This letter was addressed to R. Yisrael Meir Altein.

B”H, the second day of Rosh Chodesh Adar I, 5708

Greetings and blessings,

In response to your letter:

a) We have written to R. Nosson Klar.

b) With regard to the statement in Tanya, ch. 2: “Even now, within the son, the nurture of the fingernails and their life-energy is drawn down from the brain in the head.” It appears obvious to me that the intent is the head of the son, and not of the father. This is visible in actual life. Similarly, with regard to the analogue, the nurture and the life-energy of the nefesh, ruach, and neshamah of the common people (the analogue to the fingernails of “My son, my firstborn, Israel”)1 is from the nefesh, ruach, and neshamah of the leaders of the children of Israel in their generation (in the analogue, the brain and the head [of the son]).

A note: In the analogue, through clinging to Torah sages, the nefesh, ruach, and neshamah of the common people become united in their original source, with the Divine presence. If so, seemingly, in the analogy, we would be forced to say that through deriving nurture from the brain in the son’s head, the son’s fingernails are connected with the drop [of sperm] from the father’s brain.

Perhaps this is indeed so. For the brain in the son’s head was also created from [the father’s] sperm (Niddah 31a, as cited in Tanya). If so, [the son’s brain] is not changed into a different entity, and there remains always enclothed within it the substance of the drop of sperm from the father’s brain.

Alternatively, it can be explained that in this aspect, the analogy differs from the analogue. This is also reflected in the fact that, as explained, the son becomes a separate entity, independent from his father. Therefore, he is not obligated in mesirus nefesh [for his father’s sake]. This is not true with regard to the soul. See the maamar entitled Shir HaMaalos MiMaamakim in Likkutei Torah end of ch. 1.

c) With regard to Tanya, ch. 3, [you ask] why the concept of כח, “power,” is used in relation to Chochmah, but not in relation to Binah?

There are two interpretations of the term koach:

i) When one speaks of the kochos of the soul, the intent is “the limbs,” [i.e., the powers,] of the soul. See Tanya, ch. 51, which speaks of the 613 powers of the soul. In this context, there is no difference between Chochmah, Binah, and Daas. The term koach, power, is appropriate for [all of] them. [Thus we find references to] the power of Chochmah, the power of Binah, and the power of Daas.

ii) Potential in contrast to actual expression. When an entity exists only in a hidden state (or when there is only a possibility for it), we say that it exists in potentia. (In an extended sense, [this term can also be used] when there is only a possibility for existence. See the maamar entitled Ki Menaseh which was just published, secs. 5-6, [which discuss this matter].)

When one progresses from (this possible) or hidden state to one of revelation and the particular dimensions become manifest, then it is possible to speak of going from “potential to actual expression.” In this, there is a difference between Chochmah and Binah. Indeed, for this reason, [the two] are described with the analogies of a father and a mother, as stated in several sources; see [Tanya,] ch. 18, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistles 5, 15, 29, et al.

d) [You ask:] What is the difference between Tiferes and Hod? For both terms mean “beauty.” And what connection does the “beauty” of Hod have to the concept of “kidneys that advise”?2

In the overwhelming majority of maamarim that I have seen, the term Hod is interpreted in connection with the term hodoah meaning “an expression of thanks” or “acknowledgment,” and not as “beauty” as in the phrase hod vehadar, “beauty and splendor.” There are only select instances where the latter interpretation is cited, including Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 15, which cites both interpretations.

On this basis, a distinction can be made between the praise implied by the term Tiferes and that implied by the term Hod. Tiferes refers to beauty that can be understood and grasped intellectually (as a result of perceiving a combination of several different colors, emotional qualities, or the like). With regard to Hod, by contrast, one understands that there is an attractive quality, but one does not comprehend what is attractive about it, because it is above one’s level and understanding entirely.

I have not, as of yet, found [a source] that refers to the attribute of Hod in the context of beauty and Tiferes, for that type of attractiveness is appropriate only when colors or emotional qualities are combined together. See Iggeres HaKodesh, loc. cit., Bad Kodesh, sec. 3, et al.

[Although the attractive quality implied by Hod cannot be comprehended,] it is, nevertheless, considered attractive. For it represents an extremely deep concept that, notwithstanding, is revealed to a recipient (even though the recipient does not comprehend it, even after it was revealed to him). It is understood that in this manner, a deeply personal quality of the mashpia (source of influence) can be revealed to the recipient, for the quality does not enclothe itself within the understanding of the recipient.3

Nevertheless, since we are speaking of a deeply personal quality, only the very lowest dimension of it can be revealed. The fundamental aspect of attractiveness is that one expresses this matter in a way that even a recipient on the lowest of levels can receive it although he does not understand it (in contrast to the quality of Tiferes). (This requires [the use of communication techniques:] “kidneys that advise.”)

At times, the recipient has no connection to the matter at all, so much so that it does not even arouse the attribute of Hodoah within him. He merely acknowledges that he should acknowledge it (Hod ShebeHod). To cite an analogy for this: a rural villager who has no understanding whatsoever of the nature of the king sees the head of his village — whose greatness he does understand — prostrate himself before the king’s officer. Hence the villager will be aroused to acknowledge the officer and look up to him as a wondrously great individual, because he saw the head of his village prostrate himself before him. Afterwards, when he sees the king’s officer prostrate himself before the king, the king’s unique quality is revealed on the level of hodoah shebehodoah within the villager’s personality.

See [the explanation of] the attribute of Hod ShebeHod in the maamarim of Lag BaOmer (in the Siddur and in other sources) upon which the above concepts are based. See also the commentary of the Tzemach Tzedek to Tehillim (ch. 104, v. 1, sec. 7) which states:

There is the essence of Chochmah that conceives of the idea alone and does not reveal it.... Then there is also [the way one] explains the idea to a colleague.... This is called Hod.... When, by contrast, one does not communicate, the idea lacks the quality of Hod, like the sun that does not shine.... If so, according to this [explanation], the interpretation of Netzach and Hod is not... hodoah, thankful acknowledgment... although that quality is also called Hod. Nevertheless, the fundamental interpretation of Hod is radiance, the fact that it shines.

This concludes what is relevant to the matter at hand. There is room for elaboration concerning all the above.

With wishes for everlasting good in all matters,

Rabbi Menachem Schneerson

If so, there are two differences [between Tiferes and Hod]:

a) Whether one appreciates the attractive quality intellectually or not, and

b) This appears fundamental to me: With regard to Tiferes, the beauty is an independent entity. With regard to Hod, [it is] an external factor [and relevant to each person in a different manner]. For the mashpia, it is a very personal matter. For the recipient, it is a very lofty matter, i.e., the attractive quality is relative and not universal.