The letters that comprise Iggeret Hakodesh were written over many years and assembled in their present order by the sons of the Alter Rebbe after his passing, as they explain in their introduction (“Approbation”) to the Tanya (Vol. I, p. 10 ff., in the present series). It is clear from internal evidence, as the Rebbe notes, that they were not arranged chronologically. Epistle 20, for example, was written just before the Alter Rebbe’s passing in the year 5573 (1812) while Epistle 27 was written after the passing of R. Mendel of Horodok in about the year 5549 (1789).

Instead, the Rebbe suggests, one can sometimes seek thematic connections to explain the sequence of letters. The present letter, for example, manifests the following connection with Epistle 25, the preceding one:

After the previous letter discussed how the Shechinah can sometimes be vested in exile, the present letter explains that this state of exile brings the Torah, too, to a state of concealment, as kelipot obscure its radiance. It is the task of the Jew to remove this concealment by toiling in the study of the Torah.

The above form of Divine service in Torah study supplements another form—separating good from evil, the permitted from the prohibited, and the kasher from the pasul. For the Torah, too, is vested within good and evil, and it is the task of the Jew studying Torah to separate and purify the positive element from each of these dual compounds and to elevate it to the holy “side” of the universe.

Accordingly, the Alter Rebbe begins the present letter by explaining a statement of Raaya Mehemna in the Zohar, which can give the mistaken impression that the revealed portion of Torah stems from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil while the esoteric portion of Torah, which in the main will be revealed in the Time to Come (with the arrival of Mashiach), derives from the Tree of Life.1

The Alter Rebbe explains how this is truly not so, for the entire Torah is called the Tree of Life. The intent of Raaya Mehemna is that the revealed portion of Torah descended and was vested within good and evil and hence speaks of kasher and pasul, permitted and prohibited, and the like. With the study of Torah, a Jew separates the good from the evil and elevates it.

On the verse, “And the wise shall shine like the radiance of the firmament,”2 Raaya Mehemna on Parashat Nasso3 comments:

בְּרַעְיָא מְהֵימְנָא פָּרָשַׁת נָשֹׂא: "וְהַמַּשְׂכִּילִים יַזְהִירוּ כְּזֹהַר הָרָקִיעַ" –

“With this work of yours, i.e., of R. Shimon bar Yochai, which is the Book of the Zohar (lit., ‘the Book of Radiance’)

"בְּהַאי חִבּוּרָא דִילָךְ דְּאִיהוּ סֵפֶר הַזֹּהַר,

from the radiance of imma ilaah, which is teshuvah

מִן זָהֳרָא דְּ"אִימָּא עִילָּאָה" תְּשׁוּבָה,

Imma ilaah (lit., “the supernal mother”) is another name for the sefirah of binah in the World of Atzilut. This sefirah relates to teshuvah ilaah, the higher level of repentance, as explained at the end of ch. 8 of Iggeret Hateshuvah,4 quoting the Zohar and Tikkunim.

with those [who study this work], no trial is needed.

בְּאִילֵּין לֹא צָרִיךְ נִסָּיוֹן.

The Zohar previously states that at the time of the final Redemption, the Jewish people will be put to the test; those who belong to the “good side” of the universe will withstand it while those who belong to the “side of evil” will not. As it is written, “Many will be refined and bleached and chastened, but the wicked will act wickedly; none of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand.”5

The Zohar then states (as above) that those who study the Tree of Life, the Zohar, which is “from the side of binah” (lit., “understanding,” alluding to the perception of the mystical essence of the Torah), will not be put to the test.

Because eventually the Jewish people will taste of the Tree of Life, which is this Book of the Zohar, they will go out of exile with it, in mercy.

וּבְגִין דַּעֲתִידִין יִשְׂרָאֵל לְמִטְעַם מֵאִילָנָא דְחַיֵּי, דְּאִיהוּ הַאי סֵפֶר הַזֹּהַר – יִפְּקוּן בֵּיהּ מִן גָּלוּתָא בְּרַחֲמִים,

For them shall be fulfilled the verse, ‘G-d alone will lead them, and there is no strange god with Him.’6

וְיִתְקַיֵּים בְּהוֹן: "ה' בָּדָד יַנְחֶנּוּ, וְאֵין עִמּוֹ אֵל נֵכָר",

In seeking their Redemption, they will not have to resort to the favors of the gentile nations, whose patron angels are known as “strange gods.” Rather, G-d Himself will lead them out of exile and redeem them.

And the Tree of [Knowledge of] Good and Evil, i.e., prohibition and permission, impurity and purity, will no longer dominate Israel.

וְאִילָנָא דְּטוֹב וָרָע דְּאִיהוּ אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר טוּמְאָה וְטָהֳרָה – לֹא יִשְׁלְטוּ עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל יַתִּיר,

For their sustenance will derive only from the side of the Tree of Life, wherein there is no problematic query, which emanates from the side of evil, and no controversy, which emanates from the spirit of impurity,

דְּהָא, פַּרְנָסָה דִלְהוֹן לָא לֶהֱוֵי אֶלָּא – מִסִּטְרָא דְּאִילָנָא דְחַיֵּי, דְּלֵית תַּמָּן לֹא קַשְׁיָא מִסִּטְרָא דְרַע וְלֹא מַחֲלוֹקֶת מֵרוּחַ הַטּוּמְאָה,

as it is written, ‘And the spirit of impurity I shall remove from the earth.’7

דִּכְתִיב: "וְאֶת רוּחַ הַטּוּמְאָה אַעֲבִיר מִן הָאָרֶץ" –

Thus, the Torah scholars will not be sustained by illiterate people but from the side of the good, who eat that which is pure, kosher, and permitted,

דְּלָא יִתְפַּרְנְסוּן תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים מֵעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ, אֶלָּא, מִסִּטְרָא דְטוֹב – דְּאָכְלִין טָהֳרָה, כָּשֵׁר, הֶיתֵּר,

nor [will they be sustained] by the mixed multitude, who eat that which is impure, ritually unfit, and prohibited.”

וְלָא מֵ"עֵרֶב רַב" דְּאָכְלִין טוּמְאָה, פָּסוּל, אָסוּר כוּ',

The Zohar continues: “While the Tree of Good and Evil dominates [the world]…,

וּבְזִמְנָא דְּאִילָנָא דְטוֹב וָרָע שָׁלְטָא כוּ',

these Sages, who are likened to the Shabbat and festivals,8

אִינוּן חֲכָמִים דְּדַמְיָין לְשַׁבָּתוֹת וְיָמִים טוֹבִים,

have nothing except what is given to them by those who are called ‘unsanctified ones,’

לֵית לְהוֹן, אֶלָּא מַה דְיָהֲבִין לְהוֹן אִינּוּן "חוּלִּין",

just like the Shabbat day, which only has what has been prepared for it on a weekday.

כְּגַוְונָא דְּיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת, דְּלֵית לֵיהּ אֶלָּא מַה דִמְתַקְּנִין לֵיהּ בְּיוֹמָא דְחוֹל.

However, when the Tree of Life will dominate, the Tree of Good and Evil will be suppressed, and the illiterate people will only have what the Torah scholars give them.

וּבְזִמְנָא דְּשָׁלְטָא אִילָנָא דְחַיֵּי – אִתְכַּפְיָיא אִילָנָא דְּטוֹב וָרָע, וְלָא יְהֵא לְעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ, אֶלָּא מַה דְיָהֲבִין לְהוֹן תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים,

They will be subjugated to them, as if they did not exist in the world.

וְאִתְכַּפְיָין תְּחוֹתַיְיהוּ, כְּאִלּוּ לָא הֲווּ בְּעָלְמָא.

Accordingly, the prohibited and the permitted, the impure and the pure, will not be removed from the illiterate people.

וְהָכֵי: אִיסּוּר, הֶיתֵּר, טוּמְאָה וְטָהֳרָה – לֹא אִתְעַבֵּר מֵעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ,

As regards them, there will be no difference between the era of exile and the days of Mashiach, except for [the Jewish people’s release from] servitude to the nations.9

דְּמִסִּטְרַיְיהוּ, לֵית בֵּין גָּלוּתָא לִימוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ – אֶלָּא שִׁעְבּוּד מַלְכֻיּוֹת בִּלְבַד,

For they will not have tasted of the Tree of Life and will require the Mishnayot [which set out the laws] of prohibition and permission, impurity and purity.”

דְּאִינוּן – לֹא טָעֲמֵי מֵאִילָנָא דְחַיֵּי, וְצָרִיךְ לוֹן מַתְנִיתִין בְּאִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר טוּמְאָה וְטָהֳרָה".

Here ends the quotation from Raaya Mehemna.

עַד כָּאן בְּרַעְיָא מְהֵימְנָא: