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Tanya for Friday, 29 Av, 5778 - August 10, 2018

As Divided for a Regular Year

Tanya for 29 Av

28 Av, 5778 - August 9, 201830 Av, 5778 - August 11, 2018

Epistle Nine

[Like the preceding Epistle, the present one too centers on the theme of tzedakah.

If it is to be performed properly, tzedakah ought to be given unstintingly, and not only after all one's own needs and desires have been satisfied. Ideally, it should be given in the spirit of an aphorism that was current among the chassidim of the Alter Rebbe: [1] "Inside my slice of bread there is your share too; G-d is providing for you through me."

A man should thus feel obligated to share with others and provide for their needs to the very same degree that he provides for his own wife and children. Performing tzedakah in this manner can only be achieved when one distributes one's earnings in an utterly selfless manner, doing so entirely for G-d's sake. Then, even when one provides for his own family's needs he will do so because they are Jewish souls who are part of G-d Above, [2] and as such he bears a responsibility towards them.

When one acts in this way, he will realize that all needy folk are also Jewish souls and part of G-d Above; he must therefore concern himself with their needs as well. Though the Torah rules that providing for one's own wife and children takes precedence over providing for the needs of others, the essential sense of obligation remains the same.]

My beloved ones, [3] my brethren and friends, who are unto me like my soul:

[The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe explains in one of his talks, that when the Alter Rebbe seeks to imbue his followers with the love of their fellow Jews he addresses them as "my beloved friends," for by befriending a fellow Jew one becomes a "beloved friend" of the Alter Rebbe.

Accordingly, it may be said that by heeding the Alter Rebbe's instructions with regard to tzedakah one becomes one of the Alter Rebbe's "beloved brethren."]

I come [herewith] as one who reminds and awakens those who sleep the slumber of "vanities of vanities," [Physical things at any time are deemed hevel: being airy and insubstantial, they have no true existence. When they serve no loftier purpose than themselves, they may be given the double epithet used above - havlei havalim, [4] airy and foolish trivialities.]

and to open the eyes of the blind. [When the soul finds itself within the body and allows itself to be led by it, it resembles a sighted person whose eyes are bound, and who, intelligent though he may be, is then led about like an imbecile.

If the soul, a part of G-d Above, descends within a body but cannot restrict it from fulfilling its desires, it is considered to be blinded by the body, as the Tzemach Tzedek writes in Or HaTorah, at the conclusion of Parshat Behar. [5] The "blindness" caused by the body must be healed, so that the soul may once again behold the truth.]

[6] Let them look and see to it that all their striving, longing and aiming, in [7] everything on which the life of their spirit depends, [8] should be bound up in [9] "the [Divine] Source of the living waters," the [10] "Fountainhead of all life," throughout all the days of their lives, with respect [11] to the soul as well as to the flesh.

[Not only during prayer or Torah study or while performing mitzvot is a Jew to be bound to G-d, but even while going about his mundane affairs he should be attached to Him as well.]

I.e., in all mundane matters and in the means by which one earns one's livelihood, one should not be like those who do everything for their own sake, [acting only out of their desire to satisfy themselves and their families, rather than for G-d's sake.]

Let not the House of Israel be like all the gentiles, [12] who [13] feed, provide for and esteem their wives and children out of [self-] love. [I.e., since one loves himself he also loves his wife and children, who are a part of him. Rather, his love should be holy in its selflessness.]

For it is written: [14] "Who is like Your people Israel, a unique nation on earth?" This means that even in mundane ["earthly"] matters they will not, heaven forfend, separate [15] [them] from G-d's true Unity, [The concept of the Unity of G-d signifies that apart from Him nothing truly exists.] to bear false witness, heaven forfend, while reciting the Shema every evening and morning with closed eyes, [saying,] [16] "G-d is One" - in the four directions, and in the heavens above and on earth below, [17] [thus attesting to G-d's Unity even in the mundane realm,] while as the eyes of the blind are opened, [and here the Alter Rebbe addresses those whose eyes are blinded by corporeal matters:]

"Can you close your eyes upon Him, as if He is no more?" [18] (heaven forfend). [This means to say that immediately upon opening his eyes after reciting the Shema, such a person can view the world as if it were a self-sufficient entity, separate and distinct from its Creator; accordingly, moreover, he conducts his affairs in a selfish manner rather than for the sake of heaven.]

Rather, this [approach] shall be befitting us - that [19] all our involvement with mundane affairs should be [conducted] not for its own sake, but in order to animate souls, [i.e., to provide sustenance for fellow Jews, whose souls are veritably, so to speak,] portions of G-d, and to supply what they lack, out of gratuitous kindness.

In this way we make the form [the soul] resemble Him Who formed it, viz., "G-d [Who] is One"; for [20] "the Chesed of G-d endures throughout the day," [i.e., at all times - a [21] true Chesed, without thought of reward,] that animates the universe and all that fills it, at every single moment.

[In imitation of G-d, Who thus dispenses kindness and animates all created beings, man too should act kindly toward others and sustain those in need. Indeed, this should be his ultimate purpose when engaging in his work or in commerce: to be able to provide sustenance for the souls of his fellow Jews.

According to the above, however, one should provide for the needs of others to the very same degree that he provides for his own family. Why, then, should the needs of one's own family take precedence over the needs of others? The Alter Rebbe answers this by saying:]

It is only that according to the Torah [22] a man's wife and children take precedence over all others, [The Alter Rebbe wrote this Epistle in connection with the tzaddikim, R. Mendele Vitebsker and R. Avraham Kalisker, as well as their colleagues and disciples, who at the time of writing had already left the diaspora and were living in the Holy Land. The Alter Rebbe therefore goes on to say:] except [23] for the tzaddikim of the generation, who take precedence over one's children; moreover, the tzaddikim in the Land of Israel take precedence over the tzaddikim in the diaspora, apart from the fact that they did not leave anyone in the diaspora comparable to themselves. This will suffice for the discerning.



  1. (Back to text) See Igrot Kodesh (Letters of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe), Vol. VIII, p. 606, and references cited there.

  2. (Back to text) Likkutei Amarim, Part I, beginning of ch. 2.

  3. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: Cf. Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistles 16, 22 (Parts a & b), 24.

  4. (Back to text) Cf. Kohelet 1:2.

  5. (Back to text) Or HaTorah, Vayikra, Vol. I, p. 191.

  6. (Back to text) Cf. Yeshayahu 42:18.

  7. (Back to text) This clause has been translated according to Rashi on Yeshayahu 38:16.

  8. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: See Part I, conclusion of ch. 31.

  9. (Back to text) Cf. Yirmeyahu 2:13.

  10. (Back to text) Lit., "the Life of life."

  11. (Back to text) Cf. Yeshayahu 10:18.

  12. (Back to text) The standard text of the Tanya has ("like heathens"), which has been emended here according to its Luach HaTikkun (Table of Corrections).

  13. (Back to text) The remainder of this sentence is paraphrased from the Ketubbah (the marriage contract), though the emphasis here, of course, is on a possibly selfish motivation.

  14. (Back to text) I Divrei HaYamim 17:21.

  15. (Back to text) V.L.: "they will not become separated".

  16. (Back to text) Devarim 6:4.

  17. (Back to text) Cf. Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim, sec. 61, citing the Sefer Mitzvot Katan.

  18. (Back to text) Cf. Mishlei 23:5.

  19. (Back to text) V.L.: Bee-he-yot ("when all our involvement...is [conducted]").

  20. (Back to text) Tehillim 52:3.

  21. (Back to text) Rashi on Bereishit 47:29.

  22. (Back to text) See Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, sec. 251, and references indicated there.

  23. (Back to text) The passage beginning "Except for the tzadikkim..." and concluding "...for the discerning," is added above to the standard printed text according to its Luach HaTikkun (Table of Corrections).

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