מה רב טובך אשר צפנת ליראיך וגו׳

“How abundant is Your goodness which You have hidden away for those who fear You, [which You have wrought for those who trust in You before man].”1

Now the first part of the verse states that the reward is “hidden away,” while its conclusion implies that it is revealed to the sight of man.

The Alter Rebbe will now explain that corresponding to these two forms of reward, the Jew’s spiritual service (that leads to the reward) likewise assumes two forms: there is both a concealed and a revealed form of divine service.

הנה בכלל עובדי ה׳, יש ב׳ בחינות ומדרגות חלוקות

Among those who serve G‑d by fulfilling the Torah and its mitzvot, there are two distinct kinds and levels,

מצד שורש נשמתם למעלה, מבחינת ימין ושמאל

depending on the root of their souls above, in the categories of the “right” (Chesed) and the “left” (Gevurah).

דהיינו, שבחינת שמאל היא מדת הצמצום וההסתר בעבודת ה׳

In terms of the effect of the soul’s root, this means that the “left” is characterized by contraction and concealment in one’s divine service.

כמו שכתוב: והצנע לכת גו׳

Thus, with regard to this manner of service, it is written,2 “...and to walk covertly [with the L‑rd your G‑d]”;

במסתרים תבכה גו׳

[and in another verse we find],3 “in secret places weeps [my soul]...”;

כל העוסק בתורה בסתר כו׳

[and, in the words of our Sages],4 “Whoever engages in the study of the Torah in secret....”

The three above-mentioned quotations refer to the three general modes of divine service: With regard to mitzvot — “to walk covertly”; regarding prayer — “my soul weeps”; and with regard to Torah — “engages in the study of the Torah in secret.”

All the above approaches to divine service result from one of the the traits that characterizes Gevurah, viz., concealment. The Alter Rebbe now goes on to speak of the other dominant trait that characterizes the attribute of Gevurah, viz., contraction.

והנה ממדה זו נמשכה גם כן בחינת הצמצום והגבול בעבודת ה׳

From this attribute derives also the element of contraction and limitation in the service of G‑d;

כמו בצדקה, להיות נידון בהשג יד

for example, having one’s disbursements to charity adjudged according to one’s means,5

והמבזבז, אל יבזבז יותר מחומש

and [setting one’s limits in the spirit of the teaching],6 “He who gives lavishly, should not expend more than one fifth.”

וכהאי גונא בתלמוד תורה ושארי מצות, די לו שיוצא ידי חובתו מחיוב מפורש שחייבתו התורה בפירוש

Likewise, as regards the study of Torah and the other commandments, such a person is satisfied if he discharges his definite duty which the Torah explicitly obligates him to do,

לקבוע עתים כו׳

such as to set aside certain times [for Torah study].

Thus, the soul’s root in the Supernal “left”, in the attribute of Gevurah, will lead one to act in a manner consistent with its character trait of limitation: so that he will give only as much tzedakah, study only as much Torah, and perform the mitzvot only to the degree that he is obligated.

וממנה נמשך גם כן מה שאמרו רז״ל: זרוק מרה בתלמידים כו׳

From it derives also the teaching of our Sages, of blessed memory,7 “Cast awe upon the pupils....”8

אך בחינת ימין היא מדת החסד וההתפשטות בעבודת ה׳

By contrast, the characteristic of the “right” is the attribute of Chesed and expansiveness — serving G‑d

בהתרחבות, בלי צמצום והסתר כלל

with amplitude, without any contraction or concealment whatever,

כמו שכתוב: ואתהלכה ברחבה כו׳

as it is written,9 “And I will walk about expansively...,”

וגם בלי צמצום וגבול כלל

and without any contraction or limitation whatever. I.e., with such an individual, not only the approach to divine service but also its execution is characterized by a broad sweep.

ואין מעצור לרוח נדבתו, בין בצדקה ובין בתלמוד תורה ושאר מצות

There is no restraint to the spirit of his generosity, whether it be with respect to charity, the study of Torah, or other commandments.

ולא די לו לצאת ידי חובתו בלבד, אלא עד בלי די כו׳

He is not satisfied with merely discharging his obligation, but [continues]10 “to the extent of never [saying] ‘Enough!’...”

These, then, are the two types of divine service that result from the soul’s being rooted either in the “right” or the “left”.

* * *

והנה כל איש ישראל צריך להיות כלול מב׳ בחינות אלו

Now, every Jew needs to comprise both these traits: a Jew whose soul derives from Chesed must also incorporate the thrust of Gevurah, and vice versa,

ואין לך דבר שאין לו מקום

for11 “There is no thing that has not its place.”

Both Chesed and Gevurah are essential to one’s service; at times he must use one attribute, at times — the other.

ולכן מצינו כמה דברים מקולי בית שמאי ומחומרי בית הלל

Thus we find various matters that exemplify the leniencies of Beit Shammai and the stringencies of Beit Hillel.12

ללמדנו, שאף בית שמאי, ששרש נשמתם מבחינת שמאל העליון, ולכן היו דנין להחמיר תמיד בכל איסורי התורה

This comes to teach us that even Beit Shammai, whose soul was rooted in the Supernal “left”,13 (which is why they always decided stringently as regards all the prohibitions of the Torah,

For stringencies stem from Gevurah, inasmuch as they prevent an object from being used and thereby elevated.

ובית הלל, שהיו מבחינת ימין העליון, היו מלמדין זכות להקל ולהתיר איסורי בית שמאי

whereas Beit Hillel, who derived from the Supernal “right”, would find arguments for leniency in order to render permissible the things prohibited by Beit Shammai,

שיהיו מותרים מאיסורם, ויוכלו לעלות למעלה

so that these should become released from their prohibitive bonds and be able to ascend), —

The word אסור means “bound” (i.e., to the sitra achra) and hence “prohibited”. Its opposite (מותר) means “released” and hence “permitted”. Declaring an object permissible thus unfetters it from the bonds of the sitra achra, thereby allowing it to ascend, as explained in Tanya, Part I, ch. 7.

אף על פי כן, בכמה דברים היו בית שמאי מקילין

nevertheless, in numerous matters, [even] Beit Shammai were lenient.

מפני התכללות שרש נשמתם, שהוא כלול גם מימין

[This is so] because of the inclusiveness of their soul’s root, which is compounded of the “right” (Chesed) as well.

וכן שורש נשמת בית הלל כלול גם משמאל

And, likewise, the root of Beit Hillel’s soul was also compounded of the “left” (Gevurah).

כידוע דרך ומדות קדש העליון

For, as is known of the mode and the attributes14 (i.e., the manner) of Supernal Holiness,

דלית תמן קיצוץ ופירוד, חס ושלום

“there is no cleavage or division there,”15 heaven forfend;

וכל המדות כלולות זו מזו

rather, all the traits that derive from Supernal Holiness incorporate each other — Chesed incorporates an aspect of Gevurah; Gevurah of Chesed; and so on.

ולכן הן מיוחדות זו בזו, כידוע ליודעי חן

They are therefore in union with each other, as is known to those who study the Kabbalah (lit., “the scholars of the Hidden Wisdom”).

Although Chesed and Gevurah are opposites, nonetheless, since they are also compounded of each other, they are able to work together.

וכדכתיב באברהם, שהוא מדת החסד והאהבה: עתה ידעתי כי ירא אלקים אתה

Thus it is written of Abraham,16 who personifies the attribute of Chesed and love, “Now I know that you stand in awe of G‑d,”

על ידי שלבש מדת הגבורה, ויעקוד את יצחק בנו, ויקח את המאכלת גו׳

— for he had garbed himself in the attribute of Gevurah, which was not of his essence,17 “And bound Isaac his son...and took the knife [to slaughter his son].”

We thus see that Abraham, who is the very embodiment of Chesed, was able to respond as the occasion demanded with even this expression of severity, the very epitome of the attribute of Gevurah.

ומה שאמר הכתוב: אברהם אוהבי, ופחד יצחק

As for Scripture characterizing him as18 “Abraham who loved Me,” and [in another verse characterizing Isaac as]19 “the Dread of Isaac,” thereby indicating that Abraham’s service was an expression of Chesed and Isaac’s service an expression of Gevurah, which would seem to contradict the earlier statement that Abraham also revealed the attribute of Gevurah,

הנה ההפרש וההבדל הזה הוא בבחינת גילוי והעלם

this difference and distinction exists [only] on the scale of manifestation and concealment.

שבמדת יצחק, הפחד הוא בבחינת גילוי, והאהבה מסותרת בבחינת העלם והסתר

In Isaac’s mode of divine service, the fear is manifest, while the love is hidden, in a state of concealment and hiding.

וההיפך במדת אברהם אבינו, עליו השלום

The opposite is the case with the trait of our father Abraham, peace be to him — Chesed was manifest and Gevurah was concealed.

וזהו שאמר דוד המלך, עליו השלום, מה רב טובך וגו׳

And this is the meaning of what was said by King David, peace be to him, who was20 of the attribute of Gevurah, “How abundant is Your goodness [which You have hidden away for those who fear You].”

כלומר, שמדת הטוב והחסד, אשר היא בבחינת העלם והסתר אצל כל מי ששורש נשמתו מבחינת שמאל

That is to say that the attribute of goodness and Chesed, which is in a state of concealment and hiding within those whose soul-root derives from the “left”, i.e., from Gevurah,

הנקראים בשם יראיך

and who are referred to as “those who fear You,”

כמדת בית שמאי

resembling the [above-mentioned] trait of Beit Shammai, —

הנה, אף שהוא טוב הגנוז וצפון

though this is a concealed and hidden goodness, beneath a dominant surface of Gevurah,

אף על פי כן הוא רב וגדול מאד, כמו מדת הגדולה והחסד ממש, שמבחינת ימין

it is nevertheless truly as abundant and immense as the attribute of Gedulah21 and Chesed, which is of the “right”.

Although the element of Chesed within those described as “those that fear You” is concealed, for their soul-root derives essentially from Gevurah, it is latent within them just as abundantly as it is found within those who are essentially of the “right”.

ושתיהן הן מבחינת גילוי בלי גבול ומדה ושיעור

Moreover, both [degrees of Chesed] — that which is dominant in the souls deriving from the “right” as well as that incorporated in the souls deriving from the “left” are manifest without limit, measure or dimension.

וזהו שכתוב: מה רב טובך

And this is the meaning of the phrase, “How abundant is Your goodness”;

כלומר, בלי גבול ומדה

i.e., [it applies in both cases] without limit and measure;

בין הטוב אשר צפנת ליראיך, ובין אשר פעלת לחוסים בך

whether it be the goodness “which You have hidden away for those who fear You,” or that which “You have wrought for those who trust in You,”

שהם בעלי הבטחון שמבחינת ימין

referring to the trusting ones who derive from the “right”,

A person trusts his beloved friend to act in his best interests. In the same way, those whose souls stem from the “right” and who serve G‑d with Chesed and love, place their trust in Him.

וחסדם וטובם הוא גם כן בבחינת גילוי והתפשטות נגד בני אדם

and whose kindness and goodness are also in a state of manifestation and expansiveness before [the sight of] man,

ולא בבחינת צמצום והסתר כלל

and by no means in a state of contraction and concealment.

We can now understand why the verse begins by saying “hidden away for those who fear You” and concludes with the manifest state of “before man”: The verse is alluding to two forms of Chesed — in its concealed state, as possessed by “those who fear You,” and in its revealed state, as possessed by “those who trust in You.”

ומה שכתוב: ליראיך, ולא ביראיך

(22The reason the verse says “for those who fear You,” which would seem to imply that the Chesed from above is granted to them as a reward, rather than “in those who fear You,”

היינו משום שכל מה שהוא בבחינת העלם בכל נשמה

is that whatever is in a state of concealment within any soul

הנה בחינה זו אינה מלובשת תוך הגוף, במוחו ולבו

is not vested within the body — in the individual’s mind and heart, for they are incapable of receiving it.

אלא היא בבחינת מקיף מלמעלה

Rather, it encompasses [the individual] from above, so to speak,

ומשם היא מאירה למוחו ולבו, לעתים הצריכים להתעוררות בחינה זו

and thence it radiates to his mind and heart at those times which require an arousal of the attribute in question,

שתתעורר ותאיר למוחו ולבו, כדי לבא לידי מעשה בפועל ממש

so that it will be aroused and will illumine his mind and heart in order to result in actual deeds.)

For example, a person whose charitable contributions are customarily limited will have revealed to him the concealed and infinite attribute of Chesed, which will prompt him to give tzedakah unstintingly.

ואמר על כן: אשר רב טוב לבית ישראל, הצפון והגלוי, הוא בבחינת בלי גבול ומדה לפי ערך נפשותם המלובשת בגוף

[King David] therefore said that whereas the “abundance of goodness” of the House of Israel, [both] that which is hidden and that which is manifest, is (so to speak) without limit and measure (relative to the category of their soul vested in the body),

The kindness of a finite creature is by definition limited. However, it may be termed infinite in relation to the soul vested in the body.

לכן גם אתה ה׳ תתנהג עמהם במדת חסדך הגדול, בלי גבול ותכלית, הנקרא רב חסד

therefore “You, too, O G‑d, relate to them with the attribute of Your unlimited and infinitely great Chesed, which is of the level known as Gedulah, and which is called rav Chesed” — the Chesed of Arich Anpin that utterly transcends the lesser Chesed of Z’eir Anpin, from which the worlds evolve by means of the Seder Hishtalshelut.

דאית חסד ואית חסד

“For there is Chesed and [then] there is [a far higher form of] Chesed”:23

אית חסד עולם

There is Chesed olam (lit., “Chesed of the world”) — i.e., a worldlike (and hence finite) Chesed,

שיש כנגדו ולעומתו מדת הדין, חס ושלום

that has an opposite counterpart — the attribute of din, of severe justice, heaven forfend,

למעט ולצמצם חסדו וטובו

which would diminish and contract [G‑d’s] goodness.

אבל חסד עליון, הנקרא רב חסד

The superior form of Chesed, however, which is called rav Chesed,

אין כנגדו מדת הדין, למעט ולצמצם רוב חסדו, מלהתפשט בלי גבול ותכלית

does not have the attribute of din opposed to it, to diminish and contract the abundance of [G‑d’s] benevolence from extending without limit or end.

כי הוא נמשך מבחינת סובב כל עלמין, וטמירא דכל טמירין

For it derives from the level of [Divinity called] Sovev Kol Almin, which transcends (lit., “encompasses”) all worlds and limitations, and from [the level of Divinity called] Temira DeChol Temirin (lit., “that which is hidden [even] from all the hidden [worlds]),”

הנקרא כתר עליון

which is called Keter Elyon (lit., “the Supernal Crown”), i.e., the utterly transcendent level of Divinity known as Keter.

וזהו שכתוב: תסתירם בסתר פניך וגו׳, תצפנם בסוכה וגו׳

This, then, is the meaning of the verse which follows our opening quotation, and which continues to speak of “those who fear You” and “those who trust in You”: “Hide them in the concealment of Your innermost dimension...” (for, as explained above, פנים denotes both “countenance” and “inwardness”); “conceal them in a sukkah...” (i.e., in the sublime level of Chesed which, deriving from the above-mentioned level of Keter, transcends the Seder Hishtalshelut, and will encompass them like a sukkah).

Supplement by the Rebbe

The thrust of the above letter, which was delivered by an emissary who was to collect contributions for charity, is that even those who serve G‑d by means of their soul-root in the “left”, — even if, like Beit Shammai, they are totally righteous individuals (who need not give tzedakah [for the sake of atonement]; cf. “for we are not complete,” as explained above in Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 10), — nevertheless, they too possess “an abundant and immense” degree of Chesed. “At those times which require it,” moreover, “it results in actual deeds.”’

This is explicit in the concluding passage of the letter which was not printed “by the rabbis, long may they live, sons of the illustrious author of blessed memory, whose soul is in Eden,” and which reads as follows:24

ואחר הדברים האלה, נפשי בשאלתי

And after the above words, from the depths of my soul I seek

לעורר רב טוב הגנוז והצפון בלב כל אנשי שלומנו

to arouse the [infinite] abundance of benevolence that is concealed in the heart of every individual in the chassidic brotherhood,25

מן ההעלם אל הגילוי, לבא לידי מעשה

[so that it be manifested] from concealment to revelation and be translated into action,

למלאות ידם לה׳, ביד מלאה ורחבה

and so that you will all “fill your hands unto G‑d” by giving charity with a full and open hand

על ידי ציר נאמן, מוסר כתב זה כו׳, ודי למבין כמו שכתוב באגרת

through the trusted bearer of this message — and what is written [above] in the letter should suffice for the discerning.

ואין אני כותבו מחמת שלא נצרך, ודי למבין

I am not spelling it out, for this is not necessary; the above will suffice.

הכל דברי אוהב נפשם, דורש שלומם מלב ונפש חפיצה

These are the words of one who loves you with all his soul, and who seeks your welfare with heartfelt and soulful longing.

At this point the Alter Rebbe signs:

שניאור זלמן בן לאדוני אבי מורנו ורבנו הרב ר׳ ברוך

Shneur Zalman, the son of my master, my father, our mentor and Rebbe, Rabbi Baruch

The Rebbe adds: “The above passage [which makes it clear that the foregoing teachings were intended to find practical expression in the giving of tzedakah] enables us to understand the relevance here of the first part of this letter, which otherwise should seemingly have begun with והנה כל איש ישראל — ‘Now every Jew needs to comprise....”’