Iggeres Ha’Kodesh Epistle 7, Class 4

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Kodesh – The Holy Epistle, Epistle 7, Class 4


Until now, the Alter Rebbe has explained the term “our portion.” He now goes on to explain the term “our lot” (in the above-quoted verse, וּמַה נָעִים גוֹרָלֵנוּ—“and how pleasant is our lot”), signifying something bestowed exclusively and merited only by lot.

Though this manifestation [of light] through a person’s involvement in the Torah and the commandments is, generally, equal in every individual Jew,

וְהִנֵּה, אַף שֶׁגִּילּוּי זֶה עַל־יְדֵי עֵסֶק הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוֹת הוּא שָׁוֶה לְכָל נֶפֶשׁ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל בְּדֶרֶךְ כְּלָל,

for we all have “one Torah and one law,”28

כִּי תּוֹרָה אַחַת וּמִשְׁפָּט אֶחָד לְכוּלָּנוּ,

All Jews are equally obliged to study the Torah and to observe its mitzvot; generally speaking, the resultant illumination from Above is likewise drawn down equally to them all.

nevertheless, in a more specific way, in regard to this manifestation of light that radiates through the study of the Torah and the performance of the commandments, not every nefesh (the lowest level of the soul) and ruach (“spirit,” a higher level of the soul) and neshamah (a yet higher level of the soul) is equal,

אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן, בְּדֶרֶךְ פְּרָט, אֵין כָּל הַנְּפָשׁוֹת אוֹ הָרוּחוֹת וְהַנְּשָׁמוֹת שָׁווֹת בְּעִנְיָן זֶה

for this depends on the period and time of their reincarnation and their coming into this world.

לְפִי עֵת וּזְמַן גִּלְגּוּלָם וּבוֹאָם בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה

Most souls of present generations are incarnations of souls that had descended into this world in earlier times; they descended once again in order to rectify some aspect of their previous incarnation. The degree of radiance the soul receives from Above through the performance of a particular mitzvah depends upon the era in which the soul finds itself in this world.

Our Sages, of blessed memory, quote the question: “With what [commandment] was your father most careful?”29 To which the answer was, “With [the commandment of] tzitzit.”

וּכְמַאֲמַר רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה: “אֲבוּךְ בְּמַאי הֲוֵי זָהִיר טְפֵי, אָמַר לֵיהּ בְּצִיצִית כוּ’”.

This means that the performance of this commandment kindled within this man a particularly luminous revelation, and it was this G‑dly light that inspired his scrupulous performance. In the spirit of this teaching, and in view of the fact that the three root letters of the word זָהִיר (translated above as “careful”) also mean “luminous,” the above-quoted question has been understood [by the Mitteler Rebbe] as follows:30 “As a result of which commandment was your father most luminous?”

Likewise, not all the generations31 are the same.

וְכֵן, אֵין כָּל הַדּוֹרוֹת שָׁוִין.

Not only do souls differ: generations differ as well. There have been generations whose primary spiritual challenge was the study of the Torah; in other generations, it was charity;32 and so on.

The reason for this is that the souls of those generations were especially illuminated by the performance of those specific commandments.

For just as with the organs of man, each organ has its particular and distinctive function,

כִּי כְּמוֹ שֶׁאֵבְרֵי הָאָדָם, כָּל אֵבֶר יֵשׁ לוֹ פְּעוּלָּה פְּרָטִית וּמְיוּחֶדֶת,

the eye to see and the ear to hear,

הָעַיִן לִרְאוֹת וְהָאֹזֶן לִשְׁמוֹעַ,

so, too, through each commandment—the commandments being known as the “Organs of the King”33—there radiates a particular and distinctive light from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light.

כָּךְ בְּכָל מִצְוָה מֵאִיר אוֹר פְּרָטִי וּמְיוּחָד מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא.

And although every Jewish soul needs to be reincarnated in order to fulfill all 613 commandments,

וְאַף שֶׁכָּל נֶפֶשׁ מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל צְרִיכָה לָבוֹא בְּגִלְגּוּל לְקַיֵּים כָּל תַּרְיַ”ג מִצְוֹת,

How, then, can we say that a soul that descends to this world in a given period will receive its G‑dly illumination as an individualized bequest, thereby necessitating particular scrupulousness in specific commands?

this [heightened attention focused on a particular commandment] is necessary only for the sake of an additional measure of vigilance and zeal,

מִכָּל מָקוֹם לֹא נִצְרְכָה אֶלָּא לְהַעֲדָפָה וּזְהִירוּת וּזְרִיזוּת יְתֵירָה,

[a zeal] doubly and exceedingly elevated and powerful,

בְּיֶתֶר שְׂאֵת וְיֶתֶר עֹז, כְּפוּלָה וּמְכוּפֶּלֶת,

far surpassing one’s zeal in [the fulfillment of] the other commandments.

לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה מִזְּהִירוּת שְׁאָר הַמִּצְוֹת.

Hence, the word “most” used by the above-quoted individual when he asked, “With what [commandment] was [your father] most careful?”

וְזֶהוּ שֶׁאָמַר “בְּמַאי הֲוֵי זָהִיר טְפֵי” – “טְפֵי” דַיְיקָא.

Scrupulous observance indeed applies to all commandments: the question was only which command earned his keenest attention.

Now, the superiority of this individual light [that is bestowed] upon individual souls through the performance of a particular commandment

וְהִנֵּה, יִתְרוֹן הָאוֹר הַזֶּה הַפְּרָטִי לִנְשָׁמוֹת פְּרָטִיּוֹת

is not in the category of apprehensible reason,

אֵינוֹ בִּבְחִינַת טַעַם וָדַעַת מוּשָּׂג,

but transcends it.

אֶלָּא לְמַעְלָה מִבְּחִינַת הַדַּעַת,

For thus it arose in G‑d’s thought, so to speak—that certain souls be granted additional illumination through the performance of particular commandments.

שֶׁכָּךְ עָלָה בְּמַחֲשָׁבָה לְפָנָיו יִתְבָּרֵךְ,

And its model below is truly the concept of a “lot.”

וְדוּגְמָתוֹ לְמַטָּה הוּא בְּחִינַת הַגּוֹרָל מַמָּשׁ:

The fact that one person wins a “lot” while others do not is likewise not in the category of apprehensible reason. Rather, so has it been deemed from Above, as the verse indicates, “The lot is cast into the lap, and from G‑d is its disposition.”34

This, then, is the meaning of “how pleasant is our lot.” The disposition of a particular degree of G‑dly illumination to a specific soul through the performance of a select command is wholly dependent upon a consideration that transcends logic: it is a “lot” determined from Above.




28.  Numbers 15:16.

29.  Shabbat 118b.

30.  Sefer Hatoldot Admur HaEmtzaee, p. 25; Sefer Hasichot Kayitz 5700, p. 22; Sefer Hamaamarim 5708, p. 240 and the note by the Rebbe there.

31.  Note by the Rebbe: “It would seem that this [variation with the different generations] is already included in the differences of ‘period and time’ discussed above. It would be worth examining the manuscripts of Iggeret Hakodesh; possibly the above text should read ‘the commandments.’”

32.  Note by the Rebbe: “See Iggeret Hakodesh, Epistles 5 and 9.”

33.  Tikkunei ZoharTikkun 30.

34.  Proverbs 16:33.

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