As noted earlier, the overwhelming majority of the letters that the Alter Rebbe’s sons included here as part of the Tanya, were intended to encourage active divine service,1 particularly through the giving of tzedakah for the Kollel Chabad Fund. (This Fund supported fellow chassidim who had settled in the Holy Land, there to serve G‑d through Torah and prayer.)

Accordingly, these themes should be sought even in a letter such as the one that follows, which does not refer to them directly. If at all possible, one should also seek to connect this letter to the one which precedes it, and thus understand why the author’s sons placed it where they did.2

In the present letter the Alter Rebbe elaborates upon two general categories in the love of G‑d. The first category of love is granted man only as a gift from Above: he cannot attain it by dint of his own service. This pleasurable experience of Divinity is termed3 ahavah betaanugim (“a love which experiences delights”), and is a foretaste of the World to Come, wherein the soul basks in the rays of the Shechinah. The second category of love for G‑d — longing and thirsting for Him — can be attained through man’s service and meditation.

The connection between this letter and the previous one, and its lesson in man’s divine service (particularly with respect to charity), may then be the following:

The previous letter extolled the merit of serving G‑d through tzedakah, whereby one simultaneously secures the revelations of Gan Eden and of the World to Come, the time of the Resurrection.

The difference in revelation between Gan Eden and the World to Come is that Gan Eden reveals but a “glimmer of a glimmer” of that which is accomplished through the performance of a mitzvah — its “fruits”, while the World to Come reveals the reward of the very essence of the mitzvah. Both Gan Eden and the World to Come — to a greater or lesser degree — reveal and enable the soul to apprehend the essential Divinity that underlies the mitzvah.

But all the merits of both the above levels relate only to a consequence of the mitzvah, viz., its revelations. The nucleus of the mitzvah is the fact that through performing it the individual cleaves to G‑d, for מצוה is related to צוותא, signifying attachment. And this nucleus surfaces at the actual time of performance. It is for this reason that our Sages teach that4 “Better one hour in repentance and good deeds in this world than all of the World to Come”; the actual practice of repentance and good deeds (for by prefacing the deeds with repentance they become “good” and “luminous”5) in this world is superior to all the lofty spiritual levels of Gan Eden and the World to Come.

However, lofty as actual performance may be, its effects are totally concealed; man is neither aware of them nor does his soul perceive them at all. In this letter, therefore, the Alter Rebbe explains the two categories of love, for the love of G‑d is a feeling that is manifest in the soul.

The first, ahavah betaanugim (“a love that experiences delights”), is related to the revelation in the World to Come, at the time of the Resurrection. For just as at that time6 “the righteous will sit with their crowns on their heads, and take delight in the radiance of the Divine Presence,” so too is this love a pleasurable love; in the words of the Alter Rebbe, “It is truly a foretaste of the World to Come.”

The second manner of love — a thirstful longing for G‑d and a desire to cleave to Him — is a revelation similar to that of Gan Eden, for there too there is a limited degree of longing for G‑d, as explained in the previous letter at length.

Thus, when a Jew performs a mitzvah he not only cleaves to G‑d unawares: some aspect of this contact may also become revealed within his soul — both the revelation which foreshadows that of Gan Eden and even the revelation which anticipates the World to Come at the time of the Resurrection.

And even though ahavah betaanugim is a gift bestowed upon lofty souls from Above, some echo of it may resonate within any Jew when his wholehearted performance of the mitzvot is vitalized by his love of G‑d.7

כתיב: מה יפית ומה נעמת, אהבה בתענוגים

It is written,8 “How beautiful and how pleasant are you, ahavah betaanugim!

I.e., “How beautiful and pleasant it is to cleave to You with ahavah betaanugim” — with a love that experiences delight in the state of cleaving to the beloved, as opposed to a love in which the lover seeks to cleave to the beloved.

הנה ב׳ מיני אהבות הן

There are two kinds of love, each of which subdivides further.

האחת: אהבה בתענוגים

The first is ahavah betaanugim,

דהיינו, שמתענג על ה׳ עונג נפלא

meaning that one delights wondrously in G‑d,

בשמחה רבה ועצומה, שמחת הנפש וכלותה, בטעמה כי טוב ה׳

with a great and immense joy, the joy of the soul and its yearning as it tastes that G‑d is good9

ונעים נעימות עריבות עד להפליא

and as delightful as wondrously sweet delights.

This sweetness is not sensed as a result of one’s comprehension; rather, this is a sensation of wonderment at that which transcends one’s comprehension.

מעין עולם הבא ממש, שנהנין כו׳

It is truly a foretaste of the World to Come, where10 “[the righteous will sit with their crowns on their heads], and take delight [in the radiance of the Divine Presence].”

ועל זה כתיב: שמחו צדיקים בה׳

Concerning this pleasurable experience of G‑dliness it is written,11 “Rejoice, you righteous, in G‑d,”

ולא כל אדם זוכה לזה

and not everyone merits this.

וזו היא בחינת כהנא ברעותא דלבא, שבזוהר הקדוש

This is the level [of love] which the sacred Zohar refers to in the phrase,12 kahana bire’uta delibba.

Lit., “The Kohen [serves G‑d] with the [innermost] desire of the heart”]. As opposed to the Levites, whose longing for G‑d surged forth (ratzo) and found outward expression in song, the service of the Kohanim was silent.

ועל זה נאמר: עבודת מתנה וגו׳

Moreover, of this [level of love] it is said,13 “[I shall grant you your priestly] service as a gift,”

The priestly level of love, ahavah betaanugim, is a gift from Above.

והזר הקרב וגו׳

“and the stranger who comes nigh — i.e., to this manner of service — [is liable to death],”14

כי אין דרך להשיגה על ידי יגיעת בשר, כמו היראה

for there is no way to attain it by human efforts, as there is with the awe of G‑d,

ששואלין עליה: יגעת ביראה

concerning which [the departed soul] is asked [in the next world],15 “Did you labor with awe?”

I.e., “Did you toil to acquire an awe of G‑d?”

ואוי לבשר שלא נתייגע ביראה

Likewise, “Woe to the mortal who did not labor with awe,”

כמו שכתוב בראשית חכמה

as is written in Reishit Chochmah.

וכתיב ביראה: אם תבקשנה ככסף וגו׳

Of awe it is also written,16“If you will seek it like silver, [and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will attain a fear of G‑d...].”

מלמד שצריכה יגיעה רבה ועצומה, כמחפש אחר אוצרות

This shows that it requires great and intense exertion, as when one searches for treasure.

It has already been explained (in Part I, ch. 42) that when one digs for a treasure that he knows beyond the shadow of a doubt lies buried in the depths of the earth, he will seek it tirelessly. Knowing with certainty that the fear of heaven lies buried in the understanding of the heart of every Jew, will lead to similar untiring efforts in revealing this spiritual treasure.

However, this only applies to the fear and awe of G‑d; even the loftiest degree of awe, yirah ilaah, is attainable through man’s efforts.

אבל אהבה רבה זו אהבה בתענוגים נופלת לאדם מאליה מלמעלה, בלי שיכין ויכוון לה

By contrast, this great love (17ahavah betaanugim) comes upon a man by itself, from Above, without his preparing and intending himself for it,

אך ורק אחר שנתייגע ביראת הרוממות

but only after he has exerted himself in yirat haromemut, to attain the higher level of fear wherein he stands in awe of G‑d’s Majesty,

והגיע לתכלית מה שיוכל להשיג ממנה, לפי בחינת נשמתו

and after he has attained the maximum he is able to attain of that [awe], according to the level of his soul;

אזי ממילא באה האהבה בתענוגים מלמעלה לשכון ולתייחד עם היראה

then, of itself, the ahavah betaanugim comes from Above to dwell, and to become united, with the awe.

כי דרכו של איש לחזר כו׳, כמו שכתוב בלקוטי אמרים

For18 “It is the way of the man to search [for the woman],” as explained in Likkutei Amarim.

In Part I, ch. 43, the Alter Rebbe explains that love is termed “man” or “male”, while fear is termed “woman” (as in the verse,19 “A woman who fears G‑d...”). In spiritual terms, “It is the way of the man to search for the woman” means that the love of G‑d searches for the fear of G‑d and dwells with it.

Having spoken until now of the higher category in the love of G‑d called ahavah betaanugim, the Alter Rebbe now proceeds to consider the lesser love, ahavah zuta.

והשנית היא אהבה ותאוה, שהנפש מתאוה ואוהבת וחפיצה לדבקה בה׳

The second [category] is a love and desire in which the soul desires, loves and wishes to cleave to G‑d,

לצרור בצרור החיים

“to be bound up in the bond of life.”20

וקרבת אלקים טוב לה מאד, ובו תחפוץ

The proximity to G‑d is very dear to her, and that is what she desires.

ורע לה מאד להתרחק ממנו יתברך, חס ושלום

It is most grievous unto her to become, heaven forfend, distanced from Him, blessed be He,

להיות מחיצה של ברזל מהחיצונים מפסקת, חס ושלום

by having an iron partition of the chitzonim, the forces of kelipah and unholiness, separate her [from Him], heaven forfend.

Thus, inherent in the soul’s love for G‑d is its anxious fear of being alienated from Him by a partition resulting from those things that are opposite His will.

Likkutei Levi Yitzchak, authored by the father of the Rebbe, explains that the four terms used above — “desires”, “loves”, “wishes” and “cleaves” — refer respectively to the soul-levels within the Four Worlds: “desires” relates to the World of Asiyah, “loves” relates to the World of Yetzirah, and so on.

ואהבה זו היא מוסתרת בלב כלל ישראל, אפילו ברשעים

This love is latent in the heart of all Jews, even in the wicked, as explained at length in Part I, chs. 18 and 19,

וממנה באה להם החרטה

and from this [latent love] derives their remorse, as in the phrase,21 “The wicked are full of remorse.”

The Alter Rebbe now answers the following implied question: If they indeed possess this love, why then are they wicked?

אך מפני שהיא מוסתרת ונעלמה בבחינת גלות בגוף, הרי הקליפה יכולה לשלוט עליה

However, because it is latent and concealed, in a state of exile in the body, it is possible for the kelipah to dominate it;

וזהו רוח שטות המחטיא לאדם

and this is the “spirit of folly” which causes a man to sin.22

The “spirit of folly” cloaks this hidden love (ahavah mesuteret), so that one loses the sensitivity to realize that through sinning he is jeopardizing his attachment to G‑d.

ועל כן עבודת האדם לקונו היא להתחזק ולהתגבר על הקליפה, בכל מכל כל

Therefore a man’s service to his Maker consists of strengthening himself and prevailing over the kelipah in all its manifestations.

דהיינו: מתחלה, לגרשה מהגוף לגמרי

That is, first to expel it completely from the body, so that it has absolutely no dominion over him —

ממחשבה דבור ומעשה, שבמוח ולשון ורמ״ח אברים

[expelling it] from the [faculties of] thought, speech and action that are in the brain, the tongue, and the 248 organs.

Expelling the kelipah means ensuring that one’s brain will harbor no thoughts that are contrary to G‑d’s will; that one’s tongue will speak no evil words; that one’s 248 organs will commit no evil acts.

ואחר כך יוכל גם כן להוציא ממסגר אסיר, בחוזק יד

After that he will also be able to23 “bring out the captive from prison” with a strong hand.

Once one has vanquished the kelipah by steadfastly24 “turning away from evil” — not thinking, speaking or doing those things that are contrary to G‑d’s will — he is then able to uncover the love that is latent within him, so that it will permeate his positive thoughts, words and deeds. His mind will thus ponder upon G‑d’s greatness, and his heart will then actively feel a love for G‑d. In turn, this love will result in his enhanced fulfillment of the Torah and its mitzvot.

דהיינו: להיות חזק ואמיץ לבו בגבורים

That is, he will be strong,25 “and his heart courageous among the valiant,”

להיות האהבה המסותרת נגלית בגילוי רב, בכל כחות חלקי הנפש שבגוף

so that the hidden love will become abundantly revealed in all the powers of the soul’s components in his body;

דהיינו: העיקר, בשכל ובמחשבה שבמוח

i.e., mainly in the mind and in the [faculty of] thought in the brain,

The mind serves to reveal this love, which then manifests throughout the rest of the person’s organs.

שהשכל יחשב ויתבונן תמיד, כפי שכלו והשכלתו, בבורא יתברך

so that corresponding to its intellect and understanding the mind will constantly think and contemplate on the blessed Creator —

איך שהוא חיי החיים בכלל, וחיי נשמתו בפרט

how He is the Fountainhead of life in general, and of the life of his own soul in particular.

ועל כן יכסוף ויתאוה להיות דבוק בו וקרוב אליו כוסף טבעי

Consequently, he will yearn and desire to be attached to Him, and near to Him, with an innate yearning,

כבן הכוסף להיות תמיד אצל אביו, וכמו אש העולה למעלה תמיד בטבעה, למקורה

like that of a child who yearns to be constantly near his father, and like fire which by its very nature always rises upwards to its source, as explained in Part I, ch. 19.

וכל מה שיתמיד לחשוב בשכלו כוסף זה, ככה יתגבר ויתפשט כוסף זה גם בפיו ובכל אבריו

And the more he continues to set his mind on this yearning, the more will this yearning become correspondingly stronger, and will also extend to his mouth and to all his organs,

לעסוק בתורה ומצות, לדבקה בהם בה׳ ממש

so that he will occupy himself with the Torah and the commandments in order to really cleave thereby to G‑d,

דאורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא כולא חד

for26 “The Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are entirely One.”

This love will thus affect his brain, mouth and other bodily organs, motivating them to study Torah and perform the commandments with a greater degree of love.

ועל כוסף זה, שבגילוי רב, כתיב: צמאה נפשי וגו׳

Of this greatly manifest yearning, i.e., of this love, it is written,27 “My soul thirsts [for G‑d],”

כאדם הצמא למים, ואין לו תענוג עדיין כלל

like a person who thirsts for water and does not yet have any pleasure [from it].

This level of love for G‑d is likened to a state of thirst. At this stage the individual seeking to cleave to G‑d does not experience any delight, for he has yet to cleave to Him: all he feels is the pangs of thirst. In the previously-described level of love, ahavah betaanugim, the individual has already quenched his thirst, so to speak: his love for G‑d has been realized and he is now actively cleaving to Him.

וגם על כוסף זה ואהבה זו המוסתרת בנו, אנו מעתירים לה׳ להיות בעזרנו, להוציאה ממסגר

Also28 concerning this yearning and this love concealed within us we pray to G‑d, to help us bring it out from imprisonment,

It is indeed true that this lesser degree of love is attainable by man and need not be granted as a gift from Above; it is already possessed by every Jew and he need but reveal it through his spiritual service. Nevertheless we beseech G‑d that He help us reveal this love and liberate it from its concealment.

ושיהיה הלב מלא ממנה לבדה

so that the heart be filled with it alone,

ולא תכנס צרתה בביתה, שהיא תאות עולם הזה

so that its “rival-wife,” i.e., mundane desires, will not enter its house, i.e., our hearts.

רק שתהיה היא עקרת הבית, למשול בצרתה ולגרשה החוצה, ממחשבה דיבור ומעשה, על כל פנים

Rather, this [yearning and love] should be the sole mistress of the house, to rule over her “rival-wife” and to expel her at least from one’s thought, speech and action.

הגם שלא יוכל לשלחה לגמרי מלבו

Though one cannot expel her altogether from one’s heart, so that it should harbor no foreign desires at all,

For we are speaking here of the love possessed by the Beinoni, an individual who is unable to banish foreign desires from his heart; he is only able to ensure that they find no expression in his thought, his speech or his actions, as explained in Tanya, Part I, ch. 12.

על כל פנים תהיה היא מוסתרת, בבחינת גלות ועבדות לעקרת הבית, גברתה

she should at least be hidden, in a state of exile and servitude to the mistress of the house, i.e., to the love for G‑d,

להשתמש בה לדברים הכרחים לה, לבד, כאכילה ושתיה

who will make use of her for her own essentials only, such as eating and drinking,

If the G‑dly soul is to remain within the body and thereby be able to fulfill the requirements of the Torah and its mitzvot, the individual must eat and drink. He should therefore use the animal soul’s natural desire for physical things expressly for the spiritual purposes of the G‑dly soul. Thus, for example, his food and drink are intended to provide him with strength so that he will be able to study the Torah, engage in divine service, and the like.

כדכתיב: בכל דרכיך דעהו

as it is written,29 “Know Him in all your ways.”

Your ways” clearly speaks of man’s corporeal activities. Yet even in these we are commanded to “know Him” — to bind oneself to G‑d through these physical actions, by utilizing them for the purposes designated by Him, in order thereby to “know Him.”30