For they (the substituted letters), by way of illustration, resemble the light that shines upon the earth at night from the moon—and the moonlight is from the sun,

כִּי הֵן דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, דּוּגְמַת אוֹר הַמֵּאִיר בַּלַּיְלָה בָּאָרֶץ מִן הַיָּרֵחַ, וְאוֹר הַיָּרֵחַ הוּא מֵהַשֶּׁמֶשׁ,

hence, the light which is on the earth is a light [reflected] from the light of the sun.

וְנִמְצָא – אוֹר שֶׁעַל הָאָרֶץ הוּא אוֹר הָאוֹר שֶׁל הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ.

Exactly so, allegorically speaking, the letters comprising the utterances are the aggregate flow of the life-force and the light and the power [that issue] from the attributes of the Holy one, blessed be He,

וְכָכָה מַמָּשׁ דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, הָאוֹתִיּוֹת שֶׁבַּמַּאֲמָרוֹת, הֵן כְּלָלוּת הַמְשָׁכַת הַחַיּוּת וְהָאוֹר וְהַכֹּחַ מִמִּדּוֹתָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא

to create the worlds from nothingness and to give them life and sustain them as long as such shall be His blessed will.

לִבְרוֹא הָעוֹלָמוֹת מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ, וּלְהַחֲיוֹתָן וּלְקַיְּימָן כָּל זְמַן מֶשֶׁךְ רְצוֹנוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ.

The general life-force thus emanates from the utterances themselves.

From this aggregate flow and mighty radiance of the utterances themselves,

וּמִכְּלָלוּת הַמְשָׁכָה וְהֶאָרָה גְדוֹלָה הַזּוֹ,

G-d caused its similar derivations and its offshoots to shine and issue forth,

הֵאִיר ה' וְהִמְשִׁיךְ מִמֶּנָּה תּוֹלְדוֹתֶיהָ כַּיּוֹצֵא בָהּ, וַעֲנָפֶיהָ,

these being derivations and effluences of the light from the letters.

שֶׁהֵן תּוֹלְדוֹת וְהַמְשָׁכַת הָאוֹר מֵהָאוֹתִיּוֹת,

And these derivations and offshoots are the substitutions of letters and their transpositions, with which He created the particular creatures of each world.

וְהֵן הֵן חִילּוּפֵי אוֹתִיּוֹת וּתְמוּרוֹתֵיהֶן, וּבָרָא בָהֶן בְּרוּאִים פְּרָטִים שֶׁבְּכָל עוֹלָם.

Likewise, G-d projected the light from the letters in another manner and caused a radiance of a radiance of a radiance to issue forth and descend from the diffusions of light from the letters,

וְכֵן הֵאִיר ה' עוֹד, וְהִמְשִׁיךְ וְהוֹרִיד הֶאָרָה דְהֶאָרָה דְהֶאָרָה מֵהֶאָרוֹת הָאוֹתִיּוֹת.

In the earlier analogy, the moon’s reflected light was a radiance of the sun’s radiance. The Alter Rebbe now speaks of a descent one generation further removed—merely a radiance of a radiance of a radiance.

and likewise, He further caused [the radiance of the radiance, etc.] to issue forth and descend to the lowest level in the chain of descents,

וְכֵן הִמְשִׁיךְ עוֹד, וְהוֹרִיד עַד לְמַטָּה מַּטָּה בִּבְחִינַת הִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת,

until completely inanimate beings, such as stones and earth, were created.

עַד שֶׁנִּבְרָא הַדּוֹמֵם מַמָּשׁ כַּאֲבָנִים וְעָפָר,

And their names אֶבֶן and עָפָרthe names being each object’s life-force, as mentioned in ch. 1—are substitutions of substitutions, etc., and transpositions of transpositions, etc., as mentioned above.

וּשְׁמוֹתֵיהֶן "אֶבֶן" וְ"עָפָר" הֵם חִילּוּפִים דְּחִילּוּפִים כוּ' וּתְמוּרוֹת דִּתְמוּרוֹת כוּ', כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל:

Thus, the life-force and existence of every created being are the letters of a particular Divine utterance, and to this, the created being is utterly nullified. In this manner, all of creation is nullified to G-d and united with Him.

Commentary of the Rebbe on Chapter Twelve

The Rebbe notes that the Alter Rebbe omitted many details when quoting the Sages7 concerning the characteristics of each of the seven heavens. (Indeed, the Gemara begins with the heaven called Vilon, proceeds to Rakia, and only then speaks of Shechakim, the heaven with which the Alter Rebbe begins.)

Briefly, the explanation is as follows: The Alter Rebbe desires to show how a multitude of created beings—these seven heavens with all their hosts—are essentially united insofar as they all proceed from a single Divine utterance. For this reason, once the Alter Rebbe has said that the utterance, “Let there be a firmament…,” brought about the creation of the seven heavens, there is no need for him to repeat them again by name, as detailed below.

The Alter Rebbe omitted the heaven called Vilon, for “it serves no particular purpose,” i.e. (as the Gemara states there), it does not contain created beings. Even according to the opinion of Tosafot that light emanates from Vilon, light was created and continues to exist by virtue of a different Divine fiat, namely, “Let there be light.” (For all light—not only that created during the first day and then concealed—owes its creation and existence to the utterance, “Let there be light.”8)

The Alter Rebbe also omitted Rakia, in which are found the sun, moon, stars, and constellations (as the Gemara states), for they were all created by the utterance, “Let there be luminaries in the firmament of the heaven….”

With regard to Shechakim, the Alter Rebbe quotes the Gemara at length to the effect that this is the heaven “in which stand millstones that grind manna for the tzaddikim, for since its function is an ongoing one, this heaven illustrates his point that the heavens all “live and exist”—in the present, too, and not only in the time of the Jews in the wilderness—“through the aggregate words of the utterance, ‘Let there be a firmament….’”

Concerning Zvul, the Alter Rebbe omits the detail that the Angel Michael brings an offering upon its heavenly altar because there is an opinion9 that angels were created during the fifth day of creation. According to this view, the creation and existence of Michael derive not from the utterance that ordained, “Let there be a firmament…” but from the words, “and birds shall fly.”

For the same reason, the Alter Rebbe makes no mention of Maon, where flights of angels sing by night the praises of their Maker.

Concerning Machon, the Alter Rebbe does not speak of the “rising of dew,” the “storms and tempests” and “fire,” for these were all created during the first day and thus are not connected to the utterance, “Let there be a firmament….”10

Also omitted is Aravos, the abode of “righteousness and justice” (as the Gemara states there), for these are Divine attributes. The souls of the tzaddikim which are also found in this heaven are likewise not mentioned, for they were created by the utterance, “Let us make man….” So, too, the Throne of Glory, which had existed before G-d had decreed “Let there be a firmament…,” indeed, before Creation had begun.11

Yet once more, concludes the Rebbe, we are able to see how meticulous is the wording of the Tanya, encumbered by no superfluous word and lacking no necessary word, for, as we see here, each phrase omitted from the Talmudic citation has its specific reason. Accordingly, to follow the counsel of the Mishnah concerning the study of the Torah: “Delve in it over and over again, for everything is in it.”12


נִשְׁלַם חֵלֶק שֵׁנִי בְּעֶזְרַת ה' יִתְבָּרֵךְ וְיִתְעַלֶּה