Shaar Hayichud V’haEmunahh Chapter 4, Class 1

Tanya/Shaar Hayichud V’haEmunah, Chapter 4, Class 1.

Since the Divine activating force responsible for the existence of created things must continuously be present within them, they are completely nullified in their source. This means, as the Alter Rebbe explained in the previous chapter, that in reality they do not “exist”.

Why, then, do we nevertheless perceive created beings as enjoying a tangible “existence”? — Only because we are unable to see or comprehend the Divine utterance that is contained within each created thing and that calls it into being.

The Alter Rebbe illustrated this by considering the sun’s rays. When they are not within their source, the sun, but diffused throughout the expanse of the universe, they are perceived as having independent existence. However, when they are contained within the sun-globe they clearly have no such “existence” at all.

The following question therefore arose: Since created beings, unlike the sun’s rays, must constantly have their source within them, why do we not actually see how they are completely nullified in their source?

In order to answer this question the Alter Rebbe wrote that a certain preface would be necessary — and hence this, the fourth chapter, now elaborates on G‑d’s capacity for tzimtzum, or contraction.

כי הנה כתיב: כי שמש ומגן ה׳ אלקים

It is written,1 “For a sun and a shield is Havayah Elokim.”

Just as the sun gives forth illumination, so too does the Four-Letter Divine Name Havayah provide us with spiritual illumination. Likewise, just as the sun’s shield protects us from the intensity of its rays, so too does G‑d shield us with the Divine Name Elokim.

פירוש מגן הוא נרתק לשמש

“Shield” refers specifically to [that shield which is] a covering for the sun,

להגן שיוכלו הבריות לסבלו

to protect creatures so that they should be able to bear it (i.e., the sun’s heat).

כמאמר רז״ל: לעתיד לבא הקב״ה מוציא חמה מנרתקה, רשעים נדונין בה כו׳

As our Sages, of blessed memory, have said,2 “In time to come (i.e., in the Messianic Era), the Holy One, blessed be He, will take out the sun from its sheath; the wicked will be punished by it…,” as they will be unable to bear the intensity of the sun. The passage goes on to say that the righteous will not only be able to tolerate it: they will actually be healed by it.

וכמו שהנרתק מגין בעד השמש

Now, just as the covering shields the sun, protecting creatures from the intensity of its rays so that benefit may be derived from it,

-כך שם אלקים מגין לשם הויה ברוך הוא

so does the Name Elokim shield the Name Havayah, blessed be He, enabling the created universe to absorb the Divine illumination that emanates from it.

Our opening verse — “For a sun and a shield is Havayah Elokim” — thus means that the Name Havayah illumines like the sun, while the Name Elokim screens its illumination, like the sheath of the sun, enabling its light to be received.

-דשם הויה פירושו שמהוה את הכל מאין ליש

The meaning of the Name Havayah is “that which brings everything into existence ex nihilo.

The Rebbe notes: “This refers to the [last three letters hei, vav and hei of this Name, which form the word hoveh, the root of the verb which means ‘[to bring into] being.’”

והיו״ד משמשת על הפעולה שהיא בלשון הוה ותמיד

The letter yud, prefixed to the stem הוה, modifies the verb, indicating that the action is present and continuous,

כדפירש רש״י על פסוק: ככה יעשה איוב כל הימים

as Rashi comments on the verse,3 “In this manner was Job (Iyov) accustomed to do (ya‘aseh) all the days.”

Just as here the prefix of the letter yud indicates an ongoing process, so too does the initial yud of the Name Havayah indicate that G‑d creates everything ex nihilo, continuously.

והיינו החיות הנשפע בכל רגע ממש בכל הברואים, ממוצא פי ה׳ ורוחו, ומהוה אותם מאין ליש בכל רגע

This [action] is the life-force which flows at every single instant into all things created, from “that which proceeds from the mouth of G‑d” and “His breath,” and brings them into existence ex nihilo at every moment.

כי לא די להם במה שנבראו בששת ימי בראשית, להיות קיימים בזה, כמו שנתבאר לעיל

For the fact that they were created during the Six Days of Creation is not sufficient for their continued existence, as explained above; they must continuously be recreated.

It is the “sun” of Havayah whose illumination continuously brings creation into being. However, were this illumination to be revealed within created beings, they would be aware of their complete nullification within their source, and we would not see before us created beings. For as explained earlier, when the activating force is perceived the created being is “non-existent”.

This is why the “shield” of Elokim is necessary — in order to conceal from created beings the Divine illumination of Havayah that is within them, and that is responsible for their existence. Only then can they perceive themselves as existing independently of their life-force. And this perception in turn makes it possible for created beings to consider and feel themselves to be tangibly existing, as shall soon be explained.




1. Tehillim 84:12.

2. See Nedarim 8b.

3. Iyov 1:5; cf. Rashi on Bereishit 24:45, Shmot 15:1. 

Comments are closed.