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As Divided for a Regular Year
Tanya for 17 Av
[We learned above that the Zohar teaches: "Who makes the Holy Name every day? He who gives charity to the poor." The relevance of this answer, however, remained obscure. Now, therefore, equipped with the foregoing insights, we revert to the question with which this epistle opened: How does giving tzedakah to the poor "make a Name" for G-d? The Alter Rebbe explains as follows:]
Now with terrestrial man, for example, when one who is so great a sage as to comprehend the wonders of wisdom, contracts his conception and thought into a single letter of his speech, this is a stupendous contraction and a great descent for his wondrous wisdom.
Precisely as in this analogy but infinitely more so, there was an immensely great and mighty contraction when during the Six Days of Creation "the heavens were made by the word of G-d, and all their hosts by the breath of His mouth,"  i.e., by the letter hei - "a light letter" - of the Four-Letter Name of G-d. [This is not only a single letter, but also an insubstantial one.]
Thus it is written,  "[These are the chronicles of heaven and earth] behibar-am" [i.e., ("when they were created"). By revocalizing the Hebrew letters of this word, the Sages  read it as if it were simultaneously pronounced b-hei bra-am. The verse would now mean, "These are the chronicles of heaven and earth; with the letter hei He created them."]
[This letter hei] is the source of the nine creative utterances which issued from the first utterance: Berei-shith ("In the beginning"), which itself is a creative utter-ance,  and identical with the Sefirah of Chochmah,  which is called reishit [as in the phrase, reishit chochmah "the beginning of wisdom"  ). The descent of Chochmah, the source of the other nine creative utterances, into Malchut, the lowest of the Sefirot, involves an intense degree of contraction.]
But at that time, [at the beginning of creation,] this downward flow [from Chochmah to Malchut] occurred without any arousal from below whatever, [as it is written,]  "For there was no man to work  [and bring about this arousal;] it occurred solely  "because He desires [to act with] kindness," as it is also written,  "The world is built by kindness."
And this is the meaning of [another interpretation of the verse, "These are the chronicles of heaven and earth] behibar-am" [(i.e., "when they were created"). By transposing the Hebrew letters of this word, the Sages  read this word as if it were simultaneously pronounced] beAvraham [i.e., `through the attribute that characterizes Abraham'], since  "kindness is to Abraham." [Since Abraham embodies the attribute of Chesed, the verse thus intimates that heaven and earth were created through the attribute of Chesed.]
But after the creation of man "to work it...",  [his life-long task being, to draw down to this world a flow of Divine energy by means of an "arousal from below," i.e., by means of his own spiritual labors], every arousal from Above, to arouse the attribute of Supreme kindness, depends on an arousal from below, through the acts of charity and kindness  that Jews perform in this world.
[Thus, these good deeds draw down Divine influence from the yud of the Divine Name, from the level of Chochmah, to the final hei of the Name, the level of Malchut. In this way, then, good deeds bring together and "make" the Name of G-d, and draw it downward in its entirety.]
That is why our Sages, of blessed memory, have said:  "Whoever says that he has nothing but Torah," and thus no kindly deeds, "does not have even Torah; rather, one ought to engage in Torah and in the performance of acts of lovingkindness."
For though the "Torah derives from Chochmah,"  and "the world subsists by virtue of the Torah"  and "those who discourse in it,"  because by speaking of Torah subjects they elicit illuminations and effusions  from Supreme Chochmah, the source of Torah, into the plane of the letters of speech with which the world was created, as our Sages, of blessed memory, said, [with regard to Torah scholars,  "Do not read banayich ["Your children"] but bonayich ["Your builders", for they build the world through their study of Torah,] - nevertheless, this flow of Chochmah [to the letters of speech is a great descent.]
To accomplish this it is necessary to arouse Supernal Chesed which, like water, is drawn down from a high place to a low place by means of an arousal from below, through acts of charity and kindness here below, whereby one diffuses life and kindness,  "to revive the spirit of the humble and downcast." [By doing so one draws down Supernal kindness, so that the vitality of Chochmah descends to the letters of speech, the source of all creation.]
And this is the meaning of the verse,  "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom...., but in this let him glory - [in understanding and knowing Me,"  [but in such a manner that it brings about the fulfillment of the phrase that follows]: "for I am G-d Who acts with kindness...."
[We thus see that wisdom is justifiably glorified when it leads to an act of kindness which in turn evokes a reciprocal act of kindness from Above.] For it is Chesed, [the kindly conduct of man here below, that results in the fulfillment of the verse, "I am G-d Who acts with kindness," i.e., with the Chesed of Asiyah, and] that causes the vitality of Chochmah to issue downwards [into the letters of speech, the source of all created beings.]
In the absence of this [kindly conduct, the Torah study that such a person undertakes] is called "His wisdom" alone: [it remains in heaven as an untapped resource in which that wise man cannot glory,] and there is no downward flow of life from it, G-d forbid.
- (Back to text) Tehillim 33:6.
- (Back to text) Bereishit 2:4.
- (Back to text) Menachot 29b.
- (Back to text) Rosh HaShanah 32a.
- (Back to text) Cf. the Aramaic paraphrase of Targum Yerushalmi on Bereishit 1:1: Be-chuk-ma.
- (Back to text) Tehillim 111:10.
- (Back to text) Bereishit 4:5.
- (Back to text) By inserting this verse ("there was no man"), the Alter Rebbe evidently intends to negate the possibility that [unborn] souls too might initiate a comparable "arousal from below." This perspective allows us to better understand the emphasis in the phrase, "any arousal from below whatever. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)
- (Back to text) Michah 7:18.
- (Back to text) Tehillim 89:3.
- (Back to text) Bereishit Rabbah 12:9.
- (Back to text) Michah 7:20.
- (Back to text) Bereishit 2:15.
- (Back to text) It will be noted that though the opening passage of this Epistle speaks of tzedakah alone, there are many variations thereafter: charity and kindness; acts of lovingkindness; charity and lovingkindness; charity and acts of lovingkindness; and so on. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)
- (Back to text) Yevamot 109b.
- (Back to text) Zohar II, 121a, et al.
- (Back to text) Op. cit. 200a, et al.
- (Back to text) Ibid. I, 47a, et al.
- (Back to text) A variant reading: "indwellings".
- (Back to text) Berachot 64a.
- (Back to text) Cf. Yeshayahu 57:15.
- (Back to text) Yirmeyahu 9:22-23.
- (Back to text) For this too is wisdom; moreover, its mainstay. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)
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