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As Divided for a Leap Year
Tanya for 3 Elul
[The Alter Rebbe now returns to the verse quoted at the outset of this Iggeret HaKodesh: Chasdei Hashem Ki Lo Tamnu... - "The kindnesses of G-d have surely not ended...." There he had asked: If the verse refers only to G-d's kindness, why does it use the verb tamnu (in the first person plural), which would make the phrase mean, "we have not been brought to an end," rather than tamu (in the third person plural), which would mean that "the kindnesses have not ended"?
He answers this by saying that Chasdei Hashem (the kindnesses of G-d) refers also to the giving of tzedakah without limitation. Accordingly, the verse may be understood, as he now goes on to explain:]
Now, since this is G-d's manner of practicing benevolence, this mode of unlimited kindness is known by the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He, [viz.,] "The kindnesses of G-d," as it is written,  "and G-d's Chesed is everlasting...."
For though  "All of Israel are compassionate and practice kindly deeds," nevertheless there is a limit and measure to man's compassion.
But the Holy One, blessed be He, is called the Ein Sof - [the Infinite One,] and His attributes [like Himself] have no end, as it is written,  "...for His mercies never cease." [When a Jew echoes G-d's boundless kindness and compassion, his actions are thus termed "G-d's acts of kindness.]
And this is the meaning of the prophet's words,  after the Destruction and the exile: "The kindnesses of G-d have surely not ended (ki lo tamnu)." That is: "Because we are not perfect,  inasmuch as we are not perfect (temimim) and whole, without any sin or blemish in our soul nor in the higher worlds, we therefore need to conduct ourselves in accordance with "G-d's kindnesses," that are without limit or end, in order to call down upon ourselves Supreme compassion, i.e., rav Chesed, and unlimited, infinite compassion, as it is written, [at the conclusion of this verse,] "for His mercies never cease...."
[Since we are in need of drawing down this level of compassion, our own practice of kindness must echo "G-d's kindness."
Thus the Prophet is telling the generations that follow the Destruction that they should practice unbounded kindness because they are not in a state of tamnu. Being imperfect, we need to arouse G-d's infinite kindness and compassion in order to rectify any sins and blemishes.
(Moreover, since these latter generations are too weak to engage in fasting and self-mortification, the only means now available to secure full atonement is through tzedakah. ]
And this is what our Sages, of blessed memory, meant by saying that  "Israel will be redeemed only through charity." [This refers to the charity] that they will perform even IF they are legally not obligated, for  "[Mashiach] the son of David will not come etc. [until the pocket will be empty of even the smallest coin]."
[I.e., even if (Heaven forfend) there will not be a solitary coin left in one's pocket, tzedakah will still be given. And it is this boundless level of tzedakah that secures a complete atonement for the sins of our people, after which  "they will immediately be redeemed."
The Rebbe Shlita explains that the Alter Rebbe does not conclude the above- mentioned quotation about the precondition for the coming of Mashiach because it is quite possible that he did not want to write out the last words (viz., "until the pocket will be empty of even the smallest coin"); and this precondition of the Sages can be fulfilled on the spiritual level, by conducting oneself with the humility of the destitute.
This could also explain why the Alter Rebbe does not say ("when they are legally not obligated"), but rather ("if they are legally not obligated").
- (Back to text) Tehillim 103:17.
- (Back to text) Yevamot 79a.
- (Back to text) Eichah 3:22.
- (Back to text) See above, footnote 3.
- (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: The proof being the Destruction and the exile.
- (Back to text) This is explained at length in Iggeret HaTeshuvah, ch. 3 (in Vol. III of the present series).
- (Back to text) See above, Epistle 9, footnote 16.
- (Back to text) Sanhedrin 97a.
- (Back to text) Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah 7:5.
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