תבואה, להתהוות מאות גרעינין מגרעין אחד, הוא כמו יש מאין

The same applies to the various species of seeds and vegetables, and to the various species of grain: that hundreds of kernels should come into being from a single kernel, resembles yesh me’ayin;

ומכל שכן, הקשין והשבלים

and how much more so, with respect to their straw and spikes, which are so much more different from the parent kernel, and thus even more conspicuously come into being as if “from nothing.”

והנה הפירות על ידי העלאת מיין נוקבין, היא הזריעה והנטיעה, הם משובחים מאד מאד מהעולים מאליהן, מכח הצומח לבדו שבארץ

Now,12 these fruits that [grow] by means of an “elevation of mayin nukvin,” i.e., by sowing and planting, are far, far superior to those that come up independently, only from the vegetative property in the soil.

ומזה נשכיל המשכות אורות עליונים באצילות, בריאה, יצירה, עשיה

And from this we will be able to understand [the concept of] the elicitation of the Supernal orot, the Divine illuminations, [that are drawn down] in the Worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah,

The lights that are drawn down to this world in response to man’s divine service surpass by far the lights that are granted through “an arousal from above” as an unearned gift.

שהוא תכלית בריאת האדם

(13which is the ultimate purpose for the creation of man),

כמו שכתוב במקום אחר

as is explained elsewhere.

***

Footnotes
1.
Note of the Rebbe in his Glosses and Emendations: "Both the language and the intent [of the seemingly repetitious Hebrew introductory phrases] invite attention."
2.
Parenthese are in the original text.
3.
Bereishit Rabbah 10:6.
4.
On Bamidbar, p. 196.
5.
Op. cit., p. 786.
6.
Note of the Rebbe: “See ch. 6 (in the Alter Rebbe’s Note); ch. 18; see also end of ch. 51 and end of ch. 52.”
7.
Bereishit 1:11.
8.
Parentheses are in the original text.
9.
Bereishit 1:10.
10.
Ibid. 1:24.
11.
“Coming after ‘constantly’, the phrase ‘year by year’ suggests something of a contradiction. This is not the case in the text above (foot of Hebrew p. 132a), where תמיד לעולם means ‘constant and everlasting,’ as is evident from the continuation there (‘in a mode of infinitude’). Our text should therefore be understood in the spirit of the similar text at the end of Epistle 14, above: ‘And this is the meaning of Forever...; ...rather, every year....’”
12.

Note of the Rebbe: “The relevance here of this passage (regarding the superiority of fruits that are planted) is not immediately apparent.“

It could be seen as being connected with the above discussion of the superior quality of those mitzvot that come at the ‘end’ (and likewise as being connected with the conclusion of this Epistle, on the sublime worth of practical mitzvot). For even with regard to all the things that now, too, are bestowed upon us by way of gratuitous kindness, if they are [earned] by means of the performance of a mitzvah or through mortal prayer, they too are ‘far, far superior’ משובחים מאד מאד.“

Compare the explanation in Likkutei Torah of how the Spies’ complaint was negated by the response that the Land was ‘very, very’ good טובה הארץ מאד מאד.”

13.
Parentheses are in the original text.


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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