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Wednesday, 1 Elul 5777 / August 23, 2017
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.

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Daily Tanya

Iggeret HaKodesh, beginning of Epistle 10

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Iggeret HaKodesh, beginning of Epistle 10

אחרי דרישת שלום וחיים

After greetings of life and peace,

פתח דברי יעיר אזן שומעת תוכחת חיים

1may my opening words rouse2 “the ear that hears the life-giving admonition”

אשר הוכיח ה׳ חיים על ידי נביאו, ואמר

that the Living G‑d admonished through His prophet,3 saying:4

חסדי ה׳ כי לא תמנו וגו׳

“The kindnesses of G‑d have surely not ended....”

Surprisingly, the Hebrew verb used here is tamnu (in the first person plural), which would make the phrase mean, “we have not been brought to an end.” If the verse sought to say that (a) the kindnesses “have not ended,” rather than (b) “because of G‑d’s kindnesses we have not been brought to an end,” it should surely have used the verb tamu (in the third person plural), as the Alter Rebbe goes on to point out.

והוה ליה למימר: כי לא תמו

Now, it should really have said ki lo tamu,

כמו שכתוב: כי לא תמו חסדיך וכו׳

as in the phrase,5 “For your kindnesses have not ended....”

The Alter Rebbe answers that our verse indeed implies two ideas: (a) the kindnesses have not ended; (b) we stand in need of חסדי ה׳ (G‑d’s kindnesses), כי לא תמנו — because we are not “perfect” or “complete”. (In the second interpretation, tamnu means “we are not tamim,” as shall soon be explained.)

ויובן על פי מה שכתוב בזוהר הקדוש: אית חסד ואית חסד

This [anomaly] will be understood in the light of a statement in the sacred Zohar:6 “There are [two] different types of Chesed:

אית חסד עולם כו׳

there is Chesed olam..., literally, “a worldlike Chesed,” a degree of kindness which is limited by temporal bounds,

ואית חסד עילאה, דהוא רב חסד כו׳

and there is a superior form of kindness, i.e., rav Chesed (“boundless kindness”)....

Since it is man’s spiritual service that draws down Divine beneficence, the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain what manner of service elicits a downflow of the “Chesed of the world,” and what manner of service draws down the boundless degree of rav Chesed.

כי הנה מודעת זאת, התורה נקראת עוז

Now, it is well known that the Torah is called oz (“strength”),

Thus on the verse,7 “G‑d grants strength to His people,” the Gemara in Tractate Zevachim8 comments, “‘Strength’ alludes to the Torah.”

שהוא לשון גבורה

which is an expression of Gevurah.

Literally, Gevurah means “might”, but more specifically, as the name of one of the Sefirot, it signifies (in contradistinction to Chesed) the withholding of beneficence, as regulated by the Divine attribute of stern justice.

וכמו שאמרו חז״ל: תרי״ג מצות נאמרו למשה מסיני מפי הגבורה

As our Sages, of blessed memory, taught:9 “The 613 commandments were declared unto Moses at Sinai from the Mouth of the Gevurah.”

I.e., the 613 commandments were uttered by G‑d as He manifested Himself in the attribute of Gevurah, for which reason He Himself is here referred to by the name of this attribute.

וכדכתיב: מימינו אש דת למו

It is likewise written:10 “From His right Hand a Torah of fire [was given] unto them”; i.e., it was written in fire, which is an expression of the attribute of Gevurah.


This means:

The Alter Rebbe here introduces an explanation which anticipates the following question: Since the Torah of G‑d was given “from His right Hand,” which always connotes kindness and benevolence (and indeed, the Torah has been called11 Torat Chesed — “a Torah of kindness”), how then can the above-quoted verse proceed to say that the Torah is an expression of fire and Gevurah?

שהתורה מקורה ושרשה הוא רק חסדי ה׳, המכונים בשם ימין

The source and root of the Torah is solely “G‑d’s kindnesses,” that are referred to12 as “the right side.”

דהיינו: המשכת בחינת אלקותו יתברך והארה מאור אין סוף ברוך הוא

That is: The elicitation of His Divinity, and of a radiation from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light,

אל העולמות עליונים ותחתונים

to the upper and lower worlds,

על ידי האדם הממשיך האור על עצמו

[is effected] by man who draws down the light upon himself

בקיום רמ״ח מצות עשה

by the fulfillment of the 248 positive commandments,

שהו רמ״ח אברים דמלכא

which are13 “the 248 organs of the King”;

פירוש: רמ״ח כלים ולבושים לההארה מאור אין סוף ברוך הוא המלובש בהן

i.e., they are the 248 vessels and garments for the radiation from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that is vested in them.

Each of the commandments serves as a receptor or vehicle for the particular Divine illumination that vests itself within it, just as each organ of the body is a vehicle or receptor for a particular faculty of the soul — the eye for the power of sight, the ear for the power of hearing, and so on.

ומאור זה יומשך לו דחילו ורחימו בכל מצוה, כנודע

(14And, as is known, from this light awe and love are drawn down upon [a person as he performs] each command.)

The Torah and its commandments are thus a downflow of G‑dliness, springing from His attribute of kindness.

רק שהמשכה זו נתלבשה תחלה במדת גבורתו של הקב״ה, המכונה בשם אש

However, this downflow was first vested in G‑d’s attribute of Gevurah, which is referred to as “fire”,

שהיא בחינת צמצום האור והחיות הנמשכות מאור אין סוף ברוך הוא

and which reflects a contraction (tzimtzum) of the light and life-force that issue from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light,

כדי שתוכל להתלבש במעשה המצות

thus enabling it to become vested in the performance of the commandments,

שרובן ככולן הם בדברים חומריים

practically all of which involve material things,

כציצית ותפילין וקרבנות וצדקה

such as tzitzit (which are made of wool), tefillin (made of leather and parchment), sacrifices (offered from animals, plants and minerals) and charity (that involves money or other material objects).

ואף מצות שהן ברוחניות האדם, כמו יראה ואהבה

Even commandments that involve a man’s spirit, such as awe and love [of G‑d],

אף על פי כן הן בבחינת גבול ומדה, ולא בבחינת אין סוף כלל

are also of limited measure,15 and by no means of infinite extent.

כי אהבה רבה לה׳, בלי קץ וגבול ומדה, אין האדם יכול לסובלה בלבו ולהיות קיים בגופו אפילו רגע

For not even for a moment could man sustain in his heart so intense a love of G‑d as is without end and limitation, and still remain in existence in his body.

Indeed, so intense a love would surely cause the soul to take flight.

וכמאמר רז״ל, שבשעת מתן תורה, שהיתה התגלות אלקותו יתברך ואור אין סוף ברוך הוא בבחינת דיבור והתגלות, פרחה נשמתן כו׳

So it was taught by our Sages, of blessed memory,16 that at the time of the Giving of the Torah, when G‑d’s Divinity, and the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, were manifested [to the Jews at Sinai] at the [direct] level of revealed speech, “their souls took flight” from their bodies.

At that time G‑d restored their souls with the dew that He will use to revive the dead in the time to come. We see, however, that the illumination in itself was so intense that their souls could not remain within their bodies for even one moment.

Since the love presently experienced by a soul within a body does not cause it to flee, it follows that this love is inherently limited. This also applies to the awe and love which are experienced as a result of the Divinity that is revealed in the mitzvot, as mentioned earlier. This is the case because the flow of G‑dliness which descends through the Torah and its finite commandments is restrained by the attribute of Gevurah.

We can now understand the two stages implied in the above-quoted verse: Initially, the Torah indeed proceeds “from His right Hand,” from the boundless kindness of the attribute of Chesed — but it is then communicated to us “from the Mouth of the Gevurah” as “a Torah of fire,” as a law which is delimited and restricted through the Divine attribute of Gevurah, so that it will be able to find expression in the finitude of the mitzvot.

Cf. Tehillim 119:130.
Cf. Mishlei 15:31.
Note of the Rebbe: “At the conclusion as well [of this Epistle] the Alter Rebbe stresses that ‘This is what the prophet says,’ in order to add certainty to the following statement.”
Eichah 3:22.
Liturgy, concluding blessings of Shemoneh Esreh (Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 58).
III, 133b.
Tehillim 29:11.
Makkot 23b.
Devarim 33:2.
Mishlei 31:26.
Tikkunei Zohar, Introduction II (Patach Eliyahu).
Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 30 (p. 74b).
The parentheses are in the original text.
This being a characteristic of the attribute of Gevurah.
Shabbat 88b.

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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He who is merciful to the cruel, will end up being cruel to the merciful
  –Midrash Rabbah on Ecclesiastes 7:16
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