Lubavitcher Rebbe
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Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Kodesh - The Holy Epistle, Epistle 13, Class 3

These, then, are the two types of Divine service that result from the soul’s being rooted either in the “right” or the “left.”

Now, every Jew needs to comprise both these traits: a Jew whose soul derives from chesed must also incorporate the thrust of gevurah, and vice versa,

וְהִנֵּה, כָּל אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל צָרִיךְ לִהְיוֹת כָּלוּל מִב' בְּחִינוֹת אֵלּוּ,

for “There is no thing that has not its place.”11

וְ"אֵין לְךָ דָבָר שֶׁאֵין לוֹ מָקוֹם".

Both chesed and gevurah are essential to one’s service; at times, he must use one attribute, at times—the other.

Thus, we find various matters that exemplify the leniencies of Beit Shammai and the stringencies of Beit Hillel.12

וְלָכֵן מָצִינוּ כַּמָּה דְבָרִים מִקּוּלֵּי בֵּית שַׁמַּאי וּמֵחוּמְרֵי בֵּית הִלֵּל,

This comes to teach us that even Beit Shammai, whose soul was rooted in the supernal “left”13 (which is why they always decided stringently as regards all the prohibitions of the Torah,

לְלַמְּדֵנוּ, שֶׁאַף בֵּית שַׁמַּאי שֶׁשֹּׁרֶשׁ נִשְׁמָתָם מִבְּחִינַת שְׂמֹאל הָעֶלְיוֹן, וְלָכֵן הָיוּ דָנִין לְהַחֲמִיר תָּמִיד בְּכָל אִיסּוּרֵי הַתּוֹרָה,

For stringencies stem from gevurah, inasmuch as they prevent an object from being used and thereby elevated.

whereas Beit Hillel, who derived from the supernal “right,” would find arguments for leniency in order to render permissible the things prohibited by Beit Shammai,

וּבֵית הִלֵּל שֶׁהָיוּ מִבְּחִינַת יָמִין הָעֶלְיוֹן, הָיוּ מְלַמְּדִין זְכוּת לְהָקֵל וּלְהַתִּיר אִיסּוּרֵי בֵּית שַׁמַּאי,

so that these should become released from their prohibitive bonds and be able to ascend),

שֶׁיִּהְיוּ מוּתָּרִים מֵאִיסּוּרָם וְיוּכְלוּ לַעֲלוֹת לְמַעְלָה,

The word אָסוּר means “bound” (i.e., to the sitra achara) and hence “prohibited.” Its opposite (מוּתָּר) means “released” and hence “permitted.” Declaring an object permissible thus unfetters it from the bonds of the sitra achara, thereby allowing it to ascend, as explained in the Tanya, Part I, ch. 7.

nevertheless, in numerous matters, [even] Beit Shammai were lenient.

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, בְּכַמָּה דְבָרִים הָיוּ בֵּית שַׁמַּאי מְקִילִּין,

[This is so] because of the inclusiveness of their soul’s root, which is compounded of the “right” (chesed) as well.

מִפְּנֵי הִתְכַּלְלוּת שֹׁרֶשׁ נִשְׁמָתָם שֶׁהוּא כָּלוּל גַּם מִיָּמִין.

And, likewise, the root of Beit Hillel’s soul was also compounded of the “left” (gevurah),

וְכֵן שׁוֹרֶשׁ נִשְׁמַת בֵּית הִלֵּל כָּלוּל גַּם מִשְּׂמֹאל,

for, as is known of the mode and the attributes14 (i.e., the manner) of supernal holiness,

כַּיָּדוּעַ דֶּרֶךְ וּמִדּוֹת קֹדֶשׁ הָעֶלְיוֹן,

“there is no cleavage or division there,”15 heaven forfend;

דְּ"לֵית תַּמָן קִיצּוּץ וּפֵירוּד" חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

rather, all the traits that derive from supernal holiness incorporate each Other—chesed incorporates an aspect of gevurah; gevurah of chesed; and so on.

וְכָל הַמִּדּוֹת כְּלוּלוֹת זוֹ מִזּוֹ,

They are therefore in union with each other, as is known to those who study the Kabbalah (lit., “the scholars of the Hidden Wisdom”).

וְלָכֵן הֵם מְיוּחָדוֹת זוֹ בָּזוֹ, כַּיָּדוּעַ לְיוֹדְעֵי חֵן;

Although chesed and gevurah are opposites, nonetheless, since they are also compounded of each other, they are able to work together.

Thus, it is written of Abraham, who personifies the attribute of chesed and love, “Now I know that you stand in awe of G‑d,”16

וּכְדִכְתִיב בְּאַבְרָהָם, שֶׁהוּא מִדַּת הַחֶסֶד וְהָאַהֲבָה: "עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי כִּי יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים אַתָּה",

for he had garbed himself in the attribute of gevurah, which was not of his essence, “And bound Isaac his son…and took the knife [to slaughter his son].”17

עַל־יְדֵי שֶׁלָּבַשׁ מִדַּת הַגְּבוּרָה, "וַיַּעֲקוֹד אֶת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ . . וַיִּקַּח אֶת הַמַּאֲכֶלֶת כוּ'".

We thus see that Abraham, who is the very embodiment of chesed, was able to respond as the occasion demanded with even this expression of severity, the very epitome of the attribute of gevurah.




11. Avot 4:3.

12. Note by the Rebbe: “Eduyot, chs. 4-5.”

13. Note by the Rebbe: “See Zohar III, 245a.”

14. Note by the Rebbe in He’arot Vetikkunim: “This expression requires some explanation.”

15. Zohar III, 70a.

16. Genesis 22:12.

17. Ibid., verses 9, 10.