This and the letters which follow were printed in Kovetz Lubavitch, Vol. 11. That volume was intended to be published in honor of the dates Yud-Tes Kislev and Tes Adar. Actually, the volume was not printed until the following year. It thus appears that the main body of this letter was written before the time of publication originally planned, but that minor revisions were made later. Thus one of the notes mentions the 5707 printing of the Tanya in Munich.

{The winter of 5706}

Question: Tanya, at the beginning of ch. 30, cites our Sages’ statement: “Be of humble spirit before all men” (using the wording כל האדם). The source is Pirkei Avos 4:10, but that source uses the wording כל אדם, without a hei. Is this a printing error in the Tanya?

Response: All of the texts of the Tanya1that I have seen use the wording כל האדם, employing the hei. If so, this is not a printing error.

In the Mishnah, we also find two versions: one that uses the wording כל אדם, without a hei and one that uses the wording כל האדם, with a hei.2In Tanya, theAlter Rebbe chooses the second version, including the hei. I must emphasize that the intent is in Tanya here, because as cited later on, there are several other places where the Alter Rebbe cites the version without the hei and indeed, this is the text that he cites in the text of Pirkei Avos in his Siddur.3

Every letter included in the Tanya is exact; there is nothing extra or lacking.4 On the surface, the above reflects a minor variance and there does not appear to be any significant difference between the [two versions]. Nevertheless, after slight contemplation, it appears that this difference is dependent on the explanation of the concept. Therefore here the Alter Rebbe follows the version האדם with a hei, while in another source he follows the version אדם without a hei.

To explain the concept: There are two paths that lead a person to develop a humble spirit in the presence of every person:

a) One is based on our Sages’ teaching:5 “Do not judge a person until you arrive at his place.” For it is his [spiritual] place that causes him to sin. By nature, he is excitable and his [natural] inclination challenges him with great and awesome battles. Every person must evaluate and appraise himself, [seeing whether] he is serving G‑d with the intensity of such an awesome war, as explained in ch. 30 of Tanya.

b) Everyone possesses an advantage over his colleague, and that advantage is brought about by the colleague himself. To explain by analogy, in the human body, the feet are on the lowest level and the head on the highest. Nevertheless, the feet possess a positive quality: that one walks employing the feet and that they support the head and the body. Moreover, when a person suffers a headache, we let blood from the feet and that heals him, [indicating] that [the head] receives life-energy from there, as explained at length in Likkutei Torah, Parshas Nitzavim.

There are two differences in the outcome produced by these different approaches. The first approach leads to feelings of lowness, sadness, and bitterness. Nevertheless, this is the quality [necessary to transform the person’s character], as our Sages declare:6 “A person should always arouse the good inclination against the bad inclination,” provided he overcomes it and in his conduct, “turns away from evil and does good,” as explained in Tanya, ch. 31. Moreover, this meditation will lead a person to be humble, not only in the presence of his fellow Jews, but also in the presence of gentiles. For example, if one will contemplate [the great expression of] honor which Duma ben Nasina showed his father (Kiddushin 31a) or the like.

The second path leads to humility, but not to sadness. And it is effective only with regard to a colleague from among the Jewish people. For the Jewish people are like one complete body and every limb is connected to [all] others and requires them. This concept does not apply with regard to gentiles.

Our Sages declare: “You are called אדם,” [i.e., Jews and] not gentiles. The term האדם applies also to gentiles (Yevamos 61a; Tosafos, s.v. ve’ein). Therefore when a person cannot battle against his evil inclination because of the heaviness in his heart7 and he must subjugate the evil inclination, to crush it and humble it [by] reproving himself, [saying] that he is lower even than the impure animals, he must follow the first course mentioned. Hence, he will be humble even in the presence of a non-Jew. Therefore, [in this source,] the Alter Rebbe is careful to quote the text: כל האדם, with a hei.

When, by contrast, we are speaking of one’s love for one’s fellow Jew, the above meditation is not relevant. Instead, one should contemplate how the entire Jewish people are like one body and everyone possesses an advantage over his colleague. Therefore [in sources focusing on this concept,] the Alter Rebbe cites the version כל אדם, without a hei. See Tanya, Iggeres HaKodesh, Epistle 22; Likkutei Torah, Parshas Nitzavim; and the maamar entitled Atem Nitzavim in the Siddur, Shaar HaElul.8

Similarly, when speaking about the Divine service of the righteous, and in general about higher levels of Divine service, not merely about efforts to turn away from evil, the meditation that one is inferior and abominable is not appropriate. Instead, one should meditate on how one’s colleague is superior and that one should not seek [supremacy]. In such a situation the version אדם, without a hei, is employed. See the end of maamar entitled VaYachperu in Torah Or, Parshas Toldos, the first maamar entitled Vayihi MiKeitz (ibid.), and the first maamar entitled BaYom HaShemini in Likkutei Torah.

Based on the above, it is apparent that the primary version of the mishnah is אדם, without a hei, and therefore this was the version included by the Alter Rebbe in his Siddur.

For the simple meaning of the mishnah concerns Torah study, teaching that a person should be humble in the presence of every person and learn from him. Alternatively, that even though one occupies himself in Torah study, he should be humble in the presence of every person. These concepts are relevant only to the Jewish people.

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If from the addition of one letter in Tanya, we can learn all the above, think how much can be learned from one word, one statement, or one concept, and certainly one chapter of Tanya!