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Tanya for Wednesday, 11 Tevet, 5779 - December 19, 2018

As Divided for a Leap Year

Tanya for 11 Teves

10 Tevet, 5779 - December 18, 201812 Tevet, 5779 - December 20, 2018

Chapter Eight

There is an additional aspect in the matter of forbidden foods, for which reason they are called Assur ["bound" and attached]:

Even if one ate a forbidden food unwittingly and his intention in eating was for the sake of heaven, i.e., in order to serve G-d with the energy derived from it; moreover, even if he actually carried out his intention, having studied and prayed with the energy derived from that food; the vitality contained in it does not ascend or become clothed in the words of Torah and prayer that he studies and prays with the energy of that food as is the case with permitted foods, because it is held captive in the power of the sitra achra of the three unclean kelipot which do not permit the energy of the food to be elevated to Sanctity.

[Had the food been permitted, the very act of eating for the sake of heaven would suffice to extract the good from the evil of the food's vitality, as explained above.

In this instance, however, forbidden food was eaten for the sake of heaven].

[This is so], even if it is [forbidden by reason of] a Rabbinic prohibition, for [1] "the words [i.e., the prohibitions] of the Scribes are even more stringent than the words of the Torah ..."

Therefore, the yetzer hara [evil impulse] and the force that lusts after forbidden things is also [2] "one of the non-Jewish demons," which is the yetzer hara of the nations, whose souls are derived from the three unclean kelipot.

[They therefore lust after forbidden matters, since the forbidden matters, too, derive their energy from the three unclean kelipot].

On the other hand, the evil impulse and the craving force after permissible things [even when done solely] to satisfy one's craving [in which case, as mentioned earlier, even the permissible matter descends into the utter evil of the three unclean kelipot; still it] is [2] "one of the Jewish demons"; [it is, as it were, a Jewish evil impulse], for it [the vitality of a permitted thing] can be reverted to holiness, as was explained above. [3]

[Since the food itself is permissible, therefore, though it was eaten to satisfy bodily desire, it can still be elevated to holiness (when the person returns to the study of Torah and the service of G-d).

The yetzer hara for forbidden matters, however, is intrinsically un-Jewish, i.e., essentially foreign to the Jew's character. As explained elsewhere, one acquires this "foreign" yetzer hara by immersing himself in "permitted" pleasures.

These, so coarsen him, that he begins to lust after prohibited matters as well - a desire totally unnatural for the Jew.

Although the vitality of permitted foods eaten out of bodily desire can revert to holiness through the person's repentance], nevertheless before it has reverted to holiness it is sitra achra and kelipah, and even afterwards [after the person repented and elevated the energy of the food to holiness] a trace of it remains attached to the [person's] body, since each item of food and drink that one ingests immediately becomes blood and flesh of his flesh.

[Since the food which became his flesh and blood was evil at the time of consumption - having been eaten for the sake of bodily pleasure - a trace of the kelipah remains in the body even after the person has repented and elevated the vitality of the food to holiness].

That is why the body must undergo the "Purgatory of the Grave" [a specific punishment for the body [4]] in order to cleanse it and purify it of the uncleanness which it had received from the enjoyment of mundane things and pleasures, which are from the impurity of the kelipat nogah and of the "Jewish demons" [i.e., the "Jewish yetzer hara" which desires permitted matters]; unless one had never derived enjoyment from this world all his life [i.e., either he actually derived no enjoyment, or his enjoyment was not of this world, since all his actions were completely for the sake of mitzvot and holiness], as was the case with Rabbeinu HaKadosh [Rabbi Judah the Prince, who said at the time of his demise that he had had no enjoyment of this world even to the extent of his "small finger".

He who never derived pleasure from this world all his life need not undergo the "Purgatory of the Grave."

However, anyone who has not attained this level must undergo this punishment to purify his body of the uncleanness received from the enjoyment of mundane pleasures.

[We shall now learn what is necessary for the rectification of permitted words not spoken for the sake of heaven].

As for innocent idle chatter, such as in the case of an ignoramus who cannot study, [he who is able to study is constantly obligated to fulfill the commandment of studying Torah; for him idle chatter is prohibited.

For the ignoramus, however, idle chatter may be permissible.

But] - he must have his soul cleansed from the impurity of this kelipah, through its being rolled in the "Hollow of a Sling," [5] as is stated in the Zohar, Parshat Beshallach, p. 59.

[This punishment is described [6] as "being slung from one end of the world to the other," or "from Israel to other lands."

The meaning of this is that the soul is flung from one extreme to the other:

First it is shown the truth and preciousness of holiness, and then it is "slung" into, and reminded of, the thoughts and words it experienced while in the physical world - a most painful experience for the soul. [7]]

But with regard to forbidden speech, such as scoffing and slander and the like, which being prohibited stem from the three completely unclean kelipot, the "Hollow of a Sling" [alone] does not suffice to cleanse and remove the impurity of the soul, but it [the soul] must descend into Gehinnom (Purgatory - which is a greater punishment and thus more effective in cleansing the soul].

So, too, with one who is able to engage in the study of Torah, but occupies himself instead with idle chatter - the "Hollow of the Sling" alone cannot effectively scour and cleanse his soul, but [it must receive the] severe penalties which are meted out for neglect of the Torah in particular, apart from the general retribution for the neglect of positive commandments through indolence, namely the "Purgatory of Snow," as is explained elsewhere. [8]

[The purgatory (Gehinnom), where the soul is cleansed of the "stains" of sin so that it may enter Paradise to enjoy the radiance of G-d's glory, operates on the principle of "measure for measure," i.e., punishment in kind.

Thus sins of commisssion caused by the heat of passion and lust are cleansed in a "Gehinnom (nehar, lit., "stream") of Fire," while sins of omission, due to indolence and coolness (i.e., lack of fervor), are cleansed in a "Gehinnom of Snow." [9]]

Occupying oneself with the sciences of the nations of the world is likewise included in the category of engaging in inconsequential matters insofar as the sin of neglecting the Torah is concerned, [for in studying the sciences of the nations, too, one is guilty of neglecting Torah study], as is explained in the Laws of Torah Study. [10]]

Moreover, the impurity of the science of the nations is greater than the impurity of idle speech; for the latter clothe and defile only the emotions [which emanate] from the holy element of ruach [Air] within his divine soul, [by tainting them] with the impurity of kelipat nogah contained in idle speech [which is derived from the evil element of ruach - Air, which is one of the components of this kelipah in his animal soul], as mentioned above.

[The G-dly soul and the animal soul are both composed of four spiritual "elements": Fire, Air, Water and Earth.

The emotions, such as love and fear, which one expresses in idle talk, emanate from the element of Air.

Thus, idle speech defiles the emotional attributes of the divine soul, which emanate from the holy element of Air, by using them in the service of the animal soul's element of Air, i.e., its emotional attributes - which are "impure", since they derive from kelipat nogah.

Idle speech does] not, however, [defile] the levels of ChaBaD [the intellectual faculties] in his soul, for it is but words of foolishness and ignorance, since even fools and ignoramuses can speak that way.

[Since these are not intellectual matters, the intellect remains uninvolved and untainted.]

Not so in the case of the science of the nations; thereby one clothes and defiles his divine soul's faculties of ChaBaD [intellect] with the impurity of the kelipat nogah contained in those sciences, whither they [the sciences] have fallen, through the "shattering of the vessels," out of the "hinder-part" of Chochmah of holiness, as is known to those familiar with the Esoteric Wisdom.

[Thus the study of these sciences contaminates the intellectual faculties of the G-dly soul, and it is therefore much worse than idle speech, which contaminates only the emotional faculties], unless one employs them [these sciences] as a useful instrument, viz., as a means of earning a more affluent livelihood with which to be able to serve G-d, or [unless] he knows how to apply them [the sciences] in the service of G-d or to [his better understanding of] His Torah; [e.g., he utilizes mathematics to better understand the laws of the Sanctification of the New Moon].

This is the reason why Maimonides and Nachmanides, of blessed memory, and their peers, engaged in them [in the sciences - since they were able to utilize this knowledge in the service of G-d and Torah].

[Regarding that which was stated at the beginning of this chapter that a thing prohibited even by Rabbinic enactment remains attached to the three unclean kelipot and cannot be elevated to holiness, even when it is used unwittingly and for the sake of heaven (i.e., in order to have strength to study and pray), - the following story is worth relating:

A chassid once came to the Alter Rebbe lamenting the fact that his son-in-law was subject to periods when he would doubt his faith.

The Alter Rebbe responded that the son-in-law had unwittingly consumed milk which was milked by a non-Jew, with no Jew in attendance. Though he was unaware of this fact, and though the prohibition against such milk is only of Rabbinic origin, this had so strong an effect upon him that it caused him to doubt his faith.

The Alter Rebbe then proceeded to tell the chassid how the matter could be rectified, thereby healing the son-in-law of his spiritual malady.



  1. (Back to text) Mishnah, Sanhedrin 88b; Bamidbar Rabbah 14:12.

  2. (Back to text) Zohar III, 253a; 277a.

  3. (Back to text) Ch. 7.

  4. (Back to text) See Zohar II, 151a, and especially Rabbi Chayim Vital, end of Sefer HaGilgulim, and Sefer HaKavanot, p. 55b.

  5. (Back to text) See I Shmuel 25:29: "He shall sling out the souls of your enemies, as out of the hollow of a sling."

  6. (Back to text) Shabbat 152b.

  7. (Back to text) Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn (sixth CHaBaD Rebbe) once stated that reciting from memory words of Torah - such as Chumash, Mishnah, Tehillim or Tanya - whenever one goes about his affairs, protects one from this punishment (in addition to its intrinsic value as Torah study, and its efficacy in "purifying the atmosphere").

  8. (Back to text) Rabbi Isaac Luria, Likutei Torah, Shmot. See also Zohar I, 62b; 237b; II, 150a-b.

  9. (Back to text) Another interpretation is that the "Gehinnom of Snow" cures the soul of the spiritual "frostbite" which caused it to sin out of indolence. The Rebbe Shlita rejects this interpretation on the basis of the passage in Likutei Torah cited in note 8.

  10. (Back to text) 3:7. The Alter Rebbe's first printed work was a treatise on the Laws of Torah Study (Hilchot Talmud Torah), first published in Shklov, 1794 (5554), and subsequently incorporated in his Shulchan Aruch.

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