Shaar Hayichud V’haEmunahh Chapter 8, Class 3

Tanya/Shaar Hayichud V’haEmunah, Chapter 8, Class 3

For the first i.e., supreme quality and rank with regard to created beings is wisdom, for which reason it is called “the beginning,” as in the phrase, “the beginning of wisdom.”10

כִּי הַמַּעֲלָה וּמַדְרֵגָה הָרִאשׁוֹנָה אֵצֶל הַנִּבְרָאִים הִיא הַחָכְמָה, שֶׁלָּכֵן נִקְרֵאת “רֵאשִׁית”,

So, too, Targum Yonatan interprets בְּרֵאשִׁית (in the verse, “In the beginning G‑d created…”) to mean “with wisdom.” Thus, “wisdom” also connotes that which is first in quality and the source of all other attributes.

For it is indeed the beginning and fountainhead of all the life-force in creatures,

כִּי בֶּאֱמֶת הִיא רֵאשִׁית וּמְקוֹר כָּל הַחַיּוּת בַּנִּבְרָאִים,

for from wisdom are derived understanding and knowledge,

כִּי מֵהַחָכְמָה נִמְשָׁכוֹת בִּינָה וָדַעַת,

and from them flow all the emotive attributes of the rational soul, such as love and kindness and mercy and the like; all of these derive from the intellectual attributes.

וּמֵהֶן נִמְשָׁכוֹת כָּל הַמִּדּוֹת שֶׁבַּנֶּפֶשׁ הַמַּשְׂכֶּלֶת, כְּמוֹ אַהֲבָה וָחֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן,

This is seen vividly—that a child, having no wisdom, is always angry and unkind, and even his love is for trivial things which are unworthy of being loved,

וְכַנִּרְאֶה בְּחוּשׁ, שֶׁהַקָּטָן שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ דַּעַת, הוּא בְּכַעַס תָּמִיד וְאַכְזָרִי, וְגַם אַהֲבָתוֹ, הִיא לִדְבָרִים קְטַנִּים שֶׁאֵין רָאוּי לְאַָהֳבָם,

because he lacks the understanding to love things which are worthy of love, for love varies with [the level of one’s] understanding.

מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ דַּעַת לֶאֱהוֹב דְּבָרִים הָרְאוּיִים לְאָהֳבָם, שֶׁהָאַהֲבָה כְּפִי הַדַּעַת.

Thus, the emotions are dependent on the intellect and understanding, inasmuch as they derive from them.

From the emotive attributes of the soul, words and letters of thought issue forth,

וּמֵהַמִּדּוֹת שֶׁבַּנֶּפֶשׁ נִמְשָׁכוֹת בָּהּ תֵּיבוֹת וְאוֹתִיּוֹת הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה,

for the soul thinks of that which it loves or of how to perform deeds of kindness and mercy.

שֶׁהַנֶּפֶשׁ מְחַשֶּׁבֶת בְּדָבָר שֶׁאוֹהֶבֶת, אוֹ אֵיךְ לִפְעוֹל הַחֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים,

And so it is with the other emotive attributes: they all serve as a source for the words and letters of thought.

וְכֵן בִּשְׁאָר מִדּוֹת.

Within every thought in the world, there is clothed some emotive attribute that causes one to think that thought, and this attribute is the vivifying force of that thought.

וּבְכָל מַחֲשָׁבָה שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם – מְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בָּהּ אֵיזוֹ מִדָּה הַמְּבִיאָה לַחֲשׁוֹב מַחֲשָׁבָה זוֹ, וּמִדָּה זוֹ – הִיא חַיּוּתָהּ שֶׁל מַחֲשָׁבָה זוֹ.

From the letters of [a man’s] thought proceed the letters of [his] speech, and they—the letters of thought—are their actual vivifying force.

וּמֵאוֹתִיּוֹת הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה נִמְשָׁכוֹת אוֹתִיּוֹת הַדִּבּוּר, וְהֵן חַיּוּתָן מַמָּשׁ.

Speech [in turn] gives rise to action, [such as] of charity and kindness, as in the case of a king who orders his servants to give [charity].

וְהַדִּבּוּר מֵבִיא לִידֵי מַעֲשֵׂה הַצְּדָקָה וָחֶסֶד, כְּגוֹן הַמֶּלֶךְ שֶׁמְּצַוֶּה לַעֲבָדָיו לִיתֵּן.

I.e., his speech causes his charitable thought to result in action.

And even when a man himself does some deed which he had thought of doing,

וְגַם כְּשֶׁהָאָדָם עוֹשֶׂה בְּעַצְמוֹ אֵיזֶה דָבָר,

In this instance, no speech is involved: his thought leads directly to action. Nevertheless—the Alter Rebbe goes on to say—here, too, in order for the life-force to descend from thought to action, it must pass through an intermediary stage which resembles speech.

the power of the soul and its life-force, which clothes itself in this deed, is as absolute nothingness in relation to the power of the soul and its life-force, which clothes itself in the speech of man;

הֲרֵי כֹּחַ הַנֶּפֶשׁ וְחַיּוּתָהּ הַמִּתְלַבֵּשׁ בַּעֲשִׂיָּה זוֹ, הוּא כְּאַיִן מַמָּשׁ לְגַבֵּי כֹּחַ הַנֶּפֶשׁ וְחַיּוּתָהּ הַמִּתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּדִבּוּר הָאָדָם,

[they are to each other] as the relation and comparison of the body to the soul.

וּכְעֵרֶךְ וּמְשַׁל הַגּוּף לַנְּשָׁמָה,

To the same degree is there no comparison between the power of the soul and its life-force, which clothes itself in the speech of man, and the power of the soul and its life-force, which clothes itself in man’s actions. Therefore, when this power and life-force has descended so far that it is able to clothe itself in action, it has already undergone contractions and condensations which are far below the power of speech.

Likewise—like the distance of body from soul—is the relation of the letters of speech to the letters of thought,

וְכֵן עֵרֶךְ אוֹתִיּוֹת הַדִּבּוּר לְאוֹתִיּוֹת הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה,

and likewise is the relation of the letters of thought to the essence of the emotive attribute which is clothed in it and animates it,

וְכֵן עֵרֶךְ אוֹתִיּוֹת הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה לְמַהוּת הַמִּדָּה הַמְלוּבֶּשֶׁת בָּהּ וּמְחַיָּה אוֹתָהּ,

I.e., the thought that derives from an emotion is in no way comparable to the emotion itself.

and likewise the relation of the essence and life-force of the emotive attribute in comparison with the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge which together constitute the intellect from which this attribute was derived.

וְכֵן עֵרֶךְ מַהוּת וְחַיּוּת הַמִּדָּה לְגַבֵּי הַחָכְמָה וּבִינָה וָדַעַת, שֶׁכְּלָלוּתָן הוּא הַשֵּׂכֶל שֶׁמִּמֶּנּוּ נִמְשְׁכָה מִדָּה זוֹ.

We thus see that in the chain of descent from level to level—beginning with wisdom and culminating with action—each level bears no comparison at all even to the level that immediately precedes it; emotions cannot be compared to intellect, thought cannot be compared to emotions, and so on. Surely, then, there can be no comparison whatsoever between the lowest degree of action and the highest degree of wisdom.

All this applies to the soul of man and the soul of all the created beings in all the higher and lower worlds. In all of them, wisdom is the beginning and source of the life-force.

וְכָל זֶה בְּנֶפֶשׁ הָאָדָם וְנֶפֶשׁ כָּל הַבְּרוּאִים שֶׁבְּכָל הָעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים, שֶׁבְּכוּלָּם הַחָכְמָה הִיא רֵאשִׁית וּמְקוֹר הַחַיּוּת:

G‑d, however, as will soon be concluded, is as distant from the degree of wisdom as He is from that of action; from the Divine perspective, action and wisdom are humble equals.




8.  Liturgy, Blessings of the Shema (Siddur Tehillat Hashem, p. 49; Annotated Edition, p. 45).

9.  Liturgy, Shabbat Morning (Siddur Tehillat Hashem, p. 185; Annotated Edition, p. 223).

10.  Psalms 111:10.

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