For 19 Kislev: Tanya, your guide to a healthy spiritual life

​​​Beginning of Chapter 50 - previous chapters can be found by pressing the link below, but this lesson stands on its own.

HaRav Shneur Zalman Miliadi

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This chapter warrants a brief introduction.1

In previous chapters, Tanya has discussed various levels and forms of love of G‑d, each of which can inspire one to study Torah and observe mitzvot with increased enthusiasm. In all these levels, the love consists of a yearning to become joined with G‑d, or else a desire that the Divine be revealed within one’s soul. For this reason, the love of G‑d arouses one directly to study Torah and observe its commandments, for through these a Jew becomes joined with G‑d, and G‑dliness becomes revealed in his soul.

Ch. 50 will discuss a different form of love. Rather than a yearning to become joined with G‑d, it is a thirst and craving for the Divine to the point of klot hanefesh, an utter rapture that consumes the soul until it is on the verge of expiring into sheer G‑dliness. The aim of this love, then, is that the soul tear itself away from the body, and from whatever ties it to the body, and expire into G‑dliness.

Such a love of G‑d cannot prompt one directly to observe Torah and mitzvot, for this is possible only when the soul is enclothed within the body.

Nevertheless, the ultimate aim of every love of G‑d is to serve Him through fulfilling His Will — the Torah and the mitzvot — as a result of the inspiration of this love. In the case of klot hanefesh, however, it is not the state of love in itself which arouses one to serve G‑d through Torah and the mitzvot. It is rather through a contrary inclination aroused within the soul — during the very sensation of burning love for G‑d, when the soul is in a state of surging ahead towards Him and expiring into G‑dliness. At this very moment, one realizes that expiring is not the ultimate Divine intent. On the contrary, this intent is that the soul remain enclothed within the body, there to continue its task of drawing G‑dliness ever downward, and revealing it in this finite world.

This realization brings one to subordinate one’s own feelings. Instead of enjoying the rapturous sensation of surging forward, and expiring into G‑dliness, one comes to experience an opposite sensation — of returning, to become enclothed in the body, for the sake of fulfilling the Divine intent by observing Torah and the mitzvot.

All the forms and levels of love of G‑d discussed before ch. 50 are grouped under the term kesef (lit., “silver”), which Tanya derives etymologically from the same root, meaning “desire”. Kesef comes under the category of Chesed (“kindness”), which Tikkunei Zohar calls the “right arm” of the Divine stature.

In the Kabbalah, the ten Sefirot are divided into three groups, called vertical “lines” — right, left, and center. The right line, known as the line of Chesed, consists of Chochmah, Chesed, and Netzach. The left line, known as the line of Gevurah, consists of Binah, Gevurah, and Hod. Thus, Chesed is an outgrowth of Chochmah, which begins its line, and Gevurah a product of Binah, which begins its line. (The other Sefirot are situated in the center line, which does not concern us here.)

The various kinds of love of G‑d discussed hitherto all come under the category of Chesed and kesef, and are therefore an outgrowth of Chochmah. But the love of G‑d in the form of klot hanefesh discussed in this chapter, comes under the category of Gevurah, which is called zahav (“gold”), and is an outgrowth of Binah.

והנה כל בחינות ומדרגות אהבה הנ״ל הן מסטרא דימינא, ובחינת כהן איש חסד

All the forms and levels of love mentioned above derive from the “right side,” from the level of Kohen, for a Kohen is called2 “a man of kindness,” meaning that his form of serving G‑d comes under the category of Chesed.

ונקראות: כסף הקדשים, מלשון: נכסוף נכספתה לבית אביך

They are called kesef hakodashim (“a longing for holy things”),3 as in the words,4 “You sorely longed for your father’s home” (where the Hebrew word for “longed” is etymologically related to the word kesef).

All these forms and levels of love of G‑d thus express the desire and longing of a Jew to become joined with G‑d. The words “for your father’s home” in the quoted verse refer to the level of Chochmah, which is called Abba (lit., “father”). This is also the connection with the term (kesef) hakodashim, for in the Zohar, chochmah is called Kodesh (“holiness”). As explained in the introduction to this chapter, all these forms of love come under the category of Chesed, which is an outgrowth of Chochmah (lit., “wisdom”), for they directly inspire one to observe Torah and the mitzvot which derive from Divine Wisdom.

אך יש עוד בחינת אהבה העולה על כולנה, כמעלת הזהב על הכסף

There is, however, another level of love which excels all these aforementioned levels, as gold is superior to silver.

This superiority subsists not in degree or intensity, but rather in quality and character. This is not just a quantitative superiority — in that gold (in the analogy) is worth more than silver, a small quantity of it fetching a higher price than a large quantity of silver. The superiority of gold lies in the fact that the most refined type of gold possesses a captivating luster which glistens in the eyes of the beholder (as explained in the Zohar5). All other types of gold are related to this type. Silver, on the other hand, does not possess this quality.

The same distinction exists between the form of love described in this chapter, which has the characteristic of thirst and rapturous expiry into G‑dliness, and the other forms of love which do not have this quality.

והיא אהבה כרשפי אש

This is a love like glowing coals of fire — a burning love, unlike the aforementioned forms of love which are essentially “like water,” for the soul is drawn with a yearning towards G‑d, like water which flows and is attracted in a certain direction. (Hence in the wording of the Prayer for Rain said on Shemini Atzeret: “Remember our forefather who was drawn after You like water”.) This love, on the other hand, has a totally different quality — that of glowing coals of fire.6

מבחינת גבורות עליונות דבינה עילאה

This derives from the level of the Higher Gevurot of the Higher Binah. In other words, the source of this love is from the level of Gevurah in Binah.

דהיינו, שעל ידי התבוננות בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא, דכולא קמיה כלא ממש חשיב

The arousal of this love comes about through meditation on the greatness of the Infinite One, before Whom all is considered as absolute nothingness.

תתלהט ותתלהב הנפש ליקר תפארת גדולתו, ולאסתכלא ביקרא דמלכא

Then, the soul becomes inflamed and flares up towards the precious splendor of His greatness, in order to gaze upon the glory of the King. This is the content of this love.

כרשפי אש שלהבת עזה העולה למעלה

It is like glowing, fiery coals of a mighty flame which surges upward (not a love which is drawn towards some object, but one which ascends with the burning fire of klot hanefesh),

FOOTNOTES

________

1.  “See also Pelach HaRimon, Vayeira (119); conclusion ofBiur Tanya (mimeo) of R. Shmuel Gronem [Esterman].” (— Note of the Rebbe.)

2.  Zohar I, 256b; 258b.

3.  The Rebbe cites II Kings 12:5, which states: “All silver(kesef) donated for sacred purposes, is to be brought to the house of the L‑rd” — and the following verse says that this silver is to be entrusted to the Kohanim. In spiritual terms this means to say that “sacred silver”(kesef), which as mentioned above is etymologically related to longing, is the province of the Kohanim.

The Rebbe also cites Torah Or, at the end of the Torah portion of Ki Tisa, where reference is made to the “sacredshekel,” which was

4. a silver coin.

5.  Bereishit 31:30.

6.  Zohar II, 148a.

The Rebbe comments that this appears to contradict a statement of the Alter Rebbe in ch. 9. He speaks there of one who has attained “a love of G‑d, burning in his heart like a flame,...[and] his soul will...pine with desire,...rising to attain to the level of ahavah rabbah (‘abundant love’),” — and this higher level of love stems from “the element of Water.”

Here, however, the Alter Rebbe says that the superior form of love is that which “burns in one’s heart like a flame,...his soul pining with desire” — “as gold is superior to silver.”

The Rebbe answers his question by citing the response of the Tzemach Tzedek (in Or HaTorah, Parshat Achrei,pp. 95-96) to a similar question. The Tzemach Tzedekexplains that there are two kinds of silver, ordinary silver and silver which has been refined sevenfold. This latter form of silver is even more valuable than gold. The same is true regarding the various forms of love: When the love is on the level of ordinary silver, then love which is like “flaming fire” and likened to gold is superior to it. However, “the great love of delights” is similar to that form of silver which is superior to gold.



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