Weekly Tanya video\lecture: 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 ,

The Lubavitcher Rebbe
The Lubavitcher Rebbe

For previous classes, click the link below. Each class, however, can be learned independent of the others.

Tanya/Shaar Hayichud V’haEmunah, Chapter 7, Class 7


ולפיכך, כשם שאי אפשר לשום נברא בעולם להשיג מהות הבורא ועצמותו, כך אי אפשר להשיג מהות דעתו

Therefore, just as it is impossible for any creature in the world to comprehend the Essence of the Creator and His Being, so it is impossible to comprehend the essence of His knowledge, which is One with G‑d Himself;

רק להאמין, באמונה שהיא למעלה מהשכל ומהשגה, שהקב״ה יחיד ומיוחד

[it is possible] only to believe, with a faith that transcends intellect and comprehension, that the Holy One, blessed be He, is One and Unique.

Inasmuch as faith transcends intellect, it is able to apprehend truths that lie beyond the province of mortal intellect.

הוא ודעתו הכל אחד ממש, ובידיעת עצמו מכיר ויודע כל הנמצאים, עליונים ותחתונים

He and His knowledge are all absolutely one, and knowing Himself, He perceives and knows all the higher and lower beings, i.e., the beings in the higher and lower worlds,

עד שלשול קטן שבים, ועד יתוש קטן שיהיה בטבור הארץ

including even a small worm in the sea14 and a minute mosquito that may be found in the center of the earth;15

אין דבר נעלם ממנו

there is nothing concealed from Him.

ואין ידיעה זו מוסיפה בו ריבוי והרכבה כלל, מאחר שאינה רק ידיעת עצמו, ועצמותו ודעתו הכל אחד

This knowledge does not add multiplicity and composition to Him at all, since it is merely a knowledge of Himself; and His Being and His knowledge are all one.16

Thus, by knowing Himself, He knows all created beings that derive their existence from Him and that are utterly nullified to Him and unified with Him.

ולפי שזה קשה מאד לצייר בשכלנו, על כן אמר הנביא: כי גבהו שמים מארץ, כן גבהו דרכי מדרכיכם ומחשבותי ממחשבותיכם

Inasmuch as this form of knowledge is very difficult to envisage, the Prophet [Isaiah] therefore said,17 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

וכתיב: החקר אלקה תמצא וגו׳, וכתיב: העיני בשר לך, אם כראות אנוש תראה

It is likewise written,18 “Can you by [intellectual] searching find G‑d?...”; and so too,19 “Have You eyes of flesh, and do You see as man sees?”

שהאדם רואה ויודע כל הדברים בידיעה שחוץ ממנו

For man sees and knows everything with a knowledge that is external to himself, and hence something is added to him by his knowledge,

והקב״ה בידיעת עצמו

whereas the Holy One, blessed be He, [knows all] by knowing Himself.

עד כאן לשונו

These are the [paraphrased] words [of Maimonides].

עיין שם בהלכות יסודי התורה, והסכימו עמו חכמי הקבלה, כמבואר בפרד״ס מהרמ״ק ז״ל

(20See Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah. The Sages of the Kabbalah have agreed with him, as is explained in Pardes of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, of blessed memory.)

There are a number of Torah sages who sharply disagree with Maimonides‘ view. They claim that no descriptive term may be applied to G‑d — not even that of knowledge, and not even of a form of knowledge so rarefied that it is completely beyond the realm of human experience. To say that G‑d is the “Knower” and the “Knowledge” and so on, so the argument runs, is to give Infinite G‑d a description which would serve to limit Him.

והנה מכאן

In the light of what has been said above — that G‑d’s knowledge is wholly one with G‑d Himself, for otherwise it would imply multiplicity in One Who is perfect unity,

יש להבין שגגת מקצת חכמים בעיניהם, ה׳ יכפר בעדם

it is possible to understand the error of certain scholars in their own eyes (May G‑d forgive them!) — for even those who have erred unwittingly are in need of atonement,

ששגו וטעו בעיונם בכתבי האריז״ל, והבינו ענין הצמצום המוזכר שם כפשוטו

who erred and misinterpreted in their study of the writings of the AriZal, and understood the doctrine of tzimtzum (which is mentioned therein) literally —

In the writings of the AriZal it is stated that in the “beginning”, before creation, the [infinite] light of the Ein Sof-light filled all “space” and there was no “room” for the creation of finite worlds. For inasmuch as worlds are by definition finite, whereas the Divine light is infinite, there is no room within the infinite for finitude. How, then, did finite worlds come into being?

The AriZal explains this through the doctrine of tzimtzum: The Ein Sof-light “departed” — i.e., it ceased to be revealed, so that infinity was no longer in a state of revelation, and all that remained revealed was the power of finitude. This power does allow for the creation of finite worlds.




14. Note of the Rebbe: “[‘The smallest of all creatures’ —Rashi on Chullin 40a] of the sea [according to the text of the Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, Section 4].”

15. Note of the Rebbe: “The most insignificant of all creatures; see Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2:9; see also Bereishit Rabbah, beg. of ch. 8.”

16. The following paraphrases a note of the Rebbe.

It would seem that the complete subject under discussion has now been concluded. Since it is not within the province of Tanya to expound Scriptural verses, why does the Alter Rebbe now proceed, “The Prophet [Isaiah] therefore said...,” and so on?

One cannot compare this passage with ch. 2, where the verses cited contribute to the explanation of the matter at hand, namely, the limits of man’s comprehension. Here, however, since these verses appear to add nothing, why does the Alter Rebbe quote and explain them?

A solution: By doing so, the Alter Rebbe answers a question which seems to contradict all that has been stated earlier. For the Alter Rebbe had written earlier that a perception of Maimonides’ concept that “He is the Knowledge...,” is the “lower-level Unity” which is applicable to every man (as opposed to the “higher-level Unity” which can be achieved only by select individuals who have attained a singularly exalted spiritual state).

However, Maimonides‘ concluding words on this subject in this very text seem to indicate otherwise, namely, “This is beyond the capacity...of the heart of man to apprehend clearly”: no man, even the most spiritual, is able to comprehend this matter.

This question becomes even more acute in the light of that which Maimonides writes in Hilchot Teshuvah, end of ch. 5: “This is what the prophet states, ’My thoughts are not your thoughts‘”; i.e., this statement is even made by the Prophets. This seems to contradict the Alter Rebbe’s earlier statement that “lower-level Unity” may be achieved by all.

For this reason the Alter Rebbe says: “The prophet [Isaiah] therefore says...,” since this matter is indeed difficult to envisage intellectually. Nevertheless, this manner of spiritual service is indeed within the reach of all, even of those who are only at the level of “lower-level Unity.”

17. Yeshayahu 55:9.

18. Iyov 11:7.

19. Ibid. 10:4.

20. Parentheses are in the original text.