Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah Chapter 5, Class 1

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Teshuvah – The Epistle on Repentance, Chapter 5, Class 1


The previous chapter taught that the Jewish soul is a part of the Tetragrammaton, the internal aspect of G‑dliness, from which it derives. In this, it differs from other created beings whose source is more external—the Divine Name Elokim and supernal speech.

However, in order that the soul be able to become enclothed in a physical body in this corporeal world, it had to descend through ever more concealing planes by means of the letters that comprise the Divine utterance, “Let us make man.”

Deriving as it does from the internal aspect of the Divine life-force, the soul itself is thus loftier than the degree of supernal speech; it merely undergoes a descent through Divine speech. It is for this reason that concerning the infusion of man’s soul into the body, the Torah uses the expression “He blew,” indicating that it comes from an internal level, for “he who blows does so from the innermost aspect of his being.” Because the soul is part of the Tetragrammaton, it also comprises ten faculties that parallel the ten sefirot that are found within the Tetragrammaton.

In this chapter, the Alter Rebbe goes on to say that even though the soul was invested in the body through the external agency of speech—the utterance, “Let us make man”—nevertheless, it derives from the internal aspect of speech, namely, “breath.” In this regard, man differs from all other creatures, including angels, which derive their existence from the external aspect of speech. Accordingly, both the internal and external aspects of the soul derive from the internal aspect of G‑dliness, the internal aspect of the soul deriving from the internal aspect of G‑dliness, namely, the Tetragrammaton, the external aspect of the soul deriving from the internality of the external level of Divine speech.

Bringing the G‑dly soul down into this physical world to invest itself in a human body, this process resulting from Divine speech, viz., the utterance, “Let us make man,”

וְהִנֵּה, הַמְשָׁכַת וִירִידַת הַנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֱלֹקִית לָעוֹלָם הַזֶּה לְהִתְלַבֵּשׁ בְּגוּף הָאָדָם,

derives from the internal aspect, the source, of speech.

נִמְשְׁכָה מִבְּחִינַת פְּנִימִיּוּת וּמְקוֹר הַדִּיבּוּר,

This is the “breath” of the Supreme One that is indicated in the latter hey [of Havayah, the Four-Letter Name of G‑d] discussed above.

הוּא הֶבֶל הָעֶלְיוֹן, הַמְרוּמָּז בְּאוֹת הֵ”א תַּתָּאָה כַּנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל,

As Scripture states concerning the vestiture of the soul within the body, “He blew into his nostrils a breath of life, and man became a living creature,”1

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: “וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים, וַיְהִי הָאָדָם לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה”,

and “he who blows does so from within him, [from his inwardness and innermost being].”

וּ”מַאן דְּנָפַח וְכוּ’”.

Thus, even the external aspect of the soul that is vested within the body is vested in an inward manner, albeit with the inwardness of speech—the internal aspect of the external level of speech. In this regard, it is unlike the internal aspect of the soul, which emanates from the most internal aspect of G‑dliness.

This, then, is the meaning of the verse, “For [G‑d’s] people is a part of G‑d; Jacob is the rope of His inheritance.”2

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁכָּתוּב: “כִּי חֵלֶק ה’ עַמּוֹ, יַעֲקֹב חֶבֶל נַחֲלָתוֹ”,

This verse implies that within the soul, there are to be found two levels: the internal aspect of the soul is “part of G‑d”; the external aspect of the soul is the “rope of His inheritance.”

The analogy is of a rope, whose upper end is bound above and the lower end below; so, too, the “upper end” of the soul is “bound Above,” and its “lower end” is enclothed within the body.

פֵּירוּשׁ, כְּמוֹ חֶבֶל, עַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל, שֶׁרֹאשׁוֹ אֶחָד קָשׁוּר לְמַעְלָה וְקָצֵהוּ לְמַטָּה.

The simple meaning3 of the words “He blew” stated in reference to the soul’s vestiture within the body is to instruct us that just as, for example, if one blows in some direction,

כִּי הִנֵּה, פְּשַׁט הַכָּתוּב מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב “וַיִּפַּח”, הוּא לְהוֹרוֹת לָנוּ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁעַל דֶּרֶךְ מָשָׁל כְּשֶׁהָאָדָם נוֹפֵחַ לְאֵיזֶה מָקוֹם,

and there is any separation or obstruction there, then the exhaled breath will not reach that place at all,4

אִם יֵשׁ אֵיזֶה דָבָר חוֹצֵץ וּמַפְסִיק בֵּינְתַיִים אֵין הֶבֶל הַנּוֹפֵחַ עוֹלֶה וּמַגִּיעַ כְּלָל לְאוֹתוֹ מָקוֹם,

precisely, this is the case if any obstruction separates man’s body from the “breath” of the Supreme One, concerning which Scripture states, “He blew.”

כָּכָה מַמָּשׁ, אִם יֵשׁ דָּבָר חוֹצֵץ וּמַפְסִיק בֵּין גּוּף הָאָדָם לִבְחִינַת הֶבֶל הָעֶלְיוֹן.

The truth is, though, that nothing material or spiritual is a barrier before Him,

אַךְ בֶּאֱמֶת, אֵין שׁוּם דָּבָר גַּשְׁמִי וְרוּחָנִי חוֹצֵץ לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

for, as the verse states, “Do I not fill heaven and earth?”5

כִּי “הֲלֹא אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ אֲנִי מָלֵא”,

Furthermore, Scripture states, “All the world is full of His glory.”6

וּ”מְלֹא כָל הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ”,

Also, “There is no place devoid of Him,”7

וְ”לֵית אֲתַר פָּנוּי מִינֵּיהּ”,

[and] “In the heavens above and on the earth below there is none else,”8

“בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וְעַל הָאָרֶץ מִתָּחַת אֵין עוֹד”,

[and] “He fills all worlds….”9

וְ”אִיהוּ מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין וְכוּ’”,

Since G‑d is everywhere and within everything, it is thus seemingly impossible for anything to act as a barrier before Him.

Rather, as Isaiah declares, “Only your sins separate you from your G‑d.”10

אֶלָּא כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בִּישַׁעְיָה: “כִּי אִם עֲווֹנוֹתֵיכֶם הָיוּ מַבְדִּילִים בֵּינֵיכֶם לְבֵין אֱלֹקֵיכֶם”.

The reason is that sins oppose the will of the Supreme One, Who gives life to all,

וְהַטַּעַם, לְפִי שֶׁהֵם נֶגֶד רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן בָּרוּךְ־הוּא הַמְחַיֶּה אֶת הַכֹּל,




1. Genesis 2:7.

2. Deuteronomy 32:9.

3. The Rebbe queries why the Alter Rebbe should have introduced the forthcoming analogy with the seemingly superfluous preamble, “The simple meaning of the words ‘He blew’ is to instruct us….” He proposes that the Alter Rebbe added these words in order to resolve a difficulty which would otherwise be inexplicable. For according to the Alter Rebbe’s explanation, the soul is drawn down in a number of successive stages: its initial source is the internal aspect of the life-force and thereafter the internal aspect (the “breath’’) of speech. (Both these concepts are adduced from the words “He blew,’’ which indicates inwardness, as mentioned above.) The soul later progresses through the letters of speech (for the utterance, “Let us make man,” is composed of actual letters of speech and does not derive from “blowing,” which is an aspect of breath). Only then does it become actually enclothed within the body of man. This ultimate stage, then, the implanting of the soul “into his nostrils,” comes about from speech, not from G‑d’s having “blown.” Now, speech is heard even if there is an obstruction between speaker and listener. Accordingly, when describing the soul already situated in the body, how is it appropriate to use the image of exhaled breath, which can be prevented by an obstruction from arriving at its destination? It is this question that the Alter Rebbe answers by saying that the “simple meaning” of the verse is to “instruct us” that even after the utterance, “Let us make man,” i.e., even when the investiture of the soul in the body takes place by means of speech, it still retains the characteristics of “blowing.” Just as an obstacle can obstruct the passage of breath, so, too, sins can obstruct the soul’s lifeline to G‑dliness. This explains why other creatures which derive their nurture through Divine “speech” are not subject to excision, for the sound of speech can penetrate an obstruction. Souls, however, throughout their sojourn in the body, constantly depend on the nurture which is (so to speak) blown into them; they must always have an unobstructed path to their life-source.

4. The first edition of Iggeret Hateshuvah here cited the instance of a person blowing “into the lungs of an animal.” The Rebbe once explained that this example was chosen because the Alter Rebbe wanted to draw on a source from the Torah, and according to Torah law (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, beg. Sec. 39), an animal’s lungs are to be examined by being inflated.

5. Jeremiah 23:24.

6. Isaiah 6:3.

7. Tikkunei Zohar 51.

8. Deuteronomy 4:39.

9. Zohar III, 225a.

10.  59:2.

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