Saturday, September 1, 2012
“The kindnesses of G‑d have surely not ended....”
Today's Tanya Lesson
Iggeret HaKodesh, end of Epistle 10
The Alter Rebbe now returns to the verse quoted at the outset of this Iggeret HaKodesh: חסדי ה׳ כי לא תמנו וגו׳ — “The kindnesses of G‑d have surely not ended....”
There he had asked: If the verse refers only to G‑d’s kindness, why does it use the verb tamnu (in the first person plural), which would make the phrase mean, “we have not been brought to an end,” rather than tamu (in the third person plural), which would mean that “the kindnesses have not ended”?
He answers this by saying that חסדי ה׳ (“the kindnesses of G‑d”) refers also to the giving of tzedakah without limitation. Accordingly, the verse may be understood, as he now goes on to explain:
והנה מדת חסד זו, בלי גבול ומדה, נקראת על שמו של הקב״ה
Now, since this is G‑d’s manner of practicing benevolence, this mode of unlimited kindness is known by the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He, [viz.,]
“The kindnesses of G‑d,”
כדכתיב: וחסד ה׳ מעולם ועד עולם כו׳
as it is written,1 “and G‑d’s Chesed is everlasting....”
כי הגם שכל ישראל הם רחמנים וגומלי חסדים
For though2 “All of Israel are compassionate and practice kindly deeds,”
ברם יש גבול ומדה לרחמי האדם
nevertheless there is a limit and measure to man’s compassion.
אבל הקב״ה נקרא אין סוף ברוך הוא
But the Holy One, blessed be He, is called the Ein Sof — “the Infinite One,”
ולמדותיו אין סוף
and His attributes (like Himself) have no end,
כדכתיב: כי לא כלו רחמיו
as it is written,3 “...for His mercies never cease.”
When a Jew echoes G‑d’s boundless kindness and compassion, his actions are thus termed “G‑d’s acts of kindness.”
וזהו שאמר הנביא אחר החורבן והגלות: חסדי ה׳, כי לא תמנו
And this is the meaning of the prophet’s words,4 after the Destruction and the exile: “The kindnesses of G‑d have surely not ended (ki lo tamnu).”
פירוש: לפי שלא תמנו, שאין אנו תמימים ושלמים, בלי שום חטא ופגם בנפש ובעולמות עליונים
That is: “Because we are not perfect,5 inasmuch as we are not perfect (temimim) and whole, without any sin or blemish in our soul nor in the higher worlds,
על כן צריכין אנו להתנהג בחסדי ה׳, שהם בלי גבול ותכלית
we therefore need to conduct ourselves in accordance with ‘G‑d’s kindnesses,’ that are without limit or end,
כדי לעורר עלינו רחמים וחסד עילאה, שהוא רב חסד ורחמים, בלי גבול ותכלית
in order to call down upon ourselves Supreme compassion, i.e., rav Chesed, and unlimited, infinite compassion,
כמו שכתוב: כי לא כלו רחמיו
as it is written, at the conclusion of this verse, ‘for His mercies never cease....’”
Since we are in need of drawing down this level of compassion, our own practice of kindness must echo “G‑d’s kindness.”
Thus the Prophet is telling the generations that follow the Destruction that they should practice unbounded kindness because they are not in a state of tamnu. Being imperfect, we need to arouse G‑d’s infinite kindness and compassion in order to rectify any sins and blemishes.
(Moreover, since these latter generations are too weak to engage in fasting and self-mortification, the only means now available to secure full atonement is through tzedakah.6)
וזהו שאמרו רז״ל: אין ישראל נגאלין אלא בצדקה
And this is what our Sages, of blessed memory, meant by saying that7 “Israel will be redeemed only through charity.”
שיעשו גם אם יהיו פטורים מדינא
[This refers to the charity] that they will perform even if they are legally not obligated,
כי אין בן דוד בא כו׳
for8 “[Mashiach] the son of David will not come [until the pocket will be empty of even the smallest coin].”
I.e., even if (Heaven forfend) there will not be a solitary coin left in one’s pocket, tzedakah will still be given. And it is this boundless level of tzedakah that secures a complete atonement for the sins of our people, after which9 “they will immediately be redeemed.”
The Rebbe explains that the Alter Rebbe does not conclude the above-mentioned quotation about the precondition for the coming of Mashiach because it is quite possible that he did not want to write out the last words (viz., “until the pocket will be empty of even the smallest coin”); and this precondition of the Sages can be fulfilled on the spiritual level, by conducting oneself with the humility of the destitute.
This could also explain why the Alter Rebbe does not say...כשיהיו (“when they are legally not obligated”), but rather...אם יהיו (“if they are legally not obligated”).
1. Tehillim 103:17.
2. Yevamot 79a.
3. Eichah 3:22.
4. See above, footnote 3.
5. Note of the Rebbe: “The proof being the Destruction and the exile.”
6. This is explained at length in Iggeret HaTeshuvah, ch. 3 (in Vol. III of the present series).
7. See above, Epistle 9, footnote 16.
8. Sanhedrin 97a.
9. Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah 7:5.