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Tanya for Sunday, 18 Tamuz, 5775 - July 5, 2015

As Divided for a Regular Year

Tanya for 18 Tamuz

17 Tamuz, 5775 - July 4, 201519 Tamuz, 5775 - July 6, 2015

Chapter Six

[The Alter Rebbe opened the fourth chapter by beginning to explain the concept of repentance according to the mystical approach to the Torah.

He prefaced his commentary by noting that according to Scripture and our Sages a person who committed a sin punishable by excision would actually die before his fiftieth year, while one who committed a sin punishable by death by Divine agency would actually die before his sixtieth year.

The Alter Rebbe thereupon posed the following question:

How is it, he asked, that "in every generation there are so many individuals liable to excision and death [by Divine agency] who nevertheless enjoy extended and pleasant days and years!"

In answer, the Alter Rebbe explained that the soul is part of the Divine Name Havayah, the Tetragrammaton.

Furthermore, both the internal and external aspects of the soul are "blown" or "breathed" forth, i.e., their source is the innermost reaches of G-dliness.

The innermost core of the soul derives from the internal aspect of the Tetragrammaton, the internal level of holiness.

And even the external level of the soul, which is drawn down into man's body through the Utterance "Let us make man," derives from the internal aspect of this Utterance.

Thus all aspects of the soul, even as enclothed within the body, ultimately derive from an act of "blowing".

And it is noted in chapter 5 that unlike speech, which can be heard even when something separates the listener from the speaker, exhaled breath does not reach its destination when there is an intervening obstruction (in this case, the individual's sins).

The Alter Rebbe next uses this image and another to explain the concept of excision.

The Jewish people's relationship to G-d is compared in Scripture to a rope, whose upper end is bound above and whose lower end is bound below - "Jacob is the rope of [G-d's] inheritance."

This rope is the lifeline through which G-dliness is drawn down even into the external aspect of the soul that lodges within the body.

Sins, especially those incurring excision, sever this lifeline, thus preventing the life-force which is "blown" forth to penetrate to the soul that is invested in the body.

In the past, this meant that a person liable to excision would actually die before his fiftieth year, while a person liable to death by Divine agency would actually die before his sixtieth year.

In this, the sixth chapter, the Alter Rebbe goes on to explain that this applied only during the time when the Divine Presence dwelt among Israel, for then each Jew's spiritual sustenance reached him only from the "side" of holiness - from the Four-Letter Name of the Infinite One.

In times of exile, however, when the Divine presence too is (so to speak) in exile, even the life-force of holiness can be drawn down through a garb of kelipah.

It is therefore then possible that even individuals guilty of sins punishable by excision and death by Divine agency continue to receive their vitality, even though their spiritual lifeline to the Tetragrammaton has been severed.

This explains why during the era of exile even those guilty of the above-mentioned sins can live long lives.

Parenthetically, this also provides them with the opportunity to repent and rectify their past misdeeds.

In the Alter Rebbes words]:

However, all this obtained when Israel was on an elevated plane, when the Divine Presence dwelt among Israel [1] in the Beit HaMikdash. [2]

Then the body [3] received its vitality only through the divine soul, from the innermost source of the life-giving power issuing from the Infinite One, through the Tetragrammaton, as discussed above.

[Thus, if the spiritual lifeline emanating from the Tetragrammaton was severed, it was impossible for them to continue living.

However, as the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say, once they had fallen from that spiritual height, and thereby diverted the flow of the Divine life-force from its accustomed course, even deliberate transgressors can now receive their vitality as freely as do mere creatures].

But they then fell from their estate, and through their actions brought about the mystic exile of the Divine Presence.

[That the Divine Presence should be in a state of exile among the forces of unholiness is indeed an inconceivable mystery. [4]

As the verse [5] states, [6] "Through your sins was your mother banished."

["Your mother" refers to the Divine Presence, the "mother of the children" (as explained in Part I, chapter 52), also known as Knesset Yisrael, the source of Jewish souls - the level of Malchut of Atzilut.

In the context of the letters that constitute the Tetragrammaton, this corresponds to the final hei, from which proceeds the "rope" or "lifeline" to the soul].

This means that the benevolence flowing forth from the above-mentioned [7] latter hei of the Tetragrammaton was lowered far down, from plane to plane, until it became enclothed in the Ten Sefirot of nogah.

[Inasmuch as the kelipah called nogah includes an admixture of goodness, it is composed of Ten Sefirot, corresponding to the Ten Sefirot of holiness], [8] which transmit [9] the benevolence and vitality through the hosts of heaven and those charged over them, to every living physical being in this world, even to vegetation.

As our Sages state: [10] "There is no blade of grass below that has no spirit [Above that smites it and commands it: Grow!"

Thus, the life-force of all living beings - even of vegetation, which expresses its vitality through growth - derives from the kelipah of nogah].

Hence, even the sinful and deliberate transgressors [11] of Israel may receive vitality [from it] for their bodies and animal souls, exactly as other living creatures do, as Scripture states, [12] [that there exists a state wherein human beings are] "likened and similar to beasts."

In fact, [not only is it possible for the sinner to receive his nurture from kelipah as do animals and other living beings, but indeed], with even greater emphasis and force.

For, as explained in the holy Zohar, Parshat Pekudei, all the benevolence and vitality granted mortal man while he commits evil in the eyes of G-d, in deed or speech, or by musing on sin, and so on, [13] [i.e., through any of the three soul-garments of thought, speech and action], - all [this life-force] issues to him from the [various] chambers of the sitra achra described there in the holy Zohar.

The choice is man's - whether to derive his nurture from the chambers of the sitra achra, or from the chambers of holiness [14] from which flow all good and holy thoughts, and so on.

[When one's thoughts, words and deeds are wholesome and holy, he receives his nurture from holiness; when his thoughts, words and deeds are evil, he derives his nurture from the chambers of the sitra achra].

For [15] "one opposite the other did G-d make....."

[Every manifestation of holiness has a counterpart in the kelipah and sitra achra].

The chambers of the sitra achra derive their vitality from the issue of the Ten Sefirot of nogah that is embodied within them and that descends into them by stages, and [this kelipah of nogah] is comprised of good and evil, as in "the Tree of Knowledge [of good and evil]," as is known to those who are knowledgeable in the Kabbalah.

[Since the kelipah of nogah is composed of both good and evil it serves as a source, after a multitude of descents, for the evil of the chambers of the sitra achra - the reservoir from which a man is refuelled when he sins in thought, speech or action.

The Alter Rebbe now resumes his explanation of why a sinful person not only receives his vitality from the "other side" like other living creatures, but in fact does so to an even greater degree.

Since through his freely-chosen thoughts, words and deeds it was the sinner himself who replenished the reservoirs of the kelipot with life-force of Divine origin, it is he who will now have to swallow the lion's share of those reservoirs].



  1. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "This indicates the level of the Jewish people at that time."

  2. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "This applies to the world as a whole and to the Divine Presence. Specifically, with regard to man, there is yet another aspect."

  3. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "I.e., also with regard to each and every individual."

  4. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "See below, p. 140b." [I.e., Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 25, para. beg. VeHinei Zeh Leumat Zeh.....]

  5. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "At first glance it is incomprehensible that man's actions should cause the exile of the Divine Presence.

    The Alter Rebbe therefore provides proof and also an explanation:

    1. proof - that it is indeed so;

    2. an explanation - for the Divine Presence is `your mother.'"

  6. (Back to text) Yeshayahu 50:1.

  7. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "In chapter 4 - on a cosmic scale; in chapter 5 - in each individual soul."

  8. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "Cf. Part I, chapter 6."

  9. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "They do so in any case (and not necessarily because of the state of exile discussed here; rather, as a result of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge; see below, beg. of p. 140a) [I.e., Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 25].

  10. (Back to text) Bereishit Rabbah 10:6.

  11. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "It would seem that the text should read `transgressor', in the singular."

  12. (Back to text) Tehillim 49:13.

  13. (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita notes that the Alter Rebbe may have added the words "and so on" for the following reason.

    In Part I, ch. 11, the Alter Rebbe differentiates between two situations:

    1. contemplating the commission of a sin,

    2. "and even where one does not actually contemplate committing a sin, but indulges in contemplation on the carnal union of male and female in general."

    The term "and even" seems to imply that the latter form of contemplation is not an entirely distinct form of sin (for which reason no distinct mention of it is made in Iggeret HaTeshuvah). Nevertheless some reference to it must be made here, and this the Alter Rebbe does by adding the words "and so on."

  14. (Back to text) The Rebbe Shlita comments that it seems to be entirely superfluous for the Alter Rebbe to state that "the choice is man's." He goes on to provide two possible explanations.

    1. Paradoxically, this statement is indeed novel: The Alter Rebbe desires to emphasize that even in times of exile, when "through your sins was your mother banished," and the benevolence flowing forth from the latter hei is enclothed in the kelipah of nogah, man can still choose to receive his vitality from the chambers of holiness.

      This is possible because the garment of nogah becomes nullified to its wearer - to holiness, and is thereby itself transformed to goodness and absorbed within holiness.

      This recalls the statement in Part I, early in ch. 40, that in the case of the holy letters of Torah and prayer, the kelipah of nogah is converted to good and is absorbed into holiness.

      (This explanation, that the Alter Rebbe wished to tell us that even in times of exile man can choose to derive his nurture from the chambers of holiness, does not accord with the explanation given in Likutei Biurim BeSefer HaTanya, by Rabbi Yehoshua Korf.)

    2. Another possible explanation (which would also go a long way in explaining why it is specifically here that the Alter Rebbe states that "the choice is man's"): The Alter Rebbe means to tell us that it is specifically during the times of exile, when they "fell from their estate," that Jews can choose to receive their vitality from the chambers of sitra achra.

      This, however, could not be done during the time of the Beit HaMikdash, as explained at the end of ch. 5 above. [For at that time, if the "rope" connecting a person to his spiritual source was severed - if, for example, he committed a sin punishable by excision - he could not live at all; during that period Jews truly could not receive their vitality from the kelipah of nogah.

  15. (Back to text) Kohelet 7:14.

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