About This Letter

The following letter has been a great source of optimism, strength and courage for generations of chassidim who have treasured and memorized its words, especially in challenging times. Its final lines form the basis of the well-known advice of the Tzemach Tzedek, “Think good and it will be good.”

The letter was obviously written to someone of lofty spiritual standing. It also assumes the knowledge of a fundamental teaching of the Baal Shem Tov concerning the ongoing act of creation.

As R. Schneur Zalman explains elsewhere,1 the Baal Shem Tov taught that the act of creation described at the beginning of Genesis is an ongoing one, as the divine energy issued in that initial act continues to sustain the very substance of each and every creation. Even the fundamental elements of matter, energy, time and space require a continual current of this energy for their very existence.

If this divine energy would cease, taught the Baal Shem Tov, even for the slightest moment, instantaneously the entire universe would not only cease to exist, but would retroactively never have existed, as though it had never been created.

The critical point is for us to be conscious that there is no reason that anything at all should exist at this moment—including our very selves—other than a deliberate flow of positive, divine energy from the Source of All Existence. If so, He is constantly with us and doing good for us at every moment.

Accordingly, the Baal Shem Tov taught:

…the Creator, whose glory fills the earth, He and His presence are continually with you. This is the most subtle of all experiences.

Tell yourself, “He is the Master of all that occurs in the world. He can do anything I desire. And therefore, it makes no sense for me to put my confidence in anything else but Him, may He be blessed.”

Rejoice constantly. Ponder and believe with complete faith that the Divine Presence is with you and protecting you; that you are bound up with the Creator and the Creator is bound up with you, with your every limb and every faculty; that your focus is fixed on the Creator and the Creator’s focus is fixed upon you.

And the Creator could do whatever He wants. If He so desired, He could rescind the existence of all the worlds in a single moment and recreate them all in a single moment. For the current of His energy runs through each thing.

And you say, “As for me, I do not rely upon, nor do I fear, anyone or anything other than Him, blessed be He.”2

The origin of this divine energy is the Creator’s wisdom, a wisdom that lies far beyond even the most spiritual creation and is entirely one with Him. In Genesis, it is referred to as Eden, as in the verse, “And a river went out from Eden to water the garden.” The word eden means delight. All existence and all life is rooted in this wisdom, and the driving force behind existence is divine pleasure.3

Yet, being entirely beyond all things, it is inaccessible to any intellect, as the Zohar teaches, “No thought can grasp Him at all.” Even though it is the source of all existence, from the perspective of our existence it cannot be called an existence at all. And so we say that the creation is an act of “something from nothing.”

Whereas, if we were capable of looking from above, from the perspective of that wisdom, we would call the creation itself a “nothing”—since its existence is entirely contingent, at every moment, upon the goodness of its Creator.

A Letter From R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi (circa 1800)4

…It’s only a matter of real faith in the One Who Designs With the Beginning.
That means realizing that the initial act of creating a world out of nothingness

—which is called “the beginning of wisdom”5
meaning His wisdom,
—a “nothingness” because it is a wisdom incomprehensible to any created being

—this creative act is occurring all the time,
at every moment, as every creation is generated into somethingness
out of the nothingness of His all-vitalizing wisdom.

And when you engage a deep level of your understanding
and form an image in your mind of this experience
of being generated into being out of the void every single moment mamesh
—how could you imagine that there’s anything bad in your life?
Or that you suffer from concerns of children, health or income,
or any other kind of suffering in the world?

Look, the nothingness that is His wisdom, blessed be He,
is the source of life, of good and of pleasure.
It’s the Eden that’s beyond the World To Come.
It’s only because we cannot comprehend it that it appears bad or as suffering.

But in truth,
nothing bad descends from above.6
Everything is good.
It’s just that it is incomprehensible because it is such a great, plentiful good.

This is the fundamental faith for which all human beings were created:
to believe that there is no place void of Him.7

One who stands in the presence of the King comes alive,8
and therefore, there is strength and joy in His place,9
since He is nothing but goodness all day long!10

Therefore, the first priority is to celebrate;
to rejoice on every occasion and at every time,
to mamesh come alive out of your faith in G‑d,
who vitalizes you and does good for you at every moment.

But when you are sad and fret,
you’re indicating that you believe you have some bad or suffering in life,
or that there is some good that you are missing.
And that’s like heresy, heaven forbid!
Which is why the Kabbalists so much rejected any depressing attitude.

But a person with faith isn’t concerned about any suffering in the world.
In all matters of the world, yes and no are the same.
Really the same.

If it’s not the same for someone,
that’s an indication that he is from the “mixed multitude,”11
who do everything just for themselves.
He loves himself so much that he would escape from under G‑d’s hand
and live the life of an idolater
out of this love for himself.

Such a person would be better off had he never been created.

Because the main reason a person is created and put into this world
is in order to test him with these kinds of tests,
to determine what’s in his heart,
if his heart will turn after those things called “other gods,”
meaning the lusts of the heart that devolve from the other side12
and that’s what he desires,

or if his desire and will is to live a real life
which emerges from the living G‑d.

You have to believe that you truly live a divine life,
that all your needs and everything you have,
really comes to you in every tiny detail of a detail
not from the other side—heaven forbid!
Rather, every one of your footsteps is set by G‑d,13
and there isn’t a word on your tongue14 (or even a thought in your mind15 )
that He didn’t know about beforehand.

And if so, everything is the ultimate good.
It’s just that it’s beyond comprehension.

With this faith, in truth, everything becomes good openly as well.
Because with this faith
that you believe that the things that appear bad to you superficially
are entirely vitalized from the supernal good
which is His wisdom, may He be blessed,
a wisdom that is incomprehensible
and that is the Eden beyond the World To Come,
with this faith
the outwardly-seeming bad
merges and rises in truth into the supernal, hidden good.