Iggeres Ha’Kodesh Epistle 10, Class 3

Tanya/ Iggeres Ha’Kodesh – The Holy Epistle, Epistle 10, Class 3


Now, because the commandments were given to us by being vested in the attribute of gevurah and by the contraction of the [Divine] radiance…,

וְהִנֵּה, לְפִי שֶׁהַמִּצְוֹת נִיתְּנוּ לָנוּ עַל־יְדֵי הִתְלַבְּשׁוּת בְּמִדַּת גְּבוּרָה וְצִמְצוּם הַהֶאָרָה כוּ’,

most commandments have a delimited measure.16

לָכֵן רוֹב הַמִּצְוֹת יֵשׁ לָהֶן שִׁיעוּר מְצוּמְצָם,

For instance, the length of the tzitzit must be twelve times the width of the thumb;17

כְּמוֹ: אוֹרֶךְ הַצִּיצִית י”בּ גּוּדָלִין,

the tefillin—two finger-breadths by two finger-breadths, according to the opinion of the Geonim quoted in the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch,18 and necessarily square;19

וְהַתְּפִילִּין אֶצְבָּעַיִם עַל אֶצְבָּעַיִם וּמְרוּבָּעוֹת דַּוְקָא,

the lulav—four handbreadths;20 the Sukkah—seven handbreadths;21

וְהַלּוּלָב ד’ טְפָחִים, וְהַסּוּכָּה ז’ טְפָחִים,

the shofar—one handbreadth;22 and the mikveh—forty se’ahs.23

וְהַשּׁוֹפָר טֶפַח, וְהַמִּקְוֶה מ’ סְאָה,

The sacrifices, too, have a delimited measure as regards age,

וְכֵן בְּקָרְבָּנוֹת יֵשׁ לָהֶן שִׁיעוּר מְצוּמְצָם לִזְמַן,

as, for instance, “sheep of one year old,”24 and “rams of two years old,”25 and “oxen….”26

כְּמוֹ כְּבָשִׂים בְּנֵי שָׁנָה, וְאֵילִים בְּנֵי שְׁתַּיִם, וּפָרִים כוּ’.

The same applies to the act of charity and to the practice of kindness with one’s money;

וְכֵן בְּמַעֲשֵׂה הַצְּדָקָה וּגְמִילוּת חֲסָדִים בְּמָמוֹנוֹ,

even though that is one of the pillars upon which the world stands,27

אַף שֶׁהִיא מֵהָעַמּוּדִים שֶׁהָעוֹלָם עוֹמֵד עֲלֵיהֶם,

as it is written: “The world is built by chesed,”28

וּכְדִכְתִיב: “עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה”,

nevertheless, it has a set measure of preferably one-fifth [of one’s income],29 if one desires to perform the commandment in the best possible manner,

אֲפִילוּ הָכֵי יֵשׁ לָהּ שִׁיעוּר קָצוּב, חוֹמֶשׁ לְמִצְוָה מִן הַמּוּבְחָר,

and of one-tenth for an average measure30….

וּמַעֲשֵׂר לְמִדָּה בֵינוֹנִית כוּ’

This is what is called “the chesed of the world.”

וְזֶה נִקְרָא “חֶסֶד עוֹלָם”,

I.e., the supernal degree of chesed that is drawn down through this manner of measured charity is termed chesed olam, “the chesed of the world.”

This means “the chesed of G‑d that endures throughout the day,”31 which is vested in the higher and lower worlds

פֵּירוּשׁ: “חֶסֶד אֵל כָּל הַיּוֹם”, הַמִּתְלַבֵּשׁ בָּעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים וְתַחְתּוֹנִים,

through the arousal from below that is generated by man’s service,

עַל־יְדֵי אִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְתַתָּא,

i.e., by the precepts of charity and kindness that people practice for each other.

הִיא מִצְוַת הַצְּדָקָה וָחֶסֶד שֶׁעוֹשִׂים בְּנֵי אָדָם זֶה עִם זֶה.

Kindness between man and his fellow draws down Divine kindness into the higher and lower worlds.

However, because the world is finite and measured—

וּלְפִי שֶׁהָעוֹלָם הוּא בִּבְחִינַת גְּבוּל וּמִדָּה

“From the earth to the heavens, there is a distance of 500 years, and likewise, from one heaven to another, [there is a distance of 500 years,]”32

“מֵהָאָרֶץ עַד לָרָקִיעַ ת”ק שָׁנָה, וְכֵן מֵרָקִיעַ לְרָקִיעַ כוּ’”,

and “Six thousand years shall the world exist…”33

וְ”שִׁית אַלְפֵי שְׁנֵי הָוֵי עָלְמָא” כוּ’,

the Torah’s commandment of charity and kindness is also given a limit and measure,

לָכֵן נִיתַּן שִׁיעוּר וּמִדָּה גַּם כֵּן לְמִצְוַת הַצְּדָקָה וְהַחֶסֶד שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה

as are the other commandments of the Torah.

כְּמוֹ לִשְׁאָר מִצְוֹת הַתּוֹרָה.




16. Note by the Rebbe: “It would appear that this phrase (‘most commandments have a delimited measure’) seeks to highlight their maximal limits, especially since the Alter Rebbe qualifies the noun ‘measure’ (shiur) with the adjective ‘delimited’ (metzumtzam). (The commandments that follow would then be instances of chesed olam, being no higher than the finitude of a worldlike chesed.) Paradoxically, however, the examples that the Alter Rebbe then gives all indicate the minimal limits of each mitzvah! Indeed, even when the mitzvah of tzedakah is carried out at the [boundless] level of Chasdei Havayah, it has a minimal limit—i.e., [the obligation obtains only when the donor owns at least] a perutah (whereas from the finite perspective of chesed olam, he would be exempt from it, as is discussed at the very end of the present epistle). “By way of resolving this anomaly, it could be suggested that the Alter Rebbe seeks to point out that tzitzit which are thirteen thumb-breadths long are in no way superior to tzitzit of twelve; hence, the measure of the mitzvah of tzitzit has a maximal delimitation. The same may be said of the other examples, such as the dimensions of tefillin, and so on.”

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid. 32:33.

19. Shulchan AruchOrach Chaim 32:39. Note by the Rebbe: “At first glance, this requirement would appear to be out of place in a list of dimensions; rather, it would appear to be merely a restriction (disqualifying round ones, for example), though no mention is made of the many comparable restrictions that pertain to tzitzit or to tefillin. “It may be suggested by way of explanation that this phrase [does indeed relate to a dimension, inasmuch as it] seeks to exclude a shape of five (or six or more) sides that encompasses (and is greater than) a square. This exclusion does not apply to tzitzit (cf. the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan AruchOrach Chaim 10:1). This gives significance to the word ‘necessarily,’ which might otherwise appear superfluous.”

20. Ibid., beginning of sec. 650.

21. Ibid., beginning of sec. 634.

22. Ibid., 586:9.

23. Shulchan AruchYoreh Deah 201.

24. RambamHilchot Maaseh Hakorbanot 1:14.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.; Tractate Parah 1:2.

27. Avot 1:2.

28. Psalms 89:3.

29. Shulchan AruchYoreh Deah 249:1.

30. Ibid.

31. Psalms 52:3.

32. Chagigah 13a.

33. Rosh Hashanah 31a.

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