Weekly Tanya video\lecture on 'The Gate to Faith'

The Tanya compacts four millennia of Jewish wisdom to answer the great personal and existential questions of life.

Rabbi Shimon Eisenbach ,

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For an introduction to what Tanya is about, click here.

Note: Previous lectures can be accessed by means of the link below, but each lecture stands on its own.

Tanya/Shaar Hayichud V’haEmunah, Chapter 6, Class 1.


Earlier on, in ch. 4, the Alter Rebbe explained that the Supernal attributes of Chesed and Gevurah — the former finding expression in the diffusion of the Divine life-force that creates and animates created beings, and the latter finding expression in the obscuring of this life-force from them (so that they conceive of themselves as independently existing beings) — both possess one source. He explained there that since these two attributes are essentially one, the tzimtzum of Gevurah does not truly conceal, for “an entity cannot conceal its own self.”

All this applies to Chesed and Gevurah in the state in which they are found within their source. One might, however, think that in their revealed state (whether in a Sefirah, or in a mortal middah or attribute) they are indeed two separate and opposite entities — revelation and concealment, respectively. The Alter Rebbe therefore goes on to say in this chapter, that even when these attributes are revealed they are still in a state of hitkalelut, mutual incorporation, and both serve to bring about one result — a physical world with corporeal creatures. Were the Divine life-force to be revealed within these creatures they would be completely nullified within their source; there would be no such thing as created beings.

Thus the ultimate purpose of the tzimtzum brought about by Gevurah is also motivated by Chesed, for this concealment makes creation possible. Gevurah and Chesed are thus joined in a state of mutual incorporation. What makes this fusion possible is the fact that they are both united with the light of the Ein Sof. Hence, even when they are in a revealed state and appear to be two disparate entities, they are essentially one.

והנה שם אלקים הוא שם מדת הגבורה והצמצום

Now the Name Elokim is the Name which indicates the attribute of Gevurah and tzimtzum,

Each of G‑d’s Names denotes a particular Divine attribute. The Name pronounced Keil, for example, indicates the attribute of Chesed, as in the verse,1 “The kindness of Keil endures throughout the day.” Likewise, the Name that indicates the attribute of Gevurah or tzimtzum is Elokim; i.e., when the light of the Ein Sof garbs itself in the attribute of Gevurah to bring about its own tzimtzum and concealment, it is known by the Name Elokim.

ולכן הוא גם כן בגימטריא הטבע

hence it is also numerically equal to hateva (“nature”), which equals 86,

“Nature” signifies the ordered way of the world. Because of its repetitiveness, people become accustomed to it and it arouses no sense of wonder. No thought is given to the Divine power and life-force which is concealed in those things which have an established order and are repeated constantly.

לפי שמסתיר האור שלמעלה, המהוה ומחיה העולם

for it (the Divine Name Elokim) conceals the supernal light that brings the world into existence and gives it life,

The supernal light constantly creates the world ex nihilo — a feat more wondrous than the Splitting of the Red Sea. The Divine Name Elokim, however, conceals this light, so that it will not be visible to created beings,

ונראה כאלו העולם עומד ומתנהג בדרך הטבע

and it appears as though the world exists — without having to be constantly renewed, as if permanently programmed — and is conducted according to the laws of nature, independently of any supernatural influence.

Thus, even those things which are observed to undergo some degree of renewal are also perceived as “the way of nature,” inasmuch as they follow these seemingly immutable laws.

Chassidus explains that the wordטבע (“nature”), has a number of meanings, including “entrenched” and “submerged”. This means that the laws of nature are so “entrenched” in creation that it is difficult to detect the ongoing process of its renewal. Additionally, just as a submerged object is completely concealed by water, so, too, is the Divine life-force utterly “submerged” and concealed within created beings.

ושם אלקים זה

And this Name Elokim, not as it exists in its supernal source, but as it acts through the attribute of Gevurah, so that the world appears to be conducted in a natural manner,

הוא מגן ונרתק לשם הויה

is a shield and a sheath for the Name Havayah,

The Divine Name Havayah — as mentioned earlier, in explanation of the verse, “For a sun and a shield is Havayah Elokim”— is like the illuminating sun, while the Name Elokim conceals its light as does the sun’s shield, thereby enabling created beings to benefit from it.

להעלים האור והחיות הנמשך משם הויה, ומהוה מאין ליש

concealing the light and life-force which flows from the Name Havayah and bringing creation into existence from naught, this being the purpose of Havayah, the Name itself meaning “to bring into existence.” This light and life-force is concealed by Elokim:

שלא יתגלה לנבראים, ויבטלו במציאות

so that it should not be revealed to the creatures, which would thereby become absolutely nullified.

Since it is only through the concealment effected by the Name Elokim that created beings are able to exist:

והרי בחינת גבורה זו וצמצום הזה הוא גם כן בחינת חסד, שהעולם יבנה בו

The quality of this2 Gevurah and tzimtzum is also an aspect of Chesed, through which the world is built.

This is an allusion to the verse that states:3 “For I declared that the world be built through [the attribute of] Chesed.” For inasmuch as the world could not possibly have been created without the tzimtzum and concealment afforded by the Divine Name Elokim, it follows that the ultimate intent of this tzimtzum is actually Chesed.

וזו היא בחינת גבורה הכלולה בחסד

And this is the quality of Gevurah which is included in Chesed.4

I.e., this is a form of Gevurah through which an act of Chesed is accomplished. As such it is included within Chesed.5

והנה מהתכללות המדות זו בזו, נראה לעין דאיהו וגרמוהי חד, שהן מדותיו

From the mutual inclusion of the attributes, their opposite natures notwithstanding, it is evident that “He and His causations” — i.e., His attributes — “are One,”

כי מאחר שהן ביחוד גמור עמו, לכן הן מתייחדות זו בזו וכלולות זו מזו

for since they are in complete unity with Him, they therefore unite with each other and are comprised of each other.

כמאמר אליהו: ואנת הוא דקשיר לון ומייחד לון וכו׳ ובר מינך לית יחודא בעילאי כו׳

As Eliyahu said, in the passage beginning Patach Eliyahu, in the introduction to Tikkunei Zohar, “And You are He Who binds them (i.e., the Sefirot and the attributes) together and unites them...; and apart from You there is no unity among those [attributes] above….”

The Alter Rebbe will say a little later that since the Divine Name Elokim, signifying the attribute of tzimtzum and concealment, is one with the Name Havayah, it follows that the concealment brought about by the Name Elokim is not a true concealment, for “an entity cannot conceal its own self.” Created beings are therefore absolutely nullified in relation to their source.

וזהו שכתוב: והשבות אל לבבך כי ה׳ הוא האלקים

This, then, is the meaning of the Scriptural phrase,6 “and take it unto your heart that Havayah is Elokim.”

Concerning this verse the question was asked in the first chapter: “Would it occur to you that there is a god dwelling in the waters beneath the earth, so that it is necessary to caution so strongly [and negate this thought by stating that one should] ‘take it unto your heart’?”

According to the explanation given here this question is answered: The statement that “in the heavens above and upon the earth below, there is no other,” is not intended to negate the existence of another god. Rather, the verse is telling us that there is nothing else besides G‑d: He alone enjoys true existence; everything else is totally nullified in relation to Him. And for this concept to be understood well, one must indeed “take it unto his heart.”

פירוש: ששני שמות אלו הם אחד ממש

That is, these two Names are actually one; i.e., although Havayah represents Chesed and revelation, and Elokim represents tzimtzum and concealment, they are nevertheless truly one,

שגם שם אלקים, המצמצם ומעלים האור, הוא בחינת חסד כמו שם הויה

for even the Name Elokim, which conceals and contracts the light of the Divine life-force that is responsible for creation, is a quality of Chesed, just like the Name Havayah.

משום שמדותיו של הקדוש ברוך הוא מתיחדות עמו ביחוד גמור

For the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He, unite with Him in a complete unity,

והוא ושמו אחד, שמדותיו הן שמותיו

and “He and His Name are One,” for His attributes are His Names; i.e., the attributes correspond to His specific Names.

ואם כן

Since this is so, i.e., once you understand that Elokim is one with Havayah,

ממילא תדע שבשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת אין עוד

you will consequently know that “in the heavens above and on the earth below, ein od — there exists nothing else besides G‑d.

פירוש: שגם הארץ החומרית, שנראית יש גמור לעין כל, היא אין ואפס ממש לגבי הקב״ה

This Hebrew phrase means that even the material earth, which appears to everyone’s eyes to be actually existing, is naught and utter nothingness in relation to the Holy One, blessed be He.

כי שם אלקים אינו מעלים ומצמצם אלא לתחתונים

For the Name Elokim obscures and contracts the light and life-force only for the nether creatures, so that they perceive themselves as possessing independent existence,

ולא לגבי הקב״ה, מאחר שהוא ושמו אלקים אחד

but not for the Holy One, blessed be He, since He and His Name Elokim are One. Hence the Name Elokim cannot possibly act as a concealment for Him.




1. Tehillim 52:3.

2. Note of the Rebbe: “As distinct from that [Gevurah] of Part I, end of ch. 6.”

In this brief note, the Rebbe explains why the Alter Rebbe stresses here that specifically “this [manner of] Gevurah and tzimtzum is also a quality of Chesed.” His intention is to exclude thereby the Gevurah and tzimtzumdiscussed earlier, in the sixth chapter of the first part ofTanya. When he says there that the life-force of holiness descends through many degrees of tzimtzum that enable it to be invested within the kelipah and sitra achra so as to provide them with life, it is clear that there the tzimtzumis truly one of Gevurah and concealment, and by no means a quality of Chesed. For the Divine intent there is that there should be no revelation whatever.

3. Tehillim 89:3.

4. The Rebbe explains why the Alter Rebbe states that “this is the quality of Gevurah which is included in Chesed,” after having already said that “this quality of Gevurah andtzimtzum is also a quality of Chesed.”

The Alter Rebbe’s purpose here is to introduce a basic new point, and thereby to forestall a powerful question, which because of its apparent simplicity — says the Rebbe — seems to be overlooked.

The question is as follows: We are speaking here of G‑d’s infinite attributes. Just as the effect of His Chesedis limitless, creating as it does an infinite multitude of beings (see above, ch. 4), so too should the infinite effect of Gevurah be an infinite degree of concealment. This concealment should therefore only allow (heaven forfend) such creation of which it may be said (as the Alter Rebbe says in Tanya, ch. 36) that “there is none lower than it in terms of concealment of His light.” Accordingly, it would seem that the infinite concealment of Gevurah should only allow for the creation of an infinite multitude of creatures which are of the lowest level of this gross and material world, “the lowest in degree,” inasmuch as only within this lowest level is there to be found the utmost concealment — the infinite effect of Gevurah. How, then, did the rest of creation come about?

According to the analogy of the sun’s shield and sheath, as well as the above explanation that the purpose of the concealment is not concealment alone, but also that creation not be totally nullified within the Divine light, the question is resolved as follows.

The sun not only operates by means of its shield; being a luminary, it also shines — and may be seen — through it. Thus, the effect of the shield is also to allow the revelation of the sun.

The same is true of the infinite degrees of creation which emanate from the “sun” of Chesed and the infinite degrees of concealment emanating from the “shield” ofGevurah. Every level of the infinity of creatures created by Chesed is protected from being nullified in relation to its source, by the corresponding level of the infinity of shields brought into being through the infinite attribute ofGevurah.

This, then, is the new and basic point the Alter Rebbe indicates when he says that “this is the quality ofGevurah which is included in Chesed”: Within each of the infinite degrees and levels of creatures generated byChesed, there is to be found the quality of Gevurah which is included in Chesed, so that they will not be nullified in relation to their source.

We thus have two novel points explained here by the Alter Rebbe: (a) The quality of Gevurah is not only an expression of concealment and tzimtzum, but also a quality of Chesed, for it makes creation possible; (b) this quality of Gevurah is included in Chesed.

This latter point finds expression in the fact that each level of creation and each creature was brought into being through a manner of tzimtzum that is likened to “individual droplets” of rain that are channeled and phased, rather than descending all at once like “the floodgates of heaven.” The “channeling” effect is thus twofold. On the one hand, it negates and limits the unbridled “floodgates of heaven”; at the same time, it causes the droplets to descend individually, so that they may be utilized in a profitable manner.

Another analogy: Smoked glass is used to protect one’s eyes from the sun’s rays by blocking the free passage of light that a lighter-colored glass would admit; at the same time, this same protective glass does permit some degree of light to enter, so that benefit may be derived from the sun’s rays.

The same is true in the analogue, regarding the two characteristics of tzimtzum and Gevurah. On one hand,tzimtzum makes it possible for the created being not to become totally nullified in relation to its source — something that would be certain to occur if creation were to derive from the attribute of Chesed alone; on the other hand, tzimtzum at the very same time is a partner in creation — an act of Chesed, as the verse states, “For I declared that the world be built through Chesed.” This is what is meant by “the quality of Gevurah which is included in Chesed”; i.e., that Gevurah which createsbeings.

5. An example of this, notes the Rebbe, is the rainfall as described in note 4, above. So too, as discussed there, one can look at the sun only by using a darkened glass, which thus serves a function of Gevurah as included inChesed. And the same is true in the analogue: Since the world is created by virtue of the concealment effected byGevurah, this attribute thereby becomes a component of the attribute of Chesed.

6. Devarim 4:39.