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Tanya for Monday, 16 Elul, 5779 - September 16, 2019

As Divided for a Leap Year

Tanya for 16 Elul

15 Elul, 5779 - September 15, 201917 Elul, 5779 - September 17, 2019

Now, as regards the totality of the Ten Sefirot [as they appear] in the soul of man, It is known to all [25] that the emotive attributes divide into seven general categories, [26] and each of the particular attributes in man derives from one of these seven attributes.

For they are the root of all the attributes and their generality, namely: the attribute of Chesed ["lovingkindness", [which is a thrust] to diffuse benevolence [to all] without limit; the attribute of Gevurah ["stern limitation and contraction", [which seeks] to restrain such a degree of diffusion, or to withhold diffusion altogether [27] [from certain individuals]; and the attribute of Rachamim ["compassion", [which seeks] to pity a person to whom compassion is appropriate [28] [and to extend benevolence to him as well, although he may be unworthy of it.]

[Rachamim] is the mediating attribute between Gevurah and Chesed, the latter of which would diffuse benevolence to all, even to a person to whom compassion is not at all appropriate, [28] inasmuch as he lacks nothing and is in no state of trouble whatever. [29]

[Because the attribute of Chesed is unlimited it desires to benefit even someone who lacks nothing. The attribute of Rachamim, by contrast, being also compounded of Gevurah, will not seek to diffuse indiscriminately. At the same time, Rachamim pleads the cause of any individual who is in a pitiable state, however unworthy he may be.]

Because [the attribute of Rachamim] is the mediating attribute, it is called Tiferet ["beauty"], by analogy with beautiful garments which are [30] dyed with many colors blended [31] in a way that gives rise to beauty and decoration.

To a garment dyed in one color, however, one cannot apply the term Tiferet, [which implies the beauty of harmony. And since the attribute of Rachamim is compounded of Chesed and Gevurah, the term Tiferet is appropriate.]

Afterwards, [once the attribute of either Chesed, Gevurah or Tiferet is aroused to dispense benevolence], as the diffusion is realized, that is, at the time of the actual diffusion, it is necessary to deliberate how to diffuse in such a way that the recipient will be able to absorb the effusion. [32]

For example, when one wishes - [and this is a powerful desire] - to convey and teach an intellectual subject to his son: If he will tell it to him in its totality, just as it appears in his own mind, the son will be unable to understand and to absorb it.

[This could happen either (a) because the concept as understood by the father is too abstract and subtle for the son, and needs to be lent a more tangible garb, such as a parable; or (b) because the concept is too comprehensive and too diverse, and needs to be broken down into digestible segments, only some of which will be presented to the son.]

Rather, one needs to arrange [it] for him in a different order and context, [such as by providing an example from an alternative context] "every word fitly spoken," [33] [presenting first one side of the issue at hand and then the other,] little by little, [a little of the concept at a time.

The concept thus needs to contracted with regard to its "length", by lowering its stature until it is within the grasp of the recipient, and with regard to its "breadth", by reducing its manifold details to match the capacity of the son or student.]

This deliberation, [regarding how best to present the concept], is referred to [by the terms] Netzach and Hod. These [attributes] are [34] "the kidneys that advise," [in a manner similar to their physical counterpart,] and they are also [in spiritual terms] the two testicles that prepare the spermatozoa, [35] [Like their physical counterpart, the attributes of Netzach and Hod adapt the effusion of the concept.] i.e., the drop that issues from the brain. [36]

That is, [they adapt] an intellectual subject deriving from the father's mind in such a way that it will not issue unmodified, i.e., as a very subtle concept in his brain and intellect, but that it change somewhat from the subtlety of his intelligence and become a somewhat less subtle concept, so that the son will be able to absorb [it] in his mind and understanding.

This is truly analogous to the seminal drop which descends from the brain; it is extremely tenuous, and, through the kidneys and the two testicles, it becomes truly concrete and corporeal. [This process parallels the progressive concretization of a concept, as it descends to match the capacity of the recipient.

The Alter Rebbe now speaks of yet another function of the attributes of Netzach and Hod-separating a concept into its various components.]

Netzach and Hod are also referred to as "grinders" and "millstones", because they "grind the mannah for the righteous," [37] [like the heaven which is named [Shechakim] for it "grinds [Shochakim] the mannah for the righteous."]

Just as, by way of example, a person who grinds [wheat] [38] with millstones crumbles it into very fine parts, so too does the father need to taper the insight or the intellectual subject he wishes to convey to his son, and to divide them into many parts, relating [them] to him gradually, with devices and discernment.

[Dividing a concept in this way so as to be able to determine what should be presented and what should be withheld is a contraction of the concept's depth. Thus, Netzach and Hod serve to contract its length, breadth and depth - the concept in all its dimensions.]

The category of Netzach also comprises prevailing [39] and standing up against anything, from within or from without, that withholds from his son the transmission of beneficial influence or learning.

"From within" means firmly resisting the attribute of Gevurah and tzimtzum within the father himself, for it arouses [within his will] contentions against his son, arguing that he is not yet fit for this [profound knowledge].

[There now follows a parenthetical note in the text which states:]

(A note in the manuscripts: Omission.)

[I.e., according to some of the manuscripts which were compared to the previous printed editions of Iggeret HaKodesh when the current edition was being prepared for publication, [40] there is an omission here in the text.

The Rebbe Shlita notes that prevailing over influences "from without" is even more important to explain than prevailing over influences "from within." The fact that this explanation is lacking points to an omission in the text.

In addition: According to the translation offered above that "The category of Netzach also comprises...," there is nothing amiss in the Alter Rebbe's failure to explain a corresponding aspect within Hod, for Hod comprises no such corresponding aspect . However, the translation may also be rendered: "In general, the category of Netzach also entails...." If this is indeed the proper rendition, then the question arises, why was there no corresponding statement as to the general function of Hod? Its absence likewise demonstrates that there is an omission in the text.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to explain the attribute of Yesod.]

The category of Yesod is, by way of example, the bond by which the father binds his intellect to the intellect of his son while teaching him with love and willingness, for he wishes his son to understand.

Without this [bond], even if the son would hear the very same words from the mouth of his father [ [41] as he speaks and studies to himself], he would not understand [them] as well as now, when his father binds his intellect to him and speaks with him face to face [42] with love and desire, because he desires very much that his son understand.

[The father does not merely want to enlighten his son; his desire stemming from Yesod is powerful because it is driven by pleasure.]

{[41] In the holy handwriting of the Tzemach Tzedek, of blessed memory, (in the discourse entitled Ki Yedaativ, sec. 13, [43] where this passage is quoted,) the above words ("as he speaks and studies to himself") are not to be found.}

[The reason for this omission: Not only is there a difference between (a) what the son passively absorbs when he hears his father studying independently, and (b) what he absorbs when his father actively teaches him; but even when the father is actually teaching, the presence or absence of the quality of Yesod will determine whether or not his son's mind will be ignited by the fire of his own desire to communicate.]

And the greater the desire and delight of the father, the greater is the influence and the learning, [44] because then the son is able to absorb more and the father communicates more, [proportionally].

For through the desire and delight, and with a contented disposition, his own insight is heightened and amplified, so that he can bestow enlightenment upon his son and teach him.

( [45] This parallels, to draw a metaphor from [the attribute of Yesod in] the sphere of the truly physical, the profusion of spermatozoa that results from heightened desire and delight, through which much is elicited from the brain, [which is its source].

This is why the Kabbalists, [seeking to illustrate the imparting of knowledge out of a sense of pleasure], used the analogy of a physical union, [for there are a number of similarities between these two expressions of the attribute of Yesod], as will be explained.) [46]



  1. (Back to text) An alternative reading, which does not appear in the ms. versions: "It is known, in a general way,..."

  2. (Back to text) The Alter Rebbe first deals with the seven middot, or emotive attributes, and towards the end of this letter proceeds to explain the three intellective attributes which give birth to them. (See the passage below that begins, "Having dealt with the middot...")

  3. (Back to text) In place of Klall ("altogether"), an alternative reading has Kol Ikar, which is a more emphatic phrase.

  4. (Back to text) The word Lashon, which appears in the Hebrew text before Rachmanut ("compassion"), is left untranslated for, as the Rebbe Shlita notes, it is evidently a superfluous interpolation.

  5. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: This is a departure from the usual explanation - that Chesed extends its benevolence even to an individual whom the attribute of compassion would disqualify (despite his need), or to an individual whom one should not pity.

  6. (Back to text) The corresponding Hebrew phrase, whose singular form is apparently anomalous, is rendered in the plural in one of the early editions of this letter (Lemberg, 1860).

  7. (Back to text) An alternative reading, which does not appear in the ms. versions, interpolates the word Bo after Me-uravim; the meaning of the sentence is virtually unaffected.

  8. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: This is [the function of the attributes of] Malchut and Yesod, as will soon be explained.

  9. (Back to text) Mishlei 25:11.

  10. (Back to text) Berachot 61a.

  11. (Back to text) Zohar III, 296a.

  12. (Back to text) Cf. Tanya, Part I, ch. 2.

  13. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: As above, conclusion of Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah, quoting Chagigah 12b.

  14. (Back to text) Brackets are in the original text.

  15. (Back to text) The Hebrew root of Netzach comprises three meanings - to prevail, to be enduring, to be victorious.

  16. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: As noted in the Introduction of R. Avraham Shu"b, the [previously] printed letters of Iggeret HaKodesh were compared to copyists' manuscripts (and not to the Alter Rebbe's original letters).

  17. (Back to text) Brackets are in the original text.

  18. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: Though it is possible to understand the acronym Peh Alef Peh as meaning Peh el Peh ("mouth to mouth") - i.e., without an intermediary; cf. Ibn Ezra on Parshat Behaalotcha 12:8), the phrase Panin el Panim ("face to face") describes a higher level [of communication, and is therefore the preferred rendition], for here the Alter Rebbe is speaking of the highest qualities of Yesod, to the degree that the father `desires greatly.' Moreover, it is specifically this phrase (`face to face') that is the antithesis of the contrasting situation described above, in which the father `speaks to himself.'

  19. (Back to text) Printed in Or HaTorah, Vayeira 98b.

  20. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: Perhaps this should read Go-dail [with a kamatz and tzeirei, so that the sentence would mean, `And the more the desire and delight of the father grow, the more do the influence and the learning grow'], instead of Gadol [with a kamatz and cholam, as translated above].

  21. (Back to text) Parentheses are in the original text.

  22. (Back to text) In his Hebrew annotations to the original Yiddish text of the present work, the Rebbe Shlita explains why the Alter Rebbe does not discuss the attribute of Malchut. The learned explanation, which hinges on the comparative dynamics of the various Sefirot, is not readily translatable.

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