Thursday, October 13, 2005

LESSONS IN TANYA: Friday, October 14, 2005


Tishrei 11, 5766 * October 14, 2005


Today's Lesson:

Iggeret HaKodesh
Epistle Twenty-One

[This pastoral letter was written by the Alter Rebbe to rouse those of his followers who had pledged an annual contribution to Kollel Chabad.

This fund supported their fellow chassidim who had settled in the Land of Israel, where they now studied Torah and engaged in divine service.

The Alter Rebbe here urges that instead of waiting until the end of the year, his followers should give part of the promised sum weekly or at least monthly.

For apart from the quality of alacrity, the eager promptness that ought to be displayed during the performance of mitzvot in general and the mitzvah of tzedakah (charity) in particular, there is an additional quality involved, as will soon be explained.

The Alter Rebbe begins this epistle by greeting his fellow Jews as "lovers of G-d's Name. (1)

This appellation especially suits those helping their brethren who serve G-d in the Holy Land.

For upon this land (2) "G-d's gaze is fixed constantly," and this verse uses G-d's ineffable Name Havayah, indicating that the Land is directly illuminated and animated by the sublime level of Divinity indicated by that singular and unique Name.]

Having first duly inquired after the welfare of those who love [G-d's] Name, those among the people who willingly volunteer to practice the righteous charitability of G-d towards His Holy Land by giving every year a set sum of money for [the inhabitants of] our Holy Land (May it be rebuilt and established speedily, in our days!).

"May my word [call]" (3) to them and "my speech trickle like dew" (4) in order to bestir those who are [naturally] swift, [for (5) "One hurries only the swift"], and to strengthen weak hands, (6) [for their unquestioned willingness (7) is hampered only by their poverty], so that they should contribute moneys for the Land of Israel every week, or at least every month, (8) from the amount assigned for the year, proportionately.

As well as, all the (9) "dedicated money" that each individual was inspired to donate annually (without a vow) for the support of our brethren who live in the Holy Land.

[It would seem that in these last few lines the Alter Rebbe means to add the following:

Not only are the amounts that were always given in previous years to be given henceforth on a weekly or monthly basis, but additional amounts are to be divided likewise.]

For, first of all, everyone knows the great virtue of alacrity with respect to all commandments, which is spoken of repeatedly in the words of our Sages, of blessed memory.

[For example:] (10) "At all times should one be prompt in [fulfilling] a commandment."

So, too, it is [the merit of] (11) "the eager promptness of our father Abraham" (peace upon him), [who hastened to the Akedah, the Binding of Isaac], (12) that stands by us and our children, for ever.

For the Akedah itself, [which G-d constantly recalls], is not really regarded as so great a test in relation to the stature of our father Abraham, peace upon him, especially considering that G-d Himself said to him, (13) "Please take your son,...[and bring him as an offering"].

After all, there have been numerous saintly individuals who gave their lives for the sanctification of G-d, even though He did not speak to them.

[How, then, can this be considered such a great test for Abraham, when G-d Himself commanded him to offer his son?]

The point is that our father Abraham (peace upon him) did this with wondrous alacrity, [for, as the verse testifies, (14) "Abraham rose very early and [himself (15)] saddled his donkey," in order to demonstrate - [to others as well] - his joy and eager desire to fulfill the will of his Master and to bring gratification to his Maker.

[The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of blessed memory, explains in a discourse dated the 12th of Tammuz 5709, (16) that the divine service of penitents should involve affecting others as well.

Now the challenge of the Akedah required that Abraham, the epitome of love and kindness, * reverse * his essential nature, in which the attribute of Chesed predominated, and act with all the severity of the attribute of Gevurah.

(Hence G-d avers, (17) "I now know that you fear G-d.")

In this diametrical reversal Abraham resembled a penitent.

And, like a penitent, he sought to share with others his delight at fulfilling G-d's will.]

Indeed, it was from [the example of Abraham, and with the power that he vested within all his descendants], that our Sages (of blessed memory) (18) learned [that alacrity is required] in the fulfillment of all the commandments in general, and in particular with respect to the act of charity which is superior to them all, (19) in that it protects and saves one - by its (20) "fruits [that are repaid] in this world" (21) - from all kinds of calamities that may come about.

As it is written, (22) "And tzedakah saves from death," and how much more so, from other kinds of suffering that are milder than death.

It is thus certainly to our benefit, even in this world, to be as expeditious as possible in [the giving of charity, even more so than in the fulfillment of other commandments, whose reward may not be as palpable in this world], for, after all, (23) "A man is judged every day," [so that it is quite possible that he is in need of the merit of today's tzedakah to protect him from today's judgment.


1. Note of the Rebbe: "See also Iggeret HaKodesh, in
Epistle V above, where the Alter Rebbe states that by
giving tzedakah one `makes the Holy Name'; [moreover,]
tzedakah is motivated by the attribute of kindness,
whose inner dimension is love."
2. Devarim 11:12.
3. Cf. Iyov 29:22.
4. Devarim 32:2.
5. Makkot 23a; Sifri, Bamidbar, section 1.
6. Cf. Yeshayahu 35:3.
7. Note of the Rebbe: "...For, as the text continues,
we are speaking of those who had been `inspired to donate.'"
8. Note of the Rebbe: "It will be observed that in the
quoted verse (at the conclusion of the Book of Yeshayahu),
`every week' [lit., `every Shabbat'] refers to the Sabbath
day at the conclusion of the week, while `every month' refers
to the beginning of the month, Rosh Chodesh."
9. II Melachim 12:5.
10. Nazir 23b; Bava Kama 38b.
11. Chullin 16a.
12. Bereishit 22:1-19.
13. Ibid. v. 2.
14. Ibid. v. 3.
15. See commentary of Rashi there.
16. Sefer HaMaamarim 5709, p. 184.
17. Bereishit 22:12; see also Sefer HaMaamarim - Kuntreisim,
Vol. II, p. 642.
18. Pesachim 4a, et al.
19. Note of the Rebbe: "Cf. Shaar HaYichud VeHaEmunah,
beginning of chapter 12."
20. Peah 1:1.
21. Note of the Rebbe: "See also Iggeret HaKodesh,
Epistle III."
22. Mishlei 10:2.
23. Rosh HaShanah 16a.


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