Interdependence and brotherly love among Jews strike far deeper than the visible interpersonal plane. Indeed, if they are lacking, the pain is felt by the Shechinah itself, the Divine Presence. For the Divine Presence is the heart of the Jewish people, who themselves constitute the organs. A deep-seated organic disorder that affects the circulatory system affects the entire body, including even the heart itself.

31 Well known at the gates1

לא נוֹדָע בַּשְּׁעָרִים

The previous epistle opened with the phrase, “It is well known…” because it cited a widely known statement from the Talmud. Here, however, the Alter Rebbe opens with a more esoteric quotation from the Zohar, which is well known only in more scholarly circles, among those who sit at the city gates, for this was where judges and scholars traditionally used to congregate.

is the statement in the Tikkunim2 that the “Shechinah is ailing in the exile,” as it were.

מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב בַּתִּיקּוּנִים, דִּ"שְׁכִינְתָּא אִיהִי מַרְעָא בְּגָלוּתָא" כִּבְיָכוֹל.

This [anthropomorphism] draws a comparison with a physical ailment, distinguishing, [of course,] between the holy [and the mundane];3 i.e., bearing in mind the utter disparity between a physical ailment and the state metaphorically described as an “ailment” of the Shechinah.

פֵּירוּשׁ, עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, כְּמוֹ חוֹלִי הַגּוּף, הַמַּבְדִּיל בֵּין קֹדֶשׁ וְכוּ',

The cause of illness or health lies in the distribution and flow of the life-force from the heart to all the organs,

שֶׁסִּיבַּת הַחוֹלִי וְהַבְּרִיאוּת הִיא הִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת וְהִילּוּךְ הַחַיּוּת מֵהַלֵּב אֶל כָּל הָאֵבָרִים,

[this life-force] being vested in the blood of life which flows from the heart to all the organs,

הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בְּדַם הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַיּוֹצֵא מֵהַלֵּב אֶל כָּל הָאֵבָרִים,

and the spirit of life and the blood4 circulates all around

וְסוֹבֵב סוֹבֵב הוֹלֵךְ הָרוּחַ חַיִּים וְהַדָּם

into all the limbs, through the veins5 that are embedded in them,

תּוֹךְ תּוֹךְ כָּל הָאֵבָרִים וְהַגִּידִים הַמּוּבְלָעִים בָּהֶם,

and returns to the heart.

וְחוֹזֵר אֶל הַלֵּב.

Now, if the circulation and flow of this spirit of life is always as it should be, in its proper order as arranged for it by the Fountainhead of Life,

וְאִם סִיבּוּב וְהִילּוּךְ הָרוּחַ חַיִּים הַלָּז הוּא כְּהִלְכָתוֹ, תְּמִידִי כְּסִדְרוֹ הַמְסוּדָּר לוֹ מֵחַיֵּי הַחַיִּים בָּרוּךְ־הוּא

then the individual is perfectly healthy,

אֲזַי הָאָדָם בָּרִיא בְּתַכְלִית,

for all the limbs are bound together and receive their appropriate vitality from the heart through this circulation.

כִּי כָּל הָאֵבָרִים מְקוּשָּׁרִים יַחַד וּמְקַבְּלִים חַיּוּתָם הָרָאוּי לָהֶם מֵהַלֵּב עַל־יְדֵי סִיבּוּב הַלָּז.

But should there be any disorder in any place, restraining, hindering, or reducing the circulation and flow of the blood with the spirit of life vested in it,

אַךְ אִם יֵשׁ אֵיזֶה קִלְקוּל בְּאֵיזֶהוּ מְקוֹמָן, הַמּוֹנֵעַ וּמְעַכֵּב אוֹ מְמַעֵט סִיבּוּב וְהִילּוּךְ הַדָּם עִם הָרוּחַ חַיִּים הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בּוֹ,

then this bond—which connects all the limbs with the heart by means of this circulation—is severed (which would extinguish life), or diminished,

אֲזַי, נִפְסָק אוֹ מִתְמַעֵט הַקֶּשֶׁר הַלָּז הַמְקַשֵּׁר כָּל הָאֵבָרִים אֶל הַלֵּב עַל־יְדֵי סִיבּוּב הַלָּז,

in which case the individual will fall ill and sick (May G‑d protect us!).

וַאֲזַי – נוֹפֵל הָאָדָם לְמִשְׁכָּב וְחוֹלִי, ה' יִשְׁמְרֵנוּ.

The interconnection of all the organs with the heart thus also impacts on the heart itself.

Precisely so, metaphorically speaking, all the souls of Israel are regarded as the organs of the Shechinah,6

וְכָכָה מַמָּשׁ, עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, הִנֵּה כָּל נִשְׁמוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל נִקְרָאִים בְּחִינַת "אֵבְרֵי דִשְׁכִינְתָּא",

which is called the “heart,” as it is written,7 “The Rock, My Heart,”8 and as it is written, “And I will dwell within them.”9

הַנִּקְרֵאת בְּשֵׁם "לֵב", כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וְצוּר לְבָבִי", וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם":

The meaning (of this comparison between the Shechinah and the heart that supplies all the organs with blood) is:


The10 term Shechinah, deriving as it does from the verb לִשְׁכּוֹן (“to rest” or “to dwell”), denotes that the light of G‑d abides in the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah in order to endow them with life.

כִּי לְשׁוֹן שְׁכִינָה" הוּא, שֶׁאוֹר הַוָיָ' שׁוֹכֵן בְּעוֹלָמוֹת בְּרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה לְהַחֲיוֹתָם,

This life-force is drawn forth by means of a prior investment in the souls of Israel.

וְהַמְשָׁכַת חַיוּת זֶה הִיא עַל־יְדֵי הִתְלַבְּשׁוּת תְּחִלָּה בְּנִשְׁמוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל,

[This is so] because none of the created beings stand in any comparable relation to the Creator,

לְפִי שֶׁכָּל הַנִּבְרָאִים, אֵין עֲרוֹךְ לָהֶם אֶל הַבּוֹרֵא יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

for “all that are before Him are esteemed as truly naught.”11

דְּכוֹלָּא קַמֵּיהּ כְּלָא מַמָּשׁ חֲשִׁיבִין,

Thus, it is impossible for them to receive life-force from His light and effluence,

וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר לָהֶם לְקַבֵּל חַיוּת מֵאוֹרוֹ וְשִׁפְעוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

to become created beings ex nihilo into substantiality, and to be living and subsisting,

לִהְיוֹת נִבְרָאִים מֵאַיִן לְיֵשׁ וְחַיִּים וְקַיָּימִים,

except by means of the souls.

כִּי אִם עַל־יְדֵי הַנְּשָׁמוֹת

The Divine light is first drawn down into the Jewish souls and thereafter into the rest of creation.

The blessings which we recite follow the same order: “…our G‑d, King of the universe.” It is by His first becoming “our G‑d,” whereby the Divine life-force flows into the Jewish people, that He then becomes “King of the universe.”

[For it is the Jewish souls] that rose in His thought, i.e., their source is in His thought,

שֶׁעָלוּ בְּמַחֲשָׁבָה,

and thus preceded the creation of the worlds, which came about through [Divine] Speech.

וְקָדְמוּ לִבְרִיאַת עוֹלָמוֹת שֶׁעַל־יְדֵי בְּחִינַת הַדִּבּוּר,

Mortal thought is internal and personal, inasmuch as it serves the individual himself, whereas speech is external, its purpose being to communicate with others. So, too, Jewish souls derive from the internal aspect of G‑dliness while the rest of creation derives from the external aspect. And in order that the Divine life-force be drawn down into the worlds, which represent an external level of creation, it must first be drawn into Jewish souls, the internal level of creation.

Thus, our Sages, of blessed memory, said: “With whom did the Holy One, blessed be He, take counsel [concerning the creation of the worlds? With Jewish souls],”12

כְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "בְּמִי נִמְלַךְ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ־הוּא וְכוּ'",

as is known from elsewhere.

כַּנּוֹדָע בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר.

Jewish souls are thus so superior to the created worlds that G‑d took counsel with them about the very creation of the worlds.

The above discussion relates only to the drawing down of Divine vitality from the Shechinah into the created worlds, which parallels the emanation of the spirit of life from the heart and its diffusion throughout the entire body.

The Alter Rebbe will now go on to explain the second aspect of this analogy—how the spirit of life returns to the heart from the other organs. In the analogue likewise, the G‑dly life-force within the worlds pulsates in an ongoing dual dynamic called ratzo vashov (“advance and retreat”): the G‑dly life-force is first drawn downward, from the Shechinah to the worlds, and then it returns to its source as a result of the Torah study and the spiritual service of created beings.

And it is well known at the gates1

וְנוֹדָע בַּשְּׁעָרִים,

that every downflow of [Divine] life-force and [all] effluence from the upper worlds to the worlds which are lower than them,

כִּי כָּל הַמְשָׁכַת הַחַיּוּת וְהַהַשְׁפָּעָה מֵעֶלְיוֹנִים לְתַחְתּוֹנִים מֵהֶם,

are as stated in the Sefer Yetzirah:13 “Their beginning (i.e., the beginning of the uppermost levels of creation) is wedged in their culmination (i.e., in the nethermost part of the lowest level of creation), and their culmination is wedged in their beginning.”

הֵן כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּסֵפֶר יְצִירָה: "נָעוּץ תְּחִלָּתָן בְּסוֹפָן וְסוֹפָן בִּתְחִלָּתָן",

In the writings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory, this [dual direction] is referred to as or yashar (“direct light”) and or chozer (“reflected light”), i.e., light reflected upward from the lower level back to the upper,

וּבְכִתְבֵי הָאֲרִיזַ"ל מְכוּנֶּה בְּשֵׁם "אוֹר יָשָׁר" וְ"אוֹר חוֹזֵר",

as it is also written, “And the Chayot were advancing and retreating,”14 first proceeding away from their Source and then retreating to it.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "וְהַחַיּוֹת רָצוֹא וָשׁוֹב".

The above verse refers to the holy Chayot (“creatures”) of the Divine Chariot. The Kabbalah explains that this is an allusion to the Divine life-force of all worlds and created beings: it first emanates from its Source and then returns to it. I.e., not only is the Divine life-force drawn from the Shechinah down into creation, but it also returns from created beings back to its original Source.

Thus, according to these words and this truth, which is impossible to explain properly in writing,

אֲשֶׁר עַל כֵּן, עַל פִּי הַדְּבָרִים וְהָאֱמֶת הָאֵלֶּה, אֲשֶׁר אִי אֶפְשָׁר לְבָאֵר הֵיטֵב בְּמִכְתָּב,

the Shechinah is referred to as the “heart” and the souls as “organs.”

נִקְרֵאת הַשְּׁכִינָה בְּשֵׁם "לֵב", וְהַנְּשָׁמוֹת בְּשֵׁם "אֵבָרִים":

This teaches us that when all the souls are attached and bound together,

לְהוֹרוֹת לָנוּ, כִּי כַּאֲשֶׁר כָּל הַנְּשָׁמוֹת דְּבוּקוֹת וּמְקוּשָּׁרוֹת יַחַד

the circulation and flow of the life-force and of the effluence from the Shechinah to the worlds and from the worlds back to the Shechinah is continuous,

אֲזַי סִיבּוּב וְהִילּוּךְ הַחַיּוּת וְהַהַשְׁפָּעָה סוֹבֵב סוֹבֵב,

and “their culmination is wedged in their beginning,” thus binding and joining them all—all the souls, and through them all the worlds—to the One G‑d so that they will cleave to Him.

וְנָעוּץ סוֹפָן בִּתְחִלָּתָן, לְקַשֵּׁר וּלְחַבֵּר כּוּלָּן לַהַוָיָ' אֶחָד וּלְדָבְקָה בּוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

Thus, it is written, “You are standing firm this day, all of you, before the L-rd your G‑d (Havayah Elokeichem).”15

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם כּוּלְּכֶם לִפְנֵי הַוָיָ' אֱלֹקֵיכֶם"

The verse specifies “all of you,” i.e., a situation in which all Jews stand united together. Moreover, it specifies “before,” implying that this togetherness enables all Jews to relate to Divinity at the level at which the Name Havayah precedes and transcends its subsequent self-imposed descent to become Elokeichem, the life-force that empowers souls.

"כּוּלְּכֶם" דַּיְיקָא, וְ"לִפְנֵי" דַּיְיקָא,

This can take place only when there is a sense of unity between all the levels, which the above verse goes on to enumerate:

“Your heads…” (i.e, those with the loftiest souls), “from the hewer of your wood…” (i.e., those of more modest spiritual stature).

"רָאשֵׁיכֶם כוּ' מֵחוֹטֵב עֵצֶיךָ כוּ'".

The Alter Rebbe elaborates on this unity between unequals in Likkutei Torah, at the beginning of Parashat Nitzavim.

This will clarify the teaching of our Sages,16 of blessed memory, that the destruction of the Second Temple and the fall of Israel into exile,

וּבָזֶה יוּבַן מַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה, כִּי חוּרְבַּן בַּיִת שֵׁנִי וּנְפִילַת יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּגָּלוּת

and the withdrawal of the Shechinah and its descent to Edom, into a state of exile, as it were, for when the Jews are exiled, so, too, is the Shechinah17

וְהִסְתַּלְּקוּת הַשְּׁכִינָה וִירִידָתָהּ לֶאֱדוֹם בִּבְחִינַת גָּלוּת, כִּבְיָכוֹל,

all this was because of the sin of groundless hatred [between one Jew and another] and dissension between their hearts (May the Merciful One save us).

הַכֹּל הָיָה בַּעֲוֹן שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם וּפֵירוּד לְבָבוֹת רַחֲמָנָא לִצְּלָן.

And this is why [the Shechinah] is referred to metaphorically as ailing (in times of exile, as quoted above).

וְלָכֵן נִקְרֵאת "חוֹלָה" עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל,

As for18 the phrases [in the Amidah], “He supports those who are fallen and heals those who are sick,” in plural form—although reference is being made to the Shechinah,

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "סוֹמֵךְ נוֹפְלִים וְרוֹפֵא חוֹלִים" לְשׁוֹן רַבִּים,

this alludes to all the organs….

הֵם כָּל הָאֵבָרִים וְכוּ':

The plural form includes the souls, which are the “organs of the Shechinah,” inasmuch as they are animated by it; they, too, are in ailing health, and they, too, are supported and healed.