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Tanya for Shabbos, 5 Kislev, 5781 - November 21, 2020

As Divided for a Regular Year

Tanya for 5 Kislev

4 Kislev, 5781 - November 20, 20206 Kislev, 5781 - November 22, 2020

[The performance of mitzvot, however, as the Alter Rebbe will now explain, connects a Jew with the essence of Divinity.

When he holds an etrog together with the other three kinds of vegetation and fulfills the mitzvah of the "Four Species" on Sukkot, he is holding on to the essence of Divinity.

And so too with regard to all the practical mitzvot.]

But as to the performance of mitzvot, these are the works of G-d, [unlike other worldly actions, from which Divinity is utterly concealed.

The Alter Rebbe now explains how this comes about]:

In the process of the chain of descent from the vessels of Atzilut to Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, [for the vessels of Atzilut that descend into these worlds are the Divinity of these worlds], from the very nature and essence of their external aspect - as, for example, within the etrog and its "kinds" - the Holy One, blessed be He, clothed something of the very nature and essence of the [internal] [24] attributes of Kindness of Za, meaning from their outward state, [from the external aspect of these internal attributes], as is known in the case of all mitzvot requiring action.

Man, by contrast, [who by means of his intellect or spiritual emotions can attain intellectually-generated love and fear], even if he possesses a soul of Atzilut, yet since it is clothed in a body, cannot detect and apprehend through [25] his soul the nature and essence of the inward attributes of Kindness of Za of Atzilut.

([24] For in general terms Atzilut represents the state of Chayah in the Four Worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah, and [Chayah] denotes encompassing transcendence, not being vested within any vessel whatever.)

[Specifically, each of the Four Worlds possesses all four soul-levels of Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah and Chayah.

In a general sense, however, each of these Four Worlds corresponds to one of these levels.

  • Asiyah corresponds to Nefesh;
  • Yetzirah to Ruach;
  • Beriah to Neshamah; and
  • Atzilut corresponds to Chayah.

Unlike the soul-level in man called Neshamah, which reflects his power of comprehension, or Ruach, which reflects his spiritual emotions, and so on, each of these soul-levels having their specific "location" within the body, Chayah is a transcendent soul-level that encompasses the individual from above.

So, too, with regard to the worlds, Chayah (paralleled by the World of Atzilut) is the spiritual level that encompasses from above and does not vest itself at all within a vessel.

Thus, a person living within a body cannot possibly apprehend the essence of an entity at the level of Atzilut.

With regard to the internal attributes of Kindness of Za, man is able to apprehend] only their existence, through intellectually-generated awe and love.

As to the statement, [22] "You shall see my hinderpart" - [and seeing penetrates to the essence of a matter] - this refers only to prophecy.

([24] For prophecy entails divestment of the physical,[26] as explained in Ra'aya Mehemna, Parshat Mishpatim.) [27]

[Thus, Moses' apprehension of the essence of Divinity resulted from a state of prophecy that entails divestment from the physical.

Through other, non-prophetic means, it is impossible for the soul to apprehend the essence of any of the levels of Atzilut.]

This, then, is the reason:

No created being is capable of grasping anything whatsoever of the essence of Divinity, the Creator.

And without comprehension there is no real investiture, or grasping, or cleaving.

[Man is thus incapable of truly cleaving to G-d's attributes, i.e., the attributes of Atzilut.

In light of the above it is clear that the love and fear of G-d that a Jew generates through meditation during prayer, grasps and cleaves to no more than the external aspect of the existence of Divinity, and not His essence.]

However, as to the etrog by way of example, its life is drawn and descends from the very essence of the outer aspect of the vessels of nukva of Za of Atzilut, which is truly a state of Divinity, as stated in Etz Chayim, [28] that all the fruits are [rooted] in Atzilut.

For the thirty vessels of Atzilut descended into Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah in order to become the Divinity of those Worlds [24] (and these are the Ten Utterances [29] by which the world was created through enclothement in nukva of Asiyah, essence in essence). [30]

The essence of the vessels of Malchut of Atzilut vests itself in the essence of Malchut of Asiyah, which is the source of all created beings of that world.

Included among them are the fruits of that world, such as the etrog.

While the G-dliness found in other physical matters is concealed, in an object used for a mitzvah it is manifest, as explained in Tanya, chapter 23.]

For the vessels of Atzilut became the soul of Asiyah, which is actually a state of Divinity.

For in Atzilut [31] "He and His vessels are one" - the Emanator [the infinite light] and the emanation [the vessels of Atzilut].

And through the enclothement of the essence of the soul [of the vessels of Atzilut] in the essence of the vessels of nukva [i.e., Malchut] of Asiyah, the etrog came into being.

The result is that in holding the etrog and waving it as the law requires, one is actually holding the life-force which is clothed within it and which derives from the nukva [i.e., Malchut] of Atzilut, and [Malchut] is united with the [infinite] Ein Sof-light, the Emanator of Atzilut, blessed be He.

[But is this not also the case when one holds any other fruit, where no mitzvah is involved?

The answer is, as previously explained, that in other physical objects the G-dly life-force is concealed, whereas it is revealed in objects used for a mitzvah, for these are the "works of G-d."]

This is not the case concerning one's intention [while performing the mitzvah of the etrog.]

Here, even if he is familiar with the mystical [Kabbalistic and chassidic] meanings involved, he does not grasp and hold on to the essence [of Malchut of Atzilut, the source of the etrog], but only to the external fact of its mere existence.

[This is entirely unlike holding a physical etrog and performing the mitzvah with it, at which time one grasps the essence of the physical etrog together with its source in Divinity.]

However, by studying the laws of the etrog one does attain and grasp the etrog proper and its mitzvah appropriately, by speech and thought.

[For here he is articulating or understanding or thinking about the laws of the physical etrog, whose essence he can grasp, and not its spiritual intent in the heavenly realms.]

Even more so, he who studies the esoteric dimension [of the mitzvah of the etrog according to the teachings of the Kabbalah and Chassidut.

For here, too, we are speaking of the esoteric dimension of the physical etrog, whose essence he can comprehend, and not of the spiritual intentions of the mitzvah or, yet higher, the relevant configurations of Sefirot in the World of Atzilut.

This, however, refers only to [the study of] the Kabbalistic mysteries of the mitzvah itself, for this is not inferior to the study of its laws; indeed, quite the contrary..., even though he does not apprehend the essence [of the spiritual intent of the mitzvah as it applies to the visages of Atzilut.

Moreover, his understanding of the essence of the etrog, the object with which the mitzvah is observed, grants him some comprehension of the essence of the mystical reaches of the subject at large.]



  1. (Back to text) Shmot 33:22.

  2. (Back to text) The brackets/parentheses are in the original text.

  3. (Back to text) (This footnote is only relevant to the Hebrew text, in the printed version. YY.)

  4. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "Cf. the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, beginning of sec. 98; Hilchot Talmud Torah 4:9."

  5. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "Possibly the intent is p. 116b ff."

  6. (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "At its conclusion. This requires some examination, for there the text makes a point of enumerating seven [species]."

  7. (Back to text) Avot 5:1.

  8. (Back to text) The closing parenthesis (in this new printed version) has been relocated according to the Table of Glosses and Emendations.

  9. (Back to text) See Iggeret HaKodesh, beginning of Epistle 20 (above).

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