Part (a)

In the present letter, the Alter Rebbe bemoans the fact that his Chasidim trouble him by seeking advice on physical matters, such as their livelihoods. Such advice, he argues, is within the province of prophets, not of Torah scholars. In conclusion, he explains how one should accept physical suffering in such a way that it enhances his love and fear of G‑d.

The opening and closing passages of the original letter, which were not reproduced in the Tanya,1 throw considerable light on the middle passage, which appears below.

At the beginning of the original letter, the Alter Rebbe defines set times during which he will henceforth receive people for private audience—yechidut. He then protests in strong terms that the many requests for advice on mundane affairs interfere with other areas of his Torah activity. As our Sages ask, “Is it conceivable that Moses spent the whole day judging? When would he then find time to study Torah?”2

This leads on to the portion of the letter that appears here in the Tanya. In the original letter, the Alter Rebbe then concludes by declaring that the appointed times for visits and private audiences must be adhered to. Moreover, he “penalizes” those who will not heed his decree, going so far as to threaten to leave the country if he is not heeded.

As we all know, however, Chasidim in every generation have in fact asked their Rebbe for advice in mundane matters and, moreover, each of the Rebbeim has in fact obliged. How is this possible? Elder Chasidim of earlier generations used to explain that the Alter Rebbe himself sanctions this conduct—in the letter that he wrote “close to the time of his passing,”3 regarding the value of “fraternity and counsel from afar with regard to all family matters….”

My beloved, my brethren and friends:

אֲהוּבַיי, אַחַיי וְרֵעַיי!

Out of [my] hidden love [for you springs] an overt rebuke.4

מֵאַהֲבָה מְסוּתֶּרֶת תּוֹכַחַת מְגוּלָּה.

“Come now and let us debate”5;

"לְכוּ נָא וְנִוָּכְחָה!"

remember the days of old, consider the years of every generation.6

"זִכְרוּ יְמוֹת עוֹלָם, בִּינוּ שְׁנוֹת דּוֹר וָדוֹר",

Has such a thing ever happened in days past? Where indeed have you found such a custom in any of the books of the early or latter sages of Israel,

הֶהָיְתָה כָּזֹאת מִימוֹת עוֹלָם, וְאַיֵּה אֵיפוֹא מְצָאתֶם מִנְהָג זֶה בְּאֶחָד מִכָּל סִפְרֵי חַכְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָרִאשׁוֹנִים וְהָאַחֲרוֹנִים,

that it should be the custom and established norm to ask for advice in mundane matters as to what one ought to do in matters of the physical world?

לִהְיוֹת מִנְהָג וְתִיקּוּן לִשְׁאוֹל בְּעֵצָה גַשְׁמִיּוּת, כְּדָת מַה לַּעֲשׂוֹת בְּעִנְיְנֵי הָעוֹלָם הַגַּשְׁמִי,

[Such questions were not asked] even of the greatest of the former sages of Israel, such as the tannaim and amoraim, the authors of the Mishnah and the Gemara,7 “from whom no secret was hidden” and “for whom all the paths of heaven were clearly illuminated,”8

אַף לִגְדוֹלֵי חַכְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הָרִאשׁוֹנִים כְּתַנָּאִים וְאַמוֹרָאִים, אֲשֶׁר "כָּל רָז לֹא אָנֵס לְהוּ", וּ"נְהִירִין לְהוֹן שְׁבִילִין דְּרָקִיעַ"

but only of actual prophets who used to live among the Jewish people, such as Samuel the Seer, to whom Saul went to inquire of G‑d through him about the donkeys that his father had lost.9

כִּי אִם לִנְבִיאִים מַמָּשׁ, אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ לְפָנִים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, כִּשְׁמוּאֵל הָרוֹאֶה, אֲשֶׁר הָלַךְ אֵלָיו שָׁאוּל לִדְרוֹשׁ ה' עַל דְּבַר הָאֲתוֹנוֹת שֶׁנֶּאֶבְדוּ לְאָבִיו.

Why, indeed, were sages of stature such as the tannaim and amoraim not asked about mundane matters?

For in fact, all matters pertaining to man, except for words of Torah and the fear of heaven, are apprehended only by prophecy.

כִּי בֶּאֱמֶת, כָּל עִנְיְנֵי אָדָם, לְבַד מִדִּבְרֵי תוֹרָה וְיִרְאַת שָׁמַיִם אֵינָם מוּשָּׂגִים רַק בִּנְבוּאָה,

[As the verse states,] “there is no bread unto the wise,”10

וְ"לֹא לַחֲכָמִים לֶחֶם",

and as our Sages, of blessed memory, said, “Everything is in the hands of heaven except for the fear of heaven.”11

כְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "הַכֹּל בִּידֵי שָׁמַיִם, חוּץ מִיִּרְאַת שָׁמַיִם",

Likewise, “Seven things are hidden…: no man knows how he will earn his living, nor when the Kingdom of David will be restored…,”12 i.e., when Mashiach will come.

וְ"שִׁבְעָה דְּבָרִים מְכוּסִּים כוּ' אֵין אָדָם יוֹדֵעַ בַּמֶה מִשְׂתַּכֵּר כוּ' וּמַלְכוּת בֵּית דָּוִד מָתַי תַּחֲזוֹר כוּ'",

Note that these [two questions] are likened to one another. Just as no one knows exactly when Mashiach will come, so, too, no one knows by what means he in fact will obtain his sustenance.

הִנֵּה הוּשְׁווּ זֶה לָזֶה.

As for the phrase in Isaiah, “A counselor and a man whose wisdom silences all,”13 suggesting that Torah wisdom qualifies one to advise in other fields as well—

וּמַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב בִּישַׁעְיָה: "יוֹעֵץ וַחֲכַם חֲרָשִׁים",

and also, as for the statement of our Sages, of blessed memory, regarding one who studies Torah lishmah, “for its own sake,” that “people derive from him the benefit of etzah (counsel) and tushiyah (wisdom)14

וְכֵן מַה שֶּׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה "וְנֶהֱנִין מִמֶּנּוּ עֵצָה וְתוּשִׁיָּה"

these teachings refer specifically to [counsel in] matters of the Torah, which is called tushiyah (assistance).15

הַיְינוּ בְּדִבְרֵי תוֹרָה, הַנִּקְרָא "תּוּשִׁיָּה",

Thus, the Sages, of blessed memory, said: A counselor is one who knows how to intercalate years, making certain years leap years by interpolating an additional month of Adar, and how to determine the months, establishing what day is Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the lunar month,

כְּמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "יוֹעֵץ" – "זֶה שֶׁיּוֹדֵעַ לְעַבֵּר שָׁנִים וְלִקְבּוֹעַ חֳדָשִׁים" כוּ',

for in Torah terminology, the principle of intercalation is called “counsel” and “a secret,” as stated in Tractate Sanhedrin, p. 87; see the commentary of Rashi there, which states explicitly that the terms “counselor” and “advice” are related to the principle of intercalation.

שֶׁסּוֹד הָעִיבּוּר קָרוּי ‘עֵצָה' וְ'סוֹד' בִּלְשׁוֹן תּוֹרָה, כִּדְאִיתָא בְּסַנְהֶדְרִין דַּף פ"ז, עַיֵּין שָׁם בְּפֵירוּשׁ רַשִׁ"י:

However, I shall relate the truth16 to those who listen to me: “Love upsets the natural order of conduct,”17 for it is a covering of the eyes that prevents people from seeing the truth.

מֵרוֹב אַהֲבָתָם לְחַיֵּי הַגּוּף

The Alter Rebbe is quick to insist that his listeners’ love for the “life of the body” is no doubt motivated by a spiritual purpose. Nevertheless, they become so enmeshed in this love that they soon come to love the “life of the body” for its own sake as well. This latter love upsets the natural order to the point that it drives people to seek advice on material matters.

Because of their great love for the life of the body—

לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, לַעֲבוֹד בּוֹ אֶת ה', בְּרִשְׁפֵּי אֵשׁ וְשַׁלְהֶבֶת גְּדוֹלָה מֵאַהֲבַת נַפְשָׁם אֶת ה',

[though this love is indeed experienced] for the sake of heaven so that with [the body] they can serve G‑d with flashes of fiery fervor and an ardent flame,18 this love being even greater than their soul’s love for G‑d—

וְעַל כֵּן, הֵיטֵב חָרָה לָהֶם בְּצַעַר הַגּוּף חַס וְשָׁלוֹם ה' יְרַחֵם,

they are extremely irate when their body undergoes suffering. (Heaven forfend; may G‑d show compassion!)

וְאֵין יְכוֹלִין לְקַבֵּל כְּלָל, עַד שֶׁמַּעֲבִירָם עַל דַּעְתָּם, לְכַתֵּת רַגְלֵיהֶם מֵעִיר לְעִיר, לִשְׁאוֹל עֵצוֹת מֵרָחוֹק,

Thus, they are not able to bear [it] at all to the point that it drives them out of their mind, causing them to tramp about from city to city to seek advice from afar.

וְלֹא שָׁעוּ אֶל ה' לָשׁוּב אֵלָיו בְּרוּחַ נְמוּכָה וְהַכְנָעַת הַגּוּף,

But why indeed does G‑d cause suffering? Moreover, how are we to respond to life’s difficulties if it is not proper to seek advice on them from Torah sages and tzaddikim? The Alter Rebbe goes on to explain:

Those who seek merely to be rid of their physical afflictions are not following the proper path of the Torah, for in doing so, they do not turn to G‑d by [penitently] returning to Him with humble spirit and submission of the body

לְקַבֵּל תּוֹכַחְתּוֹ בְּאַהֲבָה, "כִּי אֶת אֲשֶׁר יֶאֱהַב ה' וְכוּ'":

to accept His chastisement with love, “for it is him whom G‑d loves [that He chastises].”19

וּכְמוֹ אָב רַחֲמָן חָכָם וְצַדִּיק הַמַּכֶּה בְּנוֹ, שֶׁאֵין לְבֵן חָכָם לַהֲפוֹךְ עוֹרֶף לָנוּס, לִמְצוֹא לוֹ עֶזְרָה, אוֹ אֲפִילוּ מֵלִיץ יוֹשֶׁר, לִפְנֵי אָבִיו הָרַחֲמָן וְהַצַּדִּיק וְחָסִיד,

Misfortunes are in fact a call from G‑d that one should repent. Indeed, they should be a source of satisfaction: out of G‑d’s particular love for him, he has been chosen to be roused to repentance.

This is analogous to a compassionate, wise, and righteous father who hits his son. Surely, a wise son should not turn his back to escape, nor find himself help, nor even an intercessor to his father who is compassionate, righteous, and kind (chasid).

רַק לִהְיוֹת "יָשָׁר יֶחֱזוּ פָנֵימוֹ" עִם אָבִיו פָּנִים בְּפָנִים, לִסְבּוֹל הַכָּאוֹתָיו בְּאַהֲבָה, לְטוֹב לוֹ כָּל הַיָּמִים.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, once remarked20 that when the Alter Rebbe first speaks of the father who punishes, he does not use the term “Chasid.” (He uses it only later, in the context of the intercessor.) The reason, says the Rebbe, is that a father who smites his child may indeed be compassionate, righteous, and wise—but he is not a Chasid, for a Chasid does not hit!

In any event, we see that if the child is truly wise, he will not flee from punishment.

Rather, he will look straight at his father, face to face, bearing his smacks lovingly for his lifelong benefit.

וְהִנֵּה, לְמַעְלָה, בְּחִינַת "פָּנִים"

To transpose this to the analogue: Every Jew ought to look straight at his Father, “face to Face.”

Now, in the Divine realm, the concept of “Face”

הוּא הָרָצוֹן וְהַחֵשֶׁק, אֲשֶׁר אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם מַשְׁפִּיעַ לְבָנָיו כָּל טוּב עוֹלָמִים וְחַיֵּי נֶפֶשׁ וְגוּף,

is the willingness and desire with which our Father in heaven bestows upon His children all the good of the worlds—the physical and the spiritual worlds—as well as life for the soul and body;

בְּאַהֲבָה וְרָצוֹן, חֲשִׁיקָה וַחֲפִיצָה, עַל־יְדֵי תּוֹרַת חַיִּים שֶׁהִיא רְצוֹנוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָנוּ,

[all of this He bestows] out of love and willingness, out of inner desire and delight, through the Torah of Life, which is His blessed Will, that He gave unto us.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאוֹמְרִים: "כִּי בְאוֹר פָּנֶיךָ נָתַתָּ לָּנוּ תּוֹרַת חַיִּים כוּ'"

The present passage is based on the body language that typically accompanies a gift.

As explained earlier in the Tanya (ch. 22), one gives a gift to a good friend face to face: the giver’s eyes rest on the face of the recipient. Through his very stance, the giver thus expresses the fact that his gift stems from his “face” (panim) and innermost core (pnimiyut). When, however, one gives something to an enemy, he averts his face. This simply gives outward expression to his real aversion: the gift is not prompted by any inner desire but by some external factor.

In our context, then, G‑d’s loving willingness in showering us with His gifts is described by the metaphor of “Face.”

As we recite in the Amidah, “For in the light of Your Face, You have given us…the Torah of Life…,”21

לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּהּ רְצוֹנוֹ,

with which (and through which) to carry out His will.

וְעַל זֶה נֶאֱמַר: "בְּאוֹר פְּנֵי מֶלֶךְ חַיִּים, וּרְצוֹנוֹ כוּ'".

And of this, it is written, “For in the light of the King’s Face there is life, and His will….”22

מַה־שֶּׁאֵין־כֵּן לְעוֹבְדֵי גִלּוּלִים, מַשְׁפִּיעַ חַיֵּי גוּפָם שֶׁלֹּא בְּרָצוֹן וַחֲשִׁיקָה וַחֲפִיצָה,

To the heathens, however, He grants the life of their bodies23 without willingness, pleasure, and delight.

לְכָךְ נִקְרָאִים "אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים", שֶׁיּוֹנְקִים מִבְּחִינַת "אֲחוֹרַיִים".

For this reason, they are referred to as elohim acherim (“other gods”), for they draw [their life-force] from achorayim (the “hinderside” of Divinity).

וְכָךְ הוּא בָּאָדָם, הָרָצוֹן וְהַחֵשֶׁק הוּא בְּחִינַת "פָּנִים",

To continue the above metaphor: The Divine “reluctance” to grant life-force to the heathens—i.e., the so-called external level of Divine desire—is here described by a term that is the opposite of the “Face,” which expressed G‑d’s innermost will.

It is likewise with man: willingness and pleasurable desire, i.e., man’s innermost desires, relate to the “face.”

וְאִם אֵינוֹ מְקַבֵּל בְּאַהֲבָה וְרָצוֹן כְּאִלּוּ הוֹפֵךְ עוֹרֶף וְאָחוֹר, חַס וְשָׁלוֹם.

Thus, turning to G‑d “face to Face” means that a man accepts willingly and with inner desire whatever is apportioned to him from the supernal face, from G‑d’s innermost desire. In our context, this refers to a willing acceptance of G‑d’s admonishments as expressed in physical suffering.

If one does not accept [this suffering] with love and willingness, it is as if he turns his neck and back [on G‑d], heaven forfend.

וְעֵצָה הַיְּעוּצָה לְקַבֵּל בְּאַהֲבָה, הִיא עֲצַת ה' בְּפִי חֲכָמֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "לְפַשְׁפֵּשׁ בְּמַעֲשָׂיו",

The suggested advice to enable one to accept [it] with love is G‑d’s counsel through the mouth of our Sages, of blessed memory—“to examine one’s conduct.”24

וְיִמְצָא לוֹ עֲוֹנוֹת הַצְּרִיכִין מֵירוּק יִסּוּרִים, וְיִרְאֶה לָעַיִן גּוֹדֶל אַהֲבָתוֹ אֵלָיו, הַמְקַלְקֶלֶת הַשּׁוּרָה,

The Gemara says that “if one sees afflictions befalling him, he should examine his deeds” and repent.

He will find sins that require scouring by means of suffering. He will then clearly see G‑d’s great love toward him, which “upsets the natural order of [Divine] conduct,”

כִּמְשַׁל מֶלֶךְ גָּדוֹל וְנוֹרָא הָרוֹחֵץ בִּכְבוֹדוֹ וּבְעַצְמוֹ צוֹאַת בְּנוֹ יְחִידוֹ, מֵרוֹב אַהֲבָתוֹ,

as in the simile of a great and awesome king who, out of his immense25 love for his only son, personally washes off the filth from him.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "אִם רָחַץ ה' צוֹאַת בְּנוֹת צִיּוֹן כוּ', בְּרוּחַ מִשְׁפָּט כוּ'".

As it is written,26 “When G‑d will wash off the filth from the daughters of Zion…with a spirit of justice27….”28

וְ"כַמַּיִם הַפָּנִים אֶל פָּנִים",

When one becomes aware of G‑d’s great love for him, a love that is expressed by scouring him with the cleansing agent of suffering:

Then, “as in water face reflects face,”29

תִּתְעוֹרֵר הָאַהֲבָה בְּלֵב כָּל מַשְׂכִּיל וּמֵבִין יְקַר מַהוּת אַהֲבַת ה' אֶל הַתַּחְתּוֹנִים,

The verse goes on to say, “…so is the heart of man to man.” And the same is true of the heart of mortal man to Supernal Man:

there will be an arousal of love in the heart of everyone who perceives and understands the preciousness of the nature of G‑d’s love for the nether beings, for those who find themselves in this world, the lowest of all worlds.

אֲשֶׁר הִיא יְקָרָה וְטוֹבָה מִכָּל חַיֵּי הָעוֹלָמִים כּוּלָּם,

This [Divine love] is dearer and better than all the [kinds of] life of all the worlds, both spiritual and material,

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: "מַה יָּקָר חַסְדְּךָ וְכוּ'",

as it is written, “How precious is Your lovingkindness (chesed)….”30

"כִּי טוֹב חַסְדְּךָ מֵחַיִּים כוּ'",

[It is likewise written,] “For Your chesed is better than life….”31

כִּי הַחֶסֶד שֶׁהוּא בְּחִינַת אַהֲבָה,

The motivating nucleus of chesed is love. Thus, it is written, “I have loved you with an everlasting love and have therefore drawn down chesed upon you.”32

For chesed, which is a manifestation of love,

הוּא חַיֵּי הַחַיִּים שֶׁבְּכָל הָעוֹלָמוֹת, כְּמוֹ שֶׁאוֹמְרִים: "מְכַלְכֵּל חַיִּים בְּחֶסֶד".

is the Fountainhead of life that is present in all the worlds; as it is said in the Amidah, “He sustains life through chesed.”33

וְאָז,

Chesed and love are thus the sustaining life-force of all living beings.

And then, i.e., when one realizes G‑d’s great love for him that finds expression in afflictions, and when this in turn arouses a love within him so that he will better receive G‑d’s love, then:

"גַּם ה' יִתֵּן הַטּוֹב",

G‑d, too, will grant goodness, of a kind that the naked eye can clearly and palpably perceive as good,

וְיָאֵר פָּנָיו אֵלָיו,

and make His Face (the innermost dimension of Divinity) shine toward him34

בִּבְחִינַת אַהֲבָה מְגוּלָּה, אֲשֶׁר הָיְתָה תְּחִלָּה מְלוּבֶּשֶׁת וּמְסוּתֶּרֶת בְּתוֹכָחָה מְגוּלָּה,

with a manifest love, which had earlier been garbed and hidden in a manifest rebuke,

וְיִתְמַתְּקוּ הַגְּבוּרוֹת בְּשָׁרְשָׁן,

The overt admonition that stems from G‑d’s hidden love will then be transformed into a revealed love.

and the expressions of Divine severity (the gevurot) will be sweetened at their source,

וְיִתְבַּטְּלוּ הַדִּינִין נֶצַח סֶלָה וָעֶד:

Within their source, these expressions of Divine severity are ultimately benevolent; as they descend to the world below, they become manifest in the form of suffering. The gevurot, then, will be sweetened at their source,

and thereby, these expressions of Divine severity will become nullified forevermore.35

Part (b)

The following letter was placed here by the compilers of Iggeret Hakodesh—“after the first editions (see list) had been published,” as the Rebbe points out—as an addendum to Epistle 22, Part (a).

The connection, however, is not immediately apparent. Perhaps it lies in the opening passage of Part (a), the passage which does not appear in this collection,36 in which the Alter Rebbe laments that questions on material affairs occupy too much of his time—for this theme also figures in the letter before us.

My beloved, my brethren and friends:

אֲהוּבַיי, אַחַיי וְרֵעַיי!

In these terms, the Alter Rebbe addresses his Chasidim.

Due to the immensity of my preoccupations37 which38 “all together surround me” and “encircle me like water”—“all day and all night, never holding their peace,39

מִגּוֹדֶל טִרְדָּתִי אֲשֶׁר "הִקִּיפוּ עָלַי יַחַד" וְ"סַבּוּנִי כַמַּיִם, כָּל הַיּוֹם וְכָל הַלַּיְלָה תָּמִיד לֹא יֶחֱשׁוּ",

I am unable to unload the burden40 of writing down all that is in my heart.

לֹא אוּכַל מַלֵּט מַשָּׂא לֵאמֹר עִם הַסֵּפֶר כָּל אֲשֶׁר בִּלְבָבִי.

Briefly, however, I come as one who reminds and “repeats earlier subjects”41 in general,

אַך בִּקְצָרָה בָּאתִי, כְּמַזְכִּיר וּמַחֲזִיר עַל הָרִאשׁוֹנוֹת בִּכְלָל,

in particular to “those of the people who offer themselves willingly [in prayer],”42 beyond the customary measure—

וּבִפְרָט אֶל הַמִּתְנַדְּבִים בָּעָם,

that they should stand [steadfast] in [their Divine] service, i.e., prayer, which the Sages call “service of the heart,”43 a form of Divine service which works in the heart and on the heart,

לַעֲמוֹד עַל הָעֲבוֹדָה זוֹ תְּפִלָּה,

[and pray] with a loud voice,44

בְּקוֹל רָם,

strengthening themselves vigorously, with all their might and power, against any internal or external obstacle,

לְהִתְחַזֵּק מְאֹד בְּכָל עוֹז וְתַעֲצוּמוֹת נֶגֶד כָּל מוֹנֵעַ מִבַּיִת וּמִחוּץ,

with a “strong hand,” plainly and simply.

בְּיָד חֲזָקָה כְּמַשְׁמָעוֹ,

This [service] relates to “the will of those who fear Him”45; this transcends the wisdom and understanding with which G‑d imbued them so that they will know and do all that He commanded, with intelligence and discernment.

שֶׁהוּא "רְצוֹן יְרֵיאָיו", אֲשֶׁר לְמַעְלָה מִן הַחָכְמָה וְהַתְּבוּנָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן ה' בָּהֵמָּה לָדַעַת לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת כָּל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה' בְּהַשְׂכֵּל וָדַעַת.

Wisdom and understanding are gifts from G‑d; as we say in the daily prayers, “It is You Who graciously bestows discernment upon man….”46 As to the superior faculty of will, however, it is left to the initiative of every G‑d-fearing Jew to arouse this within himself by accepting the yoke of heaven.

[There should be] but a simple will, uncompounded by the particular form or limitations that characterize an intellectually generated will and a spirit of voluntary self-dedication,

רַק רָצוֹן פָּשׁוּט וְ"רוּחַ נְדִיבָה",

in every man whose heart prompts him to serve “a whole service,”47 [intending only] to cause gratification to his Maker.

בְּכָל אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִדְּבֶנּוּ לִבּוֹ לַעֲבוֹד עֲבוֹדָה תַמָּה, לַעֲשׂוֹת נַחַת רוּחַ לְיוֹצְרוֹ.

Of this [superrational degree of will] it is written, “For this is a stiff-necked people, and You should pardon”48i.e., because they are a “stiff-necked people.”49 This obstinate and superrational will of theirs warrants their being pardoned—

וְעַל זֶה נֶאֱמַר: "כִּי עַם קְשֵׁה עוֹרֶף הוּא, וְסָלַחְתָּ".

for pardon, too, transcends wisdom.

כִּי הַסְּלִיחָה הִיא גַם כֵּן לְמַעְלָה מִן הַחָכְמָה.

Just as a mortal’s will flies free, untrammeled by his intellect, so, too, Above: the Divine source of pardon transcends supernal wisdom.

Thus, [it is written], “they asked Wisdom [what should be the lot of the soul that sins].”50 The attribute of Wisdom ruled that a sinning soul must be judged and punished; it did not allow for repentance and pardon.

כִּי "שָׁאֲלוּ לַחָכְמָה כוּ'",

So did Moses our Master, peace to him, invoke “measure for measure”51; and suffice this for the discerning.

וּמשֶׁה רַבֵּינוּ עָלָיו־הַשָּׁלוֹם בִּיקֵּשׁ מִדָּה כְּנֶגֶד מִדָּה, וְדַי לַמֵּבִין.

Moses pleaded that G‑d grant forgiveness to the same extent that an individual repents with a simple will that transcends his understanding; he desired that man’s repentance elicit and call down to this world the Divine source of pardon which likewise transcends supernal wisdom.

Furthermore, I earnestly ask of my esteemed listeners,

שֶׁלֹּא לְהַשְׁלִיךְ דְּבָרַי אַחֲרֵיכֶם, אֲשֶׁר עָרַכְתִּי שִׂיחַ, לִהְיוֹת כָּל אִישׁ יָשָׁר וְהוֹלֵךְ בְּתוּמּוֹ, כַּאֲשֶׁר "עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹקִים אֶת הָאָדָם יָשָׁר",

On the above matters between man and G‑d, the Alter Rebbe referred to himself as merely “repeating reminders.”

Here, however, as he begins to speak of the relationship between man and man, he uses stronger terms.

not to cast aside my words, in which I have asked that every man be upright and walk with integrity, just as “G‑d made man upright,”52

וְלֹא לְבַקֵּשׁ "חֶשְׁבּוֹנוֹת רַבִּים", מֵ"עֲלִילוֹת מִצְעֲדֵי גָבֶר וּמַחְשְׁבוֹת אָדָם וְתַחְבּוּלוֹתָיו".

nor to seek “numerous calculations”53 regarding “the pretexts of man’s steps and a person’s thoughts and devices.”54

כִּי זוֹ, מְלֶאכֶת שָׁמַיִם הִיא וְלֹא מְלֶאכֶת בָּשָׂר וָדָם.

It is not man’s task to weigh the motives of his fellow.

For that is the work of heaven and not an occupation for flesh and blood.

וּלְהַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵימָה בְּמִצְוַת חֲכָמֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: "וֶהֱוֵי שְׁפַל רוּחַ בִּפְנֵי כָל אָדָם" בִּכְלָל,

Rather, every one should believe with absolute faith in the precept of our Sages, of blessed memory: “And be humble of spirit before every man,”55 without exception,56

כִּי יַצִּיבָא מִלְּתָא וְתַקִּין פִּתְגָּמָא, שֶׁכָּל אֶחָד מְתוּקָּן מֵחֲבֵירוֹ.

for it is a true statement and a correct proverb that every man becomes better through his fellow.

וּכְתִיב: "כָּל [אִישׁ] יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּאִישׁ אֶחָד חֲבֵרִים",

Since every individual possesses specific qualities that others lack, the realization by disparate people that in essence they comprise one whole, enables them all to be complemented and perfected by each other.

The above form of address, “Furthermore, I earnestly ask of my exalted listeners…,” is expounded by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, on the nonliteral level of derush. Noting that אֶדְרוֹשׁ מִמַּעֲלַתְכֶם can also be understood as speaking of “calling forth exalted qualities,” Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak once remarked:57 “This form of address does not mean that the Alter Rebbe was confining his appeal to an exclusive group of exalted individuals; after all, he was addressing this letter to his Chasidim at large. Rather, in using this phrase, he was implying an underlying plea: Call forth your exalted qualities!

With regard to the following pair of phrases, “not to cast aside my words, in which I have asked…,” Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak explains that the former phrase refers to the indirect and transcendent (makif) mode in which the Alter Rebbe influenced his Chasidim while the second phrase refers to his simultaneously direct and internalized (pnimi) mode of influence.

Finally, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak points out that the Alter Rebbe’s following affirmation that “every man [literally:] is better than his fellow” really means that one’s fellows enable one to become a better person; i.e., as translated above, “every man becomes better through his fellow.”

Thus, too, it is written, “All the men of Israel…associated together like one man.”58

כְּמוֹ שֶׁאִישׁ אֶחָד מְחוּבָּר מֵאֵבָרִים רַבִּים, וּבְהִפָּרְדָם נוֹגֵעַ בַּלֵּב, "כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ תּוֹצְאוֹת חַיִּים",

Just as one man is composed of many limbs, and when they become separated, this affects the heart, for from it, there issues life,

אִם כֵּן אֲנַחְנוּ הֱיוֹת כּוּלָּנוּ כְּאִישׁ אֶחָד מַמָּשׁ – תִּיכּוֹן הָעֲבוֹדָה בַּלֵּב,

therefore, by our truly being all like one man, the service [of G‑d] in the heart i.e., prayer will be firmly established.

וּמִכְּלַל הֵן כוּ',

To consider both this divisiveness and this harmony on the cosmic level, in terms of the relation of souls to the Divine Presence: The above sentence means59 that divisiveness among Jews affects, as it were, the Divine Presence, the “heart” of the Jewish people; conversely, since the task of prayer is to connect a soul with its source in the Divine Presence, cultivating one’s sense of unity with one’s fellows—which in turn connects all souls with the Shechinah—enhances the Divine service of prayer.

And from the affirmative [you may infer the negative].60

וְעַל כֵּן נֶאֱמַר: "וּלְעָבְדוֹ שְׁכֶם אֶחָד" דַּוְקָא.

(The bracketed clause is euphemistically omitted in the Hebrew original and merely hinted at by “etc.”) I.e., when unity is lacking, the service of prayer is likewise imperfect.

That is why it is said, “To serve Him with one purpose”61 (literally, “with one part” or “with one shoulder”): only when all Jews fully unite in this way can it be said that they “serve Him.”

וְעַל כֵּן אֲהוּבַיי יְדִידַיי, נָא וְנָא לִטְרוֹחַ בְּכָל לֵב וָנֶפֶשׁ לִתְקוֹעַ אַהֲבַת רֵעֵהוּ בְּלִבּוֹ,

The Alter Rebbe resumes his plea to his Chasidim: Therefore, my beloved and dear ones, I beg again and again that each of you exert himself with all his heart and soul to firmly implant in his heart a love for his fellow Jew,

"וְאִישׁ אֶת רָעַת רֵעֵהוּ אַל תַּחְשְׁבוּ בִּלְבַבְכֶם" כְּתִיב,

and, in the words of Scripture, “let none of you consider in your heart what is evil for his fellow.”62

וְלֹא תַעֲלֶה עַל לֵב לְעוֹלָם,

Moreover, [such a consideration] should never arise in one’s heart [in the first place];

וְאִם תַּעֲלֶה –

and if it does arise, for even a person who has attained the rank of a beinoni cannot prevent a thought from presenting itself to his mind,

יֶהְדְּפֶנָּה מִלִּבּוֹ כְּהִנְדּוֹף עָשָׁן, וּכְמוֹ מַחֲשֶׁבֶת עֲבוֹדָה־זָרָה מַמָּשׁ.

one should push it away from his heart63 “as smoke is driven away,” as if it were an actual idolatrous thought.64

כִּי גְדוֹלָה לָשׁוֹן הָרָע כְּנֶגֶד עֲבוֹדָה־זָרָה וְגִילּוּי עֲרָיוֹת וּשְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים.

For to speak evil [of another] is as grave as idolatry and incest and bloodshed.65

וְאִם בְּדִבּוּר כָּךְ כוּ',

And if this be so with speech, [then surely thinking evil about another is even worse,66]

וּכְבָר נוֹדָע לְכָל חֲכַם לֵב יִתְרוֹן הֶכְשֵׁר הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה עַל הַדִּבּוּר,

for all the wise of heart are aware of the greater impact [on the soul] of thought over speech,

הֵן לְטוֹב וְהֵן לְמוּטָב.

whether for the good or for the better.

וַה' הַטּוֹב הַמְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּוֹ בַּשָּׁלוֹם, יָשִׂים עֲלֵיכֶם שָׁלוֹם וְחַיִּים עַד הָעוֹלָם,

This really means, “whether for good or for bad.” Here, too, however, the Alter Rebbe uses a traditional euphemism (“for the better”), which could be understood to mean, “for that which needs to become better.67

Thought is a soul-garment that is more intimately involved with the soul than speech. For this reason, (a) good thoughts leave a deeper impression on oneself than good speech, and conversely, evil thoughts leave a deeper impression than evil speech; (b) thought is a constant, just as the soul itself is a constant, whereas with regard to speech,68 “There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak.”

May the good L-rd, Who blesses His people with peace, bestow peace and life upon you forever more,

כְּנֶפֶשׁ אוֹהֵב נַפְשָׁם מִלֵּב וָנֶפֶשׁ:

as is the wish of him who loves you deeply from heart and soul.