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Shabbat, 8 Cheshvan 5775 / November 1, 2014



Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 26

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Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 26

The above refers to the Sefirah of Malchut of Atzilut only so long as it remains on its home ground, so to speak, i.e., in the World of Atzilut. Likewise, the above refers to the Torah laws only so long as they are in their pristine state, i.e, at the sublime level of Malchut of Atzilut.

However, as the laws become vested within lower realms, they can become subject to a measure of concealment. Likewise, as the Sefirah of Malchut of Atzilut becomes vested in lower Worlds, it too is subject to this state of concealment. It is then called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, because it is vested within kelipat nogah. This vestiture takes place for the sake of one of the ultimate spiritual tasks of man — beirurim, i.e., sifting and refining the physicality of this world, in order to elevate the divine sparks from the evil which encumbers them.

This is what the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain.

ומה שאמר האריז״ל שהמשניות הן במלכות דיצירה

As to the statement of R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory, that the Mishnayot relate to [the Sefirah of] Malchut in [the World of] Yetzirah, whereas we have just quoted the Zohar to the effect that the Mishnayot relate to the Sefirah of Malchut in the World of Atzilut,

רצונו לומר: לבוש מלכות דיצירה שנתלבשה בה מלכות דאצילות

he referred to the garment of Malchut of Yetzirah in which Malchut of Atzilut is vested; only after Malchut of Atzilut descends to the World of Yetzirah and is vested there, can it be said that Mishnayot relate to Yetzirah.

ומלכות דיצירה נקרא שפחה לגבי מלכות דאצילות

And Malchut of Yetzirah is referred to as a handmaiden (shifchah), relative to Malchut of Atzilut, which is vested in it.

This answers an earlier question. The Alter Rebbe had quoted the Talmud Yerushalmi (ch. 1 of Berachot) to the effect that R. Shimon bar Yochai maintains that for the Reading of Shema one interrupts the study of Scripture, though not of Mishnah, which is loftier than Scripture. This was contradicted by statements of R. Shimon bar Yochai himself in Ra’aya Mehemna, to the effect that Mishnah is referred to as the handmaiden while Scripture is referred to as the king.

According to the above, however, there is no contradiction. So long as Mishnah is in its primary and fundamental state, it belongs to the level of Malchut of Atzilut; it is referred to as a handmaiden only after it is vested within Malchut of Yetzirah. This difference between the way something exists in its essential state and the way it exists as it is vested in a lower state of being, applies to Scripture as well, as will soon be explained.

ומלכות דבריאה נקרא אמה

By contrast, Malchut of Beriah (which is a lower World) is referred to as a maid (amah), denoting a level superior to the level of shifchah.

ותדע ממה שאמר האריז״ל, דמקרא, דהיינו תורה שבכתב, הוא בעשיה

Proof of this — that there is a significant difference between the way something exists in its essential state (be’etzem) and the way it exists as it is vested (behitlabshut) in a lower level — may be gained from the statement of R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory, that Scripture, i.e., the Written Torah, is in Asiyah,

והרי מפורש בזהר ובכתבי האריז״ל, מקומות אין מספר, שהיא תפארת, שהוא זעיר אנפין דאצילות

even though it is explicit in innumerable places in the Zohar and the writings of R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory, that it is [the Sefirah of] Tiferet, which is the Z’eir Anpin of Atzilut.

As such it is even higher than Malchut of Atzilut; how, then, can it be said that Scripture is in Asiyah?

אלא, שמתלבשת בעשיה

Rather, this means that it vests itself in Asiyah.

וכן הוא בהדיא בספר הכוונות, שמקרא ומשנה ותלמוד וקבלה, כולם באצילות

Thus it is taught explicitly in Sefer HaKavanot — that Scripture, Mishnah, Talmud and Kabbalah are all in Atzilut,

אלא שמקרא מתלבש עד עשיה

except that Scripture vests itself as far [“down”] as Asiyah,

The Written Torah hinges on its letters, which are inscribed with tangible ink on tangible parchment, and hence related to Asiyah, the “World of Action.”

ומשנה עד היצירה

and Mishnah [vests itself only] as far [“down”] as Yetzirah,

The Mishnah consists mainly of laws, such as those determining ritual validity or invalidity. These two states ultimately derive from the corresponding middot of Chesed and Gevurah, the Divine “emotive attributes” of benevolence and severity. Hence these laws are vested in the World of Yetzirah, for1 “the six [emotive] Sefirot ‘nest’ in Yetzirah.”

ותלמוד בבריאה

and Talmud is vested as far [“down”] as Beriah.

The Talmud elucidates the laws. It thus relates to Beriah, the “World of Comprehension,” which is illumined by Binah (“understanding”), for2 “the Supernal Mother (i.e., Binah) ‘nests’ in the [World of the] Throne,” i.e., in Beriah.3

* * *

והנה, כשהמלכות דאצילות מתלבשת בקליפת נוגה, כדי לברר הניצוצות שנפלו בחטא אדם הראשון

Now, when Malchut of Atzilut is vested in kelipat nogah in order to extract and refine the sparks that fell with the sin of Adam,

וגם הרפ״ח ניצוצין שנפלו בשבירת הכלים

as well as the 288 sparks that fell with the “breaking of the vessels,”

The concept of shevirat hakelim (the primordial “breaking of the vessels”) and the elevation of the 288 sparks of holiness hidden in the material world is explained at length elsewhere in the literature of Chassidut.

אזי גם המלכות דאצילות נקראת בשם עץ הדעת טוב ורע, לגבי זעיר אנפין דאצילות

Malchut of Atzilut, too, is then referred to as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, relative to Z’eir Anpin of Atzilut

שאינו יורד שם, ונקרא עץ חיים

which does not descend there and which is referred to as the Tree of Life.

והנה התלבשות המלכות בקליפת נוגה, הוא סוד גלות השכינה

And the investiture of [the Sefirah of] Malchut in kelipat nogah is the Kabbalistic principle of the exile of the Shechinah,

אשר שלט האדם באדם כו׳

whereby4 “man rules over man, to his detriment.”

In Epistle 25 (above), the Alter Rebbe quotes the exposition of this verse in Sefer HaGilgulim. During the time of exile, the “evil man” (of kelipah) rules over the “sacred man” (i.e., the holy “side” of the universe). At this time, the Divine Presence is in a state of exile within the universe. However, this temporary dominion of evil is “to his [ultimate] detriment,” for its underlying intent is that the sparks of holiness that are embedded within evil, be extracted and elevated.

* * *

The Alter Rebbe will now answer another question which he himself had posed earlier.

The Ra’aya Mehemna had stated that so long as the bipolar influence of the Tree of Knowledge of [both] Good and Evil is dominant in the world, Torah scholars (who are likened to the Shabbat and festivals) are supported only by their unlettered (“weekday”) brethren, whose food is sometimes pure but sometimes not. This is why the scholars engage in the study of the correspondingly bipolar laws of issur vs. hetter (ritual prohibition vs. permission), and the like.

Concerning this statement the Alter Rebbe asked above: Even though the Sages in Second Temple times tilled their own fields and vineyards, did they not mainly study the very same laws of issur and hetter, and the like?

In reply, the Alter Rebbe now explains the meaning of this passage from Ra’aya Mehemna.

During the present era of exile, when the world is dominated by the influence of the Tree of Knowledge of [both] Good and Evil, the Divine Presence grants life-force to the chitzonim. These negative forces belong to the ambivalent realm of kelipat nogah, which veils the holy potential embedded in the material things of this world. (Torah scholars are nourished only by the distilled essence of the Divinely-endowed life-force.)

In order to extract and refine the sparks of holiness hidden in this material world during this era of exile, scholars study the laws of prohibition and permission, and the like. Through painstaking debate and deliberation, they isolate and salvage that which is permitted from that which is prohibited, and that which is pure from that which is impure. Ultimately, their Torah study removes the Divinely-imposed veil, so that a clear adjudication of the law results.

This is what the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say:

וזהו שכתוב ברעיא מהימנא: ובזמנא דאילנא דטוב ורע שלטא כו׳, אינון כו׳

And this is the meaning of the statement in Ra’aya Mehemna: “While the Tree of Good and Evil dominates [the world],... these [Sages, who are likened to the Sabbaths and festivals, have nothing except what is given to them by those who are called ‘unsanctified ones,’...].”

דהיינו: בזמן גלות השכינה, שמשפעת לחיצונים שהם בקליפת נוגה, שהערב רב יונקים משם

This means that at the time of the exile of the Shechinah — which grants life-force to the chitzonim that belong in the realm of kelipat nogah, from which the “mixed multitude” derive their life-force,5

ומתמציתו ניזונין תלמידי חכמים בגלות

and from whose distilled essence the Torah scholars are nourished during the exile, —

ואז, עיקר עבודת האדם, ועיקר עסק התורה והמצות, הוא לברר הניצוצות, כנודע מהאריז״ל

at this time the main spiritual task of man, and the main purpose of being engaged in Torah and the commandments, is to disencumber and elevate the sparks, as is known from the teachings of R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory.

לכן, עיקר ענין הלימוד הוא בעיון ופלפול הלכה, באיסור והיתר, טומאה וטהרה

For this reason, study chiefly involves deliberation and argumentation on the laws of issur and hetter, impurity and purity,

לברר המותר והטהור מהאסור והטמא, על ידי עיון ופלפול הלכה, בחכמה בינה ודעת

in order to disencumber the permitted and the pure from the forbidden and the impure by means of deliberation and argumentation on the law — with wisdom, understanding and knowledge, with all the three intellective faculties of the soul that clarify the law.

כנודע, דאורייתא מחכמה נפקת, ובחכמה דייקא אתברירו

For as is known,6 the Torah derives from Chochmah. Hence, [the sparks of holiness hidden in a legal question] can be extracted and elevated only through Chochmah.7

והיינו חכמה עילאה דאצילות, המלובשת במלכות דאצילות

Specifically: the Supernal Chochmah of Atzilut which is vested in Malchut of Atzilut

סוד תורה שבעל פה

this being the Kabbalistic principle of the Oral Torah

(בסוד אבא יסד ברתא)

(8according to the Kabbalistic principle by which9 “the ‘father’ (i.e., Chochmah of Atzilut) begat (lit., ‘founded’) the ‘daughter’ (i.e., Malchut of Atzilut)”) —

המלובשת במלכות דיצירה

which, in turn, is vested in Malchut of Yetzirah.

[סוד] המשניות (וברייתות המלובשות בקליפת נוגה, שכנגד עולם היצירה

[10This accords with the Kabbalistic principle of] the Mishnayot (11and the Beraitot that are vested in the kelipat nogah, which corresponds to the World of Yetzirah;

ששם מתחיל בחינת הדעת [נ"א הרע] שבנוגה)

for there begins the Knowledge [of Good and Evil] [12or: “[for there begins] the evil”] which is inherent in nogah), for the kelipat nogah in the World of Yetzirah is equally good and evil.

[נוסח אחר: והברייתות המלובשות בקליפת נוגה שכנגד עולם העשיה, ששם מתחיל בחינת הרע שבנוגה]

[13A variant reading: “and the Beraitot that are vested in the kelipat nogah which corresponds to the World of Asiyah, from where there begins the evil of nogah”], for the kelipat nogah of Asiyah is mostly evil and minimally good.

כנודע מהאריז״ל

The above is known from the teachings of R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory.

* * *

והמשכיל יבין ענין פלא גדול מזה מאד, מה נעשה בשמים ממעל, על ידי עיון ובירור הלכה פסוקה, מן הגמרא ופוסקים ראשונים ואחרונים

Now, the intelligent will understand something far more remarkable, namely, what happens in heaven above through the deliberation and elucidation of an adjudged ruling — of the Gemara and of the earlier and latter codifiers14

מה שהיה בהעלם דבר קודם העיון הלז

which, before this deliberation, had been concealed.

כי על ידי זה, מעלה הלכה זו מהקליפות שהיו מעלימים ומכסים אותה, שלא היתה ידועה כלל, או שלא היתה מובנת היטב בטעמה

For by means of this [clarification] one elevates this ruling from the kelipot that were hiding and covering it in such a way that it was not known at all, or that its reasoning was not clearly understood.15

שהטעם הוא סוד הספירה חכמה עילאה, שנפלו ממנה ניצוצות בקליפות, בשבירת הכלים

For the reason16 [underlying a particular halachah] derives mystically from the Sefirah of Supernal Chochmah, from which sparks fell into the kelipot as a result of the primordial “breaking of the vessels.”

והם שם בבחינת גלות, שהקליפות שולטים עליהם, ומעלימים חכמת התורה מעליונים ומתחתונים

[As to these sparks of Chochmah which constitute the reasons,] they are there in a state of exile, because the kelipot rule over them and hide the wisdom of the Torah from both the higher and lower beings — both from the created beings of the higher worlds, such as angels and souls, and from man situated here in this lowly world.

וזהו שכתוב ברעיא מהימנא, שהקושיא היא מסטרא דרע

This is why it is stated in Ra’aya Mehemna, as quoted at the beginning of the present letter, that “a problematic query ... emanates from the side of evil.”

Since it creates difficulty in the comprehension of a Torah concept, it derives from the evil kelipot which conceal the Chochmah of the Torah.

* * *

1. Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 7; cf. Tanya, ch. 39.
2. Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 7; cf. Tanya, ch. 39.
3. Note of the Rebbe: “See also the Note in Tanya, ch. 40.”
4. Kohelet 8:9.
5. In the original, eirev-rav; cf. Shmot 12:38. Likkutei Haggahot LeSefer HaTanya emends our text to “nations of the world.”
6. Zohar II, 85a; et al.
7. Ibid., 254b.
8. These parentheses are in the original text.
9. Zohar III, 248a.
10. These brackets are in the original text.
11. These parentheses are in the original text.
12. These brackets are in the original text.
13. These brackets are in the original text.
14. Note of the Rebbe: “All of these have to do with the clarification of the reason [underlying a law], as is soon stated.”
15. Note of the Rebbe: “...even though it was known. This applies to many halachic rulings in the Gemara and especially in the Codes.”
16. Note of the Rebbe [on this addition, which identifies the reason with the sublime Sefirah of Supernal Chochmah]: “This [addition] explains the magnitude of the exile [when the reason is not known], (and of the [consequent] redemption [when it is ascertained]) — even though the law itself is known and [hence] not in exile.”

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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