Wednesday, December 14, 2005

LESSONS IN TANYA: Thursday, December 15, 2005


Kislev 14, 5766 * December 15, 2005


Today's Lesson:

Kuntres Acharon
Essay Six

[The last two Essays explained how the observance of the commandments seeks out the exiled sparks hidden in this world and thereby suffuses it with G-dliness.

They also pointed out that the same is true of the study of their laws.

The present Essay goes one step further, and explains that the laws of the Torah transcend the world beyond any possible comparison.

When David triumphantly brought back the Ark from its captivity in the hands of the Philistines, (1) it was placed on a wagon.

David had momentarily forgotten the stipulation of the Torah, (2) "On the shoulder shall they carry it."

Commenting on this episode, our Sages (3) teach that David's forgetfulness came as a punishment for his having referred to the laws of the Torah as "songs": ((4) "Your statutes were songs for me in my place of terror."

Why should this expression be regarded as an offense? And in what way is it related to its punishment?

These are among the questions discussed in this essay, and at greater length in Likkutei Torah and Or Ha-Torah, and in Derech Mitzvotecha, Mitzvat Masa HaAron Ba-Katef.]

"David! You call them songs?! (3)

[Because he had referred to the laws of the Torah as "songs", David was punished by being made to (3) "stumble in a matter that even schoolchildren know" - that the Ark is to be carried on the shoulders.]

In the Zohar (5) we find the expression, "the praise of Torah and its song" - [the Torah is a hymn and a song to G-d].

Let us understand, what is the praise of G-d when a particular object is forbidden or permitted. (6)

A similar concept is implicit [in the verse], (7) "How great are Your works, O G-d, Your thoughts are very deep."

[Why does the verse make the deed precede the thought? The Alter Rebbe will soon explain that from an appreciation of G-d's great works one begins to understand the depth of His thoughts.]

As is known, all the worlds, the exalted and the lowly, are dependent on the meticulous performance of a single mitzvah.

For example, if an altar offering is valid then a Supernal Union [in the Sefirot] is effected, and all the worlds are elevated to receive their life-force and spiritual sustenance.

However, if [the celebrant] altered [the precise requirements of the law] - if, for example, he received the blood of the offering with his left hand, or in an invalid vessel, or (9) if there was a separation (10) - then all the elevations of the worlds [that would have been accomplished] are nullified, as is the life-force and sustenance [that they would have received] from the Source of Life, the Ein Sof, blessed be He.

So, too, through the use of valid tefillin there is revealed the Supernal Intellect of Zu'n, Za [and Malchut of Atzilut], the source of life for all the worlds.

Yet through [the omission of] one required detail they are invalidated, and the Intellect departs.

The same applies to the detailed requirements of the prohibitory commandments - [a single detail affects all the worlds].

Let one therefore ponder how great are the works of G-d in the multiplicity of worlds and all their hosts, and how all of these are literally null, relative to any one of the specific requirements of the Torah, for it is the profundity of the Supreme thought and the Divine wisdom.

For through [the observance of] one minor specification, all the worlds ascend and receive their life-force and spiritual sustenance - or the reverse, G-d forbid.

[In the case of a detailed requirement of a prohibitory commandment, transgression brings about (G-d forbid) a descent in all the worlds.]

From this we may ponder the prodigious profundity of G-d's thought, which is boundless and endless, and which infinitely transcends the vitality of all the worlds.

For their entire vivifying power issues from a minor requirement of [G-d's thought, this requirement being] drawn from its source, namely the depth of G-d's thought [that specified it].

Analogously, man's hair issues from his brain, as is known from Tikkunei Zohar and Idra Rabbah.

This was the delight of King David, may he rest in peace, as he sang to gladden his heart in his Torah study during his time of anguish.

[He was overjoyed when he contemplated how the entire world is of no account, relative to one minor specific detail of the Torah].


1. II Shmuel 6; I Divrei HaYamim 13.
2. Bamidbar 7:9.
3. Sotah 35a.
4. Tehillim 119:54.
5. II, 8b.
6. Note of the Rebbe: "As is explicit in many sources,
including Tanya, there are in fact six specific categories - mutar
[`permitted'], kosher [`fit for use'], tahor [`pure'], (and also,
as in Tanya, end of chapter 52, patur [`exempt']?), and their
respective opposites.

It seems to me that the Alter Rebbe chose just these two
categories [`forbidden' and `permitted'] because they embody a
principle common to them all: assur [lit., `bound'] implies that
something is held in the clutches of the sitra achra [and hence
cannot be elevated to G-d], while mutar [lit., `unbound'] is so
called (as in Tanya [chapter 7; see also chapter 8]) because a
permitted thing is free to be elevated."
7. Tehillim 92:10.
8. Note of the Rebbe: "Cf. the end of Iggeret HaTeshuvah."
9. The Rebbe notes that the first example is a change that
relates to the person; the second is a change that relates to the
vessel; while with regard to "there was a separation" the Rebbe
notes that "both of the preceding stages were done without
any change."
10. "Separation" (chatzitzah) can denote (e.g.) the intervention of a
foreign body between the Kohen and
(1) the vessel (Zevachim 24a, in the mishnah) or
(2) the floor (the Gemara there, 15b) or
(3) his vestments (ibid., 19a).


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