Tanya/Iggeres Ha’Kodesh - The Holy Epistle, Epistle 10, Class 2



i.e., they are the 248 vessels and garments for the radiance from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light that is vested in them.

פֵּירוּשׁ רַמַ"ח כֵּלִים וּלְבוּשִׁים לְהֶאָרָה מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמְלוּבָּשׁ בָּהֶן

Each of the commandments serves as a receptor or vehicle for the particular Divine illumination that vests itself within it, just as each organ of the body is a vehicle or receptor for a particular faculty of the soul—the eye for the power of sight, the ear for the power of hearing, and so on.

(13And, as is known, from this light, awe and love are drawn down upon [a person as he performs] each command.)

(וּמֵאוֹר זֶה יוּמְשַׁךְ לוֹ דְּחִילוּ וּרְחִימוּ בְּכָל מִצְוָה כַּנּוֹדָע).

The Torah and its commandments are thus a downflow of G‑dliness, springing from His attribute of kindness.

However, this downflow was first vested in G‑d’s attribute of gevurah, which is referred to as “fire,”

רַק שֶׁהַמְשָׁכָה זוֹ נִתְלַבְּשָׁה תְּחִלָּה בְּמִדַּת גְּבוּרָתוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, הַמְכוּנָּה בְּשֵׁם "אֵשׁ",

and which reflects a contraction (tzimtzum) of the light and life-force that issue from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light,

שֶׁהִיא בְּחִינַת צִמְצוּם הָאוֹר וְהַחַיּוּת הַנִּמְשָׁכוֹת מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

thus enabling it to become vested in the performance of the commandments,

כְּדֵי שֶׁתּוּכַל לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּמַעֲשֵׂה הַמִּצְוֹת,

practically all of which involve material things,

שֶׁרוּבָּן כְּכוּלָּן הֵם בִּדְבָרִים חוּמְרִיִּים,

such as tzitzit(which are made of wool), tefillin(made of leather and parchment), sacrifices (offered from animals, plants, and minerals), and charity (that involves money or other material objects).

כְּצִיצִית וּתְפִילִּין וְקָרְבָּנוֹת וּצְדָקָה.

Even commandments that involve a man’s spirit, such as awe and love [of G‑d],

וְאַף מִצְוֹת שֶׁהֵן בְּרוּחָנִיּוּת הָאָדָם, כְּמוֹ יִרְאָה וְאַהֲבָה,

are also of limited measure14 and by no means of infinite extent.

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, הֵן בִּבְחִינַת גְּבוּל וּמִדָּה – וְלֹא בִּבְחִינַת אֵין־סוֹף כְּלָל,

For not even for a moment could man sustain in his heart so intense a love of G‑d as is without end and limitation and still remain in existence in his body.

כִּי אַהֲבָה רַבָּה לַה' בְּלִי קֵץ וּגְבוּל וּמִדָּה אֵין הָאָדָם יָכוֹל לְסוֹבְלָהּ בְּלִבּוֹ וְלִהְיוֹת קַיָּים בְּגוּפוֹ אֲפִילוּ רֶגַע,

Indeed, so intense a love would surely cause the soul to take flight.

So it was taught by our Sages, of blessed memory,15 that at the time of the Giving of the Torah, when G‑d’s Divinity, and the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, were manifested [to the Jews at Sinai] at the [direct] level of revealed speech, “their souls took flight” from their bodies.

וּכְמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה, שֶׁבִּשְׁעַת מַתַּן תּוֹרָה, שֶׁהָיְתָה הִתְגַּלּוּת אֱלֹהוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ וְאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא בִּבְחִינַת דִּיבּוּר וְהִתְגַּלּוּת – "פָּרְחָה נִשְׁמָתָן כוּ'";

At that time, G‑d restored their souls with the dew that He will use to revive the dead in the Time to Come. We see, however, that the illumination in itself was so intense that their souls could not remain within their bodies for even one moment.

Since the love presently experienced by a soul within a body does not cause it to flee, it follows that this love is inherently limited. This also applies to the awe and love which are experienced as a result of the Divinity that is revealed in the mitzvot, as mentioned earlier. This is the case because the flow of G‑dliness which descends through the Torah and its finite commandments is restrained by the attribute of gevurah.

We can now understand the two stages implied in the above-quoted verse: Initially, the Torah indeed proceeds “from His right Hand,” from the boundless kindness of the attribute of chesed—but it is then communicated to us “from the Mouth of the gevurah” as “a Torah of fire,” as a law which is delimited and restricted through the Divine attribute of gevurah, so that it will be able to find expression in the finitude of the mitzvot.

Now, because the commandments were given to us by being vested in the attribute of gevurah and by the contraction of the [Divine] radiance…,

וְהִנֵּה, לְפִי שֶׁהַמִּצְוֹת נִיתְּנוּ לָנוּ עַל־יְדֵי הִתְלַבְּשׁוּת בְּמִדַּת גְּבוּרָה וְצִמְצוּם הַהֶאָרָה כוּ',

most commandments have a delimited measure.16

לָכֵן רוֹב הַמִּצְוֹת יֵשׁ לָהֶן שִׁיעוּר מְצוּמְצָם,




13. The parentheses are in the original text.

14. This being a characteristic of the attribute of gevurah.

15.Shabbat 88b.

16. Note by the Rebbe: “It would appear that this phrase (‘most commandments have a delimited measure’) seeks to highlight their maximal limits, especially since the Alter Rebbe qualifies the noun ‘measure’ (shiur) with the adjective ‘delimited’ (metzumtzam). (The commandments that follow would then be instances of chesed olam, being no higher than the finitude of a worldlike chesed.) Paradoxically, however, the examples that the Alter Rebbe then gives all indicate the minimal limits of each mitzvah! Indeed, even when the mitzvah of tzedakah is carried out at the [boundless] level of Chasdei Havayah, it has a minimal limit—i.e., [the obligation obtains only when the donor owns at least] a perutah (whereas from the finite perspective of chesed olam, he would be exempt from it, as is discussed at the very end of the present epistle). “By way of resolving this anomaly, it could be suggested that the Alter Rebbe seeks to point out that tzitzit which are thirteen thumb-breadths long are in no way superior to tzitzit of twelve; hence, the measure of the mitzvah of tzitzit has a maximal delimitation. The same may be said of the other examples, such as the dimensions of tefillin, and so on.”