Iggeres Ha’Kodesh Epistle 12, Class 1

Tanya/Iggeres Ha’Kodesh – The Holy Epistle, Epistle 12, Class 1


12 “And [the reward for] the act of tzedakah will be peace, and [the reward for] the service of tzedakah [will be] quietness and surety forever.”1

יב ”וְהָיָה מַעֲשֵׂה הַצְּדָקָה שָׁלוֹם, וַעֲבוֹדַת הַצְּדָקָה הַשְׁקֵט וָבֶטַח עַד עוֹלָם”.

Some commentaries explain that “act” (מַעֲשֵׂה) and “service” (עֲבוֹדָה) are one and the same; the verse merely reiterates the same theme in different words. Targum Yonatan, however, writes that “act” and “service” indicate two different forms of charity: the reward for the “act” of tzedakah is peace; the reward for the “service” of tzedakah is eternal quietness and surety.

The difference between [the] “act” and “service” of tzedakah, and the difference between the rewards of “peace” and “quietness and surety,” will be understood

לְהָבִין הַהֶפְרֵשׁ שֶׁבֵּין “מַעֲשֶׂה” לַ”עֲבוֹדָה” וּבֵין “שָׁלוֹם” לְ”הַשְׁקֵט וָבֶטַח” כוּ’.

by what our Sages, of blessed memory, said on the verse, “He makes peace in His high places”2:

עַל פִּי מַה שֶּׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה עַל פָּסוּק “עוֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרוֹמָיו” –

“Michael is the prince of water and Gabriel is the prince of fire, yet they do not extinguish one another.”3

כִּי “מִיכָאֵל שַׂר שֶׁל מַיִם וְגַבְרִיאֵל שַׂר שֶׁל אֵשׁ, וְאֵין מְכַבִּין זֶה אֶת זֶה”.

Though water seeks to quench fire and fire endeavors to vaporize water, and “Michael is the prince of water and Gabriel is the prince of fire,” nevertheless, they do not extinguish one another.

This means to say, not that Michael’s substance derives from the spiritual element of water and Gabriel’s substance derives from the spiritual element of fire, but that


Michael is the prince of chesed (“kindness”),

שֶׁמִּיכָאֵל שַׂר שֶׁל חֶסֶד,

which is called “water,” because it descends from a high place to a low place.

הַנִּקְרָא בְּשֵׁם “מַיִם”, הַיּוֹרְדִים מִמָּקוֹם גָּבוֹהַּ לְמָקוֹם נָמוּךְ,

In spiritual terms, this [descent] means: the bestowal and diffusion of the [Divine] life-force from the higher to the lower worlds.

וְהוּא בְּחִינַת הַהַשְׁפָּעָה וְהִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת הַחַיּוּת מֵעוֹלָמוֹת עֶלְיוֹנִים לְתַחְתּוֹנִים,

Fire, whose nature is to soar aloft, represents spiritually the thrust of gevurah (“severity”), and the upward withdrawal of the flow of life-force,

וּבְחִינַת אֵשׁ שֶׁטִּבְעָהּ לַעֲלוֹת לְמַעְלָה, הִיא בְּחִינַת הַגְּבוּרָה וְהִסְתַּלְּקוּת הַשְׁפָּעַת הַחַיִּים מִמַּטָּה לְמַעְלָה,

in order not to bestow [it] except by way of an intense and immense contraction.

שֶׁלֹּא לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ, רַק בְּצִמְצוּם עָצוּם וְרַב,

Now these attributes are in conflict, chesed representing unlimited effusion, and gevurah representing limitation and contraction,

וְהֵן מִדּוֹת נֶגְדִּיּוֹת וְהָפְכִּיּוֹת זוֹ לָזוֹ,

but only when they are in their pristine state as attributes.

וְהַיְינוּ כְּשֶׁהֵן בִּבְחִינַת מִדּוֹת לְבַדָּן.

Inasmuch as the attributes are inherently limited (and indeed, the very word middah means “measure”), each of them is confined to its innate characteristics, chesed to expansiveness, gevurah to withdrawal.

But the Holy One, blessed be He, makes peace between them so that they should not oppose one another,

אַךְ הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא – עוֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם בֵּינֵיהֶם,

through a revelation—so that an immense illumination and an intense effusion from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light is revealed within them.

דְּהַיְינוּ, עַל־יְדֵי גִּילּוּי שֶׁמִּתְגַּלֶּה בָּהֶן הֶאָרָה רַבָּה וְהַשְׁפָּעָה עֲצוּמָה מְאֹד מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא,

For like His Name (viz., Ein Sof—“the Infinite One”), so is He.

אֲשֶׁר כִּשְׁמוֹ כֵּן הוּא,

He is not, Heaven forfend, on the [measured] plane of an attribute,

שֶׁאֵינוֹ בִּבְחִינַת מִדָּה חַס וְשָׁלוֹם,

but transcends exceedingly, ad infinitum,

אֶלָּא לְמַעְלָה מַּעְלָה עַד אֵין קֵץ,

even the rank of [the intellectual faculties of] ChaBaD, which is the source of the attributes, and surely, He transcends the attributes themselves.

אֲפִילוּ מִבְּחִינַת חָכְמָה־בִּינָה־דַּעַת מְקוֹר הַמִּדּוֹת,

And then, when G-d’s infinite light is revealed within the attributes, the opposing attributes of Michael and Gabriel (chesed and gevurah) are absorbed in their source and root,

וַאֲזַי, הַמִּדּוֹת נֶגְדִּיּוֹת שֶׁל מִיכָאֵל וְגַבְרִיאֵל נִכְלָלוֹת בִּמְקוֹרָן וְשָׁרְשָׁן,

and they become truly unified,

וְהָיוּ לַאֲחָדִים מַמָּשׁ,

and are nullified in His light, which radiates to them in a manifest way.

וּבְטֵלִים בְּאוֹרוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ הַמֵּאִיר לָהֶם בִּבְחִינַת גִּילּוּי.

Once their individuality is nullified, they no longer oppose each other.

By way of analogy: The intense enmity of two high officials dissolves, in the presence of their sovereign, into friendship. It is because of their joint nullification before the king that this unity comes about. So, too, the defined bounds of the various attributes dissipate in the face of the limitless revelation of the infinite light.

The gevurot are thereby tempered and mellowed (lit., “sweetened”) in the chasadimand are transformed into good and kindness,

וַאֲזַי מִתְמַזְּגִים וּמִתְמַתְּקִים הַגְּבוּרוֹת בַּחֲסָדִים,

by a mediary, the determining factor between chesed and gevurah, which leans toward chesed,

עַל־יְדֵי בְּחִינָה מְמוּצַּעַת – קַו הַמַּכְרִיעַ וּמַטֶּה כְּלַפֵּי חֶסֶד,

i.e., the attribute of rachamim (“mercy”).

הִיא מִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים,

When chesed does not insist (so to speak) on an unlimited revelation of kindness (but is satisfied to reveal the G‑dly illumination in a finite manner), and gevurah insists only on withholding the revelation from those who are unworthy of receiving it (but does not insist on blocking the revelation altogether, even from the worthy)—then the mediating attribute of mercy, which leans toward kindness, declares that while a particular recipient may not be strictly worthy of the kindness to be shown, he is at least worthy of being granted it out of compassion.




1. Isaiah 32:17.

2. Job 25:2.

3. See Devarim Rabbah 5:12; TanchumaVayigash 6.

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