This letter was sent in response to a query from R. Menachem Mendel Margolis, a shochet from Massachusetts.

B”H, 28 Teves, 5708

Greetings and blessings,

In response to what you wrote in your letter:

a) Shmos Rabbah (the conclusion of ch. 1 and ch. 17:3) [interprets the charge1 to place the blood of the Paschal sacrifice] on “the lintel” as referring to Avraham who is “great with regard to converts.” Just as the lintel is raised high, so, too, he was the greatest of the Patriarchs. ‘And to the two doorposts,’ i.e., in the merit of Yitzchak and Yaakov.”

You note that this appears opposite to what is stated in several sources that Avraham represents the right vector, Yitzchak, the left vector, and Yaakov, the middle vector which connects the two of them.

[In response,] I will quote what was written by the Tzemach Tzedek in the maamar entitled Mezuzah MiYemin (Or HaTorah, p. 328a). On this basis, the above [difficulty] can be understood. The Tzemach Tzedek writes:

[Shmos] Rabbah, [Parshas] Bo, ch. 17, [interprets] “the lintel” as [referring to] the merit of Avraham, and “the two doorposts” as referring to the merit of Yitzchak and Yaakov.

In [his gloss to the Zohar, Parshas] Emor, p. 95a, Ramaz interprets the lintel and the two doorposts as referring to the attributes of Kesser, Chochmah, and Binah as they exist within Malchus which are drawn down by Tiferes, Netzach, and Hod of Z’eir Anpin.

Accordingly, it would be appropriate to say that the two doorposts refer to Avraham and Yitzchak for they personify the two [outer] vectors and that the lintel relates to the middle vector, the attribute of Tiferes, identified with Yaakov.

It is possible to explain as follows: Avraham is referred to as “a great man among giants.”2 This refers to Erech Anpin which is referred to as “the ancient ancestor.” Similarly, Avraham was the grandfather of Yaakov who is identified with Z’eir Anpin.3

Yitzchak, his father, is associated with the sublime father,[i.e., Chochmah,] for [in the ultimate Future,] Yitzchak will be told:4 “For you are our father.” Similarly, the maamar entitled Vayeishev interprets the verse5 “And he dwelled in the land of his father’s sojourns” as referring to the sublime wisdom which is called “his father.”

Although Yitzchak is associated with the attribute of judgment, Chochmah is referred to as judgment when compared to Kesser. Thus Avraham, the lintel, refers to Kesser, andYitzchakandYaakovrefer to the sublime father and Z’eir Anpin which are the two doorposts.

Thus with regard to the Patriarchs and the allusion to them, the lintel and the two doorposts, it is necessary to understand the distinction from two different perspectives:

a) Length, i.e., the [chronological] order of the generations in which each one is higher than the one following it. In this context, the lintel, which is higher and above the doorposts, refers to Avraham whose level surpasses that of Yitzchak which in turn surpasses that of Yaakov, i.e., Erech Anpin, Chochmah, and Z’eir Anpin.

{With regard to the doorposts, it is possible to explainthat the right doorpost (mezuzah),which according to this perspective alludes to Yitzchak, also has chronological precedence over the left doorpost, as indicated by our Sages’ statement with regard to the mitzvah of mezuzah (Yoma 11b): “When a person lifts up [his feet], he lifts up the right foot first.”}

b) In breadth, the three vectors; according to this perspective, the lintel refers to Yaakov, as above.

In Magen Avos, in the maamar entitled Mezuzah MiYemin, 5663, [the author] endows it with a double measure of power,6 combining both of the above dimensions together.

It is possible to say that Magen Avos spoke concisely, or — to state it more correctly — several words were omitted.

There are three indications that this is so:

i) The maamar from the Tzemach Tzedek cited above on which the maamar in Magen Avos is based.

ii) In the book [labeled] Shmos from the Tzemach Tzedek (in the collection of manuscripts possessed by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita), in sec. 4 [of the maamar] on the verse, Shmos 12:22,7 he writes:

With regard to the arrival of the time for the exodus from Egypt, it is said:8 “Skipping over the mountains,” this refers to the Patriarchs, reflecting the three vectors... the right and left, with the lintel above them being the root of the middle vector... the center bolt.

The Midrash in Parshas Bo states: “‘The lintel’ — this is Avraham... the greatest of the Patriarchs.” This refers to their source in the Chessed, Gevurah, and Tiferes of Atik. For the Chessed of Atik Yamim isenclothed in the skull of Erech Anpin, the level of Kesser within Kesser itself. This is “the lintel,” the attribute associated with Avraham.

Yitzchak relates to the attribute of Gevurah of Atik Yamim which is enclothed in the sealed intellect. Yaakov is identified with Tiferes of Atik Yamim, the membrane above the empty space.

iii) What is written in the Siddur Maharid (the Tzemach Tzedek’s grandson) on the first passage of the Shema concerning the verse: “And you shall write them”:

The Midrash Rabbah, Parshas Bo, states: “‘The lintel’ — this is in the merit of Avraham.” [The three] refer to Kesser, Chochmah, and Binah of Malchus which are drawn down from Tiferes, Netzach, and Hod of Z’eir Anpin. Avraham and Yitzchak represent the two vectors: Avraham, Chessed, and Yitzchak, Gevurah. The lintel represents the middle vector, Tiferes, which is identified with Yaakov.

We find that Moshe Rabbeinu reversed the order, stating: “And you shall reach the lintel and the two doorposts,” concerning which the Midrash Rabbah states: “‘The lintel’ — this is Avraham.” [Avraham refers] to Kesser, Yitzchak, to the sublime father, Chochmah, which is referred to as judgment with regard to Kesser. Yaakov is identified with Z’eir Anpin, the quality of Tiferes.

A similar explanation should be given [with regard to the passage from] Magen Avos.

b) You ask concerning the explanation of the twelve diagonals in the spiritual realms, for their explanation with regard to our Divine service is found in the maamar entitled Yavo Zeh in Magen Avos, sec. 4.

It is not clear what you mean by “the explanation in the spiritual realms.” [Your question] appears to arise on the basis of what that maamar states with regard to Chessed and Gevurah [that is expressed] through ordinary worldly conduct which is either characterized by Chessed alone or Gevurah alone. [Your] question [thus appears to] be: If so, what are the twelve diagonals?

The concept can be understood on the basis of the explanation of the concept that the world will exist for six millennia9 which parallel the Six Days of Creation,10 each one reflecting another emotional attribute. During the first millennium, the attribute of Chessed, kindness, shined. (This refers to Z’eir Anpin which is a keli for the Chessed of Erech Anpin, as explained in the maamar entitled VeChol HaAm Ro’im, 5665.) Therefore all existence received its sustenance through the kindness of the Holy One, blessed be He, although they aroused His wrath.

The second millennium was characterized by the attribute of Gevurah, might. Therefore it contained the flood, utter destruction. Tiferes, beauty, characterized the third millennium. Therefore it contained the exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah, described as a threefold light.

Netzach, an offshoot of Chessed, characterized the fourth millennium. Therefore it contained the two Batei HaMikdash, even though there were opposing forces to this to the extent that it is written:11 “[This city has spurred] My wrath and My anger....”

The fifth millennium was characterized by Hod, the conclusion of the left vector [which is associated with constraint and harsh judgment]. Thus the word דוה in the phrase:12 “ailing (דוה) the entire day” shares the same letters as Hod (הוד), for the entire era was characterized by harsh decrees and attempts to wipe out our people, Heaven forbid. (But in this regard, it is written:13 “I will give thanks to You, O G‑d, because You vented Your anger upon me,” i.e., in contrast to the flood in the second millennium, [this era was not characterized by utter destruction].)

Yesod, the attribute of connection and the conclusion of the emotional attributes, characterizes the sixth millennium. For then the Redemption will take place. Indeed, were it not for our sins, the Redemption would already have arrived, as indicated by our Sages’ statement (Sanhedrin 97b).14

All of the above applies when the pattern is that each emotional attribute is expressed independently. When, however, the pattern is influenced by the twelve diagonals, every attribute is intermingled with the quality of the opposing attribute. Accordingly, one’s conduct is also blended [and balanced].

See also the explanation of the functioning of the emotional attributes in the spiritual realms in the maamar entitled mitzvas gid hanasheh in Derech Mitzvosecha from the Tzemach Tzedek and in the maamar entitled VaYomar Lo Yonason in Or HaTorah and its explanation. This appears to be the source from which the maamar Yavo Zeh was taken. In Or HaTorah, however, there is greater elaboration and explanation.

With wishes for everlasting good in all matters,

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee

I am surprised that you are writing to me at a different address. If you desire that your letters reach me at the appropriate time, please send them to the address of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch or Kehot.

You are certainly aware that Kehot recently published several texts of the teachings of Chassidus.