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Thursday, 6 Cheshvan 5778 / October 26, 2017
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Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 26

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Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 26

The Alter Rebbe will now point out that a careful reading of the passage from Ra’aya Mehemna reveals that it is not the laws themselves nor the study of them that are termed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Rather, this term is applied to the actual food or other things which are prohibited or permitted, and which derive their life-force from kelipat nogah — for this is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, as will soon be explained.

אך באמת, כשתדקדק בלשון רעיא מהימנא דלעיל

But in truth, if you examine closely the above-quoted text of Ra’aya Mehemna

ואילנא דטוב ורע, דאיהו איסור והיתר כו׳

“And the Tree of [Knowledge of] Good and Evil, i.e., prohibition and permission...” —

ולא אמר תורת איסור והיתר, או הלכות איסור והיתר

[you will note that] it does not say “the teachings (i.e., studying the subjects) of prohibition and permission,” nor “the laws of prohibition and permission,” which would suggest that they are (G‑d forbid) the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

אלא רצה לומר, דגוף דבר האסור והדבר המותר, הוא מאילנא דטוב ורע

Rather, it means to say that the actual thing which is prohibited, or the thing which is permitted, is of the Tree of Good and Evil,

שהוא קליפת נוגה, כמו שכתוב בעץ חיים

i.e., of kelipat nogah, as stated in Etz Chayim.1

וזהו לשון אסור, שהקליפה שורה עליו, ואינו יכול לעלות למעלה, כדבר המותר

This, in fact, is the root of “assur” (meaning “forbidden”; lit., “bound”): the kelipah hovers over [the forbidden thing] so that it cannot rise aloft to holiness like that which is “muttar” (meaning “permitted”; lit., “unbound”);

דהיינו, שאינו קשור ואסור בקליפה

[while “muttar”] means that [a permitted object] is not tied and bound (“assur”) to the kelipah that would anchor it,

ויוכל לעלות על ידי האדם האוכלו, בכוונה לה׳

and is [therefore] able to ascend by means of the person eating it with his mind on G‑d, e.g., in order to have the strength to serve Him.

וגם בסתם

The same applies when there is no specific intent,

כל אדם העובד ה׳, שבכח האכילה ההיא לומד ומתפלל לה׳

with any person who serves G‑d, who studies [Torah] and prays to G‑d with the energy derived from this eating,

ונמצא שנעשו אותיות התורה והתפלה העולה לה׳, מכח הנברר מהמאכל ההוא

so that the letters of Torah and of prayer which ascend to G‑d are formed out of the energy distilled from that food.

In other words, the life-force that derives from kelipat nogah is thereby elevated to G‑d.

וזהו בחול

This is so during the week: In order for the food eaten on weekdays to be elevated, it must be utilized for Torah or prayer.

אבל בשבת, שיש עליה לקליפת נוגה בעצמה, עם החיצוניות שבכל העולמות

But on the Sabbath, the kelipat nogah itself is elevated, together with the external aspect of all the worlds, for the Sabbath is characterized by the “elevation of the worlds” (aliyat haolamot).2

לכן מצוה לאכול כל תענוגים בשבת

It is therefore a mitzvah to eat all kinds of pleasurable things on the Sabbath, for the sake of oneg Shabbat (“enjoying the Sabbath”), irrespective of the fact that it gives one the strength to serve G‑d,

ולהרבות בבשר ויין

and to partake of more meat and wine than usual,

אף שבחול נקרא זולל וסובא

even though on a weekday one would be called a glutton and a drunkard.

מה שאין כן בדבר איסור

It is otherwise with a forbidden thing.

שאינו יכול לעלות, לא בשבת ולא בחול, גם כשמתפלל ולומד בכח ההוא

It cannot ascend [to holiness,] neither on the Sabbath nor on a weekday, even if one were to pray and study with that energy, i.e., with the energy derived from eating it3׳—

אם לא שאכל לפיקוח נפש, שהתירו רז״ל, ונעשה היתר גמור

unless one ate in order to save an endangered life, which is permitted by our Sages, of blessed memory, so that [the food] becomes [entirely]4 permissible.

אבל הלימוד בתורה, אף הלכות איסור והיתר, טומאה וטהרה

But the study of Torah, even the laws of issur and hetter, impurity and purity, i.e., not the objects but the laws concerning them,

שהם המשניות וברייתות שבגמרא

those being the Mishnayot and the Beraitot in the Gemara that address these issues,

ופוסקים, המבארים ומבררים דבריהם להלכה למעשה

and the codifiers who explain and clarify their words for practical application,

הן הן גופי תורה שבעל פה

these constitute the body of the Oral Torah,

שהיא ספירת מלכות דאצילות, כדאיתא בזהר הקדוש, במקומות אין מספר

which is the Sefirah of Malchut in [the World of] Atzilut, as stated in innumerable places in the sacred Zohar.

ובריש תיקונים: מלכות: פה, ותורה שבעל פה קרינן לה

It is likewise written at the beginning of the Tikkunim,5 “Malchut (lit.,‘sovereignty’) — that is the Mouth, which we call the Oral Torah.”

ובאצילות, איהו וגרמוהי חד בהון

And in Atzilut, “He and His causations (garmohi; lit., ‘organs’) are one in them.” I.e., the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, and the vessels (kelim) which emanate from Him, and so too His attributes, are all one with Him — in the Sefirot.6

דהיינו, שאור אין סוף ברוך הוא מתייחד באצילות בתכלית היחוד, שהוא ורצונו וחכמתו המלובשים בדבורו, שנקרא מלכות, הכל אחד

That is, the [infinite] Ein Sof-light unites itself in Atzilut in an absolute unity, so that He, and His will and wisdom — vested in His speech, which is called Malchut — are entirely one.

This indivisible level of Divinity can thus not be described in compound terms, as the Tree of Knowledge of [both] Good and Evil. And the laws of the Oral Torah — in the Mishnayot, the Beraitot and the legal codes — which relate to the Sefirah of Malchut in the World of Atzilut, partake of the same indivisible unity. These laws can thus not be described in terms of the Tree of Knowledge of [both] Good and Evil.

* * *

Footnotes
1.
Shaar 49, ch. 2.
2.
Note of the Rebbe: “With regard to the above, compare the Alter Rebbe’s own wording (in Torah Or, Parshat Chayei Sarah) and see the commentary of the Tzemach Tzedek (printed as an addendum to the Kehot editions of Torah Or).”
3.
Cf. Tanya, ch. 7.
4.
See the Addendum to this chapter.
5.
Tikkunei Zohar, p. 17a (in the Introduction that begins Patach Eliyahu).
6.
These terms are explained above, at the beginning of Epistle 20 (Vol. IV in the present series, p. 357).


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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