LESSONS IN TANYA: Friday, August 31, 2012

Elul 13, 5772 · August 31, 2012
Today's Tanya Lesson
Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 13

והנה כל איש ישראל צריך להיות כלול מב׳ בחינות אלו

Now, every Jew needs to comprise both these traits: a Jew whose soul derives from Chesed must also incorporate the thrust of Gevurah, and vice versa,

ואין לך דבר שאין לו מקום

for1 "There is no thing that has not its place."

Both Chesed and Gevurah are essential to one's service; at times he must use one attribute, at times — the other.

ולכן מצינו כמה דברים מקולי בית שמאי ומחומרי בית הלל

Thus we find various matters that exemplify the leniencies of Beit Shammai and the stringencies of Beit Hillel.2

ללמדנו, שאף בית שמאי, ששרש נשמתם מבחינת שמאל העליון, ולכן היו דנין להחמיר תמיד בכל איסורי התורה

This comes to teach us that even Beit Shammai, whose soul was rooted in the Supernal "left",3 (which is why they always decided stringently as regards all the prohibitions of the Torah,

For stringencies stem from Gevurah, inasmuch as they prevent an object from being used and thereby elevated.

ובית הלל, שהיו מבחינת ימין העליון, היו מלמדין זכות להקל ולהתיר איסורי בית שמאי

whereas Beit Hillel, who derived from the Supernal "right", would find arguments for leniency in order to render permissible the things prohibited by Beit Shammai,

שיהיו מותרים מאיסורם, ויוכלו לעלות למעלה

so that these should become released from their prohibitive bonds and be able to ascend), —

The word אסור means "bound" (i.e., to the sitra achra) and hence "prohibited". Its opposite (מותר) means "released" and hence "permitted". Declaring an object permissible thus unfetters it from the bonds of the sitra achra, thereby allowing it to ascend, as explained in Tanya, Part I, ch. 7.

אף על פי כן, בכמה דברים היו בית שמאי מקילין

nevertheless, in numerous matters, [even] Beit Shammai were lenient.

מפני התכללות שרש נשמתם, שהוא כלול גם מימין

[This is so] because of the inclusiveness of their soul's root, which is compounded of the "right" (Chesed) as well.

וכן שורש נשמת בית הלל כלול גם משמאל

And, likewise, the root of Beit Hillel's soul was also compounded of the "left" (Gevurah).

כידוע דרך ומדות קדש העליון

For, as is known of the mode and the attributes4 (i.e., the manner) of Supernal Holiness,

דלית תמן קיצוץ ופירוד, חס ושלום

"there is no cleavage or division there,"5 heaven forfend;

וכל המדות כלולות זו מזו

rather, all the traits that derive from Supernal Holiness incorporate each other — Chesed incorporates an aspect of Gevurah; Gevurah of Chesed; and so on.

ולכן הן מיוחדות זו בזו, כידוע ליודעי חן

They are therefore in union with each other, as is known to those who study the Kabbalah (lit., "the scholars of the Hidden Wisdom").

Although Chesed and Gevurah are opposites, nonetheless, since they are also compounded of each other, they are able to work together.

וכדכתיב באברהם, שהוא מדת החסד והאהבה: עתה ידעתי כי ירא אלקים אתה

Thus it is written of Abraham,6 who personifies the attribute of Chesed and love, "Now I know that you stand in awe of G‑d,"

על ידי שלבש מדת הגבורה, ויעקוד את יצחק בנו, ויקח את המאכלת גו׳

— for he had garbed himself in the attribute of Gevurah, which was not of his essence,7 "And bound Isaac his son...and took the knife [to slaughter his son]."

We thus see that Abraham, who is the very embodiment of Chesed, was able to respond as the occasion demanded with even this expression of severity, the very epitome of the attribute of Gevurah.

ומה שאמר הכתוב: אברהם אוהבי, ופחד יצחק

As for Scripture characterizing him as8 "Abraham who loved Me," and [in another verse characterizing Isaac as]9 "the Dread of Isaac," thereby indicating that Abraham's service was an expression of Chesed and Isaac's service an expression of Gevurah, which would seem to contradict the earlier statement that Abraham also revealed the attribute of Gevurah,

הנה ההפרש וההבדל הזה הוא בבחינת גילוי והעלם

this difference and distinction exists [only] on the scale of manifestation and concealment.

שבמדת יצחק, הפחד הוא בבחינת גילוי, והאהבה מסותרת בבחינת העלם והסתר

In Isaac's mode of divine service, the fear is manifest, while the love is hidden, in a state of concealment and hiding.

וההיפך במדת אברהם אבינו, עליו השלום

The opposite is the case with the trait of our father Abraham, peace be to him — Chesed was manifest and Gevurah was concealed.

1. Avot 4:3.
2. Note of the Rebbe: "Eduyot, chs. 4-5."
3. Note of the Rebbe: "See Zohar III, 245a."
4. Note of the Rebbe in He'arot VeTikkunim: "This expression requires some explanation."
5. Zohar III, 70a.
6. Bereishit 22:12.
7. Ibid., verses 9, 10.
8. Yeshayahu 41:8.
9. Bereishit 31:42.

By Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), founder of Chabad Chassidism (Free Translation)    More articles...  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg. Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
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