Iggeres Ha’Kodesh Epistle 3, Class 1

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


“And He garbed himself with tzedakah1 as with a coat of mail, and a helmet of salvation upon his head.”2

“וַיִּלְבַּשׁ צְדָקָה כַּשִּׁרְיוֹן, וְכוֹבַע יְשׁוּעָה בְּרֹאשׁוֹ”.

This verse in fact speaks of G‑d’s promised actions in defense of His people. Nevertheless, the deeds of Jews that mirror G‑d’s deeds serve as a vessel which can receive (or as a means which can bring about) G‑d’s reciprocal action.3 Hence, when Jews act in a righteous and charitable manner, in the spirit of the term tzedakah, such conduct attracts and calls forth Divine activity on their behalf. In particular, a Jew’s Divine service that resembles G‑d’s own acts of tzedakah contains within it a protective “coat of mail” for his body and a “helmet of salvation” for his head.

[On this verse,] our Sages, of blessed memory, commented: “Just as with chain mail, all the individual scales add up to form a large coat of mail, so it is with charity: all the individual coins [given to charity] add up to a great amount.”4

וְדָרְשׁוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: “מַה שִּׁרְיוֹן זֶה כָּל קְלִיפָּה וּקְלִיפָּה מִצְטָרֶפֶת לְשִׁרְיוֹן גָּדוֹל, אַף צְדָקָה כָּל פְּרוּטָה וּפְרוּטָה מִצְטָרֶפֶת לְחֶשְׁבּוֹן גָּדוֹל”.

The Alter Rebbe now anticipates a question: What is gained by this analogy? Surely it is just as obvious that “all the individual coins [given to charity] add up to a great amount” as it is that “all the individual scales add up to form a large coat of mail.”

This means—and this is the additional point being made here—that just as the mail is made of scales covering gaps, and these shield one against any arrow entering through the gaps, so it is with the act of charity.

פֵּירוּשׁ, שֶׁהַשִּׁרְיוֹן עָשׂוּי קַשְׂקַשִּׂים עַל נְקָבִים, וְהֵם מְגִינִּים שֶׁלֹּא יִכָּנֵס חֵץ בַּנְּקָבִים, וְכָכָה הוּא מַעֲשֵׂה הַצְּדָקָה:

I.e., as will presently be explained, the spiritual dynamic of charity comprises (a) an element that corresponds to the chinks in a coat of mail and (b) an element that corresponds to the protective scales (the coins) that cover those gaps.

The meaning of this [is as follows]: Charity is greater than all the commandments,

וּבֵיאוּר הָעִנְיָן, כִּי גְדוֹלָה צְדָקָה מִכָּל הַמִּצְוֹת,

for [their performance] produces “garments” for the soul.

שֶׁמֵּהֶן נַעֲשִׂים לְבוּשִׁים לְהַנְּשָׁמָה,

The performance of the commandments provides the “garments” that enable the soul to withstand the intense degree of Divine revelation to which it will be exposed in Gan Eden, instead of being nullified by it.

[These garments] are drawn forth from the [infinite] light of the blessed Ein Sof,

הַנִּמְשָׁכִים מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא

Deriving from a source which is infinite,5 they enable the soul to cope with the infinite degree of revelation which it will encounter in Gan Eden.

from the level of sovev kol almin.

מִבְּחִינַת “סוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין”

Unlike the mode of life-giving Divine illumination called memalei kol almin (lit., “filling all worlds”), which becomes integrated and manifest within the creatures it animates, the mode of Divine illumination called sovev kol almin (lit., “encompassing all worlds”) is not limited to the finite spiritual capacity of created beings; it transcends and affects them from afar, so to speak.

(6The meaning of memalei kol almin and sovev kol almin has been explained in Likkutei Amarim;7 see there.)

(כִּמְּבוֹאָר הַפֵּירוּשׁ “מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין” וְ”סוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין” בְּלִקּוּטֵי אֲמָרִים, עַיֵּין שָׁם)

[These garments are brought into being] by an “arousal from below,” i.e., the [fulfillment of the] commands of G‑d and the will of the Supreme Being.

בְּאִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְתַתָּא, הִיא מִצְוַת ה’ וְרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן בָּרוּךְ־הוּא.

Since the commandments emanate from G ‑d’s supreme will from the level of sovev kol almin, they serve as the source for the abovementioned garments.




1. The Hebrew word means both “charity” (its primary meaning in this work) and “righteousness.”

2. Isaiah 59:17.

3. Note by the Rebbe: “This recalls the Alter Rebbe’s interpretation of the teaching, דע מה למעלהממך—‘Know [that] that which is Above [comes about] from you’ (Hayom Yom, 13 lyar).”

4. Bava Batra 9b.

5. Note by the Rebbe: “As explained below, in Epistle 29.”

6. Parentheses appear in the original text.

7.  Ch. 48.

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