Iggeres Ha’Kodesh Epistle 5, Class 4

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Kodesh – The Holy Epistle, Epistle 5, Class 4


We now come to an exposition of why our Sages, of blessed memory, said that specifically this world was created by the hey.

אַךְ בֵּיאוּר הָעִנְיָן, לָמָּה אָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה שֶׁעוֹלָם הַזֶּה דַוְקָא נִבְרָא בְּה’?

According to the explanation provided above, not only this physical world but all of creation resulted from the letter hey, i.e., from the sefirah of malchut as expressed in Divine speech.

The Alter Rebbe resolves this apparent anomaly by explaining that it is indeed true that all creation derives from the infinite variety of permutations and combinations of the letters which constitute Divine speech. Nevertheless, the loftier and more spiritual created beings derive from the internal aspect of Divine speech, which stems from chochmah, and they therefore have an intellectual perception of G‑dliness. Physical creation, by contrast, is of too lowly a level to be able to receive its life-giving Divine light and energy from the “soul” (i.e., the internal aspect) of the letters of G‑d’s creative speech; it merely receives this from the “body” (i.e., from the external aspect) of these letters.

The creation of physicality thus resembles the breath emanating from the heart that forms the physical voice. Above, in like manner, the physical world is formed from supernal breath, the “body” of the letters.

Hence, our Sages teach that this world was created by the letter hey—for this letter denotes the Divine breath, as explained above.

It is this that the Alter Rebbe now goes on to say:

This is known to all the wise of heart25

הִנֵּה יָדוּעַ לְכָל חַכְמֵי לֵב,

concerning the multitude of worlds and heichalotpalaces or chambers, which are innumerable,

כִּי רִיבּוּי הָעוֹלָמוֹת וְהַהֵיכָלוֹת אֲשֶׁר אֵין לָהֶם מִסְפָּר,

as it is written, with reference to these countless worlds and heichalot, “Do His regiments have a number?”26

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב: “הֲיֵשׁ מִסְפָּר לִגְדוּדָיו”,

Each heichal and regiment comprises [a finite but prodigious number of angels, as it is written,] “A thousand thousands [serve Him] and myriads of myriads27 [stand before Him].”28

וּבְכָל הֵיכָל וּגְדוּד אֶלֶף אַלְפִין וְרִבּוֹא רִבְבָן מַלְאָכִים,

Likewise, incalculable like the above heichalot and regiments are the levels of [souls, belonging to the five general categories of] nefeshruachneshamahchayah, and yechidah, in rungs to no end, for each of these five categories branches out into levels of inexhaustible number.

וְכֵן נֶפֶשׁ־רוּחַ־נְשָׁמָה־חַיָּה־יְחִידָה מַדְרֵגוֹת לְאֵין קֵץ,

And likewise [there are numberless levels] in all the worlds and heichalot from among the multitudes of heichalot that exist in the Worlds of AtzilutBeriah, and Yetzirah.

וּבְכָל עוֹלָם וְהֵיכָלוֹת מֵרִיבּוּי הֵיכָלוֹת שֶׁבַּאֲצִילוּת־בְּרִיאָה־יְצִירָה

The three abovementioned worlds are “higher” than the World of Asiyah (“the World of Action”), which includes both the spiritual and physical worlds of Asiyah.

All these hosts [of created beings], then, one multitude beyond another ad infinitum,

הִנֵּה כָּל רִיבּוּיִים אֵלּוּ, רִיבּוּי אַחַר רִיבּוּי עַד אֵין קֵץ מַמָּשׁ,

all issue and flow from the multitudinous combinations of the twenty-two letters of the “word of G‑d,”

הַכֹּל נִמְשָׁךְ וְנִשְׁפָּע מֵרִיבּוּי צֵירוּפֵי כ”ב אוֹתִיּוֹת דְּבַר ה’,

which, in turn, divide into a further profusion of combinations, truly ad infinitum.

הַמִּתְחַלְּקוֹת גַּם כֵּן לְצֵירוּפִים רַבִּים עַד אֵין קֵץ וְתַכְלִית מַמָּשׁ,

As stated in Sefer Yetzirah, “Seven ‘stones’ (i.e., letters) build five thousand and forty ‘houses’ (i.e., words);

כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בְּסֵפֶר יְצִירָה: “שִׁבְעָה אֲבָנִים בּוֹנוֹת חֲמֵשֶׁת אֲלָפִים וְאַרְבָּעִים בָּתִּים,

from here onward—i.e., from the sum of the factorial of eight and onward—go ahead and calculate that which the mouth is unable to express….’’29

מִכָּאן וְאֵילַךְ צֵא וַחֲשׁוֹב מַה שֶּׁאֵין הַפֶּה יָכוֹל לְדַבֵּר כוּ’”.

In this way, the letters of Divine speech may be multiplied infinitely by various permutations and combinations, thus giving rise to a correspondingly infinite range of created beings.

But if the distinctions between all these beings lie merely in the ways in which their respective letters are combined, why are there also many and varying qualitative levels, “one surpassing the other”? This is the question that the Alter Rebbe now proceeds to address.

Though among the rungs and levels of the angels and souls there are so many distinct kinds of qualitative as well as quantitative levels and rungs ad infinitum,

וַהֲגַם שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּמַעֲלוֹת וּמַדְרֵיגוֹת הַמַּלְאָכִים וּנְשָׁמוֹת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה מִינֵי מַעֲלוֹת וּמַדְרֵיגוֹת חֲלוּקוֹת לְאֵין קֵץ,

one surpassing the other,

גָּבוֹהַּ עַל גָּבוֹהַּ –

[these variations of levels exist because] they all come into being according to permutations in the various letter-combinations and letter-substitutions of alef-tavbeit-shin, and so on30 (of the twenty-two letters which themselves come into being according to permutations in the various letter-combinations and letter-substitutions of alef-tav, beit-shin [and so on]),31

הִנֵּה הַכֹּל נִמְשָׁךְ לְפִי חִילּוּפֵי הַצֵּירוּפִים וְהַתְּמוּרוֹת בְּאַ”תּ בַּ”שׁ כוּ’

(32as explained in ch. 12 [of Shaar Hayichud VehaEmunah]).33

(וּכְמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּפֶרֶק י”ב).

Now, although there exists such a teeming superabundance of distinct and varying levels of created beings:

In a general way, they all possess wisdom and knowledge, and they know their Creator,

אַךְ דֶּרֶךְ כְּלָל, הִנֵּה כּוּלָּם בַּעֲלֵי חָכְמָה וָדַעַת, וְיוֹדְעִים אֶת בּוֹרְאָם,

because their life-force stems from the inwardness of the letters which issue from the supreme chochmah, as mentioned above.

מִפְּנֵי הֱיוֹת חַיּוּתָם מִפְּנִימִיּוּת הָאוֹתִיּוֹת הַנִּמְשָׁכוֹת מִבְּחִינַת חָכְמָה עִילָּאָה, וְכַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל.

We may therefore truly say that the beings encompassed by the general term of [creatures of] the World to Come were all created by the letter yud, for their vitality stems from the inwardness and radiance of the letters of Divine speech that derive from the yud of the Four-Letter Name of G‑d.




25.  Note by the Rebbe: “This accords with the explanation in Torah Or (and Or Hatorah) on this phrase [in the context of Exodus 28:2-3].”

26.  Job 25:3.

27.  Daniel 7:10.

28. Note by the Rebbe: “The Alter Rebbe cites this as well (as he does also in Part I, ch. 46, 65b), thus inviting a question as to what is added thereby (see ibid., beginning of ch. 48). It could be argued that he thereby adduces that though these ‘regiments’ derive from letters and are therefore (finite and) countable, they nevertheless comprise as well an aspect of infinity.”

29.  4:12.

30.According to the rules of substitution, the first letter (א) can be substituted by the last letter (ת); the second letter (ב) can be substituted by the second to last letter (ש), and so on. There are also other schemes of transposition, e.g., of letters of similar sound; of letters articulated by the same organ of speech; and so on.

31. This parenthetical gloss was added by the Rebbe.

32. Parentheses appear in original text.

33. Note by the Rebbe: “[The above-described successive stages of letter permutation cause the light of Divine speech] to descend from the loftiest rung to the lofty rung below it…, [creating creatures of lesser standing by a mere] ‘radiance of a radiance…’ [as in ch. 12, loc. cit.]. By contrast, mere differences in letter permutation would not produce [creatures of] lesser standing.”

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