Iggeres Ha’Kodesh Epistle 2, Class 3

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Kodesh – The Holy Epistle, Epistle 2, Class 3


It is different, though, with the [unholy] counterpart [to the attribute of kindness that belongs to the holy “side” of the universe]; i.e., [it is different] with Ishmael, [who personifies] the attribute of chesed that belongs to the kelipah.

מַה שֶּׁאֵין כֵּן בְּזֶה לְעוּמַּת זֶה, הוּא יִשְׁמָעֵאל – חֶסֶד דִּקְלִיפָּה,

The counterpart to Abraham, who personifies the attribute of “chesed (kindness) that belongs to holiness,” is Ishmael, who personifies “kindness that belongs to unholiness”; the opposite of Isaac, who represents the attribute of “gevurah (severity) that belongs to holiness,” is Esau, who represents the attribute of “gevurah that belongs to unholiness.”

The more kindness [shown to Ishmael and to his ilk], the more he grows in pride, arrogance, and self-satisfaction.

כָּל שֶׁהַחֶסֶד גָּדוֹל, הוּא הוֹלֵךְ וְגָדֵל בְּגוֹבַהּ וְגַסּוּת הָרוּחַ וְרוֹחַב לִבּוֹ.

A Jew must thus be on guard against the “chesed of kelipah” and ensure that G‑d’s acts of kindness will lead him to cultivate the traits of Abraham and Jacob, the “chesed of holiness,” so that his response will be humility rather than pride.

Accordingly, I am now making a weighty announcement to all the men of our [Chasidic] fraternity,

וְלָזֹאת, בָּאתִי מִן הַמּוֹדִיעִים מוֹדָעָה רַבָּה לִכְלָלוּת אַנְשֵׁי שְׁלוֹמֵנוּ,

regarding the multitude of favors, “the great things that G‑d has done with us.”20

עַל רִיבּוּי הַחֲסָדִים אֲשֶׁר הִגְדִּיל ה’ לַעֲשׂוֹת עִמָּנוּ,

The attribute of chesed (kindness) is also known by the name gedulah (greatness), as in the verse21 which enumerates the Divine attributes and which begins, לְךָ ה הַגְּדֻלָּה וְהַגְּבוּרָה. Indeed, the term gedulah connotes an even greater manifestation of Divine kindness than does chesed. The Alter Rebbe therefore adds the phrase regarding “the great things that G‑d has done for us,” thereby indicating the extraordinary kindness G‑d had shown Chasidim by releasing him.

[As a result of all these favors:] Hold on to the attributes of Jacob,

לֶאֱחוֹז בְּמִדּוֹתָיו שֶׁל יַעֲקֹב

[for Jews are known as] “the remnant of His people”22 and “the remainder of Israel”23a Jew possesses within himself the attributes described here as “remnants” and “remainder,”

“שְׁאָר עַמּוֹ” וּ”שְׁאֵרִית יִשְׂרָאֵל”,

regarding himself truly as mere remnants,24 as something truly superfluous and dispensable.

שֶׁמֵּשִׂים עַצְמוֹ כְּשִׁירַיִים וּמוֹתָרוֹת מַמָּשׁ שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ שׁוּם צוֹרֶךְ,

Let [the men of our fraternity] not become haughty in relation to their brethren…, i.e., their opponents, who caused the arrest of the Alter Rebbe.

לְבִלְתִּי רוּם לְבָבָם מֵאֲחֵיהֶם כוּ’,

Let them not jeer nor whistle derisively at them, heaven forfend.

וְלֹא לְהַרְחִיב עֲלֵיהֶם פֶּה, אוֹ לִשְׁרוֹק עֲלֵיהֶם חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

A strict warning: Hold your peace! Mention nothing!

הַס מִלְּהַזְכִּיר בְּאַזְהָרָה נוֹרָאָה,

Rather, [the men of our Chasidic fraternity] are to subdue their spirit and heart before every man according to the attribute of “truth unto Jacob,”25

רַק לְהַשְׁפִּיל רוּחָם וְלִבָּם, בְּמִדַּת אֱמֶת לְיַעֲקֹב, מִפְּנֵי כָּל אָדָם,

with humility, with “a soft answer [that] turns away anger,”26 and with a restrained spirit…

בִּנְמִיכוּת רוּחַ, וּ”מַעֲנֶה רַךְ מֵשִׁיב חֵימָה”, “וְרוּחַ נְכֵאָה כוּ’”,

and through all that,27 perhaps G‑d will put [a conciliatory and loving response] into the heart of their brethren, [for] “as waters [reflect] one’s face, [so does the heart of one man reflect the heart of another].”28

וְכוּלֵּי הַאי וְאוּלַי יִתֵּן ה’ בְּלֵב אֲחֵיהֶם “כַּמַּיִם הַפָּנִים וְגוֹ’”:




20. Psalms 126:3.

21. I Chronicles 29:11.

22. Isaiah 11:11.

23. Jeremiah 6:9; 31:6.

24. Rosh Hashanah 17a-b.

25. For the comment of Rabbi Shmuel, fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, on this stipulation of the Alter Rebbe, see Hayom Yom, 10 Menachem Av.

26. Cf. Proverbs 15:1.

27. This final sentence was added by the Alter Rebbe at a later date; see Hayom Yom, loc. cit.

28. Proverbs 27:19. 

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