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Tanya for Wednesday, 1 Elul, 5777 - August 23, 2017

Tanya
As Divided for a Regular Year

Tanya for 1 Elul

30 Av, 5777 - August 22, 20172 Elul, 5777 - August 24, 2017


Epistle Ten

After greetings of life and peace, [1] may my opening words rouse [2] "the ear that hears the life-giving admonition" that the Living G-d admonished through His prophet, [3] saying: [4] "The kindnesses of G-d have surely not ended...."

[Surprisingly, the Hebrew verb used here is tamnu (in the first person plural), which would make the phrase mean, "we have not been brought to an end." If the verse sought to say that (a) the kindnesses "have not ended," rather than (b) "because of G-d's kindnesses we have not been brought to an end," it should surely have used the verb tamu (in the third person plural), as the Alter Rebbe goes on to point out.]

Now, it should really have said ki lo tamu, as in the phrase, [5] "For your kindnesses have not ended...." [The Alter Rebbe answers that our verse indeed implies two ideas: (a) the kindnesses have not ended; (b) we stand in need of Chasdei Hashem (G-d's kindnesses), Ki lo tamnu - because we are not perfect" or "complete". (In the second interpretation, tamnu means "we are not tamim," as shall soon be explained.)]

This [anomaly] will be understood in the light of a statement in the sacred Zohar: [6] "There are [two] different types of Chesed: there is Chesed olam..., [literally, "a worldlike Chesed," a degree of kindness which is limited by temporal bounds,] and there is a superior form of kindness, i.e., rav Chesed ["boundless kindness"]....

[Since it is man's spiritual service that draws down Divine beneficence, the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain what manner of service elicits a downflow of the "Chesed of the world," and what manner of service draws down the boundless degree of rav Chesed.]

Now, it is well known that the Torah is called oz ["strength"], [Thus on the verse, [7] "G-d grants strength to His people," the Gemara in Tractate Zevachim [8] comments, "`Strength' alludes to the Torah."] which is an expression of Gevurah.

[Literally, Gevurah means "might", but more specifically, as the name of one of the Sefirot, it signifies (in contradistinction to Chesed) the withholding of beneficence, as regulated by the Divine attribute of stern justice.]

As our Sages, of blessed memory, taught: [9] "The 613 commandments were declared unto Moses at Sinai from the Mouth of the Gevurah." [I.e., the 613 commandments were uttered by G-d as He manifested Himself in the attribute of Gevurah, for which reason He Himself is here referred to by the name of this attribute.]

It is likewise written: [10] "From His right Hand a Torah of fire [was given] unto them"; [i.e., it was written in fire, which is an expression of the attribute of Gevurah.] This means:

[The Alter Rebbe here introduces an explanation which anticipates the following question: Since the Torah of G-d was given "from His right Hand," which always connotes kindness and benevolence (and indeed, the Torah has been called -- [11] Torat Chesed -- "a Torah of kindness"), how then can the above-quoted verse proceed to say that the Torah is an expression of fire and Gevurah?]

The source and root of the Torah is solely "G-d's kindnesses," that are referred to [12] as "the right side." That is: The elicitation of His Divinity, and of a radiation from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, to the upper and lower worlds, [is effected] by man who draws down the light upon himself by the fulfillment of the 248 positive commandments, which are [13] "the 248 organs of the King"; i.e., they are the 248 vessels and garments for the radiation from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that is vested in them.

[Each of the commandments serves as a receptor or vehicle for the particular Divine illumination that vests itself within it, just as each organ of the body is a vehicle or receptor for a particular faculty of the soul - the eye for the power of sight , the ear for the power of hearing, and so on.]

( [14] And, as is known, from this light awe and love are drawn down upon [a person as he performs] each command.) [The Torah and its commandments are thus a downflow of G-dliness, springing from His attribute of kindness.]

However, this downflow was first vested in G-d's attribute of Gevurah, which is referred to as "fire", and which reflects a contraction [tzimtzum] of the light and life-force that issue from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, thus enabling it to become vested in the performance of the commandments, practically all of which involve material things, such as tzitzit [which are made of wool], tefillin [made of leather and parchment], sacrifices [offered from animals, plants and minerals] and charity [that involves money or other material objects].

Even commandments that involve a man's spirit, such as awe and love [of G-d], are also of limited measure, [15] and by no means of infinite extent.

For not even for a moment could man sustain in his heart so intense a love of G-d as is without end and limitation, and still remain in existence in his body. [Indeed, so intense a love would surely cause the soul to take flight.]

So it was taught by our Sages, of blessed memory, [16] that at the time of the Giving of the Torah, when G-d's Divinity, and the [infinite] Ein Sof - light, were manifested [to the Jews at Sinai] at the [direct] level of revealed speech, "their souls took flight" from their bodies.

[At that time G-d restored their souls with the dew that He will use to revive the dead in the time to come. We see, however, that the illumination in itself was so intense that their souls could not remain within their bodies for even one moment. Since the love presently experienced by a soul within a body does not cause it to flee, it follows that this love is inherently limited. This also applies to the awe and love which are experienced as a result of the Divinity that is revealed in the mitzvot, as mentioned earlier. This is the case because the flow of G-dliness which descends through the Torah and its finite commandments is restrained by the attribute of Gevurah.

We can now understand the two stages implied in the above-quoted verse: Initially, the Torah indeed proceeds "from His right Hand," from the boundless kindness of the attribute of Chesed - but it is then communicated to us "from the Mouth of the Gevurah" as "a Torah of fire," as a law which is delimited and restricted through the Divine attribute of Gevurah, so that it will be able to find expression in the finitude of the mitzvot.]

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Cf. Tehillim 119:130.

  2. (Back to text) Cf. Mishlei 15:31.

  3. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "At the conclusion as well [of this Epistle] the Alter Rebbe stresses that `This is what the prophet says,' in order to add certainty to the following statement."

  4. (Back to text) Eichah 3:22.

  5. (Back to text) Liturgy, concluding blessings of Shemoneh Esreh (Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 58).

  6. (Back to text) III, 133b.

  7. (Back to text) Tehillim 29:11.

  8. (Back to text) 116a.

  9. (Back to text) Makkot 23b.

  10. (Back to text) Devarim 33:2.

  11. (Back to text) Mishlei 31:26.

  12. (Back to text) Tikkunei Zohar, Introduction II (Patach Eliyahu).

  13. (Back to text) Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 30 (p. 74b).

  14. (Back to text) The parentheses are in the original text.

  15. (Back to text) This being a characteristic of the attribute of Gevurah.

  16. (Back to text) Shabbat 88b.



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