Iggeres Ha’Kodesh Epistle 1, Class 3


Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Kodesh – The Holy Epistle, Epistle 1, Class 3


But what gives the power and strength to the “loins” (i.e., faith) to support and sustain the “head” (i.e., the intellect that contemplates G‑d’s greatness) and the “arms” (i.e., the love and fear of G‑d)?

אַךְ מִי הוּא הַנּוֹתֵן כֹּחַ וָעוֹז לִבְחִינַת “מָתְנַיִם”, לְהַעֲמִיד וּלְקַיֵּים הָרֹאשׁ וְהַזְּרוֹעוֹת? –

It is one’s involvement in and study of the laws of the Oral Torah, for the Torah is the food39 that nourishes the soul’s faith,

הוּא עֵסֶק וְלִימּוּד הֲלָכוֹת בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה,

and [the Oral Torah] is the manifestation of the supreme will.

שֶׁהִיא בְּחִינַת גִּילּוּי רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן,

Only the Oral Torah manifestly reveals the supreme will in all its ramifications; the Written Torah does not elaborate on the detailed laws concerning the performance of the commandments. On the mitzvah of tefillin, for example, the Written Torah merely states that “You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall serve as a reminder between your eyes.”40 It is not at all clear exactly what shall be bound, how it shall serve as a sign, and precisely where it shall be placed “between your eyes.” All these particulars are elaborated upon in the Oral Torah; it is there that G‑d’s specific intentions regarding tefillin are revealed.

Likewise with the other commandments: the Oral Torah reveals the supreme will, as will be explained in more detail below, in Epistle 29.

The Alter Rebbe now goes on to say that Torah may indeed be said to be the revelation of G‑d’s Will, a level that transcends His wisdom, notwithstanding the fact that “Torah proceeds from chochmah,”41 i.e., from Divine wisdom. This is so because:

Torah [merely] proceeds i.e., unfolds from chochmahit is merely revealed through Divine wisdom;

דְּאוֹרַיְיתָא – מֵחָכְמָה הִיא דְנָפְקַת,

its source and root, however, surpass by far the rank of chochmah,

אֲבָל מְקוֹרָהּ וְשָׁרְשָׁהּ – הוּא לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה מִבְּחִינַת חָכְמָה,

being that which is referred to as the Blessed One’s supreme will, which encompasses and sustains chochmah.

וְהוּא הַנִּקְרָא בְּשֵׁם “רָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן” בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

Thus, it is written—the following proof text is cited here to illustrate the effect of the Torah upon the soul—“As42 with a shield, You crown [the righteous man] with favor.”43 (The word here translated as “favor” is ratzon, the same word that has been rendered as “Will.”)

וּכְמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב “כַּצִּנָּה רָצוֹן תַּעְטְרֶנּוּ”

So, too, the study of the Torah encompasses and protects the soul of the Torah student,

like a crown which is placed above the brains which are within the head.

כַּעֲטָרָה שֶׁהִיא עַל הַמּוֹחִין שֶׁבָּרֹאשׁ,

Since the study of the Oral Torah reveals G‑d’s Will (i.e., the “crown” that transcends the level of wisdom), it is therefore able to strengthen the “loins” (i.e., faith), whose purpose it is to support the “head” (i.e., intellect) and the “arms” (i.e., the love and fear of G‑d, the spiritual emotions that are the fruits of intellect).

[This teaching] parallels the familiar exposition of the verse, “A woman of valor is the crown of her husband.”44

וְכַנּוֹדָע מִמַּה שֶּׁפֵּירְשׁוּ עַל פָּסוּק “אֵשֶׁת חַיִל עֲטֶרֶת בַּעְלָהּ”;

The Alter Rebbe explains below, in Epistle 29, that “a woman of valor” alludes to the Oral Torah. Its numerous laws serve as a “crown” for her “husband,” the intellective faculty of chochmah.

[This teaching] likewise [recalls the Rabbinic teaching that] “Whoever studies Torah laws every day [is assured of life in the World to Come],45 for it is the study of the Oral Torah that enables one to be receptive to Divine revelation in the World to Come, as is explained at greater length in Epistle 29.

וְ”כָל הַשּׁוֹנֶה הֲלָכוֹת בְּכָל יוֹם כוּ’”,

This, then, is the meaning of the verse, “She girds her loins with strength”:

וְזֶהוּ “חָגְרָה בְעוֹז מָתְנֶיהָ” –

“There is no strength but Torah,”46

“אֵין עוֹז אֶלָּא תוֹרָה”

for it gives power and strength to the “loins,” i.e., the faith of the soul, which are girded and embodied in it,שֶׁהִיא נוֹתֶנֶת כֹּחַ וָעוֹז לִבְחִינַת מָתְנַיִם הַחֲגוּרִים וּמְלוּבָּשִׁים בָּהּ,

to strengthen and fortify its “arms,” namely, the intellectually generated or innate awe and love.

לְחַזֵּק וּלְאַמֵּץ זְרוֹעוֹתֶיהָ, הֵן דְּחִילוּ וּרְחִימוּ שִׂכְלִיִּים אוֹ טִבְעִיִּים,

in each man according to his measure.

כָּל חַד לְפוּם שִׁיעוּרָא דִילֵיהּ,

One individual generates a love or awe of G‑d through his own intellectual endeavor, through study and meditation; another merely draws on his inborn reservoir of love and awe; in all cases, however, these spiritual emotions are strengthened by the study of the Torah laws.

In the spirit of the above, we can understand the metaphor of the verse, “She girds her loins with strength”: Just as a warrior gathers strength by girding his loins, so does the soul become more powerful by being enveloped with the encompassing radiance of the Divine light, which is drawn down upon it from the supreme will that is revealed in the laws of the Torah.





39. Cf. Proverbs 9:5.

40. Deuteronomy 6:8.

41.Zohar II, 121a, et passim.

42. Psalms 5:13.

43. The Rebbe notes: “Though tzinah generally denotes a shield that protects the body from three sides, our verse concludes with the verb ‘crowned’ (rather than ‘surrounded’; see commentary of Rashi here), signifying that this shield also serves as a ‘crown.’”

44.Proverbs 12:4.

45. Conclusion of Niddah, where it is referenced further.

46.Sifrei on Deuteronomy 32:2, et al.

47. Parentheses are in the original text.

48. Proverbs 31:18. 


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