Weekly Tanya video lecture: Your road to a healthy spiritual life

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HaRav Shneur Zalman Miliadi

Judaism Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson
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Beginning of chapter 52

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In the previous chapter the Alter Rebbe began to expound upon the theme of the indwelling of the Shechinah, which resided in the Holy of Holies and likewise in other places. He asked: “Is not the whole world filled with His glory?” Since there is no place void of Him, what do we mean when we say that G‑d chose a specific place for the Shechinah to rest?

He explained this according to the text: “From my flesh I see G‑d,” using the analogy of the soul, which pervades all the 248 organs of the body, yet its principal habitation is in the brain. This cannot be said to apply to the soul’s essence, for that is found equally in all 248 organs, from the highest, the brain, to the lowest in the feet. Rather this refers to the general flow of the soul’s vitality into the body and its revelation there, before it is diffused and drawn down into all the bodily organs, each according to its particular capacity.

Concerning this general aspect we say that its principal province and indwelling is in the brain; from there, a mere glimmer of this vitality is drawn down and revealed in the other bodily organs.

The same is true, the Alter Rebbe explains, in the analogue of G‑dliness and the world: The core and essence of the Ein Sof is the same in the higher and lower Worlds — He is concealed from them all equally, for even in the higher Worlds no thought can apprehend Him at all. At the same time He is equally to be found both in the higher and lower Worlds.

The difference between the higher and lower Worlds — as in the analogy of the bodily organs — subsists only with regard to the stream of vitality which flows and is revealed from the Ein Sof in order to create and vitalize the Worlds and their creatures. Concerning this level of revelation we say that in the higher Worlds G‑dliness is revealed to a greater degree, and in the lower Worlds, to a lesser degree.

In the present chapter the Alter Rebbe goes on to further explain how the analogue of G‑dliness and its place in the world relates to the analogy, in which the individual’s vitality in its undiffused state resides in the brain.

וכמו שבנשמת האדם עיקר גילוי כללות החיות הוא במוחין, וכל האברים מקבלים אור וכח לבד המאיר להם ממקור גילוי החיות שבמוחין

And just as in the human soul the principal manifestation of the undiffused vitality is in the brain, while all the organs receive merely a light and potency which radiates to them from the source of the manifestation of the said vitality in the brain,

ככה ממש, על דרך משל, עיקר גילוי כללות המשכת החיות, להחיות העולמות והברואים שבהם, הוא מלובש ונכלל ברצונו וחכמתו ובינתו ודעתו יתברך, הנקראים בשם מוחין

so indeed, figuratively speaking, is the essential manifestation of the general stream of vitality, animating the Worlds and the creatures therein, clothed and contained in His blessed Will, wisdom, understanding and knowledge, which are called the “intelligence”,

The Sefirot of Keter (Will), Chochmah, Binah and Daat as they exist Above are collectively called “intelligence”. Within them is enclothed the stream of undiffused vitality, which is the first revelation of the Ein Sof in the Worlds.

והן הן המלובשים בתורה ומצותיה

and these (Will, Chochmah, Binah and Daat) are clothed in the Torah and its mitzvot.

This is their abode, for Torah law and the mitzvot are themselves the Will of G‑d, desiring as He does that the law in a particular case should be specifically one way and not the other, and that a particular mitzvah be performed in a certain manner and not otherwise. Understanding the laws and knowing the reasons for the mitzvot, — this belongs to the divine levels of Chochmah and Binah. Thus, within Torah and the mitzvot is enclothed the “intelligence” of Above, and in it is to be found the undiffused stream of vitality that descends into the Worlds.

וגילוי כללות המשכה זו

The manifestation of this general flow of life, which is similar to the undiffused stream of vitality found in the brain, takes place — as the Alter Rebbe will soon say — when the flow from “intelligence” descends into the Sefirah of Malchut. This manifestation:

הוא מקור החיות אשר העולמות מקבלים, כל אחד בפרטות רק הארה מתפשטת ומאירה ממקור זה

is the source of the vitality which the Worlds receive, each one in particular receiving but a diffused glow that shines forth from this source,

This refers not to the general stream of vitality found in “intelligence”, but to its revelation. This revelation is the source of the vitality received by all Worlds and their creatures, each according to its particular level. The diffused glow that shines forth is:

כדמיון אור המתפשט מהשמש, על דרך משל, וכחות אברי הגוף מהמוח הנ״ל

in a similar manner to the light that radiates from the sun, by way of example, where the rays are but a diffused glimmer of the sun’s essence, or as the faculties of the organs of the body derive from the brain, as discussed above, in the previous chapter.

ומקור זה הוא הנקרא עלמא דאתגליא

It is this source (this source being a revelation from the general stream of vitality found within “intelligence”) which is called in the Kabbalah the “world of manifestation,” because — as the Alter Rebbe will soon say — it is here that G‑dliness first becomes manifest in the Worlds.

ומטרוניתא

and it is also called matrunita (Aramaic for “queen”), for the “queen” receives her vitality from Kudsha Brich Hu (Aramaic for “the Holy One, blessed be He”), the “king”,

ואימא תתאה

and it is also known as the “nether mother,” the lower level of “mother” — for Binah, too, is known as “mother” (as the verse says,1 “Allude to Binah as mother”). Binah, however, is the higher level of “mother”, while Malchut is the “nether mother,”

ושכינה, מלשון: ושכנתי בתוכם

and is called the Shechinah, from the Scriptural phrase,2 “...and I will dwell among them,” for its Hebrew root means: to dwell and be revealed.3

As the Rebbe explains, the Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain the meaning and character of each of the above-listed names, as well as their particular effect.

על שם שמקור זה הוא ראשית התגלות אור אין סוף

The above-mentioned source is called the “world of manifestation”: For this source is the beginning of the revelation of the light of Ein Sof, and since the source itself constitutes a revelation, it is itself known as the “world of manifestation” — because of its own nature, and not because it vitalizes the revealed Worlds.

אשר ממשיך ומאיר לעולמות בבחינת גילוי

It is called “queen” because it is this level which extends to and illumines the Worlds in a revealed manner — similar to a queen, for through her the wishes of the king are revealed.

Thus, the source of life, i.e., the first revelation of the light of Ein Sof, is first manifest in the “queen”.

וממקור זה נמשך לכל אחד האור וחיות פרטי הראוי לו

From this source there extends to each individual thing, World or creature, the particular light and vitality suitable for it, for which reason it is called the “nether mother,” for it is the “mother” and source of the particular form of vitality of each and every creature.

ושוכן ומתלבש בתוכם להחיותם

and it (the light) dwells and is clothed in them (in the Worlds and their respective creatures), thereby animating them.

Since it dwells, animates and is enclothed in every World and creature it is called Shechinah, which as previously explained means “indwelling”.

Until now the Alter Rebbe has clarified how the light is the source of the Worlds and creatures in general. He now goes on to explain how it is also the source of Jewish souls.

ולכן נקרא אם הבנים, על דרך משל, וכנסת ישראל, שממקור זה נאצלו נשמות דאצילות, ונבראו נשמות דבריאה וכו׳

Therefore it is figuratively called “mother of the children” i.e., of Jewish souls, and is also called “community of Israel,” for from this source the souls of Atzilut have emanated, these being “emanations” and not “creations”, and the souls of Beriah have been created, and so forth,

וכולן אינן רק מהתפשטות החיות והאור מהמקור הזה, הנקרא שכינה

all of them — all the Worlds, creatures and souls — being derived only from the extension of the vitality and light which extends and streams forth from this source which is called Shechinah,

כהתפשטות האור מהשמש

in a manner resembling the radiation of light from the sun, this radiation being but a ray from its source.

אבל השכינה עצמה, שהיא ראשית הגילוי ועיקרו, מה שאין סוף ברוך הוא מאיר לעולמות בבחינת גילוי, והיא מקור כל המשכות החיות שבכל העולמות

But as for the Shechinah itself, namely, the origin and core of the manifestation whereby the blessed Ein Sof illumines the Worlds in a revealed form and which is the source of all streams of vitality in the Worlds,

שכל החיות שבהם אינו רק אור המתפשט ממנה כאור המתפשט מהשמש

(4their entire vitality being no more than the light which is diffused from it like the light radiated from the sun), —

אי אפשר לעולמות לסבול ולקבל אור שכינתה, שתשכון ותתלבש בתוכם ממש, בלא לבוש המעלים ומסתיר אורה מהם

concerning the Shechinah itself, the source of all vitality for the worlds: the worlds cannot endure or receive the light of this Shechinah, that it might actually dwell and enclothe itself in them, without a “garment” to screen and conceal its light from them,

שלא יתבטלו במציאות לגמרי במקורם, כביטול אור השמש במקורו בגוף השמש, שאין נראה שם אור זה, רק עצם גוף השמש בלבד

so that they may not become entirely nullified and lose their identity within their source, just as the light of the sun is nullified in its source, namely, in the sun itself — where this light cannot be seen, but only the integral mass of the sun itself.

So, too, since the Shechinah is the source of vitality of the whole of creation, all of which receives but a ray of the Shechinah, then if the Shechinah itself — the actual source — would be manifest, all created beings would be nullified in that source. Their situation would be exactly similar to the sun’s rays as they are found within the orb of the sun, where they are completely nullified.

In order for the Shechinah to dwell within the Worlds and their creatures, there must therefore be a “garment” which serves to conceal its light. Only then can creation receive the Shechinah and not be nullified out of existence.

But what manner of “garment” can possibly conceal the Shechinah and yet itself not be affected by it, so that it, too, will not become nullified? Since the Shechinah is the source of all creation, it is of course the source of the concealing “garment” too.

In other words: If the Shechinah is manifest in the “garment”, i.e., if the garment is enveloped by its source, then it follows that it should be nullified out of existence, just as the sun’s rays cease to exist within the body of the sun. In effect, this would make the “garment” cease serving as a “garment” to conceal the Shechinah.

The Alter Rebbe anticipates this question by stating that the “garment” is G‑d’s Will and wisdom, which are enclothed in Torah and the mitzvot. Since this “garment” belongs to a plane even higher than (the source of the world’s vitality known as) the Shechinah, it is not nullified by it.

However, asks the Rebbe, according to this explanation the question becomes even stronger: If creation cannot receive the light of the Shechinah, then surely it cannot receive the light of the “garment” which is even higher than the Shechinah.

This, the Rebbe says, is answered by the Alter Rebbe when he says, “only that it has descended by means of obscuring gradations.” This means to say: Since G‑d’s Will and wisdom as found in Torah and the mitzvot “descended” in the gradations of the Worlds, being able to clothe themselves even in material things, they therefore can serve as a “garment” to conceal the light of the Shechinah.

We now understand why the “garment” itself is not nullified by the light of the Shechinah, as well as how created beings can receive this “garment” within themselves, for it is none other than G‑d’s Will and wisdom which He enclothed in Torah and the mitzvot — as shall presently be explained.

ומהו הלבוש שיוכל להסתירה ולהלבישה ולא יתבטל במציאות באורה, הוא רצונו יתברך וחכמתו וכו׳ המלובשים בתורה ומצותיה, הנגלית לנו ולבנינו

But what is this “garment” which is able to conceal and clothe it (the Shechinah) yet will not itself be completely nullified within its light? — This is His blessed Will and wisdom, and so forth (“and so forth” referring to the levels of Binah and Daat which are part of “intelligence” Above, as mentioned earlier), which are clothed in the Torah and its mitzvot that are revealed to us and our children,

Why are G‑d’s Will and wisdom and so forth able to act as a concealing “garment” for the light of the Shechinah without themselves being nullified by it?

דאורייתא מחכמה נפקת, היא חכמה עילאה, דלעילא לעילא מעלמא דאתגליא

for “the Torah issues from wisdom,” namely Chochmah Ila‘ah (“Supernal Wisdom,” which is the level of Chochmah of Atzilut), that is immeasurably higher than the world of manifestation (which is the Shechinah),

As mentioned earlier, Shechinah refers to the initial stage of revelation, for which reason it is called the “world of manifestation.” Since Chochmah Ila‘ah is entirely beyond the pale of revelation it is therefore immeasurably higher than the Shechinah.

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FOOTNOTES

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1.  See Mishlei 2:3; Berachot 57a (and Chiddushei Aggadotof Maharsha, ad loc.).

2.  Shmot 25:8.

3. Note of the Rebbe: “In all the above no mention is made that this is the level of Malchut of Atzilut, and ‘Divine speech.’ Only later, as an introduction to the concept of ‘Holy of Holies’ and Torah, and the manner in which they descend from World to World, does the Alter Rebbe use the terms, ‘Malchut of Atzilut...,’ ‘Malchut of Beriah...,’and so on. For inasmuch as he finds support for this inEtz Chayim he uses the terminology of Etz Chayim — Malchut (and not Shechinah, and the like). The Tanyaitself, however, does not adopt the style of Kabbalistic writings.”

4. Parentheses are in the original text





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