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Friday, 16 Tishrei 5778 / October 6, 2017

Daily Tanya

Daily Tanya

Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 22

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Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 22

אך האמת אגיד לשומעים לי, כי אהבה מקלקלת השורה, והנה היא כסות עיניים שלא לראות האמת

However, I shall relate the truth1 to those who listen to me:2 “Love upsets the natural order of conduct,” for it is a covering of the eyes that prevents people from seeing the truth.

The Alter Rebbe is quick to insist that his listeners’ love for the “life of the body” is no doubt motivated by a spiritual purpose. Nevertheless, they become so enmeshed in this love that they soon come to love the “life of the body” for its own sake as well. This latter love upsets the natural order to the point that it drives people to seek advice on material matters.

מרוב אהבתם לחיי הגוף

Because of their great love for the life of the body —

לשם שמים, לעבוד בו את ה׳ ברשפי אש ושלהבת גדולה מאהבת נפשם את ה׳

[though this love is indeed experienced] for the sake of heaven, so that with [the body] they can serve G‑d with flashes of fiery fervor and an ardent flame,3 this love being even greater than their soul’s love for G‑d —

ועל כן היטב חרה להם בצער הגוף, חס ושלום, ה׳ ירחם

they are extremely irate when their body undergoes suffering. (Heaven forfend; may G‑d show compassion!)

ואין יכולין לקבל כלל, עד שמעבירם על דעתם, לכתת רגליהם מעיר לעיר, לשאול עצות מרחוק

Thus they are not able to bear [it] at all, to the point that it drives them out of their mind, causing them to tramp about from city to city to seek advice from afar.

But why indeed does G‑d cause suffering? Moreover, how are we to respond to life’s difficulties, if it is not proper to seek advice on them from Torah sages and tzaddikim? The Alter Rebbe goes on to explain:

ולא שעו אל ה׳, לשוב אליו ברוח נמוכה והכנעת הגוף

Those who seek merely to be rid of their physical afflictions are not following the proper path of the Torah, for in doing so, they do not turn to G‑d by [penitently] returning to Him with humble spirit and submission of the body

לקבל תוכחתו באהבה, כי את אשר יאהב ה׳ וכו׳

to accept His chastisement with love,4 “for it is him whom G‑d loves [that He chastises].”

For misfortunes are in fact a call from G‑d that one should repent. Indeed, they should be a source of satisfaction: out of G‑d’s particular love for him, he has been chosen to be roused to repentance.

***

וכמו אב רחמן חכם וצדיק, המכה את בנו, שאין לבן חכם להפוך עורף לנוס למצוא לו עזרה, או אפילו מליץ יושר לפני אביו הרחמן והצדיק וחסיד

This is analogous to a compassionate, wise and righteous father who hits his son. Surely a wise son should not turn his back to escape and find himself help, or even an intercessor to his father, who is compassionate, righteous and kind (chassid).

The Rebbe Rayatz once remarked5 that when the Alter Rebbe first speaks of the father who punishes, he does not use the term “chassid”. (He uses it only later, in the context of the intercessor.) The reason, says the Rebbe, is that a father who smites his child may indeed be compassionate, righteous and wise — but he is not a chassid, for a chassid does not hit!

In any event, we see that if the child is truly wise he will not flee from punishment.

רק להיות ישר יחזו פנימו עם אביו, פנים בפנים, לסבול הכאותיו באהבה, לטוב לו כל הימים

Rather, he will look straight at his father, face to face, bearing his smacks lovingly for his lifelong benefit.

To transpose this to the analogue: Every Jew ought to look straight at his Father, “face to Face.”

והנה למעלה, בחינת פנים

Now in the Divine realm, the concept of “Face”

הוא הרצון והחשק אשר אבינו שבשמים משפיע לבניו כל טוב עולמים וחיי נפש וגוף

is the willingness and desire with which our Father in heaven bestows upon His children all the good of the worlds — the physical and the spiritual worlds — as well as life for the soul and body;

באהבה ורצון, חשיקה וחפיצה, על ידי תורת חיים, שהיא רצונו יתברך, אשר נתן לנו

[all of this He bestows] out of love and willingness, out of inner desire and delight, through the Torah of Life, which is His blessed Will, that He gave unto us.

The present passage is based on the body language that typically accompanies a gift.

As explained earlier in Tanya (ch.22), one gives a gift to a good friend face to face: the giver’s eyes rest on the face of the recipient. Through his very stance the giver thus expresses the fact that his gift stems from his “face” (panim) and innermost core (pnimiyut). When, however, one gives something to an enemy, he averts his face. This simply gives outward expression to his real aversion: the gift is not prompted by any inner desire, but by some external factor.

In our context, then, G‑d’s loving willingness in showering us with His gifts is described by the metaphor of “Face”.

כמו שנאמר: כי באור פניך נתת לנו תורת חיים כו׳

As we recite in the Amidah,6 “For in the light of Your Face, You have given us...the Torah of Life...,”

לעשות בה רצונו

with which (and through which) to carry out His will.

ועל זה נאמר: באור פני מלך חיים ורצונו כו׳

And of this it is written,7 “For in the light of the King’s Face there is life, and His will....”

מה שאין כן לעובדי גילולים, משפיע חיי גופם שלא ברצון וחשיקה וחפיצה

To the heathens, however, He grants the life of their bodies8 without willingness, pleasure and delight.

לכך נקראים אלהים אחרים, שיונקים מבחינת אחוריים

For this reason they are referred to as elohim acherim (“other gods”), for they draw [their life-force] from achorayim (the “hinderside” of Divinity).

To continue the above metaphor: The Divine “reluctance” to grant life-force to the heathens — i.e., the so-called external level of Divine desire — is here described by a term that is the opposite of the “Face”, which expressed G‑d’s innermost will.

וכך הוא באדם: הרצון והחשק הוא בחינת פנים

It is likewise with man: willingness and pleasurable desire, i.e., man’s innermost desires, relate to the “face”.

Thus, turning to G‑d “face to Face” means that a man accepts willingly and with inner desire whatever is apportioned to him from the Supernal Face, from G‑d’s innermost desire. In our context, this refers to a willing acceptance of G‑d’s admon-ishments as expressed in physical suffering.

ואם אינו מקבל באהבה ורצון, כאלו הופך עורף ואחור, חס ושלום

If one does not accept [this suffering] with love and willingness, it is as if he turns his neck and back [on G‑d], heaven forfend.

Footnotes
1.
Cf. Daniel 11:2.
2.
Bereishit Rabbah 55:8.
3.
Cf. Shir HaShirim 8:6.
4.
Mishlei 3:12. As in many other instances, the Alter Rebbe ended his quotation with “etc.”, choosing not to spell out the painful final words of the verse.
5.
Sefer HaSichot 5704, p. 15.
6.
Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 60, et al.
7.
Mishlei 16:15.
8.
Note of the Rebbe: “This requires further examination, for seemingly this also applies to the life-force of their souls. See Tanya, ch. 22, and end of ch. 3.”


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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