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Sunday, 17 Av 5775 / August 2, 2015
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Chabad Chassidus is an all-embracing world outlook and way of life which sees the Jew's central purpose as a unifying link between the Creator and His world. Written by the Alter Rebbe, the founder of Chabad, Tanya is the central text of Chabad Chassidus. It shows the reader a path to realizing their purpose and developing a deeper relationship with G-d. Choose from one of the two formats available: through Lessons in Tanya - a profound and clear explanation of the Alter Rebbe's writings, or through an audio class.

Daily Tanya

Daily Tanya

Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 5

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Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 5

We learned above that the Zohar teaches: “Who makes the Holy Name every day? He who gives charity to the poor.” The relevance of this answer, however, remained obscure. Now, therefore, equipped with the foregoing insights, we revert to the question with which this epistle opened: How does giving tzedakah to the poor “make a Name” for G‑d?

The Alter Rebbe explains as follows:

והנה באדם התחתון, למשל, מי שהוא חכם גדול להשכיל נפלאות חכמה

Now with terrestrial man, for example, when one who is so great a sage as to comprehend the wonders of wisdom

ומצמצם שכלו ומחשבתו באות אחד מדבורו

contracts his conception and thought into a single letter of his speech,

הנה זה הוא צמצום עצום וירידה גדולה לחכמתו הנפלאה

this is a stupendous contraction and a great descent for his wondrous wisdom.

ככה ממש, על דרך משל, ויתר מזה לאין קץ, היה צמצום גדול ועצום ורב

Precisely as in this analogy but infinitely more so, there was an immensely great and mighty contraction

כאשר בדבר ה׳ שמים נעשו בששת ימי בראשית, וברוח פיו כל צבאם

when during the Six Days of Creation “the heavens were made by the word of G‑d, and all their hosts by the breath of His mouth,”1

היא אות ה׳ של שם הויה ברוך הוא, אתא קלילא

i.e., by the letter hei — “a light letter” — of the Four-Letter Name of G‑d.

This is not only a single letter, but also an insubstantial one.

כמו שכתוב: בהבראם, בה׳ בראם

Thus it is written,2 “[These are the chronicles of heaven and earth] behibar’am(i.e., ‘when they were created’). By revocalizing the Hebrew letters of this word, the Sages3 read it as if it were simultaneously pronounced b’hei bra’am. The verse would now mean, “These are the chronicles of heaven and earth; with the letter hei He created them.”

היא מקור הט׳ מאמרות שנמשכו ממאמר ראשון: בראשית, דנמי מאמר הוא

[This letter hei] is the source of the nine creative utterances which issued from the first utterance: Bereishit (“In the beginning”), which itself is a creative utterance,4

היא בחינת חכמה, הנקראת ראשית

and identical with the Sefirah of Chochmah,5 which is called reishit (as in the phrase, reishit chochmah — “the beginning of wisdom”6).

The descent of Chochmah, the source of the other nine creative utterances, into Malchut, the lowest of the Sefirot, involves an intense degree of contraction.

אך אז היתה המשכה וירידה זו בלי אתערותא דלתתא כלל

But at that time, at the beginning of creation, this downward flow from Chochmah to Malchut occurred without any arousal from below whatever,

כי אדם אין לעבוד גו׳

[as it is written,]7 “For there was no man to work”8 and bring about this arousal;

רק כי חפץ חסד הוא

it occurred solely9 “because He desires [to act with] kindness,”

ועולם חסד יבנה

as it is also written,10 “The world is built by kindness.”

וזהו: בהבראם, באברהם

And this is the meaning of [another interpretation of the verse, “These are the chronicles of heaven and earth] behibar’am(i.e., ‘when they were created’). By transposing the Hebrew letters of this word, the Sages11 read this word as if it were simultaneously pronounced beAvraham(i.e., 'through [the attribute that characterizes] Abraham’),

כי חסד לאברהם כו׳

since12 “kindness is to Abraham.” Since Abraham embodies the attribute of Chesed, the verse thus intimates that heaven and earth were created through the attribute of Chesed.

אך אחר בריאת האדם לעבדה כו׳

But after the creation of man “to work it,”13 his life-long task being to draw down to this world a flow of Divine energy by means of an “arousal from below,” i.e., by means of his own spiritual labors,

אזי כל אתערותא דלעילא, לעורר מדת חסד עליון, הוא באתערותא דלתתא

every arousal from Above, to arouse the attribute of Supreme kindness, depends on an arousal from below,

בצדקה וחסד שישראל עושים בעולם הזה

through the acts of charity and kindness14 that Jews perform in this world.

Thus, these good deeds draw down Divine influence from the yud of the Divine Name, from the level of Chochmah, to the final hei of the Name, the level of Malchut. In this way, then, good deeds bring together and “make” the Name of G‑d, and draw it downward in its entirety.

לכן אמרו רז״ל: כל האומר אין לי אלא תורה, בלי גמילות חסדים, אפילו תורה אין לו

That is why our Sages, of blessed memory, have said:15 “Whoever says that he has nothing but Torah,” and thus no kindly deeds, “does not have even Torah;

אלא לעסוק בתורה ובגמילות חסדים

rather, one ought to engage in Torah and in the performance of acts of lovingkindness.”

כי הנה הגם דאורייתא מחכמה נפקת, ובאורייתא מתקיים עלמא, ובאינון דלעאן בה

For though the “Torah derives from Chochmah,16 and “the world subsists by virtue of the Torah”17 and “those who discourse in it,”18

כי בדבורם ממשיכים הארות והשפעות נוסח אחר: והשראות חכמה עילאה מקור התורה, לבחינת אותיות הדבור, שבהן נברא העולם

because by speaking of Torah subjects they elicit illuminations and effusions19 from Supreme Chochmah, the source of Torah, into the plane of the letters of speech with which the world was created,

כמאמר רז״ל: אל תקרי בניך אלא בוניך

as our Sages, of blessed memory, said, with regard to Torah scholars,20 “Do not read banayich (‘Your children’) but bonayich (‘Your builders’), for they build the world through their study of Torah, —

הרי המשכה זו היא בחינת ירידה גדולה

nevertheless, this flow of Chochmah to the letters of speech is a great descent.

ולזה צריך לעורר חסד עליון, הנמשך כמים ממקום גבוה למקום נמוך

To accomplish this it is necessary to arouse Supernal Chesed which, like water, is drawn down from a high place to a low place

באתערותא דלתתא, בצדקה וחסד תתאה

by means of an arousal from below, through acts of charity and kindness here below,

שממשיכים חיים וחסד, להחיות רוח שפלים ונדכאים

whereby one diffuses life and kindness,21 “to revive the spirit of the humble and downcast.”

By doing so one draws down Supernal kindness, so that the vitality of Chochmah descends to the letters of speech, the source of all creation.

וזה שכתוב: אל יתהלל חכם בחכמתו גו׳, כי אם בזאת יתהלל גו׳, כי אני ה׳ עושה חסד גו׳

And this is the meaning of the verse,22 “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, but in this let him glory — [in understanding and knowing Me,”23 but in such a manner that it brings about the fulfillment of the phrase that follows]: “for I am G‑d Who acts with kindness.”

We thus see that wisdom is justifiably glorified when it leads to an act of kindness which in turn evokes a reciprocal act of kindness from Above.

כי החסד הוא הממשיך חיי החכמה למטה

For it is Chesed, the kindly conduct of man here below, that results in the fulfillment of the verse, “I am G‑d Who acts with kindness,” i.e., with the Chesed of Asiyah, and that causes the vitality of Chochmah to issue downwards into the letters of speech, the source of all created beings.

ואם לא, הרי נקראת חכמתו לבדו

In the absence of this [kindly conduct], [the Torah study] that such a person undertakes is called “His wisdom” alone: it remains in heaven as an untapped resource in which that wise man cannot glory,

בלי המשכת חיים ממנה, חס ושלום

and there is no downward flow of life from it, G‑d forbid.

FOOTNOTES
1. Tehillim 33:6.
2. Bereishit 2:4.
3. Menachot 29b.
4. Rosh HaShanah 32a.
5. Cf. the Aramaic paraphrase of Targum Yerushalmi on Bereishit 1:1: בחוכמא.
6. Tehillim 111:10.
7. Bereishit 4:5.
8. “By inserting this verse (‘there was no man’), the Alter Rebbe evidently intends to negate the possibility that [unborn] souls too might initiate a comparable ‘arousal from below.’ This perspective allows us to better understand the emphasis in the phrase, ‘any arousal from below whatever.’ ” ( — Note of the Rebbe.)
9. Michah 7:18.
10. Tehillim 89:3.
11. Bereishit Rabbah 12:9.
12. Michah 7:20.
13. Bereishit 2:15.
14. “It will be noted that though the opening passage of this Epistle speaks of tzedakah alone, there are many variations thereafter: charity and kindness; acts of lovingkindness; charity and lovingkindness; charity and acts of lovingkindness; and so on.” ( — Note of the Rebbe.)
15. Yevamot 109b.
16. Zohar II, 121a, et al.
17. Op. cit. 200a, et al.
18. Ibid. I, 47a, et al.
19. A variant reading: “indwellings”.
20. Berachot 64a.
21. Cf. Yeshayahu 57:15.
22. Yirmeyahu 9:22-23.
23. “For this too is wisdom; moreover, its mainstay.” ( — Note of the Rebbe.)


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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