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Tanya for Wednesday, 3 Av, 5777 - July 26, 2017

Tanya
As Divided for a Regular Year

Tanya for 3 Av

2 Av, 5777 - July 25, 20174 Av, 5777 - July 27, 2017


Epistle One

[In their Approbation to Tanya, [1] the author' sons write that the discourses and open letters together entitled Iggeret HaKo-desh [2] ("The Holy Epistle"), as well as the further discourses entitled Kuntres Acharon ("Later Pamphlet"), were all "recorded personally by [the Alter Rebbe's] own holy hand in his own saintly expression... These discourses are [collectively] entitled Iggeret HaKodesh, being mostly epistles sent by his holy eminence to teach the people of G-d the way by which they should walk and the deed which they should do."

Accordingly, the author's learned sons saw fit to publish them together with the preceding sections of the Tanya.


The first epistle opens with a reference to the chassidic custom (a custom that thrives to this day) of apportioning the tractates of the Talmud for study among the members of each congregation or community, so that the entire work is completed in the course of a year. The conclusion of the year's study and the reallocation of tractates are traditionally celebrated on Yud-Tes Kislev, the anniversary of the Alter Rebbe's liberation from imprisonment and capital sentence in Leningrad in 1798.

The Rebbe Shlita has noted on a number of occasions that the collective completion of the Talmud by a number of individuals is considered as if each one of the group had completed the entire Talmud himself. He explains that this is similar to the law with regard to performing a prohibited labor on Shabbat: If doing the labor requires the efforts of two individuals, each of them is considered to have performed the entire labor. [3] So, too, since the various individuals partake in the collective study of the Talmud for they cannot complete it single-handed in the course of a year, it is considered as if each one of them had studied the entire Talmud.


To return to the central theme of this opening epistle. The Alter Rebbe explains here that the study of the laws set out in the Oral Torah elevates a Jew's soul and assists him in his spiritual service - of meditating upon G-d's greatness, and arousing within himself a love and awe of Him.

On the circumstances of its composition, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of blessed memory, has conveyed to us the following: [4] "During a Simchat Beit HaShoevah gathering in the year 5648 (1887), my revered father related that the epistle opening with `We begin with a benediction' was written by the Alter Rebbe in three stages in three different years.

"The first stage: When the Alter Rebbe decided to make the journey to study at the feet of the Maggid of Mezritch, he presented his disciples with a `note of arousal.' It opened with `We begin with a benediction,' and concluded, `And these [faculties] are the arms and the body of the soul.'

"The second stage was when the Alter Rebbe returned from Mezritch, having had revealed to him by the Maggid - at the behest of his mentor, the Baal Shem Tov, and with the blessing of his mentor, Achiyah HaShiloni - his spiritual identity, the purpose of his holy soul's descent into this world, and the great responsibility and danger that his mission entailed. At that time the Alter Rebbe wrote the second part of this epistle, beginning with `But what gives the power,' and concluding, `To the extent of pressing out the soul...'

"Speaking to his son, the Mitteler Rebbe, and to his grandson, the Tzemach Tzedek, the Alter Rebbe once described his inner feelings during the first few years after his mentor, the Maggid of Mezritch, had revealed to him the message of the Baal Shem Tov [regarding his soul's mission].

"These were the Alter Rebbe's words: `The simple faith that we, the disciples of the Maggid, had in him, and our self-sacrificing devotion to him, provided us with the potent strength to obey all his directives with extreme precision, with inner and essential self-sacrifice. In the course of several years, when my young married students settled in various towns and villages, I added three paragraphs to this epistle - from `And now' until `there is no goodness but Torah.' This I did in view of the burden placed upon me by my master, the Maggid, and in order to be able to realize, with G- d's help, the inner intent of my soul's descent into this world.'"]

[The above was a preface. "We begin with a benediction..." is transaltion of the actual text.]

We begin with a benediction, to bless and to give thanks to G-d, for He is good. [5] My soul has heard and been revived by good tidings - and "good" signifies Torah, [as our Sages state in Tractate Avot. [6] More specifically, it signifies [7]] G-d's Torah [which] is a perfect whole," [for it is the Torah in this state that the same verse describes as "reviving the soul."]

[The above remarks] refer to the completion of the whole [8] Talmud, [9] in its entirety, [10] in most towns and congregations of Anash, [the men of our (chassidic) brother-hood.]

[So much for] gratitude in respect of past accomplishments. And [now,] a request for the future: May G-d thus continue from year to year to grant added strength to your hearts among the mighty, [11] with the might of the Torah, [I.e., may G-d increase that which He has previously granted - His increase being even greater than the original blessing [12] - so that the hearts of those who study Torah be strengthened to such a degree that they will be considered mighty even among the mighty, with their strength deriving from the Torah.] and make known to mankind the might of the Oral Torah [13] and its power which is great.

[The might (Gevurah) of Torah relates specifically to the Oral Law. For with regard to the source of the Torah in the Supernal Sefirot, the Written Torah derives from the Sefirah of Chochmah, which is aligned with the "right side" of the universe - the attribute of Chesed, kindness and benevolence; the Oral Torah derives from the Sefirah of Binah, [14] which is aligned with the "left side" of the universe - the attribute of Gevurah, stern judgment and severity. [15] (This relationship between Binah and Gevurah is alluded to in the verse, [16] "I am Binah, Gevurah is mine.")]

[On the strength that the Oral Law gives the soul of a Jew,] King Solomon, peace be to him, explained: [17] `She girds her loins with strength...'

[The "woman of valor" lauded by King Solomon at the opening of the relevant chapter is an allegorical allusion to Knesset Yisrael - the Congregation of Israel, which comprises all Jewish souls. In the verse quoted, she "girds her loins with strength." "Strength" refers to the Torah, [18] as in the teaching, [19] "There is no strength other than the Torah." Thus, the Torah strengthens the loins of the soul, just as a warrior girds his loins to gather maximal strength. But what is meant by "girding the loins of the soul"?] The loins are the underframe that supports the whole body, including the head that is positioned over them; it is they that lead and bring [the body] to its desired destination. And just as it is with the corporeality of the body, so it is with the spirituality of the Divine soul. [Just as the loins support the corporeal body and head, so do the soul's loins support and lead the `body' and `head' of the soul to its desired spiritual destination.]

[The soul's loins are] the true belief in the One G-d, the blessed Ein Sof, Who permeates all worlds [with a vitality which is indwelling (pnimi), a vitality which is contracted and tailored to the capacity of each individual creature], and Who encompasses all worlds [with a vitality that is transcendent (makkif), and which can not therefore clothe itself within created beings in an indwelling manner], there being no place or level of existence void of Him, above to no end, [for there is no end to the degree of His exalt-ed transcendence beyond all worlds], and below to no limit, [for there is no limit to His ability to descend to the very lowest levels of creation and clothe Himself within the world even to the point that the world conceals the G-dliness that is within it], and likewise in all four directions [- east, west, north and south -] truly in a state of infinitude. [All the above refers to the dimension of space.]

The same applies to the dimensions of "year" and "soul", as is known. [Creation embraces the three dimensions known as `world', `year' and `soul', as is explained in Sefer Yetzirah. [20] `World' alludes to space, `year' refers to time, and `soul' denotes life. Just as G-d is one and infinite within the realm of space, so too is He one and infinite within the realms of time and life.]

Now this faith, [this belief in G-d as outlined above], is referred to as the "loins" which uphold and sustain the "head", meaning the intellect that contemplates and concentrates on the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof in the dimensions of `world', `year' and `soul', [Thus, this faith sustains the `head', for the foundation of one's comprehension of G-d's greatness is one's belief in His unity], and [that meditates] on the magnitude of His loving-kindness and His wonders with us, making of us [21]"a people near unto Him" who can truly [22]"cleave unto Him."

Thus it is known from the teaching, [23] "One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world surpasses all the life of the World to Come." For [the World to Come] is a mere gleam and reflection of the level [of Divinity] called Shechinah, [which is so called because it is the Shechinah] "Who dwells" [within created beings], and so on, [Since the Shechinah bears a certain relationship to created beings, it is therefore this level of Divinity that is revealed in Gan Eden - the World to Come, which is but a pale reflection of the Shechinah.], and [the World to Come] was created by the single letter yud of [G-d's] blessed Name, and so on, [as explained by the Sages [24] in their exposition of the verse, [25] B'eko Hashem Tzur Olamim.]

Repentance and good deeds, however, truly bring Israel near to their Father in Heaven, unto (as it were) the very Being and Essence of Him Who is absolute infinitude. As it is written, [26] "His radiance is upon earth and heaven": [heaven and earth derive their life-force from a mere glimmer or gleam of G-d's Essence; not so the Jewish people, of whom the following verse [27] continues:] "He raises glory upon His nation." [ The word Keren, here translated `glory', signifies a thing's essence. [28] The verse thus implies that the Jewish people derive their life-force from G-d's infinite Essence.

Similarly, before fulfilling many of the mitzvot, we say: [29]] "...Who has sanctified us [unto Himself] through His commandments, and commanded us [to perform the mitzvah at hand]." [By granting us the ability to perform His commandments, G-d elevates us to His level - to the encompassing level of holiness that utterly transcends the degree of holiness that permeates the worlds. And reflecting upon G-d's infinite kindness to us, in that He chose us to be "His nation..., the people close to Him," will result in a reaction of] "waters reflecting the face..." [30]

From this contemplation are born the intellectually-generated or the natural awe and love - [the awe and love of G-d that are naturally found within the heart of all Jews and need but be revealed through contemplation, [31]] giving rise [either] to [(a) a mode of love in which [32]] "their heart cried out unto G-d" [in its yearning to cleave to Him,] or to [(b) a mode of love characterized by [33]] "flashes of fire, a mighty flame."

[The latter mode of love is the first stage of a dual dynamic [34]] Ratzo ("advance"), loving G-d so fiercely and rapturously that the soul almost flees the body;] this [longing to expire, to lose one's independent identity in G-d's all-encompassing unity], [must be] followed by the [second stage] - Shov [("retreat"), a sober and self-effacing return to the Divinely-ordained reality of living as a soul enclothed in a body], so that there be the fear of G-d in one's heart, [specifically, the superior order of fear] whereby [the individual] is abashed by His greatness... [This abashedness restrains him from doing anything that G-d finds displeasing].

This [level of awe, fear and shame] [results from] [35] "the left hand that parries," [The Divine "left hand" represents Gevurah, the Supernal attribute of severity. It holds the worshiper at arm's length, so to speak, curbing the intense love that would result from his sensation of G-d's nearness as represented in the phrase, [36] Viyemino Techabkeini - "His right hand embraces me."]

As it is written concerning the Giving of the Torah: [37] "The people saw and they trembled, and they stood from afar..." [The Divine revelation at the Giving of the Torah produced a feeling of awe and self-nullification which found expression in the Jews' "standing from afar," fearing as they did to draw close to G-d.]

And these [faculties] - [love and fear] - are the arms and the body of the soul; [love and kindness are the "right arm," fear and severity are the "left arm." [38]

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) See Vol. I of the present series, p. 10.

  2. (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita remarks that one would have expected this anthology to be entitled Igrot Kodesh ("Holy Epistles"), in the plural. The Rebbe goes on to suggest that a possible (and not entirely satisfactory) explanation might be an intended parallel to the preceding component of Tanya, which is entitled Iggeret HaTeshuvah ("Epistle on Repentance"), in the singular.

  3. (Back to text) Shabbat 93a; see Likkutei Sichot, Vol. XVIII, p. 267.

  4. (Back to text) In a talk on 2 Nissan 5708, recorded in Sefer HaMaamarim 5708, p. 170.

  5. (Back to text) The occasion was the receipt of good news, which is a reason for expressing gratitude (Rashi on Bereishit 24:52, based on Bereishit Rabbah 58:6). ( Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)

  6. (Back to text) 6:3.

  7. (Back to text) Tehillim 19:8.

  8. (Back to text) This indicates that the tractates apportioned should include those that [consist only of Mishnah and] are lacking Gemara. ( Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)

  9. (Back to text) The intent [of the seemingly superfluous word "Kulo", here translated "in its entirety" is to negate the possibility of covering the Talmud nearly enough to have it considered completely covered, in the spirit of the principle of Rubo Kekulo (cf. Taz and Acharonim, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 582:7). I.e., the apportioning of the Shas is to include those tractates in the Orders of Zeraim and Taharot (as mentioned above [that consist only of Mishnah and are lacking Gemara]), as well as [the tractates] Tamid and Middot (which do no more than describe [the Beit HaMikdash and related subjects]; cf. the Commentary [of the Rambam] on the Mishnah, cited in Tosafot Yom Tov, ad loc.). (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)

  10. (Back to text) It is then 'whole in this [literal] sense as well. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)

  11. (Back to text) Perhaps this phrase is intended to point out that this public study intensifies the learning of each individual participant, insofar as he is part of a multitude, and intensifies its effect upon him, by forti-fying his heart. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)

  12. (Back to text) Bereishit Rabbah 61:4.

  13. (Back to text) This being the subject at hand - the [study of the] Talmud. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)

  14. (Back to text) In accordance with the conclusion of Epistle 29 of Iggeret HaKodesh. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)

  15. (Back to text) The following interpretation appears to be preferable: The Written Torah and the Oral Torah correspond respectively to the Six Middot and to the attribute of Malchut. The former Sefirot are predominantly Chassadim; the latter Sefirah is dominat ed by Gevurot. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)

  16. (Back to text) Mishlei 3:2.

  17. (Back to text) Ibid. 31:17.

  18. (Back to text) See Torah Or (and Or HaTorah) at the conclusion of Parshat Yitro. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)

  19. (Back to text) Sifri, Haazinu 32:2 et al.

  20. (Back to text) 3:3 et al.

  21. (Back to text) Tehillim 148:14.

  22. (Back to text) Devarim 11:22.

  23. (Back to text) Avot 4:17.

  24. (Back to text) Menachot 29b.

  25. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 26:4.

  26. (Back to text) Tehillim 148:13.

  27. (Back to text) Ibid., v. 14.

  28. (Back to text) As in the [Talmudic] phrase keren vachomesh. [Here keren signifies the principal, the capital value of an object, as opposed to an added payment; cf. Kerisos 26b.] (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)

  29. (Back to text) Cf. Siddur, p. 6.

  30. (Back to text) As explained above, in Part I, ch. 49. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)

    Cf. Mishlei 27:19.

  31. (Back to text) As explained above, in Part I, ch. 44. (Note of the Rebbe Shlita.)

  32. (Back to text) Cf. Eichah 2:18.

  33. (Back to text) Cf. Shir HaShirim 8:6.

  34. (Back to text) Cf. Yechezkel 1:14.

  35. (Back to text) Cf. Sotah 47a.

  36. (Back to text) Shir HaShirim 8:3.

  37. (Back to text) Shmot 20:15.

  38. (Back to text) Tikkunei Zohar, Introduction II.



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