Wednesday, October 19, 2005

LESSONS IN TANYA: Thursday, October 20, 2005


Tishrei 17, 5766 * October 20, 2005


Today's Lesson:

Iggeret HaKodesh
Epistle Twenty-Three

[In the letter that follows, the Alter Rebbe urges chassidim to devote the daily interval between Minchah and Maariv to the group study of Ein Yaakov, and to the laws in the Shulchan Aruch that have frequent and practical application.

He introduces this appeal by explaining how sublime is the Divine Presence that dwells within Jews when they study Torah publicly.

Indeed, only in the World to Come can this lofty level of Divinity be manifestly received as a reward - except when it abides over Jews and within Jews when, in this world, they study Torah together].

"This statement is made by decree of the wakeful [angels] and by the word of [those] holy ones,"

[This phrase (1) is used by the Sages (2) (and here by the Alter Rebbe) to denote eminent Torah scholars, who are likened to ministering angels; (3) specifically] - the Mishnaic Sages, peace be upon them, who taught in their Mishnah: (4) "If ten people sit together and engage in the study of the Torah, the Divine Presence [the Shechinah] rests among them."

[A similar teaching (5) - "The Shechinah hovers over every gathering of ten Jews" - means only that the Divine Presence hovers over them in a transcendent (lit., "encompassing") manner, as explained at the end of chapter 11 of Tanya. In this instance, howev er, where ten Jews are studying Torah together, the Shechinah rests "among them" - in an internalized manner].

"For this is the whole [purpose] of man." (6)

[As the Gemara (7) interprets this verse: "The entire world was created solely for this purpose]."

Moreover, [the soul's] very descent to this world was for the purpose of this ascent, [which is accomplished through public Torah study], and no [possible] ascent is higher than this.

[The ultimate ascent of the soul, the reason for which the soul initially descended, is attained not only after it completes its descent, after it leaves the body; rather, through public Torah study while the soul is still within the body, it causes the Shechinah to rest in this nether world, and is thereby elevated more than by any other means].

For the Shechinah of [G-d's] Might which is in the supernal heights, and Whose awesomeness (8) "the heavens and the heavens of the heavens cannot contain," dwells and becomes magnified among the Children of Israel, as it is written, (9) "For I, G-d, dwell among (toch) the Children of Israel," as a result of [their] study of the Torah and observance of the commandments in groups of [at least] ten, [for ten Jews constitute a congregation].

For, as our Sages of blessed memory said, (10) "We infer a conclusion from [two appearances of] the word toch."

[In certain specified cases, the Sages draw an analogy from one expression in the Torah to the identical expression in a different context.

A comparison of this kind (a gezeirah shavah) is made between two appearances of the above word.

One verse states, (11) "I will become sanctified in the midst (toch) of the Children of Israel," while another verse, referring to ten of the spies dispatched by Moses, states, (12) "...from the midst (toch) of this congregation."

From this we learn that the congregational recital of a davar shebikedushah, a text involving the sanctification of G-d's Name, requires a quorum of ten.

The Rebbe Rayatz asks: (13) Of all the possible contexts, why do our Sages derive this rule from the evil assemblage of the spies, concerning whom the above-quoted verse in fact states, "Separate yourselves from the midst of this congregation"?

Answering his own question, the Rebbe Rayatz explains that with these words Moses sought to insulate the people from the makkif of evil, from the transcendent [and most intense] dimension of evil.

(As far as the pnimi of evil was concerned, the perme ating [but less intense] dimension of evil, Moses was able to rectify it.) Now, since everything in the realm of holiness has its counterpart in kelipah, in the forces of evil, (14) it follows that the level of holiness referred to here is the transcendent level.

Thus, when a congregation of at least ten participants engages collectively in prayer or in Torah study or in the observance of a mitzvah, they elicit a response from a transcendent level of Divine light, from an or makkif, that is utterly superior to the light called forth by a group of fewer than ten].

Concerning this it is written, (15) "The Holy One is within you."

[This means to say that a level of Divinity which is holy in the sense that it is initially distinct from this world, is thereby drawn down and integrated within the ten or more people involved.

As the Rebbe Rayatz explains in the above-mentioned talk, the Alter Rebbe had spoken earlier of the transcendent degree of illumination that merely encompasses one; at this point he cites the phrase "The Holy One is within you" to indicate that this encompassing illumination can also become internalized within a Jew].

Likewise, "[the congregational recital of] a davar shebi-kedushah, [a text involving the sanctification of G-d's Name], requires a quorum of ten," as quoted above. (10)

[Thus, in order that the holiness be "within you," it is necessary that the Torah be studied in groups of at least ten].

This also explains why our Sages, of blessed memory, had to derive from Scripture [an answer to their question], (16) "From where do we know that even one person who sits and engages in the study of the Torah, [the Holy One, blessed be He, sets a reward for him]?"

[The Mishnah (16) derives its answer from the verse, (17) "He sits alone and [studies] in stillness; indeed, he takes [the reward] unto himself." Evidently, then, a proof text was needed to show that even individual study is rewarded].

And even so [the Sages] did not find in Scripture support for that, [i.e., they did not find support for the proposition that an individual can bring about the previously-mentioned indwelling of G-d's holiness], but only for the allotment of a reward to the individual, proportionate to himself [and]Á¥ in proportion to the many.

[If there are fewer than ten individuals, the reward is divided equally among them. According to the version "[and] in propor-tion...," the more individuals participate, the greater the reward for each of them].

But as to causing an indwelling of G-d's holiness, (19) [the individual] cannot be compared to [the congregation] at all.

[The sanctity drawn down through group study of the Torah is immeasurably more sublime].


1. Daniel 4:14.
2. Note of the Rebbe: "Pesachim 33a."
3. Note of the Rebbe: "Rashi, loc. cit.; see there."
4. Avot 3:6.
5. Sanhedrin 39a.
6. Kohelet 12:13.
7. Berachot 6b.
8. Cf. I Melachim 8:27.
9. Bamidbar 35:34.
10. Berachot 21b.
11. Vayikra 22:32.
12. Bamidbar 16:21.
13. Sefer HaSichot 5704, p. 29.
14. Kohelet 7:14.
15. Yeshayahu 123:6.
16. Cf. Avot 3:6.
17. Eichah 3:8.
18. Brackets are in the original text.
19. Note of the Rebbe: "The question here is well known - that
the above-quoted mishnah (Avot 3:2) teaches that [even if only]
`two people sit together and exchange words of Torah, the
Shechinah dwells in their midst.'
"This may be understood in the light of Or HaTorah [by the
Tzemach Tzedek] on Parshat Eikev, p. 542; see also Berachot 6a.
"At the end of Part VI of Magen Avot: (1) there is a different
version of the above letter; (2) according to the explanation
there (evidently taken from the Tzemach Tzedek), the above
difficulty can be resolved." See also Tanya, Mahadura Kama, p.
261, footnote 13, line 48.


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