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.

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

כו 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:

Now, at first glance, what the words of this passage imply to those who lack understanding10

וְהִנֵּה, הַמּוּבָן מֵהַשְׁקָפָה רִאשׁוֹנָה לִכְאוֹרָה מִלְּשׁוֹן זֶה הַמַּאֲמָר לַחֲסֵירֵי מַדָּע,

is that the study of [the laws of] ritual prohibition and permission and the Order of Taharot, where the laws of purity and impurity are found, relates [only] to the Tree of [Knowledge of] Good and Evil.

שֶׁלִּימּוּד אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר וְסֵדֶר טְהָרוֹת הוּא מֵאִילָנָא דְּטוֹב וָרָע.

Now, this is most surprising in itself, that a particular area within the Torah should be designated as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, thus relating it to kelipat nogah, which is an admixture of good and evil;

מִלְּבַד שֶׁהוּא פֶּלֶא גָדוֹל מֵחֲמַת עַצְמוֹ,

moreover, this contradicts the plain meaning of Scripture and the teachings of our Sages, of blessed memory, that the entire Torah that has been revealed to us and to our children, i.e., the dimension of nigleh, is called “a tree of life to those who hold fast to it”11 and not only the Book of the Zohar.

וְסוֹתֵר פְּשָׁטֵי הַכְּתוּבִים וּמִדְרְשֵׁי רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה, שֶׁכָּל הַתּוֹרָה הַנִּגְלֵית לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ נִקְרָא "עֵץ חַיִּים לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ", וְלֹא סֵפֶר הַזֹּהַר לְבַד,

This is especially so since [the Zohar] was [still] concealed in their days;

וּבִפְרָט – שֶׁהָיָה גָּנוּז בִּימֵיהֶם,

indeed, the whole wisdom of the Kabbalah was hidden in their days and concealed from all the Torah scholars, except for a select few,

וְגַם, כָּל חָכְמַת הַקַּבָּלָה הָיְתָה נִסְתָּרָה בִּימֵיהֶם וְנֶעְלָמָה מִכָּל תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים, כִּי אִם לִיחִידֵי סְגוּלָּה

and even then, [it was studied] in a concealed manner and not publicly, as stated in the Gemara.12

וְאַף גַּם זֹאת בְּהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת וְלֹא בָּרַבִּים, כִּדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא.

Thus, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory, stated13 that it is only in these latter generations that “it is permitted and obligatory to reveal this wisdom”—i.e., the Kabbalah, which illuminates the esoteric dimension of the Torah—but not in the earlier generations.

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר הָאֲרִיזַ"ל, דְּדַוְקָא בְּדוֹרוֹת אֵלּוּ הָאַחֲרוֹנִים, מוּתָּר וּמִצְוָה לְגַלּוֹת זֹאת הַחָכְמָה – וְלֹא בַּדּוֹרוֹת הָרִאשׁוֹנִים,

On this entire subject, see the introduction of R. Chaim Vital to Shaar Hahakdamot, which also appears as the first addendum to Kuntres Etz Chaim by Rabbi Shalom DovBer, fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe (Kehot), as well as the introduction of his son and successor, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, to this Kuntres.

R. Shimon bar Yochai, too, stated in the sacred Zohar14 that permission to reveal [the secrets of the Kabbalah] was only granted to himself and his associates.

וְגַם רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחָאִי אָמַר בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ, שֶׁלֹּא נִיתַּן רְשׁוּת לְגַלּוֹת, רַק לוֹ וְלַחֲבֵירָיו לְבַדָּם.

Now, this, too, is a remarkable wonder.

וְאַף גַּם זֹאת – פְּלִיאָה נִשְׂגָּבָה:

For if so, i.e., according to a superficial reading of the above quotation from Raaya Mehemna, from which it would appear that only the Zohar is called the Tree of Life while the revealed plane of the Torah is considered the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,

דִּלְפִי זֶה

then the study of [the laws of] ritual prohibition and permission, and surely [the study of] civil laws, such as litigation on monetary matters,15 should not override the obligation of prayer,

לֹא הָיָה לִימּוּד אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר, וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן דִּינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת, דּוֹחִין מִצְוַת תְּפִלָּה –

which is set out according to the secrets of the Zohar and on the supernal unions (of the various Divine Names and supernal sefirot) for those who are familiar with them,

שֶׁנִּתְקְנָה עַל פִּי סוֹדוֹת הַזֹּהַר וְיִחוּדִים עֶלְיוֹנִים, לַיּוֹדְעִים –

such as R. Shimon bar Yochai and his associates.

כְּרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחָאִי וַחֲבֵירָיו,

But this is not the case. In fact, the study of the laws of what is ritually prohibited or permitted, and even the study of civil law, does override the obligation to pray at fixed times.

וְזֶה אֵינוֹ,

As stated in the Gemara,16 R. Shimon ben Yochai and his associates, and likewise any others whose Torah study is their sole occupation, do not interrupt [their Torah study] for prayer.17

כִּדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא: דְּרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחָאִי וַחֲבֵירָיו וְכָל מִי שֶׁתּוֹרָתוֹ אוּמָּנֻתוֹ – אֵין מַפְסִיקִין לִתְפִלָּה.

[This applies] even when one is occupied with the study of civil law, like Rav Yehudah, all of whose studies were in the Order of Nezikin18 (lit., “damages”);

וַאֲפִילוּ כְּשֶׁעוֹסֵק בְּדִינֵי מָמוֹנוֹת, כְּרַב יְהוּדָה – דְּ"כוּלְּהוּ תַּנּוּיֵי בִּנְזִיקִין הֲוֵי",

nevertheless, in order not to interrupt his studies, he prayed only every thirty days19 when reviewing his studies, as stated in the Gemara.20

וַאֲפִילוּ הָכֵי, "לַא הֲוֵי מַצְלֵּי אֶלָּא מִתְּלָתִין יוֹמִין לִתְלָתִין יוֹמִין כַּד מְהַדַּר תַּלְמוּדָא", כִּדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא.

Also, in the Jerusalem Talmud, in the first chapter of Berachot,21 R. Shimon bar Yochai is of the opinion that even for the Reading of Shema one interrupts only the study of Scripture, but not of Mishnah, the Oral Torah, the study of which is superior to the study of Scripture,22 according to R. Shimon bar Yochai.

וּבִירוּשַׁלְמִי פֶּרֶק קַמָּא דִבְרָכוֹת, סְבִירָא לֵיהּ לְרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחָאִי, דַּאֲפִילוּ לִקְרִיאַת־שְׁמַע, אֵין מַפְסִיקִין כִּי אִם מִמִּקְרָא, וְלֹא מִמִּשְׁנָה, דַּעֲדִיפֵי מִמִּקְרָא לְרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחָאִי,

He did not differentiate between [studying] the Orders of Zera’im, Moed, and Kodashim and [studying] the Orders of Taharot and Nezikin.23

וְלֹא חִילֵּק בֵּין סֵדֶר זְרָעִים וּמוֹעֵד וְקָדָשִׁים טְהָרוֹת לִנְזִיקִין

He thus holds that even when studying the monetary laws in the Order of Nezikin, one should not interrupt one’s studies for the Reading of Shema.

(24Actually, he [here] contradicts his own opinion, given in a number of instances in Raaya Mehemna,25 that Mishnah (relative to Scripture) is termed a “handmaiden” (Heb.: shifchah), and so on,

(וְסוֹתֵר דַּעַת עַצְמוֹ בְּרַעְיָא מְהֵימְנָא בְּכַמָּה מְקוֹמוֹת, דְּ"מִשְׁנָה אִיהִי שִׁפְחָה כוּ'",

and Scripture, the Torah of Moses, is surely superior to the Kabbalah, which is termed a “queen” (Aram.: matronita) in the above-quoted passage in Raaya Mehemna,

וְהַמִּקְרָא שֶׁהוּא תּוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה וַדַּאי עֲדִיפָא מִקַּבָּלָה, דְּאִיהִי "מַטְרוֹנִיתָא" בְּרַעְיָא מְהֵימְנָא שָׁם,

while the Written Torah is termed a “king” (Aram.: malka).

וְתוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְתָב הוּא "מַלְכָּא"

Thus, according to the last-quoted set of terms from R. Shimon bar Yochai, Scripture is superior even to Kabbalah and surely to Mishnah. From the previous passage, however, as cited in the Jerusalem Talmud, it would seem that he maintains that Mishnah is superior to Scripture, for one does not interrupt one’s study of Mishnah in order to read Shema at its prescribed time though one does interrupt one’s study of Scripture.

Here, the Alter Rebbe interpolates a Kabbalistic definition of the term malka (“king”):

(26This is the yesod of abba vested in z’eyr anpin, as stated by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory,27))

(דְּהַיְינוּ "יְסוֹד אַבָּא" הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בִּ"זְעֵיר אַנְפִּין", כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר הָאֲרִיזַ"ל)).

To resume the discussion of R. Shimon bar Yochai:

Moreover, we find that R. Shimon bar Yochai dealt considerably (not only with the mere statements of law in the Mishnayot but) also with the argumentation of problems and solutions, which (according to the original quotation from Raaya Mehemna) derive from the side of evil and from the spirit of impurity.

וְגַם, פִּלְפּוּל הַקּוּשְׁיוֹת וְתֵירוּצִים, דְּמִסִּטְרָא דְרָע וְרוּחַ הַטּוּמְאָה, אַשְׁכְּחָן בְּרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחָאִי, דְּעָסַק בֵּיהּ טוּבָא

[This he did] even when he was in the cave where legal adjudication, especially in civil suits, was obviously uncalled for.

גַּם בִּהְיוֹתוֹ בַּמְּעָרָה,

Indeed, the very fact that he underwent anguish [when forced to hide] in the cave made him worthy of these attainments.

וְאַדְּרַבָּה בִּזְכוּת צַעַר הַמְּעָרָה זָכָה לָזֶה,

For, as stated in the Gemara,28 he countered every problematic query posed by R. Pinchas ben Yair with twenty-four solutions,

כִּדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא, דְּאָמַר לְרַבִּי פִּנְחָס בֶּן יָאִיר אַכָּל קוּשְׁיָא כ"ד פֵּירוּקֵי,

and [R. Shimon] said to him: “If you had not seen me like this,” in this sorry state in the cave, [“you would not have found me like this”].

וְאָמַר לוֹ: "אִילּוּ לֹא רְאִיתַנִי בְּכָךְ כוּ'"

(29In fact, their principal occupation in the cave—the principal occupation of Rashbi and his son, R. Eliezer—must have been with the teachings of the Mishnayot, i.e., the six hundred Orders extant in those days30 until the time of our holy Master, R. Yehudah Hanasi, who compiled the Mishnayot in six Orders.

(וְגַם בֶּאֱמֶת, עַל כָּרְחֲךָ, עִיקַּר עִסְקֵיהֶם בַּמְּעָרָה הָיָה תּוֹרַת הַמִּשְׁנָיוֹת, תּ"ר סִדְרֵי שֶׁהָיָה בִּימֵיהֶם עַד רַבֵּינוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ,

For he could have completed the Zohar and the Tikkunim, the Tikkunei Zohar, in two or three months, for surely he did not repeat the same subject twice.31)

דְּאִילּוּ סֵפֶר הַזֹּהַר וְהַתִּיקּוּנִים – הָיָה יָכוֹל לִגְמוֹר בְּב' וְג' חֳדָשִׁים, כִּי בְּוַדַּאי לֹא אָמַר דָּבָר אֶחָד ב' פְּעָמִים).

Surely, then, he was occupied almost the entire time with the study of the six hundred Orders of the Mishnah.

Moreover, our Sages, of blessed memory, have taught32 that “Since the day the Temple was destroyed, the Holy One, blessed be He, has only the four cubits of Halachah.” The study of Torah law thus takes the place of the Holy Temple.

גַּם, אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "מִיּוֹם שֶׁחָרַב בֵּית הַמִּקְדָשׁ, אֵין לוֹ לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא אֶלָּא ד' אַמּוֹת שֶׁל הֲלָכָה בִּלְבַד".

How, then, can we possibly say, as the above passage from Raaya Mehemna might superficially indicate, that the study of the laws of ritual permissibility, and the like, is designated as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and thus related to kelipat nogah, which is an admixture of good and evil?

There is yet further cause to be exceedingly amazed—at how “those who lack understanding” comprehend this quotation from Raaya Mehemna.

וְעוֹד יֵשׁ לְהַפְלִיא, הַפְלֵא וָפֶלֶא –

This statement comes in addition to the two preceding causes for surprise at their misunderstanding of this quotation: (a) that a portion of the Torah could be termed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; (b) according to their understanding of the Raaya Mehemna, the study of issur and hetter does not supersede the obligation to pray at fixed times, even though the prayers were arranged according to the secrets of the Zohar and the supernal unions, whereas the fact is that for those individuals whose only occupation is the study of Torah, the study of issur and hetter does indeed take precedence over the mitzvah of prayer.

In addition to these two problematic queries, there is now a third:

How is it possible that in the days of Mashiach, people will not need to know the laws of ritual prohibition and permission and of impurity and purity?

אֵיךְ אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁלִּימוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ לֹא יִצְטָרְכוּ לֵידַע הִלְכוֹת אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר וְטוּמְאָה וְטָהֳרָה,

For how will they slaughter the sacrifices, and likewise animals for common use, if they will not know the laws of drassah,33 chaladah,34 and shehiyah,35 any of which disqualifies the slaughtering,36 and [likewise, the laws regarding] a defective knife?

כִּי אֵיךְ יִשְׁחֲטוּ הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת וְגַם חוּלִּין, אִם לֹא יֵדְעוּ הִלְכוֹת דְּרָסָה וַחֲלָדָה וּשְׁהִיָּה הַפּוֹסְלִים הַשְּׁחִיטָה, וּפְגִימַת הַסַּכִּין,

Will there ever be born a man who by his very nature will [invariably] slaughter without shehiyah or drassah? Will the knife also remain perfect and unblemished forever?

וְכִי יִוָּלֵד אִישׁ בְּטִבְעוֹ שֶׁיְּהֵא שׁוֹחֵט בְּלִי שְׁהִיָּה וּדְרָסָה? וְגַם הַסַּכִּין תִּהְיֶה בְּרִיאָה וְעוֹמֶדֶת בְּלִי פְּגִימָה לְעוֹלָם?

Since these are physical impossibilities, people will obviously have to know the practical laws governing ritual slaughter.

There are also many more laws relating to sacrificial offerings and so on, [such as those] regarding fat, blood, and other prohibitions.

וְעוֹד הַרְבֵּה הִלְכוֹת חֵלֶב וְדָם וּשְׁאָר אִיסּוּרִין,

People then will also need to know [the laws regarding] the impurity imparted by a corpse, as it is written,37 “A young man will die at the age of a hundred.”38

וְגַם טוּמְאַת הַמֵּת יִהְיוּ צְרִיכִין לֵידַע, כְּדִכְתִיב: "הַנַּעַר בֶּן מֵאָה שָׁנָה יָמוּת",

And if there will be death in the world, these laws will of course be needed.

It will be further necessary to know the laws governing the impurity of a woman who has given birth, as it is written, “A pregnant woman and one who gives birth39 together”40 [will be among those restored to the Holy Land at the time of the Redemption through Mashiach].

וְגַם טוּמְאַת יוֹלֶדֶת צָרִיךְ לֵידַע, כְּדִכְתִיב: "הָרָה וְיוֹלֶדֶת יַחְדָּיו".

If a woman will give birth every day, [these successive births] resulting from one marital union,

אִם תֵּלֵד אִשָּׁה בְּכָל יוֹם מִבִּיאָה אַחַת,

In the Time to Come, pregnancy will not last nine months; on the same day that a woman conceives, she will give birth. Moreover, additional children will be born on successive days from that same conception.

nevertheless, the law with respect to the restrictions resulting from her impurity will not change.

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן – דִּין אִיסּוּר טוּמְאָתָהּ לֹא יִשְׁתַּנֶּה.

It will thus still be necessary to know the laws regarding the ritual impurity of a woman who has given birth.

The Rebbe writes that the above elucidation—that a woman will give birth on the very day that she conceives—“accords with the explanation by the Arizal [of the teaching of the Sages in Tractate Shabbat 30b, that ‘In future time, a woman will give birth every day’], in Likkutei Hashass (cited in the Miluim to Tehillim by the Tzemach Tzedek, ch. 20; also [in Biurei Hazohar of the Tzemach Tzedek, vol. 2, p. 827 ff.] at the end of s.v. Ginta). It differs from the commentary of Rashi [on the above teaching] in Tractate Shabbat 30b. See also Chiddushei Aggadot [of Maharsha] there.”

Commenting on the above-quoted phrase (“A pregnant woman and one who gives birth together”), from which the Gemara derives its teaching that “In future time, a woman will give birth every day,” Rashi explains that on the day a woman conceives a new child, she will bear a previously conceived child. For, as Maharsha explains: It cannot mean that the conception and birth of the same child will take place on the very same day, for then the proof offered there in the Gemara regarding a chicken that laid eggs daily would not apply. For even a chicken does not lay the egg on the same day that it was fertilized; as the Gemara states in Tractate Bechorot, it takes twenty-one days.

This means, as Rashi explains, that twenty-one days must elapse from the time of fertilization to the time the egg is laid. The Arizal, however, understands the Gemara in Tractate Shabbat to mean that a child will be conceived and born on the same day.

Parenthetically, the Tzemach Tzedek in the source quoted above quotes the Midrash Rabbah on Parashat Noach (beginning of sec. 36) to the effect that before the Flood as well, a woman would conceive and give birth on the very same day.

A further point: The Alter Rebbe added that the abovementioned successive daily births would result “from one marital union.” This translation assumes that the unvocalized Hebrew text (מביאה אחת) is to be pronounced mibiah achat. Others, however, have assumed that it is to be pronounced meiviah achat; hence, “if a woman will give birth every day, she brings one [offering].”

On this interpretation, the Rebbe comments: “What connection does this have to our subject? (Especially since this law [of impurity] also applies nowadays [i.e., prior to the arrival of Mashiach]. My opinion is that the phrase means ‘from one marital union.’ [I.e., further children will be born on subsequent days from that one marital union.]”

The Rebbe concludes: “This also solves the problem raised by the Maharsha.” In his Chiddushei Aggadot, the Maharsha asks: How can there possibly be additional births on subsequent days when marital relations are forbidden for seven or fourteen days after birth? This question is answered by the above statement, that successive births will result from a single conception. This statement also accords with the reference made in the Gemara to a chicken, which lays eggs on different days from the same fertilization.

The Rebbe also refers to the Gemara (Niddah 27a), which relates that a certain woman’s conception resulted in the birth of two children three months apart.

There is no need to dwell on something so obvious—as the fact that these laws will still apply in the time of Mashiach so that then, too, it will be necessary to know the laws of issur and hetter, and purity and impurity,

וְאֵין לְהַאֲרִיךְ בְּדָבָר הַפָּשׁוּט

when the entire Talmud and the Midrashim make known the reverse [of the misleading impression formed by a superficial reading of our opening quotation from Raaya Mehemna].

וּמְפוּרְסָם הֶפְכּוֹ בְּכָל הַשַּׁ"ס וּמִדְרָשִׁים,

[For example:] The question is asked,41 “A law for the time of the Messiah?!”

דְּפָרִיךְ "הִלְכְתָא לִמְשִׁיחָא?",

I.e., why state now a law that will only apply to Messianic times? At that time, however, it will obviously be necessary to know it.

Likewise, we find that Elijah will come to clarify all doubts42; and “This passage Elijah will expound in the future”43; and so on.

וְאֵלִיָּהוּ בָּא לִפְשׁוֹט כָּל הַסְּפֵקוֹת, וּ"פָרָשָׁה זוֹ עָתִיד אֵלִיָּהוּ לְדוֹרְשָׁהּ" כוּ':

Also not understandable is the statement (in Raaya Mehemna) that “the Torah scholars will not be sustained by illiterate people, and so on,”

וְעוֹד אֵינוֹ מוּבָן, מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב: "דְּלָא יִתְפַּרְנְסוּן תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים מֵעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ כוּ'

As stated above, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which is the root of issur and hetter, will not dominate the Jewish people because “the Torah scholars will not be sustained by illiterate people”—

nor by the mixed multitude, who eat that which is ritually unfit, impure, and prohibited, heaven forfend.

וְלָא מֵ"עֵרֶב רַב" דְּאָכְלִין פָּסוּל טָמֵא וְאָסוּר" חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

Even44 during the time of the Second Temple, they were not supported by the illiterate people who ate that which is ritually unfit and prohibited, heaven forfend,

דְהָא גַם בִּזְמַן בַּיִת שֵׁנִי לֹא הָיוּ מִתְפַּרְנְסִין מֵעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ דְּאָכְלִין פָּסוּל אָסוּר חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

for the Torah scholars had fields and vineyards of their own, just like the illiterate people.

שֶׁהֲרֵי תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים הָיוּ לָהֶם שָׂדוֹת וּכְרָמִים כְּעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ,

Nevertheless, they engaged in the study of [the laws of] issur and hetter, and of impurity and purity—

וַאֲפִילוּ הָכֵי – הָיוּ עוֹסְקִין בְּלִימּוּד אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר וְטוּמְאָה וְטָהֳרָה

[for example,] all the pairs [of leading Sages] who lived at the time of the Second Temple45

כָּל הַזּוּגוֹת שֶׁהָיוּ בִּימֵי בַּיִת שֵׁנִי,

and they raised disciples in the legal aspects of the Torah in the thousands and tens of thousands,46

וְהֶעֱמִידוּ תַּלְמִידִים לַאֲלָפִים וּרְבָבוֹת,

while the study of the esoteric [of the Torah] took place in secret, and so on.

וְלִימּוּד הַנִּסְתָּר בְּהֶסְתֵּר כוּ':

We thus see that the fact that Torah scholars need not be sustained by the illiterate is in no way a cause for their not studying (G‑d forbid) the laws of issur and hetter and purity and impurity.

The Alter Rebbe will now point out that a careful reading of the passage from Raaya Mehemna reveals that it is not the laws themselves nor the study of them that are termed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Rather, this term is applied to the actual food or other things which are prohibited or permitted and which derive their life-force from kelipat nogah—for this is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, as will soon be explained.

But in truth, if you examine closely the above-quoted text of Raaya Mehemna—

אַךְ בֶּאֱמֶת, כְּשֶׁתְּדַקְדֵּק בִּלְשׁוֹן רַעְיָא מְהֵימְנָא דִלְעֵיל,

“And the Tree of [Knowledge of] Good and Evil, i.e., prohibition and permission…”—

"וְאִילָנָא דְּטוֹב וָרָע דְּאִיהוּ אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר כוּ'",

[you will note that] it does not say “the teachings (i.e., studying the subjects) of prohibition and permission” nor “the laws of prohibition and permission,” which would suggest that they are (G‑d forbid) the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

וְלֹא אָמַר "תּוֹרַת אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר" אוֹ "הִלְכוֹת אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר",

Rather, it means to say that the actual thing which is prohibited, or the thing which is permitted, is of the Tree of Good and Evil,

אֶלָּא רוֹצֶה לוֹמַר, דְּגוּף דָּבָר הָאָסוּר וְדָבָר הַמּוּתָּר – הוּא מֵאִילָנָא דְטוֹב וָרָע,

i.e., of kelipat nogah, as stated in Etz Chaim.47

שֶׁהוּא קְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּעֵץ חַיִּים.

This, in fact, is the root of “assur” (meaning “forbidden”; lit., “bound”): the kelipah hovers over [the forbidden thing] so that it cannot rise aloft to holiness like that which is “muttar” (meaning “permitted”; lit., “unbound”);

וְזֶהוּ לְשׁוֹן "אָסוּר", שֶׁהַקְּלִיפָּה שׁוֹרָה עָלָיו וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לַעֲלוֹת לְמַעְלָה כְּדָבָר הַ"מּוּתָּר",

[while “muttar”] means that [a permitted object] is not tied and bound (“assur”) to the kelipah that would anchor it,

דְּהַיְינוּ – שֶׁאֵינוֹ קָשׁוּר וְאָסוּר בִּקְלִיפָּה,

and is [therefore] able to ascend by means of the person eating it with his mind on G‑d, e.g., in order to have the strength to serve Him.

וְיוּכַל לַעֲלוֹת עַל־יְדֵי הָאָדָם הָאוֹכְלוֹ בְּכַוָּונָה לַה',

The same applies when there is no specific intent,

וְגַם בִּסְתָם,

with any person who serves G‑d, who studies [Torah] and prays to G‑d with the energy derived from this eating,

כָּל אָדָם הָעוֹבֵד ה' שֶׁבְּכֹחַ הָאֲכִילָה הַהִיא לוֹמֵד וּמִתְפַּלֵּל לַה',

so that the letters of Torah and of prayer which ascend to G‑d are formed out of the energy distilled from that food.

וְנִמְצָא שֶׁנַּעֲשָׂה אוֹתִיּוֹת הַתּוֹרָה וְהַתְּפִלָּה הָעוֹלָה לַה' – מִכֹּחַ הַנִּבְרָר מֵהַמַּאֲכָל הַהוּא.

In other words, the life-force that derives from kelipat nogah is thereby elevated to G‑d.

This is so during the week: In order for the food eaten on weekdays to be elevated, it must be utilized for Torah or prayer.

וְזֶהוּ בְּחוֹל,

But on the Shabbat, the kelipat nogah itself is elevated, together with the external aspect of all the worlds, for the Shabbat is characterized by the “elevation of the worlds” (aliyat haolamot).48

אֲבָל בְּשַׁבָּת שֶׁיֵּשׁ עֲלִיָּה לִקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ בְּעַצְמָהּ עִם הַחִיצוֹנִיּוּת שֶׁבְּכָל הָעוֹלָמוֹת,

It is therefore a mitzvah to eat all kinds of pleasurable things on the Shabbat for the sake of oneg Shabbat (“enjoying the Shabbat”), irrespective of the fact that it gives one the strength to serve G‑d,

לָכֵן, מִצְוָה לֶאֱכוֹל כָּל תַּעֲנוּגִים בְּשַׁבָּת

and to partake of more meat and wine than usual,

וּלְהַרְבּוֹת בְּבָשָׂר וְיַיִן,

even though on a weekday, one would be called a glutton and a drunkard.

אַף שֶׁבְּחוֹל נִקְרָא זוֹלֵל וְסוֹבֵא.

It is otherwise with a forbidden thing.

מַה־שֶּׁאֵין־כֵּן בִּדְבַר אִיסּוּר,

It cannot ascend [to holiness,] neither on the Shabbat nor on a weekday, even if one were to pray and study with that energy, i.e., with the energy derived from eating it49

שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לַעֲלוֹת לֹא בְּשַׁבָּת וְלֹא בְּחוֹל, גַּם כְּשֶׁמִּתְפַּלֵּל וְלוֹמֵד בַּכֹּחַ הַהוּא,

unless one ate in order to save an endangered life, which is permitted by our Sages, of blessed memory, so that [the food] becomes [entirely]50 permissible.

אִם לֹא שֶׁאָכַל לְפִיקּוּחַ נֶפֶשׁ שֶׁהִתִּירוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה וְנַעֲשָׂה הֶיתֵּר [גָּמוּר].

But the study of Torah, even the laws of issur and hetter, impurity and purity, i.e., not the objects but the laws concerning them,

אֲבָל הַלִּימּוּד בַּתּוֹרָה, אַף הִלְכוֹת אִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר טוּמְאָה וְטָהֳרָה,

those being the Mishnayot and the Baraitot in the Gemara that address these issues,

שֶׁהֵם הַמִּשְׁנָיוֹת וּבָרַיְיתוֹת שֶׁבַּגְּמָרָא

and the codifiers who explain and clarify their words for practical application,

וּפוֹסְקִים, הַמְבָאֲרִים וּמְבָרְרִים דִּבְרֵיהֶם לַהֲלָכָה לְמַעֲשֶׂה,

these constitute the body of the Oral Torah,

הֵן הֵן גּוּפֵי תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל־פֶּה,

which is the sefirah of malchut in [the World of] Atzilut, as stated in innumerable places in the sacred Zohar.

שֶׁהִיא סְפִירַת מַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת, כִּדְאִיתָא בַּזּוֹהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בִּמְקוֹמוֹת אֵין מִסְפָּר,

It is likewise written at the beginning of the Tikkunim,51malchut (lit., ‘sovereignty’)—that is the Mouth, which we call the Oral Torah.”

וּבְרֵישׁ תִּיקּוּנִים: "מַלְכוּת – פֶּה, תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה קָרִינָן לָהּ",

And in Atzilut, “He and His causations (garmohi; lit., ‘organs’) are one in them.” I.e., the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, and the vessels (kelim) which emanate from Him, and so, too, His attributes, are all one with Him—in the sefirot.52

וּבַאֲצִילוּת – "אִיהוּ וְגַרְמוֹהִי חַד בְּהוֹן",

That is, the [infinite] Ein Sof-light unites itself in Atzilut in an absolute unity so that He and His will and wisdom—vested in His speech, which is called malchut—are entirely one.

דְּהַיְינוּ, שֶׁאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מִתְיַיחֵד בַּאֲצִילוּת בְּתַכְלִית הַיִּחוּד, שֶׁהוּא וּרְצוֹנוֹ וְחָכְמָתוֹ הַמְלוּבָּשִׁים בְּדִבּוּרוֹ שֶׁנִּקְרָא "מַלְכוּת" – הַכֹּל אֶחָד:

This indivisible level of Divinity can thus not be described in compound terms as the Tree of Knowledge of [both] Good and Evil. And the laws of the Oral Torah—in the Mishnayot, the Baraitot, and the legal codes—which relate to the sefirah of malchut in the World of Atzilut partake of the same indivisible unity. These laws can thus not be described in terms of the Tree of Knowledge of [both] Good and Evil.

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.

As to the statement of Rabbi Yitzchak 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,

וּמַה שֶּׁאָמַר הָאֲרִיזַ"ל שֶׁהַמִּשְׁנָיוֹת הֵן בְּמַלְכוּת דִּיצִירָה,

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.

רוֹצֶה לוֹמַר: לְבוּשׁ מַלְכוּת דִּיצִירָה שֶׁנִּתְלַבְּשָׁה בָּהּ מַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת,

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

וּמַלְכוּת דִּיצִירָה נִקְרָא "שִׁפְחָה" לְגַבֵּי מַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת,

This answers an earlier question. The Alter Rebbe had quoted the Jerusalem Talmud (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 Raaya 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.

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.

וּמַלְכוּת דִּבְרִיאָה נִקְרָא "אָמָה".

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 Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory, that Scripture, i.e., the Written Torah, is in Asiyah,

וְתֵדַע: מִמַּה שֶּׁאָמַר הָאֲרִיזַ"ל דְּמִקְרָא, דְּהַיְינוּ תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְתָב – הוּא בַּעֲשִׂיָּה,

even though it is explicit in innumerable places in the Zohar and the writings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory, that it is [the sefirah of] tiferet, which is the z’eyr anpin of Atzilut.

וַהֲרֵי מְפוֹרָשׁ בַּזֹּהַר וּבְכִתְבֵי הָאֲרִיזַ"ל מְקוֹמוֹת אֵין מִסְפָּר – שֶׁהִיא תִּפְאֶרֶת, שֶׁהוּא "זְעֵיר אַנְפִּין" דַּאֲצִילוּת –

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

Rather, this means that it vests itself in Asiyah.

אֶלָּא שֶׁמִּתְלַבֶּשֶׁת בַּעֲשִׂיָּה.

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

וְכֵן הוּא בְּהֶדְיָא בְּסֵפֶר הַכַּוָּונוֹת, שֶׁמִּקְרָא וּמִשְׁנָה וְתַלְמוּד וְקַבָּלָה – כּוּלָּם בַּאֲצִילוּת,

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

אֶלָּא, שֶׁמִּקְרָא – מִתְלַבֵּשׁ עַד עֲשִׂיָּה,

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.”

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

וּמִשְׁנָה – עַד הַיְצִירָה,

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, for “the six [emotive] sefirot ‘nest’ in Yetzirah.”53

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

וְתַלְמוּד – בִּבְרִיאָה.

The Talmud elucidates the laws. It thus relates to Beriah, the “World of Comprehension,” which is illumined by binah (“understanding”), for “the supernal mother (i.e., binah) ‘nests’ in the [World of the] Throne,”53 i.e., in Beriah.54

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,

וְהִנֵּה, כְּשֶׁהַמַּלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת מִתְלַבֶּשֶׁת בִּקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ, כְּדֵי לְבָרֵר הַנִּיצוֹצוֹת שֶׁנָּפְלוּ בְּחֵטְא אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן

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

וְגַם הָרַפַּ"ח נִיצוֹצִין שֶׁנָּפְלוּ בִּשְׁבִירַת הַכֵּלִים,

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 Chasidut.

Malchut of Atzilut, too, is then referred to as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, relative to z’eyr anpin of Atzilut

אֲזַי, גַּם הַמַּלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת נִקְרָא בְּשֵׁם "עֵץ הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע" לְגַבֵּי "זְעֵיר אַנְפִּין" דַּאֲצִילוּת,

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

שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹרֵד שָׁם, וְנִקְרָא "עֵץ חַיִּים".

And the investiture of [the sefirah of] malchut in kelipat nogah is the Kabbalistic principle of the exile of the Shechinah,

וְהִנֵּה, הִתְלַבְּשׁוּת הַמַּלְכוּת בִּקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ הוּא סוֹד גָּלוּת הַשְּׁכִינָה –

whereby “man rules over man, to his detriment.”55

"אֲשֶׁר שָׁלַט הָאָדָם בְּאָדָם כוּ'".

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 Raaya 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 Raaya 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:

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

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּרַעְיָא מְהֵימְנָא: "וּבְזִמְנָא דְּאִילָנָא דְּטוֹב וָרָע שָׁלְטָא כוּ' אִינּוּן כוּ'",

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”56 derive their life-force,

דְּהַיְינוּ, בִּזְמַן גָּלוּת הַשְּׁכִינָה שֶׁמַּשְׁפַּעַת לַחִיצוֹנִים שֶׁהֵם בִּקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ, שֶׁהָ"עֵרֶב רַב" יוֹנְקִים מִשָּׁם,

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

וּמִתַּמְצִיתָן נִיזּוֹנִין תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים בַּגָּלוּת,

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 Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory.

וְאָז, עִיקַּר עֲבוֹדַת הָאָדָם וְעִיקַּר עֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת – הוּא לְבָרֵר הַנִּיצוֹצוֹת כַּנּוֹדָע מֵהָאֲרִיזַ"ל,

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

לָכֵן, עִיקַּר עִנְיַן הַלִּימּוּד הוּא בְּעִיּוּן וּפִלְפּוּל הֲלָכָה, בְּאִיסּוּר וְהֶיתֵּר טוּמְאָה וְטָהֳרָה,

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.

לְבָרֵר הַמּוּתָּר וְהַטָּהוֹר מֵהָאָסוּר וְהַטָּמֵא – עַל־יְדֵי עִיּוּן וּפִלְפּוּל הֲלָכָה בְּחָכְמָה בִּינָה וָדַעַת,

For as is known, the Torah derives from chochmah.57 Hence, [the sparks of holiness hidden in a legal question] can be extracted and elevated only through chochmah.58

כַּנּוֹדָע דְּ"אוֹרַיְיתָא מֵחָכְמָה נָפְקַת", וּבְחָכְמָה דַיְיקָא אִתְבְּרִירוּ,

Specifically: the supernal chochmah of Atzilut which is vested in malchut of Atzilut

וְהַיְינוּ חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה דַּאֲצִילוּת, הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בְּמַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת,

this being the Kabbalistic principle of the Oral Torah

סוֹד תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל־פֶּה

(59according to the Kabbalistic principle by which “the ‘father’ (i.e., chochmah of Atzilut) begat (lit., ‘founded’) the ‘daughter’ (i.e., malchut of Atzilut)60)—

(בְּסוֹד "אַבָּא יָסַד בְּרַתָּא"),

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

הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בְּמַלְכוּת דִּיצִירָה,

This accords with the Kabbalistic principle of] the Mishnayot (and the Baraitot that are vested in the kelipat nogah, which corresponds to the World of Yetzirah,

(וְסוֹד) [סוֹד] הַמִּשְׁנָיוֹת וּבָרַיְיתוֹת הַמְלוּבָּשׁוֹת בִּקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ שֶׁכְּנֶגֶד עוֹלַם הַיְצִירָה,

for there begins the Knowledge [of Good and Evil] [59or: “[for there begins] the evil”] inherent in nogah), for the kelipat nogah in the World of Yetzirah is equally good and evil.

שֶׁשָּׁם מַתְחִיל בְּחִינַת הַדַּעַת [נוסח אחר: הָרַע] שֶׁבְּנוֹגַהּ

[59A variant reading [of the above]: “and the Baraitot that are vested in the kelipat nogah which corresponds to the World of Asiyah, for there begins the evil inherent in nogah”], for the kelipat nogah of Asiyah is mostly evil and minimally good.

[נוסח אחר: וְהַבָּרַיְיתוֹת, הַמְלוּבָּשׁוֹת בִּקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ שֶׁכְּנֶגֶד עוֹלַם הָעֲשִׂיָּה, שֶׁשָּׁם מַתְחִיל בְּחִינַת הָרַע שֶׁבְּנוֹגַהּ],

The above is known from the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory.

כַּנּוֹדָע מֵהָאֲרִיזַ"ל.

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 codifiers61

וְהַמַּשְׂכִּיל יָבִין עִנְיַן פֶּלֶא גָּדוֹל מִזֶּה מְאֹד, מַה נַּעֲשֶׂה בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל עַל־יְדֵי עִיּוּן וּבֵירוּר הֲלָכָה פְּסוּקָה מִן הַגְּמָרָא וּפוֹסְקִים רִאשׁוֹנִים וְאַחֲרוֹנִים,

which, before this deliberation, had been concealed.

מַה שֶּׁהָיָה בְּהֶעְלֵם דָּבָר קוֹדֶם הָעִיּוּן הַלָּז,

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.62

כִּי עַל־יְדֵי זֶה מַעֲלֶה הֲלָכָה זוֹ מֵהַקְּלִיפּוֹת שֶׁהָיוּ מַעֲלִימִים וּמְכַסִּים אוֹתָהּ, שֶׁלֹּא הָיְתָה יְדוּעָה כְּלָל, אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא הָיְתָה מוּבֶנֶת הֵיטֵב בְּטַעֲמָהּ,

For the reason63 [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.”

שֶׁהַטַּעַם הוּא סוֹד הַסְּפִירָה חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה, שֶׁנָּפְלוּ מִמֶּנָּה נִיצוֹצִין בַּקְּלִיפּוֹת בִּשְׁבִירַת הַכֵּלִים,

[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.

וְהֵם שָׁם בִּבְחִינַת גָּלוּת, שֶׁהַקְּלִיפּוֹת שׁוֹלְטִים עֲלֵיהֶם וּמַעֲלִימִים חָכְמַת הַתּוֹרָה מֵעֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים.

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

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּרַעְיָא מְהֵימְנָא, שֶׁהַקּוּשְׁיָא הִיא מִסִּטְרָא דְרָע.

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

Now, the celestial beings (i.e., the souls and angels in the higher worlds) do not have the power to disencumber and elevate that which is in kelipat nogah (i.e., the sparks that are exiled there) as a result of the “breaking of the vessels.”

וְהִנֵּה, הָעֶלְיוֹנִים אֵין בָּהֶם כֹּחַ לְבָרֵר וּלְהַעֲלוֹת מֵהַשְּׁבִירָה שֶׁבִּקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ,

Only the terrestrial beings, the souls situated in this world, [can do this],

אֶלָּא הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים לְבַד,

for they are vested in a material body that is known as the “hide of the serpent,” which derives from kelipat nogah.

לְפִי שֶׁהֵם מְלוּבָּשִׁים בְּגוּף חוּמְרִי "מַשְׁכָּא דְחִוְיָא" מִקְּלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ,

As explained above, when this concept appeared in ch. 31 of the Tanya (quoting the Zohar 64), the “serpent” refers to the “three utterly impure kelipot” while the body that derives its vitality from kelipat nogah is called the “hide of the serpent.”65

These [embodied souls] weaken its strength, the strength of this kelipah, by crushing the passions,

וְהֵם מַתִּישִׁים כֹּחָהּ בִּשְׁבִירַת הַתַּאֲווֹת,

thereby subjugating the sitra achara so that “all the workers of evil (i.e., the kelipot) will be dispersed.”66

וְאִתְכַּפְיָא סִטְרָא אָחֳרָא, וְ"יִתְפָּרְדוּ כָּל פּוֹעֲלֵי אָוֶן".

Thus, only souls in this world are able to extract the holy sparks from the kelipot and elevate them. For this reason, they alone are able to elevate the chochmah of Torah which the kelipot obscure.

This is why the celestial beings, the souls of the higher worlds, come to hear innovative insights into the Torah from the terrestrial beings67 from the souls here in this world

וְלָכֵן בָּאִים הָעֶלְיוֹנִים לִשְׁמוֹעַ חִידּוּשֵׁי תּוֹרָה מֵהַתַּחְתּוֹנִים,

[to hear] the secrets of wisdom, which they innovate and reveal, and which until this time had been in bondage in exile.

מַה שֶּׁמְּחַדְּשִׁים וּמְגַלִּים תַּעֲלוּמוֹת הַחָכְמָה שֶׁהָיוּ כְּבוּשִׁים בַּגּוֹלָה עַד עַתָּה.

Every Jew is able to reveal secrets of wisdom, (68to reveal) and to discover a new insight,

וְכָל אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל יוּכַל לְגַלּוֹת תַּעֲלוּמוֹת חָכְמָה (לְגַלּוֹת) וּלְחַדֵּשׁ שֵׂכֶל חָדָשׁ,

whether it be in the laws or in homiletics, in the revealed or in the mystical [planes of the Torah],69

הֵן בַּהֲלָכוֹת, הֵן בְּאַגָּדוֹת, הֵן בַּנִּגְלֶה, הֵן בַּנִּסְתָּר,

according to the nature of his soul’s root and its consequent affinity with each of the above categories of the Torah.

כְּפִי בְּחִינַת שֹׁרֶשׁ נִשְׁמָתוֹ,

Indeed, one is obliged to do so—to uncover hitherto-concealed insights into the Torah, and to reveal the secrets of wisdom,

וּמְחוּיָּיב בַּדָּבָר,

in order to perfect his soul by elevating all the sparks that have been allotted to it, as is known.70

לְהַשְׁלִים נִשְׁמָתוֹ בְּהַעֲלָאַת כָּל הַנִּיצוֹצוֹת שֶׁנָּפְלוּ לְחֶלְקָהּ וּלְגוֹרָלָהּ, כַּנּוֹדָע.

(71Moreover, every Torah teaching, and especially a halachic teaching, is a spark of the Shechinah, which is the word of G‑d.

(וְכָל דִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה, וּבִפְרָט דְּבַר הֲלָכָה, הִיא נִיצוֹץ מֵהַשְּׁכִינָה, שֶׁהִיא הִיא דְּבַר ה',

In the words of the Gemara, “The phrase ‘word of G‑d’ denotes the Halachah.”72

כִּדְאִיתָא בַּגְּמָרָא: "דְּבַר ה' זוֹ הֲלָכָה",

This accords with the Kabbalistic principle regarding malchut of Atzilut which garbs the chochmah of Atzilut, [both of] which are vested in malchut of Yetzirah,

סוֹד מַלְכוּת דַּאֲצִילוּת הַמַּלְבֶּשֶׁת לְחָכְמָה דַּאֲצִילוּת, וּמְלוּבָּשִׁים בְּמַלְכוּת דִּיצִירָה,

and with the “breaking of the vessels” they descended into kelipat nogah.)

וְיָרְדוּ בִּקְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ בִּשְׁבִירַת הַכֵּלִים).

The words of Torah in general, and particularly the halachic “word of G‑d,” are thus exiled within the kelipot that conceal them. Accordingly, a scholar who brings to light a teaching long hidden in the Torah or who resolves a problematic query and thereby clearly articulates a particular law releases the pertinent spark of the Shechinah from the kelipot.

Thus, the Gemara teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, says of whoever engages in the study of the Torah…, “I account it as if he had redeemed Me and My children from among the nations of the world.”73

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמְרוּ בַּגְּמָרָא: "כָּל הָעוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה, אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא: מַעֲלֶה אֲנִי עָלָיו כְּאִלּוּ פְּדָאַנִי וְאֶת בָּנַי מִבֵּין הָאוּמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם".

For Torah study redeems the sparks of the Shechinah—the sparks of the “word of G‑d”—from their exile within the kelipot.

The above applies nowadays, when the Shechinah is exiled in kelipat nogah; hence, the main function of Torah study is to seek out and elevate the sparks of holiness from the kelipot. Hence, too, the current concentration on the laws of issur and hetter, kasher and passul, and the like.

But when the Shechinah will emerge from kelipat nogah [74or: from the kelipot],

אֲבָל בְּצֵאת הַשְּׁכִינָה מִקְּלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ [נוסח אחר: מֵהַקְּלִיפּוֹת]

after the extraction of the sparks will be completed, and the evil of the kelipot will be separated from the good of holiness,63 “and all the workers of evil will be dispersed,”

אַחַר שֶׁיּוּשְׁלַם בֵּירוּר הַנִּיצוֹצוֹת, וְיוּפְרַד הָרַע מֵהַטּוֹב וְ"יִתְפָּרְדוּ כָּל פּוֹעֲלֵי אָוֶן",

and the Tree of [Knowledge of] Good and Evil (which is of kelipat nogah and which prevails during the time of exile) will no longer be dominant because the good will have departed from it,

וְלָא שָׁלְטָא אִילָנָא דְטוֹב וָרָע בְּצֵאת הַטּוֹב מִמֶּנָּה,

Kelipat nogah is influential only by virtue of its minimal component of good; as soon as this is extracted, kelipat nogah will have no dominion whatsoever.

then people will engage in the study of Torah and in the observance of the commandments not in order to extract the sparks, as in the present,

אֲזַי – לֹא יִהְיֶה עֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת לְבָרֵר בֵּירוּרִין,

but in order to bring about the consummation of yichudim (“unions” or “marriages” of sefirot) more sublime than those which are effected through our present Torah study—in order to call forth more sublime lights, transcending75 Atzilut.

כִּי אִם – לְיַחֵד יִחוּדִים עֶלְיוֹנִים יוֹתֵר, לְהַמְשִׁיךְ אוֹרוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים יוֹתֵר מֵהָאֲצִילוּת,

This is explained in the writings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, of blessed memory.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר הָאֲרִ"י זִכְרוֹנוֹ לִבְרָכָה.

Everything [will be accomplished] by means of the pnimiyut of the Torah, the esoteric dimension of the Torah, by the performance of the commandments with lofty mystical devotions directed to [drawing down] sublime “lights” [from the Divine Luminary].

וְהַכֹּל – עַל־יְדֵי פְּנִימִיּוּת הַתּוֹרָה, לְקַיֵּים הַמִּצְוֹת בְּכַוָּונוֹת עֶלְיוֹנוֹת שֶׁמְּכַוְּנוֹת לְאוֹרוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים כוּ'.

For the root of the commandments is exceedingly high, in the blessed Ein Sof, at a level loftier than Atzilut.

כִּי שֹׁרֶשׁ הַמִּצְוֹת הוּא לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה בְּאֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא

(76As for the statement of our Sages, of blessed memory, that “the commandments will be abrogated in the future,”77

(וּמַה שֶּׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה דְּ"מִצְוֹת בְּטֵילוֹת לֶעָתִיד לָבֹא",

this refers to the era of the Resurrection of the Dead.

הַיְינוּ, בִּתְחִיַּית הַמֵּתִים,

In the days of the Messiah, however, before the Resurrection of the Dead, they will not be abrogated.)78

אֲבָל לִימוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ, קוֹדֶם תְּחִיַּית הַמֵּתִים – אֵין בְּטֵלִים).

At that time, the observance of mitzvot will draw down to this world even higher levels of G‑dliness than those drawn down by the current observance of mitzvot.

This is why Torah study will then be mainly directed to the pnimiyut (the innermost, mystical depths) of the commandments and their hidden reasons.

וְלָכֵן יִהְיֶה גַּם עִיקַּר עֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה גַּם כֵּן בִּפְנִימִיּוּת הַמִּצְוֹת וְטַעֲמֵיהֶם הַנִּסְתָּרִים.

Specifically: Gaining insights into the dynamics of the abovementioned yichudim and thereby understanding why the scrupulous performance of the commandments brings about these supernal “unions” which give birth to renewed diffusions of the Divine light that animates this world.

The revealed aspects of the Torah, however, will be manifest and known to every Jew by an innate and unforgotten knowledge.

אֲבָל הַנִּגְלוֹת יִהְיוּ גְּלוּיִם וִידוּעִים לְכָל אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּידִיעָה בַּתְּחִלָּה בְּלִי שִׁכְחָה,

Review will thus be unnecessary.

Only the mixed multitude (and not the Jews) will have to toil in these [aspects of the Torah],

וְאֵין צְרִיכִים לַעֲסוֹק בָּהֶם, אֶלָּא לְ"עֵרֶב רַב"

because they will not have merited to taste from the Tree of Life, i.e., the pnimiyut of the Torah and of the commandments.

שֶׁלֹּא יִזְכּוּ לְמִטְעַם מֵאִילָנָא דְחַיֵּי, שֶׁהוּא פְּנִימִיּוּת הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוָה,

They will [therefore] need to engage [79in Torah] in Mishnah in order to weaken (80by their occupation with Torah) the power of the sitra achara that cleaves to them,

וּצְרִיכִים לַעֲסוֹק [בַּתּוֹרָה] בַּמִּשְׁנָה, לְהַתִּישׁ כֹּחַ הַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא הַדָּבוּק בָּהֶם (עַל יְדֵי עֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה. בכתב יד ליתא),

so that it will not dominate them and cause them to sin.

שֶׁלֹּא תִשְׁלוֹט בָּהֶם לְהַחֲטִיאָם,

Thus, it is written, “And the sinner at the age of a hundred will be cursed.”81 This refers to the sinners of the mixed multitude.

כְּדִכְתִיב: "וְהַחוֹטֶא בֶּן מֵאָה שָׁנָה יְקוּלָּל", שֶׁיִּהְיוּ חוֹטְאִים מֵ"עֵרֶב רַב".

Thus, even with the arrival of Mashiach, there will be sinners among the mixed multitude since the sitra achara cleaves to them. They will therefore require means by which to weaken it so that they will not sin.

Nor will they need only the revealed aspects of the Torah in order to repel the sitra achara.

In addition, on the practical level, they will need the detailed rulings of prohibition and impurity more than the Jews.

וְגַם לְמַעֲשֶׂה, יִהְיוּ צְרִיכִים לִפְרָטֵי הִלְכוֹת אִסּוּר וְטוּמְאָה יוֹתֵר מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל,

For (the latter), nothing will occur that is ritually unfit, impure, or forbidden

שֶׁלֹּא יֶאֱרַע לָהֶם פְּסוּל וְטוּמְאָה וְאִסּוּר,

since “there82 shall not befall [any sin to the righteous]”83and in the era of Mashiach, all Jews will be at the level of the “righteous.”

כִּי "לֹא יְאוּנֶּה כוּ'".

It is also possible, and indeed probable, that [the Jewish people] will know all the fundamentals of the revealed plane of the Torah from the pnimiyut of the Torah,

וְגַם, אֶפְשָׁר וְקָרוֹב הַדָּבָר שֶׁיֵּדְעוּ מִפְּנִימִיּוּת הַתּוֹרָה כָּל גּוּפֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַנִּגְלֵית,

as was the case with our father Abraham, peace be to him.

כְּמוֹ אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עָלָיו־הַשָּׁלוֹם,

The Gemara relates84 that Abraham fulfilled the entire Torah even before it was given at Sinai. Now, there are passages and commandments to which he could not possibly have related on a physical level.

Inscribed on the tiny parchment scrolls within tefillin, for example, are Biblical passages which record the Exodus from Egypt—a land to which his descendants had not yet been exiled. The mode of Abraham’s performance of the commandments was thus spiritual and esoteric, as the Alter Rebbe explains in Torah Or85 and Likkutei Torah.86

Abraham thus knew all the revealed aspects of Torah from its esoteric core. In the Time to Come, all Jews will know the Torah in a similar manner.

They will therefore not need to occupy themselves with them—with the laws defining what is permitted or prohibited, pure or impure—at all.

וְלָכֵן, אֵין צְרִיכִים לַעֲסוֹק בָּהֶם כְּלָל.

At the time of the Second Temple, by contrast, although the scholars did not derive their sustenance from the illiterate, for they had their own fields and vineyards, they needed to be involved in these [laws],

מַה־שֶּׁאֵין־כֵּן בִּזְמַן בַּיִת שֵׁנִי, הָיוּ צְרִיכִים לַעֲסוֹק –

and not only for their practical application but because this is the main purpose of Divine service—

גַּם כִּי לֹא בִּשְׁבִיל הֲלָכָה לְמַעֲשֶׂה בִּלְבַד, אֶלָּא שֶׁזֶּהוּ עִיקַּר עֲבוֹדָה

to weaken the power of the sitra achara and to elevate the sparks of holiness by means of Torah study and worship, as is explained elsewhere.87

לְהַתִּישׁ כֹּחַ הַסִּטְרָא אָחֳרָא, וּלְהַעֲלוֹת נִיצוֹצֵי הַקְּדוּשָּׁה עַל־יְדֵי הַתּוֹרָה וְהָעֲבוֹדָה, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר.

After the above words of truth, it will be possible to clearly understand the earlier-quoted passage from Raaya Mehemna,

וְאַחַר הַדְּבָרִים וְהָאֱמֶת, יוּבַן הֵיטֵב בְּתּוֹסֶפֶת בֵּיאוּר הָרַעְיָא מְהֵימְנָא דִלְעֵיל,

which spoke of “the Tree of Good and Evil, [i.e., prohibition and permission],”

בְּמַה שֶּׁאָמַר "אִילָנָא דְטוֹב וָרָע כוּ'",

meaning kelipat nogah, which is the mainstay of this world,88

רוֹצֶה לוֹמַר – קְלִיפַּת נוֹגַהּ, שֶׁהוּא עוֹלָם הַזֶּה הָעִיקָּר,

as is written in Etz Chaim.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּעֵץ חַיִּים,

At the moment, until Mashiach arrives, the dominant influence in this material world is kelipat nogah, the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” After his arrival, however, this dominion will cease, and man’s Divine service will be directed not to extracting the sparks of holiness hidden in the material world but to bringing about ever higher supernal unions, as explained above.

This will suffice for the discerning.

וְדַי לַמֵּבִין:


In the middle of the above epistle, the Alter Rebbe stated that if “one ate [forbidden food] in order to save an endangered life…[the food] becomes [entirely] permissible.”

The Rebbe notes89 that this concept is problematic; indeed, many editions of the Tanya omit the word “entirely,” which is evidently why it found its way into current editions as a bracketed text.

The Rebbe goes on to distinguish between prohibition (issur) and impurity (tumah). When something is prohibited, one can sense its inherent evil; for example, forbidden foods clog the mind and heart with spiritual congestion. Thus, even if a pregnant woman scented forbidden food on Yom Kippur and the Torah permitted her to eat it (if her life would otherwise be in danger),90 eating that food would still becloud her soul.

Moreover, even when the prohibition was not intrinsic to the food but a thought or a statement invalidated it, as for example when an animal was slaughtered with idolatrous intent,91 eating this food leaves its imprint. Thus, for example, the Midrash92 traces the wayward path of Elisha ben Avuyah (known as “Acher”) to very early beginnings—before his birth, his mother had tasted food that was prepared for idolatrous worship.

In light of the above, the Rebbe goes on to note, we can understand why a nursing mother who has eaten forbidden food, even when permitted to do so because her life was endangered, should refrain from nursing her child.93 For although eating this food was in fact halachically permitted, the nature of the food and the spiritual blemish which it imparts to her infant remain unchanged.

This is especially so, according to the halachic determination (with regard to one who is ill as well), that a life-threatening situation merely sets aside a prohibition; it does not make the prohibited object permissible.94

As the Rebbe concludes, the above considerations evidently explain why in current editions of Iggeret Hakodesh—regarding the food eaten in a life-threatening situation that becomes “[entirely] permissible”—the word “entirely” is bracketed and in many editions never appeared.