Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Today's Tanya Lesson
Iggeret HaKodesh, middle of Epistle 12
והנה מודעת זאת שישראל בטבעם הם רחמנים וגומלי חסדים
Now, it is well known that Jews by their very nature act compassionately and perform deeds of lovingkindness.1
מפני היות נפשותיהם נמשכות ממדותיו יתברך
[This is so] because their souls issue from G‑d’s attrib-utes,
אשר החסד גובר בהן על מדת הדין והגבורה והצמצום
in which Chesed prevails over the attribute of din, Gevurah, and tzimtzum,
וכמו שכתוב: גבר חסדו על יראיו
as it is written,2 “His Chesed prevails over those who fear Him,” alluding to the fact that the Divine attribute of Chesed prevails over the Divine attribute of Gevurah.
שלכן נקראת הנשמה בת כהן, כמו שכתוב בזהר הקדוש
The soul is therefore called “daughter of the priest,” since it derives from the attribute of Chesed which is called “Kohen”, as is written in the sacred Zohar.3
Since the soul derives from the Divine attributes which are dominated by kindness and compassion, Jews by their very nature are kind and compassionate.
והנה הצדקה הנמשכת מבחינה זו נקראת בשם מעשה הצדקה
Now, the charity that issues from this source — from the soul’s inherently kind and compassionate nature — is referred to as “the act of charity,”
כי שם מעשה נופל על דבר שכבר נעשה, או שנעשה תמיד ממילא
for the term “act” (maaseh) applies to that which is already done, or which is constantly being done spontaneously;
והיא דבר ההווה ורגיל תמיד
thus, something existent, common and constant.
Here, too, with regard to tzedakah that is motivated by the soul’s innate sense of kindness and compassion,
הרי מדת החסד והרחמנות הוטבעה בנפשות כל בית ישראל מכבר
the trait of kindness and compassion is implanted in the souls of the entire House of Israel from aforetime,
מעת בריאותן והשתלשלותן ממדותיו יתברך
from the time that they were created and that they evolved from G‑d’s attributes,
כמו שכתוב: ויפח באפיו גו׳
as it is written4 in regard to Adam’s soul entering his body, “And He blew into his nostrils [a soul of life],”
ואתה נפחת בי
[and we likewise say]5 concerning the entry of each and every soul into its individual body, “You blew it into me,”
ומאן דנפח כו׳
and6 “He who blows, [blows from within him],” from his innermost being.
So, too, in the analogue: Since the soul emanates from the inward aspect of the Divine attributes, it is infused with them as well, so that the attribute of kindness dominates the soul even as it finds itself within the body.
וגם בכל יום ויום, בטובו מחדש מעשה בראשית
Furthermore,7 in His goodness [G‑d] renews the act (maaseh) of creation every single day, and this includes the supernal attributes.
וחדשים לבקרים גו׳
Likewise, with regard to souls below, [it is written],8 “They are new every morning....”
“Act” (maaseh) thus refers to a constant process, such as the renewal of the soul with its characteristic traits of kindness and compassion. The “act of tzedakah” hence refers to the tzedakah which a Jew practices by virtue of these innate character traits.
1. Yevamot 79a; see Tanya, Part I, end of ch. 1.
2. Tehillim 103:11.
3. Note of the Rebbe: “II, 95a.”
4. Bereishit 2:7.
5. Morning Blessings (Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 6); cf. Berachot 60b.
6. Cited above (Part I, ch. 2) in the name of the Zohar.
7. The clause that follows paraphrases a statement in the morning prayers (Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 44).
8. Eichah 3:23.